Female sf artists and the Hugo ballot

Jenn just linked to a great piece by Justin Landon about the paucity of female sf artists on award ballots and in pro publications.

I recommend reading the article in full; lots of good stuff there. But I'm going to focus on one specific aspect: the Best Professional Artist category of the Hugo ballot.

As Landon notes (and as others including me have noted previously), in 2013 there was a woman in that category for the first time in 27 years. TWENTY. SEVEN. YEARS. The last time a woman appeared in that category was 1986.

Part of that is because the Pro Artist category is one of the least-changing categories. During the years since 1987, there've been a total of only 26 nominees; during a recent five-year span, there were a total of only 9 nominees. So I suspect that a lot of what happens is that the people doing the Hugo nominating just don't know the names of any other pro artists, so they keep nominating the same people over and over.

But there's been a huge influx of new Hugo nominators in the past few years. And this year, there were three artists on the Pro Artist ballot who had never appeared there before; that's happened before (most recently in 2008), but it's rare.

So I'm hoping that this may be a good opportunity to get more women on the ballot.

So here's my request to all of you who plan to nominate for the Hugos in 2014:

Please seek out recent art by women, and consider whether you feel the artist is worthy of a Hugo. Don't just wait to see whether you happen to notice any female artists; go out and look for them. And if you find some who you'd like to see win a Hugo, then please nominate them.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER PARAGRAPH: No, I'm not calling for quotas or for lowering standards. There are plenty of female professional artists who I believe are creating Hugoworthy art; see the Landon piece for some of them.

2 Responses to “Female sf artists and the Hugo ballot”

  1. Vardibidian

    I’ll ask again, since it’s been years since I asked and the rules have changed a little: do you think the sculptor Patricia Piccolini is eligible for the Hugo for Best Professional Artist? The rules no longer specifically say ‘illustrator’, but the definition of ‘professional’ is all about illustration.

    This year has been a spectacular year for Ms. Piccolini, including the release of both an app (with a gallery and criticism and art history and whatnot) and the Skywhale, neither of which count as ‘professional’ by the rules, but are clearly the works of a professional artist.

    I hope that’s not too off-topic; I know I am a crackpot on the topic of “fine arts” and the Hugos. Obviously the list of people considered for the Best Professional Artist Hugo could be a million times more inclusive and wide-ranging even within illustration. But I remain cranky about the fact that the spec-fic community is not giving themselves exposure to excellent artists, such as Ms. Piccolini–just as one example.


    • Jed

      Argh. Wrote a long response, lost it due to Internet problems. 🙁

      Attempted reproduction of that response, slightly shorter:

      Official rules still say “illustrator,” but I suspect most people wouldn’t care about enforcing that.

      However, official rules also say must have work in a professional publication, which by Hugo definitions essentially means a publication or company that provides a significant percentage of the staff or owner’s income.

      Rules also say it must be a publication in the field of SF/F, but that’s another rule that I doubt many people care about.

      So if you can argue that Ms. Piccolini has had work published in 2013 in a “professional publication” by the Hugo definition, and if enough nominators nominate her, then she could appear on the ballot.

      I don’t know whether anyone has tried to argue eligibility for artists whose work doesn’t appear in publications per se; might be an argument worth making. But “clearly the work of a professional artist” probably isn’t a good enough argument; the Hugo definition of “professional” isn’t about quality, it’s about staff getting paid, so you’d need to argue something equivalent. Appearance in a professional gallery, maybe? (As opposed to, say, a convention art show.)

      I have another entry in progress about this professional-publication stuff, but it might be a while before I finish and post it.


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