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Do I Dare to Discuss the Hugo?

I notice that there's been some talk out there regarding the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award. John Scalzi devoted a post to the question of whether or not a professional writer who blogs should be considered eligible. And others have chimed in on their own blogs. Some pro writers have even gone so far as to promote themselves to be nominated in this category, while others have let their fans do it for them.

I was actually interested in this question about ten years ago, because around the same time that I started publishing short stories, I also tried my hand at writing for fanzines. If you check my Nonfiction Bibliography, you'll see that I published a few articles in fanzines such as Mimosa and Proper Boskonian. You'll also notice that I really need to update the bibliography, as a few years ago Nomi and I published two issues of our own fanzine, Burstzine, which you can dowload as PDFs if you click on the link.

Now, when I started publishing articles in fanzines in the mid- to late 1990s, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my fan writing was striking as much of a chord with readers as my pro writing. Although I never got nominated for a Best Fan Writer Hugo, I did discover my name popping up on the "bubbling under" list, the list of nominees who missed making the top five. After a few years, though, my name stopped showing up on that list, because I spent more of my time publishing stories than fan writing.

But now that the floodgates are opening up...

In our current Internet world, everybody tends to become a self-promoter. I've noticed that reaction to such self-promotion tends to go in waves. It's considered gauche when the first person does it, then others slowly join in, until finally it becomes pretty much accepted across the board.

(Quick digression: This story may be apocryphal, but I heard that once upon a time no one ever campaigned for a Nebula Award. Then, one day, one of the nominees chose to mail out copies of their story to all SFWA members. A backlash ensued, and people deliberately voted against the story because of what appeared to be campaigning. But within a few years, everyone was mailing stories out to members, and today, stories are provided for members electronically and almost no one thinks the worse of anyone for it.)

Anyway, when I saw that other writers had begun discussing their blogging in the context of this award, I decided that it would not be at all inappropriate for me to do so as well. My voice will most likely get lost in the cacophony anyway.

So am I eligible to be nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo? I would say yes.

Do I want to be nominated? Let's just say that I wouldn't turn it down if it happened.

If you want to give my writings due consideration, you can click on the link for the MABFAN's Musings: 2006 calendar. (Remember that the 2007 Hugo Awards are supposed to be for work published in 2006.) If you want to read the posts I specifically tagged with the phrase "science-fiction," you can click on the provided link, and page back to see what I wrote last year. But since fan writing can really be on any topic, you might also want to re-read the stuff I filed under "writing-advice," which includes all my "roberts-rules" posts. Or see what I had to say in the world of "science"

I should also note that the essay I wrote for the book "Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek" edited by David Gerrold and Robert J. Sawyer (BenBella Books, August 2006), could also be considered fan writing. So if you've read that essay, you can feel free to take that into consideration as well. (And, hey, that book is eligible under Best Related Book if you're so inclined.)

And, finally, a reward for anyone who has read this far. Last year I published only one story, "Redemption in the Quantum Foam," which appeared in the "Space Cadets" anthology published by last year's Worldcon. The book was a limited edition, and it still doesn't appear as if it's being sold in great quantities on line or in bookstores. (Amazon lists only one copy available, from an outside seller.) I doubt that the story is Hugo-worthy anyway, but if you want a free electronic copy, email me at story@mabfan.com and I'll send you one for your consideration.


Best fan writer should be about the value of the total contribution, not quantity. As you pointed out, the Internet allows anyone to become a self-promoter. But Sturgeon's Law still applies, fan or not. It's quality, not quantity. It's the value to the fan-base, not who shouts the loudest.

Many fans want to be writers. I would argue that your "Robert's Rules" essays qualify you on the basis of both quality and value. Everything else you pointed out is just icing on the cake.
The real debate I've seen is whether or not a pro writer should even be allowed to compete in the fan writer category. Some folks are adamantly opposed to this; others have pointed out that fan writers like David Langford have won pro Hugos and fan Hugos in the same year.

In the end, I've decided that I'll gracefully and gratefully take whatever nominations people want to give me.
It sounds political, but to me the question seems pretty simple: is a pro writer any less of a fan?

