Some interesting Hugo eligibility questions

A few eligibility questions came up today.

First one. Alexandra Erin has an eligibility post up here: http://www.alexandraerin.com/2018/12/for-your-consideration/

As I’ve been talking about Fan Writer, I’ll note that she has suggested that some of her Twitter threads are relevant to the category. She doesn’t cite a particular thread but I’ll mention one as it segues into eligibility questions. In this case a discussion she posted about eligibility for the Campbell award:

On her blog post she discusses the issue of ‘published’ and eligibility more generally.

‘Now, you might be thinking something along the lines of, “But these stories were all self-published on your Patreon! Does that really count as being published, for purposes of an award requiring publication in 2018?” My answer to that is pretty straightforward: they count as published for all other purposes, including any attempts to subsequently publish them (the first rights are gone) and also under United States and international copyright law. I recognize that there are differing opinions and an ongoing conversation and if you have a strong personal conviction in this area I’m not going to attempt to sway you.’

The Hugo FAQ is unambiguous on the question:

‘Self-published works, e-books, and other “non-traditionally” published works are eligible. There is no restriction requiring works to be published through “traditional” publishers.’

http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-faq/#Are%20self-published%20e-books%20considered%20as%20potential%20nominees

The constitution doesn’t say anything specific but there’s certainly no rule for works that says they need to be traditionally published.

The second question relates back to fan writer.

Does writing at sites like Tor.com and Barnes & Noble count?

The Hugo FAQ says:

‘Best Fan Writer: This is another person category. Note that it does not just apply to writing done in fanzines. Work published in semiprozines, and even on mailing lists, blogs, BBSs, and similar electronic fora, can be including when judging people for this Award. Only work in professional publications should not be considered.’

http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/

However the eligibility rule in the constitution is more vague — particularly when read next to the otherwise similar category of Best Fan Artist:

3.3.16: Best Fan Writer. Any person whose writing has appeared in semiprozines or fanzines or in generally available electronic media during the previous calendar year.
3.3.17: Best Fan Artist. An artist or cartoonist whose work has appeared through publication in semiprozines or fanzines or through other public, non-professional, display (including at a convention or conventions), during the previous calendar year

http://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/WSFS-Constitution-as-of-August-21-2018.pdf

It’s not a well-written rule as ‘generally available electronic media’ covers almost anything online but the presence of “fanzine” and “semiprozine” implies that the rule doesn’t cover professional magazines. The fan artist rule covers this by overtly saying ‘nonprofessional’ but the fan writer rule does not.

I’d be worried about a change to the rule that made Patreon posts or blog posts fueled by Kickstarters etc ineligible. In the meantime it’s not demonstrably a problem i.e. the immediate post-Puppy landscape has not been all Tor.com writing for Fan Writer. However, it is also one of those gradual changes in the landscape that weren’t reflected by slow changes in the Hugos because normal service was suspended due to hydrophobic shenanigans.

I think the rules as they stand mean if the work is freely available then it counts towards being a fan writer. However, what then of Patreon posts or Medium posts behind a pay-wall? They can’t really be called ‘generally available’ but are less obviously professional.

No conclusion from me on this one!

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45 thoughts on “Some interesting Hugo eligibility questions

  1. Campbell eligibility apparently required publication in something qualified as a professional venue. However, there have been Campbell Award finalists who only had self-published works available at the time (all puppy finalists, as far as I recall). And while I had no problem voting for Laurie Penny in spite of her lengthy journalism career or Lev Grossman in spite of his career as a reviewer, I find cases where a Campbell finalist has self-published SFF for years before getting picked up by a traditional publisher and publishing a short story in a qualifying market highly problematic.

