I Guess I’m Talking About John Scalzi Today

I woke up to find Twitter aflame with people discussing a column in the fanzine Beam that opens with: “So fuck John Scalzi anyway.”

There is a link in this tweet from the man himself where he replies.

There are also some interesting responses on Twitter from Kameron Hurley and Alexandra Erin.

The gist of the piece is simple. The character of the Best Fan Writer category has changed and the writer (Ulrika O’Brien) blames John Scalzi. It’s not a great piece but it is better than it sounds but not by much. The worst aspects are the histrionic claims (“The Hugos are broken, probably permanently and irretrievably.”) and placing all the blame on one person (the aforementioned Mr Scalzi) and the dismissive tone of the choices of voters and often the voters themselves.

It has some merit as a piece that attempts to look at the changing character of a set of awards. That’s interesting and it is probably interesting to a number of people who read this blog who, prior to Puppy shenanigans, were less invested in the Hugo Awards qua Hugo Awards — including myself. Actually, particularly myself on reflection. As the piece says:

“Going from not knowing what a Best Fan Writer is to having a Hugo for it in 18 months is no mean feat. Going from not being a part of fandom in any way (Scalzi marks his entry into fandom to a Detroit convention in
2005), to having a Hugo for fanac in three years, is incredible. Literally.”

I somewhat resemble that remark, having gone from NOT EXISTING as any kind of presence at the start of 2015 to being a Hugo Finalist for Fan Writer in 2018. I’m part of what the writer sees as the problem described as:

“When I do see it, I increasingly find a bunch of total strangers who’ve not visibly participated in fandom, and I see red all over again. I will inevitably be told that the failing is in me, that were I to educate myself, I would discover their merit. As often as not, whatever merit is involved, what I actually discover are more neo-pros doing nothing remotely to do with fandom as we know it, or if they do, only in pursuit of making money off us.”

As I’ve discussed in previous posts on fan writing, there’s certainly many people being nominated for work that is in various ways paid for. Having said that, there’s plenty that isn’t nor was John Scalzi’s blog itself a money making venture (except in the more general marketing sense.)

Taking two steps back and looking at the bigger picture and the actual societal changes occuring in the relevant time period, what do we see? Nothing mysterious and nothing secretly controlled by John Scalzi but rather the increasing and inevitable online nature of fandom, along with generational change. The period of 2000 to 2020, was always going to be one in which fandom would have the kind of generational change that fandom is always having because people get older and people from a younger generation become more influential. To use tired generational-terms, a shift from Baby Boomers to Gen-X with (now) more Millennials (and younger).

The accompanying shift was technological with blogs, blogging networks (particularly Live Journal at one point), social media platforms and commerical pop-culture media sites changing where fan-related discourse was happening. This was a cross-generational change (e.g. GRRM’s Live Journal or how influential Mike Glyer’s File770 fanzine-turned-blog became during the Puppy Debarkle).

The more interesting claim is that John Scalzi is to blame for the Puppy Debarkle itself:

“But perhaps most memorably for many, 2015 was the first Year of the Puppies. The combined efforts of the Sad and Rabid Puppies managed to get their slates solidly wedged onto the short list of many categories, including literary and media ones, leading to much public outrage in the months leading up to the convention, and to a rhythmic tattoo of Hugos going to “No Award,” during the awards presentation. And the audience applauded. Our highest honors were so badly broken that category after category went unawarded, and the fans applauded. Thanks Scalzi. Fuck you.

Yeah, Scalzi. Because beyond distorting the fan categories beyond all recognition, John Scalzi opened the door for anyone who was paying attention and willing to do the leg work to rewrite any Hugo to their own preference. Looking at an award category, deciding that the people currently winning it don’t deserve to, examining the rules to see if they explicitly forbid what you want to do, and then mounting a blog-based campaign to circumvent the spirit of the award by recruiting a bunch of fan-cultural outsiders who never previously nominated or voted in that category to do so – does that sound at all like a familiar pattern? And make no mistake, Scalzi’s blog had plenty of Puppy-leaning types paying attention to it. The incomprehensible, but much repeated favorable comparison of John Scalzi’s debut novel, Old Man’s War, to the work of Robert Heinlein pretty well assured that the Randroids and the pseudo-libertarian ammosexuals would be there in droves.”

