Whither Fanzine?

This year’s Hugo Administrator, Nicholas Whyte, has written a lengthy blog post looking at some of the interesting features of this year’s voting. The thing that sticks out to me most obviously from the post is his comments on the Fanzine category.

The lack of enthusiasm for Best Fanzine is notable. We were surprisingly close to not giving a Best Fanzine award in both 2019 Hugos and 1944 Retro Hugos this year. The total first preference votes for Best Fanzine finalists other than No Award in both cases was 26.9% of the total number of votes cast overall (833/3097 and 224/834).

The threshold is 25%, so with 59 fewer votes for 2019 or 16 fewer votes for 1944 we would have had to No Award the category. Best Fanzine was also the category with the best percentage for No Award in the final runoff for both 2019 and 1944. (84.4% in 2019, 81.7% in 1944.)

On Twitter Aidan Moher has been calling for more appreciation for video fanzines. (Booktube appears to be the name for such things.) People making them certainly deserve recognition, but they belong in the Fancast category which is for:

Any generally available non-professional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects

Aidan also suggests collapsing Fanzine and Fancast to create a single category of fan-created works. Much as I would like to see fewer Hugo categories, I can’t see that happening. Neither the podcast people nor fanzine fandom would be happy.

There is, of course, also the question of what we are judging. Abi Brady mischieviously suggested that we also collapse Best Novel and BDP: Long Form, which makes the point very neatly. The trouble is that on the Internet it is very easy to mix media. Most “newspapers” already include video and podcasts in their websites. When I started Salon Futura I deliberately set out to include all three formats: text, audio and video.

But that doesn’t solve the problem. What shall we do about Poor Little Fanzine? Well for starters you should all be nominating Rachel Cordasco’s magnificent Speculative Fiction in Translation. Hopefully we can also get a lot of folks doing fanzine reviews between now and the next nominating deadline. And finally, Salon Futura is still a thing. It is no longer semi-pro because I can’t afford to pay people. The website desperately needs a re-vamp. If I were to put all my book reviews and con reports on there, and maybe give it some sort of issue structure, it would most definitely be a fanzine. And then you would all have to rush around finding other fanzines to vote for, because no one wants me winning any more Hugos, do they?

(And yes, it would still include audio. You can’t expect me to pass up the chance to mess with the category police.)

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5 Responses to Whither Fanzine?

  1. Mike Glyer says:

    Although the Best Fanzine finalists are in form magazines, blogs — text — my theory is that what Hugo voters are rewarding is the building of fannish communities.

    Looked at from that perspective they do have a common denominator with fancasts.

    I don’t know of any fannish award that has tried to define that activity as a category. I know of a Canadian and an Australian award that have a kind of fill-in-the-fannish-blank category where a conrunner might be one of the finalists, but so are many other different things.

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  3. Jonathan says:

    Hmmm. Interesting.

    There are plenty of fanzines around and not all of them are completely unworthy of ‘science fiction achievement’. Consequently, the lack of the numbers of those nominating fanzines for Hugos compared to other categories possibly (?) may quite simply reflect a lack of interest in them?

    The lack of votes (though by a greater number voting [908] than nominated [207]) for fanzines on the short-list either corroborates this and/or suggests that those that make the shortlist simply are not considered worthy of supporting by voting in that category.

    The sad truth may be that Best Novel (1,472 people nominating and 2,455 voting on the short-list) and Best Film/Dramatic Presentation Long Form (1,030 nominating and 2,516 voting on the short-list) are really the only categories that have broad appeal.

    Looking at the SF community beyond Worldcon, at my local SF group (which I know is not scientifically representative of the broader SF community including Worldcon’s, but may be illustrative and does tie in with the afore Hugo voting numbers) I tried to stimulate a discussion both at the Hugo nominating stage and just prior to the Dublin Worldcon in anticipation of the results. Alas folk were only interested in the novel and film categories.

    At SF² Concatenation we have long recognised this and only report on the results of the principal Hugo categories that we define as those garnering either 1,000 or 2,000 people nominating depending on the size of the Worldcon that year. (But we always link to thehugoawards.org so the other category results are only a single click away.

    Please don’t shoot the messenger.

    • Cheryl says:

      I have no doubt that Novel and BDP: Long will always garner far more interest than Fanzine. What concerns me, and I think Nicholas, is that Fancast and Fan Writer also get far more interest than Fanzine.

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