Save the Semiprozine – Part 4 (conclusion)

When I launched this site, I told fellow editors that we needed to focus on our strengths and accomplishments to make our case. In a page right out of Horton Hears a Who, we’ve stood up and screamed “We’re here! We’re here! We’re here!” and I think people have heard us. Now we count on them to do what they believe is right.

Several times over the last few months, the discussion has turned to “we know the category is defined poorly, but first we must save it.” My mistake has never been addressing what comes next. Next we fix the definition.

I’ve been told that far greater minds have tried to address the problem, but sitting here hip-deep in semiprozineland (and speaking entirely on my own behalf), I’d like to offer you what I see as the defining characteristic of a 21st century semiprozine: their editors don’t make a living at this. Seeing Mike’s discussion at File 770, I feel for him. The definition of Fanzine is changing under their feet as well, but at its heart, it seems that a lot of people believe that a defining characteristic of Fanzines is that they don’t pay anyone. So how is this for a crazy and overly simplistic model for the future (should we survive):

Fanzine: A publication primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy in which contributors and editors are unpaid.

Semiprozine: A publication primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy in which contributors are paid and from which none of the staff receive their primary income.

Professional Editor (short form): An editor, not covered by the above categories, of at least four (4) anthologies, collections or magazine issues primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year.

So that’s my little pitch for the future. First we save the Semiprozine Hugo and then we make it more meaningful. In the last few months, I’ve come to know a lot more about my colleagues in the semiprozine category. Representing them as a nominee and through this site has been an honor that cannot be taken away, win or lose. It is my sincere hope that the Best Semiprozine Hugo is around for years to come. I hope that you feel the same and will join me in the discussion that follows after we win.

Save the Semiprozine – Part 3

If you are just coming into this discussion at this post, I suggest that you check out part 1 and part 2. Same rules apply.

“And remember the point I made about how few of the fiction semiprozines ever get nominated in the existing category anyway. There’s no reason the editors should be discouraged any more than they presently are (if they are, which I doubt) by having to compete for Best Editor, Short Form.” –Mike Glyer (in comments at File 770)

At present, short fiction semiprozines get nominated for the Hugo. Just because it doesn’t happen as frequently as it does for non-fiction magazines is irrelevant. Neither will be represented by the Hugos if they are forced to compete within Best Editor Short Form alongside that category’s perennial nominees.

“A friend wrote that the news of Charlie Brown’s death had convinced him to vote against abolishing the Semiprozine category. He thinks the timing is unsavory, and it would be disrespectful to the memory of a giant in the field.” –Mike Glyer (post at File 770)

One of the things that saddened me in this process was learning that there were people involved in this movement just to keep Locus Magazine from winning more Hugos. I won’t lie, I would have liked to have seen someone else win from time to time, but it was the will of the voters and that was that. There has been a great deal of disrespect to both Charlie and the people who voted for him and that is a shame.

When I launched this site a few months ago, I contacted Charlie for the profile information on Locus Magazine and invited him (like the others) to participate in any way he felt comfortable. He was well-aware of the sentiment against him. He told me: “As the 800 lb gorilla, we probably should keep out of this. Anything else will seem self-serving, whether intended as such or not. I *do* think there are too many good publications being disenfranchised for the amendment to make any sense.”

It’s a shame that any of this should be about one person. In some circles this whole situation is believed to be a scorched-earth solution to a perceived problem with one person. It is time to move on. The vote needs to happen. We need to put this behind us.

This series will wrap up tomorrow with part 4 – looking to the future.

Save the Semiprozine – Part 2

If you are just coming into this discussion at this post, I suggest that you check out part 1. Same rules apply.

The next few quotes will from a recent post and comments at File 770.

“When I looked at the wordage rates offered to beginning writers by semiprozines and prozines, I was surprised to see they often aren’t that far apart, by no means the great chasm I expected. The competition to develop a successful magazine involves more than money, it requires a lot of other skills and personal intangibles, too. Exactly the spectrum of abilities already recognized in this Hugo category:

3.3.8: Best Editor Short Form. The editor of at least four (4) anthologies, collections or magazine issues primarily devoted to science fiction and / or fantasy, at least one of which was published in the previous calendar year.

The present rule is not limited to editors of printed publications. It isn’t restricted to professional publications. Fiction semiprozine editors are already eligible for the award as presently defined. There will still be a Hugo recognizing their services if the Best Semiprozine category is eliminated.” –Mike Glyer, (in Post at File 770)

The new rules would protect the fanzines from becoming once again dominated by the semiprozines. Historically, this makes sense. The Semiprozine category was created to do just that. I applaud the efforts to be fair to the fanzines, but at the same time, I must cry foul when it comes to pushing the semiprozines into best editor short form. Mike illustrated my concern beautifully through another history lesson:

“People voted to divide the Best Editor category into Long Form and Short Form partly so that David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and other noted novel editors would share some of the glory going to magazine editors every single year.”

