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Fiction Podcasts for Best Fancast Hugo!

What’s the Fancast Category?

HugoLogo[1]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.

Why Fiction Podcasts?

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.

What Can I Nominate?

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.

CLEARLY ELIGIBLE

*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.

MAYBE ELIGIBLE?

  • 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.

About David Steffen (64 Articles)
David Steffen is a writer and editor and software engineer and a voracious consumer of podcast fiction. The first piece of fiction he's edited is now available, "Taste the Whip" by Andy Dudak on Diabolical Plots(http://www.diabolicalplots.com/dp-fiction-1-taste-the-whip-by-andy-dudak/). David is also the co-founder and administrator of the The Submission Grinder(http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/), a tool for writers.

22 Comments on Fiction Podcasts for Best Fancast Hugo!

  1. A cogent argument, David.

  2. Personally, in my nominations, I favor venues that feature original content over, or in addition to, reprints. I suspect that I’m not alone there. That’s probably worked against the fiction podcasts. (Yes, I know it will bother some people, but reprints are easier to select that original content.)

    As for categorization, I’d argue that EscapePod is more semiprozine on the grounds that they publish the text of their stories on their site. It makes them more like the majority of the recent nominees in the semiprozine category than the audio-only venues.

    That said, I’ve always felt that the split was a bad move. Using the delivery medium as a way to separate publications is bad news. It failed when some tried to say online markets shouldn’t compete against print, but this one went through mainly powered by fear from within the traditional fanzine community after SSS won “their” Hugo. (Interestingly, SSS was a nominee again when the proposal was approved and lost to a traditional fanzine, demonstrating that the fears were unfounded.)

    Fancast was a compromise to make sure that podcasts still had a place in the Hugos. (The alternative was exile.) I think the hope was that cooler heads would prevail by the time the sunset clause activated. Then the category would go away and podcasts would be able to compete with their equivalent colleagues in semiprozine and fanzine. I think the categories will be stronger with their inclusion.

    I know I will vote against renewal.

  3. Neil–You might be right about that. I’m not sure I entirely agree due to StarShipSofa having been on the ballot several times which I think is all reprints–but their showing may simply have something to do with SSS’s aggressive self-promotion strategy around that time, so the general Hugo voting population felt one way while the SSS fans pushed against the trend.

    I think that you’re right about Escape Pod being considered a semiprozine, especially since there are precedents of dual-format publications like Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Clarkesworld (before it became ineligible). The reason I think of them differently is that it seems that Escape Pod and Drabblecast ARE podcasts while Clarkesworld/Lightspeed/BCS HAVE podcasts. But since that’s more a matter of minor semantics and history of a publication’s development it’s probably beyond what the Hugo rules are really meant to separate between.

    And thanks for commenting on this thread, Neil. I haven’t been able to attend an WSFS meeting where these things are decided, so pretty much all I know about what goes on in those meetings are what I’ve heard from you.

  4. I see your point about picking markets that focus on original fiction over reprints, because that’s harder to do.

    That’s certainly one aspect of my choice too, but in the case of podcasts there’s a whole extra layer of voice-acting and audio production involved, so even if a venue runs only reprints, the publication as a whole still requires a great deal of additional work to publish in audio and is a great value-add for that reason.

  5. Yes, I omitted that bit of history, but SSS lobbied heavily to get on the ballot. That didn’t sit well with people either.

    RE EscapePod: You’re drawing lines around what a magazine started as, not what it is in its current format. Origins are important, but you have to nominate based on where they currently are.

    RE Workload: Wasn’t arguing that a podcast isn’t a lot of work, just that the hill is steeper for a podcast producing original content and thus, they earn extra respect in my nominating process.

  6. >>You’re drawing lines around what a magazine started as, not what it is in its current format. Origins are important, but you have to nominate based on where they currently are.

    Fair point. If a magazine started as a fanzine and became a semiprozine, its history as a fanzine is irrelevant once that time is out of the awards consideration period. I wish the rules were stated more clearly in the specific decision between fancast and semiprozine. By the rules alone, I would actually guess that Lightspeed (for instance) would be a fancast because it has an audio component rather than the other way around, but precedent says its a semiprozine. (Fancast category demands audio or video, semiprozine category simply says in regards to format that it must be “not a fancast”, so I would’ve thought that although there’s ambiguity it would lean in the other direction).

    >>Wasn’t arguing that a podcast isn’t a lot of work, just that the hill is steeper for a podcast producing original content and thus, they earn extra respect in my nominating process.”

    For sure. You’d made it clear that you were talking about your personal nominating process in any case, and I can’t reasonably argue with your personal preferences. I was just replying to talk a bit about my own process as a counterpoint.

  7. I was on the committee that redrafted the rules for semiprozine. We always intended it to be a format-agnostic category that included and embraced podcasts. Fancast was a last minute bolt-on from the fanzine people, so they applied band-aids to our language to squeeze it in.

  8. Rachael Jones // January 29, 2015 at 6:41 am //

    On the subject of original vs. reprints: I’m not familiar with all the podcasts listed, but many (most?) of the above do run at least some original content, and some run quite a lot. The proportion just varies depending on the venue. Nightvale for example is 100% original content. At Escape Pod, originals were around… 1/3 of 2014’s content? And PseudoPod runs about a 50/50 ratio, which is the same as Nightmare Magazine’s original/reprint ratio. So I guess I’d just say keep in mind “podcast” can mean a lot of different things, just like “ezine” can.

    • Thanks for pointing that out. Wouldn’t want to have misled anyone about those specific markets (since I was talking more in general terms). When evaluating a reprint market (meaning those that publish any reprints) I do consider the quality and quantity of the originals. With non-fiction, I don’t often have to think that way. Most are original.

      It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the non-fiction audiences are generally much larger/broader. That’s going to impact nominations too.

      • Rachael Jones // January 29, 2015 at 10:37 am //

        Yeah I agree, especially on the last point. Yet another good reason to include fiction podcasts with their fiction zine equivalents–otherwise, it’s awkward trying to judge nonfiction audio against fiction. They don’t really have anything in common except medium.

        It also leads to some other quirks, like how on the official Hugo nomination ballot, the “Best Fanzine” category gets an “Editor”, while the “Best Fancast” category only gets “Personnel”. Which kind of makes sense given all the bases the category is trying to cover, but is awkward and a bit unintentionally hierarchical when you compare the categories side by side.

  9. Gareth Kavanagh // January 29, 2015 at 11:01 am //

    I fully agree that there should be more fiction in the Fancast category, and have been looking for people to nominate in this area. I will be reviewing the ones suggested that i have not Listened to before.

    However i am wondering if “Welcome to Nightvale” is eligible for Fancast, as it may be a Professional Publication as defined by the Hugo Award Rules.

    3.2.9:
    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 owners.

    This means that it would need to be nominated in Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form instead, as it would not be best related work like where the Writing Excuses Podcast falls.

    • Gareth,
      Very good question about Welcome to Nightvale. I would guess the podcast itself doesn’t provide that level of income, but I don’t know whether its publisher Commonplace Books does or not. They only have two books listed on their booklist, but they also have merch and live shows and other stuff and I don’t have any idea what kind of income they provide.

      I’ve emailed Welcome to Nightvale to spell out the Hugo rule for “professional” and ask them if they could say yes/no on whether they’re considered a professional publication or not. When I get an answer I’ll update here. For now I’ll add a note in the list in the post to say that their place on the list may be tentative.

    • In any case, I don’t think that Welcome to Nightvale as a whole can be eligible for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form. Individual episodes certainly could be. I don’t think it would be well suited for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form unless one wanted to wait until the podcast has closed at some point in the future and consider the whole run of the podcast as a single presentation. Otherwise from what I’ve heard there’s no clear separating it into smaller pieces except the episodes themselves.

      • Gareth Kavanagh // January 29, 2015 at 11:38 am //

        Thanks for investigating that, I would love to be able to nominate Welcome to Nightvale for a Hugo, and i am aware it has a bit of a following in the Worldcon community so i think it would make it to the Ballot if people were aware that it was available to be nominated in that category.

        On occasion there is an episode, or the occasional two part episode, that stands by itself, but that also reflects Nightvale as a whole. I am not sure if there are any in 2014 which makes it difficult to nominate in BDP-SF, but i know some people who are trying to pick an episode that would stand up well.

        However as i said if it turns out to be eligible for Fan cast, well then, i will be nominating it, as i have been a fan for awhile now.

        • I’m pretty new to the Welcome to Nightvale listening–I’ve been catching up on the backlog, and I’ve only gotten up to July 2013 so far, so haven’t listened to any episodes from this award year yet. As-is I can’t nominate it yet for that reason, but if I get to another 12 episodes or so into 2014 then I’ll be wanting to nominate it one way or the other too. I’d be quite happy to see it on the ballot.

  10. Andrew Trembley // January 29, 2015 at 5:46 pm //

    Well… I have to half-agree with Neil.

    Fancast wasn’t a bolt-on to the semiprozine motion.

    There was a “damn podcasters get off my lawn, and screw you too, website editors!” contingent that wanted to get everything that didn’t look exactly like a magazine out of fanzines. There was a “podcasts are a new and growing form of fan publishing, and shouldn’t be kicked off the ballot” contingent that was fine with digital publishing that wasn’t only PDF format.

    It ended up interacting with the Semiprozine motion because both needed to modify the Fanzine category to get what they wanted. That’s the only connection. The “damn podcasters get off my lawn” motion was pretty much scrapped and replaced with the text of my motion.

    While semiprozine wanted to be format-agnostic, fancast was about recognizing the different skills required to produce audiovisual vs. text fanwork, and the differing experiences of reading vs. listening/watching. If we were truly format agnostic, we wouldn’t have “Best Novel” and “Best Dramatic Presentation.”

    Now it is content-agnostic, as long as that content is fanwork. Nonfiction, fiction, dramatic presentation? Doesn’t matter.

    • I don’t think that Best Novel and Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form are separate because of the medium of communication, they’re separate because one is a novel and one is a screenplay–there is a pronounced difference between the two or otherwise a novel wouldn’t have to be “adapted” for the screen, you’d just have some people reading it out loud on camera. They are different artforms.

      But the difference between a text and audio when both are publishing short stories? I don’t see how that’s the same as the novel/dramatic presentation pairing. When a writer does a reading of her short story at a convention, it doesn’t stop being the same short story just because its conveyed with acoustic waves rather than staining pulped wood. Print it on paper, put it in an ebook, print it in Braille, put it in HTML, put it in a podcast, knock me unconscious with chloroform and tattoo it onto my leg–it doesn’t stop being a short story. It’s the same art form on a different carrier wave.

      • Andrew Trembley // January 29, 2015 at 7:48 pm //

        How many dramatic presentations aren’t adapted from books? Many. How many dramatic works are “novelized” to adapt them to print? Many. How many fiction podcasts are simple readings and how many are dramatic presentations? Haven’t the foggiest.

        Honestly, I don’t see a really big difference between an audiobook and a book. But there’s not no difference.

        The quality of the actual reading is a big deal. Some authors do a really awful job reading their work. Some authors do really animated readings of their work. Does having a celebrity reader influence the listeners more than the work a book designer influences readers?

        On the production side, it’s a very different skill set, doing very different things to produce an enjoyable story free of distractions. Where you have copyeditors, proofreaders, book designers, typesetters (and maybe printers) ensuring a book or ebook is free of distracting errors, podcasts have sound engineers and sound editors ensuring that an episode doesn’t have distracting hisses, pops and “ums.”

        And writing for audio or video production has constraints that writing for print doesn’t. Audio and video are universally time-constrained. If you’re writing for audio or video, your word count is much less important than the time it’s going to take the reader (even if it’s you) to deliver the content. Whereas a novelette could be a lunch break for one person but 3 days for someone else.

        I’ll admit, the fiction podcasts I listen to are dramatic presentations, not readings. “Welcome to Night Vale” isn’t a simple reading. It’s definitely a dramatic presentation (and I’m supporting “Old Oak Doors” for BDP-Short this year). It’s definitely written for audio presentation.

        Then again, I listen to “Selected Shorts” on the radio. It’s proof an excellent reading series can be done.

        • >>Honestly, I don’t see a really big difference between an audiobook and a book. But there’s not no difference.

          Right. There’s also not no difference between HTML and ebook, but we don’t need seperate categories for those.

          >>The quality of the actual reading is a big deal.
          You’re preaching to the choir. I get almost all my fiction from podcasts.

          Anyway, you’re not saying anything there I don’t generally agree with. Producing audio is hard, and narration plays a big part. But most of them, the ones that publish short fiction at least, I consider to be semiprozines at heart–separating them from the others seems to imply that they need to be separated. And especially when semiprozine-like podcasts are lumped in as “fancasts” makes it sound like audio is devalued because right now podcasts can’t be semipro in the nomenclature.

  11. Hey David,

    Is We’re Alive http://www.werealive.com/ eligible?

    One of the best modern audio drama i had ever heard

    @++

    • Ummm… it might be? I had not heard of it until you mentioned it. It looks like it is a single plot/world, across several seasons broken into episodes. The fancast rule specifies “that does not qualify as a dramatic presentation.” I think that a season of We’re Alive (or alternatively the whole thing bundled together) might be considered a Dramatic Presentation, Long Form by the current rules?

      I figured that Welcome to Nightvale, even though it is a single world, would not be a Dramatic Presentation Long Form because it’s an ongoing series with no clear end in sight–there’s no way to say that from HERE to HERE is a single presentation like there would be in a 4-season limited run single plot.

  12. Oh, I forgot The Way of The Buffalo, adding that in.

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