Yes on Dropping the Semiprozine Hugo

In August fans are scheduled to decide the fate of the Best Semiprozine Hugo at the Worldcon Business Meeting. Last year voters approved an amendment eliminating the category, a change subject to ratification at Montreal. If passed a second time, the category will be dropped.

Should it stay? Should it go? I’ve honestly been having a hard time deciding. Now having spent many hours looking over the arguments I’ve come to the conclusion that the Best Semiprozine category ought to go.

The rules define a semiprozine as one that meets at least two 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) provided at least half the income of any one person,
(4) had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising,
(5) announced itself to be a semiprozine.

Internet technology has put zine publishing on a much different economic footing than the days (not so long ago) when paper issues predominated. A person can choose a far less expensive strategy to distribute work and be spared the necessity of creating a large commercial enterprise in order to survive.  

The way pros market their writing has been radically changed by the ability to create online communities of fans and customers. One result is that the amount of free nonfiction about the field available from pro writers has greatly increased. How logical is it to compartmentalize directly compensated writing as semipro, when the other also has the commercial motive of establishing a writer’s brand and stimulating sales?

Finally, a little discussed but very significant change to the Best Fanzine category is likely to be ratified at the same Business Meeting. As I read it, blogs and some websites will become eligible in the fanzine category. Wouldn’t it be absurd to preserve a category for the benefit of a few paper semipro fanzines if other issue-based fanzines must compete with blogs having thousands of readers?

In essence, times have changed and done away with many of the reasons for keeping the semiprozine category.

No Reservation Required: The category was created 25 years ago by fans concerned that the Best Fanzine Hugo category had become dominated by commercially-motivated, professionally-printed, high-circulation zines like Locus, Science Fiction Review/The Alien Critic, Algol/Starship, and Science Fiction Chronicle. Such zines were moved into the new Best Semiprozine category in 1984. And I’m hardly ungrateful – that’s the reason mimeographed, hand-collated File 770 won its first Best Fanzine Hugo in 1984.

But with the dawning of the Age of the Internet a strange reversal occurred, and  I wonder to what extent Ben Yalow and Chris Barkley (who submitted the original motion) were spurred to action by the slate of Best Semiprozine nominees for 2006: Ansible, Emerald City, Interzone, Locus, New York Review of Science Fiction.

Locus won again, of course.

However, nominees Ansible and Emerald City would have been eligible to compete in the Best Fanzine category (and had done so formerly) barring their editors’ unilateral declaration that these were semiprozines (one of the eligibility definitions provided by the rules). Consider that just three of several dozen semiprozines proved capable of outpolling amateur publications in order to make the final ballot.

It’s as if in 2006 the voters were already exercising an implicit veto over the continued existence of this Hugo category.

Drawing a Circle Around Locus: The rules change eliminates the Hugo for semiprozines while preserving the list of semiprozine criteria in the simultaneously amended definition of Best Fanzine. So Locus (and semiprozines generally) won’t drop back into contention with other fanzines after the rules are changed. No doubt that’s a politically necessary feature to get the change passed by long-time fans at the Business Meeting who won’t have forgotten the original purpose of the semiprozine category.

On the other hand, consider how trivial some of the criteria now are, compared with their importance 25 years ago.

One of the formerly important attributes of Locus that made its way into the Best Semiprozine definition was “an average press run of more than 1000 copies per issue” (Locus far exceeded that, of course). A zine needed to become an engine of commerce in order to pay its printer for thousands of expensively-published paper copies, and buy postage for mailing them. Now the ease of distributing material to many readers through the internet allows the option printing no copies, using instead PDFs or other kinds of electronic text files. Press runs aren’t a limiting factor when Hugo voters can see many eligible works online.

Paying for material can also be a defining feature of a semiprozine. The amateur ideal has hung around the discussion since the original Hugo award for Best Amateur Magazine, later renamed Best Fanzine. Yet paying contributors has never legally ruled a fanzine ineligible for the Best Fanzine category provided that’s the only one of the five semiprozine criteria it satisfies. That’s proven by 2009 nominee Electric Velocipede, which pays for material.

Another cherished assumption about the categories in which pro writers should properly compete has already been tested to destruction in the Best Fan Writer Hugo category. The kind of writing that once filled Science Fiction Review and Algol/Starship – bought and paid for – now is available for free from literally hundreds of pros in venues that don’t possess a single attribute of semiprozines as defined by the Hugo rules.

