On the question of my novelette “Lady Astronaut of Mars” and the Hugo ballot.
So, this link is getting passed around on the internet and people are asking me if I knew about the disqualification of “Lady Astronaut of Mars.” No. I didn’t. Not until the night of the Hugos, when I saw the same list everyone else did. I checked it because I was curious to see if the novelette had come close to the ballot and discovered that it had received enough nominations to make it to the ballot, but had been declared ineligible because it was an audiobook.
Since I found it confusing that they thought it should be in Dramatic Presentation, I thought I’d try to get some clarification and have been in contact with the Hugo administrators over the past week. The past clearly can’t be affected, but I had some questions going forward. Not just about my story, but because I’m not the only author that this will affect. Audible has been doing original stories in audio without a print version. At the moment, it’s not clear which category of the Hugos they belong in.
One reason that I was confused is that, to an author, “dramatic presentation” means very specific rights, which we didn’t sell to Audible.com. I mean, yes. “Lady Astronaut of Mars” was in an audiobook anthology, but it’s still a novelette.
I should point out that this is just a question with the Hugos. The Nebula awards made the ruling several years ago, that the form of delivery didn’t matter regardless of if it was paper, ebook, engraved clay tablets, or audiobook. What counted were the words that the author wrote. However, the Hugos are not the Nebulas and are governed by different rules.
Meanwhile, here are the emails that I’ve exchanged with the committee, which I would rather supply to make sure context is totally clear than risk distorting things from a partial narrative.
Sep 3, 2013 at 6:09 PM
Dear Mr. Dashoff, Mr. Docherty, Mr. Jaffe, Mr. Staton, Ms. Welsh, and Mr. Yalow,
After the Hugo Awards, I was shocked to see that my novelette “Lady Astronaut of Mars” had received enough nominations to make the ballot but had been declared ineligible. I saw the note that it was because it was an audiobook, but I don’t understand why that rendered it ineligible.
When Metatropolis, also from Audible, came out the authors were told that the anthology as a whole was eligible for Best Dramatic Presentation, but that the individual stories were eligible in the appropriate fiction categories. Why was my story different?
I’ve gone through the rules and don’t see anything about the medium of delivery for stories. Can you please help me to understand what happened?
Sep 4, 2013 at 7:21 AM
I expected this to happen once the results were published.
When the nominations were received, the subcommittee went back and looked at the website and your comments, which included the statement that the ORIGINAL item had included stage directions for how to present the various characters in the story. The printed version that appeared in (if I remember correctly) February 2013, which we suspect many nominators saw before submitting their choices, did not contain these directions. Since for the purposes of eligibility at LoneStarCon 3 the eligible item is the Audible presentation, we felt that the additional stage directions made it a different work from the story that was printed on the website and more correctly should have been located in the Best Dramatic Presentation category.
Given all of the above, it was also the opinion of the subcommittee that the story as it appeared on the website in February 2013 should be eligible for a Hugo at Loncon 3. However, just as there was a different administrator handling the Hugos when Metatropolis was released, who made the opinion on that work, there will be a different administrator, Dave McCarty, in charge of the Hugos next year at LonCon. Mr. Yalow will be in charge of the entire WSFS division, of which the Hugos are a part, so he will be familiar with the history of this item. I am including Mr. McCarty as a recipient of this response, so that he will be familiar with the situation as well. I cannot guarantee that he will rule as I and our subcommittee did, but I will be happy to provide any other information you feel would help support our decision to allow eligibility for the novelette in 2014.
This was an unfortunate “edge case”, but the entire subcommittee agreed with the interpretation. I believe that it might be helpful for someone to propose clarification to the WSFS constitution to delineate whether the medium by which material is presented does or does not affect the category for a given work.
Hugo Administrator, LoneStarCon 3
Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Thank you for the explanation. I will admit that I am dismayed as the text on my website is exactly the text that I gave the narrator, including the stage directions. This is the original. There are only two true stage directions. [Dorothy as child] and [snorts]. The rest are lines that I suggested cutting if the narrator didn’t need them. If you search for [square brackets] you will see all five of the “stage directions.” What appears on my website is the original, not something that was modified for print.
While I did write “Lady Astronaut of Mars” knowing that the final product would be performed, it is still a novelette.
