Broken Hearts and Hugos

Ulrika O’Brien launches BEAM 14 with an editorial that might have gone unnoticed outside the circle of FAAn Award voters if she hadn’t (1) given John Scalzi the KTF treatment and (2) Scalzi hadn’t tweeted a link to the zine to his 165,000 Twitter followers.

…But once a year, like clockwork, the Fan Hugo short list comes out and somehow I can never quite avoid seeing it. When I do see it, I increasingly find a bunch of total strangers who’ve not visibly participated in fandom, and I see red all over again. I will inevitably be told that the failing is in me, that were I to educate myself, I would discover their merit. As often as not, whatever merit is involved, what I actually discover are more neo-pros doing nothing remotely to do with fandom as we know it, or if they do, only in pursuit of making money off us. So thanks, Scalzi. Fuck you. Wait, what now? Why am I still on about John Scalzi’s Fan Writer Hugo, eleven years after the parade? Because it was John Scalzi who finally broke the Fan Hugos, that’s why. And he didn’t do the rest of the Hugos any favors, either, as it turns out….

John Scalzi’s mild anwer starts here.

Responses include Camestros Felapton’s “I Guess I’m Talking About John Scalzi Today”.

Taking two steps back and looking at the bigger picture and the actual societal changes occuring in the relevant time period, what do we see? Nothing mysterious and nothing secretly controlled by John Scalzi but rather the increasing and inevitable online nature of fandom, along with generational change. The period of 2000 to 2020, was always going to be one in which fandom would have the kind of generational change that fandom is always having because people get older and people from a younger generation become more influential. To use tired generational-terms, a shift from Baby Boomers to Gen-X with (now) more Millennials (and younger).

The accompanying shift was technological with blogs, blogging networks (particularly Live Journal at one point), social media platforms and commerical pop-culture media sites changing where fan-related discourse was happening. This was a cross-generational change (e.g. GRRM’s Live Journal or how influential Mike Glyer’s File770 fanzine-turned-blog became during the Puppy Debarkle).

Doc Rocket’s tweet is especially interesting for its “no one, really” conclusion —

Alexandra Erin’s thread starts here.

Michi Trota observed:

And Kameron Hurley doesn’t want to be left out –

In fact, seeing people say they’re sorry that Ulrika didn’t cuss them out, too, reminds me of the Watergate days when everyone wanted to be added to Nixon’s enemies list!

169 thoughts on “Broken Hearts and Hugos

  1. Kip Williams: It was the perfect illo for that article — thanks again for creating it!

  2. Kip Williams: Rereading that article I see I didn’t mention how I knew the Niven/Harlan story. I was in the elevator with Niven — it happened in front of me.

  3. Mike Glyer, I love that story. I must have first heard it years ago, though not as rapidly as some people, apparently. There’s a little voice in my head suggesting that I heard it from Gordon Garb.

  4. @ULTRAGOTHA: if you want to stay pissed at Ken, that’s your option; as one of the pioneers of email to manage a convention (I did a lot of the sorting-out of the pieces of the Exhibits division in 1992), I affirm that the net makes fanac massively easier — there were a lot of tangles when I ran Functions (nka Extravaganzas) in 1980 that would probably have come untangled much more readily with the faster turnaround of email. Of course, given fans, that also means that people try more-complicated fanac (such as putting exhibits in a hall shaped like a boat…).

    wrt fanzine writing as ~key fanac, I see a couple of comments here reflecting something that I wrote in a 1982 introduction to a Lee Hoffman collection, to the effect that fan writing is reflection of being a fan in a world where most people aren’t. I did not expound on the good and bad points of this (e.g., the fun and filtering of deep in-jokes), but I think I’ve seen at least Filer suggest that the expansion of people who consider each other fans (despite the attempts of the grumps portrayed by OGH in “…Mohammed”) affects the insularity that I was pointing to.

