The OF Blog: So here's to contributing to sniping about an insular genre award

Saturday, March 24, 2012

So here's to contributing to sniping about an insular genre award

As much as I try to distance myself (not too much, since I'm writing about this picayune affair) from SF fandom (not individual fans/writers, but from anything that reeks of an institution), I see that recent posts about Hugo eligibility in the Fanzine category has raised the ire of one Mike Glyer of File 770 (I see it is famous enough to have its own Wikipedia page.  If only I could be so well known, le sigh.)  If I were of the bon ton set when this august fanzine was founded in 1978 (instead, I was less than a year removed from potty training), then maybe I could have read about something similar back in the 1980s when doubtless there were Usenet enthusiasts who protested the antiquated form of producing xeroxes or mimeographed copies of fandom news for the hundred or so people who might clipped a coupon from the back of a convention guide to receive a free trial issue and a decoder ring.  But no, I'm too young for even Usenet.

In principle, I am not opposed to there being an award for the people who have devoted decades of their lives to engaging in a hobby.  Just as I'm not opposed to having those three extremely old golfers tee off first from the Masters, I think there is a place and recognition for the same small number of people who forge on and produce something that might have been relevant in 1967 but which now is as influential on spreading information of genre matters as this being a cutting edge bit of technology.  As I said, I am not really all that opposed to there being an award where the old-timers can take a few pills and reminisce over what happened over sixty years ago at a particular convention.  I just merely take exception to the implied attitude contained within Glyer's posts.

No, I am not upset by any of this (sure, I was suggested as a Fan Writer/Fanzine nominee by George R.R. Martin himself, linked to earlier in this post, but I do not consider myself primarily a SF/F critic), but I do think what Glyer and others of his ilk do not care to address is the growing recognition that the main discussion topics of who deserves award recognition has shifted away from the convention attendees toward those who sit down at a computer (and more and more, their tablets and phones) and blog and/or tweet to their heart's content.  There's no longer (if there truly ever was) a small, monolithic "fandom."  Things have fractured and gone more visibly global these days.  I have a relatively small readership compared to the largest single-person blogs, but I still get nearly a thousand page views daily on average.  If I said writer X is great, then maybe a half-dozen or more people who follow this blog or my Twitter account will respond.  Some positive, some negative, some indifferent, no doubt, but in turn that might lead to one or more of those people linking to/retweeting what I have to say and that could lead to some people checking out a book that may not be on the publicity radar.  What I do, others do with an even larger audience. 

That, I believe, is behind the arguments of several that if one wants to honor those who create such valuable services for fandom, that blogs should either have their own category or at least be eligible with the older format printed fanzines.  The argument regarding "discrete issues" sounds rather ridiculous when one stops to consider that periodicals now almost-continuously update their own publications online.  There just isn't anything "discrete" anymore in the digital age; all is subject to revision at a moment's notice, sometimes with supplements and with some incorporating blogs into the content.  The times, they have a'changed.  If some want to limit the newer formats from being eligible for a society award, that is, of course, their prerogative.  Just as it is the prerogative of those who don't care as much about society guidelines to note that it seems to be more a case of the old guard falling more and more out of step with the younger generations that do read SF.  It might behoove a few to realize that the majority of the times that people such as myself (at the relatively old age of 37 for a blogger/tweeter) are even made aware of the 'zines is when someone tweets or blogs about it.  That perhaps is as large of a supporting fact for having some avenue for blogs (and other social media, particularly those where it is more than a single person manning the helm) to be recognized (if, again, there just has to be fan categories.  Some might think it is akin to arguing over who gets the gold star for cleanest desk in first grade.) as anything else out there being argued.


My Awful Reviews said...

I am 28 years old and I have never read a 'zine about SFF. There's all the evidence you need of how important they are in my life. I do, however, read about 25 SFF blogs during the course of the week.

Larry said...

