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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guest Post | Love a Blog? Nominate It by Stefan Raets

The deadline to submit your Hugo nominations is March 11th. The Hugo Awards are the fan awards, unlike, say, the Nebulas, which are voted on by members of the SFWA, an organization that has certain criteria in terms of membership. The Hugo Awards are open to anyone who was a member of last year's Worldcon or becomes a member of this or next year's Worldcons. That could be you. You can become a Supporting Member of this year's Worldcon (called ChiCon) for just $50, and for that amount you also will get this year's Hugo Voter Packet. We're not sure yet what that will entail, but last year's packet contained e-versions of every single novel, anthology, novella, novelette, short story and graphic novel on the final ballot, as well as a bunch of other goodies. If it’s something similar this year, the packet is easily worth twice the cost of the Supporting Membership - plus you get to be an active participant in the Hugo process and help decide the winners in the genre's biggest awards. If you're at all interested in SF&F, and I assume you are if you're still reading this, you should really consider becoming a Supporting Member. Now, to be absolutely clear, if you weren’t a ChiCon member before you started reading this article, you won’t be able to make nominations this year. That deadline has passed. But you’ll still be able to vote in this year’s Hugos, and you’ll be eligible to make nominations next year. So it’s still a good thing to do. Go ahead. I'll wait while you sign up.

If you’re eligible to make nominations and haven’t done so yet, this would be a great time to do it, as the deadline is this weekend. Take a look at what you've read last year. There are a bunch of rules for eligibility, but roughly speaking, if it was published in 2011, you can nominate it. If you accidentally nominate something that's not eligible, they won't send the Hugo Police to your house to confiscate your membership badge, so go ahead, nominate the 2011 SFF publications you loved and see what sticks. That's what most people do. Also, an important note here. So you haven't read everything that was published last year. Fine. Neither have I, and neither has John Scalzi. Maybe you've only read a handful of novels. Maybe you haven't read any novellas or graphic novels. Don’t worry. Just nominate what you loved. Thousands of people are doing this. It'll all even out in the end, as long as everyone includes the books and stories they loved. Believe me, your nominations are very important to both authors and fans.

Now, for the interesting bit. You may notice a few categories in the bottom half of the nomination form that aren't so much about the novels and stories as about the people who write about the novels and stories. Fanzines, Semi Prozines, Fan Writers. The terms may be confusing. If you're unclear as to which is which, take a look at last year's final ballot for an idea of what may fall in which category. Or you can read the legalese in the WSFS constitution. I suggest the former option.

But now, finally, the main point of this post. In the last few decades or so, this here thing called the intertubes has become more and more prominent. SF&F-related writing used to make its way into the world by means of typewriters and Xerox machines and stamped envelopes. I know it may sound comical to some of you, but this award has been around since the 1950’s. There's history here. This whole blog thing is relatively new, in the larger scope of things. Now, first of all, I have the greatest respect for Fanzines, I wish for them to continue to garner awards and recognition and new readers and anything else their hearts desire. Yay for 'zines, okay?

But that aside, there's a serious problem here. At last year's convention, a rule change was enacted that would exclude blogs from the Best Fanzine category in the future. This rule may be ratified this year. That means this may be the last year blogs are eligible for the Best Fanzine category. This may seems absurd to you, but remember, this is an organization with a constitution and committees and so on. There are quorum rules and agendas and minutes that have to be approved and I wouldn't be surprised if there's someone with a gavel. It's official, as befits an organization with such a storied past. They're not evil. They mean well. They just want to make sure that next year people who try to distribute their reviews using a parade of tattooed elephants don't rouse up a storm because they're not included in a category.

Still, to me, it seems like a no-brainer. How many authors on the ballot have done blog tours? How many have websites that quote reviews from bloggers? How many have done interviews on blogs? How many, for the love of Tehlu, have only achieved the prominence and popularity they currently enjoy because of the enthusiastic, dedicated and unpaid work done by bloggers? AND YOU'RE TELLING ME YOU MAY NOT WANT TO INCLUDE BLOGS IN THIS CATEGORY IN THE FUTURE? For shame.

