141. Final Hugo Thoughts + the Hugh Howey Fiasco w/ Justin Landon and Jonathan McCalmont

13 Apr

Awards, angry men, and the Internet, oh my!  And our final discussion of the Hugos, featuring Justin Landon (who started it all) and Jonathan McCalmont (who offers his insight into the whole situation), has arrived.  We talk Hugo history, the fan categories, the culture of the Hugos and more.  Plus, we offer our thoughts on Hugh Howey’s controversial comments (and behavior) and the cultural responses found in the comments.  In other words:  this week is one heck of a monster…

We hope you enjoy the episode!

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Here’s the episode (show notes are below):

Episode 141 — Download (MP3)

Intro and Discussion (0:00 – 1:37:10)

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Our new intro music is “Time Flux” by Revolution Void (CC BY 3.0).

That’s all, folks!  Thanks for listening.  See you next week.

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17 Responses to “141. Final Hugo Thoughts + the Hugh Howey Fiasco w/ Justin Landon and Jonathan McCalmont”

  1. weirdside April 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    Just thought I’d point out the obvious: that Hugo logo is incredibly phallic.

  2. Caroline April 17, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    I’ve almost finished listening to this and found it very interesting, especially the inserted bit at the end. I have quite a few disjointed thoughts on the fan categories, but as I’m short on time I’ll start with a minor one.

    I’ve seen/heard it mentioned several times in various places that Writing Excuses is paid for and I’m still not convinced. Does anyone know if this is actually the case, and if so, who is paying for it? It is sponsored by Audible, the same way that Skiffy and Fanty is and that SF Signal is (was?) sponsored by Borderlands Books. I assume this covers a portion of the costs only and doesn’t disqualify these podcasts from the Fancast category. It’s free to receive and they don’t mention any other sponsors. I think it’s in the Related Works category because it’s by writers for aspiring writers about writing and therefore not really a fan thing.

  3. Caroline April 17, 2013 at 4:33 am #

    Oops! After leaving my last comment, I listened to the last 15 minutes of the show and you explained the Writing Excuses paid thing in detail. Thanks for the clarification, that’s been bugging me for a while.

  4. Caroline April 21, 2013 at 5:53 am #

    Coming back to this quite late to talk about fancasts. I understand why all the fancasts on the ballot were nominated, but I am sad that it’s the same as last year.

    I wonder what percentage of nominators listen regularly to podcasts and how they discover them. I’m subscribed to 15 SFF related podcasts, which I came to through 3 entry points: a Diana Wynne Jones episode on Coode Street; a Sherwood Smith interview on Skiffy and Fanty; and the Hugo nominations last year. All the others came from mentions on other podcasts, mostly Galactic Suburbia, which I got to from Coode Street. I bet there are other great podcasts out there which I just haven’t heard of.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if a number of non-regular podcast listeners tried listening to last year’s shortlist and nominated the ones they liked again without knowing what else is out there. Awareness is also likely to be higher for podcasts that have done panels at cons (eg SF Squeecast at Worldcon). I think it would help if more people talk about what they’re listening to in the lead up to nominations, as has been happening more for graphic novel in the last couple of years.

    I really don’t think that PR is a big motivator for any of the podcast hosts. Not that there isn’t an effect, I just don’t think it’s big enough to be a reason to justify the amount of work that goes into them. Although PR is obviously the motivator for interviewees and can be for guests. But even if it was (and I agree it’s more likely for professional fan writing) I don’t think it matters. Professionals can be fans too and if someone is creating great fan work, I don’t think their motivations should affect whether they deserve a nomination.

    I do think it’s a shame that paid fan writing isn’t eligible for the fan writer category – I think there is some great writing eg on tor.com that should have a chance to be recognized (most of which is unlikely to ever be collected in a Best Related Work-eligible work). I also think it’s odd that there isn’t a professional magazine category; I know editor-short form is meant to cover this, but that’s also for anthologies and semiprozines and doesn’t work well for magazines with multiple editors.

    • shaunduke April 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      “Coming back to this quite late to talk about fancasts. I understand why all the fancasts on the ballot were nominated, but I am sad that it’s the same as last year.”

      I agree with you here. For me, what is sad isn’t that there is a quality gap in the podcasts. All of the selections are, in my opinion, good at what they do (each having their own kind of niche). But it does suggest something about what people who nominate listen to. I’m not sure what it suggests, but there’s something there.

      “I wonder what percentage of nominators listen regularly to podcasts and how they discover them.”

