We will be closing the poll on the Lifetime Achievement Hugo at the end of Thursday. If you haven’t voted yet, please do so.
The next poll we intend to run will be about the role of professionals in the Fan categories of the Hugos. Please note that this is not intended to be simply about John Scalzi. Other professional writers have been nominated for Best Fan Writer, and it is equally possible that professional artists could be nominated in Best Fan Artist.
In creating such a poll we face the same problem that comes up when you try to define actual Hugo rules, namely: “what do you mean by Professional?” The Hugos have pretty much given up trying to define what “professional” means. Remember that very few SF&F writers are actually full time – most have to keep day jobs, or work in other areas as well, in order to make a living. Also a “fan” may have a full time job that involves writing or art, but not in the SF&F field.
There is also an open question as to what the “fan” categories are really for. Some people argue that they are for a different competitive level of writer/artist/editor (drawing analogies with differing weight classes in boxing). Others argue that fan writing/art/editing is of a different nature to the “professional” fiction, art and editing categories, and that you can, for example, be a top class fan writer without being a top class fiction writer, and vice versa. We should also remember that people such as Joe Haldeman, Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison were fans before they achieved professional success. More recently Scott Lynch was reportedly discovered as a writer thanks to having a high profile blog. As of now we are making no assumptions as to which meaning of the fan/pro split is correct, though you may choose to argue the point in comments.
Finally there is a question regarding how professional status affects voting. It may be that quality writing/art/editing will win out regardless. However, some may argue that a successful professional in the field is liable to have a large fan base, and this will put such people at an intrinsic advantage (in a popular vote award) compared to ordinary fans.
Bearing all that in mind, here are a few suggestions as to what might be the preferred approach. Feel free to comment on these, or to suggest alternatives. We’ll start the poll on Friday.
- Bring on the pros – the Hugos should always go to the very best work, regardless of category
- Leave it up to the voters – if they choose to nominate professionals in the fan category, so be it
- Leave it up to the nominees – if they think they have an unfair advantage or do not belong in the fan categories they should decline nomination
- Find some way to exclude professionals from the fan categories
- Allow professionals only if they are “part of the fan community”
- Allow professionals only if they are best known for their fan activity
- Anyone who has won a non-fan category should be ineligible for a fan category
- Anyone who has been nominated in a non-fan category should be ineligible for a fan category
- You can’t be nominated in a fan category and a non-fan category in the same year
- Bar professionals from the fan categories but create a Best Author/Artist Blog category
- Scrap the fan categories altogether