Best Semiprozine Part 1

The first set of Best Semiprozine Hugo Award recommendations

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine – Small Australia-based magazine with a high proportion of writing by new authors. It was part of last year’s slate, but it’s worth a look in its own right.

Interzone – It might be almost old enough to run for President of the USA, but the UK’s best-known SF magazine is still in there, still putting out good stuff, still well worth consideration.

Uncanny – Relatively new online magazine, already attracting some well-known names, with a good mix of stories, articles and poetry. It may be new, but it looks like it could go somewhere.

Uncanny and Lightspeed – Brief overview of my favorite content from this year’s issues of Lightspeed Magazine and Uncanny Magazine.

Still a couple days to submit more recommendations for Best Semiprozine!

Semiprozine.org has an excellent list of eligible publications to peruse with links to their websites. Also,Rocket Stack Rank has an awesome resource that includes links on how to freely access or buy issues of the top magazines as well as the recommendation results of short stories organized by publication.

Submit your recommendations!

I’m a bit behind (lousy day job), but I figured this might be a slow start anyway. Hopefully it will grow over time,

However, I have created the submission form and the basic guidelines of what I am looking for.

Please submit recommendation links here.

And please, definitely spread the word and the link. The more people we get talking about the works, the better this Hugo season will be.

Links to recommendations for any category are being accepted, but especially need Best Semiprozine and Best Fan Writer recommendations ASAP.

Thank you!

Another good source – Rocket Stack Rank

Almost forgot about another great source that could be useful the first week of Hugo Rec Season – Rocket Stack Rank focuses on reviews and recommendations of Hugo eligible short fiction. I will definitely be plugging them more in at least Short Story week (January 17), but since a large portion of likely every semiprozine is short fiction, finding short stories you like can help lead you to which zines you would like as well. 

Also, right after Semiprozine week, we should focus on fan writer, so keep that in mind. Note: “Fan Writer” here refers to anyone writing about fandom or something related to fandom. It is not necessarily a non-profesional writer, as several pros have won in past years. 

Two Weeks Until Hugo Rec Season Begins! Read your Semiprozines!

Been a bit quiet getting ready for things, but now the countdown begins.

Starting on November 2nd, I will start posting links to reviews/recommendations of Semiprozines. So start reading some now and getting ready to post your recommendations that week (and send your links to me, too, of course). I will have details later this week on how to submit links to your recommendations.

First off, what’s a “semiprozine”?

The specific wording from the WSFS Constitution is quoted at Semiprozine.org.

This is one of three categories that’s for a series of works – along with Fanzine and Fancast. Everything else goes to a single work or individual. (Although, as we will see later in the Hugo Rec Season, sometimes “a single work” can be defined rather loosely.)

It does exist in this odd space of being “semi-professional” but pretty much means what you think. It paid contributors and/or staff (so it’s not a fanzine), but it’s not paying enough to be anyone’s full time job (so it’s not a professional zine).

Why semi-pro?

There are various historical reasons, if I understand correctly, mostly dealing with trying to avoid any one publication totally dominating and therefore making the award more interesting. But I’m not an expert so won’t state facts beyond my knowledge. If you are interested in the history, I suggest some Googling, or better yet, ask one of the long time Worldcon members (and while you are at it, feel free to mention the Hugo Recommendation Season! Hint hint). I have found they really enjoy sharing the history of the Worldcons and Hugo awards. I might see if any of them want to contribute some thoughts to any of these weeks.

Whatever the reason, looking at the list of semiprozines (linked below), it’s pretty clear there are a wide variety of publications to choose from – far more semipro than actual professional, in fact.

But why isn’t there a prozine category?

Again, historical reasons, but from my understanding, Best Editor (Short Form) is considered by many as the de facto Best Prozine. Not everyone is happy with the category divisions and/or names, but all I am concerned with are the categories as they will be in 2016. Semiprozine is there, so let’s talk semiprozines!

So where can I find good semiprozines?

