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What They Edited

My observations about the Best Editor (Long Form) Hugo, which you can read in full several posts down, have drawn some comments here and on FILE 770 from fans who object to my suggestion that this category has become a de facto lifetime achievement award, at least since David G. Hartwell set an example by withdrawing from future consideration after his third win.

The objections seem to take the form of stating emphatically that Best Editor (Long Form) is NOT a lifetime achievement award, it's not, it's not, it's just NOT.

And quite right they are. According to the rules, that is. According to the rules, the award is only supposed to be for the previous year's editing.

Which is great in theory, and completely wrong in fact. Maybe those who are objecting vote on that basis, but if so, they are a very tiny minority. Given the difficulty of actually knowing who edited what in any particular year, most fans are voting on the basis of lifetime achievement, whether the rules admit that possibility or not. Or are we really supposed to believe that Ginjer Buchanan finally won in 2014 solely on the basis of the books she edited in 2013, that Betsy Wollheim's win in 2012 was entirely due to her wonderful editing in 2011? If you believe that, there's a nice bridge in my hometown of Bayonne, New Jersey that you might want to buy. Ginjer and Betsy won their much-deserved rockets in recognition of their long and distinguished careers, careers that spanned decades, during which time they bought and published hundreds of novels, discovered and nurtured dozens of new writers, helped to shape their lines and by extension the field we all love. That's what got them their rockets, not -- as we must assume elsewise -- a sudden one-year burst of editorial brilliance.

That being said, however, I do recognize that there are those out there who will never agree to this philosophy. The rules are the rules, they will say, so they will not take career contributions into account, just the previous year.

Okay. We aim to please. So I emailed some of the editors I'd recommended in my original post, and asked them what books they edited last year. And a couple of them have replied.

ANNE LESLEY GROELL of Bantam Spectra and Random House. Besides my own KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS and the GAME OF THRONES coloring book, Anne also edited FOOL'S QUEST by Robin Hobb, UPROOTED by Naomi Novik, GREEN EARTH by Kim Stanley Robinson (an abridged compilation of three books ALG had edited), BOMBS AWAY by Harry Turtledove, THE DARKLING CHILD by Terry Brooks, "plus a bunch of stuff that will be out this year."

JANE JOHNSON of HarperCollins Voyager in the UK, in addition to my own releases, was also the editor on THE LIAR'S KEY by Mark Lawrence, FOOL'S QUEST by Robin Hobb (the British edition, obviously), and HALF A WORLD and HALF A WAR by Joe Abercrombie.

So that's two, for those who want to consider only last year's work.

So far only those two editors have responded, but if I get more replies, I will post the titles here. Whether you favor the "single year" or "lifetime achievement" approach to this award, I think we can all agree that having some information is to the good.


Samuel Pickstone
Feb. 11th, 2016 03:14 am (UTC)
What makes a good editor?
Hello! As I'm neither an Author, or an editor, I was just wondering ... what makes a good editor? I suspect Spell checking and Grammar is always helpful, but I bet they definitely... increase the power of an author somehow, so to speak.

At the end of the day, we all "know" a good author because we enjoy their books. So what's the difference between the "David Eddings" of Editors and the "J. R. Hartley" of the editing world? Moral support?
Feb. 11th, 2016 05:32 am (UTC)
Re: What makes a good editor?
That's an impossible question. Like asking what makes a good husband or wife. The author/ editor relationship is as complex as a romantic relationship, and a good editor for me might be a very bad editor for you. Depends on what you need or want.

JY Calcano
Feb. 11th, 2016 03:28 am (UTC)
Interesting internal politics of Hugo Awards
For some reason I end up reading this blo... life journal around the time the topic of Hugo Awards comes up. It isn't a deliberate affectation of mine, but simple, unflattering coincidence.

One of the observations, and forgive me for flattering you sir, is that I believe the ardor, in the words written on the topic, reflects a deep sense of responsibility and desire to improve the whole system for the better. Thus, thank you for such.

My question is the following.

