Fanzines, Semiprozines, Best Related Work, Whatever
Over at File 770 Vincent Docherty, Hugo Award Administrator for AussieCon 4, discusses in some detail as to whether blogs and Website are eligible for consideration in the Best Fanzine and Best Semiprozine categories (if they meet the general criteria of either category). The short answer appears to be yes, although I really do suggest folks interested in the subject head over to File 770 and get Docherty’s detailed response.
This question has some interest to me because a) I’m a Hugo winner for the category of Best Fan Writer, for work I’ve written here, and perhaps because of that b) I’ve been asked by curious folks whether I think Whatever qualifies as a “fanzine.”
My short answer to b) is no, I don’t think it does. I think “fanzine” to a large extent implies a purpose-driven publication, be it online or otherwise; i.e., the point of the thing is to be, as the rules specify, a “generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects.” Whatever isn’t that; it’s a generally available non-professional publication devoted to whatever the hell John Scalzi feels like writing about.
Now, I think I write enough science fiction-related material here to be eligible for the Fan Writer category, which is a good thing considering the Hugo that now resides in my daughter’s room. But Whatever as a whole isn’t enough about that to suggest to me it qualifies in the fanzine category. So I wouldn’t put it forward for consideration as a fanzine, and if it were nominated in the category — which to be clear I would consider a long shot anyway — I would decline the nomination. I do certainly feel a substantial number of blogs and sites would qualify as fanzines, because they are primarily focused on SF/F-related subjects. This just isn’t one of them. Also, of course, Whatever does not qualify as a semiprozine in any way.
(Update: I am informed by those who know, both privately and in the comments, that my definitions here for fanzine are more conceptually restrictive than how the category works in the real world, and that various fanzines have been nominated and have won without a huge percentage of content related to SF/F directly. In which case I’m happy to backtrack a bit, although I will say as a personal matter I’d still be uncomfortable with a fanzine nomination for Whatever in the category.)
A related question is whether Whatever might qualify as a “Best Related Work,” the new Hugo category that arises from the ashes of the Best Related Book category, which I won this year, for a book featuring essays originally presented here on Whatever. My thought on that: I kind of hope it’s not. It seems to me that this category should be for discrete rather than continual works — i.e., projects of a specific and finite scope, as opposed to ongoing and meandering projects.
As an example of what I mean, if on Whatever I decided to do a series of entries composed of subtantial critical commentary on the Best Novel Nebula winners — one a week for the 45 (or so) weeks it took — when it was done, I would guess that the “Traveling the Nebulas” series might be eligible for a Best Related Work nomination, presuming anyone nominated it: it’s on a specific topic; it has a finite length. So a project on Whatever (or any other online site) could be eligible in the category, while Whatever itself isn’t.
Mind you, this is only my thought on the Best Related Work category; I could be wrong about the details of how it’s supposed to work. That said, to my mind it would be a shame if the Best Related Work category devolved into an ersatz “Best Web Site” category. The Fanzine and Semiprozine categories are ones in which Web sites can find recognition; Fan Writer is a category where the blog writers themselves can get that same recognition. I think Best Related Work should be about specific and limited-scope projects.