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Issue #132 - August 2006

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Miscellany

By Cheryl Morgan

World Fantasy Award Nominees

Novel: Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami (Harvill; Knopf); The Limits of Enchantment, Graham Joyce (Gollancz; Atria); Lunar Park, Bret Easton Ellis (Knopf; Macmillan); Od Magic, Patricia A. McKillip (Ace); A Princess of Roumania, Paul Park (Tor); Vellum, Hal Duncan (Macmillan; Del Rey).

Novella: Another War, Simon Morden (Telos Publishing); "The Imago Sequence", Laird Barron (F&SF May 2005); "In the Machine", Michael Cunningham (Speciman Days, Farrar, Straus and Giroux); "Magic for Beginners", Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners, Small Beer Press; F&SF Sep 2005); "UOUS", Tanith Lee (The Fair Folk, SFBC); Voluntary Committal, Joe Hill (Subterranean Press).

Short Fiction: "Best New Horror", Joe Hill (Postscripts #3, Spr 2005); "CommComm", George Saunders (The New Yorker 1 Aug 2005); "The Other Grace", Holly Phillips (In the Palace of Repose, Prime Books); "La Peau Verte", Caitlin R. Kiernan (To Charles Fort, With Love, Subterranean Press); "Two Hearts", Peter S. Beagle (F&SF Oct/Nov 2005).

Anthology: Adventure Vol. 1, Chris Roberson, ed. (MonkeyBrain Books); The Fair Folk, Marvin Kaye, ed. (SFBC); Nova Scotia: New Scottish Speculative Fiction, Neil Williamson & Andrew J. Wilson, eds. (Crescent Books); Polyphony 5, Deborah Layne & Jay Lake, eds. (Wheatland Press); Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth, Stephen Jones, ed. (Fedogan & Bremer).

Collection: 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill (PS Publishing); In the Palace of Repose, Holly Phillips (Prime Books); The Keyhole Opera, Bruce Holland Rogers (Wheatland Press); Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link (Small Beer Press); To Charles Fort, with Love, Caitlin R. Kiernan (Subterranean Press).

Artist: Kinuko Y. Craft; James Jean; Dave McKean; Edward Miller (Les Edwards); John Jude Palencar.

Special Award, Professional: Susan Allison & Ginjer Buchanan (for Ace Books); Lou Anders (for editing at Pyr); Peter Lavery (for Pan MacMillan UK/Tor UK); Chris Roberson & Allison Baker (for MonkeyBrain Books); Sean Wallace (for Prime Books); S. T. Joshi & Stefan Dziemanowicz, eds. (for Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia, Greenwood Press).

Special Award, Non-Professional: David Howe & Stephen Walker (for Telos Books); The Friends of Arthur Machen (for Faunus, Machenalia, and The Life of Arthur Machen); Rodger Turner, Neil Walsh & Wayne MacLaurin (for SF Site); Leo Grin (for The Cimmerian); Jess Nevins (for The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, MonkeyBrain Books).

A fascinating collection of nominees. Iíve been meaning to try Murakami for ages (Clute recommended him to me) and now I have a good excuse. I even own the book; it is just sat on the vast "unread" pile that I hope to make a start on soon. I know that The Limits of Enchantment and A Princess of Roumania are very good books. Iím also very pleased for Hal Duncan given the pasting Vellum has got in some quarters.

Iím not in the least bit surprised to see Kelly Link and Joe Hill in the short fiction categories, but Iím very pleased for Holly Phillips. Special Award, Professional is a cornucopia of some of my favorite people. And while I am at a loss to explain why a commercially produced book qualifies for a "non-professional" award, I very much hope that Jess Nevins gets a Howie.


Mythopoeic Awards

The winners are:

Adult Novel: Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman (Morrow).

Childrenís Novel: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Jonathan Stroud (Hyperion).

Inkling Studies: The Lord of the Rings: A Readerís Companion, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (Houghton Mifflin).

General Scholarship: National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England, Jennifer Schacker (University of Pennsylvania Press).


Up for Debate

There will be at least two motions affecting the Hugos up for debate at this yearís WSFS Business Meeting. The first is the change to the Best Professional Editor category, which passed in Glasgow and is up for ratification in L.A. This will effectively split the category in two: one Hugo for people who edit novels, and another for people who edit magazines, anthologies and collections (although as ever with the Hugos it is a little more complicated than that). This change will, I think be a good thing, because it will focus attention on the generally under-appreciated work of editing novels. If it leads to David Hartwell getting a Hugo at last it will be a very good thing indeed.

