Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #52

A Few (Pointed) Observations of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony

By Chris M. Barkley:  I usually don’t offer any commentary after the Hugo Awards are given out because the will of the voters has been expressed and as the song goes, “Some will win, some will lose, some of them will sing the blues.”

And when you consider what happened last Saturday morning in Wellington, New Zealand, I think what unfolded may have looked really bad, but it could have been far, far worse.

Having said that, I think the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony team deserves a modicum of credit for bringing us a telecast of the awards at all under somewhat grueling circumstances;  even though there were a number of other glitches that were glaringly evident as time went on.

And on.

AND ON…

THE HUGO AWARDS CEREMONY

Yes, the CoNZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony will probably go down as one of the longest and most poorly executed as of now and well into the near future. I am quite sure that everyone involved, and I definitely include George R.R. Martin and the CoNZealand production team had the best of intentions.

I believe that he, and Robert Silverberg, were trying to convey to a global audience the grand, sweeping history and the importance of the award, which is still, after sixty-seven (67!) years, the only prestigious literary award given to authors and artists by readers. But they took an awfully long time to convey that. 

When planning something as arduous as the Hugo Awards Ceremony, the uppermost thing to keep in mind is that brevity and conciseness are your friends and droning on and boring your audience is not what you want under any circumstances. A VERY tight script would have redeemed this broadcast.

Also, and more importantly, GRRM and the producers on his end completely misread the audience tuning in. While his folksy reminiscing and cute anecdotes about the good old days of pre-internet fandom may have been entirely appropriate on a Worldcon panel (of which I have no doubt he has done countless times beforehand) his comments were perceived by the somewhat younger crowd as meandering, problematic and boring. His stories were about as meaningful and relevant as Henry Ford regaling Elon Musk about what a genius idea the production line was.

I am rather puzzled how GRRM, a seasoned writer/producer of several tv shows, could have possibly not foreseen this Titanic-sized iceberg in the making. And with at the very least five or so months of advanced planning, it was entirely avoidable. 

But there’s the rub; this fiasco was NOT entirely GRRM’s fault. He had plenty of help. 

Someone in CoNZealand’s end of the production and the producer in charge of GRRM’s studio, whom I do not know and cannot readily find,  should have recognized the problems at the scripting stage and should be held ultimately responsible for this fiasco. And whomever they are, they should have provided GRRM with the proper pronunciations of the nominee’s names far in advance of the start of the Ceremony.

Very little responsibility should fall on the line producers of the broadcast, Directors Alan Bond and Dragos Ruiu, who were recruited late in the process.   

The script GRRM and his producers had drafted by early July had a proposed running time in excess of OVER THREE HOURS, and that was without the recipients’ speeches! That’s as long as some of the more egregious Academy Awards telecasts of recent years. The final running time of the Ceremony (including the Hugo Award recipients’ speeches) clocked in at three hours thirty-four minutes and fifty-eight seconds. (And for those of you keeping score at home, no, it was not as long as Gone with the Wind; it would have needed yet another 24 minutes to accomplish that. But it sure FELT like it…)

Several days after CoNZealand ended and the bloody autopsies of the broadcast were in full swing, I came across a Facebook post that claimed that the original tech crew had been unceremoniously sacked and had to sign non-disclosure agreements to boot.   

And then there was also this curious post from a recent File 770 comments page:

Chip Hitchcock on August 6, 2020 at 8:30 am wrote:

“@Soon Lee: I’m sympathetic to the issues brought up by having to pivot so close to curtain time. ISTM that the program book should not have been one of those, but the slow connections in the Hugo ceremony (explained in another thread as having been picked up on 3 days’ notice because the original team crumped) is understandable.”

Curious about these claims, I spent several days seeking out, contacting and speaking extensively with a source who worked on the convention. I can completely debunk and dispose both pieces of gossip:

The original technical crew did not “crump”. Nor were they sacked or forced to sign NDAs.

According to my source, the decision was made to replace the New Zealand crew by the American based production team on the evening of July 29 (the first day of the convention) at the request of the US-based producers. This request was made directly by them to the Events Division Head, Mel Duncan. The explanation that was offered was that the tech crew was too widely distributed across several time zones (AEST/NZST/PDT/EDT) and the producers wished to use a centralized crew based solely in the Pacific Daylight Time zone.

That is all fine and well in theory, BUT the original crew had already gone through several rehearsals already and may have been in a better position to handle the technical issues or difficulties that occurred. Or not. We’ll never know for certain.

One thing is certain, GRRM and the production team haven given the World Science Fiction Society a big, black eye. Needless to say, this terrible program has churned up a considerable amount of negative reactions from a wide spectrum of fans and critics. How bad? One acclaimed Hugo Nominated Best Series author, Tade Thompson, was so disgusted by the perceived racism (in praise of problematic writers and editors from generations ago) that he publicly announced on Twitter that he would no longer accept any future nominations from WSFS. So yes, really bad.   

(For those of you who are curious, there is a fan edited version of the Ceremony that is an hour and forty two minutes long.)

