Thursday, July 30, 2009

Save the Semiprozine Hugo

Since Worldcon is impending, I guess I'll throw in one last time on the fight, led largely by Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld on the Save the Semiprozine Hugo blog, to keep the category of "Best Semiprozine" in existence for future Hugo Awards. If you're not up to date on this, go to that site and get caught up. Copious info is available. The basic upshot of it is that some people in the World Science Fiction Society would rather see this category go away, viewing it as poorly defined or overlapping with other categories or simply pointless because only one particular publication usually ever wins it.

The last time I mentioned this on the blog, I drew some email from a handful of folks on both sides of the matter, none of which expressed pleasure with what I said. I think this was because I didn't think the rules governing it make a lot of sense--and said so--so everyone thought I was opposing their position no matter what it was. Let me be clear: I do, in fact, full-throatedly support the ongoing awarding of Hugos in the category Semiprozine, and categorically reject the major competing ideas (e.g. get rid of the category--dumb; lump it in with "fiction editor-short form,"--dumber; etc.). But here are the rules for the category, copied directly from Clarke's site, copied in turn from the official rules:

"The Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society defines a Semiprozine as follows:

3.3.10: Best Semiprozine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction or fantasy which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues, at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which in the previous calendar year met at least two (2) of the following criteria:

  1. had an average press run of at least one thousand (1000) copies per issue,
  2. paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication,
  3. provided at least half the income of any one person,
  4. had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising,
  5. announced itself to be a semiprozine.
Number 3 strikes me as silly, and number 1 is obsolete now that printed short fiction is all but dead, but since a publication need meet only two of the five, it's workable. I don't know what the answer is, but my vote would be to leave it alone if a change will cause undue havoc. It's not hurting anyone, and it serves a useful purpose as a category because it makes a proper space for these kinds of publications that are not full-blown pro mags but are also not fanzines like M-Brane. If change needs to happen, then it should be a new-century redefinition of what's what as far as zine categories, but there should still be a semipro category even under a new set of rules.

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Anonymous said...

All I have to say is, based on the criteria, stop calling M-Brane a fanzine right now! Call it a semiprozine, you already pay in 'other than copies'... sounds like a semiprozine to me come next year. :)

Christopher Fletcher said...

I guess since only TWO of the five criteria criteria need to be met, and I already meet #2, then I could simply "announce" it to be a semiprozine, thereby meeting criterion #5. The one I really want to crack, however, is the one about it providing "at least the half the income of any one person" (me)!

Anonymous said...

And... while I sound facetious... I'm serious... the old Vanguard will fall against these new efforts and implementations that we see with M-Brane and Apex and Steampunk magazine... among others. From all the pdf and iphone and podcast zines will rise some of the big players of the future in genre fiction publication.

But right now, the problem with the big three is that they don't seem to get how to carry their business models forward... while the people doing interesting things in fiction publication are sometimes not so good at positioning themselves as valid platforms for worthy genre fiction.

Neil's efforts are awesome and an example of taking positive action.

I'm not sure if the M-Brane readers or you or Neil would agree, but it seems to me that the current categories are insufficient in terms of all these iterations we are seeing.

I get what you say about leaving it alone, and that is probably the best response until someone chooses to deal with the short fiction world _as it exists_. Of all the paying fiction podcast markets, is there not one that deserves acclaim as best of field? What about all these pdf zines, available for free or by subscription? If they have the publishing history, and are paying markets, why should there not be a category for this form? Would it not spurn on competition?

And, definitely, to differentiate enthusiast pubs from those that seek to be more, pay rates are a good guide.

Anyway, I really don't know much about the business side of small press magazines, so these are just thoughts that may very well change as more informed voices chime in. :)


Anonymous said...

The income part would be nice :)


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