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.
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.