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On the Net: Hugo by James Patrick Kelly



They’re about to give a Hugo to a web site.

They? The folks at ConJose, <http://www.conjose.org> the sixtieth World Science Fiction Convention, which will take place in San Jose, California August 29 through September 2. A Hugo? The Hugo Awards <http://www.wsfs.org/hugos.html>, officially the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, are presented by the World Science Fiction Society <http://www.wsfs.org> for excellence in the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy. A website? ConJose has defined contenders as "Any generally accessible world wide web site whose subject is primarily related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, and which had content generally available during the calendar year 2001."

I’m still trying to decide what I think about this historic first. You see, the Hugos are usually given to a person, as in the Best Fan Writer or Best Professional Artist, an individual work, such as Best Novelette or Best Dramatic Presentation or a serial publication, for instance, Best Fanzine or Best Semiprozine. To give an award for best web site is like giving an award for best writing. It’s a tad too nebulous for me to wrap my ballot around.

For instance, if I were to award a Jimbo for the best fiction website, my nominees would be Fictionwise <http://www.fictionwise.com>, Infinite Matrix <http://www.infinitematrix.net>, Infinity Plus <http://www.infinityplus.co.uk>, SCI FICTION <http://www.scifi.com/scifiction>, Strange Horizons <http://www.strangehorizons.com> and The Spook <http://www.thespook.com>. And look, already I’ve mixed apples, oranges and walnuts here, because some of these are pay sites and others are free, while some publish only original material and others are all-reprints-all-the-time. On the shortlist for the Jimbo for most useful SF website would be: The Internet Speculative Fiction DataBase <http://www.sfsite.com/isfdb/sfdbase.html>, Locus Online <http://www.locusmag.com>, Scifi.com <http://scifi.com>, Tangent Online <http://www.tangentonline.com>, The Science Fiction Writers of America http://www.sfwa.org, and SF Site <http://www.sfsite.com>. Except the ISFDB is part of SF Site and SCI FICTION is an arm of Scifi.com–ouch, my head is starting to hurt. Now as far as the Jimbo for SF web sites that are themselves works of art . . . well, that’s a whole other column.

Now I certainly don’t disapprove of the notion of awarding Hugos for web sites. I just think that it ought to be done right. And I’m certainly willing to cut the folks at ConJose some slack, since what they’re doing this year is just an experiment. Under the World Science Fiction Society’s Constitution <http://worldcon.org/bm/const-2000.html>, a worldcon committee can add just one extra category to the Hugos–and for one year only. So there may well be no web site Hugo awarded at next year’s Worldcon, Torcon III <http://www.torcon3.on.ca>. Making the web site Hugo ongoing would mean amending the WSFS Constitution. I’d guess that might happen someday, but when and how depends on the vagaries of fannish politics.

Which we certainly won’t be getting into here!



There are a number of web sites devoted to the history of the Hugo. The newest is Hugo History at a Glance <http://web2.airmail.net/tharvia/hugos_at_a_glance.html>. Webmaster Teddy Harvia <http://web2.airmail.net/tharvia> has won three of them himself for best fan artist. His Hugo History site consists of a number of concise tables on which you can quickly scan winners and nominees. Make a point of clicking the Novel Covers By Year link, where you can take a grand tour of almost fifty years of SF art.

You’ll find the most comprehensive cross-referencing of the Hugos at The Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards <http://www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/index.html>. Mark R. Kelly has created the most exhaustive (and exhausting!) awards database in the field, with over 2100 individual web pages. The site includes not only the Hugos but all the major awards, like the Nebulas <http://www.sfwa.org/awards> and the World Fantasy Awards <http://www.worldfantasy.org/awards>, lots of not-so-major awards and even some defunct awards. Anyone out there remember "the coveted Balrog" <http://www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/Db/Balrog.html>? You want to know who has won the most major awards? Who has lost the most? Who has lost the most without ever winning? When was the last time someone won both a Hugo and a Nebula for the same book? You can look it up here. Mark helps make sense of all this data with essays introducing the Index and telling us how to best use it. Definitely check out "22 Reasons Why Your Favorite Book/Author Didn’t Win (and Someone Else Did)." This is a must-click site for award wonks everywhere.

Yet another ambitious award web site is AwardWeb: Collections of Literary Award Information and Photos <http://www.dpsinfo.com/awardweb/index.html> where Laurie Mann <http://dpsinfo.com/laurie> has rounded up not only the usual suspects but has ranged far afield for links to awards sites. For instance, she can point you toward the Atorox Awards <http://org.utu.fi/yhd/tsfs/atorox>, given by Turku Science Fiction Society for the best SF or fantasy published in Finnish. The Sapphire Awards <http://www.sfronline.com/sapphirewins.htm> are handed out each January for the best science fiction romance–one for a novel and one for short fiction. And then there’s this obscure bunch of Swedes who give away something called The Nobel Prize <http://www.nobel.se>. Seriously, while AwardWeb may not be as cool and analytical as the Locus Index, it covers much the same ground with panache–and a generous helping of photos. Check out the picture of the amazing award swag piled up in the offices of Dell Magazines.



As I write this in March, the awards season is just getting started with the Nebula final ballot just released and the Hugo nominations due to close shortly. However, by the time you read this in the dog days of summer, it will probably be too late to vote for your favorite web site, alas. I have no way of knowing whether any of these sites will be on the ballot, but here are five of the most promising sites I’ve come across recently.