Like most of the column, the charge is histrionic and ignores so many other dynamics. Also, Scalzi didn’t open any door. The door was already open, he just walked through it. The only way that never would have occurred would have been if Worldcon and the Hugo Awards had simply dwindled into irrelevance, ignored by new generations of people and a fannish discourse that had expanded into new arenas*.

Having said all that, as a self-appointed student of the Hugo Debarkle, the role of John Scalzi and his Whatever blog can’t be ignored. Go back to the years prior to the Puppy revolt we don’t need to speculate about any nexus between future Puppies and the influence of the blog because we can watch Brad Torgersen (Sad Puppy 2ic) being Brad in the comment section, along with various other notable characters in the performance that would follow. I can’t see anything in those years for which John Scalzi deserves moral blame for though. He was (is) a succesful author who was also keen to engage with fandom when he discovered its delights. That’s hardly a new path. The fan-writer to pro-writer path anything new for the Hugos, something Robert Silverberg reminded people of last year.

There is a broader point to the column. Are the fan categories rewarding fan-works or are they acting a second-tier aspiring pro categories? Firstly, accept there’s never going to be a clear distinction. Secondly, changing the rules is NOT mysterious nor unachievable! Rather than a futile exercise in lambasting John Scalzi (and let’s face it, he’s weathered plenty of lambasting over the years) consider what kinds of things the fan categories SHOULD reward and think about how FUNCTIONALLY they can be defined in our new more inter-connected world.

The question is what fan-writing should be and how it should be celebrated. Which is an interesting one and it is one in which it is worth noting John Scalzi not as John Scalzi the author but John Scalzi the guy who is and was heavily engaged in fandom as it is now.

*[NOTE: I’m not saying existing or former arenas of fannish discourse are irrelevant or inferior, just that other arenas now exist]

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83 responses to “I Guess I’m Talking About John Scalzi Today”

  1. Leaving aside the rather performative criticism of Scalzi, there’s some interesting stuff in there – in the sense of wrong-but-revealing.

    I think I’ve said I’d be concerned at pro writers getting fan writer nominations purely on the strength of their pro-writer popularity, but I also don’t think we’ve seen that – in the cases of Scalzi, Hines, Hurley, Gailey (just to pick out a few), they were all doing very visible and popular writing *as fans* and mostly towards the start of their careers when you couldn’t just say it was votes from fans of their pro-books.

    Anyway, I think the occasions when pros got nominated aren’t really the issue that’s got them riled – it’s that people outside a rather narrow view of what was fannish work started getting nominated. The moan about fancasts is pretty revealing IMO – as you say, it’s the new media bringing in new people that’s really their bugbear.

    Liked by 6 people

      • Yeah, Hines often blogs on what are very much fannish issues – and in a very comprehensive and calm way that I’m a fan of – so he’s very much writing about fandom as a member, not as an “interloping pro”.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Yes.

          John Scalzi and Larry Correia have a thing in common with there fiction writing and there non-fiction/public persona writing. There’s a kind of brand synergy between the two. In Scalzi’s case, people see that as somehow calculating or exploitative whereas it’s mainly that he has a strong writing style from his journalism that works well in multiple formats.

          I think Hines writes quite differently in different modes. I sort of think of author-Hines as a different person than fan-Hines. [This is a half-baked notion on my part and I reserve the right to utterly contradict myself later]

          Liked by 2 people

          • When Hines does things like his roundups of a Big Issue, his style of doing so is definitely more like e.g. when you or Mike round up a story, whereas Scalzi is a bit more holding forth, which tends to come over more like a newspaper columnist (so as you say about his style from being a journalist).
            I think the feeling I get from the round up style of article is that it’s being written as a public service, to generally inform but also to help protect or strengthen the community, and that’s something that really yells ‘fan writing’ to me.

            Liked by 3 people

    • Mark, I think your comment about the reaction against new media hits the center of the target. Doing fanac in a magazine format is still very important to some fans. (Who remain dubious about online publication, even if they use the internet to circulate their publications.)