    @OGH: somehow I’d missed those stories about Niven and Hugos; thanks for the pointer. wrt the comments, I don’t know whether George Flynn even noticed another near disaster, that GRRM was still being photographed with his short-story Hugo when his win for novelette was announced; I’ve noticed other ceremonies separating the fiction categories so that can’t happen — although Boston got caught a different way when Gaiman was both the host and a winner. (Fortunately, by that time the idea of separate presenters had been well established.)

  5. I just checked the Hugo Awards page for a photo of the allegedly so shoddy 1970 Hugo base, but the photo they have is of Frank Kelly Frears’ Hugo, which as we just heard doesn’t have the original base.

  6. I’m pondering the question of whether creating paper fanzines is qualitatively different from online fanac. I’ve never done a specifically SFF-focused publication (though the LHMP is gradually edging more SFF-adjacent), but I’ve done parallel work in amateur history. I started out putting out a (irregularly) annual hard-copy “fanzine” of Welsh medieval research. I even did some zine exchanges with people doing SFF zines on occasion. (In certain significant ways, the historic research I did for the SCA heralds through the commentary system was structurally similar to APAs.) Then I moved on to a website, blogging, and a podcast. (Shifting to a different historic focus, but very parallel in intent and approach.)

    I disagree that the paper-based activity was more considered, more thoughtful, or more meaningful than the online activity. Each is just as meaningful and thoughtful as the person creating them chooses to make them. Indeed, to a large extent, my online “history-fannish” activity involves more time and effort if for no other reason than that the economics of distribution doesn’t put a brake on the process. I suppose it’s possible that things are entirely different in the realm of SFF activity than my experience with historic-interest activity. But I’d need to be convinced.

  7. JJ:

    Whatever’s most convenenient. I also accept lemon tarts or wine. ?

    Since we’re looking at Irish meet-ups, would you accept whiskey, beer, or cider instead?

  8. Oh Ghu – ceramic Hugo bases…
    I remember spending some hours stuffing them with white clay mixed with lead shot, in 1984, so they were better balanced. And putting together the slide show for the ceremony. (The pics that we’d gotten from Rotsler and sent to be turned into slides, along with many others, somehow got lost at the reproduction place. They didn’t bother to let us know. All of the others were properly done and returned.)

  9. @Heather Rose Jones: I’ve worked on both paper and electronic fan publications (and also transition publications done on computer and printed out for distribution), and to my mind the major differences were the former had a slower submission and feedback cycle, and the possibility for stupid, unfixable errors was much greater. Ah the joy of cranking out a hundred mimeographed sheets before finding out a page was inserted backwards.

    My memory of fan products of the 70s and 80s is that the greater physical effort didn’t lead to any higher quality than today- quite the opposite. If there was a lack of additional Eye of Argons, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

    Incidentally, the other week I explained to an incredulous student worker how we used to use a hand-cranked mimeograph to make copies. I showed her pictures from Google. From her reaction, it was a like I had told her I used some Victorian Steampunk device. I don’t think she believed anyone that old could still be alive.

    But she’s a damn good artist, much better than I am. My having gone through mimeograph hell doesn’t give me any sort of moral or any other kind and of authority.

  10. Rose Embolism: My memory of fan products of the 70s and 80s is that the greater physical effort didn’t lead to any higher quality than today- quite the opposite.

    Wow.

  11. What I remember fondly, and do miss, are collations. Everybody walking in circles t put a fanzine together. It was fun. No, really.

    But now, it might be too much social interaction for me, to noisy, and of course, Dora couldn’t reach to help out.

    But I do miss it.

  12. Kat: Since we’re looking at Irish meet-ups, would you accept whiskey, beer, or cider instead?

    I might be open to the cider, depending on whether it’s the kind that tastes too much like beer (bad) or the kind that tastes like apples and other fruit (good, very good).

    I hear that the Irish make a mean cake. 😀

  13. @Lis Carey – I miss collation parties, too, but once we stopped using our mimeo and started to take our masters or even our PDFs to print shops, we had them do the collating and stapling. But we used to have massive work parties in our New York apartments and in our Seattle houses to put together our mimeographed zines. (And despite the copies that were stapled on the wrong edge or had the first half added upside down to the second half, we appreciated the help.)