Seriously, the only justification I could see for this is to make sure the traditional fanzines don't get overrun by blogs. So, let's create a brand new category called "Best Blog". Somehow they have seen fit to create a new category called "Best FanCast" this year, so it's possible. The person with the gavel needs to consider this. Maybe he or she wants to go down in history as the person who brought the Hugos in line with the progress of history. We need a Best Blog category, or we need blogs to be included under "Best FanZine". It's one or the other. You can't reasonably exclude the place where 90% of fan writing happens right now. Not if you want to be taken seriously as an award in this day and age. Hands up how many of you have read a fanzine this year? And now how many have read a blog? I rest my case.

So! Enough with the speechifying. I'm hoping that enough fans and bloggers and authors will include their favorite blogs in the Best Fanzine category. Personally, I'm putting only blogs on my ballot. I'm hoping that at least a few of the best ones will make it to the final ballot. And I hope that one of them will win the award.

Aside from the Fanzine/blog category, you can also nominate individual Fan Writers. Things are a bit more straightforward and less exclusive there: you can nominate anyone who writes about SF&F in any format. Including bloggers. You don't have to use a Xerox machine to be eligible for Best Fan Writer. So, if you have a favorite blog, you can nominate "Aidan Moher" or “Adam Whitehead” under Best Fan Writer as well as "SF Signal" or “Staffer’s Musings” under Best Fanzine. Even if blogs don't count anymore in future years, you can continue to nominate the people behind the blogs in the Best Fan Writer.

It looks like a few people have put my name on their ballots in this category. I am very flattered, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I want to make it clear that I'm not asking you to nominate me here. I'm asking you to support your favorite bloggers. If that's me, great. If not, also great. Just support your favorite bloggers, whoever they are. Buy a membership and nominate them.


Stefan Raets is the editor/founder of Far Beyond Reality. He also contributes to You can find him on Twitter @sraets.

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At March 7, 2012 at 5:39 AM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...

Correction: You cannot buy a membership now and still nominate. You had to have been a member as of January 31st in order to nominate.

At March 7, 2012 at 5:43 AM , Blogger Justin said...

I believe that's stated in the first paragraph...

"Now, to be absolutely clear, if you weren’t a ChiCon member before you started reading this article, you won’t be able to make nominations this year. That deadline has passed. But you’ll still be able to vote in this year’s Hugos, and you’ll be eligible to make nominations next year. So it’s still a good thing to do. Go ahead. I'll wait while you sign up."

At March 7, 2012 at 6:04 AM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...


I should have been more clear to say that the last line of your excellent post muddies the clarity of the first paragraph in that regard.

While the intent of the line is a general admonition to buy and nominate in the future (something people like Cheryl Morgan would be grateful to you for helping to promote), it doesn't make it ironclad clear that's what you meant. I took it to mean you were contradicting yourself from paragraph one. I made a mistake.

At March 7, 2012 at 8:19 AM , OpenID pwyller said...

As a long time SF&F reader I find these debates (the blog and comment one) fascinating. In all this time I had never even considered being able to vote for the Hugo -- those that know me wouldn't be surprised (I once burst into a room of people distraught that a certain celebrity had died... 4 or 5 year previous). I am looking forward to getting involved and to the changes that digital media and social networking are going foster. Thanks to @neilhimself for the heads-up!

At March 8, 2012 at 1:02 AM , Blogger Cheryl said...

My apologies for not getting to this yesterday. I was away from my computer most of the day. Here are a few thoughts.

Firstly, yes, there is someone with a gavel. This year that person is Donald Eastlake III. He's the Business Meeting Chair. His job is to ensure fair play and adherence to the rules of debate. He's not, as you seem to imply, a judge. If he does his job properly (which I'm sure he will, he's done is several times before) then it would be entirely unfair to hold him responsible for any outcomes of the meeting.

As to the actual rules changes, I haven't been involved in any of the discussions regarding the rule changes, but here is what I think some of the thought processes might be.