BEST RELATED WORK and BEST NOVELLA

The BEST part of the broadcast was the acceptance speeches by the recipients, they were fantastic! In particular, I was especially happy for Jeannette Ng, whose speech at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon accepting the (now former) John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer won the 2020 Best Related Work category. I was privileged to be in the room when it happened; her scathing condemnation of white privilege, fascism and racism was truly one of the most electrifying moments in modern literature and subsequently made headlines around the world. Ms. Ng’s acceptance speech was also heartfelt and stirring, too. 

Of all of the fiction award winners, my only lament is that Ted Chiang’s magnificent novella, “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom”, was bested by “This Is How You Lose the Time War”. But Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s story was an epic tour-de-force and just as deserving.

THE 1945 RETRO-HUGOS

I had other concerns. 

When the Retro-Hugo Awards were first established in 1996, it was generally thought that it would be a good idea to honor works of fantasy and science fiction from 50, 75 and 100 years ago. And now after honoring eight years (1938,1940, 1942-1945, 1950 and 1953), folks are having second thoughts about the whole endeavor.

The good news is that the late Leigh Brackett and artist Margaret Brundage were big winners. Brackett won twice, the first for her novel Shadow Over Mars (aka The Nemesis From Terra) and in the Best Related Work for her Writer’s Digest article, “The Science Fiction Field”. The late Ms. Brundage was honored as the Best Artist of 1944, primarily for her artwork that year for Weird Tales

The bad news, as far as I was concerned, was yet another Short Form Editor award for John W. Campbell, Jr and a Best Series award for H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

It seems to me it’s as though when the Retro-Hugos are handed out, the nominators and voters seem to punch Campbell’s award ticket EVERY SINGLE TIME. I freely admit that, without question, he was one of the most influential editors of 20th century sf literature. And despite being a bit of a weird, cranky, an eccentric and a virulent racist, he was revered by his peers and fans alike for decades.

And because of those beliefs, I don’t think that Campbell is held in such high regard by a majority of contemporary fans, writers and editors. But the Hugo Award is not given for a person’s beliefs and character, they are given for the work that has been done. And as much as I may dislike JWC as a person, there is no doubt he did some admirable work, in his era.

By my count, Campbell’s work has netted him fifteen Hugo Awards, eight of those being Retro-Hugos. The question I have is this; how much adulation is enough? Because it seems to me that even with some of the more recent revelations of Campbell’s true nature, there is a die-hard cadre of enthusiasts who will continue giving his surviving family members a Hugo Award in spite of those personal criticisms of his character.      

Well, I stopped nominating and voting for John W. Campbell, Jr.on my Retro ballot years ago. Because there were other editors of that early era who deserve recognition, too. 

As for H.P. Lovecraft, I also recognize that he has had a lasting influence in modern day fantasy and horror. He is also a very disturbing individual and racist whose writing style was admired by his contemporaries and many, many others after his death. Despite that, I have no love or admiration for his work, no matter what his personal views were.I find his works turgid, stomach-turning and generally unpleasant. So my opposition to honoring Lovecraft’s work is strictly aesthetic not personal.

In closing, I will note that Clifford Simak’s “Desertion”, the runner up in the Short Story category, was one of the most enthralling tales that I had ever read in my youth.  It is a far superior story in comparison to the winner, Ray Bradbury’s “I, Rocket”. I think that Bradbury’s long literary shadow was at work here and I believe that honoring such an inferior story would shock and dismay him.

BEST SEMI-PROZONE and BEST EDITOR, LONG & SHORT FORM

Somewhere in the middle of this miasma of an awards show, both GRRM and author Robert Silverberg mused at length about the Best Semiprozine and the Long and Short Form Editing categories. Specifically, why were these awards named in such a manner.

Well, if they knew their Hugo Awards history, they would have known that the Semiprozine category was first awarded in 1984 and, according to Wikipedia, “…is given each year for semi-professionally-edited magazines related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues, with at least one issue appearing in the previous calendar year.” The award was dominated for decades by Locus Magazine (with 8 wins as Best Fanzine in the 13 years before the creation of the Semiprozine category, followed by another 22 wins until a WSFS Constitution rules change in 2012 made it ineligible in that category.)

I was so disgusted by this category and Locus’ repeated wins that I was once recruited by Discon III Fan Guest of Honor Ben Yalow to try and KILL it altogether at a WSFS Business Meeting. Obviously, we did not succeed, at least, in this timeline. But that’s another story for another day…

In the past decade, there have been meaningful attempts to draft a constitutional amendment to make this category more relevant (and ditch the unwieldy name as well). 

This rather dovetails with Mr. Silverberg’s comments about how odd it was to have a long and short form award for editors. Having labored for three agonizing years in the conclave of SMOFs email lists and the Business Meetings, I can tell Mr. Silverberg that I was in the room where it happened and that he really, REALLY, doesn’t want to know how this particular sausage was made. 

What I can tell you is that the intent of splitting up the Editing category was to find a way to honor magazine/anthology editors and book editors, who had been sadly neglected over the decades. How neglected, you may ask? 

