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A Rocket For The Editor, Part Two

For all those who have been waiting for the t'other shoe to drop... I talked about some worthy choices for the Hugo for Best Professional Editor (Long Form) down below, so it behooves me to say a few words about Best Professional Editor (Short Form) as well.

This is the second category that was created when "Best Editor" was split in 2007, but in some ways it feels more like a continuation of the older category. Magazine editors almost always won Best Editor before the split, and of course magazine editors have dominated the new Short Form category as well... though not to the same extent. Anthologists, who were always eligible even before the split but almost never won, have been holding their own in recent years, mostly in the person of the redoubtable Ellen Datlow. Datlow has won Short Form three times since the split. Sheila Williams of ASIMOV'S has won twice, Gordon Van Gelder of THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION has won twice, and Stanley Schmidt of ANALOG has won once... in his final year of eligibility, after his retirement was announced.

The "usual suspects" syndrome is strong in this category. Since the division, a whole new phalanx of bridesmaids has come forth. Jonathan Strahan, Neil Clarke, and John Joseph Adams have all been nominated multiple times, but none of them has ever taken home a rocket. Unlike Long Form, which has become a de facto lifetime achievement award thanks in large part to the example set by David G. Hartwell, none of the Short Form winners have ever retired themselves from the competition. Of course, some have been retired by, well, retirement... Stan Schmidt and Gordon Van Gelder, for instance, no longer edit ANALOG and F&SF, respectively, and are no longer eligible.

Last year, this was another category completely dominated by the Puppies. All five of the finalists were first-time nominees... which was good. But all five were from the slates, which was not so good. Four of the five were nonetheless legitimate nominees worthy of serious consideration: anthologists Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Edmund R. Schubert of ORSON SCOTT CARD'S INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW, and Mike Resnick of GALAXY'S EDGE. (Schubert subsequently withdrew his name from consideration, which was commendable, but he did it too late to be replaced on the ballot).

Conspicuous by their absence from the ballot were a number of past winners and runners-up, including Datlow, Strahan, Adams, Clarke, Williams, Anne Vandermeer, Gardner Dozois, and others, all of them pushed off the ballot by the Puppies. Which made the final ballot a bit of a joke. You're going to give a Best Editor, Short Form award, but you're going to exclude the most prominent and distinguished short fiction editors in the field? Sure. That's like starting the NFL Playoffs by excluding the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks on the grounds that they've won too much lately. Hey, maybe those teams get eliminated along the way... as they did this year... but you have to at least let them in the tournament. To be the champ, you need to beat the champ... and in our field, the champion short fiction editors are folks named Datlow, Williams, Dozois, etc.

All that being said... the slates, by whatever means, did throw up some legitimate Hugo-worthy nominees in this category last year, though not as many as in Long Form. One of those stood well above the others, IMNSHO. The Hugo really should have gone to MIKE RESNICK. Resnick has a long and distinguished career as an anthologist, one stretching back decades, and while he has plenty of rockets on his mantle at home, and even more crashed upside down rockets on the shirts he wears at worldcon, he had never been recognized for his work as an editor before. In addition, Resnick had founded a new SF magazine, GALAXY'S EDGE; in an age when the older magazines are struggling just to keep going, starting up a new one is a bold act (maybe a little insane) that deserves applause. But even more than that, Resnick has been a mentor to generations of new young writers, featuring them in his anthologies and now his magazine, advising them, nurturing them, teaching them, even collaborating with them. His "writer babies," I have heard them called. In a way, Resnick is a one-man Clarion. Finding and nurturing new talent is one of an editor's most important tasks, and Resnick has been doing it, and doing it well, for decades. He got my Hugo vote.

He got a lot of other Hugo votes as well. But not enough to win. As with Long Form, this category went to No Award. The work that the Sad and Rabid Puppies began to wreck this Hugo category was completed by Steve Davidson of AMAZING, Deirdre Saoirse Moen, and the rest of the Nuclear Fans. Resnick was never part of the slates, fwiw. He took no part in the Puppy Wars on either side, preferring to stay above the fray. And he did deserve a Hugo. But guilt by association prevailed, and he was voted down with the rest. A real pity.