(The arguments against are probably because of the amount of publicity available to a pro writer versus a fan, but it doesn't mean that a pro writer is by definition not a fan because they are professional.)
From what I've seen, the arguments against it are that a pro writer has demonstrated an ability to write and sell work at a professional level, and therefore it is unfair for that writer to compete for a fan award. It would be as if a ringer entered a contest designed for amateurs.

Things get even hazier in the Best Fan Artist and Best Artist categories. What is the dividing line between the two types of artists? Should there be one?

It's arguments like these that make the argument of what is the difference between science fiction and fantasy seem almost reasonable. :-)
By the way, if you keep up your discussions of things like the stories in SF AGE, you'll be justifiably eligible for the Best Fan Writer Hugo in 2008... :-)
Yeah, I'm still working at it. I'm hoping to post on issues 2 & 3 "real soon now".
Well, do so soon. I'm eager to read them.
I know of at least one professional author who says he would refuse a fan nomination because he feels it wouldn't be fair to the non-professional fans.

I know of at least one professional author who says that of all his writing and editing, he is most proud of his fannish work.

My personal rule of thumb, although it could get me in trouble I suppose, is to never decline an award nomination.
(Amazon lists only one copy available, from an outside seller.)

...which I've just bought.
Well, thank you and congratulations! It's a very nice book.
Thanks! Looking forward.
Hm. I'd have to side with those saying "Fans are amateurs, and thus pros are not eligible." Of course, the rules don't actually say that, so if someone nominates you there's nothing to say you cannot be considered. But I think it's a fan category and really should be a made a non-pro category, with much the same strictures as the ones I remember from WotF: three professional sales makes you ineligible.

The reason the same person has one so many times probably has less to do with there being no competition than with people simply not nominating said competition. For example, I'd nominate justcomeinalone for Monitor Duty (I think that's unpaid).
I'm actually generating my usual list of potential nominees, like Steven, Bob, Evelyn...and idiot that I am, I hadn't thought to add Alan to the list. D'oh!

My feelings are that if this year we start seeing established pros on the nominees list due to their blogging, then I will feel completely justified in pushing myself as a potential nominee for following years. Especially given the amount of writing I do about writing, and the number of readers I have who came here specifically for such posts.
See my post below. :)
If pros do wind up on the list, and the eligibility rules aren't changed next year to prevent that from recurring, you're completely justified in pushing yourself. Why not, if everyone else is? But I think if enough pros stop and consider it they'll decide it isn't appropriate, and will refuse nominations and make sure the category is in fact Best Fan Writer.
Many thanks. If I may offer a suggestion, I honestly feel that Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches, edited by Mike Resnick and Joe Siclari, is deserving of a nomination and would feel the same even if I weren't the publisher of the book.
It's actually already on my list. :-)
But I think it's a fan category and really should be a made a non-pro category, with much the same strictures as the ones I remember from WotF: three professional sales makes you ineligible.

Just FYI, although you probably already know this: to do that would require a change to the WSFS constitution. If people felt strongly enough about this, they could bring it to the business meeting.
I didn't know that, though I'm not surprised. But the strictures are really just to formalize something anyway.

I just think the distinction is between "fan" and "pro"--once you become a pro you're no longer a fan in that sense, even though of course you can still be a fan of other people's work and so forth. If the category were Best Blog that would be different, though I'd argue that it should really be Best Fan Blog and Best Pro Blog. You're a pro--you make your living with words. That puts you on a different level. It's like a pro athlete going home and competing in a "Best on the Block" competition--it may be legal but it's not appropriate.
I'd like to see Best Pro Blog and Best Fan Blog, but I'm not sure how many others would agree.

Worldcon has experimented with a Best Web Site Hugo, and the problem is that a website could be many things— a blog, a professional magazine, a fanzine, etc. In 2002 the Web Site Hugo went to Locus Online, and the Semiprozine Hugo went to Locus. In 2005, the Web Site Hugo went to Sci Fiction, edited by Ellen Datlow, and the Best Editor Hugo also went to Ellen Datlow, for essentially the same body of work. Some people said that both of these cases showed the essential redundancy of a Web Site Hugo. Others said it needed to be defined better.

As it is, there hasn't been much of a movement to create new categories based upon our new electronic media reality, but maybe this will change in the near future.

December 2016

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