      But in respect to the larger question of what non-fanzine-fans are voting for — they want to vote for people they know and work they’ve read/experienced. If 365 days a year they’re reading writers’ blogs, their Tweets, etc., they don’t suddenly stop thinking of that as fanac and start combing through eFanzines for something more worthy,

      Liked by 6 people

      • Worth wondering how things would be in a parallel universe were the awards had somehow separated out the online world from more traditional mediums. I suspect the complaints would still be there but of a different nature

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mike, as you know I’m not a fanzine type of fan (odd term but I think we both know what we mean by it), I guess I must come from the Usenet generation. Mind you, I did technically edit (ahem, write 90% of) several issues of my Uni SF clubs magazine which went out in print, so I guess I’ve technically produced fanzines in my time!
        Thinking about it, when I look for fan writing I do look for longer-form work, reviews, etc, albeit I usually find them online in blogs and magazine websites rather than in fanzines. When trying to find things I want to point at as great writing by fans I don’t generally look to twitter etc because I find discussions there rather formless and hard to pin down. I suspect that newer generations* would view that as short sighted though.
        Anyway, I don’t know to what extent this piece represents overall feeling in that part of the community, but I do feel sad that changes have left a valuable part of the community feeling left behind. I think what Cam says is interesting – what if something had been done to cater to new media instead of leaving blogs to mutate Fanzine into something that they fit into?

        *(Maybe we need a taxonomy of fannish generations, so the Usenetters can claim the TumblrTypes are wasting their money on avocados or something!)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, people aren’t doing fandom the way it should be done. Now that they’ve gotten eyeballs by cursing Scalzi, do they have anything constructive to say? Not really.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Exactly – at least propose some rule changes. Even if they were bad ideas, it would at least prompt a discussion. As is, the only implied solution would be to use a time machine and cut Scalzi’s internet connection at the crucial moment of the past.

      Liked by 6 people

      • The article is just complaining that something is not done as the author like, because the new fans dont work likey used to be and therefore are not real fans. Also: Scalzi is evil!
        Its phrased better than most articles in this vain but as you said: That there is no constructive element in it, its just an old man yelling at clouds.

        Liked by 3 people

      • @Laura: Sure, you can cut the lines going into his house (and that should be part of any attack on Past John Scalzi’s Internet access), but my preferred method is to go after his ISP. They’re almost certainly going to be getting their access through an optical cable. Depending on the time frame and the ISP, it might not even be redundant!

        Unless you’re space-traveling time travelers, you’d almost certainly have to attack his provider when Past John Scalzi gets satellite access.

        I used to work with a guy with a picture of a backhoe with an X over it prominently displayed on his desk.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I think you can infer from Ulrika’s article that she thinks people becoming active in fandom should acculturate themselves to the values and practices of the community she identifies with. I think the Hugo Awards are just a lightning rod for her displeasure in feeling alienated from the people driving its evolutionary changes.

      Liked by 6 people

  3. Well, hey, there was that brief period of thirty years or so between around 1980 and 2010, when the Best Fan Writer award almost always went to either Dave Langford or Mike Glyer (mostly Dave, it must be said!) If you’re going to call out a system for being broken, then it’s hard to ignore that…
    So yeah, it’s actually rather nice to see a somewhat broader spectrum of what might be viewed as mere interlopers nowadays. Personally, I am rather glad of the shortlist because it now points me towards folk I often haven’t encountered, whereas previously I’d be lucky to find someone new at all even though I suspect that there was just as much fanwriting as ever.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am going to suggest that the reason why the fan awards kept going to the same people was that it was difficult for other writers to get the breadth of exposure needed to challenge them.

      I am going to further suggest that internet made it possible for other writers to get wider exposure and that this is a good thing.

      (And while I’m here I will just point out that Dave Langford himself straddled the fan/pro “boundary” with his fiction, his book reviews and non-fiction writings.)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Changes to the fan writers and fanzines were coming. The long ossification of the categories was inevitably going to be broken in the blog era by one means or another, Scalzi was just the one who managed to make that happen.

    I half surprised the column to suggest that this dam bursting is also responsible for the evolution of the winners in the writing categories that has been going on.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The interesting thing for me is what I’m seeing of the article in the quotes reads to me very much like someone who wants to keep fandom for themselves and their mates, and nobody else. Which is somewhat amusing, since over on the Tumblr side of things, we’re seeing much the same sort of thing manifest, mostly among the younger set (the 14 – 24 year-olds) who are busy proclaiming people over 25 “don’t belong in fandom”. Which, I have to admit, makes me want to put this writer and those young ‘uns into a room together and let them argue about who gets to claim “fandom” as their space, and what it should look like, and report back to the rest of us later with the outcomes… but then, I do have a fairly strong trollish streak in my personality.

