Making a Hugo Map Part 1

I do like to make maps and visual representations of things but sometimes it is hard to know where to start. I had an urge to make a map the other day and my first thought was to make an island that represented the Hugo Award categories. I ended up doing something else because I had too many ideas of what to include. I wanted to do a map for the Hugo Award categories that looked like a fantasy map but where the features carried genuine meaning.

Rather than just do the map, I thought I’d post about a process and the features I want to include. This will be at least two parts and in this part I’ll just cover some thinking out loud and data.

Firstly, let’s grab some basic data. Here are the current categories, including the not-a-hugos and the year the category started (in one form or another).

Best NovelY1953
Best NovellaY1968
Best NoveletteY1955
Best Short StoryY1955
Best SeriesY2017
Best Related WorkY1980
Best Graphic StoryY2009
Best Dramatic Presentation
(Long and Short Forms)
Best SemiprozineY1984
Best FanzineY1955
Best Professional Editor
(Long and Short Forms)
Best Professional ArtistY1953
Best Fan ArtistY1967
Best Fan WriterY1967
Best FancastY2012
Astounding Award for Best New WriterN1973
Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult BookN2018

How is this going to become a map? We want several things to have something map like.

  • A way of orientating these categories across two dimensions.
  • A way of turning them into regions of varied sizes.
  • A way of adding connections between them.
  • A way of adding other visual features to make the map interesting.

We don’t need all of these things and we do want some latitude to make creative choices. For example, if each category is going to be a region (a county or a country on our map) then we don’t need connections. If we want each category to be a place (a town or a tube-train stop) then we want connections and an order (e.g. you have to travel through shorter fiction to get the Best Novel and then Best Series).

The final map should reflect people’s understanding of the Hugo Awards but also help reveal that understanding. In other words it should look right but also be not immediately obvious.

I won’t resolve all those things in this post but instead worry about just one question: orientation.

For this we need a suitable set of dimensions for a north-south and an east-west axis. The dimensions should be complimentary: different enough that we aren’t just placing everything on a diagonal line but similar enough that there is a sense of the same kind of thing.

What can we use? We have lots of data.

  • Number of final votes (varies by year but we can use an average or pick a given year)
  • Number of nomination votes
  • Number of nominees (this varies a bit by category so this could work)
  • Year the category was established (see above)

There is other data we can grab such as Wikipedia data on categories that could be used to judge the level of attention each category gets. These are all good fodder for making a map but none really shout out as a way of organising the categories on two axes.

Instead of quantities I could look at qualities. There are some interesting ways of categorising the awards.

  • Fan awards versus professional awards
  • Story-based awards versus non-story based awards
  • Awards for written works versus awards for other things
  • Hugo awards versus the not-a-Hugo awards that are part of the Hugo process

Some of those we may want to use to turn a category into a different kinds of physical features. I think the Hugo v not-a-Hugo really calls out to be a distinction between a big mainland and two smaller islands.

However, I think the two that I like best for my axes are:

  • Story-based awards versus non-story based awards
  • Awards for written works versus awards for other things

They are not quantitative but they sort the awards into four quadrants, with some awards in each quadrant but some quadrants more populated than others. That will give the map some overall shape.

Written mediaSomething else
StoryBest Novel, Best Novella,
Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best Series,
Astounding Award, Lodestar Award
Best Graphic Story,
Best Dramatic Presentation
Not storyBest Related Work,
Best Semiprozine,
Best Fanzine
Best Professional Editor,
Best Professional Artist,
Best Fan Artist, Best Fan Writer,
Best Fancast

The top left hand corner is unambiguous but the other quadrants have some debatable occupants. Best Related Work has not always been a written piece, e.g. it has included videos and speeches. Best Fan Writer is a person rather than a piece of writing but “writer” is there in the name! Also Best Editor feels like it should be adjacent to the story categories and semiprozines aren’t “a story” but that is mainly what they contain. Is this a problem? No! That’s good news because it gives me some freedom to move some categories closer to categories in other quadrants. If I make a tube-map style diagram we can use these ambiguous categories as interchanges.

The table also has a nice shape to it already. There is enough in each quadrant that the overall map will have some character to it and shape that is neither too linear nor too blocky.

Here is a very rough first approximation of the territory if we want a fantasy-land like map. I’ve used two arbitrary values for the axes (story is negative values for stories to match the convention of the table above). The numbers I’ve used are just to scatter them about for a first go — I’ll tweak positions later. The size of the bubbles are based on the age of the award. The two long/short categories are single bubbles for the moment.

I’m not sure where Lodestar has gone! I messed up somewhere and fancast has vanished also! Also these aren’t the right positions and I don’t think age is the right parameter to vary the size of each territory. However the overall shape is becoming clearer — an oval with a long oblique axis running from the top left to the bottom right.

So this is far from cooked but I now have a map of how to make the map!

15 thoughts on “Making a Hugo Map Part 1

  1. Here’s how I divide the categories:

    individual works (texted based): novel, novella, novelette, short story, Lodestar

    other individual works: related work, graphic story, dp-lf, dp-sf

    people categories: editor-sf, editor-lf, pro artist, fan writer, fan artist, Astounding

    serial categories: series, semiprozine, fanzine, fancast


  2. I’m not sure where Lodestar has gone!

    The Lodestar has vanished into the northern latitudes. Look for the aurora borealis! 😁

    I’m not sure why the vertical line says “story”? Wouldn’t that be written media vs. non-written media?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, wouldn’t it be better to rearrange the axes to go for actual abbreviations:
      S = Story
      N = Non-story
      W = Written
      E = … …. Exclude Written
      Yeah, I was a little short on ideas for ‘E’.


    2. I meant the above to be a reply to Bonnie. Vertical is written vs. non-written. Horizontal is story vs. non-story.

      @Jenora Cam’s positioning puts written story in the top left. The core categories in the prominent position.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. @Laura:
        Oh, I understand that’s how it is currently, that’s why I specified ‘rearrange the axes’. I just saw your ‘N=written media’/’W=Story’ and realized that three of the four terms already matched up with one of the N/E/S/W cardinal directions, and that if we changed which axes were which we could get them all to match up with the ‘appropriate’ direction.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, I didn’t actual notice that it was almost NEWS until you pointed it out. Then I thought how it might odd to have non-story stuff at the top.


  3. I think the area of the circles should be based on the number of people voting in each category. (Or else the number of nominations the top entry in each category got.) You could use the median value over the last three or four Hugos. Either of these is a decent proxy for how important that category is.

    I’d suggest letting the color represent the decade the category was first awarded.


  4. Shouldn’t “Best Professional Magazine” be in there somehow? It’s the direct antecedent of the Editor awards. (And I’ve heard talk with the idea of bringing it back: Best Publisher and Best Magazine to replace Best Editor Short and Long.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. (Yes, please to that talk. And Best Anthology/Collection instead of semiprozine — allowing what’s currently considered semiprozine to be pro. Although I wouldn’t mind leaving Editor Long alone if it were easier to figure them out.)

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.