      That’s a good question. The only way to get that kind of information is to host an informal poll. The #s for nominations don’t suggest that the voters at large are podcast listeners — there were only 346 votes in that category, out of a little over 1300 total ballots. But that doesn’t tell us much about what people are listening to, except that the five on the list were the most popular (by how much, I can’t say). It might be interesting to figure out who listens or doesn’t listen, why, what they listen to (for listeners), the degree to which they are listeners, etc. Who knows.

      I’m subscribed to a total of 9 SF-specific podcasts. That number only recently increased (I added the Locus Roundtable stuff, w/ the Small Blue Planet added on, and Galactic Suburbia). Overall, I subscribe to over 30 podcasts, but only about a third or writing or specfic related. Some of those I can’t nominate for awards, though, as they are professional casts (a phrase I still don’t feel secure about; to be fair, as in our discussion on this episode, this category is brand new, so it may take some time to iron out the kinks — it’s just good that we *have* a category for podcasts).

      “It wouldn’t surprise me if a number of non-regular podcast listeners tried listening to last year’s shortlist and nominated the ones they liked again without knowing what else is out there.”

      There’s probably a lot of truth to that. This is why I do think it would be nice for the Hugos to release a longlist of all nominations (w/ or w/o the actual #s) — not just for podcasts, for ALL the categories. The truth is that we all can’t read everything, so it might help the genre to have that data so we can see what people are reading, how popular it is, and so on. It might also help us explore new territory. That’s something I should suggest to Kevin Standlee…

      “Awareness is also likely to be higher for podcasts that have done panels at cons (eg SF Squeecast at Worldcon).”

      There’s also the fact that most all of the podcasts on the shortlist fall into one or many of the following categories:
      1) Run by professionals w/ established followings
      2) Run by or hosted at websites that have established followings
      3) A staple of the SF/F podcast “market” (i.e., established following from having been around so damned long).

      “I really don’t think that PR is a big motivator for any of the podcast hosts. Not that there isn’t an effect, I just don’t think it’s big enough to be a reason to justify the amount of work that goes into them. Although PR is obviously the motivator for interviewees and can be for guests. But even if it was (and I agree it’s more likely for professional fan writing) I don’t think it matters. Professionals can be fans too and if someone is creating great fan work, I don’t think their motivations should affect whether they deserve a nomination.”

      I agree that professionals can be fans. I think my apprehension or concern over the category is over how we determine the difference between someone operating “as a fan” and someone operating “as a professional.” I think it was Julia who suggested that the only objective way to determine this is to go by whether one is paid somehow in the activity of hosting a podcast. I’m not sure that is exactly true, but this goes back to something you say towards the end of your comment: a great deal of the best fan writers are technically paid to write, and are, thus, nixed from the category. I’m not convinced that pay is necessarily an indicator of whether one is a “professional.” But this goes to the problem of pay rates. If I’m paid $5 per 1,000-word column, that hardly makes me a professional as a journalist or opinion writer by any other objective standard. Professionals in that particular category, more broadly, are paid far more than a token payment. This is why we have distinctions for fiction writing between for-the-luv, token, semi-pro, and pro.

      “I also think it’s odd that there isn’t a professional magazine category; I know editor-short form is meant to cover this, but that’s also for anthologies and semiprozines and doesn’t work well for magazines with multiple editors.”

      I also find this odd. Personally, I think we need to revisit the magazine stuff altogether. It makes more sense to me to create two categories that are based on pay-rate, since that is the only objective standard the SFWA uses to label markets (if I recall correctly). So we really should have a Pro Mag category, where half of the semi-pros would go anyway, and a Semi-Pro category, where everything else goes. That way we can recognize the professional writing in our field (folks at Asimov’s, Analogy, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, F&SF, and so on and so forth) AND the semi-pro writing (Ideomancer, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.).

      Not that this would solve all the issues, of course. I just think it would be a better format.

      • Caroline April 21, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

        I don’t entirely agree with your categorisation of the shortlisted podcasts, but in any case, I agree with Julia that there isn’t really a way around the Big Name issue.

        I disagree with your suggestion on how to categorise someone acting as a professional or as a fan, because I fundamentally differ from the Hugo on what constitutes fan work. The Hugo definition* is based on whether a work appeared in a professional publication, whereas I think of fan writing as any writing about genre works or the genre community. I don’t read an article differently if it appears on Tor.com than if it appears on a personal blog. I appreciate that the Hugo’s are trying to recognise work done by non-professionals, but as a consumer, it’s not a distinction that matters to me, and it’s not a distinction that’s made in the Fiction categories.

