On 9 March Mike Glyer wrote a post on File 770, "Bleep My Dad Says About the Fan Hugos":
With a little more than two days left to nominate for the 2012 Hugo Awards I'm seeing a lot of this floating around the internet:
I am a blogger. My Dad won't let me have the Best Fanzine Hugo. Please exert your electronic mightiness to halt this injustice.
(Well, I've freely paraphrased.)
I'm always slightly troubled by vague statements like this which lack any real citation or attribution. Just how widely held is this paraphrased opinion? Sufficiently that it could in any way be interpreted as a movement? Or is it just a couple of people? Or one? I don't think I'd seen anything matching Mike's characterisation myself—maybe I don't read as many blogs as he does—but I was pleased to see mondyboy's response on The Hysterical Hamster, especially because of the way he riffed off Mike's post by cleverly casting his own reactions as being those of a 14-year-old, railing about all these old people barricading themselves inside the "best fanzine" Hugo category and refusing to let in the kids with their internets and their Facetweets or whatever they're called. I do detect a smidge of conscious hyperbole in Ian's rant, even if it's not a practice in which we fanzine editors would ever indulge ourselves. The grand convocation of Established Fandom agreed that it was not ready for the concept back in 1967 and issued a binding direction to that effect—although that decision comes up for its semicentennial review in just five short years so, you know, watch this space.
Fanzines, blogs and podcasts are all different things. They may have certain points of commonality but they're not the same, something that's supported by the way that we have different words for them. They're much like that axiomatically unoriginal trio of apples, oranges and bananas. You can decide to lump them all in together and evaluate them on their commonality, although if you do and then announce that you are trying to identify the "best apple" then that might just possibly introduce a predisposition towards those contenders that are in fact apples, even if your small print makes it clear that for these purposes the definition of "apple" extends to encompass oranges, bananas and indeed bookends, pumice stone, and West Germany.
Should the fanzine Hugo be explicitly redefined to include blogs? Or supplemented with a category for best blog? Or replaced with a category for best blog? Or best fannish pumice stone? Honestly, I don't know. I would note that there has in recent years been a steady succession of new categories budding off from existing classes, just as "semiprozine" was budded off from "fanzine" back in 1984. We now have an award for "dramatic presentation: short form," added in 2003 (the pre-existing category allowed for all lengths of work but had a strong predilection towards movies), and an award for "professional editor: long form" since 2007 (again the previous incarnation was wide-ranging, but the voters tended to favour magazine editors). The award for "graphic story" was added in 2009, either a fully-formed addition or an offshoot from several categories as although graphic novels had been nominated before they didn't comfortably fit anywhere; and now there's a proposal to create a separate category for fancasts, because they can't compete with fanzines or because fanzines can't compete with them or because they're just different. All that said, I don't believe it necessarily follows that we do need another category.
I think it's also worth saying something that should be blindingly obvious, that if some forms of endeavour within the professional and fan spheres of the science fiction community somehow fall outside every Hugo category then that's just life. Maybe fanzines should be recognised as being of sufficiently minority interest so as to no longer justify their own Hugo category. Personally—and speaking as a past Hugo-nominated fanzine editor—I wouldn't necessarily oppose such a change.
But equally I'm not going to propose it either, and not because I have a self-interest in perpetuating the status quo. That's another point about Ian's rant, by the way, this notion of all these superannuated fanzine editors—with the sexagenarians forming the youth wing—banding together to fortify their turf against the incomers (for some reason, this is conjuring an image of a scene from the Dad's Army movie in which the platoon, convinced that the threatened invasion really is happening, have barricaded the high street and are preparing to sell their lives in defence of England). I'd like to advance the counter view that a quite significant percentage of fanzine editors are entirely ambivalent or even apathetic on the subject. Many don't go to Worldcon, and others who do feel they have better things to do with their time.
And in this respect, maybe all those ancient fanzine editors—and honest, there are plenty who are only in their 40s, a few in their 30s and at least one in his 20s—do in fact have something in common with Ian and his inner 14-year-old, because Ian is equally unwilling to do something to attempt to effect a change. And as I say, I really don't blame him. Personally I'd resist the implied what-you-should-do-isms directed at everybody else, but I entirely understand this lack of a desire to be a part of the process. However, there is a process and it's well-established and it incorporates its own mechanism for change; and if everybody takes the view that they don't want to play it does rather decrease the likelihood of change happening. Still, perhaps we can take consolation in this intergenerational and cross-platform commonality.
