Flint suggest that if the awards are to reflect what is actually being written in science fiction and fantasy, there should be up to four awards given for longer works of fiction.
Short novel (40,000 to either 80,000 or 90,000 words)
Complete multi-volume novels (often called trilogies, quartets, quintets—but which have a definite ending)
I could live with combining multi-volume novels and series into one award category, but it would be a mistake. Inevitably, it would tend to elevate huge, sprawling—and sometimes wildly popular—series over the more compact works preferred by authors who like to work in trilogies or quartets. They really are two quite different literary forms—I know; I’ve worked in both—and should be treated separately. There is at least as much difference between them in terms of the skills involved as the difference between a novelette and a novella.
As a whole, I like the idea, though I'm going to refine it a bit more to suit my taste. Also, I disagree with Flint a bit since he also writes that he doesn't want to touch the short fiction categories and my preference would be to combine "short story" with "novelette" because other than intellectually understanding that a novelette is a story written with 7500 to 17,500 words, I'm not really sure what the heck of a novelette is. A novella, sure, you know when you're reading a novella. But the novelette? That one needs to go.
More to the point, though, I do like the expansion of the categories for longer fiction. Since the Hugo Awards currently begins the Novel category at 40,000 words, Flint recommends adding a Short Novel category for that length because it would open the door for more YA and independent authors. I'm less concerned about that, though I agree with Flint that most traditionally published novels are working much above 80,000 words.
I wouldn't add a Short Novel category. If you think about the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a 150 page novel is as likely to win the award as a 700 page novel. The Hugos are not the Pulitzers (for many reasons), but I don't differentiate too much with novel length, and sometimes a shorter novel can be much more appealing than a monster of a tome. So, I'd keep novel where it is while recognizing that the minimum length for a novel isn't reflective of how novels are being written today.
What I'd like to play with is Flint's suggestions for "Complete Multi-Volume Novels" and "Series". What I see Flint saying is that the skill required to write a complete series and stick the landing is different enough from writing an ongoing series that they shouldn't be compared in the same way (Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy compared to Jim Butcher's ongoing Dresden Files). I don't completely agree.
That's not completely true. I agree with what Flint is saying about the skill and technique, I disagree with how he is viewing the categories. I would divide the categories like this:
So Joe, you ask, what the heck are these categories and how are they different than what Eric Flint suggested? Great question, I reply, let me tell you!
Novel: This category only slightly changes from how it works today. It is for a single volume work of no less than 40,000 words. The change is that I would strike section 3.2.6 from the WSFS Constitution "a work appearing in a number of parts shall be eligible for the year of the final part". 2013's publication of A Memory of Light is how The Wheel of Time was nominated at the 2014 Hugos for Best Novel. I'd strike this. Novel is for a single volume, period. That's it. A Memory of Light is eligible for Novel, The Wheel of Time is not.
Ongoing Series: This is where I start to mess with Flint's suggestion. Ongoing Series is for ANY series that has not yet been completed. To be eligible for Ongoing Series, a series must have at least two volumes published. However, it does not matter for the terms of this category if the author is planning to write a trilogy with a definite ending (Mistborn) or is writing a potentially open ended series (Dresden Files, Discworld). To be further eligible for a nomination, a new volume must be published during the eligibility year. Love A Song of Ice and Fire but George Martin hasn't published The Winds of Winter yet? The series is not eligible for Ongoing Series at the 2016 Hugos unless he gets that book out during calendar year 2015.
Further, because we need to close one potential loophole here, an Ongoing Series is eligible for nomination ONCE. What I intend this to mean is that if Mr. Martin publishes The Winds of Winter in 2015, it is eligible for Ongoing Series. If A Song of Ice and Fire makes the final ballot for Ongoing Series, it is no longer eligible to be nominated in a subsequent year. However, if A Song of Ice and Fire fails to make the final ballot, it will still be eligible for Ongoing Series provided a new volume is published. A series is considering "Ongoing" until the author or the publisher states that a volume is the "final" or "concluding" volume in that series.
Completed Series: A series is eligible as Completed Series when the announced final volume in the series is published. A series will not both be eligible for Ongoing and Completed Series in the same year. Publication of A Memory of Light rendered The Wheel of Time ineligible for Ongoing Series, but eligible for Completed Series. Something like The Dresden Files would not be eligible for completed series until Jim Butcher announces "this is the final Harry Dresden novel". If Butcher published a Harry Dresden novel but then two years later said, "oh year, Skin Game was really the last book in the series, sorry guys" The Dresden Files will not be eligible for Completed Series because the series is only eligible in the year the final volume is published. I don't see this as too big of an issue because most writers want folks to know that they are delivering the promised conclusion to a series.
Now, I know all of this would put a certain amount of onus on the Hugo administrators to verify whether a series is ongoing or completed, but I think they already have a responsibility to verify a work is eligible based on word count and year published. It wouldn't be too hard to look this stuff up. There are grey areas still in place for situations like Glen Cook published the final Black Company novel in 2000 (thus ending the series eligibility) but hinting that there could still be two more books. There is also the gray area of macro series and micro series. All of the Black Company novels are The Black Company, but there are also The Books of the North, The Books of the South, and The Books of the Glittering Stone. How would those situations be handled? I think these are overall smaller issues, but worth noting.
In the instance of A Memory of Light, the novel itself would be eligible for Best Novel and could make the ballot for that AND The Wheel of Time could be nominated that same year for Best Completed Series. I think that would be recognizing two distinct things as the book is not the series and given that very few series works will be nominated past the first volume, it is a small concern.
You could tweak this another way and have Ongoing Series and Completed Series awarded every five years because there are far fewer series being completed each year than there are novels published, so the pool of eligible work is very small and can be inconsistent in quality. I'd be open to that, but it could easily lead to worthwhile works published four years prior being completely forgotten about in favor of the Completed Series of just the last year or two.