With a little more than two days left to nominate for the 2012 Hugo Awards I’m seeing a lot of this floating around the internet:
I am a blogger. My Dad won’t let me have the Best Fanzine Hugo. Please exert your electronic mightiness to halt this injustice.
(Well, I’ve freely paraphrased.)
It’s come to be expected that fannish bloggers will find an excuse to flex their digital muscles and remind the world they exist by propelling something onto the Hugo ballot every year. This year it’s themselves.
And I find that annoying — the flexing, not the idea that bloggers want to be nominated. Unlike some, I don’t feel it’s part of my personal mission to keep blogs out of the Best Fanzine category. Keeping out audio/video productions that ought to be in the forthcoming Best Fancast category, yes. Blogs, not really.
Energizing this year’s protest is resentment of the zine category changes passed at the 2011 Business Meeting. People are aware that fans instrumental in getting the changes through, such as Rich Lynch and Steven H Silver, believe the changed rules restrict the eligibility of blogs and websites to those which 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.) In their view, most blogs will not qualify as fanzines.
In reality this remains an unsettled question. It is not certain that the mover’s intentions will rule. Those intentions were never made part of the express language of the rules.
The final verdict will rest with the voters and the Hugo Administrator. In that spirit, several bloggers urge their readers to vote for whatever they like – happily adding they’d be willing to accept any votes that come their way. (Why not?)
A subsidiary discussion is whether it would be piggy for the bloggers to ask fans to nominate their work in both the Best Fan Writer and Best Fanzine categories. A couple of well-respected writers argue that bloggers should be recognized in the Best Fan Writer category alone.
I don’t expect many bloggers to listen. How far can anyone push that argument, after all, given the history of the fan Hugos?
If all the living editors of Hugo-nominated fanzines who received Best Fan Writer nominations in the same year are asked to raise their hands, Don D’Ammassa, Claire Brialey, Leigh Edmonds, Dick Geis, Chris Garcia, Dave Langford, Cheryl Morgan, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Steven H Silver, Leslie Turek and Chuq Von Rospach will be waving back at us and I’m going to have to type this post one-handed. (If they were still with us, the list would include Charles N. Brown, Don C. Thompson, and Susan Wood.) Was there a year when somebody didn’t register a double in these categories?
In fact, here’s your trivia question:
The Best Fan Writer Hugo was first given in 1967. Often since then fan writer nominees have also been nominated in the same year for the fanzines they edit. How many times has the final Hugo ballot NOT presented at least one such double-nominee?
(The answer appears after the jump.)
With bloggers already complaining about inequitable treatment vis-a-via fanzines, why would they forego the dual recognition so many faneditors have enjoyed?
Answer to trivia question: Four times. (1967, 1968, 1969, 1986.) It seems that once people got the idea, they practically never missed a chance to do it.
As one of the authors of this change, I think you’ve both got it wrong in some ways.
I would argue that a blog, if it’s structured in a periodical format, would be eligible. And I believe that isn’t really a change.
The current rule reads:
“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.”
“Issues” implies a periodical format, and “or the equivalent in other media” speaks to other formats. Podcasts, for example, can’t have “issues” but instead have “episodes.”
So, under the current rule, a blog that doesn’t adopt a periodical format isn’t eligible already.
But what does “periodical format” really mean in the context of web-only (not PDF) digital publishing?
In some ways it means the same thing it does in old-school paper fanzines. There’s some sort of (often lax) editorial control, (often lax) planning and (often lax) packaging on an (often irregular) schedule.
A lot of blogs don’t live up to that standard. Sure, they’ve got the irregular schedule that’s fannishly traditional, but they’re just random thoughts thrown out willy-nilly. No editing, no planning, no packaging.
If you look at SF Site, it’s clearly an online periodical. It posts a new cover page and table of contents on a regular basis. No argument from me.
I would also argue, though, that SFSignal is also a periodical. No, it doesn’t restrict itself to publishing when putting up a regular ToC, but it does have an editorial structure, with regular (daily) articles (like tidbits and free fiction), weekly “columns” by regular contributors and its own “opinion” section in the form of the “Mind Meld” column. It’s clearly planned and edited. It’s just released in an essentially serial format.
