Hugo Category Highlight: Best Fan Writer

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.

This is another category that tends not to get much attention, and, like Best Fan Artist, has a definition full of holes large enough to drive a Death Star through – with plenty of wiggle room. As with the Best Fan Artist, what counts towards nominating someone for this award hinges on the Hugo site’s definition of “professional”. In this case publications, presumably including websites, that meet the definition are ineligible.

(Just for what passes for clarity around here, the Hugo definition of professional)

Some Hugo categories (Best Professional Artist, Best Fan Artist, Best Semiprozine, and Best Fanzine) are defined by whether the work done was professional, semi-professional, or fannish. The definition of what is a “professional” publication is somewhat technical. A professional publication either (1) provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or, (2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.


I thought not.

I’m not going to claim guru-understanding here, since I’m well aware it would be possible to rules lawyer this category into oblivion, but as I understand it, if the publication pays someone 25% or more of their income (presumably annually), then anything published in it doesn’t count. It doesn’t appear to matter whether the author (or artist) was paid, nor does there appear to be any kind of threshold. Caveat Emptor, I suppose.

Anyway, the rules as I read them would allow someone to be nominated for any original work published in fanzines, posted on a blog, posted to (yes, fanfic does appear to be included. I have to admit to a low hope that nobody tracks down my fanfic alias and tries to nom me for that because how in heck do I turn it down without blowing my cover?), or distributed by any other means including handwritten copies delivered to your Mum on Christmas Day (how you’d get samples to anyone to judge is another question). As long as it’s not a professional publication and it’s science fiction or fantasy (and of course it was published/posted in 2015) it counts.

So what’s eligible? In theory, any of my Mad Genius Club posts could be used as the examples to nominate me (but don’t you dare recommend me on the strength of that). Fanfic writers count. If Larry Correia hadn’t pre-excluded himself and informed all and sundry he’ll turn down any nominations he gets, I’d say this year’s entry in The Christmas Noun series most definitely counts. So do any of the Tempest In A Teardrop posts and comics. I’d suggest Dave Freer’s posts here, but he’d probably never forgive me for dumping him in that load of festering poop for another year.

Some of my personal choices: Kris Rusch for practically every post she’s written this year, but particularly the business posts. They’re an invaluable resource for writers trying to navigate the business side of writing. For the humorous side, all the posts in this series appeal to me although be damned if I can figure out how I’d nominate anyone for them. Keith Glass for his comedic gem of a quasi-Lovecraftian review on Amazon. It doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the classic review of sugar-free Gummi bears, but that is long past eligibility.

I’m not going to list the usual suspects, simply because they are the usual suspects and I generally check their blogs every day. They may show up on the list or not, and may be nominated or not. Regardless, from what I’ve read this part year, they are very much worthy.

The pieces I’ve highlighted here are a somewhat… different… selection of potentially eligible works that technically fit the rules (they really are that broad) and appeal to me. If there’s anyone you think deserves a nomination for the quality of their non-professional SF or fantasy writing, feel free to add it to the list.

33 thoughts on “Hugo Category Highlight: Best Fan Writer

  1. I’m currently reading a BattleTech fic, ‘Along Came a Spider’ by drakensis, that is pretty good. That said, I’m loathe to nominate any fanfic writer who hasn’t volunteered.

    Could I nominate my own explanation of how Swirsky’s story actually qualifies as science fiction? 🙂

    1. It’s not against the rules – provided you have a link to it so it can be evaluated, of course.

      Some of the fanfics out there are astonishingly good. Some are better than the works they’re based one (in some cases this is not a terribly high bar).

      1. Supposing that alternative sexualities are integral to SFF, how about Robert Stacey McCain?

        1. For all of these, I don’t see any reason not to, although Robert McCain’s works may fit better in a different category. Ultimately the Hugo committee decides whether something is eligible or not.

  2. Does it even say how often you need to write? I just put up my first real post in 6 months. Caused a bit of a stir at File 770, and got Gerrold to flame me from behind his Facebook Block (Apparently advising me how he’s learned not to get involved in feuds. Heh!) Although they all missed the real point of the thing. Somehow I don’t think a nomination for it is deserved, nor would it go very far. 🙂

      1. Nah, they didn’t even figure out what it was really about, so blinded they were with hate for Lou. Their final arguments boiled down to “I know you are but what am I?” because my comments on their behavior were a little too veiled.

    1. No, it doesn’t say. You could post/publish exactly one thing all year, and if enough people consider it that good it could be nominated.