The last two Hugo Award winning book editors were Judy-Lynn Del Rey (1986) and Terry Carr (1987). Both were deceased by the time they were honored..

Ideally, in the 21st century, this mess can be easily solved by establishing the following categories:

  • Best Magazine: Any magazine (in print or online) related to science fiction or fantasy which had published four or more issues or edited volumes in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Anthology or Collection: Any Anthology of original stories or a single author collection related to science fiction or fantasy published in the previous calendar year.
  • Best Book Editor:The editor of at least four (4) novel length works primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy published in the previous calendar year that do not qualify as a magazine or a website.

The only thing needed for the last category to work is the establishment of a uniform commitment by publishers to credit the novel’s editor in every book. Besty Wollheim of DAW Books has been working for the past two years to make this happen. Bravo to her!

There has been some disturbing news in the past few years that certain members of the Business Meeting might be open to abandoning the Book Editor category in favor of a Best Publisher or Imprint Award. I think that would be a terrible shame to shunt book editors back into the shadows after thirteen years in the limelight.  

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION LONG & SHORT FORM

One of the most egregious oversights this year was the omission of the HBO mini-series, Chernobyl from the Long Form category.

If fans had enough gumption to nominate a film like Hidden Figures, which brilliantly dramatized the work of African-American “calculators” who helped guide the Mercury spaceflight program of the 1960’s, what was the impediment to nominating the chilling and dystopian epic of the worst nuclear disaster on record?

In a similar vein, I practically shouted to anyone who would listen that fans should NOT nominate individual episodes of Watchmen, the acclaimed ten part series that served  as a “indirect sequel” to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s 1986 Hugo Award winning graphic novel.

And it ALMOST worked; an official statement from CoNZealnd’s Hugo Award Administrators posted on the voting results read as follows:

Watchmen gained enough votes to qualify in this category (81), but two individual episodes also qualified for the Short Form category (“A God Walk Into Abar” 81, “This Extraordinary Being,” 54) with more votes collectively. The Administrators therefore removed Watchmen from this category.”

UGH!   

With Watchmen relegated to two episodes in the Short Form Category, the beneficiary of that move was The Rise of Skywalker, who slipped into the sixth spot with 75 nominations. Next in line was Spider-Man: Far From Home with 74 nominations. (See the 2020 Hugo voting statistics here.)

And what’s this? The entire season of Russian Doll was nominated????? Russian Doll but not Watchmen? That’s the year 2020 for you; all crazy, all of the time. 

So with Chernobyl nowhere to be seen and Watchmen regulated out of the Long Form competition, is anyone surprised that the adaptation of Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens (also nominated as a series) was the eventual winner? A good choice, yes, But personally, I’d like to think that Watchmen would have given them a run for their money.

In the Short Form category, the same story, same show, a related result:

“Good Omens: Hard Times (Episode 3)” gained enough votes to qualify in this category (108 nominations), but the entire series of Good Omens also qualified for the Long Form category, with more votes. The Administrators therefore removed “Good Omens: Hard Times” from this category.”

The beneficiary here? The Doctor Who episode “Resolution”, which was promoted on the ballot, just ahead of an episode of The Good Place, “Pandemonium”.

And as much as I like Michael Shur’s comedy of moral philosophy and demonic manners, I heart simply aches that “The Answer” was given the nod over two of Watchmen’s incredible episodes, “A God Walks into Abar” and “This Extraordinary Being.” 

This sort of heartbreak could be avoided if the WSFS Business meeting would come to its senses and adopt the common sense solution that fellow fan Vincent Docherty and I formally proposed two years ago at ConJose (and can be found in Appendix B: 2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee, on page 27). 

Best Dramatic Presentation: Series – Any TV or streaming series of four 60 minute episodes or more than 240 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Episodic Form – TV or any other dramatic form, 30-89 minutes.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form – For films, audio books, theatrical productions, 90 minutes or more.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form – Any dramatic form of 30 minutes or less.

Yes, FOUR categories of Dramatic Presentation. If anyone has a better idea, please step forward at the Business Meeting and be prepared to be hammered down.

So, until the proposal above comes to pass (or something like it), my advice to all of you nominating voters stands; if you love this year’s series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Homecoming, Lovecraft Country or The Umbrella Academy, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT nominate individual episodes, nominate the whole series. That’s what the Long Form Category was created to honor in the first place. 

THE LODESTAR AWARD FOR BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK

No one has EVER explained to my complete and utter satisfaction as to why this cannot be a Hugo Award category.

NO. ONE.

I hope it happens one day. Soon.

In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS to Naomi Kritzer for her winning book, Catfishing on CatNet. Well Done! 

THIS award should be either a Hugo Award category OR renamed to honor the works and memory of  Ursula K. Le Guin. At this point, either would suit me just fine. Just Sayin’…

Best Editor Short Form Hugo: Eligible Works from 2019

By JJ: To assist Hugo nominators, listed below are the editors of short form works published for the first time in 2019.

