Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Hugos: 3 for 2 Reverse Split?

Up front: I am chairman of this year's WSFS Business Meeting. I am not taking a position on the items I mention below. I bring them up because they seem to bring together a series of parallel complaints about four Hugo Award categories, and I'm raising the possibility of these changes as one possible solution. Whether I think they are good solutions or not I'm not saying. It's difficult to give an answer to complex technical questions in Twitter-speak, so I also want this as something to which to point when people raise any of the topics.

I continue to see complaints about the following four Hugo Award categories, for various reasons.
  • Best Semiprozine: A category originally created to keep Locus from winning Best Fanzine every year, it has since been further changed in such a way that Locus isn't even eligible in it anymore, and seems to have become a haven for small fiction publications that are run as a sideline for their organizers. Biggest complaint: The rules are too complicated, and what the heck is a 'semiprozine' anyway?"

  • Best Editor, Long Form: Created by a split of the Best Professional Editor category to give book editors their own category as opposed to editors of professional magazines and anthologies. Biggest complaint: "Who knows who the editors are? Almost nobody includes the editors' names in the book credits."

  • Best Editor, Short Form: Created by the split listed above. The original Best Professional Editor category was created as a replacement for the Best Professional Magazine category, done because of a perception that there was nowhere to reward anthology editors and that magazine editors were being unfairly privileged. Procedurally, professional magazines (mostly, but not completely, devoted to fiction) and anthologies are considered to be the same class of work, and the "body of work" requirement (at least four issues/works, at least one in the eligibility year) applies. Biggest complaint: "Anthologies and magazines shouldn't be considered together."

  • Best Related Work: Created as a mostly catch-all category, there are still classes of work that don't qualify for it, specifically fiction anthologies, on account of their editors are eligible in Best Editor Short Form (if they qualify on body of work) and the individual works are eligible in the story categories based on their length. Biggest complaint specific to this: "It's not fair that there isn't a category for anthologies."

In my opinion, a fairly significant proportion of the SF/F community doesn't understand the historical reasons for the evolution of these categories, and rejects the reasoning as (at best) outdated when it's explained to them. Fair enough. Times change, and there is a process for WSFS to adjust to those changes. Here's one possibility for changing the categories around that might settle some of the disputes, although I'm sure it would create more. Remember, I'm not personally advocating these, nor will I take a stand on them. I'm already going to have to recuse myself from consideration of one constitutional amendment this year; I don't want to have to do it more than once.

  • Delete Semiprozine, Best Editor Long Form, and Best Editor Short Form: The area covered by these categories might be better covered by two new categories.

  • Add Best Professional Magazine: This was historically a category but was dropped long ago. The definition would encompass all of the existing semi-professional mostly-fiction-associated, mostly online publications as well as the existing professional markets like Analog, and yes, Locus would be included. The argument could be that due to the internet, the playing field is far more level than it once was, as the "smaller" 'zines actually may have larger readership than the print publications. Defining "professional" is always a problem here, but inasmuch as you'd be basically saying that anything that isn't a fanzine is a professional magazine, it might be a little easier than the current morass of semiprozine's complex technical definition.

  • Add Best Anthology: There seems to be a growing campaign out there to try and "colonize" the Best Related Work category with anthologies, mostly by people who either do not understand or reject the reasoning behind Best Editor Short Form. I've read lately people complaining that magazine editing is significantly different from anthology editing. There are other major awards (like the Locus Awards) that have an Anthology category. And it would create a class for works that IMO aren't actually eligible in any category today.

The net effect of the above would be to kill three categories and create two, reorganizing the people and works that are eligible in the categories, and remove a bone of contention about Best Related Work.

I recognize many other issues that this would raise, and again, I'm not actually advocating the changes. I am, however, trying to provide a framework for people who are pressing for change but are not necessarily WSFS rules geeks like me to begin thinking about what constructive changes that have some possibility of getting past the Business Meeting (don't forget practical politics) might be.

If anyone wants to take a shot at doing any or all of these changes, contact me and I will work with you to develop the specific wording and to put it in the proper format for submitting to this year's Business Meeting. As I hope everyone reading me knows by now, I generally will help anyone draft proposals, even those I personally oppose, in order to try and minimize technical arguments over the meaning of a proposal. This year, doing that is part of my job description on the 2015 Worldcon committee.

Administrative note: You don't need a LiveJournal account to reply to this, but posts from non-members go into moderation, and I ask non-members to sign their posts so I know who you are before I approve them. Also, for some reason my e-mail is eating LJ notifications (not junking them; never delivering them), so I may not necessarily see your responses immediately.
Tags: "business meeting", "hugo award", wsfs

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