Saving the Semiprozine

This one, sadly, is not a joke. As most of you will know, last year’s Worldcon gave first passage to a motion that would eliminate the semiprozine category. It was fairly clear from the debate that most of the people in the Business Meeting had no idea how many great small press magazines exist out there. A little education was in order, so some of us involved in semiprozines have got together to produce a web site that highlights the huge range of quality material available. Hopefully this will persuade WSFS members that our category deserves to be kept.

Many thanks to Neil Clark for doing most of the heavy lifting on this one. I just provided some ideas, and dragooned Kevin into writing something about the technical side of WSFS politics, which will appear on the site in due course.

Fair disclosure: I moved Emerald City into the Semiprozine category in 2006 and was nominated there. I’m also currently on the staff of the 2009-nominated Clarkesworld Magazine.

10 thoughts on “Saving the Semiprozine

  1. Kudos!

    This time last year I wouldn’t have understood why semiprozines were important. But thanks to you and others I’ve had a crash course in the genre end of publishing and I can see that they’re the way small presses get in the market and get noticed, which is mostly dominated by big gorillas, both in the genre end of the pool and probably even more so elsewhere (I know this is true of educational publishing but don’t want to generalize). Also its a venue for new writers who aren’t getting into prozines yet, I understand that as well.

    Maybe if folks understand the larger context they’ll be more open to seeing the category persist.

  2. The problem with this category is that this award almost always goes to Locus. Most Hugo voters just go for the name with the most visibility without much consideration for what the other titles nominated have to offer, which is main reason the motion was made to eliminate the semi-prozine category from the Hugo Awards.

    I’ll admit Locus provides a valuable service to spec-fi community and I’m impressed it has been excellent keeping to a schedule, but its journalism has been disappointing. Didn’t it erringly report that Forrey Ackerman had died twice before he actually did?

  3. re: “the Locus Award” concern. Then change the rules to move Locus elsewhere … like Best Editor (of some length).

    “Maybe if folks understand the larger context they’ll be more open to seeing the category persist.”

    The Worldcon Business Meeting is very much an old fashioned Town Hall meeting – gotta be there to vote. If anyone is a) attending Worldcon and b) thinks the semiprozine category should remain … well, y’all really should go to the Business Meeting. Do you want the motion to pass by one vote ?

  4. Cheryl, is it the semiprozine you’re trying to save, or the semiprozine Hugo category? It seems like the latter isn’t much help to the former.

    I imagine all the arguments one could make about narrowing and/or breaking up the category so as to make the things in it more comparable have already been argued at length over the last twenty years, so I won’t try to make any.

    That said, the particular form of the motion passed (if Wikipedia has it right) seems quite bizarre.

  5. David:

    Wikipedia, as usual, is accuracy-challenged. The full text of the actual motion passed can be found here.

    And yes, you are right, we are already going through another iteration of “they should make more categories so that my favorite things stand more chance of winning”. It ain’t gonna happen. There are only three politically feasible solutions: kill semiprozine, do nothing, or find some way to change the existing category so that people are no longer unhappy with it.

  6. David Moles:

    The bizzare wording in that version of the Wiikipedia article on Best Semiprozine was, in my opinion, rhetoric on the part of opponents of the motion or simply people misunderstanding the effect. By the same convoluted argument, one could claim that there is still a Best Professional Magazine category, just no award in that category.

    I’ve edited the article to what I consider a more neutral tone, including the reference to the actual text of the proposal on SFAW.

  7. Good edit. I made one edit myself (“previously qualified” -> “previously would have qualified”) to clarify that it’s about the previous eligibility criteria, rather than (say) having previously appeared on the ballot.

    I think one of the things people find most confusing about the ‘zine categories is that they seem to commensurate incommensurables in a way that the other categories seem at first glance not to. I imagine there’ll be an outcry the first time somebody gets nominated for “Editor, Long Form” for editing nonfiction.

  8. David:

    One of the things that people have most difficulty taking on board about the Hugos is that there is always a balance between inclusiveness and precise definition. So yes, there are people who want fiction and non-fiction separated. There are also people who want separate novel categories for science-fiction, fantasy, alternate history, YA, and so on. Frequently they argue that the definition of a category is imprecise and end up effectively wanting to exclude a whole host of previously-eligible work. If that is pointed out to them, they then start to argue for multiple new categories, some with overlapping definitions so that a work could conceivably win in both. There is no simple answer. The Hugos generally take a path of maximum inclusiveness in order to give as many people as possible a chance at glory, and because that way we don’t end up having to change the rules each time someone invents something new.

    I note in passing that Perdido Street Station won the Clarke Award (which is only for science fiction) and the British Fantasy Award (which is only for fantasy). Somewhere, I am sure, there will be someone running a lone campaign to have one of those awards rescinded on the grounds that it “must be wrong”.

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