I was so irritated that I simply left the meeting at that point. I've since learned that later in the meeting, someone more canny with Roberts Rules of Order managed to get a committee formed to discuss the notion of a YA Hugo. I hope this means that something will come of it (though my experience in a university usually translates "there will be a committee to discuss" something as "we'll talk it to death until people give up and go away"). Maybe the Roberts Rules sticklers will format the wording in a way more acceptable to the WSFS. One can only hope.
Since this is at least the third year in a row that the topic has come up, there's already been a good deal of discussion on it. Some claim that having a YA Hugo Award will bring more young adults to WorldCon. I'm not hopeful of that, but since there are many *adult* readers of YA, maybe more of those will show up in support of YA authors in attendance. LoneStarCon 3 had at least two YA panels ("Giving Science a Boost with YA SF" and "YA Fantasy - We'll Always be 13 at Heart") that were packed, so YA is popular with WorldCon attendees.
I don't really have a horse in this race. Although I'm a YA author, I'm with a small press, and it seems that only the bigger, traditional publishing houses have the distribution to bring their YA books and authors to the notice of those who will nominate and vote on the award.
That's a major factor in this discussion.
This isn't the Mythopoeic Award, the Newbery Award or the Printz. It's not the EPIC eBook Award or the Nebulas. All of these are juried awards, all looking for particular criteria which signifies the "best" for those awards. No, instead, the Hugo Award is what is considered to be a "popular" award. For the Hugo award, works are nominated and voted on by those attending and/or supporting the WorldCon for a particular year. Those people voting for the awards are readers, watchers, authors, editors - *anyone* attending or supporting that WorldCon. Yet the arguments I've heard against a YA Hugo suggests that any book nominated would supposedly (by some objectors) have to be held to a higher standard, something that would be on reading lists for schools for years to come. I would think that would have to be left to those librarians and teachers who compose the reading lists, not voters for the Hugos.
There are those who complain that a YA Award was "tried" years ago. According to the WSFS notes, it was "tried" back in 1989 and the "nominating response was too low" to make it to the final ballot. However, this was before the rise in popularity in YA, back before the first Harry Potter book was published. (The WSFS note is from 2000, when one Harry Potter book had been nominated). The image of YA by both the publishing industry and the reading public has changed since then.
Another argument has been that it's much more prestigious for a YA book to be judged as a "Best Novel" in competition with adult novels. Indeed, one of the Harry Potter books (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) won the Hugo for Best Novel in 2001, after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban made it into the nominations in 2000. In 2009, there were three books considered YA among the five nominations (The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, and Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi) and one of them(The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman) won. John Scalzi blogged about the uproar and grumbling back then.
So, if on one hand it's okay for YA books to be in competition with adult books, but on the other hand, people have a problem with a YA book being considered the "Best of" a particular year, why can't there be a YA/Middle Grade category? This is more an age division then, rather than a "subgenre" as some claim. Jane Yolen was interviewed back in 2012 about a YA Hugo and mentioned that YA authors would welcome another award category.
Here's what bears repeating. The Andre Norton awards (part of the Nebulas) are decided upon by SFWA members and a jury. The Golden Duck Awards (for Best Children and YA Science Fiction) are decided upon by a jury and the categories only cover through twelfth grade. The Hugo Awards, as a popular award, is one chance for YA readers (adult and younger) to vote on what they consider "The Best".
Peta Freestone posted similar points on her site, along with the points that the 2009 nominations weren't exactly considered "YA". Gaiman's book also won the Newbery Award, the Carnegie Award and the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel, so those three groups considered it YA/Children.
So, how will YA books be identified? One person who was working on the proposal suggested that what is listed on the copyright page, what division of the publisher would be a determining point. That would work for the traditional publishers, who are big enough to have a separate division for each category of publication. It wouldn't work for small press (if it ever happened that a small press would get enough exposure to be nominated). At that point, the publisher's page should be considered - what category on the publisher's page is the book listed under. Cheryl Morgan back in 2010 recommended letting those making the nomination decide, which also sounds like a good idea, but probably not to those wanting solid rules.
For more details on this year's attempt at the YA Hugo and some more arguments, here is a link.
Yet another complaint about a YA Hugo is that it would make the awards ceremony much longer than it already is. Sorry, but as someone who has attended both the Hugos and the EPIC eBook Awards (EPIC is an organization of *ebook* publishers and authors, so practically every category is included), the Hugo Awards ceremony was short. The biggest thing taking up time at the Hugos was all the picture taking and waiting for the nominees to come in from dinner. Has anyone considered having the formal dinner start earlier?
The Hugo Rules allow for a trial year for a category. Those categories that aren't renewed within three years get dropped. Perhaps the time has come for a trial year for the YA Hugo.
As a YA reader, there are many YA authors (small press and traditional) I would love to see recognized in the SF community.
What are your thoughts?