Internet distribution levels the playing field. Fanzines can pay writers and remain fanzines. Pro writers market their work by giving away to fans what we used to have to buy. We may believe we can infer the commercial or noncommercial motives behind various types of published writing and art, but awards categories based on our guesses about people’s intent are arbitrary and inconsistent. “Semipro” is no longer a helpful boundary definition, which makes it hard to justify continuing any category it defines.

Til Semiprozines Have Faces: Some object that Locus has virtually monopolized the category, winning 21 times in 25 years. One of the paradoxes of fan psychology is how we set up “best of the year” awards, then become impatient unless they’re won by someone new every year.

I consider Locus to have gone beyond consistent excellence over the past four decades — it’s also achieved ever-increasing quality during that time. I’d say something has been lost when an award causes people who might otherwise marvel at its phenomenal achievement to curse Locus for not obligingly going out of business and leaving room for someone else to win. In short, my opinion about the change has nothing to do with how many times Locus has won.

One zine, no matter how great, isn’t sufficient justification for a Hugo category, however. Even two or three top semiprozines, adding in the frequently-nominated New York Review of SF and Interzone, are not enough. Some have argued there are too few strong semiprozines to support a Hugo category.

I suspect advocates of the rules change considered the fiction semiprozines immaterial to the debate until Neil Clarke, Publisher/Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, refused to let the Best Semiprozine Hugo category go down without a fight.

Clarke’s Save the Semiprozine rallied vocal opposition to the change, and 32 semiprozines have identified themselves on the site. They’re a volatile group, some having suspended publication or gone out of business since the beginning of this campaign. That still leaves the population larger than I believed: others may have been surprised, too.

When there was a Best Professional Magazine Hugo category, the universe of prozines sometimes shrank to 10 (1967) or even 6 (1972) as titles fell victim to downturns in the economy. (Source: the Wikipedia entry on science fiction magazines.) Yet there was never a call to abolish the category due to there being too few potential nominees. Perhaps that’s not a very strong argument against the Best Semiprozine category, either.

Pro Arguments: Save the Semiprozine has also opened channels of communication for people to hear the semiprozine editors’ own arguments in favor of keeping the award.

John Klima said it is a rush to be nominated, and that the award recognizes hard work. David G. Hartwell wrote:

We are opposed to that abolition for several reasons: we cannot honorably compete in any other category; we derive great personal satisfaction from our nominations; and most of our competitors in the category feel the same way.

That is not an inconsiderable argument. It’s very gratifying to witness a friend’s pleasure in winning a Hugo. People voted to divide the Best Editor category into Long Form and Short Form partly so that David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and other noted novel editors would share some of the glory going to magazine editors every single year. (As it turned out, Hartwell’s first Hugo win occurred just before the division took effect.)

New York Review of Science Fiction is the kind of classic sercon publication that the creators of the Best Semiprozine category expected to dominate it. However, as shown at Save the Semiprozine, nonfiction semiprozines are very much in the minority. And that “great personal satisfaction” has been denied to fiction zines for the most part.

There have never been more than two semipro fiction zines nominated in any year. Just six different fiction zine titles made the Hugo ballot from 1999-2008.

(Interestingly, only two titles nominated during that timespan are still published, Interzone and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Absolute Magnitude, Helix, Speculations, and The Third Alternative are gone.)

Despite the odds against semipro fiction zines ever winning, their editors are very reluctant to see the category killed off.

If anyone harbors a prejudice against fiction semiprozines, assuming they’re filled with stuff that “real” prozines would pass over, be aware that’s seldom the case. Over the years, some of these zines have had award-nominated stories. A couple have sold “best of” collections to major sf publishers, like Del Rey. Many of the zines listed at Save the Semiprozine pay competitive rates to beginning writers. 

One editor believes a Hugo is needed to reward what these semiprozines are doing for the sf field.

Wendy S. Delmater of Abyss & Apex argued that the Best Semiprozine Hugo should continue in recognition of services like:

(1) We are talent scouts for the pro magazines. A&A is a good market for new writers – 25% of our stories are first-ever publications for our authors.

