Overserved at The Drink Tank?

Two of the last three Best Fan Writer Hugos have been won by Hugo nominated novelists. Taral vents his frustration that more people don’t find this controversial in “The Way the Futurian Blogs,” an article in The Drink Tank #259 (PDF file). I’m not a fan of the accompanying graphic, an altered paperback cover of Pohl with a hole in his head — both distasteful and disrespectful.

Also not very perceptive, if the idea behind the image is to fault Pohl for winning. Pohl did not ordain this result, his victory came out of a popular movement. I understood this much better after hearing the tone in Andrew Trembley’s voice as he told fans at Westercon how much he loved reading anecdotes about the history of the sf field on Fred Pohl’s blog. At that moment I thought d’oh! I’d forgotten what it is like to hear these stories for the first time. Some I heard as a young fan from Pohl’s First Fandom contemporaries. Others I read in Pohl’s 1978 autobiography The Way the Future Was. To the latest generation of science fiction fans they are brand new. And they’re great stories. And they’re about science fiction, which (big news here) a lot of science fiction fans still find interesting.

Yes, I tried to persuade fans to go in another direction and vote for someone else. Somebody who’s not already a famous sf writer. Guess what? I lost. World ends, film at 11? No, and what’s more, I’m even allowed to like the winner.

88 thoughts on “Overserved at The Drink Tank?

  1. I too would much prefer that the fan categories be won by those who are solely fans and do not have opportunities to win in the pro categories. However, the Fan Writer nominations and wins were certainly legitimate, even if they probably did benefit from extra name recognition in arenas other than fan writing.

  2. Taral also objects to a podcast winning Best Fanzine. Well, there were fanzines on tape as far back as the 1950s.

  3. The graphic, I admit, was not one of my better moments. But where was wiser counsel when I needed it? I showed the piece, with graphic, to around a dozen people, not one who brought the matter up.

    Fanzines on tape… even fanzines on wire recorders. None won the Hugo, though that’s not *really* the point. Before trying to decide what the point is, I’d want to know more about those recorded “fanzines” — were they one-offs, or did they meet the rules for a certain number of issues, for instance? What was on the tape (or wire?) Was the material read from written articles, or were the reader’s acting a script? Without knowing more, I’m not sure I have an opinion.

  4. As Janice says, the nominations and wins were certainly legitimate. And don’t forget that Dave Langford’s also a Hugo winning fiction writer (Best Short Story 2001). (actually, while searching for something for this post, I happened upon a previous File 770 post giving the fiction and other Hugo nominations and sales of various BFW winners; http://file770.com/?p=1796) I’ve been on record for a few years now (ever since I was very unexpectedly asked to present the Fan Writer Hugo in 2007 in Yokohama and needed to think about the situation when writing said presentation) as both being clear that Scalzi, et al were eligible nominees…but that I think it’d be a shame if a future Fan Writer ballot consisted of, say, Scalzi, Pohl, Gaiman, Lake, and Stross. Even if their writing is fan writing.

    Back in the days of an active Usenet, the rec.arts.comics hierarchy used to have its own yearly awards, the Squiddies, which included a Favorite Poster category. After Usenet access increasingly opened up to the general public such that a fair number of pro comics writers and other pros started posting, Favorite Poster was won in both 1997 and 1998 by pro comics writers. It was decided that such had an unfair name recognition advance and the like, so as of 1999 the category was split into Favorite Poster Creators Division and Favorite Poster Non-Creators Division. To a degree it required some judgement on the administrators part (someone who had one short story credit ala Mike Glyer’s one short story would’ve stayed in Non-Creators), but it seemed to work out well.

  5. @DB: I remember Larry Tucker’s UNCLE ALBERT’S ELECTRIC TALKING FANZINE (on cassette tape), and UNCLE ALBERT’S VIDEO FANZINE, and contributed to the former. Those were from the 1980s, and perhaps the late 70s. What fanzines on tape go back farther than that?

  6. Tom Galloway writes:

    “And don’t forget that Dave Langford’s also a Hugo winning fiction writer (Best Short Story 2001).”

    Not only that, but of course he was also a published author and novelist before he won his first Fan Writer Hugo.

    We might also note that the in 1970, the year Wilson Tucker won his Fan Writer Hugo, his novel The Year of the Quiet Sun was nominated for the Nebula and won the John W. Campbell Award (the one they give for the novel).

    Alexi Panshin won his Fan Writer Hugo one year before being nominated for the Best Novel Hugo (and winning the Best Novel Nebula) for Rite of Passage, which meant he had almost certainly was a pro writer when he won his Hugo (i.e., had written his book and had it accepted, even if had not yet been published).

    By the time Terry Carr had won his Fan Writer Hugo, he had published two novels and one story collection.

    Bob Shaw was a Hugo nominee in a Pro category (Short Story) before he won the Fan Writer category, and had published more than a dozen novels prior to his Fan Writer wins.

    Richard E. Geis claimed to have written over a hundred novels (albeit in the category of erotica rather than SF), which would certainly given him professional writer qualification to complement his fan writer cred.

    We could do this exercise once more for Fan Writer nominees who were also pro writers, beginning with Piers Anthony, who in 1970 was the first person to be nominated for Fan Writer and Best Novel in the same year, but the point I think is well established: What Mr. Pohl and I have done in the Fan Writer category is NOT, in fact, highly unusual — and indeed one can easily argue that a majority of the Fan Writer Hugos have gone to writers with a substantial professional and critical resume in the science fiction field.