    Liked by 9 people

    • I think the most telling line in the essay is where she dismisses other fandoms (such as fandoms centered around television shows) as basically being “lesser” when compared to being part of “skiffy and fanty” fandom. Leaving aside the ridiculousness of someone who refers to the object of their fan obsession as “skiffy and fanty” looking down their nose at anyone else, there is a real nastiness embedded in the view expressed. Ulrika seems to think the fandom she likes is somehow superior to those other fandoms, and contained in her thinking is an implication that this makes her a better person than the people who love those different things.

      That paragraph in her essay was enough to make me discount anything Ulrika might ever say on the subject of fandom. Her attitude towards other fans who as “doing it wrong” is as bad as the most ardent Scrappy Pups’ attitudes have ever been.

      Liked by 5 people

      • I wonder if she realizes that this makes her essentially equivalent to the ‘great literature’ folks who consider anything genre to be inherently lesser, just with a different direction of focus. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone with this level of opinion and volume would also have been the sort of person with a hate-on for Margaret Atwood for disparaging the genre.

        I also wonder what prevarications and excuses would come up were this equivalence be pointed out to her, because people with opinions this strong tend towards self-awareness only as a last resort.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I have often wondered, over the years, exactly what it looked like when the buggy whip manufacturers saw the automobile looming ever closer…

    Now combine that thought with the more toxic version of “I’m a Fan of [thing] and therefore I own it.” and we get this over-entitled screed. I think that she needs to go away and have a good long lie down.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. The weird thing about posts like these is they draw more attention and readers to Scalzi than anything else. Before the Puppy debacle, I’d basically stopped reading, and the last fantasy book I’d read was A Dance with Dragons, and the book before that was probably A Feast For Crows (with maybe a Star Wars book in between). I had no clue who Scalzi was.

    Then GRRM posted about the Puppy debacle on his blog, so I started to read the non-puppy nominees and found the community, and the attacks on Scalzi led me to his blog….which mind you recommended a number of other great authors. So for me at least, it’s the hate on Scalzi that led me to even know who he was in the first place.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Garik, it’s amazing how many similar stories I hear. Personally, I was definitely in a bit of a reading rut, and hadn’t paid much attention to short work for years, and the best thing about the debarkle was that I discovered so many great new reads.

      I think that when we can look back with some perspective, we’ll see that the debarkle accelerated and emphasised some existing trends towards who was voting and who was getting voted for. By the puppy campaigns being based online they engaged the very people who were driving the changes they didn’t like.

      Liked by 4 people

    • I had a very similar experience to this. I wasn’t in a reading rut so much as I’d drifted away from the same-old-same-old I was finding in genre – the kerpupple drew my attention to authors who’ve quickly become some of my favourites. NK Jemisin, Yoon Ha Lee, Aliette de Bodard and many more who have been discussed at length on File770 and here. Authors taking a chance, doing something a little different, with a different outlook and insight. It’s been quite enlightening and it’s re-energised my interest in SFF. But whoops. I don’t want Nutty Nuggets all day every day.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. What I find really interesting is this culture of “I was here first” slightly touched on here. The who are these new blogs and why are they suddenly part of the Hugo’s etc. There’s this weird culture in some fan groups of viewing liking something as an achievement. People actually brag about how much they like something and how they are a superfan and much better than these newbies and upstarts – which is weird because liking something is not the same as doing something. (There are fans who actually do achieve things like volunteer for cons, arrange book signings, run fan wiki’s and blogs that are an actual achievment)

    Note this isn’t just and issue in speculative fiction but in other areas e.g. sports
    “Your just a glory hunter, I’ve been a season ticket holder for 12 years!!!” – as if paying to watch entertainment is something worth a brag. Or music “You can’t be a real metalhead unless you were at x random venue since 1993”. Of course fandom culture’s like this can learn significant consequences (see for example the gender disparity at a heavy mental concert – despite the fact many women like metal) down the track.

    The same problem exists in the workplace, where senior poor pefromers will get annoyed a new/better performing employee gets promoted ahead of them because some people struggle with the fact that mere presence is not achievement and merit trumps seniority.

    I’m sure anyone reading this has had to be in some weird ego-contest over something unimpressive at some point and gets what I’m saying.

    So this is a long winded way of saying its not Scalzi and Its not any of the upstarts who werent at Worldcon 1. Conflict and rudeness as a general problem isn’t caused by one person…its caused by conflict and rudeness in fandom.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Just out of courtesy, since I’ve seen the author of the BEAM 14 article being referred to mistakenly all over Twitter and elsewhere as a man and as “he”, Ulrika O’Brien is a woman/she. Even though she has been incredibly rude, insulting, and dismissive to all kinds of fans except those in her very small insular world, I think we are big enough people that we can and should do her the courtesy of referring to her correctly.