Once again, the folks who run semiprozine.org have an awesome resource with their directory of qualifying publications. I’m not sure if the list has been updated for 2016 Hugos because they have Uncanny as not qualified due to not having enough issues out, but I’m pretty sure they should be qualified now. I will double check because they are one I’m reading and am familiar with.

Revised Schedule

Based on feedback I have received and general ponderings on my own, here is my (possibly final) proposed schedule for the focus weeks:
Nov 1 – Best Semiprozine
Nov 8 – Best Fan Writer

Based on feedback I have received and general ponderings on my own, here is my (possibly final) proposed schedule for the focus weeks:

Nov 1 – Best Semiprozine
Nov 8 – Best Fan Writer
Nov 15 – Best Professional Artist
Nov 22 – Best Fancast
Nov 29 – Best Editor (Short Form)
Dec 6 – Best Fanzine
Dec 13 – Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
Dec 20 – Break
Dec 27 – Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
Jan 3 – Best Fan Artist
Jan 10 – Best Novel
Jan 17 – Best Short Story
Jan 24 – Best Related Work
Jan 31 – Best Editor (Long Form)
Feb 7 – Best Novella
Feb 14 – Best Graphic Story
Feb 21 – Best Novelette
Feb 28 – The John W. Campbell Award
Mar 6 – Late Arrivals

I would have link round-up posts Monday through Friday. On the weekends we could possibly have posts for the Retro Hugos. Or if they announce the categories sooner rather than later, we could start early with the Retros, but we will see.

Further thoughts and opinions?

Tentative Schedule

Here is my first pass at a schedule for the focus weeks during Recommendation Season.

Focus Week Schedule (tentative)

Oct 18 – Best Novel
Oct 25 – The John W. Campbell Award
Nov 1 –  Best Related Work
Nov 8 –  Best Editor (Long Form)
Nov 15 – Best Fan Writer
Nov 22 – Best Novella
Nov 29 – Best Semiprozine
Dec 6 – Best Novelette
Dec 13 – Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
Dec 20 – Break
Dec 27 – Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
Jan 3 – Best Editor (Short Form)
Jan 10 – Best Short Story
Jan 17 – Best Graphic Story
Jan 24 – Best Fancast
Jan 31 – Best Fanzine
Feb 7 – Best Professional Artist
Feb 14 – Best Fan Artist
Feb 21 – Late Arrivals
Feb 28 – Late Arrivals Week 2?

My thinking was as follows:

  • Lead with Best Novel. Good to start with a big one (many would argue *the* big one) to get as much interest as early as possible.
  • Related to that, have categories that might be more time consuming nearer the front to give more time for reading recommendations you like. So novel, definitely early. The (non-Hugo) Campbell Award for New Writer have early since it’s about people who may have several works, including novels. Same for Best Editor Long Form.
  • Mix it up some. This is my randomly just kind of adding things to dates by feel, ineffable guide.
  • Not have all of the fan awards at the end – although I’m not sure I satisfied that one well. I worried that with things like Best Novel, Campbell, and various prose categories at the beginning, it might fizzle more at the end with less interest. However, there is also the fact that the later half will be during actual nomination season. So there might be more interest overall during January and February than November and December, so it might be a wash.
  • I did add both artist categories at the end. The only reason for this is that, unlike, say novels, zines, or even short stories, evaluating what artists’ works you like and don’t can be pretty quick. We can be such visual creatures, we can seem to judge visual creative works faster than written. So leave the quickest for the end, I figured.
  • I left a break for Christmas/other December holidays, both because I will personally be traveling to visit family quite a bit then and because I’m a firm believer in breaks to rest and recharge.
  • Finally, I added a week or two at the end for works that come out in November or December after their focus weeks and things people simply thought of later. Might do “focus days” or something here and combine some categories. We will see.
  • Edited to add: Also, I went for mid-October to end of February because I wanted to finish before March so that there was time to check out things that caught your eye during recommendations, plus 1 week per category including the (not a Hugo) Campbell. So that pushed it to mid-October. We could shift it a couple weeks and have the Late Arrivals week or two in March and start November 1 (which was my original intent until I did the math).

Thoughts? Opinions? This seem workable? What should be moved where?

