Why Should We Save the Semiprozine?

evAs a current nominee for the Best Fanzine Hugo, you might wonder why I’m writing about saving the Best Semiprozine award. Also, given that in the past I’ve decried the fact that LOCUS is a perennial winner of the Best Semiprozine award, thereby calling the value of the award into question, might be another reason to make you wonder why I’m here. Last, if you picked up Electric Velocipede, you would probably feel pretty safe in calling it a magazine, and not think twice about it.

So why would someone who publishes something that looks every bit a Semiprozine (or more) yes still INSISTS on being considered a fanzine want to save the Semiprozine award? I mean, it would seem that I’m doing everything I can to avoid being the Semiprozine category, right?

Well, yes and no.

Until recently, I did every aspect of Electric Velocipede on my own. I even started out by making copies and the collating and folding the magazine myself. Even when the printer started doing that for me and I started to pay contributors in more than just copies, I still considered myself a fanzine. Staying in the Best Fanzine category was, in some ways, a source of pride.

The Semiprozine category for me, seemed to be publications where a group of people were putting it together. Or it had sort of a newsstand look to it. The publications that get nominated for the Best Semiprozine were on a different level from where I was.

I always looked at the Semiprozine category as something to aspire to. Something I could attain if I was able to increase my subscriber list, have color covers, have people help me put the magazine together… I never really thought I would get nominated for a Hugo, so my posturing on the two categories was moot.

But then, everything conflated together. I was honored with making the Hugo ballot in the Best Fanzine category, I partnered with Night Shade Books to increase my exposure/subscriber numbers, I started using color covers, and I got an assistant to help me put the magazine together. My hand, it would seem, was being forced. I could not continue on as a Fanzine.

Except, there’s talk that the Semiprozine category is being considered for elimination from the ballot. This would be a shame. There are a lot of nominees who work exceptionally hard on their publication who would miss out on being on the ballot. And for anyone who says that’s a load of crap, well, you’ve probably never been nominated for a Hugo, have you?

It’s freaking awesome.

While at times the Semiprozine award looks like the Hugo Award for LOCUS Magazine, it’s not. It has won almost every year that the award has been in existence, but if you look at Best Editor and Best Fanzine over that same time period, those awards don’t show much more diversity than Semiprozine.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.

Yes, for a long time, it was hard to know who was a Semiprozine and who wasn’t. But now, with websites like this, you can easily see all the qualified candidates. LOCUS doesn’t have to be the default candidate. It doesn’t have to be the default winner. If more people nominated, and more people voted, you might be surprised to see what the ballot looked like.

And yes, this is self-serving. But I’ve worked my ass off. I’ve gotten on the Hugo ballot through my own hard work. I published Electric Velocipede for almost nine years (16 issues) before I was on the ballot. I was working hard to get nominated for Best Fanzine so that I could move up to Best Semiprozine and now you’re going to take it away?

It seems unjust to take away from the people who work so hard on their publications, LOCUS included. LOCUS is a great magazine. I look forward to reading it every month. But I also look forward to a lot of the magazines/publications listed on this site. The people who put out these amazing publication deserve the recognition they get in this category.

Shame on you for wanting to take that from them.

4 thoughts on “Why Should We Save the Semiprozine?

  1. I’ve been a nominee (and am eagerly looking forward to getting destroyed by either Mr. Klima or Mr. Glyer in a few weeks) but I’m turning more and more against the category.

    Here’s the thing, there’s an ideal and a reality. The real deal is that Locus is going to win. Period. That’s all there is to it. Yes, when WorldCon finds its way to the British Isles, it loses, and yes, there were a couple of times when it lost in the States in the increasingly distant past, but the reality is that Locus is going to win 9 years out of ten.

    This isn’t the ideal fix. At least in my eyes. Make it a fiction category. Specifically say that it’s a category for fiction magazines of a certain size. That would also eliminate a couple of other faves (mine being IROSF) but it would lead to more turnover in the category as there are a great many good Semi-Pro fiction mags out there. There’s a non-level playing field with newszines and fiction mags battling each other, and that’s going to mean that Locus is going to win nearly every year. Make it a fiction category and there’ll be more change.

    The fact is, I love semi-prozines. I absolutely love them. I regularly read several, but the award is broken beyond belief. Locus has been allowed to dominate. The same thing could be said of Dave Langford and the Best Fan Writer. It’s gotta be fixed and the only suggestion anyone seems to have brought to the table is eliminating the category.

    Of course, I’m also totally into the idea of eliminating the Best Editor awards and making Best Pro Magazine, Best Anthology and giving the editor of Best Novel a notation, awarding the work and not the person, so my opinion would seem to be pretty lame…


  2. First–congratulations on the Best Fanzine nomination! And may it be a launching point to Best Semiprozine if that’s the direction you want to head! 🙂

    To Chris above–I personally would love either of the two suggestions I’ve seen over stripping the category entirely–either awarding “lifetime achievement” awards or saying you can only win once every N years. Or, alternatively, making more categories so “news” and “product” aren’t up against each other (which seems a very strange thing to me).

  3. Kaolin Fire:

    The usual counter-arguments run thus:

    Lifetime Achievement: That means you’re saying that the winner is “Best X Who Isn’t N,” which may cheapen the award.

    Splitting by Content: The existing category is perceived to have a very shallow nominee pool already, so splitting it will make the problem worse. There should be enough works out there in a category so that is really is an honor just to be nominated. Indeed, the common argument for removing the category made by the regulars at the Business Meeting is that there are so few eligible works that it’s not really an honor to be nominated.

    (Note that I am not taking a stand for or against this proposal and my opinion won’t be heard unless I have to use my casting vote on the ratification as Business Meeting Chairman.)

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