    Even worse was one case where a writer was supposedly eligible for the Campbell Award in 2016 or 2017 on the basis of an SFF novel, even though that same writer had published several paranormal romances with a traditional romance publisher going all the way back to 2012. I even pointed this out and got the answer that the paranormal romances didn’t count – even though they featured vampires and the like and absolutely qualified as SFF – because the romance publisher wasn’t on the approved publisher list. In the end, I’m really glad that writer didn’t make the shortlist, because I would have had to no award them, in spite of enjoying their work, because to me they were no longer new writers.

    In many ways, the Hugo rules and categories are out of step with the new realities of publishing and writing. And two years of focussing mainly on the puppies and stopping slating attempts (plus getting best series and the Lodestar off the ground) mean that other issues were ignored. And considering that the business meeting is already a lengthy, multi-day affair, changes will necessarily be slow.

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    1. Cora: Even worse was one case where a writer was supposedly eligible for the Campbell Award in 2016 or 2017 on the basis of an SFF novel, even though that same writer had published several paranormal romances with a traditional romance publisher going all the way back to 2012. I even pointed this out and got the answer that the paranormal romances didn’t count – even though they featured vampires and the like and absolutely qualified as SFF – because the romance publisher wasn’t on the approved publisher list. In the end, I’m really glad that writer didn’t make the shortlist, because I would have had to no award them, in spite of enjoying their work, because to me they were no longer new writers.

      She was promoting herself to her fans as eligible, but she wasn’t — because the publisher of her paranormal fantasies was an imprint of one of the publishers listed on the SFWA Qualifying Markets page. I e-mailed the guy who runs the Campbell eligibility page to let him know — and he opted to cc: her in on the e-mail conversation. She was quite hostile, and insisted that those earlier works “didn’t count” because they’d been marketed as romance. I pointed out to her that the Campbell rules don’t say anything about marketing classifications, just about publishers, that her publisher was one of those listed, and that if she did by chance get enough nominations to make the ballot, she would just be disqualified — and wasn’t it kind of poor form to encourage her fans to waste one of their nomination slots on an ineligible author? At that point she got rather nasty; she had to know that she was ineligible, but I guess she was hoping that no one would notice. (Little did she know that the Hugo Admin had already been notified of her ineligibility.)

      The PNR books wouldn’t have been on my radar anyway, but her SF works might have been — but her mendacity ensured that they are never going to make an appearance on my TBR. There are plenty of authors with good books to read who don’t engage in dishonesty for the sake of awards. *cough*davidvandyk*cough*

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      1. I even read one of her paranormal romances (and it was pretty good), which is why I immediately thought, “Wait a minute, that can’t be right. That book came out a lot longer than two years ago.”

        But good to know that novels with SFF content count as Campbell eligible, even when not published by genre imprints.

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      2. Well, here’s the test, Cora: If she’d applied for membership in SFWA based on her paranormal fantasies published by an imprint of one of the publishers on their Qualifying Markets page, would they have accepted her application? Of course they would have. Et voila, those books were Campbell-eligible when they were published.

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  2. Some points:
    1) The qualifications are different for different categories. This may mean that some “general” advice (for example in the FAQ) is imprecise and not really applicable for some categories.

    2) The requirements for Fan Writer are quite open. It’s useful to notice the difference between Fanzine and Fan Writer (and I assume that this difference is deliberate): A publication is eligible for Best Fanzine only if the people involved in making it doesn’t get paid. This means that a publisher-funded site like Tor dot com is not a fanzine, and neither is an ad-funded blog. (I suspect admins might give a pass if the ad revenue is obviously trivial.) But for Fan Writer the requirement is only that the writing is either in a semiprozine, in a fanzine, or that it is “freely available” – which doesn’t exclude someone being paid. A writer is not disqualified for being a professional writer, or even for receiving payment for the “freely available” writing that makes them eligible as Fan Writer.

    3) Anything that’s behind a pay wall, e.g. on Patreon, is not “freely available”. However, the category is also open for writers whose writing have appeared in “semiprozines”. And I’m quite open to an argument that e.g. Alexandra Erin’s patreon site is a “semiprozine”.