What plans or ideas have been suggested to improve the Hugo Awards, so as to diligently judge the merit of those aspiring for a particular award?

J. Y. Calcano
-amateur author and interested commentator.
Feb. 11th, 2016 05:35 am (UTC)
Re: Interesting internal politics of Hugo Awards
Well, there are a couple of changes to the Hugo rules that passed last year at Sasquan, which will take effect if MidAmericon ratifies them.

I don't know that I'd call them improvements, though. They are more in the nature of defensive measures, to try and lessen the effect of slates.

Judging merit is a subjective exercise at best. All one can do is come to the task with clean hands and composure. Taste will always play a role.

The bottom line is... nominators and voters both should read as much as they can.
Feb. 11th, 2016 06:11 am (UTC)
Sorry off-topic but...
... I need to vent...
Unfortunately, I checked your blog posts first on FB instead of here and I have to tell you how so sorry I am for all the stupid comments. It shocked me to see that there are so many people that think they can tell you what you should do with your personal time. I have the feeling they would just act like Annie in Stephen King's "Misery" if they got the chance (I know that is exaggerated, but I simply can't stand the disrespectful way people are writing to you).
Keep on doing what you are doing, take all the time you need, write your blog, watch sports and please don't let these people get to you!
Feb. 11th, 2016 06:28 am (UTC)
Re: Sorry off-topic but...
Thanks... but I don't read Facebook (or Twitter), so I don't care what people post there.

The internet, as I have often said, is toxic.

But I do appreciate your kind words. However, I'd like to keep the comments here on topic, which is to say, about the Best Editor Hugo.
Feb. 11th, 2016 07:00 am (UTC)
Re: Sorry off-topic but...
That is good!! (then sorry to have mentioned it)
And yes, you are right. In my blog I write mainly about my past (domestic violence etc...), because I want to raise awareness. And even there, I had some really harsh comments.
But you are right: back on topic! :)
Feb. 11th, 2016 06:21 am (UTC)
Between the two...
I like the "lifetime achievement award" approach because more professionals would end their careers with an award, whether a Rocket, Oscar, Tony, etc. Rather than fewer pros retiring with clumps of awards on their mantles.

That being said, newbies that had a fluke year could use an award to further their careers whilst possible. Whereas, seasoned pros have already proven themselves.
Feb. 11th, 2016 07:43 am (UTC)
RE: Between the two...
An award can certainly help launch the career of a new writer. It did for me.

On the other hand, many seasoned pros go through their whole career without recognition, and an award can mean a lot to them as well.

Bottom line, we are all human, and we all like being told we did well.
Ziv Wities
Feb. 11th, 2016 08:55 am (UTC)
I definitely understand your desire to recognize and acknowledge the work of editors.

But it seems very clear to me that the Hugos is a very awkward, backwards way of attempting to do that.

Look what a funny thing you've done here: you've written to editors you already admire, and asked them for a list of recent work, as a basis for why they've done something award-worthy. I see what you're saying, but that's a pretty serious case of self-selection.

In response to the discussion over the last few days, I tried looking up the editors of books I enjoyed. And, wow. People are hiding this stuff. The ebook I have, of a book I enjoyed immensely, doesn't mention an editor anywhere - not in the front matter nor in the author's acknowledgments. I also listen to a lot of books as audiobooks; those don't have front matter or acknowledgements.

And, look, let's look at the numbers for a minute. How many books do I read in a given year? How many brand-new books do I read in a given year? I'm not an industry professional; just a genre geek. This year, the number is somewhere around seven. That's with me making an effort for the Hugos; I think in any previous year, that number was zero (excepting possibly years where my very favorite doorstopper fantasy series had a new release). What are the odds of me reading two books, in one year, by the same editor, that I really enjoyed? (Maybe if I found a favorite editor, I'd increase my hit-rate? But that seems to me like a fairly non-standard reader profile.)

