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Hugo Winner Anthologies?

Over at SF Signal, John DeNardo has posted An Open Letter to Science Fiction Anthologists. He's suggesting that someone publish annual anthologies of the Nebula Award nominees and the Hugo Award Nominees.

The discussion following the letter has been quite interesting (and includes a personally gratifying digression). Andrew Wheeler of the Science Fiction Book Club pointed out the logistical problems of producing those books, and then I and others noted that we haven't even had an anthology of Hugo winners over the past ten years, let alone Hugo nominees. The last one I know of was published by Baen Books in 1997, and collected the winners from 1992-1994.

So does anyone know why publishers stopped publishing the Hugo winners? Or does someone out there have plans to collect them again? Maybe if enough of us contact the big SF publishers, someone will pick up the baton...

Copyright © Michael Burstein


I don't have real insight, not that it's ever stopped me. I know the Hugo Winners books seemed to disappear after Asimov died, though I believe there was at least one volume with Connie Willis as editor. I've always had a sense (though not founded in any facts) that the loss of Asimov's force-of-personality took the momentum out of the series. (Sort of like someone other than Harlan Ellison publishing a Dangerous Visions.) Of course, even those weren't published annually, but once every few years.

I hope someone's pointed out to DeNardo that the Nebula nominees do get published annually, more or less?
Oh, the Nebula anthologies are something he knows about it. Remember, his post was arguing in favor of anthologies of all nominees each year. Even the Nebula anthologies don't include all the nominees.

And after Connie, Greg Benford edited the last Hugo winners volume.
It's a logistical nightmare to put together. You're often dealing with buying the second rights to a story while it's still in the exclusive period, so it can get expensive. And it's all in order to print an anthology of short stories that are very recent. Plus you've got overlap with the year's best anthologies.

My guess is that the sales numbers aren't high enough to justify the huge amount of work it would be to put it together.

It's been my experience that the people crying loudest for these things are the ones who know the least about how to put an anthology together.
It may be a logisitical nightmare, but it does strike me as a valuable thing to do from a simple cultural perspective. The fact that libraries still have the Hugo winner anthologies from the 1960s says something...as well as the fact that a lot of us first read the stories in those books.
Cultural perspectives don't feed the bulldog. And it was an easier sell in the 1960s.
But...but...I don't want to feed any bulldogs! :-)

Here's a thought, though. Some enterprising fan could create a Hugo winners webpage that includes links to all the Hugo winners from the past ten years (heck, from all the way back) that have e-book versions for sale. Then that fan could email writers whose stories aren't available and suggest they license them to be sold on the Internet, using the Hugo winners page as an incentive.

Not the same as an anthology, but it would be a good resource.
You'd still have the rights issues, but they'd likely be much cheaper.

All it needs now is an enterprising fan. *grin*
Keith has the right of it. The sales figures for these sort of anthologies are marginal. The rights can get expensive, especially for the sort of all-inclusive volume that DeNardo seems to want. They may not be any less profitable than, say, any of the Marty Greenberg themed anthologies, but I expect that Roc continues to publish the Nebula Showcases in respect of their editors' personal interest. I don't believe Penguin, or any other big publisher would find ample financial reason to do these sort of books.
I think just as many people bought the Hugo Winner anthologies for Asimov's headnotes as they did the stories contained within. Who but, maybe, Harlan, could follow up that act?
That's a fair point. I suspect that the Willis and Benford ones didn't sell as well because they didn't comment on the stories.

I, for one, would be happy to do it... :-)
I'm sure you'd do quite well at that. ;-)

I have very fond memories of reading the Hugo winners volumes in high school and being charmed by Asimov's voice (I have to agree with jamietr); those introductions, complete with anecdotes about the authors, at very least maintained an illusion of sf as one unified lively, thriving community; I suppose they cast a sort of nerdy glamour over things. Ellison's intros in Dangerous Visions had a similar effect. I doubt it's even possible for the community to be summed up so centrally these days.

Not that this really has anything to do with publishing the award nominees each year...
Isn't this already done, though, in effect?