    I certainly agree that the Fan Writer Hugo should not go to people like me every year — it’s one of the reasons why my acceptance speech for the Fan Writer Hugo was largely given over to telling people not to nominate or vote for me again, and to instead cast their eye over the large and rich field of fan writing to find other deserving writers — but if it ends up that the category has a mix of writers, some of them who are also pros, then it’s no different than the way the category has been over the years.

    Personally, I find the Pohl Fan Writer win satisfying on several levels: One, the blog is a genuine delight to read and does something I find very important, which is to help connect a new generation of science fiction readers and fans with the history of the field and some of those who made it what it is today; Two, it’s a touching gesture of esteem by fandom to a man whose personal and professional career touched all aspects of science fiction, both pro and fan; Three, it’s a wholly appropriate “career award” for someone who helped CREATE fandom, for Christ’s sake.

  7. The mistake made, I think, by some of the comments above, is to confuse cases where a pro is also a fan. For instance, Dave Langford has professional publications, yet also writes for Ansible, and, writes for other fanzines. The same was true for the other pros mentioned. Piers Anthony wrote in Outworlds, for example. Geis wrote in SFR/Alein Critic and his other zines. Terry Carr appeared in fanzines. So did Ted White and many others.

    My point about Pohl isn’t that he’s a pro, but that he hasn’t been a fan in a very long time. He was ruled eligible for the Best Fanwriter Hugo on the basis of his blog, “The Way the Future Blogs.” So the *only* issue is whether or not that blog was fanwriting. Not what a swell fellow Fred Pohl is, or that he’s a Grand Master of SF, or that he used to be a fan in 1940, or even that he feels in his heart that he’s still a fan. Where’s the fanac?

    The “fanwriting” he was nominated for was professionally motivated. His blog is a rough draft toward a new edition of his biography, “The Way the Future Was.” He *says* so on his own blog page. I’ve quoted him. Yet voters and the Hugo committee were determined to place him on the ballot for fanactiviy *in spite* of the man’s own statement.

    That was my point. Not that Fred Pohl is a pro. But that he has done nothing that should be called fanac in the previous year.

  8. Actually, that’s not what Pohl’s blog says.

    He writes that his *motivation* for starting the blog was that he’d been toying with the idea of publishing an expanded edition of his book. But nowhere does he state that he’s actually going to to that, resulting in a new book. It could be that he considers the blog itself to be the sequel.

    I don’t see how you can claim he hasn’t been a fan in some time either. What constitutes being a fan? Is there an exam? If so, I didn’t take it.

    The definition of the Best Fanzine category makes no mention of the requirement to engage in fanac. It’s for writing. In Fanzines, semiprozines, blogs, etc. The blog is not currently available as a professional publication. It’s valid. And the considerable applause when he won suggests this is the generally accepted view.

  9. Fred Pohl would not be the first fan to have made a professionally published book out of his fan writing.

  10. @Taral: Exactly. With the fan awards it’s not a matter of maintaining standards and definitions. It’s a matter of vox populi. Like, certainly a fanzine is something you read, but there are people who like this podcast so let’s shoehorn it into the awards somewhere. Like, who doesn’t think a lot of that fine fellow Fred Pohl, so when he does a rewrite of his biography let’s give it an award by shoehorning it in somewhere. Examples of this kind of thing abound.

    I suspect that a general Fan Achievement Award will supplant all of the current fan Hugo categories before long, providing fewer places for this kind of shoehorning thing to happen. Will that be good or bad? Depends on how much you care. Sometimes I think what we need around here is more apathy. But, then, I don’t care.

  11. Taral Wayne:

    “The ‘fanwriting’ he was nominated for was professionally motivated.”

    So what? Leaving aside your highly dubious apparent thesis that author intention defines fanwriting, either solely or to any controlling degree, even if it were Mr. Pohl’s intention to have a professional or commercial goal with his blog and the writing therein, there’s not much evidence on the ground to suggest that intention has been realized or will be any time soon. Nor is the blog itself a site with commercial mechanics. The man is not making money off of Google Ads or any such thing; the site features no advertising at all save for Mr. Pohl’s own books, which I assume you do not begrudge him.

    The site and the writing fit all the requirements for the category, which in itself is enough (and it’s worth noting that the requirements of the category have been consistently silent on the matter of “intention”). But beyond that, while the site features the work of a professional writer, it’s not “professional writing.” Or at the very least it is not yet, and may never be, and in the meantime Mr. Pohl is in fact doing an awfully fannish thing, which is using is own particular outlet to write about his experiences in science fiction. If you’re not seeing fanac, it’s because you’re determined not to see what was obvious to the Hugo voters.

    It does seem to be that whether you want to acknowledge it or not, you’re making the assertion that a real problem here is that a lot of people voting for Fan Writing are either ignorant or not “real fans,” to whatever degree that “real fans” would never do such a thing, and that the pernicious influence of ignorant not-real fans reaches all the way to the highest levels of WSFS. I think this argument makes an interesting juxtaposition to the annual hand-wringing about the “graying of fandom” and the concern that younger fans are abandoning WorldCon for things like Dragon*Con.