These credits have been accumulated from Acknowledgments sections and copyright pages in works, eligibility posts, and other sources on the internet.

Feel free to add missing 2019-original works and the name of their editors in the comments, and I will get them included in the main post. Self-published works may or may not be added to the list at my discretion.

PLEASE DON’T ADD GUESSES.

If you are able to confirm credits from Acknowledgments sections, copyright pages, or by contacting authors and/or editors, then go ahead and add them in comments. If you have questions or corrections, please add those also.

Authors, Editors, and Publishers are welcome to post in comments here, or to send their lists to jjfile770 [at] gmail [dot] com.


Some of the magazines listed below are Prozines and are not eligible in the Hugo Semiprozine category. For a list of Semiprozines vs. Prozines, see Semiprozine.org.

Short Form Editors

3.3.10: Best Editor Short Form. The editor of at least four (4) anthologies, collections or magazine issues (or their equivalent in other media) primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year.

(Note that the Short Form Editors listed below may, or may not, be eligible — that is, have the equivalent of at least 4 anthologies and/or magazine issues in their career, with at least 1 of them published in 2019.)

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Hugo Awards Study Committee Report Online

The final Hugo Awards Study Committee Report is now online at the Worldcon 76 WSFS Business Meeting page along with the draft agenda for this year’s Business Meeting.

Committee chair Vincent Docherty says:

The committee got going much later than planned (entirely due to my own lack of time due to other commitments) but once we got started there was very energetic participation by the 20+ committee members. The report summarises the discussion and makes a number of recommendations, including four specific proposals which are on this year’s Business Meeting agenda (three updates to categories and continuation of the committee), as well as a number of topics for further discussion next year, assuming the committee is continued.

The committee welcomes feedback from interested fans. We’re aware of some online reaction to the specific proposals already, which might result in adjustments to the proposals when we get to the Business Meeting.

My thanks to the committee members for their work this year.

Direct link to the report: “2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee”

An excerpt from the overview of their recommendations —

…Understanding that the overall operation of the categories works well, the Committee found several places for improvement:

The Committee found that the present definitions in the Fan Artist/Professional Artist category were potentially problematic. The Fan Artist category was initially designed in 1967, seeking to honor those offering their artistic talents to the broader community of fandom for little or no compensation. Such contributions were often in the form of illustrations for fanzines and convention programs. In the last fifty years, however, the form that fandom has taken has changed, and the result is that the definition of Fan Artist was found to be outdated. This was given an extensive examination. The Committee also acknowledges that some further examination of the other fan/professional categories may be in order, and has proposed to carry forward at least one further change in this area.

The Committee found the term “Graphic Story” problematic. Just as “comic book” has come to be taken as including work not literally comic, “graphic story” has come to be taken as excluding work appearing in comic books or comic strips. The Committee proposes re-titling to “Best Graphic Story or Comic.”

The Committee feels that altering “Best Fancast” into a “Best Podcast” category and removing the restriction on eligible productions receiving money is desirable. Many podcasts generate income from either limited advertisements, tip jars, or other small streams of income. While these are often not sufficient to support someone making a living, the income can still be substantial. As also discussed in the context of the Fan/Professional Artist categories, the use of fixed income thresholds was also found to be problematic.

In addition to the Artist categories, the Committee gave some consideration to cases of category overlap and/or gaps in categories in general, and would propose to continue examining this both in the context of current and proposed awards. This arose, in particular, in discussions surrounding the future of Best Novel and the proposed Best Translated category.

The Committee also briefly considered several other questions, including how well the Hugo Awards have handled the digital/print divide and differences between how terms are used in an “industry” context in non-industry discourse (e.g. by Worldcon attendees/WSFS members who are giving the awards) and in the Hugo Award definitions themselves. Consideration of various such questions fed into the discussions on specific proposals.

The second question, ‘How well do the categories honor what we wish to honor?’, generated more questions for examination. Given the interaction of this question and the question of how many Hugo Awards should be awarded, most of these questions have been recommended for passage forward for further consideration in the next year. In particular:

A Best Translated category was proposed relatively late in the Committee’s deliberations. As a result, the Committee did not have the time to study this potential award in sufficient depth alongside the rest of its workload, and there were multiple ideas as to what form this category should take (e.g. whether it should be limited to novels, cover all written works) and, if recommended, whether the award in question should be a Hugo or a non-Hugo award given by Worldcons. In particular, the Committee proposes to examine whether such an award is presently feasible.

A potential reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation categories was considered, and has been proposed to be passed forward should the committee be continued. Multiple alternatives, including a possible addition of one (or more) categories and redefining the Long/Short division into a TV/Movie division, would be given consideration if the committee is reauthorized.

A readjustment of the Best Semiprozine and Best Editor categories has been proposed and will be considered if the Committee is reauthorized. In particular, the Committee feels that the nature of the internet may have reduced the advantage that professional magazines have over non-professional productions, and that allowing professional publications to compete in a “Best Magazine” category would allow them to once again be honored. The Committee also noted various complications with the Best Editor categories; several proposals, including a possible realignment into “Best Anthology” and “Best Imprint,” will be evaluated if we are authorized to do so….