(2) Other semiprozines give similar things to the community: a place to move up the publication ladder, a niche that might appeal to a broader audience, and-especially in the case of review zines-a place for the community to interact.

When I looked at the wordage rates offered to beginning writers by semiprozines and prozines, I was surprised to see they often aren’t that far apart, by no means the great chasm I expected. The competition to develop a successful magazine involves more than money, it requires a lot of other skills and personal intangibles, too. Exactly the spectrum of abilities already recognized in this Hugo category:

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

The present rule is not limited to editors of printed publications. It isn’t restricted to professional publications. Fiction semiprozine editors are already eligible for the award as presently defined. There will still be a Hugo recognizing their services if the Best Semiprozine category is eliminated.

Eliminating the category is consistent with the long-term trend to recognize individual people. That’s why Best Prozine was superseded by Best Editor, because fans wanted to honor a person, not a title or corporate entity.

Calling the Question: There seems to me little need for a Best Semiprozine Hugo. The five hallowed criteria have diminished meaning, due to the advent of the internet, and because we are not trying to enforce a strict amateur/pro divide.

The semiprozine editors’ arguments that we need to keep their category because (1) it’s a rush to be nominated and (2) it rewards hard work aren’t very persuasive. If that was all it took to get Hugo categories added, there’d be a Best Filk Hugo and many more.

Semiprozines help uncover literary and artistic talent, and for that the editors are eligible in another category, Best Editor: Short Form.

That’s why it makes sense to me to ratify the rules change.

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29 thoughts on “Yes on Dropping the Semiprozine Hugo

  1. You may have made a mistake in mentioning the idea of a Best Filk Hugo — at this very moment I suspect some people are nodding their heads and making plans for the Business Meeting.

  2. Fiction semiprozine editors are already eligible for the award as presently defined

    Based on the wording you’ve quoted there, non-fiction semiprozine editors would appear to be eligible as well.

  3. @Niall: Given a literal reading, that is correct. I didn’t think that was intended, but “primarily devoted to” obviously means something much broader than “primarily containing.” When I’ve read discussions of this rule, people seemed to think “primarily” was in there to make sure everyone understood editors of fiction publications with the typical nonfiction departments were eligible. But as you are pointing out, it says what it says.

  4. Your arguments on the subject of how things are different from the days when Best Semiprozine was created are well put. It makes little sense to try to reverse a long-past, deeply considered decision without such an explanation. (Though in many areas of life, people often try.)

    One minor comment: I hope that the dominance of Locus over this award has not influenced people to change their minds one way or the other about this issue. Locus’s dominance was predicted when the award was first suggested, and was a major issue in considering whether to create it in the first place. In that area, nothing’s changed.

  5. Locus is a trade magazine, which the others are not. It does stand alone because of the depth and width of coverage it gives the field.

  6. That would be an argument in favor of giving Locus Hugos, rather than one for taking away its category.

  7. I was at a lot of the debates about splitting the Editor Hugo and I don’t recall anyone suggesting that non-fiction should not be eligible. Indeed, a good deal of attention was paid to not limiting eligibility in any artificial way, other than that the magazine should be part of the wider SF community.

    As to the rest of the discussion, I don’t think you’ve made any significant points here. The argument that semiprozines don’t need a category of their own because their editors could be eligible for Editor: Short Form is very weak, and suggests that we should do away with Fanzine as well (which is what the Locus Awards do). We are, after all, proud of the fact that many of our best writers have come up through fandom.

    The crux of the matter is here: I suspect advocates of the rules change considered the fiction semiprozines immaterial to the debate

    Actually that’s not true. The advocates of the change had no idea that quality semipro fiction magazines existed. It is only now their existence has been pointed out that people are arguing that their existence is immaterial. Fandom has Hugo categories for things that it is interested in. If people care about semipro fiction magazines then they will keep their Hugo category, and if they don’t (or perhaps rather the people who do care don’t turn up at the Business Meeting) then the category will go away.

  8. @Cheryl: Fascinating — so you all were happy with the prospect of Charlie Brown competing in Best Editor, Short Form, too? Had we but known. (Actually, it’s not entirely too late, is it.)

    Otherwise, I don’t think anyone is looking for novel arguments at this point, just weighing the persuasiveness of the ones both sides have advanced. I wanted to write this as an illustration of how one fan went through that process.

