If I seem nonchalant about not winning the Best Website Hugo this time, it’s for several reasons. First, it’s because I’m aware that the category is controversial — for several reasons… including the notion that there might be a single obvious winner (though surely it’s presumptuous of me to imagine so) and that this obvious winner would be just another Hugo in the direction of Locus and Charlie Brown. I attended the panel on Monday morning of the con, addressing the question “Is there any point to the Best Website Hugo?”, and heard one of the panelists say this very thing. It is a blessing and a curse — having the support and connections of the most influential news magazine in science fiction history, and by the same token being regarded, no matter what I do, how hard I work, what innovations I create for the website, to be regarded as simply the ‘webmaster’ for the online presence of that same magazine. (And yes, I’ve considered changing the name of the site and going it alone… as friends have suggested… but would not do that.) Because of this quandry, I’m just as happy I didn’t win this time, because the result this time instead indicates that there is some legitimate competition in the category, thus perhaps increasing the likelihood of making the category permanent.
Second, I was very nervous before the awards ceremony, in part because I’d composed a little speech about the concept of the website category, and was relieved when the winner was announced that I wouldn’t have to deliver it — though by the time the category was to be announced, after sitting through several previous categories, I’d mentally decided to chuck most of the predetermined speech, and deliver a bare-bones thanks to CNB and congrats to the other nominees talk instead. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t deliver that speech; it would have seemed self-serving…
Third is a reason I’ll never tell anybody ever. Imagineers among you may speculate.
As I said, I did attend the Monday morning panel addressing the question “Is there any point to the Best Website Hugo?”. The dominant fact of the panel was that there were barely 10 people in the audience…. Obviously it’s not really a subject of great concern to very many. Hugo boffins, perhaps. I sat in the back row, unrecognized (I’m good at that), determined not to interject any of my own opinions and listen instead to what the panelists said. They included Jed Hartman, editorial contributor to Strange Horizons; Bill Burns, nominee for eFanzines.com; and James Shields, who didn’t say much. (Other scheduled panelists were Cheryl Morgan, who was unable to attend the con at all, and Chaz Boston Baden, who didn’t show.)
The panel addressed various familiar issues, including the apples & oranges issue — that various websites can’t be compared — and the timeliness issue — that voters would look at nominated websites as they existed at the time of nomination rather than as they existed during the official eligibility year… though of course these same concerns could easily be expressed about the artist, editor, fanzine, fan writer, fan artist, and semiprozine categories. In truth, the existing Hugo categories are a hodge-podge mix confusing works and roles; if it were up to me, skeptical about voters’ insight into what editors actually do [being one myself, on occasion], for instance, I’d replace the category about editors with categories about best magazine and best publisher… and so on, and so on.
Bill Burns, though he seemed obsessed with the idea of fitting material on websites into existing categories — Neil Gaiman’s almost-nominated site should instead be eligible for best fan writer, for instance, and Sci Fiction’s content would be up for the various fiction categories, and for best editor, but not as a site or publication — a determinedly reactionary attitude, it seemed to me, in contrast to the presumably flexible, forward-thinking of science fiction fans (would he remove the dramatic presentation categories and regard them as simply new-fangled variations of the prose fiction categories? — to extend this thinking backwards a century or so) — had a partially valid point, it seemed to me, in that the present Hugo categories don’t recognize forms such as publisher or magazine, so why should they recognize website? Instead they recognize roles — or the role, of editor. But to be consistent, he should be recommending the overhaul of those existing Hugo categories for fanzine and semiprozine and artist and so on… which of course he did not…
Meanwhile, I’m still catching up on emails, new books, new magazines, and so forth. Busy busy.