Moving Forward

I am suggesting to the wider SFF community that we have a Hugo Recommendation Season. Let’s talk about what works and creators we think are great from this year and share our enthusiasm with everyone. I’m still working out the details, but my idea is to use this blog to collect links to recommendation posts.

An invitation all fans to take part in the 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season.

The 2015 Hugo Awards are over and it certainly wasn’t pretty. However, it is what it is, and many of us are looking towards 2016 and moving forward. There seems to be even more anger and deeper divides now that the awards are over and that is not healthy for fans or the Hugos. Don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in listening to the same arguments that have been regurgitated for the next year.

Personally, I’m interested in the works and know I’m not alone in that. Also, this year many more eyes will be on the nominating process, but like other fans, I have rarely nominated anything. I tend to be a slow reader, and usually far, far behind in my To-Be-Read pile. Embarrassingly behind, in fact. It’s somehow even worse than my To-Be-Watched pile (speaking of which, I *really* need to get watching Orphan Black!).

On top of that, I am one the newer arrivals to the Hugos having only followed them closely for the past few years, and I will admit that I wouldn’t recognize a “semiprozine” without a prescription (#DadJokes). I’m also glad I’m not the only one with no idea on how to pick Best Editor nominees without a lot of research or following the herd.

I am suggesting to the wider SFF community that we have a Hugo Recommendation Season. Let’s talk about what works and creators we think are great from this year and share our enthusiasm with everyone. Most everyone seems to agree that the Hugo Awards should be about great work even if we disagree on what makes it great. So let’s make this year be about great work.

I’m sure there will still be plenty of accusations and name-calling flying around, but it’s gotten so nasty, I no longer care about that. I want to help make a space for EVERYONE to be able to talk about what works they enjoy and why – for ALL categories. I see some people already listing off some novels they like, a short story or two, maybe some TV episodes. But I also want to know which artists are doing great work this year. I want to hear people talk about their favorite ‘zines – both fan and semipro. And, please, tell us what editors are doing great work this year and why! And so on.

There are already a wiki and a spreadsheet with people listing eligible works – which will certainly be useful – but I want more. Plus, there are countless comments buried in forum posts where people mention “Hey, this is cool”, but it’s not easy finding all of those, and they are usually little more than statements of “I liked this.” I want someone who loves a work tell us why they love it. I want to read a fan geeking out over something that excites them.

I’m still working out the details over the next couple weeks, but my idea is to use this blog to collect links to recommendation posts. I will post links to anyone’s recommendations. Anyone. As long as they are talking about why they enjoyed a story or ‘zine or admire an artist or editor, I will include it. As long as it’s not an attack disguised as a recommendation (e.g. “This book is great because it’s not the usual garbage [fill in the blank with some derisive name for some other group] likes!”), I will include it. Sad Puppy, non-Puppy, whatever. Tor, Baen, self-published indie, it’s all good. I don’t care about affiliations, or campaigns, or whatever. I just want posts from individual fans being fans.

Since the nomination window will be from early January to late March, I was thinking in October or early November starting the 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season with a focus category every week. We can lead off with Best Novel and work back, both because that gives people more time to read longer recommended works (or ask for them during one of the gift giving holidays) and to gather interest at the beginning with one of the most popular categories.

Each week, people could post on blogs, Facebook, or whatever, the works they enjoyed in that category and most importantly WHY they enjoyed it. Send me the links (in a form I will make to help coordinate this) and I will post collections of them during that week. At the end of the Recommendation Season we would include additional focus days for works that came out at the end of the year or other late additions.

Let people have their arguments and their mocking and their accusations. I’m tired of it. I want to spend this Hugo Recommendation Season reading positive articles about what people love. How about you?

-Ken Marable

P.S. Checking the MidAmeriCon II site, I just noticed this is also a Retro Hugo year! They will “be soliciting and publishing articles by members of the SF community to provide an overview of the works from 1940 that are eligible for nominations,” so hopefully that should inform us well. I will certainly be keeping a close eye on that and signal boosting as much as possible!