Even after all this time, I’m still trying to nail down a definition in my mind of what “Best Fan Writer” really means. So today, I’m going to try to define it for myself, and if that definition helps others, so be it!
Wikipedia says “The Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer is the Hugo Award given each year for writers of works related to science fiction or fantasy which appeared in low- or non-paying publications such as semiprozines or fanzines or in generally available electronic media during the previous calendar year. There is no restriction that the writer is not also a professional author, and several such authors have won the award for their non-paying works. The award was first presented in 1967 and has been awarded annually.”
The Hugo Awards official webpage simply says: “This is another person category. Note that it does not just apply to writing done in fanzines. Work published in semiprozines, and even on mailing lists, blogs, BBSs, and similar electronic fora, can be including when judging people for this Award. Only work in professional publications should not be considered.”
Sadly, neither of these definitions really convey what it means to be a fan writer beyond the barest qualifications. While it would be nice to see a few pieces try to objectively define what it means to be a fan writer, most of what I’ve seen have been Phillipics or Jeremiads in the Hugo Blogosphere decrying Mixon for even having the audacity to be nominated in the same year that the Puppies dominated the categories.
So, in this post, I will try to define what “Fan Writer” means and use it to justify my support of Jeffro Johnson in this year’s Best Fan Writer category.
On the face of it, a Fan Writer is just that. A fan who writes. They are a fan of something in the realm of fantasy and science fiction, and they write about fantasy and science fiction from the perspective of someone who is a fan to an audience of fellow or potential fans. A good fanwriter is like an evangelical minister of fantasy and science fiction; they give sermons to the believers to help them better understand the texts they know and love and they take the good word to those who have not heard it. You’ve been missing something in your life, and you don’t quite know what it is, but I think I can help you; here’s this story by Lord Dunsany!
To me, Jeffro Johnson has provided a treasure trove of knowledge and insight into a wide range of games and fiction, some of which I have only had a passing familiarity with others which I knew and loved but still gained new insight into. First and foremost, Jeffro Johnson is a fan. Not an elitist hipster fan who only likes that band because no one has heard of them and those who have can’t stand them, but a true and loving fan who wants to share the joy he has found in games and fiction with others. “Look at this awesome thing! Share in its awesomeness with me!” Of course like any devout, Jeffro has his shares of quirks. Monopoly orthodoxy, for instance, is as passionate a subject for Jeffro as politics and religion for most. But that’s part of why we love him, right? He has passion for the things he enjoys! Plus, his Google feed is like Drudge Report for nerds.
The hardest task for me this Hugo voting season is going to be ranking the Mad Genius Club Writers. They’re all amazing, and I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read by them. The catch is, I know about the Mad Genius Club writers BECAUSE of Jeffro. I’m not going to attempt to rank any of them here, because I still have no idea which one is my favorite (but I suggest you check them all out, because they’re all great).
Mixon’s post on Requires Hate stands out like a sore thumb among the rest of the fan writing nominees. While I’m sure her piece is an excellent and important TL;DR (sorry, I really wasn’t interested enough to read all of it. The word count: it’s OVER 9000!!!) piece of serious journalism, I’m hesitant to call it Fan Writing. I’m sure that Mixon is a Fan, but her piece is not about fantasy/sci-fi written to the fandom or in an effort to expand the fandom in an effort to proselytize the genres further. It targets and pertains to very particular groups within the community in relation to the adverse actions of an individual -who sounds like an absolute reprobate-, but to me it does little of what the best sorts of Fan Writing ought to do.
Compare and contrast
Baird Searles’ now all-but-forgotten blurb from F&SF 1977:
“Probably the best reason [why the show works] is that Wonder Woman, by its very nature, doesn’t take itself at all seriously. And therefore, by a curious paradox, becomes much easier to take seriously, on its own level.”
“Keeping that blank naievete(sic) without coming across as stupid and boring is very difficult, and [Linda] Carter manages it beautifully”…”Besides, she fills those golden breast cups without looking grotesque, which is no small feat (take a look at some 40s s/f pulp covers and you’ll see what I mean).”
Laura J. Mixon’s Hugo Nominated Blog Post from 2014:
“Benjanun Sriduangkaew has established herself over the past two years as a well-liked and talented newer writer. As a lesbian Thai woman, she identifies as a member of a highly marginalized community, and there has been quite a bit of excitement in progressive circles around her rise in popularity as a short story writer.”
“I think of what happened this last August in Ferguson, Missouri. As a mother of two young adults around Mike Brown’s age, I break into a cold sweat when I think what his mother must be going through. I feel deeply angry, that in my own country today an unarmed young person can be shot on the street by a uniformed police officer, and months later there is no indictment, no criminal charges, against that man.”
“Between 37 and 40% of [Benjanun Sriduangkaew] targets, or nearly two-fifths, were people of color. Given that the field has been, and still is, predominantly white, this is disproportionately high. In other words, POC are much more likely to be a target of her attacks than whites.”
That Linda Carter sounds hot and that Benjanun Srimalamadingdong sounds like bad news. Requires Hate, from what I’ve gathered, is a far left radical progressive who pissed off a lot of people by harassing other far left radical progressives while ignoring the ‘rules’ set by the progressive stack. Linda Carter, from what I’ve gathered, is a hot lady who is staring in an awesome sci-fi show based on an old comic book, and all three sound like they’re worth checking out, amirite?
I’m not trying to minimize the work that Mixon did on her write-up on Requires Hate; that would take editing skills far beyond my own (wakka wakka!). But seriously, this might have belonged more in the Related Work category than Fan Writer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to spit shine the dust jackets of those Jack Vance books Jeffro convinced me were worth checking out!