Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Reading the Hugos: Fanzine

Today we continue our Reading the Hugos series with a look at the five Fanzine finalists. Observant readers of Nerds of a Feather will note that there are six finalists listed below, but Black Gate is crossed out. Following the announcement of the Hugo Award finalists, Black Gate withdrew from consideration and was replaced on the ballot by Lady Business.

Now, on to the finalists!

Black Gate  
Castalia House Blog
File 770  
Lady Business  
Superversive SF  
Tangent Online

Tangent Online: Tangent Online is a long running short fiction review website, and if you're looking for coverage of the short fiction market one of the best options you have (that I'm aware of) is Tangent. It's....fine. While I am happy that Tangent exists and that there are occasional sources and reviewers who cover short fiction, the reviewing at Tangent has never grabbed me.

Castalia House Blog: Having read through the selections included in the Hugo Voter's Packet, I've realized two things. First, the tenor of the blog does not at all line up with that of the publisher's (Vox Day) personal blog. This makes sense because the Castalia House blog is a group blog for other fan writers doing fan work, but it was worth noting because it is also nearly impossible to separate the publisher with the work published by Castalia House as well as from the content of the blog hosted by Castalia House. For some, that may be a net positive, but for me it is something to be overcome.

Second, at least based on the provided selections, the work over at the Castalia House blog is solid. It's just not for me. As much as I enjoy playing board games, the games covered at Castalia House appear to be heavier tactical / wargame variety or role playing games, neither of which appeal to me. Alternately, there are a number of deeper dives into early era science fiction and fantasy and that is something that, again, does not hold an appeal. So here I can appreciate the writers are doing fairly solid work, but I have no interest in reading that work because of the subject. I read fanzines for a number of different reasons and the work Castalia House's blog writers are producing is not work that fits into how I choose to interact with the genre.

Superversive SF: Prior to the nomination, I had never heard of Superversive SF before. They declined to include any content in the Voter's Packet, so I had to do some digging back through their archives to find some essays from 2015 and get a sense of who they are as a blog and what my opinion of their 2015 output was relative to the other nominees is. On the face of it, Superversive SF is very much a genre blog: there are essays on Star Wars, Daredevil, Firefly, Star Trek, book reviews, and pretty much everything else you might expect a group SFF fans to write about on their blog.

In reading back through several months of the essays on Superversive SF that I realized that I'm going to bounce fairly hard off of a lot of stuff written by Anthony M. He has a fairly strong bias against anything that smacks of "liberalism" or "feminism" and towards a very particular view of what is good, or "superversive", science fiction in terms of storytelling content. I half appreciate his writing, but he sometimes goes off on tangents against those aforementioned biases, but when he's not complaining about leftists, feminists, or SJW's, I've truly enjoyed his work. His review of Stephen Lawhead's Taliesin is a good representation of how strong his writing can be. I've singled out Anthony M here because, at least in the sample of essays I've read, he appears to be the most prominent and prolific writer.

Superversive SF is almost a blog I want to read on a regular basis, but that bias against stuff I personally value and the digging on the Hugo Awards prior to the advent of the Sad Puppy campaigns brings just enough of a perspective that I don't care to have in a genre blog I would choose to follow. There's good work here, and there's a lot that I like about Superversive SF, but there's just enough that I find antithetical to what I care about that I'm not interested in following or reading it on a regular basis.

File 770: I have had a love / hate relationship with File 770 over the years. Before I (briefly) get into that, we should note that File 770 is "Mike Glyer's news of science fiction fandom". So, what we're looking at isn't a genre blog like what we do here at Nerds of a Feather or SF Bluestocking or Lady Business or, well, name your genre blog. File 770 has its roots deep into fandom as well as in fanzine culture (back when fanzines were printed 'zines that had to be mailed out or distributed at conventions). Glyer first began publishing in 1978 and File 770 was first nominated for Best Fanzine back in 1980 and first won in 1984.

How you feel about File 770 likely has much to do with how much you value what Glyer is doing. If you're really into fandom as wide ranging and splintered institution, there's a lot to like. Glyer brings in guest writers to contribute essays, but that's not where I find my value. I hadn't put much thought into File 770 for a number of years until last year's Hugo Awards controversy with the Sad and Rabid Puppies erupted and Mike Glyer's daily roundup of links of all sides of the conversation became part of my daily reading. Much in the way SF Signal aggregating links surrounding the genre community, File 770 was pulling together news and commentary and putting it all in one place (with selected quotes to get a general idea of what the article might be about). Through File 770, Glyer wasn't shaping the conversation, but he provided both a resource for those who didn't know where to look or didn't wish to seek out all of these disparate blogs on their own as well as allowed a space for a small community of conversation to build up in the comments section to each post. While my interest in File 770 continues to wax and wane depending on how much awards conversation occurs, for Glyer's work in 2015 I would have to place File 770 as one of the top fanzines of the year.

Lady Business: Lady Business is smart, incisive, and should be considered a required stop for anyone who wants to read more about genre. It is one of my must read blogs and I don't have many of those anymore. When I talk about fanzines, this is what I mean. If you're not too familiar with what Lady Business is all about or where to start, take a look at this post. The editors at Lady Business comment on media, generally SFF media, with "an intersectional feminist perspective".  Whether they are reviewing books, video games, or recapping Xena: The Warrior Princess, Lady Business is always worth reading and is consistently one of my favorite blogs. You'd think that I would have more to say, but all I want to do is wave my arm, point, and mumble "Lady Business - Awesome - Read" and try not to be awkward about it.

My Vote:
1. Lady Business
2. File 770
3. Superversive SF
4. Castalia House Blog
5. Tangent Online

Also, feel free to look at the rest of our Hugo Awards coverage:
Short Story
Dramatic Presentation: Long Form 

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004. Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015, editor since 2016. Minnesotan.