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Draft Hugo Ballot 2014 – The Publishing Categories (Best Editor Long Form, Best Editor Short Form, Best Semiprozine, Best Professional Artist)

February 18, 2014

You can find my other nominations for the 2014 Hugo Awards here:

The publishing categories are all about the infrastructure of genre. Rather than being about celebrating the substance of genre (as in the fiction and media categories) or the people who love it (as in the fan categories), these categories are all about the people and institutions that provide the substance of genre to the people who love it. And therein lies the problem.

As Paul Kincaid pointed out to me the other day, one of the primary problems with the Hugo Awards is a tendency to give awards to people rather than individual works. This is problematic as it encourages people to vote for people’s reputations rather than their work over the previous 12 months. Looking at these awards with my amateur genre-historian and fan-historian hats on (yes… two hats, think of them as the crowns of upper and lower Egypt) I can see why the WSFS went down this path.

Magazines with strong editorial presences dominated the landscape of 1950s genre publishing. People like John W. Campbell and Hugo Gernsback were not content to pick stories and fade into the background, they put themselves at the centre of their magazines and made it clear that consumers weren’t just buying magazines but a way of looking at the genre. These are the people who inspired Stan Lee’s editorial voice and his desire to forge a relationship with the ‘true believers’ who read his comics. Full of personality and ideology, the pulp magazines made the infrastructure of genre entirely visible and so the Hugo was able to support a Best Professional Magazine category from 1953 till 1973.

The problem is that, when the pulp fiction market collapsed at the end of the 1950s, science fiction went from having dozens of professional magazines to little more than three, and even then they were often not large enough to support a professional staff. Forced to realise that there simply weren’t enough professional magazines to support a credible shortlist, the WSFS ditched the Best Professional Magazine category and moved towards rewarding individual editors. Unfortunately, when the pulp fiction market collapsed, science fiction’s remaining pool of professional authors migrated away from the visible infrastructure of the pulps and towards the more opaque editorial culture of the publishing industry. When authors jumped ship, genre culture followed them and Hugo voters were left trying to give awards to people from a culture that encouraged them to blend into the background.

I am going to make a few nominations in the Best Editor categories but I would like to see the WSFS take a long hard look at these categories: This is not the aftermath of the 1950s crash, there are now dozens of paying genre markets and I think moving away from personalised awards to institutional awards would not only reflect the genre infrastructure now, it would also put a stop to people nominating editors who manifestly spend more time promoting stuff on Twitter than they do copy-editing or working to improve their books.

I think replacing the two Best Editor categories with a Best Magazine and a Best Anthology award would better reflect the genre infrastructure that we currently have.

NB – As in my other nomination posts, I’ll be putting up links to other nomination posts. People should feel free to link to their posts in the comments but anyone putting themselves forward for ‘consideration’ will have their comments deleted.

hugologo

My Nominations for Best Editor (Long Form)

I think that this is a ludicrous category that serves no purpose other than to lure publishing industry professionals to Worldcon. Firstly, it is not always obvious who has worked on a particular manuscript. Some say that editors are always thanked or listed at the front of the book but I’ve been told that some editors do willingly remove their names from the books they’ve worked on. Secondly, even if you do know who has worked on a particular manuscript, there is absolutely no way of telling how much impact that editor had on the final manuscript. I’m sure that some editors are capable of spinning matted pubic hair into gold but anyone who has seen the difference between Lovecraft’s work as originally published and the restored texts will know that the impact of editors is not always benign.

No Nominations.

Alternate Lists of Suggestions

hugologo

My Nominations for Best Editor (Short Form)

Though undoubtedly less opaque than its long form counterpart, this category is still hamstrung by the fact that it is impossible to know how much editorial work went into a particular short story. I also feel that this award has come to function as a surrogate for two non-existent awards: The Hugo Award for Best Anthology and the Hugo Award for Best Magazine that has been excluded from the Best Semiprozine category by the WSFS’s baroque and unworkable fan/semipro/pro taxonomy. Some people argue that this category is a neat way of rewarding the editors who ‘pick’ good stories but even this process is opaque as nobody external to the process knows how many great and/or shit stories fail to make it into anthologies. I suspect that some anthologists ‘pick’ significantly better anthologies than they eventually produce. In addition to the secretive culture of professional publishing, this category is also held back by the field’s increasing failure to engage with an increasingly large and fragmented market for short fiction. What constitutes a Lightspeed story? How does it differ from an Asimov’s story? Does Clarkesworld have an editorial vision beyond a pragmatic desire to find the best in the field? I simply don’t believe that this information is available to most readers and voters, the job of the short-form editor is cloaked in the kind of mystery that makes popular awards distinctly impractical and I think the small pool of nominees (only nine different people in seven years) reflects this flaw.

