Podcast Hugos and StarShipSofa

StarShipSofa logo The Hugo Awards are given every year for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. As with most awards of this type, there are several categories but what makes the Hugos special within the genre is that they made, determined and adminstered by fans.

Over the past few years, podcasting has become a significant part of this community. Indeed, podcasts such as StarShipSofa and Escape Pod have listenerships that are comparable to the readership of traditional magazines, if not higher. This has led to some discussion (here, here and elsewhere) about the eligibility of podcasts in general and the StarShipSofa podcast in particular.

Unsurprisingly, Larry Santoro says it best:

The podcast communities echo the groups that gathered in the 20s and 30s around such figures as H.P. Lovecraft and pals. They are a shadow of the “Futurians,” a group of science fiction fans-cum-writers-cum-agents and editors-cum-publishers who formed the soul of the Golden Age of Science Fiction of the 40s. People such as Isaac Asimov, Damon Knight, Virginia Kidd, Judith Merrill, Frederik Pohl, Donald A. Wollheim, James Blish, Jack Gillespie, Cyril Kornbluth and others were the Futurians.

I emphasize again: these core groups, communities certainly, families if you will, gathered in single cities or in regions. Some outlanders, such as Ray Bradbury who, though born in the Midwest, grew up on the West Coast, speaks of making the epic road trip from LA to New York, to meet with the members of the Eastern fraternity, the Futurians. They gathered, hung together, drank and sang songs together over kitchen tables and, together and apart, made some great literature in the wake of their communalizing (you might also want to have a read at: http://jophan.org/mimosa/m29/kyle.htm).

The pace is quicker now. With StarShipSofa, Escape Pod and the like, the community happens globally. While the community of the StarShip isn’t necessarily as personal as the Futurians’, it is moving things at a faster pace.

What is happening here, on-line, may not spark as many marriages, divorces, pregnancies, as did the communities of the past, but the voices that are coming out of these little internet tubes are beginning to change the form of fiction-making. One might even say, what is happening here gets back to the root of writing: the telling of stories around a fire.

I think the Hugos need to take a good look at the podcasts and begin to honor those in the medium.

Matthew Sanbourn Smith, Amy H Stugis and Jason Sanford have all also made excellent cases for using the Hugos to recognise how much the various science fiction podcasts have achieved, and for nominating StarShipSofa in particular.

If you are a member of the World Science Fiction Society bear in mind that a podcast is essentially an audio fanzine and would, therefore, probably fit in the Best Fanzine category. Nominations are open now and close on March 13th.

Recognise your favourite podcast and give StarShipSofa a Hugo.

4 thoughts on “Podcast Hugos and StarShipSofa

  1. Do you remember that brief era when much of the best SF text came out of Usenet newsgroups like rec.arts.sf.fandom and rec.arts.sf.written?

    Some of us are actual readers, mostly or completely text-oriented, and find podcasts incomprehensible or merely annoyingly inaccessible. I would would rather see an online “fanzine” win than a podcast, at least until podcasters provide transcripts as a matter of course.

    Podcasting is an audio-visual medium, and belongs with radio/TV/film content. There is nothing with the concept of a new Hugo category for “Best SF-Related Non-Fiction Audiovisual Material”; just don’t call it a “fanzine” if it can’t be read.

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  2. My inner pedant is screaming to point out that StarShipSofa has already been responsible for a printed short story collection and an original novella. It’s also worth noting that the bulk of each Sofa transmission is fiction. You get a complete short story along with a mix of other science fiction and SF related articles – much the same mix as you would find in a print magazine.

    However, to start arguing about categories is to miss the wider point which is that this is an opportunity to draw attention to new media in general and recognising that podcasts are a valuable, lively and growing part of the science fiction community.

    As for written fiction vs audio, this is largely a question of taste although I will admit that I do prefer ink on paper – especially for anything that I can’t read/hear in a single sitting. And for that, Hub Magazine is well worth checking out.

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