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The Hugo Awards are given every year for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. Hugo Awards have been presented every year since 1955.

Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by members (supporting or attending) of the annual Worldcon (although only about 700 of several thousand Worldcon members actually vote) and the presentation evening constitutes its central point. The selection process is defined in the World Science Fiction Society Constitution as instant-runoff voting with five nominees (except in the case of a tie). Unusually, the nominees in each category include "No award," if a voter feels none of the other entries are worthy of recognition; if "No award" receives the most votes in a category, then none of the nominees receives an award.

The Hugo Award trophy was designed by Hoffman Bronze Company based on a picture by Ben Jason, whose picture in turn was based on a design by Jack McKnight and, earlier, Willy Ley. The rocket design has become standardised in recent years and the rockets are currently produced by UK fan Peter Weston. The design for the base on which the rocket is mounted is the responsibility of the Worldcon committee and therefore changes each year. The base design has been selected by various means including committee selection, direct commission and open competition (currently the most common method).

The 2009 awards were presented at Anticipation, the 67th World Science Fiction Convention in Montrealmarker, Canadamarker, in August. The list of nominees and winners for the 2009 Awards is available on the official Hugo Awards website .


While "bests" had been voted at all Worldcons since the inaugural event in 1939, no awards were presented until the 11th Worldcon (Philcon II, Philadelphiamarker 1953). The awards were the idea of Hal Lynch, hand-machined by Jack McKnight and consisted of a finned steel rocket on a circular wooden base. They were not initially conceived to be a permanent Worldcon feature. However, at the 13th Worldcon (Clevelandmarker, Ohiomarker 1955) it was decided to make the physical awards permanent. The design was created by the Hoffman Bronze Company based on a picture by Ben Jason, whose picture in turn was based on a design by Jack McKnight and, earlier, Willy Ley. It was largely similar to the first design but on a square base, and became the standard design for most of the following conventions. Initially the award was called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Award, with "Hugo Award" being an unofficial, but better known name. Since 1993, the nickname has been adopted as the official name of the award.

There have been several anthologies collecting Hugo-winning short fiction. The well-known series The Hugo Winners edited and introduced by Isaac Asimov was started in 1962, collecting all winners up to the previous year, and concluded with the 1982 Hugos in Volume 5. The New Hugo Winners, edited originally by Asimov, then by Connie Willis, and finally by Gregory Benford, has four volumes collecting stories from the 1983 to the 1994 Hugos.

The 1954 award

Because the awards presented in 1953 were initially conceived as “one-off” awards, the 1954 Worldcon decided not to present them again. The 1955 Worldcon decided that they should present them, and thereafter it became traditional. Later, after WSFS got written rules, the Hugo Awards were codified into the WSFS Constitution, and became one of the things a Worldcon must do.

Hugo Award categories

Until about 1960, most Hugo award categories changed from year to year. The current standard award categories (specified in World Science Fiction Society Constitution) have been:

The rules also allow for an additional category at the discretion of the Worldcon organising committee, the most recent ones being the Hugo Award for Best Web Site in 2002 and 2005. An earlier example was the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series awarded in 1966 to the Foundation trilogy.

Retro Hugos

In mid-1990s Retrospective Hugo Awards (normally abbreviated Retro Hugos) were added: Worldcons held 50, 75, or 100 years after a Worldcon where no Hugos had been awarded (i.e. 1939–41, 1946–52 and 1954) can also retroactively select Hugos for that year, by the same process as the regular Hugos.

This was a subject of much controversy, with critics of the proposal arguing that hindsight necessarily distorts perception, and there is no point in giving awards decades post factum anyway. There have been only three Retro-Hugos given at 1996, 2001 and 2004 Worldcons (always for 50 years back), while the five eligible in 1997–2000 and 2002 did not organize them; the next opportunity will be in 2014 for the year 1939, starting the 75-year cycle.

Related awards

There are many other science fiction awards; the best-known and most often compared to the Hugos in importance are the Nebula Awards given by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Many countries have their national annual SF/F awards voted by readers or convention attendees, including BSFA Award in the UK and the Canadian Aurora Award with separate categories for English and French fiction. Probably the best-known of non-English speaking countries is the Japanese Seiun Award, whose foreign fiction categories are often presented at Worldcon.

The World Science Fiction Convention also awards the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, sponsored by the publishers of Analog Science Fiction and Fact which John W. Campbell edited. Although presented at the same ceremony and voted by the same process, it is not formally a Hugo. (Nor should it be confused with the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, a jury-selected prize not associated with the Worldcon at all.)

The Locus Award is a poll of readers of the science fiction news magazine Locus which has a higher number of voters than the Hugos.

During 1974–1980 the World Science Fiction Convention also awarded the Gandalf Award for Grand Master of Fantasy and (in 1978–79) Book-Length Fantasy.

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