The other proposed change is new this year and a lot more problematic. The general idea is good. People have been complaining for some time that pretty much the same people get on the Best Professional Artist ballot year after year, even though they havenít always produced anything much new in the year in question. The view is that too many people are voting on the basis of name recognition, and of what the artists have done in the past, rather than the state of the field at the time. There is a definite air of believability to this accusation.

The proposal, then (and please note that this is all being actively debated as I write so the exact details may change before the motion is presented to the Business Meeting), is that any nomination for Best Professional Artist must be accompanied by a reference to a work produced in or published in the year of eligibility, thereby proving that the artist in question is still active in the field. A nomination that does not include such a reference, or that includes an invalid reference such as a work published years ago, will be declared invalid and not counted.

Many people have already noticed that the problem of voting by name recognition applies not just to Best Professional Artist, but to all of the "body of work" categories, including Best Fan Writer, a category in which I have been nominated several times. Iíve seen people complain that I only get nominated because people know my name, not because my work is any good.

While I am very much in favor of improving the quality of nominations for Best Professional Artist (and potentially other "body of work" categories), I am opposed to this specific change for a number of reasons.

Firstly I think it is wrong to place too much onus on Hugo Administrators to decide the validity of nominations, especially on grounds that are not easy to define clearly. Administrators do have to disqualify nominations because honest mistakes are made: someone may, for example, nominate a novel published in a previous year, or one that was first published in another country years ago. Those are easy decisions to make. Also those decisions generally have no effect on the outcome of the nominating process. The same is not true of the proposed change.

Consider this example (with apologies to those whose names I have used to illustrate it). Suppose that Bob Eggleton and Michael Whelan have 51 and 52 nominations respectively. Whelan is fifth in the nominations list and Eggleton sixth. One final ballot comes in. It nominates Eggleton, but lists as a reference, not one of the many book covers that Bob produced in the year, but instead the cover that he did for Guy Lillianís fanzine, Challenger. The rules say that works used as references must be professionally published, and Challenger is a fanzine. Eggleton is clearly a professional artist, he has 51 other valid nominations to support that fact, but because this nomination does not list a valid reference work it must be disqualified. The result of that disqualification is that Eggleton finishes 6th and off the ballot rather than equal 5th and on the ballot.

Of course there are other ways in which a careless nominator might mess up a ballot and get it disqualified. Failing to list your name and membership number/PIN is an obvious one. But I donít think we should be adding new hurdles to the process.

I also feel very sorry for the people who are going to have to check the eligibility of these works, especially as these days, with electronic voting, most of the ballots come in the day or two before the deadline. It doesnít matter if you check the eligibility of a novel that has only one nomination, but you may well have to check the eligibility of a reference work used by one person on an artist nomination because, as with the above example, it could mean the difference between getting a nomination and not doing so.

Iím also very dubious about the whole idea of enforcing voter responsibility with legislation. I mean what next? Will people nominating novels be required to prove that they have read the book in question? Will people making nominations in the fan categories need a personal recommendation from Ted White to prove that they are proper fans?

Besides, I donít think it will work that well. If the change is passed, people who vote on name recognition will find a way around that. Even if the only new work that Fred Bignoise produced in the year was a small cartoon in Asimovís, his fans will know about it. Theyíll mention it on web sites and remind people to quote it on their ballots. And because so many people love Fred he will still get a nomination. The people who get their nominations disqualified will be those who make honest mistakes, not those who are knowingly voting on name recognition.

Thatís the trouble with the Hugos, you see. They are a popular vote award. People with lots of fans get nominated, even if their current work isnít always quite up to scratch. If you donít want that to happen, the correct thing to do is suggest a change to a juried award.

To recap, Iím very sympathetic to the general aims of the people proposing this motion (who are Donato Giancola and Irene Gallo, the art editor at Tor). But I think legislation is the wrong way to achieve the aims. The right way to get top quality young artists on the ballot is for people to talk about them and draw attention to them. It worked for John Picacio. It worked for Stephan Martiniere. I firmly believe that it can work for Jon Foster.

If people donít like the results that the Hugos produce, the thing to do is for them to get off theirs arses and vote, and to persuade everyone that they know to do the same. The level of participation in the Hugos even amongst Worldcon members, let alone the thousands of fans out there who could buy supporting memberships so that they could vote, is still shamefully low. And of you donít vote, you canít complain about the results.

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Emerald City - copyright Cheryl Morgan - cheryl@emcit.com
Masthead Art copyright Steven Stahlberg (left) and Gerhard Hoeberth (right)
Additional artwork by Frank Wu & Sue Mason
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Editorial assistants: Anne K.G. Murphy & Kevin Standlee