After a little break last week, now it is time to focus on Best Editor (Short Form). From the Hugo website, the eligibility is described as “To be eligible the person must have edited at least four anthologies, collections or magazine issues devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy, at least one of which must have been published in the year of eligibility.” I know there is definitely a storied history here, as well as many seeing this award as the pseudo-best professional magazine or anthology sorta kinda wink wink category.
However, leaving that aside for the moment, I think there is an important clarification necessary. I have heard many fans in the past talk about how it is impossible for fans to know who is good at editing, and asking for voting packets to include unedited material so that the fans can judge their editing skills.
This misses much of the point. For one thing, strict copyediting of cleaning up actual text is a very small part of an editor’s job (and might be even be someone else’s job in some cases with large publishers). A large part of an editor’s job – especially for anthologies, collections, and magazines – is deciding what should or should not be in there. They set the direction and focus of those publications. Yes, they also quite often work to improve the story itself either with high level notes about plot and theme, or at the level of direct copyediting. But something fans can see without side by side comparisons of edited and unedited works is the choices made to create the anthology or magazine.
Were the selected stories and articles interesting, insightful, fun, whatever? Were the stories uneven – some gems and a lot of mediocre? Were they all well-chosen and solid stories?
If there was a topic, how original and interesting was the topic? How well did the stories fit it?
I can see how thinking along these lines can lead the category towards being a kinda sorta best anthology/pro-mag award, and that doesn’t seem to be a bad thing. People often assume from the job title of “editor” that it simply involves editing – fixing grammar, and so on. Although that is an important part of the publishing process, in my mind, at least, that level of work is on par with Best Typesetting and Best Binding – a minimum standard that takes skill but should be present in all publications, and not especially award-worthy. Maybe the level up from that of tightening a storyline, or removing unnecessary droning explanations, takes more finesse, but again is probably more apparent in its absence than its presence.
However, the aspects of an editor’s job that involves story selection, theme setting, deciding on the overall direction and style of a publication, and so on are most certainly award-worthy. With something like Best Editor (Short Form), it is actually even easier to judge that than it is with Best Editor (Long Form) – for one thing, it is much clearer who the editors are, which is handy.
Judge and recommend as you will. Even feel free to disagree with my assessment of the category. Other than the eligibility standards, fans are welcome to nominate and vote based on whatever criteria they like. But, please take some time this week to look over the pro-magazines, anthologies, and collections published this past year and see what strikes you as award-worthy work and submit a recommendation. With the growth of anthologies recently (especially through Kickstarter), this is a very exciting category and I can’t wait to read what people think.