Talking of which—although the linkage may not be immediately apparent—I've recently been working my way through a two-inch stack of Aporrhēta handed to me by British fan historian Rob Hansen. Aporrhēta, or Apē to use its preordained approved contraction, was edited by H. P. "Sandy" Sanderson with assistance from housemates Vincent and Joy Clarke, the three of them collectively know as 'Inchmery' for the road in Catford where they initially lived. It saw 17 issues between July 1958 and June 1960, each running to between 28 and 52 pages, and duplicated (mostly in blue ink) on quarto paper. All the covers and many of the interior illustrations were by Arthur "Atom" Thomson. Aporrhēta probably rates as the last great British fanzine of the 1950s. It topped the readers' poll in the newszine Skyrack for best fan publication of 1959, while its contributors placed first, second and fifth for best columns. It was also the highest ranked British fanzine of 1959 in the American newszine Fanac, back when the Fanac poll probably drew more votes than the Hugos. Even Eric Frank Russell pronounced it "fairly satisfactory on the whole."
Several early correspondents expressed curiosity about the fanzine's name, something that's relatively easily resolved with recourse to the internet. "The holy things in the ancient Mysteries which were known only to the initiates, and were not to be disclosed to the profane": The Symbolism of Freemasonry by Albert G Mackey (1882). Tellingly, Sanderson kept declining to explain.
He also kept silent while correspondents attempted to discern the identity of Aporrhēta columnist "Penelope Fandergaste." Sid Birchby went so far as to take a paid advertisement assuring everybody it was nothing to do with him. Ron Bennett seemed particularly tenacious about Penelope's identity, which should surely have been a clue. American fan Ted White guessed the truth, that Ron was Penelope, but only as Aporrhēta was nearing the end of its run. And it was Ron who'd previously discovered that the prominent mid-Fifties British fan "Joan W. Carr" was a hoax perpetrated by Sandy Sanderson. Joan Carr, not to be confused with Terry Carr, who was one of a group of US fans operating the hoax fan "Carl Brandon." Carl Brandon, not to be confused with "Carl Brandon Jr," a character perpetrated by Swedish fan John-Henri Holmberg in the 1960s.
But back to the plot: the stand-out feature of Aporrhēta was Sanderson's own "Inchmery Fan Diary." In a series of dated entries he charted the activities of the "Inchmery" household: the fanzines, letters and visitors they received, the places they went, the general goings-on of world, British and specifically London fandom and beyond in the closing years of the decade. It's not strictly day-by-day writing; in #6 Sanderson concedes that "more often than not it's typed up in the last week [before publication]. Even then, I try to refrain from amending first impressions in the light of later knowledge." It doesn't claim to be universal. It's just what one, albeit pretty damn active, fan household was doing slightly over 50 years ago.
There's a jumble of discussions about H-bombs and stereo hi-fi alongside the political minutiae of London fandom and the relatively newly formed BSFA, with commentary on the fanzines—often several a day—that come through the door of first 7 Inchmery Road and then 236 Queen's Road, plus a passing comment about who's looking after the baby tonight while the others go to the London fan pub meeting in The Globe. Sanderson's not above being blunt in his opinions and commentary. The first issue contains several transcriptions of letters about some abstruse matter of Worldcon politics—much of it to do with WSFS Inc, not to be confused with the present day WSFS—which I couldn't raise the enthusiasm to decipher; and there's also an ongoing spat with the editors of several other fanzines, notably Fanac. In a way, the distance helps with some of the more contentious material, especially when some of the views are, shall we say, Of Their Time. But then Sanderson and his correspondents are off running about something to do with US sales tax or the merits of The Tape Recorder ('. . . the new tape magazine that pleases us immensely. If you are interested in tape then you should buy it') and Tape Recording and Hi-Fi Magazine.
All this took dedication. In #6 Sanderson estimates that Aporrhēta costs him a minimum of £54 a year. For context, in #4 Joy Clarke mentions that "Inchmery" are looking to move house and need to find a flat with at least two bedrooms for no more than £5 5/- a week.
Unfortunately, it all ended rather badly. As Rob Hansen writes in Then. . ., "personal problems within Inchmery Fandom led to the destruction of the group, with Joy Clarke and Sandy Sanderson emigrating to the US and eventually marrying, and Vince Clarke quitting fandom [he did return in the early 1980s]". Vince died in 1999 and Joy in 2010. I'm not sure about Sandy Sanderson, although if he's still alive he'd be in his early nineties. But there's still a BSFA, and fans in London still go to pubs on the first Thursday of the month, just like they did in 1958. Now fans writing and publishing journals under assumed identities, that never caught on. . .