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Podcasts > Podcast #363: Retro Hugos and How They Work

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message 1: by Dave (last edited Sep 16, 2019 02:09AM) (new)

Dave W. | 3 comments There was some discussion (and some misinformation) about the Retro Hugos in Podcast #363. As your local Business Meeting/Hugo Nerd, here's how they actually work. All this info is in various places in the big convention book that was distributed at registration, for those who were at Worldcon this year. The WSFS Constitution is also available on line at (at least as of the end of 2018 - it doesn't have the latest amendments that were approved in Dublin).

The part of the WSFS Constitution that controls the Retro Hugos is section 3.14, page 136 of the convention book. It reads:

Section 3.14: Retrospective Hugo Awards.

3.14.1: A Worldcon held in a year that is an exact multiple of 25 years after a year in which no Hugo Awards were awarded may conduct nominations and elections for retrospective year Hugo Awards for that year with procedures as for the current Hugo Awards, provided that year was 1939 or later and that no previous Worldcon has awarded retrospective year Hugo Awards for that year.

3.14.2: In any listing of Hugo Award winners published by a Worldcon committee or WSFS, retrospective Hugo Awards shall be distinguished and annotated with the year in which such retrospective Hugo Awards were voted.

The idea of the Retro Hugos was to fill in years starting with the first Worldcon in 1939 when no Hugo Awards were made. A handful of Retro Hugos were awarded in the 50th anniversary cycle - for 1946, 1951, and 1954. (Retro Hugos awarded prior to this year are listed on pp. 116-117 of the convention book; regular Hugos are listed on pp. 99-115). We are now in the 75th anniversary cycle, and have awarded Retro Hugos for 1939, 1941, 1943, and 1944 (this year), for works published in the previous calendar year. Next year will be the 1945 Retro Hugos, for works originally published in 1944.

2021 won't have Retro Hugos, because 1946 was already covered back in the 50th cycle. The remaining possible Retro years are 1940, 1942, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, and 1952. Of those, 1940 and 1942 will have to wait for the 100th anniversary cycle (if Retro Hugos are still a thing by then), while the rest could be covered in this cycle over the next several years if the relevant Worldcons are willing to host them. After that, 1953 was the first regular Hugos, 1954 was covered in the previous cycle, and regular Hugos have been awarded continuously from 1955 on, so no further years are eligible for Retro Hugos under the current rules.

I will also note that are some ongoing discussions taking place about problems with the current implementation of the Retro Hugos. So while the 1945 Retro Hugos will take place next year under the current rules, it is not yet clear what, if anything, the Business Meeting and future Worldcons may decide to do about the Retro Hugos after that.

Dave Wallace

message 2: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8317 comments I’d say “thank you for clearing that up” but I think my brain seized up at “exact multiple of 25 years”. Even for sci-fi math nerds that seems overly complicated and Byzantine.

Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments Yeah, granted I'm not good at numbers at the best of times but I cannot fathom what on earth that all means. Can they not at least word that in a less confusing way? Surely Worldcon has access to good writers!

message 4: by David H. (new)

David H. (farrakut) | 908 comments I mean, the bit from the Constitution is necessarily going to be legalistic.

All the Retro Hugos do is fill in unawarded years at either 25, 50, or 75 years later. There's only 7 unawarded years left.

A lot of people don't like the Retro Hugos because it just ends up going for name recognition versus actual good stories from that time (just because Asimov wrote a short story in a time period doesn't mean it was the best--but he's one of the best known, etc.).

message 5: by Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth (last edited Sep 16, 2019 02:47PM) (new)

Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments Well, the date choosing system seems rather arbitrary (do you know if there was any reasoning behind the 25 rule?) but, in the words of Trike, thank you for clearing that up.

Re. the legalese: this is probably my ignorance talking, but it always seems so obtuse and unnecessarly complicated in most cases. Would there really be issues if it was written more clearly, as above?

message 6: by David H. (new)

David H. (farrakut) | 908 comments Looks like they didn't come up with the Retro Hugos until 1996, so they did a 50-year-mark there. And making it "multiples of 25" allows it for a 75-year or 100-year thing, too, since otherwise the pre-1946 years would've been missed if they kept it at 50. As it was, they got to do the 1939 Retros in 2014.

Legal language is always going to seem a bit off, but there's a reason for it. My wife is a lawyer, and I remember when she was in law school that there was a whole contracts-related case arguing over the definition of a chicken. Soooo ... yeah. :D

message 7: by Dave (new)

Dave W. | 3 comments The original wording on the Retro Hugos specified explicitly that they could be awarded 50, 75, or 100 years after the year in question. This wording was modified a few years ago when there was a proposal to add Retro Hugos for categories where No Award had won. This was in response to the "Puppy Wars" of 2015 & 2016, where a fraction (around 20%) of the nominating electorate was able to use slate voting to take over 100% of the ballot in several categories. There were 5 occasions in the history of the Hugos prior to 2015 where the voters had chosen to give No Award in a category - it happened 5 more times in 2015 and 2 more in 2016, in categories where there were only slate entries on the ballot.

Because the proponents of this proposal didn't want to wait 50 years to reconsider these categories for Retro Hugos, they proposed the current language about "exact multiple of 25 years" (which would allow new Retros to be considered after 25 years, and incidentally added the possibility of Retros on the 125th and later anniversaries), and added the language that became section 3.14.2. At the business meeting, the proposal was split into different sections which were voted on separately - the above two changes were adopted, but the underlying proposal about reconsidering No Award categories was rejected. That's how we wound up with the current language in the Constitution.

Dave Wallace

message 8: by John (Nevets) (new)

John (Nevets) Nevets (nevets) | 1545 comments Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth wrote: "Re. the legalese: this is probably my ignorance talking, but it always seems so obtuse and unnecessarly complicated in most cases. Would there really be issues if it was written more clearly, as above?"

While it may not be as true now as it was in the past. I'd say the Venn diagram of those that enjoy Sci-Fi and Fantasy enough to attend Worldcon, and those that enjoy "obtuse and unnecessary complicated rules" has a lot of overlap, or at least did. I think though that a lot of participants are realizing that if they want to be more open to the growing diversity of this fandom (and most seem to), that making things harder to understand doesn't help.

I will say that when the whole puppy kerfuffle was going on a few years ago, I had an absolute blast watching the videos of the daily "Business Meetings". But, I'm also one of the people that while never having attended a Worldcon, would consider being in both of the above mentioned Venn circles. I'm not so sure I'd count my self in the circle that includes those that enjoy Filk music though. Although I do appreciate those in this forum that present their stylings.

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