When the Hugo or Nebula nominees are announced, within a few weeks links to almost all of the short-fiction nominees, as well as pointers to where one can purchase the books, can be read for free. This allows members of Worldcon or members of SFWA to read the stories, and vote on them, even if they didn't pay for the original source publication. It incidentally allows anyone else to read them.

Presumably, the rights to do this are written into author's contracts. Couldn't an award-anthologization right be written into a contract, with some set percentage or fee for reprint rights predetermined? The award anthology would have to be published within X number of years after the award was announced, etc. - some kind of limitation to protect the writer from being paid 1990 fees for a 2010 anthology.

If this was proposed solely as a means of getting access to the stories so that one can make an informed vote, as I said above, that access is already available.

It certainly is a logistical nightmare to secure new rights after the story is published; I went through that in small when I put out my Pennsic Advice Compilation, consisting of a re-ordering by topic of many posts to the newsgroup rec.org.sca over a period of years.

Presumably, the rights to do this are written into author's contracts. Couldn't an award-anthologization right be written into a contract, with some set percentage or fee for reprint rights predetermined? The award anthology would have to be published within X number of years after the award was announced, etc. - some kind of limitation to protect the writer from being paid 1990 fees for a 2010 anthology.

For short fiction, the original publisher usually loses exclusivity after a period of time. If that hasn't happened, most publishers will grant authors the right to post the story online for a limited period during voting. However, there is no incentive for publishers to request anthology rights in most short fiction. As noted, the publishers usage is usually limited to a period of time in a particular publication (magazine or anthology). Also, the odds that any one publisher would publish all of the Nebula or Hugo nominees in the same year are about as slim-to-none as you can get. No matter whether the publisher had those rights or the author, the anthology editor would still have to clear rights from individual sources with varying payment requests.

anthology of nominees

Since someone mentioned an anthology of Nebula winners and nominees is already put out and there are several year's best anthologies that come out every year, getting reprint rights to recent stories seems not an insurmountable hurdle (unless the best of the year anthologies have begun demand exclusive reprint rights). After all, what writer will turn down a chance to be paid again for something s/he already wrote.

More to the point, the question is whether there's a market for a Hugo nominees anthology. The people who know what the Hugos are will most likely have already read the stories online (yes, the online stories are usually taken down after the voting is over, but people still will have read them). For everyone else, a Hugo nominee anthology would be competing with all the other best of the year anthologies so would have a tough market.

Re: anthology of nominees

The hurdle is certainly not insurmountable, but on occasion a writer will refuse for whatever reason. Also, keep in mind that the Nebula Awards Showcase books do not usually include all the nominees, which is what DeNardo was suggesting.

As for whether there is a market, I am firmly of the belief that there would be a library market at the very least.
The idea that Hugo nominees could be read online is a rather new one. In fact, not to be immodest, but I was the one who first suggested this, back in 1996. When I was nominated, I suggested to the Hugo administrators that we try to put the stories online, and I even volunteered to host a few of the competing short stories on my own webpage. As I recall, I gave space to Esther Friesner's story.

Before that, the 1993 convention had created a CD-ROM, which they sold after the voting was all done.)

As for the rights to put the stories online, that's generally not in an author's contract. Nor is award anthologization. Indeed, some writers might very well resist having their award-winning story included, as others have noted.
As a new SF reader in the mid-'70s, I found the Hall of Fame volumes, Nebula winner volumes, Dangerous Visions and Orbit to be absolutely invaluable. I found them months before I found out about the magazines.
Ditto. The fact that the local library had them was also important.
As you should know from your years with NESFA, anthologies means getting multiple rights from multiple sources--and dealing with just one agent can be a major pain, never mind 5+.

I *could* see NESFA putting out a Nebula (or Hugo) retrospective--say, all but the novels for a particular year. But the last anthology we did like that (_1964_, Silverberg, ed.) flopped. (If you include the novels, the anthology turns into a great tome. And you couldn't get rights to, say, Harry Potter.)

Of course, since you are a member of NESFA...hint, hint...
Yeah, well, I'm not about to suggest this to NESFA as a project, as I sincerely doubt I would have the time to put it together... :-)

(Now, if one of my own stories was going to appear in a Hugo winners anthology, I might do the work...but that's starting to seem less and less likely.)

December 2016

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