  14. @Rose Embolism – my memory of 1970s and 1980s fanzine quality is different than yours. Please reference your memory by visiting FANAC.org, where Joe Siclari and Edie Stern have scanned vast numbers of fanzines from all decades. My best example of high quality is Energumen, edited by Mike Glicksohn (Susan Glicksohn, later Susan Wood, shares editorial credit on some issues. I’d count my own and Suzanne Tompkins’ fanzine of the the 1970s, The Spanish Inquisition, to be about average or a little above – it’s there also. If you want more suggestions, I can provide them.

  15. Jerry Kaufman: @Rose Embolism – my memory of 1970s and 1980s fanzine quality is different than yours.

    She’s not saying those fanzines were awful, she’s comparing her memory of the quality of those fanzines with what’s being put out today, which would include online fanzines.

    I don’t think that you can gainsay someone else’s opinion about whether one thing is higher quality than another.

  16. @Chip Hitchcock “@nickpheas:JJ, do you not understand? If there isn’t a mimeograph involved then it’s not fandom. leaves out the fans who published by letterpress; I’ve heard of at least two sets, and have wondered (given fannish tempers) whether there was ever friction/snobbery between them, as I hear there has been between CAMRA and SPAW.”

    Not to mention hectograph (or “hektograph”), dittograph, offset press, etc. James White (that Irish fan who went pro) and Walt Willis (that Irish fan who didn’t) published their first fanzine, Slant, using a flatbed quarto printing press with handset type (starting in 1948) but went to mimeo partially with issue #6 and were using mimeo entirely by issue #7 (their last). I’ve never heard of any snobbery or friction with fans who used other methods in the earlier decades and have the impression that such didn’t exist at the time, though later I believe that fans like Tom Reamy who used high quality printing were considered pretentious by some of the trad fans. But this is something I’m currently researching.

  17. JJ: I suppose Rose Embolism’s comparison of the fanzines of the 1970s and 1980s to “The Eye of Argon” fooled me into thinking she thought they were awful. So I suggested she “reference” her memory. That was the wrong word – I meant “refresh.” I don’t think it’s a bad thing to suggest someone check their memory against the actual zines to see if their opinion might change, or if they only saw the below average stuff.

    There were of course bad fanzines at the time. And the best of those decades might not be as good as the best current ones. My opinion is that they are as good. Rose may have a different opinion. There’s no arguing with taste.

  18. Jerry Kaufman: I suppose Rose Embolism’s comparison of the fanzines of the 1970s and 1980s to “The Eye of Argon” fooled me into thinking she thought they were awful. So I suggested she “reference” her memory. That was the wrong word – I meant “refresh.” I don’t think it’s a bad thing to suggest someone check their memory against the actual zines to see if their opinion might change, or if they only saw the below average stuff.

    What you consider great might be someone else’s awful. I’ve sampled some of the old-style fanzines — both currently-produced versions and those produced decades ago — and haven’t cared for most of them. Some of the fanzine pieces Mike has reproduced here on File 770 are what I would call, if I am being kind, unintelligible, and if I am being less kind, “the failure mode of clever”.

    One of the things that really surprised me when I started dipping into the older-style fanzines was how many of them are full of what I call “navel-gazing” (technically, they’re called perzines, but a lot of the fanzines do this, too) — where the author/editors have written lengthy pieces about themselves, their thoughts, and their experiences on subjects that have nothing to do with SFF or fandom. Occasionally some of these are really interesting, but a lot of them strike me as pompous bloviating by people who perceive themselves to be far more interesting and erudite than they actually are.

    And “pompous bloviating” is actually a good description of a large majority of the Letters of Comment (LOC) which appeared in the old-style fanzines: the “art” of talking smack about other fans, which was once considered the pinnacle of Fan Writing — and which just makes me roll my eyes and mentally suggest to them that they need to grow up.

    So yeah, everyone has their own taste and their own preferences, and it’s pretty condescending to suggest that if someone doesn’t share your taste in fanzines, it must be because they haven’t read the right ones, or are remembering things incorrectly.

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