Every year, George R.R. Martin takes the time to talk about some of the authors/artists/editors/fan writers/novels/etc… that he feels deserve to be on the Hugo Award ballot. I always look forward to these posts and it’s something I wish more voters would do. Give fans (and other Hugo voters) a taste of what you think are the best of the best in any given year. Martin has always been a big proponent of trying to get blogs and bloggers on the ‘Best Fanzine’ and ‘Best Fan Writer’ short lists. This year, he’s gone further than just suggesting that we all think of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist and instead wrote at some length about why he feels that bloggers deserve a shot. From his latest post:
The Best Fanzine category is one of the oldest Hugo Awards, but is currently embroiled in controversy. Traditional print fanzines are still around, though both their numbers and their readership are dwindling, and in recent years the fans have been nominating things like e-zines, blogs, and podcasts in this category. Last year at Reno, a rules change was enacted to exclude all those new forms of fanac from this category. If that change is ratified in Chicago, Best Fanzine will once again become the exclusive property of traditional fanzines. If you don’t own a mimeograph machine, you need not apply. However, (1) the change needs to be ratified, if it is defeated at this year’s business meeting, it will not take effect, (2) it is NOT in effect this year, so this may be the last year when e-zines, blogs, and podcasts can be nominated in the category. As I think you can tell by my sarcastic tone, I am opposed to the change. I think there are some great fannish blogs and e-zines and podcasts out there, I think they are the future, and I’m going to nominate a bunch of them. Some of my own favorites include PAT’S FANTASY HOTLIST, THE WERTZONE, MAKING LIGHT, THE BLOG OF THE FALLEN (okay, he doesn’t like my stuff, but it’s still a good read), STOMPING ON YETI, CHEESE MAGNETS, HATHOR LEGACY, and PUNKADIDDLE. And for Best Fan Writer, I’d suggest you consider some of the folks who write for these blogs and e-zines, including Patrick St. Denis, Adam Whitehead, Adam Roberts, and John J. Miller.
Martin further expands on these ideas in the comments section of the post in discussion with Kevin Standlee and Steven H. Silver, both of who are respected members of the fan community and have strong ties to the Hugo Awards.
The requirement that a fanzine must have “discrete issues” printed on a “periodical basis” just strikes me as a roundabout way to exclude blogs without actually saying “blogs need not apply.” You might as well stick in a clause requiring that fanzines be printed on twilltone.
Even traditional fanzines have never really had a good record of striking to a strict publishing schedule. Oh, sure, there are a few exceptions, but over most of the half century I’ve been in fandom, I’ve seen an awful lot of fanzines whose publishing schedule was “whenever the editor pubs his ish.”
The best blogs add new material weekly, some even daily. Even if the content isn’t organized into “issues,” it remains fannish writing. Look at a blog like Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist or the Wertzone, and what do you find… book reviews, movie reviews, author interviews, con reports, trip reports… all the sorts of writing that have characterized many fanzines (sercon fanzines more than faanish fanzines, admittedly) for decades.
They ARE fanzines, with or without “discrete issues.”
The usual Hugo Defense Brigade shows up to tell George exactly why he’s wrong (and not just about the Fan Writer/Fanzine stuff), and the arguments seem just as silly and antiquated as ever. Still, I suppose that there’s some solace to be found in the fact that GRRM’s opinions are brushed off with as little consideration as mine were.
In particular, Christopher Garcia, editor of The Drink Tank alongside James Bacon, winner of ‘Best Fanzine’ in 2011, shows up and makes a comment that goes against Martin’s suggestions and, in my mind, showcases the narrow definition of ‘fanzine’ that the awards are clinging to:
I think excluding blogs from Best Fanzine makes sense, though that’s just me. I don’t see blogs acting like Fanzines, but maybe I’m just looking at teh [sic] wrong blogs.
Nope, they don’t act like fanzines, because they’re not ‘fanzines’. I will, again, put forward the idea that the nature of fanzines has changed and that the name of this award needs to be examined and probably changed in a way to include all written fan publications, whether they publish in regular fanzineish nature or on the more daily schedule of a blog, on paper or digitally. The award was originally created to award the best publications edited by those from the fan community, that the time that was the exclusive realm of fanzines. As it’s wont to do, Time has trekked on and the nature of fan writing and fan publications has changed, but the award has continued to be exclusionary, rather than inclusionary. Should publications be excluded for their publishing schedule? Or included on the value of their content? Martin believes in the latter, and I agree with him.
I’m a small fry and have little leverage for creating such a change, but hopefully these opinions coming from the mouth of someone with as much clout as Martin will be able to create the type of buzz necessary to encourage a thoughtful and considered look at the nature of the ‘Best Fanzine’ award.
Next year, I’d love to show up on GRRM’s list alongside Stomping on Yeti, Punkadiddle or Pat’s Fantay Hotlist. I suppose I should have worked harder at flattering George and his assistant Ty a when I met them last year. Or, you know, I could work harder at making A Dribble of Ink a blog that deserves a place on the ballot in 2012 or 2013.