This blog has been silent for a while. It has been nearly two years since the attempt to eliminate the Semiprozine Hugo was defeated and committee assigned to take on the task of fixing an obviously outdated and broken definition.
You can read the committee’s 2011 report, proposal and some minority reports (committee members who either disagree with the proposal or feel it doesn’t go far enough, but couldn’t get sufficient support from other members) here.
As a member of the committee, I can say that this was a very difficult conversation among people with some strong opinions. In the end, this proposal represents significant improvement over the old. It draws real lines and eliminates several of the points that bothered people (for example, fanzines or prozines competing in the semiprozine category), but might introduce a few lesser evils in some people’s minds.
I am very opposed to proposals in the minority reports. Two effectively suggest that we do nothing or continuing looking, when we’ve already looked at all the aspects. The minority proposal from Ben Yalow would destroy the semiprozine category. Every year, they release a list of all the publications that received more than a handful of nominations in the category. Last year, there were 20 publications on that list of Semiprozines. Ben’s proposal would eliminate 13 of them as well as many other publications not on that list. It would be devastating.
Some will note that the proposal moves several of the 2011 nominees out of semiprozine and labels them professional magazines. Lightspeed, Locus and Weird Tales would be moved to professional based on their employee’s income or their publisher’s owner/employee’s income. There hasn’t been confirmation from Interzone, but they may be impacted as well. Clarkesworld, while not immediately eliminated, will probably pass the established threshold within two years. Is this a problem? I don’t think so. Publications that succeed and grow should move out of the category and allow the new blood their moments of glory. (Perhaps someday, as the number of professionals grows, we can bring back the Magazine Hugo to recognize the pros instead of focusing on Best Editor Short Form.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please keep the conversation civil. If you have questions about anything, I’d be happy to answer.
29 thoughts on “A long silence… and now a proposal”
I’m not sure it helps the average person, but one way I’ve used to help find out whether a ‘zine is a semipro or fanzine… is whether they’ve got a Donate button.
Of course the best way to know is to ask — but that is not what most readers want to know. And they shouldn’t have to guess. It should be as easy as nominating a movie for Best Picture.
I’m not registered for WorldCon, so I can’t vote on this.
Perhaps to avoid campaigning, there’s another solution. Create a badge with the voting status name on it, something that ‘zines apply for. Maybe through P&E, Duotrope, Ralan, or Absolute Write?
Then they can hang that badge onto their website. It would link back to the sponsoring website. Said sponsor would have a list of all the semiprozines and fanzines *that had registered*.
Not a list of them all.
I am fond of the Semiprozine Hugo. It has a right to continue. If people must be discarding Hugos, why not chuck out the movie Hugo and have Semiprozine/Traditional Hugo and Semiprozine/Non-traditional Hugo instead?
We anticipated that any rules change would require voter re-education of what belongs in the category under the new rules. The current rules are even less clear, so much so that several people actually nominated Tor.com in the semiprozine category, despite it being pretty darn clear that they are a professional outfit connected with MacMillan/Tor. The worst that happens if you nominate a pro for semipro in the new rules is that it doesn’t count. There isn’t a pro magazine award, just editor short form, so they don’t miss out on a nomination. Overall, this is a step forward. Perfect? No, but I don’t think such a beast exists.
The line between fanzine and semipro is pretty clear and very much in keeping with tradition. What we’ve spent more time on is the line between pro and semipro. Donations aren’t a reliable indicator in separating pro and semipro.
Anne, I edit a fanzine which has been nominated for a Hugo nine times and won twice. I’ve never even heard of P&E, Duotrope, Ralan or Absolute Write. After Googling, I discover that they appear to be aimed at would-be writers of fiction, not fanzine editors. They’re certainly not suitable places to administer any kind of scheme to pre-certify fanzines.