    Liked by 7 people

  10. I am also someone who was having to identify books to read through a lot of random chance and trial-and-error — and hitting more than a reasonable number of duds — when I Googled my way to File 770 in 2015 trying to figure out why there was a bunch of garbage on the Hugo ballot.

    Finding a large group of fans who are also interested in reading and arguing  talking about innovative and challenging works, and who help me suss out wonderful things to read, has been a gift from the gods.

    And this particular blog has also been a frequent source of joy, laughter, and thoughtfulness for me in a time when such things were sorely needed. Anyone who says that Camestros is not a Real Fan Writer will have to Fight Me. 🙂

    Liked by 8 people

  11. Payseur’s got a Twitter thread up with which I greatly disagree.

    He fails to distinguish between paid writing aimed at fans, and Fan Writing, which is a gift given to fandom. I’ve got no objection to writers getting paid for work in pro venues — but it’s not Fan Writing.

    I’m sorry if he considers this elitist, but the Hugo Fan categories are for people giving freely of their talents to benefit other fans. The Pro Writing is eligible in the Related Work category.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Just to devils advocate for a minute, how can we distinguish between someone who gets paid by the word to produce an article which is then given away for free, and someone who gets donations monthly from people who appreciate them writing the same stuff and giving it away for free.
      Potentially the same article, read by the same people, with the author receiving the same amount overall?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve put some thought into this, because it’s certainly a new wrinkle in how we evaluate works written by fans. I guess I regard Patreon and Ko-fi accounts as the equivalent of busking.

        Would you consider someone who is busking to be a professional performer? I would not. They might get $5 one day, no money another day, and $1 the next day. They are not performing for hire, the way a concert musician is.

        Articles on Tor.com are available to read by anyone, but they are not “given away for free”. Tor gets eyes on their website due to those articles, and purchases of their books due to those articles. Those “free” articles are big revenue and buzz generators for their products. It is completely a professional operation, one in which their paid writers are participating. I don’t begrudge those writers being paid for that work, not a bit. I wish them much success, and I hope that they’re making a living at it.

        That doesn’t mean that they’re entitled to access to Hugo Award nominations for it.

        And that’s the other issue I have with Payseur’s tweet thread — his assumption/insistence (one I have seen from a number of people, mostly authors) that all writers are entitled to equal access to Hugo Award nominations. Sorry, but no.

        Liked by 2 people

        • So is there a “semi pro” rule here, based on whether you can make much of a living at it?
          Thing is, I rather doubt anyone makes a living writing SF non fiction articles so I’m not sure how that would work.
          Some people do do pretty well out of patreon etc, Payseur makes 200pm which isn’t chickenfeed, although it’s not even close to a living either. James Nicoll makes over 800. I have trouble classing that with buskers, albeit they both write a hell of a lot for that income so it’s probably pretty poor per word.
          I do think there’s a point regarding pro publications. Articles in those benefit from professional editing and standards, get a lot more eyeballs, etc etc, that’s different from Joe Blogger. The problem is that it’s probably more of a continuum than a bright line.
          (I’ve not really assembled a full opinion here, just musing out loud.)

          Liked by 1 person

    • I greatly disagree, too. I have absolutely no objection to writers gettting paid for their work either – after all, I am a writer.

      But I really resent the implication that “Well, if you can afford to fanwrite for free, you’re a privileged person and want to discriminate against marginalised writers.”

      Guess what, I’d be thrilled if Tor.com, io9, Uncanny, the B&N blog, Strange Horizons or whoever were to pay me for writing articles and reviews for them. But they don’t and that’s okay. So I write about topics that interest me on my own blog and elsewhere.

      Also, unless someone is so poor they’re working two or three jobs and really have no time, fanwriting and other fanac are things they do in their spare time, just like other folks coach amateur sports teams, volunteer at their church or for a charity, join the volunteer fire brigade, etc… Not every activity in the world has to be monetised. And indeed, I’d give the side-eye to a fanwriter finalist who won’t write anything unless they’re paid for it. Cause in that case they are a professional critic or reviewer (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but not a fanwriter.

