Abyss & Apex : Second Quarter 2009: Editorial

Fix, Do Not Eliminate, The Semiprozine Hugo

by Wendy S. Delmater, Editor-In-Chief’



I support the Semiprozine Hugo award because a thriving genre semiprofessional magazine market helps the science fiction & fantasy community. How? As an example, here is what A&A does:

(1) We are talent scouts for the pro magazines. A&A is a good market for new writers – 25% of our stories are first-ever publications for our authors. A&A is a cover letter credit the pro mags respect.
(2) Online venues reach people traditional marketing and venues miss. Example: our “Wikihistory,” went viral on the internet and was featured in Boing Boing, Fark, Good Morning Silicon Valley, the CNN/Washington Post blog and got a print write-up in “New Scientist” magazine.
(3) Our circulation is over 30,000 unique visitors a MONTH. To put it mildly, fans are reading this stuff.

Other semiprozines give similar things to the community: a place to move up the publication ladder, a niche that might appeal to a broader audience, and—especially in the case of review zines—a place for the community to interact.

But the crux of the Semiprozine Hugo problem, as I see it, is that the category for is far too broad. I think the award is broken at the moment. To be a benefit the Best Semiprozine Hugo should mirror the Best Pro Zine Hugo. Right now it does anything but. It is All Locus, All the Time – to the point where last year Making Light suggested the Best Semiprozine Hugo be renamed “Best Locus.” That needs to stop.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love Locus. I read it and I subscribe. But in my opinion those who are trying to eliminate its dominance by eliminating the category are just wrong. If successful, they will do damage to the genre. Rather than throw out the baby with the bathwater, we need to fix the award. How to do it? Read on.

I once had a debate coach who taught me that the first thing you do is define your terms, so let’s define “semiprozine.” The Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society defines a Semiprozine as follows:

3.3.10: Best Semiprozine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction or fantasy which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues, at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which in the previous calendar year met at least two (2) of the following criteria:
(1) had an average press run of at least one thousand (1000) copies per issue,
(2) paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication,
(3) provided at least half the income of any one person,
(4) had at least fifteen percent (15%) of its total space occupied by advertising,
(5) announced itself to be a semiprozine.


That’s it. A&A qualifies. Locus qualifies. So we get shoved in the same box. But in my opinion, the Hugo category for “semiprozine” is far too broad. It needs split into two categories: fiction and non-fiction. In the opinions of past Hugo voters, Locus is the BEST non-fiction zine there is. I agree. But why are they competing with fiction magazines like Abyss & Apex?

In my humble opinion, non-fiction “Locus” should duke it out with other non-fiction publications like “The SFWA Bulletin” and review magazines like IRoSF, NYRSF, The Fix, and SF Site, SF Crowsnest. Semipro magazines that publish primarily fiction should be a separate category. We are not just talking comparing apples to oranges here: the analogy might be more like comparing a Pulitzer Prize to a Grammy Award. It’s as if television were including TV dramas in an awards show for television newscasts. The news will always win. It would be an honor for the dramas to even get nominated. It makes NO SENSE for fiction mags to go head-to-head with non-fiction mags. We have an entirely different focus.

As things stand now, it is an honor for fiction semiprofessional magazines to be nominated. That’s all fiction semipro fiction zines can aspire to and it is far better than nothing. So let’s keep the Best Semiprozine award until it gets separated into two awards–a fiction semi-pro award & non-fiction semi-pro award.

Because, really, the award is doing double-duty as it stands.

–Wendy S. Delmater, Editor-In-Chief



Wendy S. Delmater asks that you go to Save The Semiprozine (semiprozine.org) for further information.



Editorial © 2009 Wendy S. Delmater. All other content copyright © 2009 Abyss & Apex Publishing. 

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