    But if this matter really is a concern for you, I do suggest that next year in Reno you attend the WSFS business meeting and offer an amendment that the Fan Writing Hugo may only be awarded to those whose writing was motivated purely from fannish intention. How you will prove such intention, and who shall be chosen to judge whether such intention is truly fannish enough, will be an edifying exercise, and I for one look forward to seeing it. I shall bring a mop and a bucket for whomever wishes to clean up the blood on the floor afterward.

  12. So what? So the categories have no meaning, that’s what? Let’s give the Best Novel award next year to Alan Sadler because everyone thinks he’s funny. So he’s not a novelist and a comedy film isn’t a book? So what, John?

  13. Taral, now you’re just being silly, in lieu of producing an actual argument. A film is not a novel, and in the rules of the Best Novel Hugo category, it’s fairly clear on what qualifies as a novel. Likewise, the definition of the Best Fan Writer category is clear as to what qualifies as for the category — and Mr. Pohl’s writing certainly qualified.

    The issue here is *not* that the categories have no meaning, the issue is that *you don’t like the meaning the categories have.* Which is fine — you’re entitled to your opinion — but which is an entirely separate issue. That said, it should be noted that your apparent bright line of intentionality for what qualifies as fan writing and what does not, is not something that has been in the rules, to the best of my knowledge.

    From where I’m standing, it doesn’t appear that you are making an argument from the actual history of the award (or more concretely the rules that apply to the award) and applying that to Mr. Pohl’s circumstance. What you appear to be doing is making the decision that Mr. Pohl’s win doesn’t feel right to you, and coming up with a rationale for it out of whole cloth, and working it backward to cast aspersion on Mr. Pohl’s win. Thus, this “intention” argument of yours.

    Again, your opinion and you are welcome to it. But I would suggest that you entertain the notion that rather than the Hugo voters and rules committee somehow getting this vote “wrong,” as it appears you wish argue, that instead your own opinion on what qualifies as fan writing is simply a minority opinion.

    Now, once more, if you want the rules to reflect your opinion, I suggest you make your way to a WSFS business meeting (two of them, actually) and propose the changes that you seek. You might even succeed. Good luck to you. But it won’t make Mr. Pohl’s win any less legitimate, because he given the award under rules which allowed his writing to be considered for the category.

  14. @John: “A film is not a novel”. Right. However, a podcast is not a fanzine. Given that a podcast won “Best Fanzine” we know Taral was right that there’s trouble with defining categories.

  15. Pure Humpty-Dumpty Speak. A word means precisely what I intend it to mean, he said before the fall…

  16. @Dave L: “a podcast is not a fanzine.”

    At the risk of repeating myself, there were fanzines on tape as far back as the 1950s.

  17. I am surprised that Taral is unable to discern the difference between form and content. As an artist (and especially as one who works in both physical and digital media), I would have thought he’d have a deep understanding that a thing with fan-contributed content, interviews and cover art was functionally equivalent to another thing with fan-contributed content, interviews and cover art, if the only difference was the arrangement of the bits.

    Failing that, I would have thought he’d be amused that the only way we could read his Jeremiad was through a PDF. Which means, unless he typed the article on a manual typewriter and then mailed it, his own words have been through the same distillation into ones and zeros. Even if that was the case, someone had to ultimately retype them on a computer. It’s ones and zeros all the way down.

    Taral has no argument, just Fideism. It’s less fandom than fandamentalism and just as boring as still insisting the world is flat.

    @DB: I’m really interested in these fanzines on tape. Are you aware of any available online? I think they’d be a tremendous resource to the next generation of fans, just as Pohl’s blog has been.

  18. @DB: At the risk of repeating myself, since you didn’t answer when I asked this last time:

    I remember Larry Tucker’s UNCLE ALBERT’S ELECTRIC TALKING FANZINE (on cassette tape), and UNCLE ALBERT’S VIDEO FANZINE, and contributed to the former. Those were from the 1980s, and perhaps the late 70s. What fanzines on tape go back farther than that?

  19. I’m very fond of the history of authors being, in fact, fans. Some start as fans and become authors, some start as authors and become fans (there may be a temporal pattern to that).

    I suspect we celebrate it in our minds somewhat more than it’s really going on on the ground; but still.

    Personal reminiscences is a core fanwriting category. When the people you reminisce about are major players in the field, it’s interesting to a lot more people. I don’t, actually, want the fanwriting category to become “good stuff people write that not very many people are interested in,” though.

  20. “However, a podcast is not a fanzine.”

    Fair enough.

    So, rewrite this:
    “3.3.13: Best Fanzine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which does not qualify as a semiprozine.” http://www.wsfs.org/bm/const-2009.htm

  21. @MichaelW: Okay, rewrite this: . It’s the OneLook Dictionary Search, providing 20 sources for the definition of “fanzine”. It begins with the Compact Oxford English Dictionary saying “Noun: a magazine, usually produced by amateurs, for fans of a particular performer, group, or form of entertainment; Origin: 1940s (originally US); blend of ‘fan’ and ‘magazine’.” Basically all entries lead to the extraordinary revelation that a fanzine is something you read, regardless of whether the print is deadtree or digital. Even Wikipedia is cited, and at this moment there doesn’t appear to have been any recent modification to say anything such as “and also a podcast!”, although I suppose that could change in the next two minutes.

    Reading the recent WSFS Constitution entry, I wonder who wants to look up the word “publication”?

