Thanks For Playing

Shaun Duke’s fame is spreading across the internet today thanks to his post “2012 Hugo Nominations: Preliminary Thoughts”, replete with gems of wisdom like –

StarShipSofa is not a fancast.  It is an audio fiction magazine like EscapePod, etc.  It does not produce fan content.  It produces magazine content.  Stop putting it alongside podcasts which actually produce fan content…

I love reading someone adamantly declare a nominee is ineligible for the Hugo category deliberately created to house it.

Craig Miller said it best: “A lack of actual information has frequently not hindered fans from holding and expressing strong opinions on a subject.”

Occam’s Starship

On February 16, Matthew Sanborn Smith ignited a controversy by advocating that people nominate StarShipSofa for the Best Fanzine Hugo:

Because of a rewording of the rules, The StarShipSofa podcast could be eligible for nomination for the Best Fanzine Hugo. Wait. Could be? The truth is, we can’t know for sure until we get in somebody’s face and force the issue by actually scoring nominations from lots and lots of people. You happen to be one of lots and lots of people.

The idea stirred up resistance in some familiar corners of fandom, partly because unlike most fanzines StarShipSofa presents fiction, making it comparable to last year’s winner Electric Velocipede, and partly because StarShipSofa is done as an audio podcast, therefore (of course) is not in the form of text.

The idea also has its defenders. On Cheryl Morgan’s site both sides got a thorough airing.

Their discussion interested me quite a bit. In one of the exchanges Chris Garcia commented, “But still, I can’t think of any way in which a Podcast isn’t a dramatic presentation or that a Podcast IS a fanzine.” And Cheryl Morgan, defending the eligibility of a podcast magazine for Best Fanzine, tried to convince Chris to rethink his argument by challenging him with this extrapolation: “And what would [you] say if Tony used a speech-to-text converter to put transcripts of Star Ship Sofa episodes online as text? Would that suddenly make it a fanzine?” I was fascinated by the whole philosophy-of-fanzines debate.

But when I’d finished reading I wondered if something important had been overlooked. Matthew Sanborn Smith’s fervently desired constitutional crisis can’t possibly arise because Hugo Administrator Vincent Docherty won’t be forced to decide if a podcast is eligible. Here’s why.

People who nominate StarShipSofa are simply writing down “StarShipSofa” on their ballots. They are not writing down “StarShipSofa — only the podcast, nothing else.” Where the podcasts are posted is http://www.starshipsofa.com/, an extensive, regularly updated website — which seems unquestionably eligible for the Best Fanzine Hugo under the new rules. Even if Vincent Docherty has a problem with the eligibility of a podcast (no way of knowing) he has no reason to let the existence of the podcast prevent him from attributing the nominating votes to the perfectly eligible same-named website.

Invisible Ansible

Cheryl Morgan’s indignant post “Now I’m Invisible” shamed Starship Sofa guest editorialist Jason Sanford into announcing that he would make a “correction” to identify Emerald City as the first winner of the Best Fanzine Hugo to be primarily published online, and not Electric Velocipede as he had said.

The problem is that neither fanzine with a dog in the fight is entitled to claim that distinction.

It belongs to Ansible.

I could get a copy of Ansible e-mailed to me at least as long ago as January 1995, before Emerald City ever started publishing. In time, Ansible also could be retrieved by FTP, read on newsgroups and accessed on the web.

Not that it’s clear to me the distinction “primarily published online” is worth losing any sleep over. All three fanzines are/were distributed in more than one medium and it’s rather arbitrary to pick one as being “primary.” Electric Velocipede (2009) and Emerald City (2004) were both (at the time they won) fanzines with paper and web editions. (It is beyond counting how many times Cheryl Morgan has scolded inkstained trufen not to forget the existence of those paper copies of Emerald City.) And while Ansible distributed large numbers of paper copies, the electronic version, relayed by a variety of technologies, became the predominant source of sf news for a large and ever-growing online readership.

But any glory in owning this title properly belongs to Ansible.

Amy Sturgis Gives Voice to Science Fiction

Amy H. Sturgis has begun narrating contemporary science fiction stories for the U. K. audio science fiction magazine StarShipSofa. Her first assignment is Elizabeth Bear’s “And The Deep Blue Sea.”

She’s also become a monthly contributor to StarShipSofa’s “Aural Delights” Wednesday program, providing commentary about science fiction topics. You’ll find her first installment here approximately 10 minutes into the podcast.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link, via the Middle Tennessee Science Fiction Club newsletter.]