Following this year’s World Fantasy Con there was discussion in various places about why there is no Hugo for Lifetime Achievement. The World Fantasy Awards have such a category, and SFWA has its Grand Master awards, but there is nothing similar in the Hugos. Why not?
Well, because the Hugos are controlled by the members of WSFS, the obvious answer is that no one in WSFS has decided to create such a category. So, given that we had a panel at SMOFcon about Hugo categories, we asked the attendant SMOFs if they thought such a category would be a good idea. No one was wildly enthusiastic about at, but equally no one was adamantly against. Indeed, we very quickly came up with a very good short list of potential nominees, and that’s always a good sign of a viable category.
There were two significant caveats raised. Firstly it was felt that the category should only be open to people who are alive at the close of nominations, otherwise the award would often go to people who were unable to appreciate the joy of receiving it. Secondly there should be some sort of requirement for longevity in the field – probably around 30 years – to prevent the award being won by someone who did not have anything approaching a lifetime of achievement. And of course you should only be able to win the award once, because even in science fiction no one really has two lifetimes.
Those issues aside, there were only minor issues raised. There was the usual complaint that there are “too many Hugos”. There was some concern that the award would be so high profile that it would eclipse Best Novel, which some people felt was undesirable. And someone raised the possibility that the award would end up being given to the person that fandom thought most likely to die soon, making nomination something that people might dread.
One thing that might derail debate ate the Business Meeting is the possibility that some people might demand a separate Lifetime Achievement category for fans. This in turn might lead to demands for a whole load of additional such categories, each for a different activity, which would certainly lead us into “too many Hugos” territory. Generally the Business Meeting is likely to add one new Hugo if it sounds like the category is workable, but it won’t add many at once.
Assuming we can avoid that pitfall, however, it actually seems that this category has a reasonable chance of being adopted. All it really needs is some people to be prepared to do the work of raising support and guiding it through the Business Meeting. As usual, Kevin would be happy to lend his professional expertise to anyone wanting to draft a motion. So, if there are people out there who feel strongly about this, go for it; we think you have a reasonable chance of success.
Oh, and that short list: Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Fred Pohl, Jack Vance, Betty Ballantine. We are sure that you can think of others.