Apr 20 2009 11:51am

Save the Semiprozine Hugo Award

Neil Clarke, the editor of Clarkesworld Magazine is very proud of being nominated for a Best Semiprozine Hugo Award this year. Alas, this year the WSFS is voting whether to remove the category from the ballot. Not surprisingly, Mr. Clarke has taken umbrage at this.

The main reasoning behind removing the category seems to be the fact that LOCUS has won the award 22 out of 25 years it has been awarded although the official reason is given as “former semiprozines should not be eligible as magazines, but that their editors should be eligible for Best Editor: Short Form.” I covered this previously in greater detail here.

What I want to talk about is what Mr. Clarke is doing to save the award. He’s created the website Save the Semiprozine Hugo. On this website, Clarke provides a listing of all the publications (and please e-mail him with additions) that are eligible to be nominated for Best Semiprozine. He’s also highlighting a new publication each day and talking about their merit as a semiprozine contender.

Part of the problem with the award is that nominators and voters don't know the contenders well enough. While it can be easy to get your hands on the Best Novel nominees, and these days all the short fiction is online, the voters don’t know where to get the semiprozines. Clarke wants to change this.

There’s no reason for the category to go away. While I assume Charles Brown and the staff at LOCUS enjoy winning their Hugo Awards, I know that they would be very gracious in having someone else win it. In the current issue of LOCUS, Brown discusses this very fact in his editorial and even laments that the motion for an alternate solution, i.e., this year's winner ineligible next year, has not been proposed to the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS). Certainly not proposed and ratified.

So go check out what Clarke has put together. Look at the breadth and depth of publications that are semiprozines. If you're going to Montreal this summer for Worldcon, you can attend the WSFS meeting and vote on this amendment. I would like to see this award remain. If I somehow make it to Montreal, I will be at the meeting so that I can cast my vote to keep this award.

As Gavin Grant, editor of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet (on the ballot for semiprozine last year) says about the honor of being nominated:

That may seem like a joke, but if you’re smart you’ll realize it’s not. Or, you can wait until an award list comes out with your name on it—or you’re on a jury and have to decide the nominations—and then finally you might realize what an honor it actually is.

I know for a fact that getting contacted and being told you’ve been nominated for a Hugo is quite stirring, and no one should take that honor away from someone else. There are excellent publications who have been on the ballot for long time that are deserving of an award, and there are aspiring publications that may now never get the chance. Let’s not let that happen.

UPDATED: I erroneously implied that people were pushing to remove the award because LOCUS had won it at all. It is more to the fact that LOCUS has won the award 22 out of the 25 times the Best Semiprozine has been awarded that people feel that the award has lost its meaning.

CE Petit
1. Jaws
Don't. Just don't. Invoking the purported "glory that was" (or, perhaps, "might have been") in the face of contemporary reality is at best naïve and at worst intellectually dishonest. Bluntly, the efforts to save the semipro category remind me of invoking George Washington's disdain for partisan politics in the face of today's heavily funded electoral system.

Besides, we need fewer Hugo categories, not more.
Neil Clarke
2. Clarkesworld
The argument against the semiprozine Hugo can be best understood by watching the videos of last year's WSFS business meeting where the proposal was raised and initially voted on. The debate is posted in two parts: the technical debate and the substantive debate. One of the people who put forth the proposal puts it this way:
"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. 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. And the editor would continue to be eligible as editor." -- Ben Yalow,

Other statements made prior to this indicate a strong disbelief that there is a sufficient number of quality semiprozines. If I recall correctly, it was arbitrarily stated that there should be 10 or more good nominees to make the category worthwhile. As someone who has been nominated this year, I can say that it is an honor to be selected as one of the best of my colleagues. I've been reading semiprozines far longer than I have been publishing one and they have my respect as quality publications. By my count, that number is well over ten.

I started because I saw misinformation and a lack of awareness that needed to be addressed. Working together, we hope to give people an increased awareness of the quality and diversity of our corner of the genre. It might be naive to think that education can make a difference, but that's me. I've been working in education for 20 years. I'm not likely to change soon.
3. JMMcDermott
Semi-pro 'zines like Clarkesworld, Electric Velocipede, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, if I understand their behind-the-scenes operations, are relatively thankless tasks, with volunteer staff members, and a shoe-string budget. They are labors of love.

I don't see the value in taking away honors from people who work so very hard for so little reward - bringing us so very much reading pleasure in the process.

If our goal is to reduce the number of Hugos, Jaws, let's take away the ones that generally-speaking have little meaning to the nominees: Dramatic Presentation - Long Form/Short Form.

I'm against that move, too. It's just a better solution to your proposed problem, Jaws.
Lane Bowen
4. Fizghoi
Having little or no interest in, or chance of, ever making it to Worldcon, I can't speak to the politics of why or why not to remove the best semi-pro category, but I have to reiterate JMMcDermott's points. Why work so hard to take away an honor from some of the hardest working people in SF?

Publications that qualify as semi-pro are pretty much responsible for my engagement with the SF community. Heck, I probably wouldn't even know what the Hugos were if I hadn't gotten interested in various semi-pro zines a couple of years ago. So to eliminate the category seems like a big "screw you" to markets that are essential to the future of SF.

Don't we hear enough about the Hugos becoming more and more obsolete? Why work harder to make people like myself, who care a lot about "semi-pro" magazines, care less about the Hugos?
5. Schnappi
I think if a publication or individual keeps winning a particular category, they should receive a Master award and not be nominated for that category again.

The semiprozine category should remain for the reasons that JMMcDermott and Fizghoi have given above.

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