The report advances three proposed changes, and recommends further study of four more:

Part II: Specific Proposals

(1) Proposed continuation of the Hugo Study Committee

(2) Proposed Changes to the Fancast Hugo Category (with slight changes to the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories to maintain consistency)

(3) Proposed Changes to the Professional Artist and Fan Artist Hugo Categories

(4) Proposed Changes to the Best Graphic Story Hugo Category

(5) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Addition of a Best Translated Work Hugo Category

(6) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Replacement of Semiprozine and Best Editor Hugo Categories with Professional Magazine, Anthology/Collection, and Publisher/Imprint

(7) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Potential Alterations to Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Categories

(8) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Best Art Book and Alterations to Best Related Work

(9) Proposal Not Recommended for Further Consideration: Best Novel Split

[Thanks to Vincent Docherty for the story.]

Semiprozine Eligibility List Updated by Neil Clarke

Neil Clarke announced on Twitter that the Semiprozine Directory has been updated for the benefit of Hugo voters who want to know what’s eligible in the Best Semiprozine category.

He also notes —

As far as we can tell, no one graduated to professional and no one has declared that they will decline nomination.

The updated  Semiprozine Directory lists:

  • 52 publications that are currently eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine;
  • Other semiprozines that are ineligible for the 2018 Hugos because they did not publish an issue in 2017;
  • Other zines that are ineligible for nomination as semiprozines because they are professional publications or fanzines (answering specific reader inquiries – not intended as an exhaustive list).

This is not an official list, but a tool that Clarke has excellent sources for keeping current. He invites any editor or publisher of a qualified semiprozine who wants their zine added to contact him at books(@)clarkesworld.com.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Lightspeed, Apex Magazines Depart Semiprozine Hugo Category

Lightspeed Magazine, which won the Best Semiprozine Hugo in 2014 and 2015, and Apex Magazine, a three-time nominee, have announced they are no longer eligible in the category.

They announced the change in response to queries from Neil Clarke, who contacted the publishers while updating his Semiprozine Directory.

Clarke reports Nebula Rift (formerly eSciFi), and New Realm (formerly eFantasy) have also been confirmed as professional. He still has a query open about the eligibility of Albedo One,

Jason Sizemore shared his feelings about Apex Magazine’s accomplishment in a blog post titled “Matriculation.”

The other day I received an email from Neil Clarke. He owns Clarkesworld Magazine and he maintains the directory of Semiprozine publications for the edification of Hugo Award voters. With the recent ascendancy of Apex Magazine and my transition to full-time publisher/editor, he wanted to inquire regarding the magazine’s Semiprozine candidacy.

He made the observation that from the outside, it appeared ` was now a pro-zine. As it turned out, Neil was correct.

At first, I was bummed out. We’ve been Hugo Award-nominated three of the last four years in the Best Semiprozine category. We had a strong 2015 and had hopes of receiving a fourth nomination.

Then it occurred to me that matriculating from the ‘semiprozine’ level is itself an achievement and noteworthy. It’s 10+ years of work and tens of thousands of dollars of effort to reach this level. I’m proud that Apex Magazine now exists on the same plane as Clarkesworld, F&SF, and Locus.

Two Four titles have graduated from the category, however, the list of semiprozines continues to grow. Comparing Clarke’s current list with the directory from last April, I found these new additions:

Update 01/12/2016: Clarke wrote in a comment that Nebula Rift and New Realms have been confirmed as professional.

Clarkesworld Announces Ineligibility for Semiprozine Hugo

Clarkesworld, three-time winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo, will not be eligible in the category this year. Editor/owner Neil Clarke told readers —  

The combined income from Clarkesworld (and its parent, Wyrm Publishing) has just barely crossed the threshold for semiprozine eligibility. We are NOT eligible for nomination this year. This is a very good sign for the future of Clarkesworld and gives me continued hope that someday I’ll be able to make this my full-time career.

Under rules changes that took effect in 2013, a magazine is excluded from the category if  —

(1) it provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or,
(2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.

Clarke reminded everyone he remains eligible in the Best Editor (Short Form) Hugo category, where he was a nominee in 2012 and 2013.

Clarke’s self-disclosure helps make a success of the new rule, which contains no means of verifying the status of nominees.

Semiprozine.org, which Clarke launched in 2009, lists formerly eligible magazines and the reason for their change in status:

No longer eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine:

Ansible – according to new rules, this publication is a fanzine

Clarkesworld Magazine – has declared they are  ineligible due to staffing rule

Locus Magazine – disqualified by “professional” staffing rule

Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show – disqualified by “professional” staffing rule

Chicon 7 Votes on Hugo Rules Changes

The Main Business Meeting at Chicon 7 ratified the new Best Fancast category [PDF file], most of the changes to the Semiprozine and Fanzine Hugo categories [PDF file] first passed at Renovation in 2011, the existing Best Graphic Story category — which faced a sunset date — and rejected a motion for new Best Young Adult Fiction category.