The semi-prozine category was created because Locus always won the fanzine award, yet was clearly something other than a fanzine. Now that Locus is clearly a wholly professional publication, it is time to change the rules and move Locus where it belongs. Moreover, Interzone and most of the others that Ben Yalow designates as professional publications are indeed professional publications. Let’s keep it simple: if a publication sells subscriptions, is available for sale at newsstands, collects donations, or pays any of its staff or contributors, it is a professional publication.
What concerns me with all of the committee’s deliberations is that there is really nothing that addresses electronically distributed publications. Are podcasts fan or pro? Can a Facebook group page be considered a fanzine? How much does the content have to change in order to be considered four equivalent issues? Nonetheless, the WSFS Constitution shouldn’t be too specific on a lot of this, since media platforms are continually changing, and definitions that work now will likely not work five years from now.
Then there is the case we have this year in the Fan Artist category where Randall Munroe was nominated despite clearly creating for-profit content. I suppose there will always be controversies, but the voters should have the final say. As Stu Segal wrote in his minority report, the voters have been naturally moving in a direction recognizing non-Locus semi-prozines, so perhaps a lot of this discussion really is moot.
Norman: If all the publications Ben designates as professional, truly are, then we would be basically moving towards eliminating the semiprozine category. I know that’s what Ben wanted to do two years ago and I fear that his new proposal would have the same effect by creating a situation were a “not enough viable candidates” argument could be used.
Your model: “if a publication sells subscriptions, is available for sale at newsstands, collects donations, or pays any of its staff or contributors, it is a professional publication” would eliminate every semiprozine. It’s even more drastic than Ben’s.
As for Stu’s remarks, two years of Locus not winning (in year’s outside the US, no less) does not make a trend or mean that the problem is solved. The fact of the matter is that if Locus isn’t a semiprozine, then it is taking a nomination away from a publication that is. Not making a change to the rules would be irresponsible.
Thanks for the news and explanation. I publish a smallish sf magazine, and it’s an all-consuming hobby, a labor of love. I have a real job, without which sinking money into this hobby would not be possible. In fact, going by the rules “technically” speaking I did not automatically disqualify from being a fanzine, meeting only one of the five requirements: I pay my contributors (as well as I can and still keep going). Still, I put a lot into the publication and its print copies are for sale, not (usually) distributed for free in its print version. (Though when I can I do like to leave free copies in the freebie areas; this is mainly an attempt at advertising, really.) I like to think it is fairly well-produced, and it is printed on glossy pages, with color covers, etc. Still, nobody (least of all me!) relies on it for any kind of professional income. For me it is a financial albatross, for the writers it is a few trips to the grocery store at best.
Anyway. The question is: do we want there to be sf publications (1) which pay their contributors and yet (2) which aren’t run as the primary (or a significant) profession on the part of the publisher(s).
I’m actually intrigued by Ben’s comments. Though I pay a (minimal) “professional rate” ($0.05/word) and the magazine is a SFWA-approved market for writers, it is a bit ludicrous to say that my magazine competes (or has any intention of competing) with F&SF, Asimov’s, Analog, Interzone, Weird Tales, etc. Further muddying the waters is that the PDF version of my magazine is available for free if you want it. (And Lightspeed, Fantasy, etc. are available online for free, despite having for-sale e-book versions.)
Throw in blogs, podcasts, … and it’s murky waters. I don’t envy your tireless and thankless work on this.
Still, Ben’s dissent is intriguing. “Majority content being professionally-paid” wouldn’t disqualify my magazine, as fiction does occupy less then half of the magazine. Of course, this is another opaque criteria which voters seem to need inside information to discern, without “badges” and campaigning. And I don’t know that it’s necessarily a good idea to demotivate a hobby-run zine from paying its contributors better. “Gee, I’d pay more for reviews, but then I’d be seen as competing with Analog, screw that.”