I took advantage of the medium that the story would appear in, in the same way that I might include hyperlinks in a work that I knew was going to be in ebook format or footnotes for one in print. Beyond that, I thought it was still a novelette.
Since there is nothing in the rules to suggest that the medium matters, I was blindsided. May I suggest that, in the future, contacting the author beforehand would at least eliminate the pain of making a discovery like this while at a party? It was unpleasant and something I would rather have learned in private.
Meanwhile, I would very much like to know if this work is still eligible in print, especially since it is exactly the same form as the one that was declared ineligible. Since your ruling was based on the mistaken belief that the printed text was different than the recorded one, do I need to revise it and republish it in print in order for it to count as a new work?
Along those lines, for works that appear in both print and audio, are both versions eligible in their respective categories?
Finally, since I will ultimately need to let people know if it is or is not eligible for next year, may I have permission to quote your email?
Thank you for the work that you put into administering the Hugos and for taking the time to answer my questions.
Sep 8, 2013 at 10:41 AM
Dear Mr. McCarty and Mr. Dashoff,
I’d like to include Stephen Feldberg, of Audible, in this conversation since this decision affects a lot of authors besides me. Audible has been commissioning original short stories, novelettes, and novellas for audio anthologies for some time now. I’ve apprised him of what happened with my story, as well as letting other authors know that their stories may be affected in the future.
I agree that a measure should be raised at the next WSFs, but it will be too late to alter the eligibility of stories published in 2013, so we have to rely on the Hugo committee for that decision. I think it would save a lot of confusion and potential strife if we could have the answer before nominating begins. Can you let me know if where things stand?
Again, thank you for your time and attention.
Sep 9, 2013 at 7:08 AM from Todd Dashoff
I have discussed this again with the members of my subcommittee, and our opinion remains that the work published in 2012 belongs in Best Dramatic Presentation. My personal opinion is that the printed work that appeared on your website in February of 2013 would be eligible in the appropriate fiction category, but as previously stated, I am not the Hugo Administrator for 2013, and it is usually the practice of the Administrator to not make rulings in advance on issues.
Sep 9, 2013 at 8:28 AM
Dear Mr. Dashoff,
Thank you for that clarification. Unless you have any objections, I’m going to quote your emails so that I can provide an official source for this information to the other authors and fans that this is a gray area.
As someone who has been on the hotseat about awards eligibility, I am not expecting them to make a ruling about future audiobooks with any speed. And I’m going to take Mr. Dashoff’s advice and attempt to draft an amendment to the WSFS constitution. Of course, my preference would be that the medium in which a story is published should not matter. Either way, it would take two years for such a measure to go into effect, which means that we’re still looking at the current rule set.
Based on the Metatropolis ruling, I had previously thought that the text was eligible for fiction categories, while the performance could be considered for dramatic presentation. According to this ruling, if a work is only in audio form, it’s disqualified from the fiction categories and only eligible as a dramatic presentation.
There’s actually an exciting opportunity for authors here, if future Hugo administrators maintain the separation of audio from fiction.
Given the rules on year of eligibility, it means that if the audio form and the ebook/print form come out in different years, each form would be eligible in the year it first appears. Remakes of audiobooks would also be eligible, following the precedent set by remakes of SF films. For instance, Ellen Kushner’s The Fall of Kings came out as a novel in 2003, but the audiobook with Neil Gaiman performing, just came out in 2013. This production of it should thus be eligible for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form.
Since they are considering audiobooks are separate entities from print books, that means that the audiobook should still be considered in dramatic presentation while the print/ebook is in the fiction categories. For instance, Seanan McGuire’s Chimes at Midnight, which I narrate, could theoretically be considered next year for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form AND Best Novel.
Mind you, I think that the form in which a work appears shouldn’t matter for its inclusion in the fiction categories, but I will abide by whatever the rules are. I will admit that I’d like to know what they are ahead of time. Right now? I have no idea what is eligible in 2013.
Anyone want to help me draft an amendment?
EDITED TO ADD: This clause in the WSFS Constitution was just pointed out to me.
3.2.4: A work shall not be eligible if in a prior year it received sufficient nominations to appear on the final award ballot.