Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Hugo Award Categories: Magazines and Editors

I have mentioned this elsewhere, but here's my proposal for a significant revision of the Magazine and Editor categories to reflect what I perceive to be the way the electorate today wants to vote upon such things.

Hugo Award Logo

Long ago, the Hugo Awards had categories that included "Best Professional Magazine" (1953-1972) and "Best SF Book Publisher" (1964-1969). However, as I understand it, there was a complaint that rewarding the magazines was leaving out the anthologies, and thus in 1973 the Prozine category was dropped in favor of Best Professional Editor, which mostly went to magazine editors but was supposed to cover anthology and book editors as well. Over time, it appears to me that nearly everyone who looks at the Hugo Awards either forgot or never knew about this connection. Then we split Editor into Short and Long Form, with Long Form theoretically aimed at book editors; however, very few publishers actually list the editors of the novels they publish. At best, Editor Long Form could be seen as a proxy for the old Best Publisher category.

Also in the meantime, the dominance of a single publication over the Fanzine category led to the creation of a the Semiprozine category, primarily to keep Locus from winning Fanzine every year; instead, Locus won Semiprozine almost every year. Then, when some people worked to simply kill the category entirely, a bunch of small semi-professional magazines sprang forward to "save" the category, and in the ensuing multi-year melee, the category got modified in such a way that Locus wasn't even eligible anymore, although its editors are eligible in Editor Short Form.

Also in the meantime, we have people who want a Best Anthology or Collection category, and who are unconvinced when knowledgeable people like me point them at Editor Short Form. "That's not the same thing," they say. They want an award for the work, not the person, and they aren't particularly interested in a WSFS dispute from forty years ago.

I think we've reached a point, in small steps, where a significant proportion of the Hugo Award electorate doesn't know how to actually nominate in at least three categories, and at worst derides those categories because they think they are so complicated or need specialist knowledge that they'll never have. This is not good for the health of the Hugo Awards.

I therefore propose that we should delete three existing categories that people find confusing and unclear and replace them with three new categories that, while not perfectly defined (it's difficult to define things completely air-tight), are at least more accessible and understandable to the people picking up the ballot or reading the results list.

Categories to Delete
  • Best Semiprozine

  • Best Editor Long Form

  • Best Editor Short Form

Categories to Add
  • Best Professional Magazine

  • Best Anthology or Collection

  • Best Publisher

The definition of Professional Magazine would be the converse of Fanzine, and would be pretty straightforward to determine:
  1. Paid its contributors or staff monetarily in other than copies of the publication, and/or

  2. Was generally available only for paid purchase

Existing semi-professional magazines would compete against the existing professional magazines. Oh, and Locus would be eligible for the category, too, inasmuch as I'd not consider limiting such a category to be primarily fictional works. The boundary between "semi-pro" and "professional" is a lot fuzzier than it once was, thanks to online publishing.

We would have to work on the definition of Best Publisher to deal with cases like Tor US/Tor UK or to try and figure out if an imprint within a publisher is distinct from the parent publisher, but it still would be easier to figure out than Editor Long Form.

Now there is no Rule of Conservation of Hugo Number. Just because you delete three categories doesn't mean you have to add three categories. However, I do think the three new categories I propose are easier to understand for the average person than the increasingly inscrutable categories I propose to delete.

Personally, I'd prefer to pair the category changes, so each deletion was paired with an addition: Semiprozine -> Prozine; Editor Short -> Anthology/Collection; Editor Long -> Publisher. However, politics of category addition/deletion being what they are, I expect that it would be easier to submit them as six separate changes. On the other hand, this means you could have a potential swing of between -3 and +3 categories, which would also not really be ideal in my opinion. (I'd personally prefer there be not more than -1/+1 net.) In any event, even if submitted as three pairs of changes, the Business Meeting could by majority vote split the deletions and additions by the motion to Divide the Question.

I'm prepared to draft up all of the necessary language for these changes if there are sufficient people, especially people intending to attend the 2016 Worldcon in Kansas City and the Business Meeting there, who agree that these would be improvements to the Hugo Award categories.
Tags: hugo awards, worldcon, wsfs, wsfs business meeting
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