Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Split the Difference

God, do I ever have an opinion about this: Chris M. Barkley and Patrick Nielsen Hayden have submitted a proposal to split the Hugo Award category for Best Editor into two categories: Best Book Editor and Best Magazine Editor. The idea being that while the magazine editors dominate the category, the short story is no longer the driving force of the genre, and great book editors such as David G. Hartwell (a finalist sixteen times without a win), Beth Meacham, Jim Minz, Betsy Mitchell, Jo Fletcher et al. deserve recognition they won't get when Asimov's, F&SF, and Analog dominate the category in voters' minds.

Now, while I lament their observation that the short story is no longer the driving force of the genre (and have my own humble plans brewing to address this - more on that later), when it comes to giving more opportunities for the great editors of our field to be recognized, I say "Hell Yes!" It's just an embarrassing shame that we (the community) thought it more important to create two separate Hollywood categories before addressing this.

I'd go one step further and suggest a Best Original Anthology category. It drives me bonkers that the World Fantasy Awards have a Best Anthology category, but the genre that gave us Dangerous Visions, the Orbit series, and The Science Fiction Hall of Fame doesn't recognize the category. That last volume was my introduction to science fiction to begin with!

Anyway, suffice to say I am 100% behind this proposal.


Mahesh Raj Mohan said...

I also bristle at the "short story not being the driving force of the genre" comment ... but yeah, the split is a good idea. And I'm totally for a Best Original Anthology. Fuck yeah!

Hal Duncan said...

Yes! I'd totally nominate Peter Lavery at Pan Macmillan. I'd love to see recognition for the guys who make the ballsy decisions and do a lot of sheer graft to get the good books out there in the best possible form.

Lou Anders said...

I'm moderating a panel to this effect at World Con, which asks whether novels or short stories are now the heart of the genre. A few years ago, I might have conceded that novels were, but for the buzz that Charles Stross kicked up with his Accelerando tales. These were crackling like electricity through the SF community while they were coming out in Asimov's, and while the larger reading public may only be discovering them now, they were influencing his fellow writers heavily during their initial magazine run.

Deanna Hoak said...

I agree with both proposals too. Book editors just don't have a chance of winning with the current system.

Jonathan said...

I think the proposal has merit, and I'd love to see it get up. My only concern is that you might see the 'too many categories' backlash.

As to 'short stories no longer being the driving force of the genre' - I don't think it's anywhere near that simple. I do think that it's true that up until the mid-50s short stories were indisputably the creative driving force of the genre: almost every major creative work was either a piece of short fiction, or a combination of pieces of short fiction. From the mid-60s on that began to change. The novel did come to the fore, and through till the mid-80s, it was moving to a 50/50 thing.

These days, I think to a real extent, short stories remain the technical and creative cutting edge. Novels tend to take those developments to a larger audience. I've never tried to map this, but I'll bet you'll see that any new idea or development in the genre in the past 25 years has tended to start as a handful of stories, and then been picked up in novels a year or two later. The novels then take the idea to a wider audience.

One thing I wouldn't like to see, as this proposal picks up steam, is people equating 'economic force' with 'driving force'. Novels are the economic heart of the genre, there's not doubt, but that doesn't automatically equate to creative force.


Lou Anders said...

HI Jonathan,
Your ecomonic vs. creative distinction is a good one. Although, if we do talk economics, then sadly Forgotten Realms novels are the heart of the genre.

As to the driving creative forces, that's where I was going with my Acclerando examples. You are, no doubt, familiar with the saying about the Velvet Underground's first album - that only 100 people bought it, but every one of them started a band? That's where I see the short story today.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden said...

Which is exactly what I meant when I wrote in the introduction to Starlight 1 that short stories are the garage rock of SF.

I don't know who was arguing that short fiction is no longer important to SF, but it wasn't me. I did say that book publishing has been the dominant form of SF production for the last fifty years, but that has nothing to do with claiming that novels are where all the action is. As you yourself note, short fiction is part of book publishing, and in fact many of us became SF readers because of great anthologies.

Lou Anders said...

Hi Patrick,
Did not mean to imply you said the short story was not important, though, interestingly, there has been a lot of talk about "what drives the genre" lately - both on other blogs and elsewhere. It was the topic of a panel I just moderated in Glasgow.

Meanwhile, was just sent this in which Cheryl Morgan breaks down how the two categories would shape up if the proposal had been in effect this year. Interesting stuff.