      And in all honesty, I’ve yet to meet an author who could accurately evaluate their own works.

      1. Well, when I first write them, I think they’re brilliant. Then after enough time, I think they’re shit, so on average, somewhere in the middle I may even be right. Although I imagine there’s some debate (PLEASE let there be some debate!) about where along that continuum the true value lies.

  3. They’re slightly less vague in describing the qualifications than some student essays I’ve seen on bad-example web-sites. “And then [name] did historical things. [Name] was very important in his country. For this reason, [name] is an important historical figure.” (Replace [name] with book title and you have one of those book reviews that drive English teachers to early retirement.) I understand wanting to keep all options open as new types of fan writing might arise, but still, a little clearer would be nice.

    1. They said that electing Obama would be historic. Obama was elected. Then Obama did historical things. Obama was very important in the country. For this reason, Obama is an important historical figure.

      However, he was overshadowed by Tweets becoming the standard format for presenting and discussing history.


    2. Just a tad, yes. I suspect some of these categories are in the “I know it when I see it” bucket, which for an award that’s supposed to be the most prestigious for the genre is a tad… risky.

      It only takes one rules lawyer and everyone loses.

        1. That’s a fascinating discussion – and I say this as someone for whom the actual rules mentioned are completely meaningless.

  4. Dorothy Grant did an excellent series here on how to monitor & promote your work on Amazon. I’d be inclined to nominate her just for that alone. Does that resonate with anybody else?

        1. Okay, I did it. Ummm…I’m hoping the brevity of my nomination comment is taken as adherence to the guidelines, and not lack of enthusiasm for the nominee…

          1. I’m afraid I don’t see it on the update sidebar. If you were trying for ‘Fan Writer’, it looks like the last new comment was mine at 11 AM today.

                1. I check the pending queue at least once a day and let pretty much anything that’s not obvious spam through. I just got done approving a bunch of suggestions.

                  1. Server seems to be down. I probably have too much time on my hands.

                    I get:
                    ‘Not Acceptable!

                    An appropriate representation of the requested resource could not be found on this server. This error was generated by Mod_Security.’

          2. If she did it over here, then I believe we are talking about blog posts.

            Now, correct if I am mistaken, but none of the regulars and irregulars actually get paid for writing blog posts. Therefore, we are not exactly dealing with a ‘professional publication’ – as fame alone does not translate into fortunes.

            Not to mention that fans tend to give a try to do the things they like. With science fiction and fantasy literature, it tends to translate into writing new fiction. Thus when a fan has something written down, and enough courage to put it out, why stop there? Why not try get that extra reader and do some little promotion for your work? Hence even though this recommended work might appear as something aimed for the ‘professionals,’ in its heart, the very essence of it belongs to the science fiction fan as an encouragement for fans to put out their works. Could anyone argue that such a work would not warrant consideration for Best Fan Writer nomination?

            Now, I have to admit that I have not read those blog posts, I am just showing how easy it is to argue for the eligibility of just about anything as far as this category is considered. (In case someone for some myriad reason decides to go ‘tut-tut’ or whatever.)

  5. I feel that nominating someone for one or two blog posts, no matter how great they are, goes against the spirit of the award. You can quibble about what “best” means, but surely a “best” fan writer is someone who has made a sustained contribution to fandom?

    I also think a fan writer can be considered on the strength their entire body of work – not just what was published in the past year. Consider the relevant line from the WSFS Constitution:

    “3.2.1: Unless otherwise specified, Hugo Awards are given for work in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year.”

    Well, the Best Fan Writer Award is indeed “otherwise specified.” It isn’t for a work in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year. It’s for a person. (Same goes for Best Editors.)

    (Last time I voted for Jeffro Johnson on the strength of his “Appendix N Series.” I can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be considered again on the strength of his fan writing from 2014 AND 2015. I recommend longtime blogger/reviewer Abigail Nussbaum with the same logic. BTW, you might check out Nussbaum’s recent review of Ancillary Justice:

    I also wonder if nominating pros who are “making a living” (such as it is!) from writing goes against the spirit of the award. At least in the old days authors didn’t have to do as much marketing. Today, authors might be writing posts for and maintaining relationships with fans 24/7, posting free samples, collecting money through tip jars, Patreon, Kickstarter, etc. Having said that, there are obvious exceptions, like awarding it to someone who has more or less retired – the one for Fred Pohl was a wonderful gesture – and if pros happen to win it again, good for them.

    Others may disagree!

    Merry Christmas, everyone.

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