    4) The real issue in the end is not whether someone is “eligible”, but whether they’re “the best”. I consider myself to be eligible for “Best fan writer” based on comments here and on File770, but I don’t consider myself to be remotely close to a relevant contender as best fan writer.

    5) A lot of people will have written some texts that fits the list in §3.3.16, and some texts that’s doesn’t fit. The constitution does not actually spell this out, but I consider it obvious: They should be ranked as “best” (or not) only based on the text that is fan writing. John Scalzi’s writing on Whatever makes him eligible for Best fan writer. If you think his blog posts makes him the best fan writer in the world, then sure, go ahead and nominate him. But if you say “he’s eligible for his blog, and he’s the best because I love his novels”, you’re doing it wrong.

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    1. Johan P: The requirements for Fan Writer are quite open. It’s useful to notice the difference between Fanzine and Fan Writer (and I assume that this difference is deliberate).

      It would be nice if that was the case. However, the WSFS process for revising and updating category definitions has always had a problem of unintended consquences, and the current hole in the Fan Writer definition is an example of that. There have been some attempts made in the last 20 years to revise the Fan categories, both to update them to adjust for the way that fandom and technology have changed in the last 50 years, and to close them out to all but the old-style fanzines, fan writers, and fan artists (and in 2013, one disgruntled oldtime fan tried to get the Fan categories removed entirely when it became clear that they weren’t going to succeed at keeping out internet fanzines, fan writers and fan artists). The current wording of the categories is a compromise reached between the two sides (one that some the oldtime fans immediately regretted, when they realized they hadn’t achieved the carve-out they thought they had achieved).

      The intent of the current definition of the Fan Writer category was to recognize uncompensated, “donated” Fan Writing. That it does not officially limit writing to that is an unintended consequence of the wording which got passed.

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      1. I don’t particularly want to continue this fight, but I should record that i don’t agree. The rules for both fan writer and fan artist both say ‘fanzines or semiprozines‘ (and have done so from the beginning), which I think makes clear that they are not intended to have exactly the same qualifications as fanzines. The bit about generally available electronic media is a later addition and has indeed had unintended consequences.But the bit about semiprozines was intended.

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  3. Since the Campbell Award isn’t defined in the WSFS Constitution, I don’t think the general Hugo rules about publication apply to it. The most official word I can find is on the ballot itself which says:

    A new writer is one whose first work of science fiction or fantasy appeared in 2017 or 2018 in a professional publication. For Campbell Award purposes, a professional publication is one for which more than a nominal amount was paid, any publication that had an average press run of at least 10,000 copies, or any other criteria that the Award sponsors may designate.

    The Lodestar is also Not-A-Hugo, but is defined under the Hugo Awards section of the constitution. It would be good to see an “other administered awards” section with those two (and later maybe a translation award if that ever gets hashed out). Probably with some caveat on the Campbell about its sponsors having final say.

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  4. I believe there’s a committee that’s supposed to make proposals to clean up the awards a bit. Has anyone heard anything from them? Even if they didn’t remove/merge any existing awards, just rationalizing the definitions would be a nice step.

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    1. We had a report from them, didn’t we? It proposed Best Podcast, among other things.I’m not sure what happened after that. One decision that was made, I believe, was to set up a new committee to examine specifically the art awards (which struck me as a bad idea, since a large part of the problem is the labyrinthine way the definitions of the various awards affect one another).

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      1. The Hugo Study Committee was continued, and an artist categories committee was also created. So, hopefully, the first will look at the overall situation, and the second will get into the nitty gritty of the artist stuff. It seems like the Hugo Study group got bogged down in the details of their artist proposal and didn’t get a chance to get further on other things.

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      2. Well, that still seems problematic to me, since the art awards interact with the other awards; directly, because the definition of fan artist refers to fanzines and semiprozines; indirectly, because, as the current discussion shows, people expect a consistent concept of ‘fan’, so the definition of one fan award will affect people’s reading of other fan awards.