When it comes down to it, what's the value of an award given by fans who don't really know what they're talking about? I don't see any. I think the Hugo category works just fine, as long as you're assuming that the people nominating and voting for it are the people who care enough to have an interest and actually know what they're talking about. But what's the value of appealing to Fandom At Large, saying they should be interested, and encouraging them to nominate and vote even without industry experience and familiarity?

I don't want everybody to vote for Best Editor, the same way I don't want everybody who loved Guardians of the Galaxy to vote on Best Novelette (or one Best President of Tibet, for that matter).
I think you're trying to open a path for people who are interested to learn more, become informed, and become able to participate. I appreciate that. But I also don't feel you've managed to open that crack very wide. It's an opaque category for people outside the industry, and I think it's better to admit that than pretend otherwise.
Feb. 11th, 2016 10:11 pm (UTC)
We all want informed voters, of course.

And yes, the information needed to cast a vote in this category can be hard to find. It would be nice if other publishers followed Tor's lead by crediting their editors.

That being said, no one is ever in possession of all the facts, not in the nomination stage, at least. I nominate for Best Novel without having read every novel published in the previous year. That would be impossible. But I read as much as I can, and nominate what I like best. In short, I do the best I can.

That's all we can expect in any of these categories.
Ziv Wities
Feb. 12th, 2016 07:29 am (UTC)
That's a fundamental difference, though.

In the fiction categories, it's true I can't say "I think this piece is one of the best of the year," because I've read so little of the field. But I can say "This piece is fantastic," or "This piece is the kind of thing that should win the Hugo." I can judge the book or the story in its own right, on its own merit.

That's not true for Best Editor, Long Form. I have no way of saying "This editor did fantastic work," because the editing process is entirely opaque. I can try to maybe make an indirect estimation; if I can find a single editor who was involved in several things I enjoyed, then I guess they're probably a pretty good editor... but that's still a stab in the dark, and (IMHO) it's awfully hard for a reader who isn't in the thick of the industry to get even as far as "Oh, here's an editor who edited two really good novels this year.

I think editors are under-appreciated; they're out of the spotlight, it's hard to "see" their contribution. But I don't think the Hugos is the place to address that; you don't make them appreciated by pressuring or cajoling the public at large into forming an uninformed opinion. (Again, the Hugo category is fine if you're assuming that mostly the people who nominate and vote are the ones with established interest and some knowledge of what they're talking about.)

I'd love to see investment in making editors more visible, prominent, appreciated. But... that needs to a project that stands on its own. Not "Quick, dig up hard-to-find info so you can cast a vote and hope it has some correlation to reality"; it needs to be "Hey, let's give some time and attention to learn about this side of the industry." Expand the pool of people whose votes can be informed, not the pool of people willing to vote uninformed.

(Just a thought: do you, or any innocent bystander, have any links to write-ups and appreciations of previous Hugo winners and nominees? I'd love to read some of those - not to re-nominate the same folks, but to learn, well, what the award is looking for, and how one finds it.)
Feb. 12th, 2016 08:12 am (UTC)
It is true that it is impossible to judge how much an editor has reshaped a book without having the original manuscript to compare to the published book. That aspect of an editor's work will forever remain hidden from you.

But that is only one aspect of what an editor does. An important aspect, sure, but not the be all and end all by any means.

Yes, as you suggest, one way to judge an editor is by the books. That has always been how we judged magazine editors. If F&SF published better stories than ANALOG that year, we vote for the editor of F&SF. The same approach works for books. When you look at your favorite novels last year, how many were from Del Rey, how many from Bantam, how many from Tor? Vote accordingly. Yes, Tor has a multiplicity of editors... but there at least they are credited.

Also, editors deserve credit for the books they acquire, whether they change a word in them or not. This is especially important for new writers. Did you read a first novel you especially enjoyed last year? If so, some editor was responsible fir it. Some editor found that book in the slush pile, decided to take a chance on it, fought to convince the publisher to take a chance on an unknown, campaigned to getbthe book a good cover, to get more copies our, wheedled established authors for blurbs and endorsements. All difficult and time consuming tasks. If you come across an editor with a long track record of finding and nurturing new voices... well, that's a damn fine editor.
Feb. 11th, 2016 09:00 am (UTC)
Given the difficulty of actually knowing who edited what in any particular year
and more, given the difficulty of knowing what the editor's contribution was to any of those books -

the award should be abolished.