    The point here isn’t that the WSFS Constitution can be constantly changed to apparently allow anything to loosely qualify for any award. The point is that it happens. To be really honest the qualifications for a Hugo should be simply stated as “Vox Populi”which means “Popular opinion or sentiment”. Standards and definitions need not apply. The award goes to whoever can whip up enough votes, with or without qualification. It would save the WSFS a lot of trouble.

  22. The name is “best fan writer” but the award is supposed to be for best fan writing in the relevant year. As far as I know, nobody is claiming that Pohl got, or should have gotten, a Hugo in 2010 for things he wrote in 1935, or even 2008. (Yes, we do think somewhat of body of work, in any field, for any award, not just sf-related, but there’s a difference between thinking well of a Bujold novel because it’s part of a series you know and like, and nominating someone because you think they were cheated in 2002.)

    “He’s a published novelist, therefore he shouldn’t get a fanwriting award” makes a little more sense than “he writes for a newspaper, therefore he isn’t a fan writer,” but not much. We don’t disqualify someone from “best novel” because they have stories in Analog.

  23. Dave: all very nice, but I’m not the one expressing concern over what is – or is not – a fanzine.

    If you were Emperor of the Universe how would you like to see the category defined in such a way that the voters have guidance?

    Otherwise, aren’t we essentially using the damon knight definition of SF?

  24. My amazement at tuning in to see what has been considered award-eligible by Worldcon today is no doubt its own justification. The view can be quite disconcerting when you notice that we’re off the main trail of what a category actually stands for. And in this category of the Hugo awards, we’re now so far off the main trail that we’re not even on a terrestrial area of the planet.

    If I were Emperor of the Universe and setting category definitions likely I’d just revert them to what they were a decade or two ago, with the obvious inclusion of an allowance for the digital explosion. I’d also eliminate the vox populi game of awarding whatever’s considered hot via sledge-hammer where it otherwise wouldn’t fit a category at all.

  25. If I were Emperor of the Universe and setting category definitions likely I’d just revert them to what they were a decade or two ago,

    Oh, back when the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation went to an entirely historical movie called Apollo 13?

  26. Really, fans who object to Pohl winning this Hugo because he’s not a proper fan or a filthy pro or because his blog is not a fanzine (somewhat ironic here) have a hole in their head themselves.

    You can ask whether voters have voted for him out of name recognition of course, though it is a bit insulting to the voters.

    And complaining that a podcast won as best fanzine because only real written fanzines count? Can you really be a science fiction fan if you are that much of a luddite?

    Though what can you expect from people who think pdf is a proper format to realise anything meant to read online is…

  27. Grant Stone/Dave Locke: I don’t know. I just remember reading about the early tape fanzines in Harry Warner or somewhere.

    James Davis Nicoll: Apollo 13 was a finalist, but it didn’t win the Hugo. However, that doesn’t affect your point.

    In regard to that, the 1996 Hugo Awards Administrator says:

    1) It’s not entirely historical, having tinkered and edited history enough that, were it in prose format, it would be classed as a historical novel;

    2) It concerns historical events that would have been entirely science fictional within the memory of many people living even when the movie came out, let alone when the events happened, and thus seems to qualify for the spirit of a field one of whose leading magazines once bore the slogan, “Extravagant Fiction Today – Cold Fact Tomorrow”;

    3) Although a committee award is not a Hugo, if breakthrough technological achievements have nothing to do with SF, it would still be very odd that the 1969 Worldcon gave an award to the actual Apollo 11 mission for “Best Moon Landing Ever”;

    4) and most of all, MOST of all, Apollo 13 was on the ballot because the voters chose to nominate it. Some matters of qualification, like publication date, are usually subject to objective determination. Genre, however, is murkier and open to judgment, and it would be out of place for a lone administrator to gratuitously over-rule the will of the voters, who are, after all, the people who are supposed to determine who gets the Hugo.

  28. Anyway, outrage about how wrong Hugo awards are this year and nowhere near as good as they used to be is as old as the second year they were awarded.

    It’s the nature of the award (non juried and voted on by a relatively small group of people not paid to actually read the nominations) to give weird results. Either (try to) change it or stop worrying about it, but not this endless kvetching please.

  29. @DB: “[…]was on the ballot because the voters chose to nominate it. Some matters of qualification, like publication date, are usually subject to objective determination. Genre, however, is murkier and open to judgment, and it would be out of place for a lone administrator to gratuitously over-rule the will of the voters, who are, after all, the people who are supposed to determine who gets the Hugo.” Bingo. Also, of course, they obviously get to determine where it fits in. Even if it doesn’t. We haven’t reached the point where a Worldcon can say no to a bad fit, because it’s the will of the voters to award an apple as Best Orange.

  30. Martin Wisse asks: “And complaining that a podcast won as best fanzine because only real written fanzines count? Can you really be a science fiction fan if you are that much of a luddite?”

