I get asked this … a lot. Even now. So, okay, this is kind of a question about how the Hugos work, and kind of a question about how Worldcon in general works, in my opinion. Here’s a quick (and simplified) overview of what you get with a Worldcon membership of any given year.
- Hugo nomination rights for the year before, the year of, and the year after your membership to Worldcon.
- Hugo voting rights for the year of your membership.
- Access to the Hugo Packet, if applicable.
- Paper publications of the convention, depending on the convention’s policies.
- Ability to send business to, speak up at, and vote on business at the WSFS business meeting at Worldcon.
- Ability to vote in site selection for Worldcon site options two years in the future (and NASFIC site options one year in the future, if applicable).
a) Worldcon membership benefits depend partly on how soon you get your membership. If you voted in site selection for a Worldcon (like, say, voting in the 2017 site selection race, which was won by Worldcon 75), you automatically got an immediate supporting (aka non-attending) membership of Worldcon for the year on which you voted. This means you have a membership early enough to get all possible membership benefits. Worldcon generally gives you all possible benefits of membership if you join the convention by January 31st of the year BEFORE the convention, though, so if you didn’t vote on site selection one summer, it’s not necessarily too late! (It is now too late to be able to buy a new membership and nominate with it this year, though — if you didn’t have a membership to MidAmeriCon2, Worldcon 75, or Worldcon 76 by January 31st, you can’t nominate for the Hugos this year.)
b) A supporting membership to a Worldcon can be upgraded at any point prior to the convention for an attending membership to that Worldcon, generally at the cost of attending membership when upgraded minus the cost of the supporting membership one already owns. The rights of membership to Worldcon as a supporting member versus an attending member usually differ in only one regard — supporting members can’t show up at convention without paying more money, and there are a couple of things that members only get if they are at the convention in person (which requires an attending type of membership).
c) The Hugo Packet (which is our name for a compilation of eBook and PDF samples or entire content of the works nominated) isn’t something any Worldcon can guarantee, since it’s up to the individuals and publishers on the ballot what, if anything, is included of their copyrighted works. Any Worldcon can also decide not to publish a Hugo Packet.
So! Read more detailed explanations below if you’re so inclined.
1.Hugo nomination rights for the year before, the year of, and the year after your membership to Worldcon.
The way the Hugo nominations currently work, if you get your membership early enough, you can nominate for the year before your membership, the year of your membership, and the year after your membership — 3 years in total, but specifically those years. For example, if you have a membership to Worldcon 75 and you got it before January 31st, 2016, you could nominate on the 2016 Hugos (administered by MidAmeriCon2), the 2017 Hugos (administered by Worldcon 75), and the 2018 Hugos (to be administered by Worldcon 76).
The “administered by” part is a little bit important — last year’s Hugos were administered by MidAmeriCon2. Worldcon 75 members who purchased memberships before January 31, 2016 were eligible to nominate for the Hugos last year, but MAC2 administered the awards. Worldcon 75 will administer the Hugos this year, and eligible nominators are members of MidAmeriCon2, Worldcon 75, and Worldcon 76.
Nominations for this year’s Hugo Awards close on March 17, 2017. To nominate, people can use the link emailed to their membership email address, or they can submit a paper ballot nomination. If you’re not sure where your link email is, please check in with the Hugo Administrators at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Hugo voting rights for the year of your membership.
Once nominations close for the Hugos every year, the results are tallied and the ballot of Hugo nominees is announced with fanfare. There is sometimes an unendurably long amount of time between close of nominations and announcement of the top 6 nominees in each category. Weeks, even! This time is to contact the nominees on whether they accept or reject a nomination, line up the plans for making said announcement to the public & press, get the Hugo voting software ready for voting on the nominated ballot, and everything. Hopefully people have time to sleep, as well.
A Worldcon membership entitles you to vote on the nominated ballot for the year of your membership only. For example, if you have a membership to Worldcon 75, you are entitled to vote on this year’s Hugo ballot, but not next year’s (unless you also have a membership to Worldcon 76 in San Jose, CA). Again, this is presuming that you have a Worldcon membership in time to vote in the Hugos. If you get your membership after Hugo voting is over, you don’t get to vote!
Please note: the Hugo nomination and voting tally methods have changed this year. More details are available on the Worldcon 75 website.
3. Access to the Hugo Packet, if applicable.
Related to the above, I should totally tell you about the Hugo Packet. This is NOT something any individual Worldcon can guarantee, and Worldcons have not always made a Hugo Packet available.