Semiprozines are being pushed into a category with people that even Patrick Nielson Hayden couldn’t beat. I fail to understand how this can be considered a fair solution. It is no different than pushing semiprozines into the fanzine category. Like it or not, there is a middle ground between fanzine and professional editor. It is a group of people who are significant contributors to our field and deserving of recognition for their accomplishments. For lack of a better name, they are the semiprozines, a group that since the inception of the category continues to grow and evolve. They should be encouraged, not squashed.

“What’s more, I gained the impression from my recent survey of semiprozine word rates, award-nominated stories that have appeared in them, and pro-published collections from them, that the semiprozine editors already regard themselves as in competition with larger but similar commercial enterprises like Asimov’s.” –Mike Glyer (in comments at File 770)

As the publisher/editor of a semiprozine fiction magazine, I don’t regard the professional editors (magazine or anthology) as direct competitors. Non-fiction magazines have even more distance from these editors. Fiction semiprozines publish far more newer authors than the “big three” (Source: Research by Sean Wallace on short stories published in 2008) and I don’t see that changing in the near future.

Believing that I should pay my authors does not make me a professional editor. I don’t get paid and in fact, most semiprozine editors make receive little to no financial compensation for their efforts. If this award goes to the editor, why should we focus on what the author is paid and ignore what the editor is paid? In my mind, a professional can make a living at what they do.

Save the Semiprozine – Part 1

hugoThe fate of the Best Semiprozine Hugo will be determined next week at Worldcon. In preparation for the vote, I’m been spending some extra time  reading what the opponents of the award have to say. Over the next few days, I’ll be posting some quotes, their sources, and my responses. By all means, consider this an open discussion. Use the comments, make your case, but remain civil. I know that passions have run high in some corners. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Please be respectful of that.

First off, a couple of statements made during last year’s business meeting:

“Reason we have categories is that we like to honour work. Locus has done a marvelous job. But we like to have categories where it’s an honour to be nominated.”  –Ben Yalow, 2008 WSFS Business Meeting Minutes

Locus has done an incredible job over the years and has won its stack of Hugos courtesy of the voter’s recognition of their accomplishments. While Locus Magazine can be quite proud of this accomplishment, we (the other nominees) feel no less proud for being nominated. This nod from Hugo voters is an incredible honor. Given the number of nominations the category received this year (nearly as many as the Campbell Award and more than several non-endangered categories), these nominations have meaning to more than just those who receive them.

“We don’t seem to have any nominees for this category apart from the five who get nominated each year. It’s a weak category.” –Ben Yalow, 2008 WSFS Business Meeting Minutes

There are over 25 semiprozines listed on this site. They represent a broad range of fiction and non-fiction, online and print, and new and well-established magazines. They’ve won awards, received honorable mentions and Year’s Best citations, introduced new authors, published  established authors, lead the way in online publishing, and have made valuable contributions to the community. They are anything but weak and it is my hope that we have opened more than few eyes to both the quality and quantity of semiprozines through this website.

Furthermore, I direct your attention to some recent calculations by Warren Buff (posted at File770).  He has discovered that over the last ten years,  the level of venue diversity on the semiprozine ballots has been very similar to that of Best Fanzine, Best Fan Writer, Best Fan Artist and Best Professional Artist. No one is suggesting those Hugos be eliminated, nor should they.

Greater representation of the field on the ballot is a worthy goal in any category and I’m happy to see people looking at it. How would you go about educating people about the alternatives? Has anything been tried in the past?

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.

Albedo One: Stories in Translation

When Neil asked me to write an article for his save the semi-prozine Hugo site the only thing of value I could think of was my unique perspective. I am one of the editors of Albedo One magazine, a very semi pro magazine out on the outskirts of civilization. It is unlikely that we will ever be anything but semi pro and just as unlikely that we will ever be able to pay our contributors at the full pro rate – though many semi-pro markets do – and it is our ambition to do so.

So what can we bring to the party? I hear you ask. What is the point of a magazine such as ours even existing? There are, of course, the usual generic reasons: providing a market for new writers, providing an outlet for cutting edge or experimental fiction that would not find a home in a more commercially-minded magazine and, to my mind the most important of all, the provision of choice and variety in a market where the commercial imperative can often dictate content. We are mavericks who survive on the crumbs from the rich man’s table. You can’t buy us with money. Though if you’ve got a reasonable offer I’m sure Neil won’t mind passing it along. But up front I mentioned a unique perspective and I think that’s what Albedo One has got. So bear with me while I tell you a story. Read more