But this is all pretty self-serving (for me) and it’s hard to disentangle that side of things. I want there to be a narrow Hugo category tailor made just for me! No, not really. I’d like a set of categories that makes the Hugo voters happy in both process and outcome. The main question is: do the Hugo voters want there to be a meaningful category between a free, for-the-love-all-around fanzine on the one hand and Asimov’s on the other? If they do, I think this proposal can be a step in the right direction, though I agree it’s a bit on the opaque side, even for someone on “this side” of the publishing fence. I have no idea or way of knowing how Strange Horizons or Interzone really operates. (Other than writing them and asking, of course, or this pre-certification or badging idea.)
While it would disadvantage me (in the theoretical, nonsensical world where my magazine was in the running to begin with!) I might lean toward Ben’s idea, actually. Interzone, Shimmer, GUD — none of these pay “pro rates”. Other “semipro rate” outfits: Brain Harvest, Black Gate, ASIM, Bards & Sages, Space & Time, Crossed Genres, TLBE, … I think there’d still be plenty of competition out there in that gray in-between which helps writers get their start. Though I worry again that basically you’re demotivating semiprozines from being better and paying better. “Oops, better find some cheap content to fill this out, otherwise…” But you know, maybe that’s fair. Whether you’re being run as a business, or just well-heeled (or heel or not, hobbyist funding it anyway) enough to pay a “professional” rate, maybe it’s right that you have to compete with the “big guns”.
Still, there’s quite a difference between F&SF and my magazine 🙂 and I’d like to live in a world where I can still dream of sneaking onto a ballot here or there, or at least feeling like I have a chance of doing so. There are a dozen reasons off the top of my head for a pro writer to send a story elsewhere first, whether or not I’m paying whatever. At the top of the list might be my not having 15,000 or 25,000 in circulation.
Wow, rambling. Rambling! Hooray.
Sam, nice to have your input. BullSpec was one of the publications that several people on the committee believed should be competing in the semiprozine category.
First let me address something.. “Pro rates” in Ben’s definition is undefined. While the SFWA “qualifying rate” is often confused with “pro rate” no one wanted to tie it to an SFWA criteria. That leaves it without a set value, vague and unenforceable.
While I understand the desire to make the rules obvious to someone who is at all interested in reading the submission guidelines (which I hazard to guess isn’t many of the people nominating), the problem is that we wanted the categories to define a weight-class. Author pay is minor in comparison to staff pay, so publications with paid staff have a clear resource advantage over those that can’t afford to pay staff. As you point out, you don’t consider BullSpec to in the same league as the professional magazines. It wouldn’t be right to put you (and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Redstone, DSF, Apex…) in pro just because it was convenient.
Any rules change (including Ben’s) would require voter education. If we could do it with the old definition, we can do it with anything. As people find out that Locus, Lightspeed and others are ineligible they’ll stop nominating them. Ok, some people won’t, but there are people nominating Tor.com at the moment and that one seems like a no-brainer as pro in any set of rules. Point being, some people will always be confused, so we should go with the best fit for what we want the category to be representing and focus on education. I think we can do it. It’s been done before.
Thanks Neil. I guess I see Ben’s point about *overall budget* in a more abstract, edge case sense: say I don’t pay the staff much of anything, but go completely off the deep end and pay $2,000 per short story. (Hooray, the return of Omni!) Under the new rules I’d still be a semiprozine, even though I’m spending $50,000 a year just on fiction. Now, that kind of insanity is never going to happen, and if it did, it would be so awesome that someone would grant such a largess to short fiction writers that I wouldn’t care if they won the Hugo every year, forever.
I think I am very much on board with the new distinctions, granted of course that I don’t have to compete against Clarkesworld. 🙂 For Clarkesworld, as well as Apex Magazine, I have to be a little curious as to the relationship between the magazines, which don’t bring in the kind of money to pay (much) for staff (Clarkesworld is among the more generous to its writers, which I love), and the larger parent publisher, which maybe does have an at least part time staff person or two.
