There’s one day to go before the Hugo nominating deadline and James Nicoll has sounded a final trumpet blast on behalf of Fred Pohl for Best Fan Writer.
As a roaring controversy the question “Is Fred Pohl a fan?” is an utter failure. Everyone answers “Yeppers.” “Yeah.” “Yes.” “Sure.” “You betcha.” “Sí.” “Ja.” “Da.” Me too. And is Pohl’s blog is fan writing? That was never in dispute, unfortunately the deafening agreement made it hard to hear my real point, which was encouraging people to make generous and creative choices when filling in their Hugo nominating ballot, giving preference to fans who, unlike Fred, aren’t Hugo-winning novelists, past Worldcon pro guests of honor or former presidents of SFWA.
In a comment below Patrick Nielsen Hayden noted that pros have been writing breezy, personal nonfiction since the Stone Age (well, the days of lithographed fanzines anyway) without swamping the Best Fan Writer category. Patrick, offering Orson Scott Card as an example, supposed that in spite of Card’s large online following he had never been a Best Fan Writer nominee “possibly because his online work doesn’t strike many people as ‘fan writing.'”
There are a lot of popular pros who’ve never appeared on people’s Best Fan Writer ballots. Was that because nobody thought any of them were doing quality fannish writing?
Many wrote for fanzines. With the maturing of the internet in the Nineties they launched forums on GEnie, Delphi, Compuserve, The Well, etc., some of them with large numbers of loyal followers. Now many are active bloggers and have created other kinds of online communities.
Consider one example. Mike Resnick has had an online forum, keeps an e-mail news list, and has written numerous great articles for Hugo-contending fanzines Mimosa and Challenger. Over the same period of time he’s been doing those things, John Flynn and Jeff Berkwits racked up 5 Best Fan Writer nominations between them. Resnick could win a fanwriting duel against either of them typing with his earlobes! I’m guessing if Resnick had asked he could easily have gotten on the ballot as a Best Fan Writer nominee.
Generally, pro writers don’t ask for this. That has allowed more people who are “only” fan writers a chance to compete for a Hugo.
Why don’t more professional writers pursue a Best Fan Writer nomination? Maybe they think the awards deserve to be given to people primarily identified as active fans. Maybe they don’t want to risk the bad publicity. Maybe some feel it is beneath their professional dignity. Maybe the fan Hugos simply hold no charm for them.
At any rate this is not a neutral subject. Is it honoring Fred Pohl to thrust him into this situation without ascertaining his feelings about it? His blog contains not a word about the idea. But the very fact that he is a fan of decades standing, a veteran writer and editor and a leader in the sf community, makes it likely he has an opinion.
Now it might be, “Tell Glyer to take a hike, I’d love to have a Best Fan Writer Hugo, God bless you for thinking of me!”
But it might not.