  9. To me, elimination is the wrong idea. Redefiniton is the way to go, but that’s not on the table.

    To me, it should be Best Magazine (It pays, that’s the divider) and Best Fanzine (which doesn’t pay). I really think the Best Editor categories are a mistake (Hugos should award the Work, not the person. We don’t have a Best Fan Editor, we have a Best Fanzine) and to me, Best Semi-Pro is a false division. If you pay, you’re a magazine. If you don’t, you’re a fanzine. It’s that easy.

    Would Locus be able to compete with Analog or Asimov’s? Yes, absolutely, at least the last few years. Would be we see other zine nominated than the Big Three, Locus and New York Review? I’d say so, at least some years. Would we see Clarkesworld or Lady Churchill’s on the ballot? CW would have been on my ballot right behind F&SF.

    I’m not a fan of elimination, but it beats leaving a broken category broken. I’d say the same thing about Best Fan Writer, though I want to see what happens this year to see if the Langford Spell is truly broken.

    We should strive to fix problems, excision isn’t always the best way to do that, though.

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  11. Mike: The only thing that has been stopping Charles appearing in Best Editor: Short Form is voter inertia. I’m sure I have talked about it online before now.

    Chris: Best Magazine is one of those things like Best Movie – it is a category that everyone thinks should be obvious but actually ends up potentially excluding a whole bunch of things because it assumes that a “magazine” is the only way certain types of work can be done. We already have Best Editor: Short Form. We don’t need Best Magazine as well, or instead.

    You are also making the (sadly very common) mistake of confusing the editors of semiprozines with their contributors. Yes, it is true that contributors to fiction semiprozines get paid. That’s what we are there for: to give writers a route into professional markets. But the whole point of a semiprozine (as opposed to, say, F&SF or Asimov’s) is that the editors do their work in their spare time for little or no money, as opposed to as a full time job in the case of Gordon and Sheila. By telling semiprozine editors that they have to compete against full-time professionals if they pay their contributors you are actively discouraging them from paying contributors. I don’t think that’s a good message to be sending. I’d much rather have semiprozine in there so that if a fanzine editor decides she’s like to start paying for some material (as I did with Emerald City) she has somewhere to go that doesn’t involve competing with the full-time professionals.

  12. @Cheryl: In the course of telling Chris he’s supposedly making a common mistake, aren’t you making an argument for leaving the Best Fanzine definition alone, in contrast to your earlier comment? A fanzine can pay for material and continue competing as a fanzine so long as it doesn’t also sell 15% of the zine’s space for advertising, or have an average print run of more than 1000.

    What’s more, I gained the impression from my recent survey of semiprozine word rates, award-nominated stories that have appeared in them, and pro-published collections from them, that the semiprozine editors already regard themselves as in competition with larger but similar commercial enterprises like Asimov’s.

    And remember the point I made about how few of the fiction semiprozines ever get nominated in the existing category anyway. There’s no reason the editors should be discouraged any more than they presently are (if they are, which I doubt) by having to compete for Best Editor, Short Form.

  13. Mike: I can just imagine what fanzine fandom would say if the Fanzine category suddenly became full of magazines like Interzone, Clarkesworld, Lady Churchill’s and so on.

    I’m not sure if I understand your point about competition with professional magazines. Sure some semiprozines pay similar rates, but they don’t have the resources to either pay as much, or alternatively carry as many stories. At Clarkesworld, for example, we have chosen to pay SFWA rates, and as a result we can carry only two short stories an issue. Other semiprozines may choose to be larger, but pay less per story.

    What I did neglect to mention is that Best Editor: Short Form also includes people who edit anthologies (e.g. Ellen Datlow, Jonthan Strahan. Chris’s Best Magazine would exclude them, but their presence in Editor: Short Form makes it even less likely that a semiprozine editor would get nominated.

    If Hugo category debates were only about “is there another category they could be eligible for?” then we would have no fan categories and only one or two fiction categories. We don’t make those decisions that way. We look at the field and say, “is there a specific group of people that we can clearly identify whose work we wish to reward?”

  14. @Cheryl: Thanks to the latest revision to electronic eligibility something comparable is already about to happen in the Best Fanzine category. (Go SF Signal!) It’s a little late to be chopping that logic in hopes it will frighten anyone into preserving the status quo for semiprozines.

