My Burning Ears

Mark Plummer’s new Paraphernalia column for Strange Horizons, Disclosing the Ancient Mysteries, arbitrates the controversy between rulesmakers and bloggers who want to be eligible for the Best Fanzine Hugo.

He uses my post Bleep My Dad Says About the Fan Hugos to lead into the topic, which I might take as a compliment but for the hints that I indulged in a wee bit of exaggeration about the number of bloggers who are upset by the situation:

I’m always slightly troubled by vague statements like this which lack any real citation or attribution. Just how widely held is this paraphrased opinion? Sufficiently that it could in any way be interpreted as a movement? Or is it just a couple of people? Or one? I don’t think I’d seen anything matching Mike’s characterisation myself…

Mark, permit me to be your Google research monkey.

Undoubtedly reaching the widest audience was George R.R. Martin’s Hugo Awards – Closing Comments on Not A Blog:

The Best Fanzine category is one of the oldest Hugo Awards, but it is currently embroiled in controversy. Traditional print fanzines are still around, though both their numbers and their readership are dwindling, and in recent years the fans have been nominating things like e-zines, blogs, and podcasts in this category. Last year at Reno, a rules change was enacted to exclude all those new forms of fanac from this category. If that change is ratified in Chicago, Best Fanzine will once again become the exclusive property of traditional fanzines. If you don’t own a mimeograph machine, you need not apply. However (1) the change needs to be ratified, if it is defeated at this year’s business meeting, it will not take effect, (2) it is NOT in effect this year, so this may be the last year when e-zines, blogs, and podcasts can be nominated. As I think you can tell by my sarcastic tone, I am opposed to the change. I think there are some great fannish blogs and e-zines and podcasts out there, I think they are the future, and I’m going to nominate a bunch of them.

George proceeded to list his nominees. When the final Hugo ballot comes out we will discover just how influential he is.

Aidan Moher amplified George’s case in Hey, GRRM agrees with me! (with links to Moher’s own posts on the same topic and his own set of recommendations).

Stefan Raets’ arguments for the eligibility of blogs in Love a Blog, Nominate It posted at Far Beyond Reality also proved quite popular, given a signal boost by Only the Best Sci-Fi (Bloggers and the Hugo Awards), Fantasy Café (Hugo Awards 2012: The Year of the Book Blogger?) and Moher again (An Aside | On Bloggers and the Hugo Awards).

I’ve helped engineer hoaxes now and then (remember the fake Cleveland apa, Elst?). Not this time. I did not make up the bloggers’ outrage about the Best Fanzine category..

I should also say that Mark’s transition from my post to his comments on Ian Mond’s Let’s Replace the Best Fanzine Category with Best Blog, which uses humor with mortal effectiveness to reinforce all the clichés about superannuated fanzine fans, may have left readers with the impression my views are opposite what they are – it’s not part of my mission to keep blogs out of the Best Fanzine category.

Rather, what I said irks me is the annual effort to generate a dogpile that produces a block vote for a representative Hugo nominee. It’s that need to artificially create a groundswell that turns me off. The annual blogger’s Occupy movement. I don’t object to blogs. I object to Hugo nomination campaigns.

I also question the beneficiaries of this energy. Have they been the kinds of blogs fans complain are being unjustly excluded? Of course not. Not in the Best Fanzine category. Steamrolling over the field in 2009 was a fiction zine, Electric Velocipede, and in 2010 a podcast, Starship Sofa.

No blogs.

The campaigns of 2009 and 2010 helped mobilize effective opposition and led to the rules change George R.R. Martin and others dislike. What if the fans supporting this trend had used their political capital to nominate the quality blogs they protest are being unjustly overlooked? Often it is wisest to start as you mean to go on. Had supporters of blog eligibility chosen to do so it would have been harder to characterize the results as a hack of the Hugo Awards that demanded a rules fix.

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14 thoughts on “My Burning Ears

  1. Mike, you know from experience that there is no greater crime in fandom than winning a Hugo Award. These idiots want to step up and put their heads in that noose? Feel free.

    There’s only one award for fanzines that is actually voted on by fanzine fans. I wonder if your readers know what it is?

  2. Um, GRRM seems to have completely misunderstood the pending proposal. The distinction isn’t between paper fanzines (or mimeo fanzines?) and everything else. It’s about written word (in any medium) and spoken word (in any medium). So e-zines and blogs will still be eligible for Best Fanzine; podcasts and the like will compete for Best Fancast.

  3. @Andy: They should after all the clues I’e dropped around here. Hopefully some of them even voted for it themselves.

  4. @Peter: It’s not unreasonable of George to take at face value what some makers of the motion say will be the effect. However,I heartily agree with the distinction of the written word being paramount and not the delivery technology. That is why I resist a Best Blog category. We should focus on the toast not the toaster.

  5. My only concern with blogs is that they seem to enter a different dimension than fanzines from the moment you start one. If you publish a zine, people will read it — or at least download it from — because its in that “universe.”

