Jeff Prucher, author of Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction was recently honored with a Hugo Award. Below are his thoughts on the honor.
Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction recently won the Hugo Award for Best Related Book. This is an enormous honor for me, and for Oxford as well. Now, winning an award is a lot of fun, because everyone who knows you (and even some people who don’t) is happy for you, but mixed in amongst the congratulatory remarks were a number of comments like “Congratulations! And, um, what’s a Hugo?” (And they were presumably too polite to add, “and book related to what?”) Briefly, the Hugo Awards are the most prestigious of the many, many awards given for achievements in science fiction and fantasy. The awards are voted on by the members of each year’s World Science Fiction Convention. Significantly for me, it is also one of the very few science fiction awards with a category for non-fiction. Or sort of a category for non-fiction, anyway. The official definition of “Best Related Book” says:
Any work whose subject is related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time in book form during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text.
This, then, is an award for non-fiction books (which in practice includes art books), plus possibly some other stuff. (The “other stuff” this year was the beautiful wordless graphic novel The Arrival by Shaun Tan.) So nominees are judged against, not only books in their own genre (be it art, criticism, reference, biography, or whatever), but also against books in several other genres, making it a sometimes difficult choice for voters, but in some ways that much more of an accolade. (In fact, the award was formerly known as Best Non-fiction Book, and did not include the final “if fictional” clause; no fictional works, however, have won since the change was made. There is also a proposal to change the award to Best Related Work, to allow on-line publications to be eligible.)
I’ll conclude with a version of the short acceptance speech I wrote: Brave New Words was a labor of love, but it would not have been remotely possible without the contributions of literally hundreds of fans, and I would like to thank them for all their time and effort.