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      3. I think there was still going to be some overlap between the groups to provide continuity. I remember someone suggesting it at least, but I’m not sure what happened.

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  5. The sponsors definitely want the Campbell to be awarded for professional publications. They follow the SFWA definition of professional. Historically this meant ‘in a qualifying market’, but was recently (sub specie aeternitatis – in the last five years or so) expanded to allow self-published works provided they reached a certain circulation.

    I think it makes sense to limit the award to new professional authors, even if they have a history of self-publication with a lower circulation, since if we did not some authors might become ineligible long before anyone had heard of them.

    And yes, Fan Writer has different rules from Fanzine for a reason – see my comment on the previous post.

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  6. I wish it was clearer as to eligibility for other awards as well, as I’ve seen conflicting things from writers based upon similar examples.

    For example, Tade Thompson’s Rosewater was republished this year (in I think a revised edition) and the author is promoting it as eligible for Best Novel this year, despite it being first published in 2016. I’d nominate it if eligible, but I’m not sure it is.

    But in a similar vein, Vita Nostra by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko was self-published as a translated novel a few years back, only to be published by a traditional publisher in 2018 and when I asked the translator on twitter it was her understanding that the earlier publication made it not eligible for 2018.

    Anyone have any ideas on these? My understanding was that neither would be eligible.

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    1. garik16: Tade Thompson’s Rosewater was republished this year (in I think a revised edition) and the author is promoting it as eligible for Best Novel this year, despite it being first published in 2016. I’d nominate it if eligible, but I’m not sure it is.

      It would have to be substantially different to be re-eligible — for example, if another 50,000 words were added, then it would probably re-qualify.

      But if all that’s been revised is the addition of a couple of scenes, re-wording of some sections, and/or better copy-editing, then no, it’s not going to be eligible again.

      It’s my understanding that the revisions were relatively minor. I don’t see how it can be eligible again next year. He’s better off promoting his sequel to it, which is coming out this year.

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  7. If something stays behind the Patreon/Medium wall, then to me it isn’t Fan Writing, since they got paid for it (even a pittance), plus it’s not “generally available”. Back in Ye Olde Printed Zine Dayes, you could have borrowed a friend’s or club’s copy of Hectograph Quarterly if you didn’t have the money to buy it. Pretty sure you’re not supposed to borrow your friend’s Patreon-ed content like that.

    And of course, the date at which any post is eligible ought to be the date it emerges behind the paywall.

    The Campbell is entirely under the rules of the sponsor, i.e. the two pro mags, who obviously only want the SFWA rules, plus, as @Andrew M said, people would become ineligible 2 years after they put up their Harry Potter fanfic on AO3, at maybe age 16.

    (Also, if it was under WSFS’ control, it’d have a new name by now — if not b/c of Campbell’s renowned racism and sexism, then simple confusion with the other Campbell award. Which IIRC would help both awards.)

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    1. How do you feel about last year’s winner Sarah Gailey? All the samples they provided in the packet were freely available, but paid writing — Tor.com and Uncanny articles. (Technically Uncanny is semiprozine, but still paid.) I don’t think they do any other non-paid writing besides Tweets? Personally, I’m fine with them getting paid something, but I do think the writing should be generally available.

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      1. I No-Awarded them. Their packet submission consisted of 2 pro works and one semipro work. The Uncanny piece was fine, but the other 2 were from Tor.com, and if you looked at the bibliography on their website, all but a couple of their nonfiction pieces were pro work for Tor.com and the B&N Sci-Fi Blog. Needless to say, I was not pleased that the person who won Fan Writer won it for Pro Writing. That’s not what the category is there to recognize.

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      2. So if all of a fan writer finalist’s writing appeared in semiprozines which still paid, how would you feel? Do you feel like the articles which appear in pro venues are substantial different than semiprozines? Would you rather the category excluded paid writing completely? Honestly curious.

