Before I start on this week’s category, I want to respond here to a comment Gregory Benford made on the Best Artist post, and pre-emptively apologize for using his comment as an example of bad voting practice. No insult is intended to Mr. Benford, but his comment:
Steve Stiles’ half-century of art point to his premier position in the field. He
has done more for the field than any living fan artist. Hope he wins!
is a pretty good example of what not to do when you vote in any category. I doubt Mr. Benford intended to conflate quality with time served, but that was the result. It’s perfectly possible to serve a community and field well and faithfully for fifty or more years and never be all that good at what you’re doing. It’s what would happen if I did public speaking for a community for that long.
What’s more, the Hugo rules make it absolutely clear that the award is not a long-service award. People only qualify if they have works that fit the criteria which were first published in the eligibility period. So if – and I’m certainly not saying this is the case – none of Steve Stiles’ 2015 works are better than the 2015 works of the other artists in this category, then he does not deserve to win. Period.
What you do in this situation, where you want to honor extended service to the field by someone who might not make the cut on ability alone, is you lobby for a special award to go to that person. A special award for, oh, I don’t know, services to fan art honors the long-term contributions made by Mr Stiles, makes everyone who appreciates his work and art but can’t really honestly vote him the best based on his 2015 output (this is a hypothetical, folks) feel that they’ve done the right thing. It also – which is crucial if the Hugos are to remain any kind of prestige in the face of all the controversy – neatly eliminates any hint that one can earn a Hugo by doing stuff for the right people as opposed to being really, really good at what you do.
So remember that the award isn’t a long service award, and put your votes to the works you honestly believe are the best in their category for 2015.
Now on to the finalists for Best Fanzine.
As seems to be the trend, nominating ballot counts in this category more than doubled from 576 last year to this year’s 1455 nominating ballots. Like Best Fancast, we have an awkward mix of commercially backed (but presumably still meeting the rules for the category or they’d be in the semipro or pro category) and bootstrapped entities, as well as a really wide variety in how they do things.
(Lengthy aside: I have to wonder where the line can be drawn between so few categories it’s impossible to make a fair comparison on merit because you’re trying to compare vlogs with audiozines and so many categories the awards become meaningless. Let’s face it, who cares if you win Best Fan Art of An Alien Left Little Toe As Rendered In Watercolor).
On to the finalists, as listed on the Hugo site:
Castalia House Blog – This is one of the professionally-backed nominations: the blog for Castalia House has an eclectic combination of topics and posts, including various forms of gaming, literature, non-fiction, and – inevitably – promoting the parent entity’s books. The articles are typically well-written, usually on the short side (a 5 minute read is about typical unless you go digging through the related links. Then you’re doomed), and cover a variety of topics.
File 770 (http://file770.com/ or http://www.efanzines.com/File770/) – Since I haven’t received my voters packet yet (it’s either been eaten by my spam catcher or otherwise lost in transit – I must check up on that this weekend because I’m running out of freely accessible items) I’m not sure if the nomination is for the site or the zine. Either way, File 770 is primarily the work of Mike Glyer, and both the zine and the site offer something of a cornucopia of information about the field.
Lady Business – This site is the work of a collection of self-described feminist geeks who post a lot about all things genre, whether fan works or pro. Article length varies, and – fair warning – all the authors use ponies of the sparkly kind as their avatars. Their content can segue into the highly and sometimes weirdly political (and they can get it hilariously wrong), but it’s well-written and entertaining.
Superversive SF – A group blog with a mix of reviews, science articles and other pieces about SF and F which embody the superversive viewpoint (if you’re wondering this article is a good place to start). There’s also philosophical musings about the genre which are worth the read all by themselves whether you agree or not.
Tangent Online – Tangent is a review magazine which started as a print zine and moved online for many reasons, most of them green with Benjamin Franklin on one side. These days, Tangent includes reviews of a wide range of science fiction and fantasy. The ones I’ve read largely focus on the quality of the work rather than the politics of the author. There are also some articles which are a bit more opinionated (the one I wrote is, of course, very opinionated and should probably not be used as part of your consideration of where your vote goes. When I give my unvarnished opinion it tends to melt varnish).
Go check all of them out, dig back through the archives, and decide which you think are the absolute best of the best of fanzines.
P.S. For those who want the numbers, the detailed data for last year’s awards is available here .