Worldcon members are clearly not in a position to make an informed choice here. They can read the fiction, watch the dramatic presentations, look at the fan art... but they can't judge the work of the editors. People vote for names they recognise, or publishers they like, or people they've met at cons, not for the editing.

The work of editors is important, but a juried award would be a better way to select the best of the year.

Edited at 2016-02-11 12:19 pm (UTC)
Feb. 12th, 2016 04:30 am (UTC)
Re: Given the difficulty of actually knowing who edited what in any particular year
And indeed, without say, Before and After examples of a work, you can't know how much an editor contributed to the final product. Was the author's submission virtually perfect, or did it have to go through exhaustive re-writes to fix story problems the editor found?

And how much work was actually done by the staff of editorial assistants?

It does indeed seem to be an award that mostly rewards skill at self-promotion, being the public face of a publisher. We know the names of editors at Tor and Baen, but could you name one from Simon & Shuster or HarperCollins off the top of your head?
Feb. 11th, 2016 09:09 am (UTC)
I don't view this as an either-or thing.

To be eligible, an editor (or artist/writer) must have current work, ie released in the last year. That should be the primary consideration for the award, eg by being included in the Hugo voter packet. This can be supplemented by other, earlier material.

However, an editor (or artist/writer) who wins the Hugo, I view as having their body of work reset. All their earlier work up to that point has now been honoured with a Hugo, and only new material from that point forward should be used to as primary or supplementary material.

To take an example. Pro artists Michael and Franz have both been active for several years. They are both nominated for a Hugo in 2012. They provide some of their 2011 pieces for the packet, and some of their earlier material from 2010 as well. Michael gets the Hugo.

In 2013, they are both nominated as well. Michael "should" now only provide 2012 material for his package, while Franz can provide both 2012, 2011, and 2010 pieces.
Feb. 11th, 2016 10:19 am (UTC)
I never trusted the electorate to banish from their minds earlier and later work when voting for a best person of the year award.
Feb. 11th, 2016 11:05 am (UTC)
Take your time...
I´d just like to say, that all the people commenting on how you shouldn´t be blogging and should be writing the next book are completely wrong. I am actually happy you delayed the book Mr. Martin. As an artist, I know, that if there is a lot of pressure on me or everyone is pushing on me to finish something, I can finish it, but just to the point of ,,ok I did it, but never really had time to thing about it or express myself or do a good job,,. If you need more time on the books, take all the time you need. If you decide you won´t finish the novels, its a shame, but I completely understand why. I once started a comic, and I was the only one working on it, I came up with the story, drew the sketches and all the coloring, did the framework, dialog, book cover and everything. Chapter one took me about 3 months to complete, and was ended with something like a open end. When I put it on facebook, everyone started to say that they wanted more and more, and my 16 year old self wanted to provide that, as it was the first comic that actually got some sort of ,,fame,,. So I finished chapter 2 about 2 months later, but my notebook crashed and all my work was lost... After that, I had a milion other projects but everyone wanted this one comic.. I didn´t want to remake the whole thing, so I just stopped, and after that, I made loads of other things, way better that the comic... So, I feel ya Mr. Martin..
Feb. 11th, 2016 10:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Take your time...
I hope your work goes more smoothly in the future.

But please, in these comments sections, stay on topic. The topic here is the Best Editor Hugo.
Feb. 12th, 2016 09:33 am (UTC)
Re: Take your time...
Thank you, and sorry for going off topic.
Vera de Ferran
Feb. 11th, 2016 05:22 pm (UTC)
Fool's quest appears as edited by two editors. I don't know how this works exactly, but I guess one of the editors actually did the editing work with the author and the other just adapted the book to the new format in another language/dialect, no?
So, they can compete with the same book if that was their only work their this year? I know it never is, but just so I can understand how the editing process works.
Feb. 11th, 2016 05:42 pm (UTC)
Well, no, not really.

