Category: Hugo2019

Looking for Fanwriters 4: A couple more names

Just adding a couple more names. Both regular contributors to File 770.


Some interesting Hugo eligibility questions

A few eligibility questions came up today.

First one. Alexandra Erin has an eligibility post up here:

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.’

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 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.’

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

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 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!

Looking for Fan Writers 1

As people who remember the original version of the 2018 Hugo Ceremony before I used a time machine to erase those events and replace them with an alternate version where I didn’t attend, I’m not seeking nominations this year just in case the compulsion to run around the auditorium shouting conspiracy theories and throwing purple paint at people in the hope of revealing the invisible “supporting members” overcomes me again. Apologies to everybody had that particular timeline erased — honestly it was no worse than this one.

Instead, I’m clutching the ‘fan writer’ category to my heart and talking about the who-and-what of it. As always, this is really personal research dressed up as a fake expertise. I’m trying to describe a space of fan writing that makes talking about the field possible.

First thing: what do fan writers do? (My opinion obviously and your view may vary)

  • Write reviews of books, movies, TV shows etc. ‘Review’ here meaning an assessment of a particular output to help others judge its quality or to touch off discussion.
  • Write criticism about genre properties or a genre in general. Criticism is different from a review in that it is looking in depth at how a text functions.
  • Write advice about writing within SFF genres or of relevance to people who want to write in SFF genres
  • Write and collate news about popular culture/SFF genres
  • Write and collate news about fandom and fan culture
  • Write opinions and provoke discussion about popular culture/SFF genres
  • Write opinions and provoke discussion about fandom and fan culture
  • Collate and survey aspects of popular culture
  • Write ANY KIND OF THING that is intended to amuse or interest fans/fandom including non-fiction about adjacent things (e.g. technology, or social issue within popular culture etc) as well as fiction (in particular fiction that doesn’t fit into standard publishing categories by length or medium)

Put another way, fan writing is writing for fans/fandom that does not fit into conventional mediums of published works.

Fan writers will often be doing other things that are part of their general activity in this space but which I’d see as being seperate from the fan writing.

  • Writing about current events/politics etc in general (e.g. the overt political writing I do here is all part of the unitary thing-that-I-do but for the purposes of judging me as a ‘fan writer’ it’s seperate).
  • Actual day-job stuff. For me there zero overlap and a wall of personal identity between the two but for many there’s a less clear distinction, which is fine. I’d count John Scalzi’s blog & Twitter account as places where he does fan writing. Sam Syke’s weird Twitter threads count in my book (not suggesting anybody nominates either of them – the examples are purely illustrative)
  • Official position stuff. The SWFA President writes stuff in their role that fits some of the list above but which I wouldn’t count as fan writing.

As I’ve discussed before, trying to make an not-for-pay/for-pay distinction isn’t a viable one: Patreon and other crowd funding models help keep people writing who otherwise couldn’t afford to.

A more complex question is where fan writing happens. Spending time recently diving back into the last eight years of Hugo nominations for Fan Writer made me pay attention to how significant LiveJournal communities (and similar blogging platforms) where in the fan writing space prior to the disrupted years of Sad Puppy activity. For lots of reasons, in the intervening years, that changed. Not just LiveJournal but blogging in general declined. Although the demise of Twitter has also been predicted, it is still a focus of fannish exchange. Goodreads as a hub and community of reviewers has grown in strength. Facebook is not a platform I use much or have much affinity for but is also a place that maintains fannish communities. Patreon and Medium each provide models by which people can write in a space that allows for some degree of compensation.

One net effect of these changes is that some fan writing is not as casually accessible as it was. A second effect is difference in platform encourage different kinds of writing: Facebook leads to shortish, community focused posts, Patreon & Medium long form writing, and Twitter’s character count leads to more novel experimentation.

Of course online fanzines and fan sites continue and remain places central to fan writing.

Research rabbit holes

I’ve been living in the past! I wanted to write some stuff about the ‘space’ of people that form Fan writers. As ‘research’=’spreadsheet’ for some reason, I ended up with a spreadsheet of everybody who had been listed in the nomination data for the Hugo Fanwriter award from 2010 to 2018.

That is quite a lot of people (72 people to be precise) with some people who have appeared lots of times and some who have appeared once. I can’t claim to know every name but it’s a fascinating list. However, I really am not sure how to present it. The multiple nominees* are, arguably, of more note when considering people who Hugo voters have consistently thought of as examples of fan writers. However, the single nominees**, particularly finalists, contain notable names and highlight events and arguments within fandom more.

The result was me wandering back in time following old blog posts. Some about the Sad Puppies again but also following the trail around “Requires Hate’ and the Mixon report — which itself generated a fair degree of commentary and what is or should count as fan writing but which was overshadowed by the Puppy Debarkle. Of course, that took me further down into the history of the whole RequiresHate affair, which looking back seems like a major conflict that was interrupted by something bigger.

No conclusion here, other than ‘that’s what I did with my time’.

*[‘Nominees’ is, of course, not a term used by the Hugos and there is no special status accorded to those people listed in the nomination data but who were not finalists. For convenience, in this context ‘nominee’ is the simplest term as I can’t keep typing ‘people listed in the nomination data’]
*[Single nominees within the time span I collated data — some will have been multiple nominees over a different time span]