Give ‘em the axe!

That’s what Milt Stevens will be asking voters to do at the 2013 Worldcon Business Meeting – delete the Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, and Best Fan Artist Hugo categories from the WSFS Constitution.

Stevens shared the text of his motion with readers of the Smofs listserv and justified it by saying these categories are “susceptible to manipulation” because they get fewer voters and are chronically influenced by people campaigning for themselves. He also expressed frustration with fans’ irreconcilable differences over the definition of a fanzine —

Efforts at compromise have failed. One group says that fanzines are words on paper only, and nothing else can be allowed. Another group thinks fanzines and fan writing are anything the voters can imagine and will tolerate no limitations whatsoever. There is wide dissatisfaction with these three awards, and it doesn’t seem likely to go away.

When Milt and I discussed his idea a few months ago, I argued that the implicit message in his motion was not that fanzine fans refuse to let the awards be abused, but that we quit, we’re abdicating our influence over the future of this subset of the Hugos. And other fans, semipros and bloggers who already feel entitled to control the awards will just tell us don’t let the door bang our butts on the way out.

(Yet I’m intrigued how much Milt has in common with Aidan Moher, who makes some of the same criticisms about the Hugo electorate. Of course, Moher wants to give all the fan Hugos to bloggers, so never the twain shall meet…)

I disagree with the proposal to repeal the fan Hugos because I feel our best interests involve keeping fanzines in the mix for these awards. There are still large numbers of fanzines being published and there’s no reason to legislate the irrelevance of this healthy brand of fanac.

It’s also too bad that the debate over the motion will inevitably make fanzine fans look more like jackasses than we already do, having just spent the last two years getting our alleged political allies to help us reconstitute the Best Fanzine category as we supposedly wanted it to look. Something they were happy to do because they had no intention of asking Hugo Administrators to enforce the result the movers, including Rich Lynch, said the rules change was actually supposed to have.

Like it or not, for fanzine fans the Hugos resemble the joke version of the Laws of Thermodynamics — you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game. So, since we can’t get out, we should not be abandoning the influence we still have left.

Update 08/01/2013: Corrected which set of natural laws the joke refers to, per comment.

12 thoughts on “Give ‘em the axe!

  1. On the Hugos: “It’s also too bad that the debate over the motion will inevitably make fanzine fans look more like jackasses than we already do.”
    BTW those sayings are about the Laws of Thermodynamics, not Newton’s.

  2. As you and Greg say but this really is overdue. Steve Stiles’ continual failure to win a fan artist Hugo has soured me on the whole thing.

  3. It appears to me that we fanzine fans have far more influence over the rules than the actual awards… But as long as the administrators won’t enforce the rules, what can anyone do?

    If the motion is adopted, will it affect the new award categories for blogs, podcasts and other newbie internet formats? (“Best Fan Twitter?”) It should. Why sweep paper and pdfs into the dustbin of history but retain what adherents say is equivalent material just because its audiovisual?

  4. I’ve been thinking about this for a few days.

    I’m calling “bullshit” on the administrators not enforcing the rules. The rules were changed to include new text media 5 years ago, and the only change fancast made was to acknowledge that audiovisual media should be recognized differently than text media. There’s a lot of talk about the administrators saying “nominate ’em all and let the voters sort them out” but many of those complaints devolve to a disagreement on how the rules are interpreted, and often a desire to see an interpretation read in that doesn’t actually exist in the rule. I don’t really mind the arguments, even. Arguments raise awareness of the awards in the first place.

    I’m also calling “bullshit” on fanzines and blogs being radically different. That’s a bit of a change from what I felt a few years ago, sure. There always have been fan blogs with editorial control and periodicity similar to fanzines, and those have never been significantly different. But the more I think of it, the more I realize that there are a lot of relatively random personal blogs that have a lot in common with relatively random single-contributor perzines.

    If “fanzine fans” with a hankering towards fannish purity want to try to take their ball and go home, let them try. There are plenty of fans who are open to new publishing methods, raised awareness and broader fannish communities who will take up the mantle and leave behind the baggage.

  5. It’s certainly dramatic and internetty to “call bullshit” but since you “really don’t mind the arguments” I guess you aren’t “calling bullshit” after all.

    Rich Lynch, who devised the portion of the motion we’re discussing, said at the business meeting what he intended the effect of his words to be. And people passed that amendment by a majority. Of course his motion didn’t say, “blogs can’t compete in the Best Fanzine category” because Rich didn’t believe that, what he believed is that very few blogs generate periodical issues — the science fictional side of SF Site being one example that does — so it wouldn’t be proper to categorically eliminate blogs but, nevertheless, most would fail to qualify. Instead, for want of an across-the-board prohibition, the rule change has been treated as a nullity.

    You obviously voted yes on the motion because it facilitated passage of your new fancast Hugo category. And yet you refuse to honor Rich’s interpretation of his own motion. What are we to “call” on that?

  6. Mike… Please go read the original motions (2 of them) submitted to the Reno business meeting, and compare them to the motion that passed.

    I spent several hours in the reconciliation process with Rich, Steve Silver, Deb Geisler and others. Very little of Rich’s language (which was mostly “damn podcasters get off my lawn”) survived the process. Rich’s original motion had a bunch of language to explicitly narrow “fanzine” to non-blog publishing. Steve and I spent a long time getting Rich to accept the idea that there were magazine-like blogs. SFSite was the best example.