The Best Fancast category was passed last year and Chicon 7 exercised its option to place it the 2012 Hugo ballot. Best Fancast recognizes fan podcasts, videos, etc. — and effectively removes them from the fanzine category. Statistics provided to the Business Meeting showed on its trial run this year Best Fancast had participation levels that favorably compared with the fanzine category in terms of nominating vote totals and number of items nominated. The ratification vote sailed through without much comment. The category comes with a sunset provision, so it will come up again for review in a few years.

The redefinition of the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories had to get over a few more hurdles before being ratified, due to fans offering amendments.

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.

Ben Yalow also convinced the meeting to adjust the new verification rule in the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories. Nominees will now “be required to provide information that they meet the qualification of their category” instead of being “required to confirm…” Yalow felt the original wording implied an unwanted restriction on the powers of the Hugo Administrator.

The meeting also agreed to Rich Lynch’s housekeeping amendment to delete a few surplus words that had been unintentionally passed as part of the motion in 2011.

The Best Graphic Story category needed to be ratified once more at this year’s meeting to stay in the constitution, though of course it has been functioning for several years. We were told 344 nominating votes were cast in the category this year, for 244 distinct items, of which only 9 had 5% of the vote (a minimum eligibility standard). Two fans cited these stats as support for their opposing views, Chris Barkley saying it proved the category’s viability, Kent Bloom saying it showed the pool of Hugo-worthy works is very limited. Phil Foglio spoke in favor of keeping the category — one where he’s won nearly all the Hugos — humorously admitting, “Yes, at the moment we’re dominating, but you know, we’ll die someday…” Despite a lively controversy, the ratification easily passed.

The proposed Best Young Adult Fiction Hugo category aroused more passion. Some in favor argued the Worldcon would stunt its growth by rejecting the category, while opponents noted YA has no real definition and Ben Yalow said, “We don’t give out Hugos for marketing categories, we give Hugos out for works.” Lew Wolkoff contended there really wasn’t enough expertise among Hugo voters because many don’t read YA works unless something especially draws one to their attention. The motion failed 51-67.

Business Meeting Votes
Hugo Zine Category Changes

Friday’s session of the Renovation business meeting ended with a remarkable display of consensus as fans voted in a collection of changes to the Hugo zine categories with only four opposing votes.

Best Fancast: The business meeting had to winnow through competing proposals affecting the zine categories. The first step was separately considering the two motions to create a new Hugo category for “fancasts,” which would (if adopted) inferentially redefine the zine categories by removing audio and video items.

The business meeting then voted to direct Andrew Trembley and Rich Lynch to reconcile their two versions into a single proposal for the meeting to consider. Many fans consulted on the revision. Friday’s meeting passed it 75-11.

(Caution: The wording quoted here is based on my notes.)

Insert a new section after existing section 3.1.13 to create a new category:
3.3.X: Best Fancast. Any generally available non-profesional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that by the close of the previous calendar year has released four (4) or more episodes, at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and that does not qualify as a dramatic presentation.

The proposal includes a sunset provision that it unless it is re-ratified by the 2016 business meeting it shall be repealed.

Report of the Semiprozine Committee: There followed a whole series of procedural steps to allow the meeting to consider competing rules changes offered by the Semiprozine Committee (the fruit of two years’ work), and Rich Lynch.

Despite several attempts to introduce different ideas or language, and a considerable amount of maneuvering generally, the proposals of the Semiprozine Committee on the whole were passed, (1) with necessary wording to reconcile them to the creation of the fancast category, and (2) to incorporate Lynch’s key ideas, the deletion of “equivalent in other media” from the fanzine category, and addition of the word “periodical” to modify “publication.”

Here is the result:

Added a new section
3.Y.Z: A Professional Publication is one which meets at least one of the following two criteria:
(1) it provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or,
(2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.

Amended sections 3.3.12 and 3.3.13, by replacing them with:
3.3.12: Best Semiprozine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction or 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, which does not qualify as a fancast and which in the previous calendar year met at least one (1) of the following criteria:
(1) paid its contributors and/or staff monetarily,
(2) was generally available only for paid purchase,

3.3.13: Best Fanzine. Any generally available non-professional periodical 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 at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, which does not qualify as a fancast and which in the previous calendar year met neither of the following criteria:
(1) paid its contributors and/or staff monetarily,
(2) was generally available only for paid purchase,

Add to the end of Section 3.9 (Notification and Acceptance):
“Additionally, each nominee in the categories of Best Fanzine and Best Semi-Prozine shall be required to confirm that they meet the qualifications of their category.”

Each of these amendments will have to be ratified by the Chicago 2012 Worldcon business meeting in order to take effect.

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 if 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.

The Rest of the Story: The Business Meeting made many other decisions this week.

Mark Protection Committee: Linda Deneroff, Dave McCarty, Warren Buff and Stephen Boucher were elected to fill the open seats on the Mark Protection Committee. Besides vacancies caused by three members’ expiring terms, a fourth vacancy had been created by Ruth Sachter’s resignation from the committee.

