The Duties of the Hugo Administrative Team

My name is Will Frank, and I’m the Vice-Administrator of this year’s Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Administrators have a couple of specific duties: first and foremost, we oversee the process of nomination and voting. We work with the Registration departments of Worldcons Past, Present, and Future (Sasquan, MidAmeriCon II, and Worldcon 75) to make sure we have an accurate count of all the Supporting or Attending members—and clean up duplicates, of course, because you only get to nominate once, even if you have memberships to all three Worldcons—and assign every member a unique nominating identifier and security code. We also set up a page within the convention’s website for nominating online.

Once nominations close at the end of March, we go through the data and process it. There are a few steps to this, the biggest one being canonicalization. We review the data to make sure that votes for, for example, “The Three-Body Problem” and “The 3-Body Problem” and “Three Body Problem” and “ The There Body Problem ” —which would all appear separately in our database—are all set up to be recognized as nominations for the same book. And if you think that’s bad, imagine what it’s like when episodes of television get nominated in Best Dramatic Presentation, where there are series title, episode title, and season and episode number, and a thousand different ways to put those together…

Once that’s done, we have our preliminary finalists. That’s when we start reaching out to nominees, letting them know they’ve been nominated, and a bit about the awards. That can be surprisingly difficult if we don’t know people’s email addresses. Sometimes, they’re public…but fairly often they’re not. There’s a certain amount of Googling, guessing, or asking people with impressive Rolodexes just to figure out a valid email address sometimes.

Email addresses acquired, we send the emails filled with information, including the procedure for accepting (which really is just “tell us”) or declining (ditto). Nowadays, we also include information concerning the Hugo Voter Packet and how to send materials to us.

And then, when the Hugo finalists are announced (coming Tuesday, April 26), we start getting ready for voting. In many ways this is similar to our work for nominations: identifying all voting members (members of MidAmeriCon II, Supporting and Attending alike), issuing them new voting credentials, and set up a voting page.

There’s no canonicalization needed this time, because there isn’t an open field of text entry; instead, we review the votes and process them through the Instant-Runoff Voting scheme you may be familiar with and…then we keep our mouths shut.

We also have the responsibility to make judgment calls. There’s a section of the WSFS Constitution that details the Hugo-based judgment calls the Worldcon Committee is allowed to make, and the Administrators are the people the Committee deputizes to make the decision. Is a certain Dramatic Presentation Short or Long? Well, 90 minutes is the line, but there’s actually a 20% wiggle room. So if something really feels like a “Long” presentation but it’s only 87.5 minutes, we have the authority to just say it’s Long and be done with it. We try to be judicious in our use of that sort of thing, because we know we’re setting potential precedents.

Another duty, this year at least, was judging the open design competition for the Hugo bases. Of course, I really can’t say much about those just yet, except this: I know what they look like, and I can’t wait for you all to see them.

We don’t work alone, of course. We have database experts, website coders, and communications staffers for collecting Packet material and emailing finalists, so the job doesn’t overwhelm us.

It definitely can get overwhelming—technical glitches, bounced emails, slogging through a database of typos and confusing references to titles and names, staff conflicts and coordination. I admit that I didn’t know what to expect when I took this job. But I want to do this, because it’s important. The Hugo voting process has been criticized over the past few years, but the one basic truism is this: the Hugo is award of the fans who nominate and vote. I’m doing this to make sure the choices of those fans are honored.