Friday, November 11, 2011

Nebula v. Hugo

I thought it was high time I used this space to address another excellent reader question: what is the difference between the Nebula and Hugo awards?

The short answer is that the Nebula is voted on by sci-fi writers, while the Hugo is voted on by sci-fi fans.

I suppose one could think of the Nebula as being more like the SAG Awards, and the Hugo as being more like the MTV Viewer’s Choice Awards.

The Nebula

The Nebula was started in 1965. It is mainly awarded for writing – novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories – although every year there are also a couple service awards and one for “best dramatic presentation,” which is usually a film.

It is awarded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), which is a professional organization for science fiction and fantasy authors. There are several levels of membership, which are determined by how much you have published, and you can only vote on the Nebula if you meet the criteria for being in one of the top two levels. To be in the second-highest level you have to have sold at least one short story to a professional publication (the SFWA has a list of the ones they will accept) and you have to have been paid at least $50 for it. To get into the top level you have to have sold three short stories or one novel or one full-length professionally produced dramatic script.

The Hugo

To vote for the Hugo, on the other hand, all you have to be is a supporting member of that year’s WorldCon (World Science Fiction Convention), which you can do by paying $50 to the World Science Fiction Society. That gets you voting rights for the current year’s nominees and the final ballot, and nomination rights for next year’s awards. You don’t even have to attend the convention. The only caveat is that you can’t nominate your own work, and you can only nominate up to five works each year.

The Hugo is older than the Nebula; it was first awarded in 1953, skipped in 1954, and then awarded every year from 1955 until now. It is awarded in a wide variety of categories which change from year to year and can include books, films, TV shows, fanzines, art, and people. My personal favorite is a special award given in 1969 to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins for Best Moon Landing Ever.

The Hugo Awards are named for Hugo Gernsback, the founder of Amazing Stories, the first major sci-fi magazine in the United States.

An Unexpected Finding

When I launched this whole book-review project, I predicted that I would like the Nebula winners more than the Hugo winners. Presumptuous as I am, I thought that since the Nebulas are awarded by the writers, they must be of higher quality.

But so far, lo and behold, I have given the Hugo winners slightly higher ratings than the Nebula winners. As of today, I have read 44 of each (of which 20 books have won both awards). The Nebula winners have an average rating of 2.95 and the Hugo winners have an average rating of 3.27.


Another Fan's Nebula-v-Hugo Analysis
Hugo Awards website
Nebula Awards website

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

There's no rule in the Hugos to say that you can't nominate yourself.

Also it is worth noting that many SFWA members attend Worldcon, and are therefore eligible to vote in the Hugos.

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