And doubtless follow even more twitter accounts by those who talk about SF of all stripes, right? I think someone (not me, since I have other things to do) could have a wealth of interesting articles to write about social media and fandom today and how it's impacted what sells and what doesn't.

My Awful Reviews said...

I've been thinking about doing something like that for a while now, but it's hard to do it and not come off sounding self-important (for me at least, I really need to work on that). But yeah, between Twitter and blogs, I hear hundreds of things each day about SFF, and I think maybe the top contributors need some recognition for that.

I'm also interested in seeing what the readership of the typical zine is like now. I'm a very small blog, but I get 100 to 250 pageviews a day. I'd hazard that I see more viewers than a lot of old-school zines do.

Larry said...

Blogs are as often (if not more so) introspective as they are extroverted in nature. I see no problem with you writing about this, Bryce, if you think it might draw attention to things that matter to you.

I suspect readership of fanzines are not all that high, but those that do read them do tend to be those who nominate the most for Hugos *shrugs*

Joe Sherry said...


Also, to touch on the "My Burning Ears" post, it's not a "campaign" for blogs as such. I think it's a recognition by some that what is going on with nominations in the fanzine category really aren't representative of where fan writing occurs today.

It's a recognition that except for the "discrete issue" issue, blogs are doing exactly what fanzines used to do, but are doing it in an easily accessible way.

This has been bugging me for several years now (and my Hugo nominations have followed accordingly). I did nominate File 770 back in 2010...but only because I followed it as a blog without discrete issues. 2011 and 2012 I nominated "traditional" blogs.

Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) said...

There are a few ways you can distinguish between fanzines and blogs, but the whole "discrete issue" thing is irrelevant and, if anything, feels like a technicality specifically there to exclude blogs. Fun exercise: see how easy it would be to turn your blog into a periodical. E.g. File 770, which Larry refers to, appears to be a basic Wordpress site ("Kubrick" theme, if I am not mistaken) that once in a while collects its posts, archives them, and calls those posts a discrete issue. It would take any blogger reading this all of 10 minutes to set up a similar structure, make a PDF out of it and upload it to If anyone cares enough about this to jump through those hoops in order to fulfill eligibility requirements, well, it'd be an interesting experiment.
And yes, I realize that fanzines are about more than delivering discrete issues and that just fulfilling the eligibility requirements doesn't guarantee making the ballot, let alone winning. Just pointing out that the discrete issue thing is not only irrelevant, it's a technicality.

Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) said...

Sorry, forgot to add: Cheryl Morgan made some great points in her comment on my post over at Staffer's Musings that raise questions about other categories. It all leads me to think that this is a period of transition, as the SFF landscape continues to change. What'll be really interesting: will the Hugo categories change along? And if not, what will that mean for the award?

Joe Sherry said...

Stefan: To be fair towards Mike Glyler, File 770 has been around since 1978 and added the online component in 2004 while maintaining a discrete issue component. Mike doesn't need to establish his bona fides for why / how File 770 qualifies or its place in fandom.

Just wanted to make that particular point. I'm working from a point of inclusiveness where podcasts, blogs, and the traditional fanzine all coexist as "fanzine"

Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) said...

Joe: understood, and I think we're on the same page. I was just trying to illustrate the point that rule changes based on technicalities are not that hard to circumvent, should someone wish to do so, because they're, well, technicalities. But yes, as I said in my original post on Staffer's Musings, I don't mean any disrespect towards fanzines and would much rather see everyone included. I don't want to see one or more groups excluded - which can't be said for everyone. Fanzines and blogs are both forms of valid forms of fannish writing. Both deserve a place in the Hugo Awards. If that's not in the Best Fanzine category, let's find a different spot for them.

Aidan Moher said...

The latest comment on the File 770 article, from Taral Wayne, is just priceless.

Larry said...

My jaw just about dropped reading that. I haven't had guest columnists ever here (and those who used to co-run this blog with me haven't been active in years), but all one has to do is just read a few blogs to see it's quite easy to contribute to another's content. The lack of awareness there is amazing.

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