Episode 115: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!

We are back after an unexpected break over the WorldCon weekend. We intended to have a podcast for you, and to record many, many exciting interviews. Instead, life took over and we did something else.

However, we were back in the Gershwin Room this weekend to discuss the Hugo Awards, Paul Kincaid’s LA Times article on the exhaustion of science fiction, and steampunk, through the lens of two very fine stories by Caitlin R. Kiernan (“Goggles (c.1910)” from Steampunk 3) and Nick Mamatas (“Arbeitschraft” from The Mammoth Book of Steampunk).

As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast!

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10 thoughts on “Episode 115: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!”

  1. Semiprozine. Here’s the easy version.

    If no money changes hands then it is a fanzine.

    If the contributors get paid but the staff of the magazine do not, then it is a semiprozine.

    If the staff of the magazine get paid then it is professional.

    For those who are still confused, here’s some elaboration.

    The basic fan ethic is that you do what you do for the love of it, not to make money. The only “payment” fans should expect for what they do is that fans who benefit from their work should also do things on a volunteer basis to pay back for all of the free stuff they have received from others.

    However, as with all artistic activity, not all creativity is commercial. Our writers need money to support them. Fans can help by creating publishing companies and magazines that take in money to pay the writers, and cover costs. Provided that the fans themselves don’t take payment, they are still operating within the fan ethic.

    If, on the other hand, the staff of the magazine get paid, then clearly they are running the magazine as industry professionals and should be judged as such.

    There are, of course, inevitable wrinkles and complications, because real life is not as simple as award rules, but the above outlines the basic principles on which the split is based.

  2. As always a nice podcast.

    What might be happening in (part of) SF is people realizing that 1) lots of people were never represented well in older SF and their stories ought to be written as well, even if that means reusing older stories; 2)people realizing that the amount of people that understand modern technology beyond ‘it is magic’ is tiny, which again means that older stories can be told with that in mind.

    Both factors that also seem to be important in the Kiernan and Mamatas stories you discussed.

    Of course in addition to the different interpretations of what SF actually is, should be, and who writes it (how much of the SF’nal exploration of modern society actually takes place in the techno thrillers?).

  3. Cheryl, sorry for the late comment, but that’s not completely correct. The definition of a professional publication includes being published *by a professional company*. So, if Frobozz.com was hosted by Big Name Book Publisher but the actual site editors/html monkeys/whatever were not paid for their work, it would still be a professional publication because of involvement of Big Name Book Publisher (regardless of whether the contributors were paid). This seems an unusual business model, but far from impossible.

    Jonathan, Gary: As to the question of the Young Adult Hugo, the majority of the opposition (to my eye) seemed to fall into 2 camps:

    1. The bigger objection was that it’s a logistical nightmare because there’s no way to cleanly segregate YA works from works that would be eligible in other categories. One of the guiding principles of the Hugos categories is not just that no work should only be eligible in multiple categories, but that *the category should be as clear as possible for the person making the nomination*.

    2. The lesser objection was that it seems unnecessary. Ben Yalow made the point–somewhat ham-handedly–that YA books are capable of winning the awards outright. He cited Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire and Coraline, but an even stronger case would be the Best Novel slate from 2009, when 3 of the 5 novels were YA (Little Brother, Zoe’s Tale, and the eventual winner, The Graveyard Book).

    There was one person who spoke in opposition to the award on the grounds that the material was unworthy of consideration. He was actually booed and hissed, and I don’t think his opinion held much sway.

    I myself am deeply ambivalent about the idea, because I see the benefits of such an award–to YA SF, to the Hugos, and to traditional fannish fandom. But I also see the difficulties involved–it took the Semiprozine Reform Committee 2 years to come up with a set of definitions that we could mostly agree to, and that seems like a calm stroll through a meadow compared to the minefield of sorting out the issues involved in the YA category.

    There’s real concentrated wisdom, both about the award idea and the reaction to its rejection, in Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s blog post here: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/014324.html#014324

  4. Ah, I thought Cheryl’s comments about the Semiprozine looked familiar–she repeated them over on her own web site, where I gave a different response (but not a contradictory one, I’m glad to say).

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