Having said that… I’m still going to nominate two people whose work I regularly pay for with my own money:

Andy Cox – I could justify my decision to nominate Andy Cox with just the following sentence: He edits both Interzone and Black Static. Easily the best-looking magazines in the field as well as incredibly important and respected venues for rising and established authors alike. In addition to his work on Interzone and Black Static, Andy’s company TTA Press also publishes an idiosyncratic crime magazine called Crimewave and, most recently, a series of novellas including Spin by Nina Allan and Eyepennies by Mike O’Driscoll. Andy Cox is one of the people who work hardest to maintain the infrastructure of British genre culture and for that reason and many others, I am happy to be able to nominate him for this award.

Jonathan Strahan – Even before the Coode Street Podcast provided him with a venue in which to publically explore his attitudes to the genre, Jonathan Strahan has always struck me as being one of the field’s editorial auteurs. Though detectable in his on-going anthology series The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Jonathan’s editorial voice is most evident in his choice of projects and the way he seems to move between working on anthologies that excavate the history of the field (such as his on-going Jack Vance anthology series and The Best of Joe Haldeman, which he co-edited with Gary K. Wolfe) and anthologies that attempt to move things forward by updating traditional tropes (as with his new Fantasy anthology Fearsome Journeys). Strahan’s individual collections may contain some of the most celebrated stories of any particular year but what continues to interest me is the way that his story choices appear to be guided by a sense that the genre can only advance through self-knowledge and self-examination. Jonathan Strahan is unquestionably one of the finest and most adaptable anthologists operating in the field today.

Alternate Lists of Suggestions

hugologoMy Nominations for Best Semiprozine

Interzone Disclaimer: I have a conflict of interest here as I am currently one of their columnists… but please don’t let that put you off nominating them, HAHA! I first started reading Interzone because I was fed up with the advertorial nature of SFX and I wanted a well-written paper magazine that would tip me off about new books and films. Years later and I still maintain that IZ is the single best non-fiction venue operating in the field today as aside from publishing book reviews by some of the most respected British genre critics, it also has a slate of fantastic columnists who aren’t me including the infinity Hugo Award-winning David Langford the legendary BSFA Award-winning Nick Lowe and the deliciously tart and incredibly insightful Tony Lee. Like the Playboy of old, IZ is a magazine that you can buy solely for the articles but if you were inclined to read the short fiction you would find some of the best-known and most promising writers operating in the field today.

Black Static – Much like its sister-magazine, Black Static is one of the most beautiful short fiction magazines in the field today. Launched in 1994 as The 3rd Alternative, Black Static is one of the principle forces behind the rejuvenation of Horror. Less interested in misogynistic gore than in unsettling stories that sit somewhere between traditional Horror and literary Fantasy, Black Static has won a number of awards for its fiction but supplements that content with a commitment to high-quality non-fiction that rivals even that of Interzone. Aside from the excellent film reviews by Tony Lee and the awesome interviews and book reviews by the astonishingly prolific and astute Peter Tennant, the magazine also hosts fantastically candid columns by Ghostwatch writer Stephen Volk and author Lynda E. Rucker.

Strange Horizons – Fan-funded and fan-run, SH forms part of the backbone of online genre culture. Perpetually ambitious, Strange Horizons shows that it is possible to engage with genre culture on all fronts with equal insight and integrity. The site’s quality begins with its slate of insightful critics, extends to its collection of brilliant columnists (including John Clute and the momentarily de-fanged Renay) and upwards through its articles department and into a fiction department devoted to giving a voice to people who have been historically excluded from genre culture.

Alternate Lists of Suggestions

hugologo

My Nominations for Best Professional Artist

This has tended to be an award given to people who design book covers and I tend not to pay much attention to book covers so I’m not going to nominate anyone. I did spend a few minutes thinking about this and the only 2013 cover I could remember was the Alastair Reynolds one that looked like an enormous cock and balls.

No Nominations.

Alternate Lists of Suggestions

5 Comments
  1. Shaun CG permalink
    February 18, 2014 8:24 pm

    Haha, what a finish there Jonathan.

    I think I’m in agreement with everything you’ve said here, although I’m less familiar with Strahan’s work. I did try Coode Street for a bit but that was during what I’ve read you refer to as its bloated period, and I was put off by just how vast an undertaking it was to listen to the damned thing!

    Like

  2. February 18, 2014 11:11 pm

    Hi Shaun :-)

    Coode Street has a really interesting personality dynamic (as do all podcasts, including your own) and I think it’s improved quite a bit over the last year or so. There was definitely a point where it felt like you couldn’t follow what was being said without having not only read ALL THE BOOKS but sat discussing them on Charles Brown’s porch in Oakland. Thankfully, that atmosphere started to shift around the time the Readercon thing happened and now it’s settled into a far more accessible format that switches between tightly-focused discussion shows and more wide-ranging interview shows. It’s still more serious and constructive than light and fluffy but it’s no longer stodgy and so I respect their opinions quite a bit.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Draft Hugo Award Ballot 2014 – The Fan Categories (Best Fan Writer, Best Fanzine, Best Fan Artist, Best Fancast) | Ruthless Culture
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