    First, you lost my sympathy as soon as you used the word “luddite”. Name calling is childish. Second, try to understand this basic point; just as a fanzine is not a podcast, a podcast is not a fanzine. This is *central* to the basis of the objection by myself and others to Starship Sofa winning – or even being nominated for the Hugo. It was a grossly unfair situiation at the start and resulted – in my opinion – from the sad fact that the majority of younger SF fans and apparently the entire Aussicon 4 Hugo Committee being unaware of what a fanzine actually *is*. Fandom set up the Hugo Awards decades ago and in those years a fanzine was a fanzine and we all knew it. Now we have “podcasts” and “bolgs” and some fans enjoy them. Then some smart alek realized that since only 200 or 300 fans vote in the Hugo fan catagories anyway, those Hugo Awards could easily be hijacked by somebody – almost anybody, in fact – with a blog or a podcast since the audiances for those forms reach many thousands of potential voters – nearly all of whom only see that particular blog or podcast. And so the creaters of Starship Sofa start telling their listeners “hey guys, we really, REALLY want a Hugo Award and if you guys love us you’ll go and vote for us!” And the multitudes reply, “sure, why not?” And so it goes.

    And here’s why Starship Sofa’s Hugo Award win is not only meaningless, but also unfair to them: Starship Sofa was the only contender *of it’s type* in that catagory. The nominees were one podcast and 4 fanzines. It was rediculous. Nominate 4 more podcasts against Starship Sofa, call the award “Best Podcast”, and then maybe you’d have something that *meant something*, and THEN the actual fanzines could have been judged against other fanzines and the Best Fanzine award would have meant something. I’m sure the creaters of Starship Sofa like having that big shiny rocket sitting on their desk right now, but it’s a hollow award, folks. It doesn’t mean that Starship Sofa is the best at anything except exploiting an outdated set of awards rules and manipulating the system into letting them steal a Hugo trophy. And they did it on purpose, just for the sophomoric thrill of it, like kids who spray paint their names in day-glo orange on highway bridges. Yes Starship Sofa, we see you. Now pull up your pants, wipe the snot off your nose and grow up a little.

    Next posting; my take of Fred Pohl’s Hugo Award.

    Curt Phillips

  31. My objection to awarding the Fanzine Hugo to a podcast is that fandom historically is a literate entity, and thus traditionally the only Hugos for non-text categories were explicitly for non-text categories.

    As new phenomena have arisen, new categories have been created; and I have no objection to new Hugos for new things such as “Best Graphic Novel” or “Best Fannish Website”.

    But shoehorning something which is part dramatic performance, part fanzine, and part blog into the fanzine category is merely depriving actual fanzines of their due attention. It’s like comparing iPads and mainframes. (I will add in the interest of full disclosure that I am a text-centric person, basically incapable of taking in anything in audio-only format, and thus find podcasts less than useful; and note that nobody seems to have even suggested creating an actual print version of these “zines” for actual reading, perhaps out of fear of how little actual space such a transcript would occupy.)

    As to Fred: he’s a nice guy, I wish him well, but I wish I could kid myself that the phenomenon of Well-Known Pro Wins Fan Hugo reflects anything other than the fact that the present-day average Hugo voter has never even SEEN, much less read, contributed to, LoCed, or subscribed to, an actual fanzine. Thus, they just tick off the box for the guy whose blog they’ve seen or whose novels they enjoy.

  32. Martin Wisse wrote:

    (First, I apoligize for picking on Martin Wisse so much here. I don’t know Martin Wisse, have never heard of Martin Wisse, and I doubt that Martin Wisse and I are ever going to become best buds. But it’s just too easy to pick apart what Martin Wisse wrote above and I’m lazy today…)

    Martin Wisse wrote: “Really, fans who object to Pohl winning this Hugo because he’s not a proper fan or a filthy pro or because his blog is not a fanzine (somewhat ironic here) have a hole in their head themselves.

    You can ask whether voters have voted for him out of name recognition of course, though it is a bit insulting to the voters.”

    Fred Pohl is indeed a proper fan. He was one of the *first* proper fans and he established himself as such decades before either Martin Wisse or I were ever born. Fred Pohl doesn’t have to prove his fannish chops to anyone. He did that long, long ago and his street cred is solid and absolute. Fred later became a complete SF professional as well, but that certainly didn’t mean that he gave up his place in SF fandom. He is solidly established in both worlds and is as accomplished in both as anyone who has ever worked in either. Let that statement stand as the starting point for any discussion about the suitability of Fred Pohl for any award or honor. He is above any such criticism.

    That being said, was Fred Pohl the best Fan Writer who worked in 2009? Certainly not. Fred wrote a very fun blog during 2009 and it was very enjoyable to read (just as it still is in 2010 and hopefully will be for many years to come.) but “Best Fan Writer” of the year? Not even close. Those who actually read the writing of other fans throughout the year – and I mean widely read it – all know this and will tell you so. Hell, Fred would probably tell you so himself if you look him in the eye and ask. Fred knows very well what good fanwriting is and he’s done a great deal of it over the years and much of it has been very good indeed. But we all know that Fred’s blog wasn’t the best fan writing of 2009, and I include Fred himself in this.

    But you know what? None of us care about that. Because it’s Fred Pohl. I honestly don’t know if the newer fans will understand just yet how important – how *central* Fred Pohl has been to Fandom. He was there practically when it started. He’s been there all the way like a constant guiding light (ok, I’ll say it; like a “Pohlstar”…) and he towers so highly in the pantheon of Fandom’s heros that I’d have voted for Fred Pohl for just about anything. No, Fred didn’t do the best fan writing that was done in 2009, but I’m willing to bet that those who did can’t bring themselves to begrudge Fred Pohl for this award; not really. This one was a given. It was a nod of respect for a past master of the craft.

    And at least it really *was* within the correct catagory, unlike the “Best Fanzine” Award.