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      3. Laura, the WSFS rules explicitly class Semiprozines as Fan-eligible, and Prozines as not Fan-eligible. As Camestros says, there are issues with the way the current definitions are worded, but that’s how the rules are currently set up.

        It’s my understanding that the rules changes currently being considered by the Hugo Category Committee include removing all income restrictions (including that which defines Semiprozine, and what work qualifies for Professional Artist), and making it clear that Fan categories are for uncompensated work and that all compensated work is Professional, full stop — which is what I think should happen.

        The Internet has been a great equalizer in terms of fan work, where before the people who had the most money to produce and mail copies of their work to the most readers were the people with an undue advantage in terms of awards awareness.

        In theory, making all of the Hugo awards for things instead of people would be a better route. But the reality is the times when they’ve done that with Best Artwork, they ended up with a huge long tail and only 1 or 2 standout finalists. I would expect the same result with Best Short Nonfiction Work and Best Fanzine Article — which ends up getting the category cancelled, and then no one gets recognized (or else you get the Hugo Award for Most Popular Personality).

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      4. Compensated versus non-compensated may create some unfortunate issues for people with Patreon, Kickstarter, Ko-Fi etc (or I guess even adverts if the blogger received income from them)

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      5. I wouldn’t want to see things like that excluded because I do support some fan creators. And I’m happy to see them get some compensation if they decide to provide the option.

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      6. I wouldn’t have nominated them either (or anyone who mainly writes for Tor.com and similar venues) since most of their writing isn’t suppose to be eligible. I didn’t no-award them; I didn’t rank them very high either. But that was simply because I liked other finalist’s material more. I can completely understand those of you who did rank them below no award though.

        I do wonder if people (perhaps around Sarah Gailey’s own age) who’ve come into fandom more recently, after the decline of traditional fanzines and even after the decline of blogging, see any essays on subjects of ssf fan interest as fan writing regardless of venue.

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      7. I did the same thing JJ did, and for the same reasons.

        I’ll point out (again) that I think the worst problems with Hugo definitions are the awards that are for people and not for works. I’d replace “Best Fanwriter” with an award for the best non-fiction article published in a fanzine. I’d replace “Best Fan Artist” with an award for the best artwork published in a fanzine (or maybe just the cover). And I’d replace “Best Pro Artist” with an award for “Best cover of a professional or semi-professional magazine or book.”

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      8. I much prefer the idea of awards for things rather than people. Best Fanzine Article – with a broad sense of fanzine and inclusive of any writing that wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for another award (I’d be wary of ‘non-fiction’ as a term e.g. lots of people liked Timothy’s take on La-La-Land but I can’t make any strong claims about its connection with reality )

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      9. Yes, the people categories and the other categories which are for the entire year’s material (semiprozine, fanzine, fancast) are tough.

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  8. What I wanna see is Best Anthology. There are SO MANY good ones, and the editors deserve some recognition. I know that overlaps with Best Pro Editor, but still.

    I agree the Fan/Pro split needs to be made explicit (even if Patreon et. al. are allowed in Fan; I don’t think adverts pay any more than Semiprozines).

    I don’t think the Art awards need messing with, they’d just get worse, as @JJ said.

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    1. Lurkertype: I don’t think the Art awards need messing with, they’d just get worse, as @JJ said.

      Oh, I think the Artist categories do need to be fixed. WSFS should not be in the business of attempting to define who is or isn’t a Professional Artist. If they make art and sell it, they’re a Professional, full stop, and the work they’ve sold/had published/exhibited during the award year should be eligible for that category. Also, that category needs to allow jewelers, sculptors, costumers, and other 3-dimensional artists.

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      1. Plus, there is the problem that a cover for a pro mag or traditionally published novel counts as for professional artist, but that covers for semi-pro mags and self-published novels count for fan artist, even if the artist was paid.