The rule change removes “or the equivalent in other media” and makes “periodical” explicit. But, as I said, that’s because audio and video are not included in the new rule, and the remaining qualifying media are media that support the concept of “issues.”
“If all the living editors of Hugo-nominated fanzines who received Best Fan Writer nominations in the same year are asked to raise their hands, Don D’Ammassa, Claire Brialey, Leigh Edmonds, Dick Geis, Chris Garcia, Dave Langford, Cheryl Morgan, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Steven H Silver, Leslie Turek and Chuq Von Rospach will be waving back at us and I’m going to have to type this post one-handed. (If they were still with us, the list would include Charles N. Brown, Don C. Thompson, and Susan Wood.) Was there a year when somebody didn’t register a double in these categories?”
And did any of them only write for their zines? I can say that a great many of them were writing for more than just their own zine, and in many cases, were writing far more outside their own zines.
Can I nominate a potato? I love going to this awesome blog where there’s a live stream with a potato. It’s been shrivelling and growing moldy for weeks, and there’s nothing like it! I think it deserves a Hugo as much as some even moldier paper — ugh — thingie with writing on it that people spent a life time learning to use properly. I mean… a potato! Rotting! It’s awesome.
@Chris: Sure, but bloggers may be doing guest posts or writing comments on other blogs. What about the common practice of excerpting posts from one blog on another? So the material appears elsewhere as part of a literary dialog. Where does that score on the fanine fanac equivalency scale?
@Taral: All I know, having seen Supersize Me, is that can’t be a McDonald’s potato.
Is excerpting a common practice? I don’t read enough blogs to know.
Still, I think the real matter is the difference between a feed and a publication. Say when you will about the frequency of the Drink Tank, but each issue is a discreet entity, prepared and packaged. Blogs don’t have that feeling, as they are far more fluid.
Now, would I be in favor of a Best Blog category? Maybe someday. I’d much rather see us deal with the PodCast/VIdCast issues and then see where it takes us.
And Taral, where’s that potato cast?
@Chris: Despite four years spent blogging I can’t really say. The post that inspired thi discussion was repeated on a couple other blogs, followed or preced by the host blogger’s remarks. Don’ know whether this practice is governed by any fine point of netiquette. Where’s Gary when we need somebody who knows these things?
Excerpting pieces of articles and posts is de rigueur at most blogs.
For the idea of some folks’ idea of current netiquette on blog attribution, there’s the new Curator’s Code.
(Psst, Mike: we’re not bloggers any more; we’re curators; that’s what all the kewl kids call it now; unless one is more of a journaler; there’s no sharp line, of course.)
“So, under the current rule, a blog that doesn’t adopt a periodical format isn’t eligible already.”
Every blog post is in periodical form itself. It’s distinct, dated, and often time-stamped. It’s superseded by later posts. Posts scroll off the front page and are archived.
Is it therefore a correct interpretation of the WSFS Constitution that blogs have a periodical format? No ruling has been made. Until there is one, it’s up to the voter to decide what to nominate or vote for.
(Though my own view would be that, in fact, if posts aren’t periodical, what are they? On the other hand, I don’t presently have any plans to nominate any blogs for Best Fanzine.)
I don’t particularly expect blogs to start abounding in Best Fanzine nominations any time soon, myself, but I certainly could be wrong, and that certainly could easily change. I can’t predict what other folks will get into their head.
I wouldn’t want to go so far as to say it’s surely going to change since despite the relative longevity (about 15 years now) of the blog format/structure, electronic media styles, formats, and platforms do rapidly enough that I wouldn’t want to strongly predict much about what will be popular in five years.
Maybe some new format we don’t have a word for that works via streaming through our virtual goggles will be the all the new rage.
I think that if I were administering the Hugo Awards this year (I’m not, which is why I can express an opinion in public about it), and if a blog received sufficient nominations to make the ballot in Best Fanzine, I would be very reluctant to disqualify it. I’m sure that the first time it happens, there will be much gnashing of teeth in certain fan circles.
I expect to see a blog get sufficient nominations, and an administrator to have to make a ruling, within three years (a period which includes this year) unless there are explicit changes made to the category that do more to explicitly rule out such things.