So long, semiprozines

No, we haven’t had the actual Hugo Awards yet , but SF Awards Watch reports on some changes to the award categories which were passed at the WSFS Business Meeting yesterday – notably, the proposal that the semiprozine category be eliminated, and that a category of Best Graphic Story be added, which I believe will cover online publications as well as paper ones.

I am wholeheartedly in favour of the Best Graphic Story category, as competing with the biographies and critical works which get nominated in Best Related Book always seemed a strange fit, although books which are art collections and not stories will still go there. A category to recognise some of the excellent SF&F graphic novels seems overdue, and hopefully the Montreal shortlist will be filled with some of these. (Sadly, there will be no eligible volumes of Scott Pilgrim for me to nominate.)

Removing the semiprozine category I am less in favour of. It’s true that in recent years (UK Worldcons excepted), it has been dominated by Locus, but there are an increasing number of online venues for short fiction, critical articles, and reviews which fit into this category and don’t fit anywhere else, and under the current proposed change they won’t be eligible as fanzines either. I don’t know the proposers of this change, so I’m not sure what it was about the category they felt was terminally broken and I’ll be interested to hear what happened in the business meeting – it seems strange to me that you remove a category entirely, and then make everything eligible for the now-defunct category specifically ineligible for the one award they might now conceivably fit.

Posted in Awards, SF. Tags: . 24 Comments »

24 Responses to “So long, semiprozines”

  1. Karen Burnham Says:

    At least we’ve got one more year before the Semiprozine removal becomes permanent; it has to be ratified in Montreal to go into effect.

  2. Jonathan M Says:

    That whole fanzine/semi-prozine thing has been a complete conceptual and political nightmare for years.

    The problem is that the landscape of fan publishing has radically changed but those categories prove remarkably resistant to any form of change. So I respect the decision to clear the dead wood by cutting decisively but the decision to keep fanzines free of electronic interlopers strikes me as a reactionary sop to the older demographic (I don’t think I’ve ever read a fanzine) and a refusal to move with the times as, in effect, the Hugos are now officially ignoring the most active and energetic forms of fan publishing.

    With a bit of luck this is just clearing the way for some later re-ordering of that whole area but yes… silly and also unsporting. Locus wins because it is a good magazine.

  3. Niall Says:

    Sadly, there will be no eligible volumes of Scott Pilgrim for me to nominate

    Don’t forget, if you’re a member of the ’09 Worldcon you’ll be able to nominate for the ’10 Hugos as well … :)

    which fit into this category and don’t fit anywhere else,

    If Best Related Book is becoming Best Related Work, does that provide a home for blogs …?

  4. Liz Says:

    There’s nothing stopping electronic publications winning the fanzine award, as Emerald City has won in the past without producing paper copies. The key bit of the wording is about producing issues, which is why I believe blogs are ineligible. what would happend if I started collecting a bunch of TC articles together in a PDF and calling it a fanzine I don’t know.

    I admit I like the fanzine category because I like fanzines and I think more people should read them, because there are some really excellent articles in them, and hopefully some of the voters will pop over the efanzines.com and look at a couple of the nominees. This is not really a great rationale for keeping it, but I suspect if the wording were changed to admit blogs then the nominees would be 5 of the best-known blogs.

    However, as Niall says, depending on the exact wording this could mean blogs are now eligible for Best Related Work. Next year could be an interesting year.

  5. Kevin Standlee Says:

    …but the decision to keep fanzines free of electronic interlopers…

    1. Electronically-published and distributed fanzines are already eligible. Emerald City won without significant paper distribution. The Drink Tank has been nominated multiple times without significant paper distribution.

    2. You’re not paying attention to the other changes announced in the same place on SFAW you referenced. Specifically, a different amendment that also received first passage modifies the wording of those categories that might possibly been interpreted as to ban electronic publication. (Most categories didn’t need such changes; a short story published online was already eligible, for instance.) Fanzine’s wording had added to it “(or the equivalent in other media) after “four (4) or more issues” and Best Related Book became “Best Related Work,” and requirements that such works be published in book form was removed.