      I do think we need clearer for what is and is not fanwriting. Patreons, Ko-Fis, tip jars, affiliate links on blogs, advertising actually put there by the site operator, selling books, swag or services, etc… are IMO fine, though some folks make a lot via Patreon. But articles in pro or semipro venues with large audiences IMO cross the line into prowriting.

      Finally, we should also consider whether there is a way to recognise people like Liz Bourke who produce excellent fannish writing, but publish mainly/only in pro-venues.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cora Buhlert: I really resent the implication that “Well, if you can afford to fanwrite for free, you’re a privileged person and want to discriminate against marginalised writers.” … unless someone is so poor they’re working two or three jobs and really have no time, fanwriting and other fanac are things they do in their spare time, just like other folks coach amateur sports teams, volunteer at their church or for a charity, join the volunteer fire brigade, etc…

        Exactly. I’m giving a big side-eye to the idea that people who have enough time to post dozens of tweets on Twitter for free every day are “disadvantaged” in terms of Fan Writing because they need to earn a living. If they choose to spend their free time that way instead of posting on a fan blog, that’s perfectly fine — go them! — but don’t then tell me that their paid writing should be considered for Fan Writing because they’re disadvantaged.

        And looking at the lists, most (if not all) of the people who are being long-listed and shortlisted for Fan Writer based on their paid writing are very active on Twitter. So I’m not buying that they’re not able to do unpaid Fan Writing.

        If doing unpaid Fan Writing is not a priority for someone, if they prefer to spend their free time doing other unpaid things, that’s fine. But don’t complain that they’re being discriminated against in terms of Hugo nominations.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cora: Finally, we should also consider whether there is a way to recognise people like Liz Bourke who produce excellent fannish writing, but publish mainly/only in pro-venues.

        As JJ said earlier, Best Related Work … Liz Bourke, Sarah Gailey, and others have received recognition for their pro-fannish writing in that category.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cora, have you pitched Tor.com? I thought about it (as a general idea) awhile back and only dismissed the idea because coming up with that material was likely to interfere with the time and brain cells I need for my own project. But for those with the energy it seems wide open — look at how well James Davis Nicoll is doing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I once got an award for my work for the peace movement in Sweden. I was at that time involved in a local radio program that was aired every week and had for several years.

        But it was hardly for me being “priviliged” that I did this for free. I started when I was unemployed and had lots of spare time. Later because I didn’t earn that much money to spend on other activities. When I started to become priviliged, i.e get an income, that is when I stopped with this activity, because I had less spare time and more money to spend on new things.


  12. Wow, that article about Scalzi manages to be both “old man yelling at clouds” and “doesn’t know the history of the subject they are ranting about”. I didn’t think it was actually legal to put that much wrongness into one essay.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I realize that this is all “angry old person yelling at clouds,” and mostly bogs down to a histrionic version of a bog-standard TrueFan rant. Clearly, the majority of the rant boils down to: If the person isn’t a fan I am personally acquainted with and doing the same fanac as me, they aren’t a real fan. But there were two other bits that I found weird. Muddled up in the foaming at the mouth about people being nominated for work for which they are paid were these two bits:

    * A ‘zine that charges a subscription is not a true fanzine,
    * All bloggers are making money from their blogs.

    I published a paper fanzine for over 20 years. Beginning decades before I published my first, I regularly read a bunch paper fanzine. I never encountered a paper fanzine in all those years that didn’t, at a minimum, charge you for the postage. Most charged postage plus printing costs. And we can infer from the way she indicated the fanzine and fan writer categories were handled before the logjam break in 2008-ish, that she was okay with that.

    Just because a blog has advertising doesn’t mean the blogger is making any money. A lot of us are publishing on free or very cheap platforms that also have advertising to subsidize us, but we aren’t getting paid.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Argh. Always see the mistake a second after clicking Post Comment.

      I realize that this is all “angry old person yelling at clouds,” and mostly _boils_ down to a histrionic version of a bog-standard TrueFan rant.


      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’ve had comments from some hostile sources that assume that I get some of the revenue from the ads that WordPress put here. I don’t.

      Having said that, WordPress’s model means that ads in general are paying for the free service that I’m using. You could look at that as being ‘paid’ in one sense.


      • In a sense, except that Beam is being distributed via Google Docs, which is supported by Google selling information to advertisers about those of us who click things, et al. They are also getting a free service that is being subsidized by all of us, and therefore also getting paid for their fan writing that one sense.

        cf. glass houses, stones, hurling from

        Liked by 2 people

    • fontfolly: (you wrote) “Beginning decades before I published my first, I regularly read a bunch paper fanzine. I never encountered a paper fanzine in all those years that didn’t, at a minimum, charge you for the postage. Most charged postage plus printing costs.”