That kind of swings me back around to some of the phrases: “it provided at least a quarter the income of any one person”
This one is very hard for even the publisher to have any idea. If I pick the same artist for 4 covers in a given year, and a couple of illustrations, maybe I’ll have paid them $1000. I don’t have any way of knowing really whether they are a graduate student with $3000 or more in other income, or not otherwise employed and living on assistance, etc. (Again, this is theoretical edge case stuff, which is pretty pointless, so … sorry about that. It’s just where my brain goes.) Similar edge cases are around “was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner”. If I were paying a “digital editions editor” some fairly paltry sum ($250 per issue or something) to turn out good Kindle editions, etc. I don’t know what their other circumstances are, if they’re otherwise unemployed, or a stay at home parent, etc. (Again, stupid edge case stuff.) It seems to create a situation where I could be happily qualified as a semiprozine one day, then one of my fiction editors who is basically getting pennies an hour for the work they’re doing loses their “real” job and decides to go back to school … poof! Magic prozine status! Or I have to find a new fiction editor, etc.
Oh, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be people going to read submissions guidelines. I think a fair amount of people see the list of magazines at SFWA as “OK, those are prozines” — which in a lot of cases just … well, it isn’t the case. (Unless we’re redefining prozine, which would be more than fair, etc.)
The problem is that SFWA isn’t saying the publications are professional. They are merely stating that they are qualifying markets. The SFWA doesn’t give a hoot about whether or not the editors are professional. Interestingly, professional editors I’ve spoken to consider being paid a requirement… just like SFWA considers an author’s pay a requirement.
I see Ben’s fear, but really, it requires a publication with one hell of an unrealistic fiction budget and a staff insane to try it. I can’t imagine they’d go bankrupt rather quickly. Have we honestly ever seen a publication on the scale of Omni with unpaid staff? It seems to be a clause suited to tackle absurdly unlikely situations. (It is just as likely that a bunch of celebrity authors get together and create a magazine of their own work and give it away for free. We’re not safety-netting that one either.)
The 1/4 rule was designed to deal with publisher sponsored magazines. I can’t speak for Apex, but my publishing company has no employees and is lucky to finish a book a year. It makes next to nothing. Publishing is what I do after work. Without the day job (I work in education), I’d starve. The reason I predicted CW moving out of the category within two years is because of ebook subscriptions. They could tip the scale and just passed donations as our largest source of income. Lightspeed and Fantasy Magazine are run by Prime Books, which does have a full-time employee… it’s owner. That’s why they are pushed to pro.
The 1/4 rule is also meant to address part-time employees. It looks like a late change in language switched it to “any one person” and I’ve emailed the committee to get clarification and possibly a correction made. The idea was to focus on STAFF, not contractors, authors, artists, etc. I’ll be suggesting that the language revert back to the employees/staff language it originally had. Thanks.
Thanks again. I definitely don’t mean to pry into Wyrm too much. But… but… edge cases! What *if* Neil Gaiman released a fanzine, and printed it on gold leaf paper!? C’mon, think of the edge cases!
Edge cases will exist in any scenario. If they have to be dealt with (and I don’t believe they do), I don’t want to see solutions that cause considerable secondary casualties. Ben’s proposal does too much harm. In the end, if publications like yours can’t compete in the category, the definition is wrong.
OK, I see that I was probably too dogmatic in my first post. This is a thorny issue that a lot of people have thought about, without really coming to a workable solution. I suspect whatever changes are made will be inadequate to address every situation, but hopefully will address the most pressing ones.
I go back to my other comment that the voters seem to have the final say, no matter what the rules are. In addition to the example I cited for Fan Artist, there is another example of, to me, curious nominating this year. In the Dramatic Presentation-Short Form there is a music video which is not science fiction, not fantasy, and not particularly a dramatic presentation. It can charitably best be characterized as a Related Work. I presume the intent of the Dramatic Presentation categories is to honor dramatized science fiction and fantasy stories, yet enough voters found this non-SF/non-fantasy/non-story music video eligible enough to be nominated. So my point is that no matter what the original intent of the categories, we get works nominated because the voters obviously felt that a professional artist had fannish sensibilities or that a music video was adequately SF-ish to be nominated. What’s to say any modifications to the Semi-Prozine criteria won’t be usurped by the voters in the same way?