Business Passed on from Aussiecon 4: A series of amendments to the WSFS Constitution passed on from Aussiecon 4 were ratified unchanged at the Renovation business meeting.

These amendments (1) altered the Worldcon membership rate limits, (2) made explicit the authority to conduct electronic voting for the Hugo Awards and Site Selection (in addition to paper voting), (3) allowed cons to comply with the requirement to distribute WSFS rules to members via electronic distribution, on an opt-in basis, (4) clarified reference to “run-off candidate” in the constitution, and (5) updated the language of the service mark notice to include the Hugo Award logo and trophy.

New Business: A proposed amendment to the WSFS Constititution directing the Mark Protection Committee to “protect likely internet domain names of future worldcons for years not yet selected” was referred to the Mark Protection Committee for refinement.

An amendment was introduced to prevent the Mark Protection Committee from imposing more stringent membership eligibility rules than are already present in the WSFS Constitution. This was a reaction against a rules change made at Aussiecon 4, and was a source of high emotion because the rule change had only affected Cheryl Morgan. The meeting did repudiate that change but by another route, see full details on Kevin Standlee’s LiveJournal. Kevin also covers the other housekeeping rules changes that were passed.

Scoring the Proposed ‘Zine Hugo Amendments

What any fan thinks about the Semiprozine Committee’s and Rich Lynch’s proposals to change the fan publishing Hugo rules will inevitably depend on what he or she thought needed to be fixed in the first place.

So I’ll lead into my comments by listing what I believe, with a brief explanation:

  • Audio and video presentations should be ruled out of the fanzine category.

Text-based publications should not be grouped with unrelated items for the same reason we don’t lump novels and dramatic presentations into a single category.

  • Zines that pay contributors, owners or staff, which otherwise qualify in the fanzine category, should compete in the semiprozine category.

I advocate this as a way of creating an enforceable definition of semiprozine.

  • All rules must define the terms they use – professional, nonprofessional, issue, “equivalent in other media.”

The current rules define none of these terms. People cannot be sure what is eligible in the fanzine category, which deters participation.

  • No standard of performance or measurement ought to part of a rule unless the data needed to evaluate it can be easily obtained by the Hugo Administrator.

There must be practical means of enforcing any rules. Fandom neither wants nor rewards activist Hugo Administrators.

I. The Committee’s Report: Did the Semiprozine Committee report deliver? Let’s see.

The majority report proposes four changes.

(1) New criteria for semiprozine:

Amend the sections 3.3.12 and 3.3.13, by replacing them with:

3.3.12: Best Semiprozine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction or 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 in the previous calendar year met at least one (1) of the following criteria:
(1) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication,
(2) was generally available only for paid purchase,

(Cited sections are in the WSFS Constitution.)

The proposed amendment’s most impressive feature is that it discards the antiquated criteria regarding printed copies and advertising space. I’m satisfied the two remaining criteria are the best litmus tests for semiprozines – payment to participants, copies primarily available to purchasers. And these are performance/measurement-based criteria a Hugo Administrator can evaluate from readily-available information.   

Interestingly, the Committee’s proposal eliminates the right an editor currently has to move a zine into semiprozine category by declaration. As a result, Langford’s Ansible would be welcomed back to the fanzine category.

The amendment’s main shortcoming is its failure to define “issue” and “the equivalent in other media.” One virtue of Rich Lynch’s proposal (discussed below) is that its terms are defined.

(2) Best Fanzine modified: The Committee has made neutral changes to the Best Fanzine rule to conform it to the revised semiprozine criteria:

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 in the previous calendar year met neither of the following criteria: 
(1) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication, 
(2) was generally available only for paid purchase,

The old rule excluded anything that qualified as a semiprozine; the new wording serves the same purpose.

Unfortunately, the Committee has done nothing about the eligibility of podcasts and its report explicitly states StarShip Sofa will continue to qualify as a fanzine under its version of the rules.

(3) A definition for “professional publication”: The Committee proposes to put a working definition of “professional publication” back in to the WSFS Constitution. Their intentions are right on target, the rules have been in want of a new definition of “professional” since the old one was erased as a side-effect of other changes.

However, the reason a definition of “professional” is needed is not to keep Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF out of the pastures of fandom. Almost none of the “pro” Hugo categories – for fiction, editing and art – actually includes “professional publication” as a condition of eligibility. Best Professional Artist alone has that requirement.

The real need for defining “professional” is to disqualify ineligible entrants from the semiprozine and fan categories by giving constitutional meaning to the antonym “non-professional publications.”

The Committee’s definition is in this proposal:

Add a new section: 3.Y.Z: A Professional Publication is one which meets at least one of the following two criteria:
(1) it provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or,
(2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.

The proposed language sounds very precise, which is of little help because in practice the rule will depend on voluntary compliance, being impractical to enforce.