    Had you noticed that one source of resistance to updating electronic eligibility was from people that weren’t willing to see Locus winning one category and Locus Online winning another. Not my issue, just the same, I wonder how much of the sausage-making in the semiprozine category can be traced back to that.

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  16. I’ve said elsewhere that I really think the Best Editor Hugos need to go away in favor of Best Magazine and Best Anthology and a notation of editor with the Best Novel. Always the work, not the person is my thought. I’d love it if Best Fan Writer were replaced by Best Fan Article or the like, and the Best Artist Hugos were actually to award a specific piece, but folks don’t seem to like those ideas if the thrashing I’ve received on other board over the years are to be believed.

    Of course, I’m betting that more-or-less traditional Fanzines will eventually be squeezed out if Blogs are allowed to compete against them, but that’s sadly the route we’re going down. I’m still all for Best Website and Best Blog, but I don’t think we’ll see either of them as a permanent part in the near-ish

  17. Mike: I don’t understand the point you are trying to make re fanzines. As to Locus Online, there were people who tried to use that example as an excuse for not allowing any online writing into the Hugos, but most people were happy to try to work around it.

    Chris: You and I have fundamentally opposing views as to how the Hugos should be run. You are all in favor or simple ideas that risk excluding a lot of potential nominees but are easy to understand; I prefer more complex definitions that are more inclusive. I don’t think we’ll ever agree. Both sides have their good and bad points. We’ll just have to debate it out at the BM.

  18. I’d like to speak to this as one of the four people who created the two motions that, combined, created the Semi-Pro Hugo. (My memory has grown fuzzy over the years, but as I recall, I got Craig Miller to sign on with mine, and Mike Glicksohn and I think Ben Yalow had the alternative proposal; we were sent off to negotiate a compromise between the two proposals, and came up with the final proposal, which was submitted and passed.

    And I have to say that overall you make a fairly persuasive case, Mike. Because of my sentimental attachment to this Hugo in particular, as the only one I’ve had a hand in creating, I’ve leaned against eliminating it. Also, I’m almost entirely gafia, and simply haven’t been even hearing, let alone participating in, almost any of the debate.

    And I think “Semiprozines help uncover literary and artistic talent, and for that the editors are eligible in another category, Best Editor: Short Form” is an extremely weak argument, since you and I both know that in practice, that’s not going to be apt to change much without, as Cheryl mentions above, a lot of fan-cultural inertia being overcome, at best.

    I’m also not entirely happy with the notion of fanzines that pay contributors being left to compete with fanzines that don’t, no matter that that’s always been the case. It’s always been the case because that was part of the compromise we had to come up with, and it’s a part of the compromise I’ve never been thrilled about. I think fanzines that pay and those that don’t are fundamentally different beasts in significant ways.

    Lastly, I do think that, in specific, the Science Fiction Review of Books deserves a Hugo, and I’m very sorry to think that it’s doomed never to get one.

    (Neither do I see any likelihood of a “Best Criticism,” or “Best Critic” Hugo being created, to put it mildly.)

    But, then, I’m pretty much gafia, so I also don’t think my opinion can (and certainly won’t) count for much, anyway.

    All in all, were I voting, I’d now strongly consider voting for the elimination of the Best Semi-prozine, whereas prior to reading this, I wouldn’t have.

    But I’d also like to see movement on a Best Website Hugo (which would obviously include blogs); although I do a blog, it’s not primarily sf or fan oriented, although I do have some content in both areas, so I think my self-interest in this is immensely minimal. I simply think it only makes sense in the modern world of the internet to recognize the best sf websites/blogs, and to keep that separate from the world of written fanzines. (Which latter strikes me as a dying form, but it’s probably not fair for me to comment on that at all, from my mostly-gafiated position.)

    “I’ve said elsewhere that I really think the Best Editor Hugos need to go away in favor of Best Magazine and Best Anthology and a notation of editor with the Best Novel. Always the work, not the person is my thought.”

    I just disagree entirely with this, although I understand the rationale of consistency in the awards. I simply don’t think that’s sufficient reason, and neither is personal preference for the distinction, and I don’t know another argument. And the Hugos have from the start recognized individuals, as well as works.