    Again, all changes must be ratified by the business meeting in Montreal. None of the changes that received first passage in Denver take effect without ratification. Presumably anyone opposed to these changes should be mobilizing his/her forces to block ratification there. After all, every member of the Worldcon may attend the Business Meeting and vote.

  6. Graham Says:

    Kevin, is there a mechanism by which someone who can’t afford to, or otherwise doesn’t wish to, get to the Worldcon but who buys (eg) a supporting membership can vote by proxy at the Business Meeting?

  7. Kevin Standlee Says:

    Graham:

    No. Voting takes place only in person at the Business Meeting. Proxies are not permitted.

  8. Liz Says:

    And Jonathan, I’m pretty sure you read at least one fanzine, unless you’re not reading those copies of Vector we send you… :)

  9. Jonathan M Says:

    Liz — Oh yeah… I rather suppose it is :-)

    So now prozines are fanzines and these include websites?

    It’s like the fact that there’s no best film hugo there’s an award that includes film and TV series that rise above a certain arc to standalone ratio.

    The Hugos really are a fascinating exercise in etymological obfuscation. The categories are becoming more and more bizarre and counter-intuitive to the point where it will probably soon be impossible to make sense of the Hugos without combing through the necessary and sufficient conditions of each of the categories.

    Congratulations! You have won the Hugo for best non-non-non related novel, dance act or folk song workshop, which we are referring to as “best convention”.

  10. Kevin Standlee Says:

    So now prozines are fanzines and these include websites?

    I do not see how you concluded any of that. Care to explain?

    It’s like the fact that there’s no best film hugo there’s an award that includes film and TV series that rise above a certain arc to standalone ratio.

    And so you would rather that we have a Hugo Award categories that depend solely upon the medium of distribution to determine eligibility? If so, how you would define it? Be specific, and think of all of the ways that clever people can think of to twist whatever wording you come up with.

    Oh, and based on past history of the Hugo Awards, I can tell you that the logical conclusion of your reasoning is that we should have one and only one dramatic presentation Hugo Award category, and to heck with television shows or anything else other than theatrical motion pictures. I will elaborate upon request.

    The Hugos really are a fascinating exercise in etymological obfuscation. The categories are becoming more and more bizarre and counter-intuitive to the point where it will probably soon be impossible to make sense of the Hugos without combing through the necessary and sufficient conditions of each of the categories.

    It sounds very much to me that you really want the Hugo Awards to be defined as “What I point to and I personally like.”

  11. Jonathan M Says:

    >It sounds very much to me that you really want the Hugo Awards to be defined as >“What I point to and I personally like.”

    I would argue that not only is this THE iron-clad rule of politics, I would say that this is all that discussion of awards EVER boils down to and I intend to argue as much in my next Blasphemous Geometries column :-) [plug plug]

  12. James Says:

    Interesting stuff. I am not so sure as you are Niall about the removal of the Semi Prozine Hugo, mostly because at some stage, I was hoping Ansible or a web zine like Strange Horizons might make a win and break Locus’ run, which then might open up the category a bit more. Maybe I am too optimistic. I know SH doesn’t do so well, but I just hoped at some stage it would storm forward.

    I somehow expect the business meetings next year will be well attended.

    Pleased that there may be a home for good comics now too, as there are some great SF comics out there.

    and gosh Liz, Vector a fanzine, cool. Don’t hear that said very often.
    ;-)

    james

  13. Duncan Lawie Says:

    Presumably “Fan Writer” is the most likely home for blog nominations in the near term – at least I assume that’s the main source of Scalzi’s nomination, although I realise that doesn’t make room for the “group blog” as an entity.

    In any case, perhaps the Hugos are ahead rather than behind – Bruce Sterling tells us repeatedly (on his blog) that the blog is Dead Media.

  14. Abigail Says:

    The key bit of the wording is about producing issues, which is why I believe blogs are ineligible.

    Except that SF Signal and Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist both received votes in this category this year. I suppose it’s possible, however, that had either one made it to the top five it would have been ruled ineligible (as happened with a nominee for the Campbell award).

  15. Liz Says:

    Patrick Rothfuss is ineligible but still got nominations, and he’s not listed as ineligible on the ballot, so I presume that they don’t bother checking it out unless you’re in the top 5. At some point I presume a blog will get enough votes to be on the ballot, and then the administrators will have to make a decision.

