Listening to the Coode Street Podcast today, I noticed that Jonathan had completely misunderstood the nature of the changes to the semiprozine category. I’ve left a comment on his blog, but I figured it might be helpful to post it here as well, because I suspect that many other people are also confused.
Here’s the easy version.
If no money changes hands then it is a fanzine.
If the contributors get paid but the staff of the magazine do not, then it is a semiprozine.
If the staff of the magazine get paid then it is professional.
For those who are still confused, here’s some elaboration.
The basic fan ethic is that you do what you do for the love of it, not to make money. The only “payment” fans should expect for what they do is that fans who benefit from their work should also do things on a volunteer basis to pay back for all of the free stuff they have received from others.
However, as with all artistic activity, not all creativity is commercial. Our writers need money to support them. Fans can help by creating publishing companies and magazines that take in money to pay the writers, and cover costs. Provided that the fans themselves don’t take payment, they are still operating within the fan ethic.
If, on the other hand, the staff of the magazine get paid, then clearly they are running the magazine as industry professionals and should be judged as such.
There are, of course, inevitable wrinkles and complications, because real life is not as simple as award rules, but the above outlines the basic principles on which the split is based.