    Back to picking on Martin Wisse:

    “Though what can you expect from people who think pdf is a proper format to realise anything meant to read online is…”

    Read that three times fast, and tell me what you really meant to write…

    (No offense meant, Martin. Just poking fun… My own abuses of the written word make this example look like … Hugo Award material… 😉

    Curt Phillips

  33. Curt,

    Yes, calling someone a ‘luddite’ is childish. Almost as childish as posting a picture of Pohl with a hole in his head, then blaming others when people start taking offence. Or complaining that due to embarrassment over placing last on the ballot, the author would have to kill somebody. And it’s the sofa kids who don’t respect the importance of the Hugos?

    Actually, you may have heard of some of those snot-nosed sofa kids: Stephen Donaldson, Ben Bova, Sam Delaney and Jack Dann in the last issue alone. There’s also this other guy. I hear he’s a real big fan of all this scientifiction stuff. What’s his name? Ah, yes. Fred Pohl.

  34. Wait, can i change that to “I was just testing to see if people were paying attention”?

  35. Oh, and I forgot to add, John Scalzi also wrote:

    “Personally, I find the Pohl Fan Writer win satisfying on several levels: One, the blog is a genuine delight to read and does something I find very important, which is to help connect a new generation of science fiction readers and fans with the history of the field and some of those who made it what it is today; Two, it’s a touching gesture of esteem by fandom to a man whose personal and professional career touched all aspects of science fiction, both pro and fan; Three, it’s a wholly appropriate “career award” for someone who helped CREATE fandom, for Christ’s sake.”

    Lest I seem completely contrary and contentious in my previous posting, I’d like to say that John Scalzi and I agree on *this* point 100%. Even warring factions can come together and lay down their arms in their mutual admiration for Fred pohl!

    Curt Phillips

  36. Grant Stone wrote:

    “Yes, calling someone a ‘luddite’ is childish. Almost as childish as posting a picture of Pohl with a hole in his head, then blaming others when people start taking offence. Or complaining that due to embarrassment over placing last on the ballot, the author would have to kill somebody.”

    I agree with you on this. Implying that what Fandom needs is another good funeral is not only inappropriate, but is a wild departure from what I would hope this discussion should be about. I think Taral noted downline that the cartoon didn’t have the effect that he’d first intended and I don’t think that it stands as a true representation of Taral’s intent – not that I can speak for Taral, of course. Just my impressions.

    “And it’s the sofa kids who don’t respect the importance of the Hugos?”

    To me the real point is how well any of us respect the importance of Fandom, not the Hugos. I hope this point is not a subtile one, for if it is then it implies that Fandom has no real importance outside of a shrinking group of traditional SF fans, myself included. On the other hand, if that *is* the case then time will eventually remove that factor from the notice of the SF world and the Hugo Committee…

    But the Hugos? The Hugos *only* have importance *if* they accurately reflect the quality of the work being done in each catagory. I think that most of this year’s Hugo Awards went to excellent works and excellent writers. Except for the “Best Fanzine” award, which didn’t go to a fanzine at all.

    “Actually, you may have heard of some of those snot-nosed sofa kids: Stephen Donaldson, Ben Bova, Sam Delaney and Jack Dann in the last issue alone. There’s also this other guy. I hear he’s a real big fan of all this scientifiction stuff. What’s his name? Ah, yes. Fred Pohl.”

    I think you know that I was refering to the creaters of the Starship sofa podcast itself and not to it’s contributors. I didn’t see the ceremony this year; did Donaldson, Bova, or any of those others rush onstage to accept the award? Do any of them have that trophy sitting on their desk right now? Or is it the fellow – I can’t recall his name – who produced Starship Sofa?

    By the way; are you the Grant Stone who produces the Faster Than Light radio show? I’ve istend to many episodes on line and think it’s an excellent production. I particularly value Faster Than Light for your reviews on many Australian books that I don’t hear about here in America until much later – if at all. But may I ask you; do you consider your Faster Than Light radio show to be a fanzine? Would you think it eligible for a Best Fanzine Hugo someday?

    Curt Phillips

  37. Curt,

    I completely agree.
    In fact I didn’t start commenting here to defend StarShipSofa’s (or Pohl’s) wins. I was motivated by the self-serving, poorly argued and just plain nasty tone of the original article. I don’t mind if someone holds a different opinion to me – I love a good debate. But there’s a line of argument and then there’s just being a troll. I didn’t think Taral’s article was on the good side of that line.

    Grant

  38. As far as I know, Larry Tucker’s tape-zines (as he called them) were the first generally circulated recorded fanzines in fandom, as Dave Locke mentioned. (There was at least one other fan who mailed out “tape-zines” a couple of years after Larry did it, and Larry himself revived the practice of VHS video tape at least once. What Harry Warner wrote about in ALL OUR YESTERDAYS were the round robin wire and tape recordings that some SF clubs and early SF conventions started circulating as early as 1940. There was generally a single copy that was sent from group to group (or sometimes just to a single isolated but active fan) and the whole process was just as cumbersome and time consuming as it sounds. (The N3F used to do round-robin tape recordings when I was briefly a member in the 1970’s, but the ones I saw didn’t ammount to much.) When I last visited Harry at his home in 1988 I saw a small box of wire spools and when I asked, Harry confirmed that some of these were examples of those very recordings. It may be that Harry’s collection of wire recordings still exists and was sold to that collector in Texas who bought Harry’s fanzines, but I fear that those one of a kind recordings were probably tossed out in the trash by the uncaring Hagerstown church that inheriated Harry’s estate.