Stephen Hunt’s SF Crowsnest <http://www.computercrowsnest.com> bills itself as "Europe’s most visited SF/F web site" and it’s easy to see why. Started by British writer Stephen Hunt and carried on stylishly by Geoff Willmetts, it’s almost as vast as scifi.com but far more personal. You can play games here, read stories, follow the latest news, take part in opinion polls. The SF Crowsnest takes the form of a monthly "magazine" that you can get delivered via email or that you can access on the site. The design here is very slick indeed. For instance, when you read a review or an article or a story from the archive, links to the rest of the content for that particular month are displayed on the same page, so that everything appears in context. In fact, this site offers such a trove of links that I actually had a hard time reviewing the content; I kept buzzing around it like a fly with attention deficit disorder! Check it out if only to see what SF looks like to people who do not necessarily believe that the United States is the center of the known universe.

scifidimensions <www.scifidimensions.com> is another monthly with interviews, articles and reviews covering books, movies, television, comics, science, and the paranormal - plus original fiction and commentary. Lots of the content on the site is generated by its hardworking editor, John C. Snider of Atlanta, Georgia, although there are also direct links to content provided by other sites, most notably Steve Conley’s comics Bloop <http://bloop.tv> and Astounding Space Thrills <>. A feature of this site that I particularly liked were the convention reports, mostly filed by John. Here’s hoping he gets out more often! Scifidimensions is a little over two years old as I write this and would seem to have a bright future.

SFReader.com <http://www.sfreader.com/indexsfr.asp> is a site with big ambitions. Webmaster Dave Felts wants to build an easily searchable database of reviews of novels and anthologies, both new work and reissues. The infrastructure works just fine, but since this would seem to be a fairly new endeavor, there are not that many books reviewed yet. But hey, this may be your big chance to break into the reviewing biz.

Fantastic Metropolis <http://www.sfsite.com/fm> is a website with an attitude–and a mission. Here’s the beginning of an editorial posted on March 15 by World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer <http://www.vandermeer.redsine.com>: "One aspect of fantastical literature that concerns me deeply and which has universal implications is the relative paucity of unique, interesting imaginations within fiction today. Too many writers and readers prefer their literature spoon-fed to them, in portions similar to the last, with the same smells and colors, served to them on the same worn dishes, and accompanied by the same polite conversation." Gulp . . . I fear Jeff may be talking about you and me, dear readers. Founded by provocateur Gabe Chouinard, Fantastic Metropolis is often polemical but never dull in its attempt to remake the genre. Fortunately, it isn’t just about critique; Fantastic Metropolis reprints a generous helping of the fiction it advocates, with contributions from Michael Moorcook , L. Timmel Duchamp <http://ltimmel.home.mindspring.com>, James Sallis <http://www.btinternet.com/~richnabi/SALLIS>, and Kelly Link <http://www.kellylink.net>, to name but a few. While I may disagree with some of the opinions expressed here, I stop by regularly to have my artistic conscience checked.

RevolutionSF <http://www.revolutionsf.com> is the second site listed on Fantastic Metropolis’s Partners page. It’s hard to tell exactly what their relationship, if any, is. But while FM is a site that takes itself very seriously, RevolutionSF laces its content with a deadly sense of humor. If web sites could have weird alien sex, then this would be the love child of Locus, SCI FICTION and The Onion <http://www.theonion.com>. Produced by Shane Ivey, formerly of Zealot.com, and a very talented staff, RevolutionSF delivers the news, reviews, opinion, contests, and a generous helping of first rate fiction by writers Brian A. Hopkins <http://bahwolf.com>, Don Webb <gopher://gopher.well.com/11/cyberpunk/donwebb>, Lewis Shiner <http://www.lewisshiner.com>, and many more. If this was all that RevolutionSF had to offer, it would still be a contender for one of the best new sites around. But consider that they were the perpetrators of the Tina Brown To Edit Asimov’s <http://www.revolutionsf.com/article/843.html> and the International Slushpile Bonfire Day <http://www.revolutionsf.com/article/950.html> hoax pages. This is a site you should periodically click for your own mental health.



In 1863 there was a dustup in the art world. It seems that the French government sponsored an official exhibition every year called the Salon, held in the Salon d’Apollon, in the Louvre. Paintings and sculpture for the show were selected by a jury. Some artists complained that the jury was applying outmoded standards in deciding what would be admitted to the Salon and what would be rejected. These artists argued that the once-great rivals, the neoclassical and romantic movements, were now exhausted and had sunk into self-parody. These artists claimed they had a new way of looking at the world, and since they were being turned down for the official Salon, they demanded a Salon of their own. So Napoleon III agreed to sponsor a Salon des Refusés, where the snubbed artists could exhibit their art. In 1873 a French critic came up with a name for these malcontents. He called them the Impressionists, and in the years that followed they were everywhere triumphant.

What does this obscure bit of art history have to do with the Hugo award? Consider that if winning a Hugo award is our modern SF equivalent of entry into the Salon, then perhaps there are Impressionist-equivalents already among us, waiting impatiently to show the world what they’ve got.


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"On the Net: Hugo " by James Patrick Kelly, copyright © 2002 by Agberg and permission of the author.

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