    “I’m still all for Best Website and Best Blog,”

    Oh, man, trying to distinguish between the two would make for some of the worst talmudic arguments ever seen in the smof world, and that’s saying a hell of a lot. It’s not even as if there’s common agreement in the blog world as to what constitutes a blog: some people regard anything published in sequential order as a blog. Others (myself included), distinguish to a large degree between a personal journal, that focuses on personal writing and less on linking, and a blog, which focuses more on linking and less on personal writing, but obviously there’s no clear line between these two forms: they overlap in many cases. Then there are websites with accompanying blogs, and blogs with accompanying static areas. The idea is, frankly, lunatic and impossible. There’s simply no clear way to distinguish a “blog” from a “website” in a way that would come close to universal agreement. If Christopher Garcia has one to offer, I’d certainly like to see it.

    “Of course, I’m betting that more-or-less traditional Fanzines will eventually be squeezed out if Blogs are allowed to compete against them, but that’s sadly the route we’re going down.”

    The primary method fans once used to communicate with each other in written form were the prozine lettercolumns, prior to the creation of fanzines. And, of course, the other primary methods fans communicated with were by clubs, and conventions.

    But the Hugos weren’t created early enough for anyone to think a “Best Pro Lettercol” made sense any longer (despite Ted White’s strong revival of the custom during his era of editorship of Amazing and Fantastic. And no one has ever submitted a proposal that’s been taken seriously (rightfully so) for “Best Convention” or “Best Club.”

    So I’m not clear why, sentimental attachment to twiltone and cranking and stencils and corflu (the original, not the convention) and lettering guides and and arguments over the virtues of A.B. Dick versus Gestetner, or two staples versus three, aside, it would be such a sad thing to see the fanzine Hugo disappear. I mean, I’d be a little sad, too, since fanzines once meant the world to me, and I still have plenty of sentimental attachment to them, and what they meant to me. But the fact is that they’ve become the quill pens, the horse buggies, of the sf world, and change happens, no matter how conservative us oldphart fans are.

    And, as much to the point, traditional fanzine fans haven’t been satisfied with the fan Hugos in decades, anyway, which is why the Semi-Pro Hugo was created in the first place. Since then, some awards have been more popular than others, but certain groups of traditional fandom have always felt that the Hugo went to the “wrong” people, anyway. (The late rich brown was one of the most vocal that the fan Hugos should be completely ignored, in any case.)

    So I think that, as well, makes a case for mourning the passing of the fanzine Hugo weaker than it might otherwise be, if the fanzine Hugo were actually all that popular among more people doing classic fanzines, anyway.

    I do regret that fandom isn’t what it was when I first entered it when I was 12, or what it was when I was a teen, or what it was in my twenties, or even my thirties, but I’m in my fifties now, and the fact is that the sf world has changed drastically. Sticking one’s head in the sand about that just isn’t a practical mass option, no matter our sentimental attachments, and the fact that us old time fans like to think that, due to history, all the rest of fandom “really” revolves around us as “the core.”

    Sure, it’d be nice if more of Greater Fandom recognized their history, and the place of “core” fandom, traditional fandom, oldtime convention fandom, and fanzine fandom, in it, and there are nice projects to do what little can be done about that, with, and, and displays at worldcon (and I was the guy who invented the first “fan” track at a Worldcon, in 1977, as well as the first “fanzine fan lounge,” as well as combining both with a fanhistory display), but if wishes were horses, wizards would ride, and we’d all have ponies.

    Boy, Mike, I wish your commenting system offered a “preview” option. Couldn’t you do something about that, please? If so, thanks!

  19. Oh, now I’m going to have to start rethinking. I was dead set against the move to eliminate the award, now I’m not 100% sure. Damn you and your persuasive arguments! 😉

    I am, however, against the continued inclusion of Best Editor categories (for novels or anthologies), as I think it’s impossible for the voting members to determine the amount of editing that actually goes into a specific publication, as they see only the post-edited book, and never get to compare it to the pre-edited work.

    Unless the award is renamed “Best Anthologist” it’ll always be a popularity contest, rather than a vote for a job well done.

  20. gary,

    can I re-run your comments on my blog?

    Hey – I was THERE for the creation of the first ever fan track of programming and the fanzine fan lounge – I even hung out there! (Sadly, I did not have my own hotel room to hide in..)

