The deadline to submit your Hugo nominations is March 11th. The Hugo Awards are the fan awards, unlike, say, the Nebulas, which are voted on by members of the SFWA, an organization that has certain criteria in terms of membership. The Hugo Awards are open to anyone who was a member of last year’s Worldcon or becomes a member of this or next year’s Worldcons. That could be you. You can become a Supporting Member of this year’s Worldcon (called ChiCon) for just $50, and for that amount you also will get this year’s Hugo Voter Packet. We’re not sure yet what that will entail, but last year’s packet contained e-versions of every single novel, anthology, novella, novelette, short story and graphic novel on the final ballot, as well as a bunch of other goodies. If it’s something similar this year, the packet is easily worth twice the cost of the Supporting Membership – plus you get to be an active participant in the Hugo process and help decide the winners in the genre’s biggest awards. If you’re at all interested in SF&F, and I assume you are if you’re still reading this, you should really consider becoming a Supporting Member. Now, to be absolutely clear, if you weren’t a ChiCon member before you started reading this article, you won’t be able to make nominations this year. That deadline has passed. But you’ll still be able to vote in this year’s Hugos, and you’ll be eligible to make nominations next year. So it’s still a good thing to do. Go ahead. I’ll wait while you sign up. Go ahead. I’ll wait while you sign up.
If you’re eligible to make nominations and haven’t done so yet, this would be a great time to do it, as the deadline is this weekend. Take a look at what you’ve read last year. There are a bunch of rules for eligibility, but roughly speaking, if it was published in 2011, you can nominate it. If you accidentally nominate something that’s not eligible, they won’t send the Hugo Police to your house to confiscate your membership badge, so go ahead, nominate the 2011 SFF publications you loved and see what sticks. That’s what most people do. Also, an important note here. So you haven’t read everything that was published last year. Fine. Neither have I, and neither has John Scalzi. Maybe you’ve only read a handful of novels. Maybe you haven’t read any novellas or graphic novels. Don’t worry. Just nominate what you loved. Thousands of people are doing this. It’ll all even out in the end, as long as everyone includes the books and stories they loved. Believe me, your nominations are very important to both authors and fans.
Now, for the interesting bit. You may notice a few categories in the bottom half of the nomination form that aren’t so much about the novels and stories as about the people who write about the novels and stories. Fanzines, Semi Prozines, Fan Writers. The terms may be confusing. If you’re unclear as to which is which, take a look at last year’s final ballot for an idea of what may fall in which category. Or you can read the legalese in the WSFS constitution. I suggest the former option.
But now, finally, the main point of this post. In the last few decades or so, this here thing called the intertubes has become more and more prominent. SF&F-related writing used to make its way into the world by means of typewriters and Xerox machines and stamped envelopes. I know it may sound comical to some of you, but this award has been around since the 1950’s. There’s history here. This whole blog thing is relatively new, in the larger scope of things. Now, first of all, I have the greatest respect for Fanzines, I wish for them to continue to garner awards and recognition and new readers and anything else their hearts desire. Yay for ‘zines, okay?
But that aside, there’s a serious problem here. At last year’s convention, a rule change was enacted that would exclude blogs from the Best Fanzine category in the future. This rule may be ratified this year. That means this may be the last year blogs are eligible for the Best Fanzine category. This may seems absurd to you, but remember, this is an organization with a constitution and committees and so on. There are quorum rules and agendas and minutes that have to be approved and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s someone with a gavel. It’s official, as befits an organization with such a storied past. They’re not evil. They mean well. They just want to make sure that next year people who try to distribute their reviews using a parade of tattooed elephants don’t rouse up a storm because they’re not included in a category.
Still, to me, it seems like a no-brainer. How many authors on the ballot have done blog tours? How many have websites that quote reviews from bloggers? How many have done interviews on blogs? How many, for the love of Tehlu, have only achieved the prominence and popularity they currently enjoy because of the enthusiastic, dedicated and unpaid work done by bloggers? AND YOU’RE TELLING ME YOU MAY NOT WANT TO INCLUDE BLOGS IN THIS CATEGORY IN THE FUTURE? For shame.
Seriously, the only justification I could see for this is to make sure the traditional fanzines don’t get overrun by blogs. So, let’s create a brand new category called “Best Blog”. Somehow they have seen fit to create a new category called “Best FanCast” this year, so it’s possible. The person with the gavel needs to consider this. Maybe he or she wants to go down in history as the person who brought the Hugos in line with the progress of history. We need a Best Blog category, or we need blogs to be included under “Best FanZine”. It’s one or the other. You can’t reasonably exclude the place where 90% of fan writing happens right now. Not if you want to be taken seriously as an award in this day and age. Hands up how many of you have read a fanzine this year? And now how many have read a blog? I rest my case.
So! Enough with the speechifying. I’m hoping that enough fans and bloggers and authors will include their favorite blogs in the Best Fanzine category. Personally, I’m putting only blogs on my ballot. I’m hoping that at least a few of the best ones will make it to the final ballot. And I hope that one of them will win the award.
Aside from the Fanzine/blog category, you can also nominate individual Fan Writers. Things are a bit more straightforward and less exclusive there: you can nominate anyone who writes about SF&F in any format. Including bloggers. You don’t have to use a Xerox machine to be eligible for Best Fan Writer. So, if you have a favorite blog, you can nominate “Aidan Moher” or “Adam Whitehead” under Best Fan Writer as well as “SF Signal” or “Staffer’s Musings” under Best Fanzine. Even if blogs don’t count anymore in future years, you can continue to nominate the people behind the blogs in the Best Fan Writer.
It looks like a few people have put my name on their ballots in this category. I am very flattered, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I want to make it clear that I’m not asking you to nominate me here. I’m asking you to support your favorite bloggers. If that’s me, great. If not, also great. Just support your favorite bloggers, whoever they are. Buy a membership and nominate them.