There is no Hugo category quite a broad in its definition as ‘Best Related Work’. The inclusions of Archive of Our Own (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archive_of_Our_Own) as a finalists has caused some discussion about its eligibility. The rules for the category state:
3.3.6: Best Related Work.Any work related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year or which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text, and which is not eligible in any other category.http://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/WSFS-Constitution-as-of-August-21-2018.pdf
As a set of bullet points:
- Related to the field or fandom. Lots of SF/F in there and by its nature what gets written is out of fanishness. Check.
- Either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text. The contents of the archive are fiction but what is being nominated is the thing as an entity. Consider the difference between lots of science fiction novels and a library of science fiction novels. It’s the library that’s being nominated, which includes its contents but which is not the same as its contents. Check.
- Not eligible in any other category. Obviously. Check.
- Which has been substantially modified during the previous calendar year. I think this is the only weak point in an eligibility argument. Obviously lots of new content has been added in the past year but (looking back at point 2) did it change substantially as an entity other than its content last year? I don’t know but my ignorance is purely that: ignorance on my part. Even then point 4 is more of a question for any future nominations for AO3 than something that worries me about this year’s eligibility.
As a thing in itself, AO3 is a monumental achievement and a huge expression of fan activity. It’s this last aspect that I think makes it a good fit for the Hugo Awards which are themselves derived from a similar drive of fannish self-organisation and expression.
What kind of precedent is set by this? No obvious one comes to mind. Arguably, a convention could be nominated or some more nebulous project but then that has always been the case and weirder things have been finalists.
A different question (and something that has also come up when discussing fan writing) is whether the Hugos need their own distinct non-fiction writing categories. Currently Best Related Work is a default category for longer non-fiction and Fan Writer is a proxy for shorted non-fiction, even though neither category are quite that.
In the meantime, fan fiction in itself is something that is always going to be something difficult for the Hugo Awards to award.