Norman: If nominated, the publication will be required to confirm that they are eligible before receiving the nomination. (Yes/No answer) That should prevent pros and fanzines from landing here. I see this more like short story, where a set word count determines eligibility whether or not fans count them.
I like the reference to voters counting words for the short story / novelette / novella categories. I had thought, and maybe erroneously, that if I voted for a novella that was actually a novelette some administrator would sort that out and tally the vote in the right place. “Don’t worry if you have not counted the number of words in a story that you want to nominate. Firstly you can check with some recommendation lists such as the ones linked to on this site. If the story is listed there it will almost certainly be in the right category. And if that doesn’t help, guess. The people who administer the voting are there to help, and they will generally move your nominations into the correct category if you have them wrong.” (I’ve always wondered how this is handled if I’ve already nominated 5 novelettes, and one of the short stories I picked is actually a novelette… Time to game the system! No, not really.)
That to me suggests that in the nomination round, if I submit a list of 5 fanzines and 5 semiprozines, some helpful administrator will sort things out and put things in the right place. I’m not counting words, after all. But this seems to be contrary to what some voters wish in this area, voting for something as a semiprozine (their vote carries an additional meaning: “this is not a fanzine!”).
And I might still be a bit worried about the “1/4” staff income stuff, preferring something more absolute, like $2,000 or whatever. There’s a couple of reasons:
1. there’s a blurry line between “staff” and “the artist I keep booking issue after issue because I like what they are doing and they get it done on time” isn’t there?
2. I don’t know what portion of the artist’s income my payment to him or her represents, and don’t have any way of knowing outside of impugning their privacy by asking
3. If by some chance the magazine is nominated and is asked to self-validate, this reveals how little the staff is paid for their work, perhaps against their desires for such to be known (oh, look, Neil didn’t pay Nick anything worth mentioning, apparently, etc.)
Talking about money just gets… dirty, all around. I really like focusing on the circulation side of things, or already demonstrably public info like, yes, the submission guidelines. Voters don’t have to check the word count (or the payscale) but that info is already public or is my own business to talk about (circulation numbers) or not. Something like “1,000 paid subscribers” for example, as an easy, hard and fast cutoff. A bit arbitrary, sure, but then so is “1/4 of a staffer’s income”. Or just “1,000 total circulation / readership”. (That would make Bull Spec disqualify as a semiprozine, but that’s fine. So, hey, how about 10,000 …) Though probably other folks would be more hesitant about pinning down what their circulation is, I dunno. (Though their advertisers would likely be interested.)
Maybe I’m making a mountain out of nothing, and the staff at nominated semiprozines wouldn’t mind being “outed” as the hard working, for the love volunteers they really are. And maybe it’s fair to say, “Hey, if you want to be considered for the Hugo for best Semiprozine, you have to be a little more open about how you’re running things.”
Maybe a non-arbitrary number is “paid circulation equal to or more than the average World Con membership numbers over the past 10 years”.
But I go back to the current rule set, the “5 things” which currently differentiate Semipro from Fanzine, rules-wise, and cut it back down to 3:
1. average print circulation of 1,000 or more
2. more than 15% advertising content
3. paid its contributors or staff in more than contributor copies
And say: if you meet one of these criteria, you’re a semiprozine. If you meet all of these criteria, you’re a prozine. Simple! Neat! Fun! Though it doesn’t do much of anything about online zines like Clarkesworld (“print circulation!” and “15%” of what exactly? does the Wyrm ad banner even count?) So dice it back down a bit:
1. average circulation of 1,000 or more
2. more than 15% of its operating costs are from advertising
2. paid its contributors or staff in more than contributor copies
And it starts to be something a little more interesting. (Though for all the points, the typical voter doesn’t know or in some cases have any way of knowing whether a given zine meets however many criteria.) So maybe a helpful administrator sorts that out when collecting votes. And still there’s nonsense questions. (If a donation is reflected as listing the donor’s name online and printing them in a book or issue of the zine, is that “advertising”?) Blah.