    If that’s the case, I wish I’d swiped that box when I had the chance in 1988…

  39. Curt, best buds or not, we’re on the same page with regards to Pohl. He’s a giant, we’re so lucky he’s still around and blogging his earliest experiences with fandom, his blog is a great resource and worthy of Hugo recognition, if not necessarily the best fanwriting to have appeared last year.

    Don’t worry about making fun of my lapses into incoherence: that’s the law of the internet: snark and be snarked at.

    On whether podcasts can be fanzines; ever heard of books on tape? If a podcasts functions as a fanzine, it’s a fanzine in my book, but then I’m a lumper, not a splitter. I’ll stand by my acusation of luddite, much maligned that label is. Fandom should embrace new ways of doing fanac, not shout at the kids to get off our lawn.

  40. Curt,

    I’m not the same Grant Stone who produces Faster Than Light, but I do listen and think it’s a great show. From my reading of the current Hugo definition of fanzine, I would consider FTL just as valid for a Best Fanzine Hugo as any other fan-produced magazine that happens to be working in a different media.

    If you like FTL, there are a few other Australian podcasts you might enjoy. Galactic Suburbia and Notes from Coode Street are both excellent.

    Grant

  41. Just jumping in for a quick question to those who are distressed by StarShipSofa’s win….

    Would you have been this upset if SSS was text-based and contained the exact same contents? The criticism seems focused on the method of delivery, which seems odd to me. I can understand people being upset about campaigning, but I fail to comprehend why some people find an audio fanzine to be beyond imagination. (Though audio fanzines do appear to have existed in the past, judging by some comments.)

  42. Martin, In general I have to agree with you on this. The fact is that nothing – Science Fiction, Fandom, our graying beards – nothing at all stays the same forever, and like it or not we all have to find a way to roll with the punches that time throws our way. I remember being a very new and very young fan quite a long time ago. Fandom was almost overwelming to me at first and if it hadn’t been for a few of the old timers like Bob Tucker, Rusty Hevelin, Lynn Hickman, and others who showed me a little of not only how Fandom worked, but of how *I* might work within Fandom, I’d certainly have drifted off to something else. (We’ll rush quickly past the question of whether Tucker, Hevelin, & Hickman are to be commended or castigated for their recruiting efforts, if you please…). Young fans today don’t crank the handle of a mimeograph anymore – they’re blogging and podcasting; and I think we all know that the future belongs ultimately to them.

    The present, however, still has fanzines (You can see a good selection of them on-line at efanzines dot com) and the “Best Fanzine” Hugo still – nominally – belongs to those fanzines. That’s why it’s a little upsetting to see a podcast take home a Hugo that should have gone to one of several actual fanzines. Now, I’ve taken some shots at Starship Sofa but the fact is that for what it is, it’s pretty good. But it *isn’t* a fanzine, and it’s manifestly unfair to expect the two forms to compete for the same award. The curent loophope in the Hugo regs needs to be fixed one way or another, but the bottom line is that it would have been proper and honorable for the creaters of Starship Sofa to have recognized the inappropriateness of their podcast being nominated for a Best Fanzine Hugo and withdrawn. I understand that the publicity and exposue of the nomination – and the win – was too much for them to pass up. I understand it, but I don’t respect them for it.

    I’d rather see all Hugo Awards suspended than to see this sort of inappropriateness and imbalance continue another year. It’s a distraction that Fandom doesn’t need.

    Curt Phillips

  43. Thanks for those suggestions, Grant. I’ll check them out. I’m constantly impressed with how much top quality fannish activity and top quality science fiction is going on in Australia these days. We in America don’t hear about enough of it, which makes shows like FASTER THAN LIGHT invaluable to me. I’ve been getting some of this info from Edwina Harvey’s SF BULLSHEET, but now I read that the Bullsheet is going on indefinate hiatus. I’ll miss it.

    Curt Phillips

  44. Those ’50s tape “fanzines” are well-covered on pages 238-240 of Harry Warner Jr’s A WEALTH OF FABLE. Since that’s not available as a podcast or in a blog (yet), here’s a quick summary:

    In the late ’40s and early ’50s Charles Burbee & other L.A. area fans did write recordings and “set up a chain of recipients for the spools he orated.” (Some of these have been transcribed & published, but that’s another story.) Around 1950 “there were enough tape fans in Florida and Georgia to form a club for the exchange of reels….Shelby Vick was a leading figure in the Fan Federation for Sound Productions, also known as Wirez.”

    Then “There was EGOTAPE, produced for SAPS by Lee Jacobs. It was not a fanzine in the strict sense, since there was a different message for each member.”

    And most famously, there was the Fantasy Amateur Tape Exchange (FATE), started in 1955 by Bill Danner and with membership including Lee Hoffman, Larry Shaw, Dean Grennell, Charles Burbee, Wrai Ballard and Bill Rotsler. It was “a chain tape divided into six or eight sections. You recorded in one section and sent it on to the next person on the chain.”

    There’s more, but perhaps if interested you should buy a copy and read it for yourself.

  45. The earlier iteration on this blog (or “webpage,” as Taral prefers) of this discussion with Taral over Fred Pohl and the Hugos is here, incidentally.