  16. Kevin Standlee Says:

    Liz: You are right that administrators almost never research eligibility unless a potential nominee is in or near the top 5.

    I believe that other changes that also received first passage this year will make it more obvious that forms of electronic fanac such as blogs are eligible, depending on the work. They may be eligible in Best Related Work, or in Best Fanzine, depending on the nature of the work. Some of that will come down to how the voters decide to cast their nominating votes.

    And by the way, that means that every person reading this will have a chance to make their voice heard simply by buying a Worldcon membership (remember, you don’ t have to attend to vote) and casting a nominating ballot. Administrators are loathe to disqualify works that lots of people nominate unless they are clearly ineligible on technical grounds, such as work length or year of publication. Generally speaking, administrators have been told to follow vox populi, vox dei whenever possible. “Activist” administrators that have made controversial edge-case decisions have generally seen the subsequent WSFS business meetings pass clarifying amendments.

  17. Kevin Standlee Says:

    I somehow expect the business meetings next year will be well attended.

    With two different potentially controversial changes with different constituencies, I think you’re quite right. I’m already framing up a request to Anticipation’s Programming division to set aside a larger room than I would usually request for the 2009 WSFS Business Meeting, which I’ll be chairing.

  18. Kathryn Cramer Says:

    I made a long comment on Cheryl’s page.

  19. Paul Kincaid Says:

    I’m actually most worried about the Best Related Work category. This is already a ridiculous grab-bag of stuff that can include serious criticism, art books, memoirs – and now Kevin is suggesting it might accommodate blogs also.

    I propose they change the title to: Best Work that doesn’t fit comfortably into any other category.

    As for the Semiprozine. That was a cobbled-together category to stop Locus always winning the best fanzine. So in one respect I don’t think getting rid of it is necessarily a bad thing. But it would help if the Hugos actually had a Best Magazine category because there really does need to be a place where we can honour Locus and Interzone and Asimov’s and Strange Horizons and SF Site and NYRSF, none of which apparently have any recognition from the Hugos from next year on.

  20. Kevin Standlee Says:

    Paul Kincaid wrote:

    But it would help if the Hugos actually had a Best Magazine category….

    A look at the Hugo Awards History shows that there was once a Best Professional Magazine Hugo Award. In 1973, this category disappeared and the Best Professional Editor award appeared. While this is before my time, I understand that Best Professional Editor was intended to replace Best Professional Magazine, and the fact that magazine editors dominated this category until it was split into Long Form and Short Form seems to bear this out.

    While I am not an advocate either for or against the repeal motion — remember, I’m chairing next year’s Business Meeting — I think that the arguments in favor of this proposal are going to include the fact that the editors of such works can continue to compete in the Best Editor Short Form category.

    In essence, the proposal eliminates the concept of a “semiprozine” and establishes de facto criteria for professional magazine (i.e. not fanzine) status.

  21. Kevin Standlee Says:

    Paul Kincaid wrote:

    I’m actually most worried about the Best Related Work category. This is already a ridiculous grab-bag of stuff that can include serious criticism, art books, memoirs – and now Kevin is suggesting it might accommodate blogs also.

    I really am not certain about this yet. I think it somewhat more likely that blogs could be considered a form of fanzine, and unless the blog is all but dead, meeting the “at least one issue” rule — where every posting could be considered a new issue — would be trivial.

    And Best Related Book and its predecesor categories has always been a catch-all category. I suppose advocates could point out that the parallel proposal to create a Best Graphic Story category helps the situation by moving works like The Arrival from Best Related and moving them to Best Graphic Story.

  22. kev McVeigh Says:

    re Best Editor
    unless you can see before and after versions how can you tell who has done the best job of editing an individual text? So for me the decision might be based on who has the list I most admire, but then the acquirer of a list and the person who works on it may differ.

  23. Kathryn Cramer Says:

    I’ve posted the Semiprozine matter on my blog. The short version is that if NYRSF ceased making token cash payments to contributors, it would be according to Hugo rules a fanzine.

  24. James Says:

    Kevin S; A big room, and extra muffin’s when it turns into a bun fight perhaps ;-)

    AT least its getting people interested.

    james


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