The Hugo Rules for Fanzines need to be adjusted

John Scalzi’s latest blog post got me thinking – and this started off as a comment, but became a little too long for a comment, so I started to take it Tumblr… until it became too long for Tumblr, so I’m taking it here.

One of the support levels of my Patreon gets you a print copy of my fanzine. However, as of this writing I haven’t put out a new issue, because… well… I don’t have any cover art. I have the issue written, with the main article being a big piece breaking down the “Nasu-verse”, but before I put it out – I also wanted to get some cover art that reflected the topic – ideally of Saber, and in particular something that showed her as an active co-protagonist as opposed to cheesecake.

Except the artists I’ve contacted have not responded back, and I can’t blame them – because I can’t pay them. Not because I have no money… but because under the rules of the Hugo Awards, to remain classified as a Fanzine, I can’t pay them.

If I, or any other fanzine writer or editor, pays artists or writers for their work in my Fanzine, I stop being a fanzine, and become a Semiprozine. In turn, I end up competing in the same weight-class, so to speak, as people like Clarkesworld, who can solicit and publish short stories which they pay (IIRC) SFWA level rates for, stories which often get Hugo Awards nominations in their own right.

I see, repeatedly, from fan-artists here (on Tumblr) and elsewhere that they want to get paid for their work – pointing out that Exposure is something you die from. When I contact fan artists requesting reprint permissions for their work in my fanzine (not asking to commission new work, just requesting permission to reprint a piece of their back catalog), I hear nothing back – which is legit, because of the current Hugo rules I can’t pay them.

I’d like to pay them (I really would), but because of how Hugo rules are classified, if I do, I’m now operating in the same weight class as semi-prozines that put out a quality of work equal to the big name pay magazines, and who, when it comes to Hugo voting, will pound me into the dirt – and that’s assuming the “Best Semi-prozine” category continues to exist. So, the rules of the Hugo Awards need to be adjusted.

So, here’s the rule change I suggest. Currently, the rule defining “Best Semiprozine” reads as follows:

Best Semiprozine: This is the first of the three serial publication/work categories. To qualify, the publication must have produced at least 4 issues, at least one of which must have appeared in the year of eligibility (this being similar to the requirements for magazine editors in Best Editor, Short Form), and meet additional requirements as listed below.

Semiprozine is the most complicated category because of the need to define semi-professional. A lot of science fiction and fantasy magazines are run on a semi-professional basis: that is they pay a little, but generally not enough to make a living for anyone. The object of this category is to separate such things from fanzines, which are generally loss-making hobbyist pursuits. To qualify a publication must not be professional (see above) and must meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) The publication pays its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication.
2) The publication was generally available only for paid purchase.

And here’s the definition for “Best Fanzine”:

Best Fanzine: This Award is for anything that is neither professional nor semi-professional and that does not qualify as a Fancast (see below). The publication must also satisfy the rule of a minimum of 4 issues, at least one of which must have appeared in the year of eligibility.

So, if I pay someone for art, it becomes a semiprozine. So, I propose that the definition of semiprozine changes criteria #1 to read as follows (change in bold):

1) The publication pays its writers and/or staff in other than copies of the publication.

This allows fanzine editors to pay their artists. Since most fanzines are primarily written by a single writer or small group of writers (often associated with a fan club), this moves the focus of the award to the writing.

The Best Fan Artist category, which is kind of muddled, reads as follows:

  • Best Fan Artist: The final category is also for people. Again note that the work by which artists should be judged is not limited to material published in fanzines. Material for semiprozines or material on public displays (such as in convention art shows) is also eligible. Fan artists can have work published in professional publications as well. You should not consider such professionally-published works when judging this award.

From my interpretation, work in semi-prozines, which is presumably paid work, is eligible – which would make paid work for fanzines eligible as well, so I think that change shouldn’t cause any confusion there.

If you’d like to help me pay artists – or just let me go full-on semi-pro, please consider backing my Patreon at the link above, or consider tossing a few bucks in my Ko-Fi jar.