      Apparently your experience was in a different sf fan community than frequently by Ulrika, or me. Nearly all the fanzines I interacted with were available for what was referred in shorthand as “the usual”, which was a contribution of art or writing, a zine in trade, or a letter of comment. Even if the zine quoted a subscription price, nobody really expected to get very many of those.

      You are right that zines primarily available for subscription/purchase are not regarded by other fanzine fans as part of their gift culture. The one exception (in that culture’s view) was frequently-published newzines. When File 770 was coming out on paper, about a third of the people were getting it on some basis as “the usual” and the others subscribed. (Which was nice — it meant my annual losses were only half of what they would have been…)

      Liked by 2 people

      • No, it wasn’t different.

        I gave free copies to contributors. And most of the zines i subscribed to also offered the copy free IF it included a contribution from me. However, at the height of my zine, I had 260-some subscribers, but most issues had only about a dozen contributors. I remember a couple of times we almost broke 30 contributors in the issue. So, those folks got the issue free, but that still left well more than 200 subscribers who paid a small subscription that covered the postage, and never covered a significant fraction of the printing.

        So, yes, i ran the zine for 20 some years at a substantial loss.

        And most of the zines I subscribed to I only contributed very sporadically. Most of the time I was paying for (at a minimum) the cost of postage. And that is true for the very first ‘zine I subscribed to in 1972 — which arrived as a bunch of faintly purple memeographed pages stapled together.

        So I was in the exact same fandom.

        Ulrika’s argument is clearly at if you get a single penny of compensation, you aren’t a fanzine. And I think, clearly, that that means almost no publication that any rational person would call a fanzine qualifies.

        I get it, she’s nostalgic for the good old days. The good old days where the only people who were considered active fans were those of us lucky enough to have the financial wherewhithal to give print those zines at a loss, and the spend the time creating them.

        One last point: the Writer’s Marketplace, which published that annual big list of publishers aspiring writers could submit their work to back in the day? It defined semi-prozine as (among other things) any publication which gave a free copy to contributors. If semi-prozines aren’t fanzines? Then according to at least one market expert, no fanzine has ever existed.


      • fontfolly: “Ulrika’s argument is clearly at if you get a single penny of compensation, you aren’t a fanzine”

        I wouldn’t be surprised if that was her argument, but it doesn’t matter because we both know it’s not what distinguishes a fanzine in most people’s minds. And I’m not trying to throw anybody off the island, I’m making the point there were number of tribes on the island of fandom, and some of them did the same activity (fanzine publishing) yet were not in communication with all the others.

        I helped run the fanzine sales table at the 1989 Worldcon (the first time there was one, so far as I know) and a few people dropped off thick, offset-printed, color-covered zines for interests like Blake’s 7 fandom, one with a price set at $10 a copy. They didn’t take trades with other zines (at that price, no surprise). But their expectations and practices only partly overlapped with what the hundreds of faneditors I was in touch with were doing.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh please, a “fan” I’ve never heard of being pissed that she hasn’t had her fanzine nominated for a Hugo. The Hugo Fan Writer award went to authors for nominees from the start. Alexei Panshin won the first one in 1967 and he was a Nebula winning novelist. Ted White, Ruth Berman, Wilson “Bob” Tucker, Piers Anthony, Terry Car, Richard E. Geis, Don D’Ammassa, Jacqueline Lichtenberg. They nominated Harlan Ellison even, though he withdrew from it. And of course, David Langford as well. Other nominees were professional journalists, critics and non-fiction writers, including the occasional academic. And they’ve also done publishing pros — both the Nielsen-Haydens were nominated in the 1980’s long before the Internet and Tor.com existed and when they were pro editors. “Fan” has been a very loose category for decades.

    In the 1990’s, they did nominate fewer fan writers who were also fiction writers. But that’s also when they started giving it to the same tiny group of people and mostly having Langford win it. I have no problem with Langford, but he won it every year from 1989 to 2007, something that this woman seems to have no problem with, despite his professional fiction career in the 1980s. And she feels that Scalzi breaking Langford’s streak somehow broke the category? How, by opening it up to other fan writers?