Many authors sell their books in one country -- generally the US for American authors and the UK for Brits, though there are exceptions. Then the second country simply buys the rights and reprints.

But when you reach a certain level, as Robin Hobb has, both US and UK want to publish simultaneously. So you deliver the manuscript to both editors at once, and both of them give you notes and comments. Most of the time they are in accord, though once in a while you do get contradictions.

That's the way my own Ice & Fire books are handled in the UK and US, certainly.
Vera de Ferran
Feb. 12th, 2016 03:22 am (UTC)
Oh, I see...
Should be more work with two editors, but I imagine that when someone reaches that point they are already familiar with the whole process.

Do you recommend any books on editing or how to improve writing in general?

Thank you for taking your time to answer me =)
Feb. 12th, 2016 09:26 am (UTC)
There are a lot of 'how to write' books. Even a few on writing sf and fantasy.

But more than any, I recomend a good workshop. Clarion, Clarion West, and Odyssey are all excellent.
Vera de Ferran
Feb. 13th, 2016 04:26 am (UTC)
Thank you :) I'll take a look
Andy Stratton
Feb. 12th, 2016 06:36 pm (UTC)
This has probably been answered before but...
As an author and an editor, how do you manage to wear one hat at a time? I imagine authoring to be more of a creative process and editing to be more technical. In my experience I've found technical thinking can kill a creative process, but its not so bad the other way around. So, I wonder how you keep that mental aspect on the shelf and out of the way for the creative work.
Feb. 12th, 2016 06:54 pm (UTC)
Re: This has probably been answered before but...
Editors differ just as writers do. For some it may be "technical," as you suggest, but it certainly doesn't work that way for me. My own editorial work tends to involve a lot of creativity, especially on WILD CARDS.

Shared worlds, by the way, require a lot more editing than any other anthology. Twice as much as a theme anthology, and ten times as much as a reprint anthology. As an editor I've gotten much more acclaim for the big cross-genre books I've done with Gardner, ROGUES and DANGEROUS WOMEN and WARRIORS and the like, but believe me, the Wild Cards book are much much much harder.
Feb. 13th, 2016 02:02 am (UTC)
I appreciate your taking the time to talk about the work of editors.

I have a small amount of experience working in editorial in publishing, and even I agree that it's ridiculously hard to judge editors' work. For those who are interested: You've got editing the individual manuscripts; selecting submissions; championing an author within the company (which affects the marketing, design, print run, etc.); working with the author on a professional level; plus a bunch of other stuff, all of which varies depending on the editor and publishing house. An editor might have a light touch on the manuscripts (which are sometimes edited beforehand by the agent), they might encourage plot changes, or they might go as far as turning a standalone novel into a series. And then there's the unmeasurable influence a supportive editor might have on the author's working day when the author knows their book's in good hands.

This all basically means it's not really possible to judge an editor for one year's work, since the books that come out one year represent only a fraction of what they do. And the editor doesn't know either if a book will strike a chord with readers until it's been out for a while. (And I haven't touched upon the editors who take care of the backlist or acquire older books to give them new leases of life.)

So how do you judge editors? If you like the books they had a hand in publishing, that means the editors were good. Even if you can't compare the draft manuscript to the finished one, you can still judge their choice to publish the book. (Think of how many rejections published authors have had. It took only one editor to take a chance on them.) Plus the editor managed to get it to reach the right reader - you - and that counts for a lot too. If an author stays with the same editor for many of their books, that's a very good sign. As other have said, you can find editors' names by reading the acknowledgements. If an author repeatedly thanks the same editor, there you go. The author would know.
Feb. 18th, 2016 07:29 pm (UTC)
re: Hugo nominations
I have brought the attending membership for Helsinki because , one that will be a hell of a party, and two I can keep an eye on this year for my 2017 nomination responsibility. Thanks for the tips on the editors, it will be remembered.


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

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