What Are the Hugo Awards?

Just about every marketable industry has some type of awards ceremony. After all, it is nice to be recognized by your peers. For the science fiction and fantasy literature industry, the highest literary honor that you can possibly win is a Hugo Award. It is the equivalent of receiving an Academy Award in the science fiction field. It is given out every year to honor the achievements and extraordinary works or writers, editors, publishers, and artists from the previous year.

The Hugo Awards are held at the international Worldcon convention and the nominees are voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Society, which number in the thousands. The Hugo Awards go back several decades. Each year five nominees in each of the several categories are picked and voted on. The results are then revealed during the Worldcon convention.

What Is Worldcon?

Worldcon is also known as the World Science Fiction Convention and is held every year at a different location around the world. It first started in 1939 and has been held every year since except for the years during World War II (1942 to 1945). The convention is held by the World Science Fiction Society whose members are from all over the world. This international convention holds activities such as panel discussions, autograph sessions, socializing, gaming, costume contests, and other activities suited for fans of the genre.


The World Science Fiction Society (or WSFS) is an unincorporated society. This means it’s not a company for profit. It doesn’t have any officers or a formal council. Its main purpose is solely to sponsor Worldcon and promote the industry.

How The Hugos Got Started

The Hugo Awards have been held at Worldcon since 1955. They are named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the popular pulp science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. The very first awards were given out at the 11th Annual Worldcon in 1953. A guy named Hal Lynch had the idea to hand out some awards and had a series of trophies made that resembled a steel rocketship. Btu it wasn’t until two years later that the awards became a permanent part of the convention. The original name for the awards was the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Award. “Hugo” was just a nickname for it. But then in 1993, it was voted to change the official name to the Hugo Awards.

The trophy is still based on the same original design of a rocketship. However, every year the base is designed and voted on by WSFC members so the trophy’s base is different every year. The rocketship, of course, symbolizes early science fiction and remains an icon today.

The Voting Process

The nominatiosn for the Hugo Awards takes place between January and March of every year. WSFS members are allowed to nominate up to five people or works of science fiction and fantasy from the previous year for each catergory. Eventhough there are thousands of Worldcon members, only aroun 600 or so actually nominate and vote. By mid to end of  April a list with all of the finalists in each category is announced. This ballot with all of the finalists is mailed to the members of the Worldcon. Voting for the final ballot usually invovles around a thousand members, more than in the nomination process. The ballot is a preferential ballot so all of the voters can rank the nominees. This usually ends around end of July, although it varies depending on when Worldcon is held that year. Then when Worldconis held, all of the winners are announced during the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Hugo Award Categories

There are many categories for the Hugo Awards. They include awards for everyone from the authors to the people who helped get the book published to the artists that illustrate them. There are even awards for fans. Here is a list of all the categories for the Hugos.

  • Hugo Award for Best Novel
  • Hugo Award for Best Novella
  • Hugo Award for Best Novelette
  • Hugo Award for Best Short Story
  • Hugo Award for Best Related Book
  • Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story
  • Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
  • Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
  • Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine
  • Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist
  • Hugo Award for Best Editor Long Form
  • Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form
  • Hugo Award for Best Fanzine
  • Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer
  • Hugo Award For Best Fan Artist
  • The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer