The Hugo category for Best Fancast is a new category that was added in 2012 as a trial category but it has now become a permanent category. It is a category that focuses on audio or video SF-related publications. Despite the name “Best Fancast” it is not merely equivalent to the category “Best Fanzine”–it is equivalent to both the categories of “Best Fanzine” and “Best Semiprozine”.
I’m a little bit ambivalent about the presence of the category–its presence seems to imply that there needs to be separation between audio/visual and text publications, and in combination with “fancast” as the title seems to downplay its importance. On the other hand, podcasts are my preferred source of fiction so if there’s a category specifically targeted at my favorite medium then there might be a chance that my favorite purveyors of audio fiction might have a better chance at awards. This is as yet a temporary category–it will only be permanent if it is reratified by the end of the 2016 business meeting.
But, to my great disappointment, fiction podcasts have had a poor showing in the three years the category has existed. The only fiction podcast to be nominated has been StarShipSofa–StarShipSofa is fine, I know it has a big following, but there is a huge fiction podcasting community out there besides StarShipSofa. In the 2014 not a single one of the seven nominees was a fiction podcast.
I think that part of the confusion might be that people assume that “fancast” is equivalent to “fanzine”. But the Hugo rules state:
3.3.14: Best Fancast. Any generally available non-professional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects that by the close of the previous calendar year has released four (4) or more episodes, at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and that does not qualify as a dramatic presentation.
Note that it lacks the wording in the Best Fanzine definition “that does not qualify as a semiprozine or a fancast” which further supports the idea that this is meant to cover both categories–no further differentiation is needed.
And the definition of Best Semiprozine states “which does not qualify as a fancast”. There would be no need to make that differentiation when talking about the Semiprozine if Fancast were merely equivalent to Fanzine.
So, odd as it may seem, Fancast is the audio equivalent of both Fanzine and Semiprozine.
Does the Hugo-voting population prefer nonfiction to fiction? Most of the other categories focus on gradations of fiction, so that doesn’t seem likely. Are the voters just not aware of fiction podcasts? Do people think those podcasts are eligible for Best Semiprozine and Best Fanzine instead?
I don’t know, but this year I wanted to do what I could to point out some of the great fiction podcasts that are out there in plenty of time for Hugo voters to consider sampling some of the freely available episodes before the nomination period was over and maybe, just maybe, there would be at least some fiction podcasts alongside the nonfiction podcasts on the Fancast ballot.
Only audio or video publications that publish material related to science fiction, fantasy, or horror.
There is some ambiguity when a publication publishes in BOTH audio and text. Should that be a fancast? Should that be a semiprozine/fanzine? I’ve tried to contact the Hugo committee last year for clarification so that I could accurately decide what to nominate for what category, but have never heard an answer. It’s possible that they won’t consider the difference until an ambiguous publisher gets enough nomination votes to be considered for the ballot. So for the time being I’ve split the eligible fiction podcasts I know of between the clearly eligible and possible eligible.
There is a precedent for publications that have podcasts as secondary features like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Those are not considered fancasts, so those three have all been in the Best Semiprozine category. But, at least in my mind, publications like Escape Pod are different, which primarily identify themselves as podcasts.
I don’t claim that this list is exhaustive–if someone knows of other publications eligible for the Best Fancast category, post a comment, and I’ll add in more here.
- Welcome to Nightvale*
- Journey Into…
- Toasted Cake
- The Way of the Buffalo
- Beam Me Up
- Tales to Terrify
- Far-Fetched Fables
*Welcome to Nightvale is only eligible if it is not a “professional publication” as reckoned by Hugo rules:
A Professional Publication is one which meets at least one of the following two criteria:
(1) it provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or,
(2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner.
Since this determination requires information about financial matters that are not published, I can’t determine this without help. I have emailed the folks behind Welcome to Nightvale to ask them to help me determine their eligibility. I will update the list if I hear a yes or no.
- We’re Alive (I think it’s more likely Dramatic Presentation, Long Form)
PROBABLY NOT ELIGIBLE
My number one pick, personally, is Podcastle. They’ve had an excellent year of fiction, and it was the last full year under co-editors Dave Thompson and Anna Schwind. I’ve posted a Best of 2014 list here. I’ll also be posting Best Of lists of the other fiction podcasts that I listen to, which you’ll be able to find here.