23 April 2014

Hugos and Art : I don't know enough about this to have an opinion...

As I mentioned earlier, over the New Year's break I started a little side-project called the Hugo Eligible Art(ist) Tumblr, where I collated a bunch of names and links to artist portfolios, and sent out bulk emails to the artists I linked asking whether they'd like to bring attention to any eligible 2013 work.  That was fun!  [Though I've a suspicion a lot of those emails hit the spam bucket.]

The finalists for the Hugo Awards were announced last weekend (and congratulations to all the nominees), but the numbers of ballots really stood out to me.  According to the Hugo site:

- 1923 ballots were cast.
- Best novel received 1595 nominations.
- Best Professional Artist received 624 nominations.
- Best Fan Artist received 316 nominations (the lowest of any category).

Now, there is some confusion generally about these two categories - particularly the fan artist category, which basically covers any art first displayed in 2013 that was not created as a commission for an entity providing 1/4 of any individual's income.  So this means that an artist could be eligible for both categories, depending on the circumstances of individual commissions.  [The covers that Julie Dillon has done for me, for instance, qualify her for the "Best Fan Artist" category.]  Some people are even more confused because "fan art" means to many people "work created as a fan of someone else's intellectual property" (this is also eligible, but the category is not limited to that work).*

Now, since the announcement of the finalists, I've read and listened to a few different Hugo Awards discussions, and when they get to the art categories (particularly "Best Fan Artist") almost all of them have said: "I'm going to skip this because I don't know enough about the category".

I find this strange!  Very strange!  1923 people thought themselves sufficiently informed about SFF novels to cast a ballot (a process that means at minimum the six or so hours of reading it would take to finish one rather short novel), but only 624 people had managed to see at least one SFF picture and have a positive reaction to it.  Not even the cover of the novel they had just read!  [Let alone the fan art for their latest favourite movie.]

I'm willing to bet that, during this past year, most of the people nominating saw an order of magnitude more SFF art than they read novels.  Art (SFF or not) enriches our lives daily and there is almost zero effort involved in enjoying it.  You don't have to be an expert to parse your own reaction to a picture.  "Like? Y/N".  That's it.  You didn't need to be a Professor of English Literature to nominate that novel, and there's no degree in the History of Fine Art required to remember the name of the artist of a work you liked.

Finding out the name and year of eligibility of a piece of art is definitely more work, but heck, again there are the covers of the novels you've just voted into eligibility.  The ones festooning the bookshelves and pouring off our computer screens.  Are these artists not worth that tiny bit of effort?

Here is a collection of links to this year's finalists, and I expect some of their work will be in the Hugo voting package, which will make this next stage easier.  But I'd love it if next year there was less of the "I don't know enough" and more of the "I liked this".

'Cause artists are awesome:

The Pyramids of London - Julie Dillon
* My personal view of the Hugo Awards art categories is that they're incredibly confusing and we'd be well served to drop "professional" and "fan" and instead have "Best SFF Character Piece", and "Best SFF Landscape/Cityscape/Starscape".  I'd love to see people nominating _pictures_.


  1. The few times I've been eligable to vote for hugos, I found the art much easier to vote for...look at it, get a visceral feel for it telling me a story I'd like to know and then narrow down to the one I'd most like on my wall...books require much more reflection to narrow down.

  2. ...and now I understand the difference between the categories

    also; seriously dyslexic inducing robot spam code for this comment..had to reset

  3. I came across someone's Hugo discussion, and when they came to the art category they pretty much just said "I don't know much about art stuff, but I remember this one person's name, so..." Which tells me a lot of people just scroll down and vote for whatever name looks familiar. Granted, I've sometimes done this, too (such as if I haven't read all the books, or haven't seen all the movies in a category, etc), but it strikes me as particularly odd in the artist categories, since looking up someone's art is much easier than catching up on all the novel nominations or researching all the work of an individual editor or something.

    (And yes, I think the Hugo Art categories are confusing, and frankly a little arbitrary and condescending. I would also like to see them adjusted/revised at some point, maybe have them run similarly to the Spectrum Awards where individual pieces (even those "unprofessional" ones that a professional artist does for themselves instead of a client) can be eligible.)


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