Sigh. As some of you hanging about in certain sections of the blogosphere know, it is alas time for everyone to start chatting about Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy nominations again. Right now, I don't have a strong opinion about most of these with two exceptions: one, it is past time for World Fantasy to honor Hayao Miyazaki with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and two, fan writers.
As some of you know, I'm not a huge fan of the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. It's not that I'm exactly against the award – in theory, I think it's an AWESOME idea for the community to thank and honor the people who spend so much time gleefully writing about it.
In practice, I get more than a bit frustrated because every. single. year. the same names show up on the ballot again. and again. and again. And then, again. We are talking decades here folks. Over the past couple of years a few professional writers with some name recognition have managed to break through with stuff from their unpaid blogs, but not new purely fan writers who get no money whatsoever.
So, in the spirit of honoring purely fan writers, here are some names I want to throw out there:
Abigail Nussbaum. Abigail and I disagree on a lot of things, but I can't deny that she's writing some of the most thoughtful and in depth commentary on genre out there. Even if she makes me look shallow in comparison.
Liz Bourke is another name I hesitated over since some of her reviews are done on a paid basis at Tor.com. HOWEVER. She also does unpaid reviews and essays on other sites, including her own; for Hugo consideration, check out her reviews over at Strange Horizons. (Full disclosure: Liz Bourke is a friend of friends as well as a fellow Tor.com blogger.)
J.L. Bell. Ok, er, yes, this is an Oz blog. BUT. It is also a comic book blog and a children's fantasy lit blog. The comic book stuff, which gives extensive historical and social commentary, has been particularly fascinating this year with its focus on the multiple Robins in the Bat universe. Bell is a historian as well as a comics fan, and it shows. (Full disclosure: We've never met but, Oz!)
Justin Landon, Staffer's Book Review. I swear to you, up until Worldcon I was under the impression that this was a book blog run by multiple people. It turns out to be a book blog run by just one person who manages to review a frighteningly high number of books. (Nothing to disclose here; I don't think we've met.)
Aiden Moher, A Dribble of Ink. I had to stop and check to make sure, but no, despite running a highly popular book and movie blog, he hasn't been nominated yet. (Nothing to disclose here; we haven't met.)
Adam Whithead of the Wertzone is another surprising non-appearance on the Hugo fan writer list so far, and to be honest, he's on my list partially to make sure we get some different names on there (see original paragraph) since this is a well known blog. That said, the Wertzone has been providing in depth commentary and breaking news on fantasy books for years now, specializing in epic fantasy. (Adam and I have interacted on various forums on occasion, but have never met.)
Charles Tan Another name I hesitated over, because he's been less active online in 2013. But since I was speaking of surprising non-appearances on the Hugo Fan Writer list, how on earth have we been leaving Charles Tan off this list? Consider this one a delayed honor for past work. (Charles Tan and I have met and had coffee.)
Any of the various individuals working at SF Signal; yes, I know the zine has picked up the Best Fanzine award for the last couple of years, but the individuals working at it haven't really been recognized yet. (Major disclosure: SF Signal has interviewed me and requested short contributions.)
You'll note this is more than five names. Correct! I want to give choices here, as well as noting that yes, the blogosphere has a lot more than five writers. And I'll note that this is just barely scratching the surface of the excellent fan writing that's out there. If you can think of others, please say something in the comments. You will also note that I've described a couple of these as more "popular" than "good" – but in this category, popular is good too. These are the fan blogs that are getting the word out there about books, comics, movies, games – all kinds of fannish stuff, and these are the sorts of fan writers the Hugos should be celebrating.
Which is why, with the arguable exception of Liz, this list does not include people counted as "pros" – those who have sold short fiction at SFWA pro rates, those who have sold novels, or those whose work appears only in paid venues such as Tor.com, Io9.com, and Television Without Pity.
On that note, a quick reminder: my work for Tor.com is NOT eligible for the Fan Writer award, and I don't blog enough about genre on this blog to be eligible. I suppose it (and everything else on Tor.com) could be considered for the Best Related Work category – the sort of catch-all "if it doesn't fit anywhere else, throw it in here" – but I expect that category will be filled with other stuff besides fairly indulgent kid's book reviews.
Before I leave the subject of awards entirely, quick note about this year's Campbell Award: This is a strange award, given that it's based on the first two years of a pro writers career – and the clock starts ticking right after a first sale, which means that a writer can print a piece say, in Asimov's, and then publish a novel five years later – and be completely ineligible for this award by this point. So. Odd.
I do, however, want to recommend Sofia Samatar, who had an outstanding start with a story in Clarkesworld in 2012 and several genre-breaking poems, and continued that with her well received first novel this year, A Stranger in Olandria from Small Beer Press; Wesley Chu, who had an explosive start with two novels from Angry Robot, The Lives of Tao and The Deaths of Tao; and Max Gladstone, who was nominated last year and is still eligible this year. (Disclosure again: I've met and even hugged Sofia Samatar and plan to kidnap her for coffee or other drinks when next we meet; Max Gladstone and I briefly met at WFC in 2012 but I don't think he knows who I am; I don't think I've met Wesley Chu.)
Other Campbell-eligible writers are listed here; however, caveat, this page doesn't actually vet authors to ensure they are eligible, and caveat two, as it turns out the Campbell has slightly different categories for "pro" than SFWA does, so you might want to check first before nominating.
And it might be wildly entertaining if successful self-published author Hugh Howey gets nominated for the Campbell, but since I haven't gotten around to reading anything he's written, I'm not quite comfortable with recommending him yet.
Quick note: I originally also had Bogi Takacs on the fan writer list. Then I remembered that my entire point was to focus on purely fan writers, and Bogi had an excellent story up at Apex this year, thus breaking my "do not suggest people who have been paid pro rates for fiction for Fan Writer" rule for this year. However, for those who aren't following that rule (which is basically everybody else) Prezzey.net has also done excellent work showcasing and analyzing short fiction throughout the year, unpaid, and thanks to the Apex story, Bogi is also eligible for the Campbell.