The Hugo Packet is an ebook or PDF (or mix thereof) collection of the works that are on the final ballot (as in, in the top 6 in the categories). The Hugo Packet is something that publishers and editors and authors and artists all give permission to release to Worldcon’s membership, and the publishers and editors and authors and artists all decide what can go in of their copyrighted works. Then on the Worldcon side, a staffer or a team of staff compiles this into a packet and makes it available (in batches or in whole) to the members of the Worldcon voting on the ballot in that individual year. Again, this is NOT something that any individual Worldcon can guarantee will be available.
If it is being compiled and made available with appropriate permissions, however, then one of the rights of a membership to Worldcon that year is a right to access the Hugo Packet.
4. Paper publications of the convention, depending on the convention’s policies.
This is something that used to just be assumed to go with the territory of a Worldcon membership, but is now no longer presumed. Every convention produces various official communications to its members. Worldcons produce things called Progress Reports (abbreviated to PR0, PR1, PR2, etc.) as well as a Souvenir Book, Program Guide, and sometimes other printed materials. Worldcons sell advertising in these publications to help support their cost, although they rarely balance out. It has in the past been considered a benefit included in one’s membership to Worldcon that one would get paper publications via postal mail (unless a member opted out of paper publications).
Due to recent changes in the WSFS (World Science Fiction Society) rules, any individual Worldcon can now decide whether to default to paper or electronic publications to its membership. If the default is electronic, a Worldcon can add a surcharge for getting paper publications via post, or if the default is paper, I believe a Worldcon can give a discount for opting to use electronic publications.
Worldcon 75 decided to default to electronic publications for all pre-convention communications to the membership. People who want the PRs and such mailed to them via post pay an additional 10 € ($12 USD, currently) for this option.
(Whether we can manage electronic publications for the membership at-con in large quantities is another topic and I have no idea where Worldcon 75 stands on that issue, at this juncture. I know that conventions in general do make electronic pubs available for accessibility needs. I encourage you to email email@example.com for assistance.)
5. Ability to send business to, speak up at, and vote on business at the WSFS business meeting at Worldcon.
Anyone who has a membership to Worldcon can send business to the WSFS (World Science Fiction Society) meeting at the Worldcon. This business might then be discussed, tabled, voted on — there are all sorts of possibilities. Generally this goes better if you get co-signers to your effort ahead of the convention and if you put it on the agenda with the organizers of the business meeting. For more info on that, I encourage you to talk with a current or former head of WSFS division for a Worldcon — they understand this far more than I do.
If someone has an attending membership to Worldcon, then you can go in person and participate in the business meeting. This means you can speak on the topics at hand, within the constraints of speaking and business operations laid out in Robert’s Rules of Order. (Goodness, if you have some time, feel free to read that book. It’s a little bit of a slog.)
Anyone with an attending membership to Worldcon can also simply attend the WSFS business meeting and make their preferences known by voting on matters before the assembled membership.
6. Ability to vote in site selection for Worldcon site options two years in the future and NASFIC site options one year in the future.
This one requires a little unpacking, as well. Site selection is the method by which Worldcon members vote on the options for where Worldcon will be located in two years and, if applicable, where the NASFIC will be the year after this Worldcon. (The NASFIC only happens when the Worldcon will be outside North America and when Worldcon membership has voted to have a North American Science Fiction Convention in that situation.)
Last year at MidAmeriCon2 (the 2016 Worldcon), we voted on where Worldcon will be in 2018. The two bids that filed prior to the deadline were New Orleans in 2018 and San Jose in 2018. San Jose won, so that’s where Worldcon 76 will be.
Site selection voting capability is not a free membership benefit. In order to vote in site selection, you must have a membership to the Worldcon where the vote is being tallied. That Worldcon membership can be supporting or attending; you can mail your vote for site selection or have it delivered to be counted if you aren’t attending in person. Your Worldcon membership is necessary but not sufficient to vote, however.
Site selection also requires a site selection voting fee to be paid to participate in the vote. This is because it’s mandated that you get an automatic supporting (non-attending) membership to whichever site wins the site selection you’ve voted on. Your site selection voting fee (also called an “advance supporting membership fee”) pays for your supporting membership to whichever convention wins the vote. You can choose not to vote if you don’t want to pay the fee.
So! There you have the benefits of Worldcon membership, or at least the easily-identified ones. Things like meeting new people, talking with admired authors, getting art signed — those aren’t guaranteed and are hard to quantify. 😉