    So I do know what I’m talking about, and I know where history is being revised here.

  7. You don’t need to defend your knowledge to me. And you know I have already studied the original version in detail because you commented on my post about it — Scoring the Proposed ‘Zine Hugo Amendments.

    And the history I am talking about is the anticipated result of the the change voiced by Rich Lynch and Steven H Silver. First, when the original amendment was passed in 2011 (Business Meeting Votes Zine Category Changes) —

    Rich Lynch and Steven H Silver believed that the changes made to the fanzine category will still allow some websites or blogs to be eligible of they are not “continually updated” but take down and archive the previous material. SF Site is an example of a website that already follows this practice. The final verdict will rest with the voters and the Hugo Administrator.

    And again, in September 2012 after the amended change was ratified (Chicon 7 Votes on Hugo Rules Changes) —

    Voters agreed to restore the phrase “or the equivalent in other media” that had been struck out of the existing Best Fanzine rules. The cover argument was that keeping the language protected the eligibility of publications done in electronic form, although that has been policy for years — the vast majority of fanzines are now created in digital media and distributed online. What the real effect of keeping “equivalent” in the rule will be is hard for me to say. Rich Lynch said he was comfortable with the outcome because the new requirement for “periodical publication” was retained.

    You have argued elsewhere about the equivalence of SF Signal with traditional fanzines, so I don’t expect you to be disappointed with the status quo, but since Sf Signal doesn’t follow SF Site’s model, but just keeps adding material the way pretty much every other blog does, I think it’s understandable why Rich Lynch wonders what the heck happened.

  8. I think we both didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and lose the fight over separating text/print and AV (even if we did have different reasons). “Equivalent” was the cost.

    I did not believe it was necessary to show that print-on-paper and print-on-screen were equal media. The battle of pixels vs. ink had already turned into less a battle and more a friendly BBQ. At the Chicon 7 business meeting, I did not support the restoration of “or the equivalent in other media” because I believed it gutted the provision for discrete periodical issues. Rich’s interpretation of the doors “equivalent” re-opened was a narrower than mine, though I don’t think he voted for the restoration either.

    SFSignal is clearly periodical in nature, it has repeating columns, just not discrete issues. Is that “equivalent?” Did the administrators make a judgement call and say it was equivalent? Did the administrators say “we’ll let the voters decide if it’s equivalent” and just pass it through? We don’t know. But Taral is accusing the administrators of not enforcing the rules regardless.

    As you’ve mentioned in the past, there were odd fanzines with strange “issue” formats like postcard fanzines. There are zines with odd periodical schedules like SFFY. There are all sorts of fanzines with aperiodic publication schedules.

    I also had some serious discussions in 2011 about fanzines that were clearly fanzines but were not periodical. Colin Hinz has always been very disappointed that one-shot ‘zines were not eligible for the Best Fanzine Hugo. He has a point. On the other hand, introducing the idea of removing the minimum periodical publication requirement in the rule would have probably scuttled the whole plan of separating text and AV.

    I’ve turned around on the question of editorial guidance, discrete issues and perodicity. There were plenty of perzines that lacked editorial guidance and a regular periodical schedule, the only thing that makes them different than a blog is that they bundled together bunches of random content into random individual packages. Does that make them less deserving of the ‘zine moniker? I don’t think so. Granted, they probably were less likely to win a Hugo…

  9. Scalzi updated the post linked above

    For those asking “yes, but what can I do?” Well, if you’re attending LoneStarCon 3 this year, go to the WSFS Business Meeting (you can!) and vote it down (you can do that, too!)….

    (And yes, I understand that from a certain point of view I’m just trying to use the Internet to logroll you all into voting the way I want. I am the worst person ever.)

    You horrible, horrible man. You made me laugh for five minutes. I’m not sure I’m done even now.

  10. “Something they were happy to do because they had no intention of asking Hugo Administrators to enforce the result the movers, including Rich Lynch, said the rules change was actually supposed to have.”

    I was one of the people on the committee that did the last rewrite (I was also one of the 6 people who made the motions that created the original Semiprozine Award, making me the only person to have been involved in both the creation of the original and the current revision).

    I never agreed with Rich Lynch’s interpretation, and I said so clearly at the time. His claim has always been based on the assertion that blog writing is not “periodic.” It is hardly a universally accepted opinion.

    I’ve never understood how that claim could work, what with time being linear, and posts being distinctly periodic, but that’s why I read Rich’s wording in the first place, noticed there was nothing whatever in the language excluding blogs, even though Rich clearly did want there to be, and had no problem with the language. Unless something is posted once and never again, it’s posted more than once, and therefore there are periods of time between posting — one really shouldn’t have to explain this — and thus, who knew, blog posts are made periodically. How this is controversial, I continue not to not, save that, of course, some folks would prefer it to be a controversy.

    I’m pretty sure that this blog post we’re commenting on on, for instance, will be followed by another, separate, post, just as it follows previous, separate, posts, all separated by periods of time. How or why blog posts or comments should be considered not to be “fan writing” remains obscure to me, no matter some people’s religious preferences to define writing by fans away as Not Real if they’re Sentences Written On Blogs.

  11. You’re not too young to be acquainted with the publishing term “periodical” so quit trolling.

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