Consider: Semiprozines aspire to commercial success, whether or not they depend on it. If lightning strikes, what then? Charlie Brown once told me he depended on winning the Hugo every year to drive Locus’ subscription sales. That leads me to believe no semiprozine publisher will want to give up the market appeal of a succession of Hugo nominations.

In Charlie Brown’s day the print media criteria were sufficient to classify Locus as a semiprozine. Nobody had to ask him for income information to apply this new one-quarter test, which presumably would lead to Locus being reclassified as a prozine. Can you imagine how Charlie would have answered? Business reasons and privacy motives will keep prospective nominees from cooperating with the enforcement of this rule.

(4) The Hammer? The Committee already anticipated my last criticism with its final proposal:

Add to the end of Section 3.9 (Notification and Acceptance): 
Additionally, each nominee in the categories of Best Fanzine and Best Semi-Prozine shall be required to confirm that they meet the qualifications of their category.

But what will that mean in practice? The rule doesn’t define what prospective nominees will be required to do to confirm eligibility. Does that mean continuing the policy of self-certification with polite “do-you-think-you-are-eligible?” e-mails of the sort this year’s Hugo Administrator sent out? If the plan is to take everybody’s word for it, there’s no need for this rule.

Saul Jaffe’s minority report, appealing for better draftsmanship, is on target. If it is not fairly obvious who is eligible in a category there is a major problem with the Hugo rule, because it will never be cured by enforcement.

II. Rich Lynch’s Amendments

The latest version of Rich Lynch’s proposals I know about are on his LiveJournal:

Proposed WSFS Constitutional Amendments to keep the Fanzine Hugo non-professional and limited to words on paper or video screen.

(Note: strikeouts indicate proposed deletions and underlined text proposed additions.)

3.3.12: Best Semiprozine. Any generally available non-professional periodical publication devoted to science fiction or fantasy 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 in the previous calendar year met at least two (2) one (1) of the following criteria:

(1) had an average press run of at least one thousand (1000) copies per issue,
(2) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication,
(3) (2) provided at least half the income of any one person,
(4) (3) had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising,
(5) (4) announced itself to be a semiprozine.
Audio and video productions are excluded from this category.

3.3.13 Best Fan Audio or Video Production. Any generally available non-professional audio or video production devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of the previous calendar year has had four (4) or more episodes or podcasts, at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year.

3.3.13 3.3.14: Best Fanzine. Any generally available non-professional periodical 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. Audio and video productions are excluded from this category, as are publications that pay their contributors and/or staff monetarily.

Lynch’s amendments make changes I support. They

  • Identify semiprozines and fanzines as reading experiences — words on a page (appearing on paper or screen) — by ruling audio and video productions out of the category
  • Define semiprozines and fanzines as periodical publications – appearing in discrete, individual issues (similar to a magazine)
  • Limit eligibility for Best Fanzine to amateur zines by restricting those that pay contributors or staff

Some other features trouble me. His Best Fan Audio or Video Production amendment creates a new category for podcasts, videocasts, etc. – like last year’s winner StarShip Sofa – that would be excluded from the Best Semiprozine and Best Fanzine categories if his changes go through. I think that idea for a new award category should be left to find its own supporters, and not be packaged as though it is a goal of fanzine fans. It rings a false note.

Lynch’s semiprozine definition fails to go far enough, leaving in place outdated print media criteria (average press run), criteria an external observer can’t check (income), or have no practical application for blogs and websites (15% of space occupied by advertising). However, Lynch would argue my last complaint isn’t a problem — he interprets his amendments to rule websites and blogs out of contention in the zine categories.

III. Thinking Out Loud

Rich Lynch has my thanks for advancing the public discussion of these issues with his motions. And they are the only proposals to plainly state that fanzines are text-based and should not be competing with items that resemble dramatic presentations.

While I like several of the Semiprozine Committee’s ideas for changing the semipro and fanzine category definitions, more needs to be done. I’d like to see the “issue” definition problem solved by including Lynch’s chosen word “periodical.”  And I would like to focus the zine categories on text by adding Lynch’s phrase “Audio and video productions are excluded from this category” to the Committee’s semiprozine and fanzine rule proposals.

We’ll see how it all plays out next week at the 2011 Business Meeting.

Semiprozine Hugo Committee Releases Report

The Semi-prozine Committee authorized by the 2009 Worldcon Business Meeting has issued its report of recommended changes to the Hugo Award rules.

The committee report follows the jump. The text reproduced here comes from Warren Buff via Andrew Porter.

Porter added a scoffing comment of his own about the fanhistory in the report, likely just a veiled complaint that Locus was mentioned by name while his own classic zine was merely alluded to:

Ah, how I remember those heady days when my Algol/Starship dominated the Hugo Awards (as implied below: ‘ …a few other giant, slick fanzines dominated the Best Fanzine category…’ ). Why, I must have won, how many was it, ten times? Huh, only once you say, in 1974? And that was a tie! How can that be…

Coincidentally, at the 1974 Worldcon I was the one who accepted the Hugo given to Richard Geis, who tied Porter for Best Fanzine that year. O tempora o mores

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