((FWIW, at my Hugo Losers Party at Sasquan, I presented an Alfie Award to John Joseph Adams, who had the highest number of nominations of all those pushed off the ballot by the Puppies. And some other folks, whose identity has yet to be revealed, later sent Mike Resnick something called a 'Jovian Award,' for having the most votes of those who lost to No Award. Both Adams and Resnick were robbed last year; the former by the Pups, the latter by the Nukes.))

Which brings us to this year. When I hope we do not make the same mistakes. Let us hope that we won't need more Alfies or Jovians. Let's give a Hugo to the best short fiction editor in our field.

There's certainly no lack of worthy candidates. Starting with the magazine editors. SHEILA WILLIAMS is still at ASIMOV'S. At ANALOG we have a new editor, Stan Schmidt's successor, TREVOR QUACHRI. There's no new editor at F&SF as well: CHARLES COLEMAN FINLAY. Beyond the Big Three, we have the newer magazines and their editors: NEIL CLARKE of CLARKESWORLD, EDMUND SCHUBERT of ORSON SCOTT CARD'S INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW, WILLIAM SCHAFER of SUBTERREANEAN, and, yes, MIKE RESNICK of GALAXY'S EDGE.

Oh, and we must not forget the e-magazines. Especially not TOR.COM, which has become one of our field's most important venues for short fiction. Tor.com has a legion of editors, though, so it's a little harder to determine which one should be nominated.. if indeed you think the stories they've published are Hugo calibre. (Maybe someone from Tor will come and tell us?)

And then there are the anthologists. JOHN JOSEPH ADAMS, last year's Alfie winner, stands at the forefront of that group, together with ELLEN DATLOW, GARDNER DOZOIS, and JONATHAN STRAHAN. But, hey, there are lot of good anthologies published every year, so plenty of other editors are eligible. It is hard to know who to nominate in Long Form, as we've discussed, hard to know who edited what. It is easy in Short Form. What was your favorite magazine? What was the best anthology you read last year? The name of the editor is right there.

Oh... and it would disingenuous of me not to mention that I am eligible for nomination myself in this category, on the basis of OLD VENUS, the original anthology I co-edited with Gardner. Now, I'm very proud of OLD VENUS, and I think there are a number of wonderful stories therein worthy of Hugo recognition that I hope you'll remember when time comes... but I don't really regard myself as a serious contender in Short Form. Maybe some other year, when I've had several anthologies published... but there was no new Wild Cards book in 2015, so OLD VENUS was my only qualifying work, and I only did half of that. If you really really loved OLD VENUS and think it was worthy of Hugo recognition, well, nominate the stories, and nominate Gardner Dozois... he deserves just as much credit for the book as I do, and he did lots of OTHER editing besides, including his mammoth and long-running BEST OF THE YEAR anthology, the assembly of which is a task that would make lesser men weep.

Gardner Dozois will certainly be on my ballot. So will Mike Resnick, and... some others.

If you agree, you should nominate them as well. If not, nominate someone else.

But nominate.


Feb. 12th, 2016 04:10 pm (UTC)
Sure a recommendation is fine. I'm just pointing out that I can't just take one person's word for it or I'm acting like a Puppy.

You write: I think you are setting up a false dichotomy between honesty and excellence. There is no reason we need to choose between the two.

In a sense you are right.

The Puppies converged on a set of acceptable second bests to increase their political power over the nomination process. This produced a slate of nominees with little to offer in the way of excellence either. This is because a process that is first and foremost dishonest has no natural incentive to produce excellence.

I believe, as I said above, that a process that is first and foremost honest will also result in higher quality nominations. But for that to happen the process must be honest first.

You say it boggles you to hear me say the quality of the work is secondary to me. If it helps, I mean that I accept that many of the nominees will not be to my personal taste.

And I must admit it boggles me to hear you talk as if the honesty of the nomination process is secondary to you.

Try a thought experiment: if you personally chose the Hugo finalists and let the rest of us decide which of your top five was the best, would that lead to greater excellence than an honest Hugo season? Or do you think it would be better to let the other nominators have a say?