    Out of that context, you enter the blogoverse, which included tens of millions of members, and *nobody* reads even a tiny fraction of them. The first effect is to fragment that universe. I doubt there can be any meaningful concept of “consensus” about the best or most popular blog.

    Secondly, you can have a blog but can’t guarantee anyone will read it even if you’re brilliant. People have to find your blog first, and word of mouth has to spread the same way it does about a superior brand of canned beans. No fan can afford multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, so even that analogy doesn’t hold up long.

    You may also attract readers with a blog who aren’t fans. Maybe they just like your global climate change denial, or you fixation with with The BeeGees? A few hundred viewers who don’t know squat about fandom but groove on your musings about Film Noir could easily win you a Hugo, if mobilized. Admittedly, the excruciatingly expensive worldcon membership is apt to put a brake on any such notion.

    All I know for sure is that I ran a blog on Blogger for a few months and don’t appear to have attracted more than a handful of readers. True, they complained about Blogger making it difficult for new readers, since nobody wanted to join the page just to read one column. Maybe if I owned my own web page, a following would grow. Maybe six months wasn’t long enough. Maybe I’m a talentless bore… and dumb enough to give people a straight line like that.

    But I think it’s the nature of the medium. Too much, too fast — nobody has time for it all or to seek out the unknown. The blogoverse creates a universe that obeys more of the same laws as Hollywood or corporate entertainment than it does a dedicated and knowledgeable community of like minds.

  6. Nuts… I forgot to mention that a blog is a one-man show. You can leave comments, but you can’t really be “published” on someone else’s blog the way you can in someone else’s fanzine. If for whatever reason you can’t have a blog, you can’t be a “fanwriter.”

  7. To your last point, Taral. I’ve published articles from writers such as Daniel Abraham, Lauren Beukes, Aliette de Bodard and N.K. Jemisin, among others. All of which are names that should be familiar to any Hugo voter.

    And, just to put things into perspective for you, my blog averages twice the amount of daily traffic as the entirety of, and isn’t even close to being the most read, either.

  8. My point, of course, being that community has as large an impact on the blogosphere as it does on traditional fanzines. Of the hundreds of people who visit my blog each day, over 50% are return visitors, and a large portion of my traffic is generated by visitors coming directly from other blogs, suggesting that blogs are more than capable of creating a community of fans that are both loyal and passionate about the community of writers.

    Many of the top blogs frequently feature authors other than the original editor, and places like SF Signal, The World SF Blog or Fantasy Book Critic consistently feature articles, reviews and content from various fan writers (whether pure fans, fellow bloggers, or published authors).

    Perhaps you should explore some of the blogosphere has to offer. It might surprise you.

  9. Mike: I had seen some — not all — of the posts to which you link, but I didn’t think they were entirely as you characterised them in ‘Bleep My Dad Says About the Fan Hugos’, even allowing for the hyperbole that as a fanzine writer I don’t do myself (Peter Weston told me it was wrong years ago). And apologies if I was ambiguous about your position. Most of what I said later was derived from Ian’s follow-up rather than your original.
    — Mark

  10. Precisely because the blogosphere is so large, little subcommunities form within it, and blogs are spread by the web equivalent of word of mouth: links on other existing blogs, mentions in fannish mailing lists. That’s close enough to the way fanzines have come to be known among fans who weren’t on the original mailing lists.

    It’s true that many blogs are one-writer shows, but not all of them are (the multi-writer blogs I know are mostly not fannish, though one such, Book View Cafe, is SF pros), and in any case the one-writer personalzine has a long fannish tradition.

    Since I don’t know the names that Aidan Moher says “should be familiar to any Hugo voter,” that leaves me with the impression that I’m too ignorant to be considered eligible to vote for the Hugos, rather in the way a raw neofan shouldn’t vote for TAFF. (But I’m not a neofan, I’m just old & tired and semi-gafiated.) Is that really the impression you want to give, that the Hugos are a club for the cool folks? I thought we wanted to increase Hugo voting, not drive them off.

  11. DB, I believe Aidan merely meant that all of those authors except for Lauren Beukes were on the Hugo ballot in the last year or two (and Lauren Beukes was on the short list for a bunch of other rewards including, if I’m not mistaken, the BSFA and the World Fantasy award) so people who voted in the Hugos in the last few years would probably be familiar with them.

  12. So… let me get this straight… those “names I should know as a Hugo voter” were all pros? and this is the way of the future, pros dominating the fanwriter category. Why have a fanwriter category then?

    One problem I have with that is that while I remain active in fanzines, I read little SF and pay almost no attention to the huge number of names that come and go in the pro categories.

    The second problem I have with it… well…

    Excuse me while I just go and drink myself into a stupor…

  13. “Rather, what I said irks me is the annual effort to generate a dogpile that produces a block vote for a representative Hugo nominee. … I don’t object to blogs. I object to Hugo nomination campaigns.”

    You are right! These campaigns are extremely dangerous to the health of the Hugos, and if we don’t find some way to get them under control, I believe that the award will lose its preeminence. (I’m not sure there’s any way to stop online coalitions from forming, though.)

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