One of the regular problems that Hugo rules writers have to deal with is avoiding the same work being rewarded twice. Suppose, for example, that Jane Smith is a very popular fan writer, but that almost all of her writing appears in her LiveJournal, "This Is Me". Should she win both Best Fanzine and Best Fan Writer, for what is essentially the same work?

So what I think the intent may be here is that someone who just writes a personal blog gets nominated in Fan Writer, whereas something that is more of a magazine, with multiple contributors, interviews, and so on, gets nominated in Fanzine. I'm not sure that the wording is right. I'm certain that if I were still producing Emerald City then it would still be eligible as a fanzine, but I'm concerned about sites such as SF Signal which I believe should still be eligible as fanzines. Hopefully that will get clarified in Chicago.

Where I think you should be much more worried is with the Fancast proposal. Back when I started Emerald City I was constantly getting told that it should not be eligible for Best Fanzine because it was not printed on paper. That might seem laughable now, but back then it was a huge issue. Since then WSFS has gone through a long and sometimes painful process of debate regarding how electronic publication should be handled, and the end result was a general principle that it is the content that is important, not the method of delivery. The Best Fancast proposal goes directly against this principle. Podcasts are currently eligible for Best Fanzine. Star Ship Sofa has won it. If Best Fancast gets approved then it will be established that the method of delivery is a key aspect of category definitions, and next time a new delivery method is invented the people who make use of it will be excluded until such time as they can argue for a category of their own.

I've seen people argue that the technical skills required to create a podcast are very different from those required to create a fanzine, but equally the skills required to create a mimeo fanzine are very different to those required to create one as an epub. I know, I've done both.

Also it is entirely possible to create a fanzine that contains elements of text, audio and video. (I did that very deliberately with Salon Futura to make that point, though it is a semiprozine, not a fanzine.) In what categories would that be eligible?

Anyway, please do keep nominating bloggers in the Fan Writer category, and please do keep nominating the likes of SF Signal as fanzines. Hugo administrators rarely go against the will of the voters unless the case is absolutely clear cut. And here's hoping for some interesting and fruitful discussion in Chicago.

At March 8, 2012 at 9:48 AM , Blogger Justin said...

Stefan is having trouble commenting for some reason soo... here are his comments in response to Cheryl:

Thanks, Cheryl. First of all, I was just being facetious with the gavel business, trying to make the point that there's a rational and rule-based process in place to make these decisions. I didn't meant to imply that Mr. Donald Eastlake III is a judge. (I also don't want to imply there's anything wrong with being a judge. Just trying to cover all bases here.)

Your point about people not being rewarded for the same work twice is one I hadn't considered before. However, isn't this possible right now? A "Fan Writer" is defined as "Any person whose writing has appeared in semiprozines or fanzines or in generally available electronic media during the previous calendar year." Doesn't this mean someone could be nominated for his or her fanzine as well as an individual writer?

Ultimately, I feel that this all comes down to semantics. Blogs are an example of fan writing, just like fanzines. I firmly believe that more SFF readers are familiar with blogs at the moment, so I'm trying to make the point that the medium shouldn't be excluded. Yes, people shouldn't be eligible twice for the same work, but excluding the place where the vast majority of fan writing takes place nowadays is not the way to make this happen, especially if it's not applied across the board.

This is a complex issue, and I obviously don't have a ready solution, but I felt that it was important to get some more discussion going about this.

I know very little about FanCasts and podcasts, so I don't feel qualified to address that portion of your comment and would rather leave it to someone who knows more about it. However, the whole "method of delivery" issue seems to relate directly to the blog/fanzine one too. New media will continue to pop up, so maybe this discussion should be approached from that perspective rather than from a "blogs vs. fanzines" one?

At March 10, 2012 at 2:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I come late to the party, but as a long time reader of sf/f, blogs are now the most influential source of info on the genre I have, short of from the authors themselves. Fanzines, and even professional journals like Locus are mostly irrelevant to the convenience and well-written focus blogs like this one bring to my favorite book genre.

Andy L


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