Don’t envy you having to make sense of it, that’s for sure.
Using your suggestion of:
1. average circulation of 1,000 or more
2. more than 15% of its operating costs are from advertising
3. paid its contributors or staff in more than contributor copies
Merely defines the lower limit, which is unnecessary since the upper limit of fanzine takes care of that. The struggle is defining what the upper limit should be. This is why the old definition doesn’t work.
Staff is anyone you would list on your staff page with some title relevant to the magazine. An artist or author isn’t staff, they are contracted help – temps, in a way.
Absolute dollar values were frowned on because it takes two years to correct them when they become obsolete… which would happen often.
Readership is a tough one because it can become a punishment for online magazines that have naturally better (and international) distribution channels. I suppose separate scales could be made, but again they’d have to be regularly adjusted. Paid readership isn’t useful because it doesn’t apply to all. Most podcasts, for example.
Advertising didn’t get much attention. Doesn’t always apply and wasn’t a good way to define an upper limit.
Of course you could always say something like total staff pay (or owner income) is larger than the content budget.
I meant to suggest more clearly (in that wall of half stream of consciousness text) that the criteria for the lower limit and the upper limit would be the same, it’s just how many of the items on the list that sets things apart. 1 item — lower limit. All 3 items — upper limit.
I’ll put out some numbers, if that’s OK. Total content budget for a year for me is about $5,000. (Fiction, art, non-fiction, poems, etc.) I have one current “staff” member, that being my poetry editor, who is paid only in gratitude and a contributor copy. (Though I’d love to make him take something for his time one of these days.) “Income” for the zine is quite negative, though someday I’d like to break even, sure.
Guesstimating that an issue of Asimov’s has 50k to 60k words of fiction in it, 12 issues a year, let’s give a lowball fiction content figure of $30,000. For Clarkesworld I’ll guess something like 7k words of fiction per month, and put your fiction content budget around $6,500 per year.
You know, the idea of income not being larger than the content budget… I kind of like it. It basically says, if you’re putting nearly all of any money into the content (or printing budget), you’re a certain kind of publisher, and a category of idiot (er… patron of sf) that we’d like to recognize. Maybe it’s because you’re not as successful at business, or just starting out, but probably it’s because you’re doing it part time. Or maybe mostly it’s because you’re not as successful at business.
I dunno. I’ve almost argued myself into the position of just doing it:
1. fanzines: no pay for content, no cost for copies
2. semiprozines: “semipro pay” for content and/or some cost for copies
3. prozines: “pro pay” for content
And just letting voters/administrators sort out the votes. Not tying it to SFWA’s lists or definitions (which the “not a Hugo Award” Campbell doesn’t, either) and saying, hey, if you want to be a semiprozine, don’t pay “pro rates”. Otherwise, too bad.
Define pro rate for non-fiction. Define pro rate for fiction.
Also that model pits a magazine with 6k against magazines with 300k. They aren’t remotely in the same league when it comes to resources or weight class. How is that fair?
I also have a problem with saying that all it takes to be a professional is a checkbook. No talent necessary.
“If nominated, the publication will be required to confirm that they are eligible before receiving the nomination. (Yes/No answer)”
Meaning you trust the publication to tell the truth without the Admin doing any checking? And how would the Admin check–by examining tax returns?–I don’t think so. What if the publication is found to be fudging the truth after the nominations come out? After the final results are announced?
This whole discussion reminds me of the quote about the definition of science fiction (or maybe it was pornography!), to paraphrase, I can’t define it but I know it when I see it. The definition of semi-prozine is a moving target, not at all like the well defined word count rule for short story.
And I’ll repeat a question I had originally, namely that I have seen very little discussion about how electronically distributed works such as websites, podcasts, Facebook groups, and blogs fit into the equation.