    At the time, I asked Taral:

    […] But I remain unclear what principle it is Taral is proposing: there should be a rule excluding writers from being eligible for the Best Fan Writer Hugo because we think in future they might use some of the same writing as a draft for, or directly selling it as, professional writing? Or what?

    Never did get an answer, then, or in brief subsequent exchanges we had on the topic.

    I’m now interested to read this in Taral’s Drink Tank piece:

    But today there is the internet, and bloggers have demanded equal rights with paper for their digital input into fandom.

    And I’m thinking they have? Huh.

    Because I haven’t noticed this. But the internet is huge, so that’s no surprise. The great thing about the web, though, is that everything on it is recorded and findable. I’d like to read some examples of bloggers having made these demands. Which bloggers? Who? Which posts? Links?

    It’s hard to discuss demands that we can’t look at. Made by unnamed people. On unnamed blogs. Somewhere.

    Fortunately, linking is simple enough. Examples?

  46. Since the award is named “Best Fan Writer” and not “Best Fan Writing” why not just define eligible fanwriters to exclude a writer who had work published during the year which would qualify in the professional categories? Writers who were primarily amateurs would not be disqualified every year because they sometimes had a book or a story published. Pros who had essentially retired but still wrote fan material would not be barred. Which seems perfectly fair. The award would go to someone who wrote primarily as a hobbyist during the period in question. Professionals have tons of awards to compete for. And, in my opinion, a writer’s professional reputation is worth an enormous amount of Hugo votes, today and forty years ago. So it is often questionalble whether the fan writer award is actually based on fanwriting, even where the pro in question has indeed done eligible fanwriting. Making the fan award an award for fans — i.e. writers who are not pros — would clarify things.

  47. John Scalzi noted that several SF professionals have won “Fan Hugos” in the past and offers a list:

    Dave Langford
    Wilson Tucker
    Alexi Panshin
    Terry Carr
    Bob Shaw
    Richard E. Geis

    He might also have added Ted White, who won a Best Fanwriter Hugo after many years as a professional SF writer and after a full decade of being the editor of AMAZING STORIES and FANTASTIC SCIENCE FICTION. Scalzi goes on to say:

    “… the point I think is well established: What Mr. Pohl and I have done in the Fan Writer category is NOT, in fact, highly unusual — and indeed one can easily argue that a majority of the Fan Writer Hugos have gone to writers with a substantial professional and critical resume in the science fiction field.”

    John, I think you’ve overlooked the most important point in this. All the authors you list above – including Fred Pohl – were well established in SF Fandom many long years before they then moved on into the ranks of SF professionals. They were all very active in writing and publishing fanzines, attending and running conventions, organizing clubs, and a multitude of other established fan activities. They were all well known fans, and some of them were among the biggest names in the fannish subculture before they became professionals in science fiction. And they all maintained their connections to fandom. None of them won their Best Fanwriter awards for the SF they wrote; they won it for the fanwriting they did.

    What seperates you from that group of “Best Fanwriter” winners is that you *started* as a SF professional. You were completely unknown in organized SF Fandom prior to your first novel. Am I wrong about this? Did you have a previous role in organized SF fandom that I’ve never heard of? It would surprise me if you had and I’d somehow mssed learning of it.

    Please don’t mistake my intent in these comments. I think you are an excellent SF writer. I read OLD MAN’S WAR when it first appeared and thought it was teriffic. Still do. I also read some of your blog after you were nominated. For what it was, it was ok, but it wasn’t “great fanwriting”. Bob Tucker, Terry Carr, *they* did great fanwriting. *Fanwriting* isn’t just random blog comments; it isn’t just some guy’s observations on whatever thought crosses his mind that day, and it certainly isn’t judged by the reactions of blog readerswho get a special thrill from having a “real live actual sci-fi writer” notice and personally reply to their fawning adulation. Not even if there are many thousands of them. Numbers like that might get you awards, but numbers don’t make anyone a better writer.

    And more to the point, Fan writing – as opposed to professional SF writing – is a different discipline. What exactly is it? I dunno; an essay taken to the highest level perhaps. That’s not an adaquate description of what fanwriting is, but then I’m not a great fanwriter either. Maybe someone else can offer a better description.

    You also wrote:

    “I certainly agree that the Fan Writer Hugo should not go to people like me every year — it’s one of the reasons why my acceptance speech for the Fan Writer Hugo was largely given over to telling people not to nominate or vote for me again, and to instead cast their eye over the large and rich field of fan writing to find other deserving writers — but if it ends up that the category has a mix of writers, some of them who are also pros, then it’s no different than the way the category has been over the years.”

    It *is* different John, because the issue was not and never has been that you were a pro, but rather, whether or not you were a *fan*. The impression I had at the time of your nomination was that you were a pro, completely unaccomplished in Fandom, dipping your net into the fannish pool to take a Hugo away from an actual fanwriter who simply couldn’t compete on the same playing field as an established professional SF writer. Not because of a difference in the quality of the writing, necessarily, but because of the vast difference in the audiances available to both.

    I sometimes wonder if the root cause of this entire problem might simply be a fundamental failure of everyone concerned to agree on what “fanwriting” actually is, let alone the controversy about blogs, podcasts, and so forth. Maybe what we all need is for someone to go ahead and unleash Rudy Rucker’s orphidnet (Postsingular) on us and kick us all to a new playing field…

    Curt Phillips

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