Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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This is Why We Deprecated "Nominee"

Last night the Hugo Awards/WSFS web sites got a brief flurry of questions about an author describing himself as a "Hugo Award nominee" and asking for clarification about the term. No work by the author in question has been shortlisted for the Hugo Award. Whether the author received at least one nomination for a Hugo Award is not something that can be proved or disproved, inasmuch as Administrators do not release individual nominations, only those works/people placing in the top 15 positions. The particularly claimed work didn't make the "We Also Heard From" list.

Complicating matters were claims that someone from the "Worldcon PR Department" had sent e-mail confirming the "nomination." Well, there is no such thing as a "Worldcon PR Department," the e-mail came from an address that is now shown as invalid, was signed by someone who has never to my knowledge (which is rather extensive) been involved with administering any Hugo Awards and is certainly not a member of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee and the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. (HAMC could at least conceivably be misinterpreted to be the "Worldcon Marketing Department" by people unfamiliar with how Worldcons, WSFS, and the Hugo Awards work.) The e-mails also had references to "" which is an organization that has nothing to do with WSFS or with the World Science Fiction Convention.

I answered the e-mails (one of which was from the author in question), and after doing so, posted a clarification post to the Hugo Awards web site. (This post was also there to try and confirm that e-mails from me are actually from one of the few people who actually is authorized to speak officially on behalf of WSFS and The Hugo Awards web sites.)

Colloquial usage (and official usage until recently) used the term "Hugo Award nominee" to mean "a person or work that appeared on the final Hugo Award ballot." However, a few years ago, some people started calling themselves "Hugo Award nominees" because a single person nominated them for the Award. Such claims generally were made by people who knew the Hugo Award was prestigious, but who had no idea how it worked. (I suspect many such people assumed that there was a Select Group of Judges who made the decisions.) I tried for a while to respond to such claims, but mostly got abuse for my trouble, as people informed me that the "plain meaning" of "nominee" included "anyone who received even one nomination." While technically true, it certainly subverted the intent of the term "nominee" as used at that time. Furthermore, we saw news reports taking such claims at face value, with reporters not particularly interested in any sort of nuance. After all, if you're "nominated" for the Academy Award, that means you're on the short list. Presumably it means the same thing with the Hugo Awards, right?

Reacting to this abuse of terminology, WSFS a few years ago officially deprecated the term "nominee," except in a very narrow technical sense dealing with the counting of nomination votes and the determination of eligibility. The official term for a person or work shortlisted for the Hugo Award is "Hugo Award Finalist." This can be objectively determined, of course, and there is the actual list of finalists for each year on the Hugo Awards web site. The term "Hugo Award nominee" has no official meaning. Hundreds and probably thousands of people and works are "Hugo Award nominees" every year. It only takes one nomination to be a "Hugo Award nominee," and of course you can always nominate yourself. (No Administrator I know would ever want to have to enforce a restriction against self-nomination.) The WSFS Mark Protection Committee ignores claims regarding being a "Hugo Award nominee," because they have no official meaning. At best, they are overly enthusiastic reactions by authors to fans who really like those authors' works.

I suppose we should be grateful that the Hugo Awards have gained sufficiently in stature that someone saw value in pretending to be an official "PR Department" for the World Science Fiction Society. Nevertheless, it does feel somewhat strange to find people making such claims. Possibly there are people out there convinced that WSFS is a Big Media Corporation with lots of money and Big Bucks to be had. The reality, which is that there are a bunch of volunteers putting in lots of time and no small amounts of money, to put on an event and to help perpetuate an organization that they love, may be simply too difficult for some folks to comprehend.
Tags: hugo awards, worldcon, wsfs

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