(if you aren’t interested in science fiction fandom, or worse, science fiction fandom politics and SMOFFing and all of that crap, avert your eyes and go read something else. you’ll thank me…)
So, this is a motion that’s being offered at this year’s WSFS meeting at Worldcon: To gut the Hugos of the Fanzine, Fan Writer and Fan Artist categories (pdf link), an idea put forward by one Milt Stevens. If you’re at all interested in this stuff, go read it; I’ll wait.
Oh, good lord.
This proposal is patently stupid and I expect it’ll die a quick and hopefully embarrassing death for its supporters. It’s attempting to restart a fight that was lost and done with about 30 years ago. Since I was in the middle of this fight back in the day, a bit of historical context for the twelve people in the universe who might care….
For what it’s worth, John Scalzi does a wonderful job of gutting this — the only word I can come up with printable is senile — attempt to return fandom to the good old days, if you define good old days to almost 40 years ago before the scourge of the modem. Or something like that. It’s being fronted by Milt Stevens and seconded by Linda Deneroff, which I’ll describe more or less as old school paper fanzine geeks and smofs that were well-known back in the early 80′s. Mike Glyer, of File 770 fame, seems to be cheering them on.
This is a bunch of aging comedians trying to get people to stop watching that damned Television thing and come back to the Vaudeville stages. Nothing more, nothing less. And it’ll be about as effective.
1989, Noreascon 3. OtherRealms was nominated for Best Fanzine and I ended up nominated for Best Fan Writer. OtherRealm was up against File 700 (who ultimately won), and the wonderful FOXFAX and Ed Meskys’ Niekas and the Fanzine I actually voted for, Lan’s Lantern by George “Lan” Laskowski (may he rest in peace. Miss you, Lan). Best Fan Writer was mostly the usual suspects, Dave Langford, Mike Glyer, Arthur Hlavaty, Avedon Carol, Guy Lillian and this interloper, namely me, the online fan geek. Dave Langford won (and deserved to, but I voted for Hlavaty. Surprised I didn’t vote for myself? I knew I wasn’t going to win, I didn’t think I deserved to, and it was just rather nice to be on the ballot finally… mostly).
There were — I’m shocked, you know — rumors of bloc voting and nominations that year. Not in the fan categories but in one of the pro categories. Frankly, it was mostly the usual in group political infighting. but when I went to Noreascon that year, I was rather — frustrated — to start hearing the rumors that the only reason I was on the ballot was that the people organizing the bloc nominations for that other category told everyone to nominate me as well so it wouldn’t be obvious that there was organized group nominations going on. As far as I know that wasn’t true, and I was not involved in any of it, but to be honest, having it said to my face in the fanzine room took the glow off the weekend a bit. Not even getting hit up by the groupies who were attempting to tag their dance card with as many hugo nominees as they could that weekend could fix it (for the record, I turned her down, and introduced my wife to her. She told me my wife was welcome, too… god, I do love and miss fandom some days).
One reason I know this bloc voting ‘thang’ had little or no part in OtherRealms finally getting on the ballot was because it had been a close call on the ballot a couple of previous years, and in one previous year the con committee decided, rather arbitrarily (and against my arguments) that if it was nominated onto the ballot, OtherRealms would have to qualify as a semiprozine (and therefore go up against Locus and Charlie Brown and lose).
During this time the mailing list SF-Lovers was growing in prominence and size, and by the late 80′s the membership and message volume of the list was likely larger than all of paper fanzine fandom worldwide added together, but it was ruled ineligible for the ballot for various reasons like not existing on paper and not having countable subscribers (or too many, depending on how you wanted to look at it, which would have stuffed it into the semiprozine category).
So this fight was going on literally 30 years ago and some of the folks involved are involved in this new fight, at least peripherally. Ultimately Noreascon 3 invented a special award that was given to Saul Jaffe for running SF-Lovers, and Noreason 3 (unlike previous ConComs) stopped finding reasons not to let OtherRealms on the ballot. OtherRealms complicated that argument because I had really fallen into paper fanzine fandom as well as online and it was a legimate hybrid with a legitimate paper version as well as an electronic version — and by that time I was not only pubbing OtherRealms, but I’d joined FAPA and I was involved in a number of “real” fanzine activities (we can blame Ben Bova, Arthur Hlavaty and a couple of others for igniting that bug. Thanks, guys).
The good news is, OtherRealms, which had a significant online audience (my guess: 20-25,000 at its max) made it onto the ballot. the bad news was that it made it onto the ballot because of the paper edition, which had at the time 6-700 paper subscribers. It’s going to be hard for modern online folks to understand this, but this was before HTML, before the web, before PDF, before you could embed images or even bold text in an email, so the two really were unique and different editions with similar content. So in practice, the paper edition was what was put on the ballot, even though most of the nominators and voters were readers of the electronic version.
And guess what. It happened, I finished above No Award (which was my hope) and the universe didn’t fall into a black hole. Neither did the Hugos, and neither have the fan Hugos. They’ve chugged along for 30 years doing pretty well, unless you happen to be one of those old school types who really want us all to go back to black and white TVs; um, paper fanzines. It always amazes me when I see people heavily involved in Science Fiction, whether as authors or fans, as absolutely resistant to change and progress and some of them are.
Dear old school fanzine fans: the world has changed. Get over it. Speaking as a former member of FAPA (and proud of it), there’s a lot of really good crap going on in online fandom, too. Quite whining about it, join in. Heck, even Mike Glyer has a web site for File 770 now, although from what I can tell, he seems to wish it didn’t exist some times…
this proposal is nothing more than the stars that were famous in silent movies attempting to tell everyone to kill the Oscars rather than award them to those horrors called talking pictures (because they haven’t been able to find work since the silents went away). It should be treated as the silly crap it is and quickly sent to the shredder and forgotten.
It is, frankly, terribly sad to see people still trying to fight a battle that was lost 30 years ago, and demeaning the work of a much larger group of people who are doing really good and interesting work, just because it doesn’t fit their idea of appropriate. Guess what, folks, not only do movies talk these days, they do it in color, too. You might want to try a few. you might like it.
(to the rest of the universe that’s not stuck in a time loop set 40 years ago, please don’t tell them about surround-sound or 3D or IMAX. Their nervous system might not be able to take it…)
Some days I really, really miss being actively involved in fandom and fanzine pubbing. But not today. Now I feel kinda sad for those that are that fights like this are still going on…