        I’m not very invested in the magazine categories, since I don’t really read them, but I do think that there should be categories that cover all of them, and your suggestion sounds reasonable.

        * More on Hugo definitions and nominations in the next comment. It got a bit long, so I separated it out.

      • Caroline April 21, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

        I had a look at the Hugo definitions and I’m not convinced that they make ineligible podcasting or fan writing that is paid at a low rate or on a blog with ads. The relevant bit of the Best Fan Writer definition says that work on Semiprozines is included and only work in professional publications should not be considered. The Best Fancast says non-professional, and a professional publication is defined (although for explicit categories not inluding Fancast) as one that “(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.” Note that this also doesn’t say anything about the rates they pay authors.

        The Hugos do release all the nomination information after the award is announced. Although that can’t tell us much about listening habits or anything about how people find podcasts.
        http://www.thehugoawards.org/content/pdf/2012HugoVotingReport.pdf

        Last year there were 326 ballots cast in Best Fancast, so not too different to this year. The shortlist got between 33 and 65 nominations each, with 26 nominations for the next highest podcast. The listed nominees (I assume those with less than 10 votes are excluded) got a total of 432 nominations, or around 1.3 per nominator. That seems low to me, but spot checking other categories, an average of less than 2 nominations per nominator seems to be fairly standard. 18 podcasts received nominations.

        Of the podcasts I subscribe to, 8 were eligible (the others are too new or too peripheral); 3 of those I started listening to because they made the shortlists, and 4 of the remaining 5 recieved some nominations. There were also nominations for 11 podcasts I haven’t listened to, many of which I hadn’t even heard of. I guess the things I take from this are (1) that the things I listen to are represented in the nominations, although not necessarily in the short list and (2) there are a lot of podcasts out there and it’s not always easy to find them.

        Incidentally, for those that complain about Dr Who dominating the Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form category, I think it’s interesting that if Game of Thrones hadn’t been nominated in the Long Form category last year then two of it’s episodes would have made the Short Form ballot, making it 2 episodes each of Dr Who & Game of Thrones and one of Community.

      • shaunduke April 24, 2013 at 9:47 am #

        Caroline:

        I’m going to go in spurts with my response. This is to your first new comment above.

        “I don’t read an article differently if it appears on Tor.com than if it appears on a personal blog. I appreciate that the Hugo’s are trying to recognise work done by non-professionals, but as a consumer, it’s not a distinction that matters to me, and it’s not a distinction that’s made in the Fiction categories.”

        I think the problem is that the fiction category is fundamentally different from the fan category, in part because the Hugos were created by fans, have been run by fans, and so on and so forth. As such, I suspect the original impetus behind the creation of the fan category was to acknowledge work done by people who were *not* working as professional writers on genre. Hence the fanzine category.

        I don’t disagree with you that the distinctions are flawed, though I do disagree that it is as simple as saying “eh, if you write about genre, you’re a fan.” That said, I don’t agree with how “professional” is determined

      • shaunduke April 24, 2013 at 9:56 am #

        Part Two!

        I have to be honest: I still don’t understand what any of the pay/income stuff means. Quarter of the income of an individual? Their total income? If that’s so, then there probably are no professional SF/F podcasts, since most of the ones that pay their contributors only do so in small doses. I really doubt the folks of the Geeks Guide to the Galaxy make 25% of their income from podcasting… But I’m probably still misunderstanding everything.

        Oh, and yay for statistics. We apparently didn’t make it into the long list last year. That’s adorable. *cries himself to sleep*

        “Of the podcasts I subscribe to, 8 were eligible (the others are too new or too peripheral); 3 of those I started listening to because they made the shortlists, and 4 of the remaining 5 recieved some nominations. There were also nominations for 11 podcasts I haven’t listened to, many of which I hadn’t even heard of. I guess the things I take from this are (1) that the things I listen to are represented in the nominations, although not necessarily in the short list and (2) there are a lot of podcasts out there and it’s not always easy to find them.”

        I’m in the same boat, actually. Half of the podcasts on the long list were completely unknown to me. Looking at their subject matter, I can’t say I’m interested in the majority of them, though. I suspect we can learn a lot about the Hugo voting body from the numbers in your link. Most of the folks who vote for the Hugos either don’t care about the category or aren’t podcast listeners. Of those who are listeners, their tastes are extremely varied, resulting in a field that is crowded.

        As for the short dramatic form category: meh.

  5. Caroline April 21, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    PS Apologies for all the long comments. I have Feelings! But I think I’m done now 🙂

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