    Scalzi got nominated and then won at the very start of his SF career, as previously noted, like many other past nominees, and from his blog where he’d been experimenting with SF writing and fan writing about it for years before that. Whatever essentially served as Scalzi’s own non-profit magazine with discussion forum. (And the forum was not dominated by conservatives, though they could be around if they stayed within Scalzi’s hammer restrictions.) And also as previously noted, his pro journalism career made his writing widely enjoyed by fans as articulate — just like many journalism connected nominees in the past.

    I’ve little interest in what this woman has to say about SFF when she can’t be bothered to even look up the history of the award she’s vying for. Like the Puppies, she thinks that if she simply states how she wants reality to be, reality will magically change from fact to her fiction. That’s not valuable or insightful fan writing. And what exactly is the point of a “fan” writer who so venomously hates the SFF writers she’s supposed to be writing about and has the SFF cultural astuteness of a newt?

    This is less the complaint of someone objecting to new forms of fan writing, authors doing fan writing, or fandom being a broader world than it used to be as it is someone who is coveting the award/nomination and has come up with a dramatic theory as to why she doesn’t have it yet. But unlike the Puppies, she is unlikely to get a passel of paid-for Gamergater voters to come get her a nomination, even if she does pile on Scalzi. (Who only really became the Red Shirts target for the Puppies because A) they thought it let them claim no racism/sexism was involved in their increasingly wild and nasty complaints and B) Beale wanted that and he was in charge.)

    And anyone who is going after Hines, who has done a great deal for the field completely apart from his books, and who is going through an incredibly scary family health emergency right now — that’s not somebody who loves fandom and has much to write about it. You can be opportunistic and still be a fan, but don’t be surprised if WorldCon members don’t value your temper tantrums over their own interests.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Kat Goodwin wrote: “The Hugo Fan Writer award went to authors for nominees from the start. Alexei Panshin won the first one in 1967 and he was a Nebula winning novelist.”

      Eh, no. Panshin won that Nebula in 1969, AFTER he’d won the Fan Writer Hugo. And he won it for the last of his Riverside Quarterly articles that would be collected in the book Heinlein in Dimension (1968). As Panshin explains himself:

      “In 1967, two new categories were added to the Hugo Awards — Best Fan Artist and Best Fan Writer.
      ” I was the winner of the first award for Best Fan Writer on the basis of the various pieces on Robert Heinlein’s fiction I’d published during the previous year. And, in recognition, I received a plastic-and-wood trophy. (That year, all the Hugo Awards were plastic rockets glued to a wooden base, which had an unfortunate tendency to come apart.)
      “I could hardly have not been given this award. And the one person who was most responsible for seeing that I got it was Robert Heinlein — not by conscious intention, but by the law of reverse effect, the universal operating principle which turns seeming triumphs into disasters and apparent blows into blessings.”

      Today we would call that the Streisand Effect.


  15. I kind of hate this kind of defining and categorising. So to save energy, I mostly do it like this:

    * When I nominate, I will be kind of strict, maybe more than rules require. Because I find it both boring and energy draining with “rules lawyering”, i.e even have to ponder if something is eligible or not. I guess it makes me a conservative in some sense.

    * When I vote, then I mostly think that others must have a good reason for nominating something and will accept it without thought, unless I stumble over someone else giving really good reasons for why it shouldn’t belong. But I will not start to look for reasons myself.

    I did ask a few things regarding AO3, but I think I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gotten irritated at random twitter people calling themselves finalists.

    Anyway, doing it that way makes me able to vote and nominate based mostly on feelings instead of boring criteria. If I want rationality and logic, then I might as well be at work, coding away.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yup, that’s pretty much how I go about it too. Like for Best Related Work, I only look at texted-based, book-length, non-fiction works clearly related to SFF. I enjoy reading those, and I usually find enough to fill out my nominations. I don’t feel the need to look outside my own self-imposed more narrow criteria. And I don’t look at random award-worthy thing and think about how I can fit it in a Hugo category. Not everything needs to be eligible for a Hugo.

      For the final vote, I assume the finalists were nominated in good faith even if it’s something I never would have nominated myself. Or if it becomes clear they weren’t nominated in good faith, like most of the puppy picks. Stuff I’m doubtful about, I’m more likely to leave off rather than putting it under No Award. I’m fine with others using No Award more liberally as they see fit because it’s an important tool which I’m glad we have. I also assume that, for the most part, people are ranking the finalists honestly whether that’s putting my favorite under No Award or putting my #6 at #1!

      Liked by 1 person

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