Thoughts on Categories

I’ve just been having an interesting conversation with Mur Lafferty on Twitter about the fanzine category proposals. This all boils down to how you believe that Hugo categories should be organized. Here are some thoughts.

I’m firmly against any category distinction that is based purely on the means of delivery. We fought off the nonsense about having to have separate categories for fiction depending on whether it was online or on paper. I don’t see any reason for creating categories depending on whether words are spoken or written down.

We also, in places, distinguish between fiction and non-fiction. However, that does not happen with semiprozines and fanzines, probably because there are not enough candidates to make it worthwhile.

We also distinguish between novels and movies. We do that, not because one is on paper and one is on film, but because creating a movie requires a whole lot more than just a script. There’s acting, there’s camera work, costumes and special effects.

The contention of people wanting a fancast category is that making a fannish podcast or video requires a whole bunch of extra skills, just like making a movie does. I’m not convinced by that. I don’t think, for example, that the podcasts and videos I did for Salon Futura would lose much if they were transcribed to text. On the other hand, something like Star Wreck is clearly another prospect entirely.

If I were in Reno, I would be going to today’s BM with an open mind, interested to see what people had to say. As it is, I shall have to wait for the video.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Categories

  1. While I agree that distinctions based on electronic vs. paper are not necessary, at first glance I believe that there may be some room for movement on audio vs. written. Perhaps the skills necessary aren’t that different (you would know better than I as I have never made either, been nominated for a Hugo for either or won a Hugo for either), but I believe that the experience is different. Just like watching a movie, or a short film or TV show is different than cracking open the spine of a book and reading, I feel that the experience of listening to a pod cast is different.

    The tone of the speaker changes how one interprets the language, there is that little bit of lost imagination and input on behalf of the reader. Just ask someone who listened to a poor reading of an audio book and then read the actual book for themself.

    I, of course, could be swayed by arguments against that, but it is my first opinion on the subject. Unfortunately for me, and perhaps fortunately for everyone else at the BM, I am not in Reno, rather stuck in Washington, DC cleaning up the mess that our politicians have created. While your blog and your’s and Kevin’s tweeting, plus update calls from my parental units keeps me informed, it is not the same as hearing the arguments presented (somewhat) logically in person. I guess I will just have to ensure I get to Chicago to be present for the ratification arguments.

  2. As someone who’s done both paper fanzines and some stuff that would fit in the proposed fancast category, I really feel there isn’t a substantial enough difference. Deadlines, space issues, coming up with sufficient interesting content, and getting contributors to provide their contributions are pretty much the same in both forms. The only big difference is the piece of software you’re publishing with.

    I think the differences between the professional written and dramatic presentation categories are more than just the form; the written work is almost always the work of one person, and the dramatic presentations are almost always the work of a huge committee process.

    I attempted to say as much at today’s meeting, but I have a feeling I wasn’t really arguing to the main reason people were voting for the new category.

    1. I am sorely tempted to start a new fanzine that has podcast material with the transcripts available in print, just to see what they’d do. Fortunately I don’t have the time.

      1. I tried raising the multimedia point, too. It wasn’t directly answered, but I had the sense that a lot of the proponents of the split would want anything that dilutes the written word with other elements removed to Best Fancast.

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