  21. David K. M. Klaus:

    You may have made a mistake in mentioning the idea of a Best Filk Hugo — at this very moment I suspect some people are nodding their heads and making plans for the Business Meeting.

    Last attempt to create such a category was 1994; it resulted in the 1995 Worldcon attempting a “Best Music” category that received so few nominations that it was dropped before the final ballot. I suspect that any attempt to create such a category today would have to convince a skeptical electorate that conditions have fundamentally changed in the last fifteen years.

    Advocates of such a change might want to consider lobbying a particular Worldcon to trial the category again, and then push hard to get a lot of obvious-to-most-people worthy items nominated in the category. The Business Meeting has shown itself leery of creating new categories without trial periods of some sort if at all possible.

  22. Pingback: Save the Semiprozine Hugo » Blog Archive » Save the Semiprozine - Part 2

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  24. I’d like to comment on Lee Harris’ point on his opposition to the Editing Hugo split, which I had a hand in creating:

    “…I think it’s impossible for the voting members to determine the amount of editing that actually goes into a specific publication, as they see only the post-edited book, and never get to compare it to the pre-edited work…”

    This is the common objection I have had with EVERYONE who opposed the split. My answer is this; the work of the editor IS evident the final product you read. Do you REALLY want to know how your fine automobile was constructed in order to enjoy it’s inherent comforts? How about the watch you’re wearing? And that splendid sausage from this morning…? (You knew that was coming, right?)

    I have no complaints so far about how the category has gone so far. And I’m quite happy that editors like Beth Meacham, Lou Anders, Jonathan Strahan and Ginjer Buchanan are getting a shot at a Hugo. They work as hard as anyone else hard and this is this recognition is their just reward.

    Chris M. Barkley

  25. Here, let me adjust this:

    “…I think it’s impossible for the voting members to determine the amount of editing that actually goes into a specific publication, as they see only the post-edited book, and never get to compare it to the pre-edited work…”

    to this:

    “…I think it’s impossible for the voting members to determine the amount of editing that actually goes into a specific magazine, as they see only the post-edited magazine, and never get to compare it to the pre-edited work…”

  26. “Unless the award is renamed “Best Anthologist” it’ll always be a popularity contest, rather than a vote for a job well done.”

    But all the Hugos are, all of them, are a “popularity contest.” Fans are no more qualified to jduge what objectively has been a “job well done” on any of the categories any more than the next fan.

    “Best Editor” either reflects the fan’s vote for the books and stories that editor has been known to acquire and see published in the past year, or, to some practical extent as is the case with all the awards, to some degree it reflects the personal popularity of the nominee within the social subculture of the voters.

    That goes for all the awards, with slightly varying degrees.

    Most fans aren’t qualified to speak to the technical aspects of the artwork in either artwork category, either, and frankly most fans aren’t qualified to speak to writing technique, nor do they get to examine the differences between early and final drafts of a story, and what was going on inside the head of the writer. They just vote for the result. Same for “Best Editor.”

    “can I re-run your comments on my blog?”

    Yes, but do me a favor and give me a day to correct any typoes above, or make any necessary rewordings of careless wording, please, first. I promise I’ll do that reasonably immediately, and send you the result by the next day at the latest. I’ve done a cut and paste, and will check over the text later today, and have it back to you either later today or tomorrow at the latest.

    “Hey – I was THERE for the creation of the first ever fan track of programming and the fanzine fan lounge – I even hung out there!”

    Well, I created it inside my head. 🙂 And did a “draft” version at the 1975 and 1976 Lunacons; ’77 was where I instituted the Worldcon version, which is where it first got an independent room for the programing, rather than being amongst the other program items, and it was all done in one clustered area — which was a much an accident of the layout we had available at the Fountainbleu, as intent. It just worked well that day, save for the fact that some people didn’t get to it because it was a bit off the beaten track. Ah, if only’d we had the “Boom-Boom Room.” 🙂

    The Lounge part was also, naturally, larger than that of Lunacon. And credit should be given to Susan Wood for her “All Our Yesterdays” fanhistory display room at Torcon II, which I just missed getting to, but heard much of, as part of the inspiration for the larger combination version, and institutionallizing, for a while, these things as variations of a single unit.

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