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      2. Agree that the art categories need something, but the proposals that the Hugo Study Committee came up with last year didn’t seem to do it. Right now you essentially get almost a dozen people whose art received compensation and maybe a couple whose art was donated or displayed without compensation between the two categories.

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      3. The proposed changes to the Art category didn’t get passed last year, Laura, they got sent back to committee. If they’d been passed and then ratified this year, the makeup of the finalists in those categories would change a great deal. But since the WSFS members who wanted it sent back to committee couldn’t seem to articulate what they thought should be different about the proposal, I don’t know what the hell it is they’re expecting to get this year that will be any different.

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      4. Exactly, that’s what I meant. You had the main proposal from the committee and then there were still a couple people within the committee itself who felt strongly enough to submit another contradictory proposal. And the Business Meeting ended up getting nowhere. I can’t really see what kicking the can down the road to a new committee will manage that the BM will like better.

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    2. @Lurkertype
      “What I wanna see is Best Anthology. There are SO MANY good ones, and the editors deserve some recognition. I know that overlaps with Best Pro Editor, but still.”

      Best Professional Editor is my #1 candidate for the award that needs to go away. It shows just how far wrong you can go by awarding people, not works. Here is a category where almost no one (except authors) has a clue whom to nominate nor whom to vote for. In my view, this should be replaced with best professional magazine.

      “I agree the Fan/Pro split needs to be made explicit (even if Patreon et. al. are allowed in Fan; I don’t think adverts pay any more than Semiprozines).”

      I think the way to handle Patreon is fairly simple: use two criteria for fan work. #1 was it explicitly paid for? #2 was it free to the public? If people gave you money even though they didn’t have to, I’d say it’s still fan work. But, if there was ever a point where the only way for someone to see it was if they paid you, then it’s professional work. Note that that’s not the same as requiring they put the work into the public domain!

      “I don’t think the Art awards need messing with, they’d just get worse, as @JJ said.”

      JJ might be right about the problem of “fat-tail death” (FTD) but that’s a problem now too, since there are so many names to pick from. If the awards were limited to covers, it would at least be feasible to produce a list for people to browse through.

      For categories susceptible to FTD, it’s arguable that the best solution would be to add a pre-nomination round, which would last all year. Starting on January 1, anyone (including the artist) could submit a recommendation for a particular piece of art, and the long-suffering Hugo admins would keep a list. When nominations opened the following year, they would be limited to that list. We could call it the “eligibility list” and it could be open to the public from the get-go, making it easy for people to point out errors and omissions. This same idea has been proposed (with variations) in the past for other purposes, of course.

      As far as making the current art awards worse, I’ll claim that the only way it would be possible to do that would be if nominating for them gave fans mad cow disease. 🙂

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      1. I think the real wrench in the works is semiprozine. The content in many semiprozines can absolutely hold its own in comparison to the content of pro magazines. Obviously, they have some of the very same contributors (art, non-fiction, and fiction). Clarkesworld and Lightspeed continue to show up on the semiprozine longlist in spite of their editors pointing out that they’re no longer eligible every year.

        Less of a wrench, but still a consideration, is the overlap possible with semiprozine and editor, short form. Not to say anything against Uncanny and the Thomases wins — the rules are what the rules are right now. (Of course, a similar situation can occur between fanzine and fan writer. More of those pesky people and year of content awards!)

        Anyway, I like the ideas which have been discussed about replacing semiprozine with pro magazine (anything not a fanzine). Replacing editor SF with best anthology/collection. And replacing editor LF with best imprint.

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    1. ISTM it’d be not too much trouble to have the “Best Magazine or Anthology” and still give it to the editor(s).

      Or just change the name of BPE to BE of a Mag or Antho.

      Several ways to do it, any of which would be better.

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      1. But then you get to the problem of determining how many Tor.com short fiction pieces (and/or novellas) constitute a magazine or anthology.

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