Hugo Category Thinking, Best Editor Edition 3

So, Best Editor, Long Form. I’ve been hearing a lot about this category this year. Honestly, when I’m wearing my reader hat, it’s a category I don’t often vote in because I have no idea what any of the editors have done unless someone’s told me. I’ve also noticed it’s a category that tends to be on the low end of the nominating ballot numbers, probably for similar reasons. If you are an industry professional or pay close attention, you can probably make some informed decisions. Otherwise, it’s a big shrug.

(The conspiracy theories that spring up around this category, by the way, are impressive for their baroque twists and utter venom. It’s one hell of a rabbit hole.)

I also think it’s unlikely for Best Editor to get dropped as a category any time soon, since there’s been pretty strong support for it in the WSFS meeting every time it’s been brought up.

And no, Best Novel doesn’t really act as an award for editors. The editor’s name doesn’t get put on the nomination, and the editor sure ain’t the one who picks up the little rocket statue if they win and give a speech. We generally only hear about who edited a novel if the author thanks their editor or the editor mentions it later.

I think the easiest way to make the category more accessible to the people voting (if not people nominating) is if the finalists for Best Editor, Long Form had the titles for two or three of the books they edited that were released in the last year listed by their name. Because of course, the weird thing about being an editor is that probably what they were working on during the nominating period isn’t even out yet, and certainly isn’t the reason anyone nominated them. Thank the lag time in publishing for that one.

I also think it’d be a good idea if the finalists for Best Editor, Short Form had the title of their magazine or anthology by their name. For some reason, I thought this was already the case until I double checked. Probably because short form editors tend to be much more easily identifiable with their publication, be it a magazine or anthology. And I would argue that giving an award to a magazine or anthology is a bit different from giving it particularly to the editor; when you’re putting an award on a magazine as a whole, that’s not just the head editor, it’s really an award for the entire team, down to the slush readers and whoever does the ebook layout conversion. Sort of like the difference between a Best Director award and Best Picture award.

I’ve also heard it proposed that we should have some kind of “before and after” work example for the editors, but I don’t think that would quite work. A big part of the editing job is acquiring the work to begin with—seeing something that they think readers will love and often fighting to get it published. To a certain extent, we’re awarding the editors for having good taste and finding things for us to read.

Because this isn’t “best copy editor.” A before and after wouldn’t be a few pages of a word document with a bunch of tracked changes. For example, if you wanted some kind of before and after of my own novel (Hunger Makes the Wolf) what you’d end up with is two complete versions of the novel to compare, plus a set of notes that I took off an editing phone call—and to be honest, as a writer I would not feel terribly comfortable with people being given those things for several reasons.

So I think the best way to make the category more accessible and meaningful would be to at least link the names of the editors with examples of what they’ve edited. Preferably, what they feel are the titles that best exemplify their work that got published in the last year. (In an ideal situation that would mirror the Best Director idea, they’d be getting the nod for a specific piece of work – but since it can be rather difficult for readers to find out who edited a book depending on how the publisher does the front matter and what the writer said in the acknowledgments, that might be too big of an ask.) That would at least give us context and stop Best Editor, Long Form from becoming something of a name recognition contest.

Thoughts? If this sounds like a workable or useful idea, I’d be happy to work up a proposal on it and seek a cosponsor.

I’m also still trying to figure out some kind of workable solution for smaller films that get released at festivals, but don’t have a wide theatrical release until the next year, which really screws up their eligibility…

3 thoughts on “Hugo Category Thinking, Best Editor Edition

  1. Reply Aphotic Ink Apr 19,2017 12:30

    I think this is a great idea; honestly, when I nominate for Best Long Form, I do it by looking at works that came out in the year and seeing who edited them (since I keep hearing that editors are who champion a book to the publisher, and get it through the process there).

    • Reply Alex Apr 19,2017 12:33

      Yep. Basically the editor likes the book and then had to champion it past a lot of other people to get it. They do mighty amounts of work to male novels happen that are never evident on the page.

  2. Reply camestrosfelapton Apr 19,2017 20:18

    Currently some editors give useful information about what they have done in the Hugo packet but…then other editors don’t. I find that my vote ends up being “who told me something about what they did so I’ve got some idea how to vote” – and of course I feel I have to vote in the category due to the malign influence of certain juvenile canines.

    I’d also feel happier voting for editorial teams (if that’s the term), the art directors etc who all help to make the finished book a book.

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