When I say excellence is secondary, I'm saying we should accept the risk of a [fill in popular work you consider un-excellent] to have a chance at a [fill in excellent work you overlooked until it was nominated by others].

You seem to think the way to get excellence is to concentrate on whatever remnants of excellence the slate has condescended to leave you on the Hugo Ballot. Last year I tried to get excellence by concentrating on honesty and only voting for honest nominees. As I recall you ended up pretty happy with how that worked out.

This year I had been thinking about assuming any slate nominees with a bunch of buzz behind them deserved to be treated as real nominees. But the more I think about it the more I wonder if that would be the right decision. Because you are quite right; I can't really be sure they could have made it on their own.

And an honest nomination process is the most reliable way to excellence, even if it is painful in the short term.
Feb. 12th, 2016 07:36 pm (UTC)
I think I can safely say that we both want honesty and we both want excellence. We differ, however, in how we define those terms and how much importance we attach to each.

The Puppies gamed the awards last year, and caused major and (I fear) lasting damage. No one disputes that... well, except the Puppies. Nonetheless, there was still some Hugo-worthy work on the ballot. You can say these were "remnants of excellence" that the slate "condescended" to leave on the ballot... but my belief is that the quality of the work should speak for itself.

Take, for instance, editor Sheila Gilbert of DAW. In my opinion, and those of many other fans and pros, she is an excellent editor whose long and distinguished career in the field makes her worthy of a Hugo. She was a nominee in 2013 and 2014, without the benefit of slates, losing to PNH one year and Ginjer Buchanan the next. But she finished well ahead of No Award both years, and ahead of some of the other nominees. I don't think anyone can question that she was an "honest" nominee, by your terms, and also an "excellent" one, by name.

Then, last year, the Puppies add her to their slates. Without her knowledge, permission, or consent, so far as I know. It seems clear to me that she would have been on the ballot anyway; the fans who nominated her the two prior years were likely to nominate her again, and so they did. Did that make her less excellent? Less honest?

I put people like Gilbert in the same category as GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and all the other nominees in the Drama categories, both long and short; these were people and works who were seized on by the slates, but would have been nominated anyway; people who may have had no inkling about any aspect of the kerfuffle until it was too late. And I don't believe in punishing such people.
Feb. 13th, 2016 01:41 pm (UTC)
I have no doubt that Sheila Gilbert is personally honest and an excellent editor and would be a worthy Hugo winner.

That is not what I mean by "honest nominee" however. An honest nominee is someone who was nominated by an honest process. Someone who is on the ballot because a number of people consulted their individual tastes and nominated their honest favorites.

And as you point out above, how can we know who would have been nominated under those circumstances? Some people are nominated one year and not nominated the next--it happens.

If we can know, then my proposed method for this year--No Award everything that only made the ballot because of a slate, but consider slate candidates that would have made the ballot honestly the same as the non-slate candidates--is perfectly viable. If we can't know, then No Award everything that was on a slate is the next logical step for anyone who, like me, is not willing to bend the knee to to the Puppies.

It is unfair to characterize resistance to a dishonest process, whatever form that takes, as "punishing" particular people who were caught up in it without their knowledge. It is not a punishment to not receive a Hugo. If being nominated is an honor, they've been honored. If being nominated is not an honor when it happens due to a slate, then we both accept that the nomination doesn't mean anything, and thus I maintain it doesn't need to be treated as if it did.
Feb. 13th, 2016 07:07 pm (UTC)
You can argue that such exclusions are not punishment -- but it sure feels like punishment to those affected. Some of whom I know. Real human beings are involved here, and these things can be hurtful.

Mind you, punishment is appropriate when someone does something wrong.

But I don't believe in punishing the innocent as well as the guilty. And I do believe in innocent until PROVEN guilty. Or in this case honest until proven dishonest.

I think there is a vast difference between those who were active and knowing participants in the slates, and those who were simply going about their business and doing their jobs until they found themselves caught up in all this, often without their knowledge and consent.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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