Yes, they already ask nominees this question, so this is business as usual. It has always been possible for a candidate to lie. No other category is required to submit proof, so why assume semiprozines will be dishonest.
Semiprozine is short for semi-professional magazine. Essentially, not quite a professional magazine. One of the characteristics professional editors I’ve spoken to claim makes them professional is that they make their living from the job. I had originally proposed that the editors (and/or owners) be the criteria, but the bar was lowered to any staff and 1/4 pay. It’s a compromise to give the category clarity it needs. Know it when I see it just isn’t something you can enforce and that philosophy has (over the years) turned the category is currently a mess.
That’s because the committee generally accepts the rule that added blogs, websites and podcasts as eligible in categories, so long as they meet the other criteria we established. We didn’t endorse any changes.
Personally, I think bloggers should be eligible as fan writers and see podcasts as just a form of audio periodical/magazine. I don’t buy the dramatic presentation argument floated by some people, as very few of them are… except audio dramas (a straight reading isn’t). I don’t see forums or websites (that aren’t already magazines/blogs) as something I’d ever consider. Again, all my opinion.
Some great discussion here–thanks all.
I’m working up my own blog post on this, so I don’t have my thoughts fully organized yet. I will say that defining pro zine by whether its staff or owner is 1/4 paid seems a good yardstick.
But attempting to also define pro zine by whether it pays a pro rate for its fiction I think shows a lack of understanding of why amateur-but-pro-paying zines work so hard to be able to pay pro rate, and why they even though paying pro rate are still not on even footing with zines that can both pay pro rate and pay their staff.
That to me is what this revising of the Semiprozine category is all about. Locus and for example Strange Horizons are on totally different footings, so it makes no sense that they fall into the same category.
Scott H. Andrews
Thanks for the excellent discussion. This has clarified many questions I’ve had. I’m just a reader, so not as invested as many on this forum, but it’s been enlightening nonetheless. The business meeting next week should be interesting!
I wrote my blog post–it’s track-backed above. I’ll summarize my main point here:
Attempting to define pro zine by whether it pays a pro rate for its fiction shows a fundamental misunderstanding of why non-pro zines, like my magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, do it.
We do it out of respect. Respect for authors, in an era when it’s impossible to make a living writing short fiction. Respect for readers who crave great short stories. Respect for a form of fiction that has a proud tradition in our genre; that we know is in financial decline but we love it so much we do it regardless.
Mr. Yalow seems to think it’s an arbitrary decision for zines to use their money to pay pro rate rather than pay their staffs. He could not be more wrong. Imagine giving an avid reader $100 to spend in the dealer’s room at a con. Sure, it’s theoretically possible they could spend it on steampunk goggles or chainmail t-shirts. But, as any avid reader can attest, their love for fiction means that the only actual outcome would be them walking out of the dealer’s room with $100 of books. If not more.
I hope any readers who care about pro-paying non-pro zines will attend the Preliminary Business Meeting Thursday morning at WorldCon or will spread the word to others who are.
Scott H. Andrews
Re: “I also have a problem with saying that all it takes to be a professional is a checkbook. No talent necessary”
I didn’t mean to imply that it would make the magazine a professional magazine. I meant only to imply that it would make them ineligible for the semiprozine Hugo.
Anyway: good luck at the meetings, and thanks again for championing and working so hard at this process.
This sounds more like an argument over whether or not eliminating certain non-professional magazines from the semiprozine category is justified if it makes the rules simpler. I can’t believe this is a discussion sane people are willing to have. This isn’t the “Best Semiprozine that was Convenient to Categorize in a Voter-obvious Manner Award.”
As a voter, I’d be happy to look at recommendation lists for semiprozines, just like I do for short stories. People who want to count words or verify status of semiprozines are a valuable part of our community and will always be there. Making hard-working semiprozines ineligible for the sake of giving simplicity to the rules is a horrible precedent and I hope that this pay rate clause is prevented by the people attending that meeting.
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