Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Fanzine

So, after dealing with the Semiprozines, this is much the same process. I'm looking through the packet to see what's been provided and see if it matches what I want from a 'zine.

  • Journey Planet - Each issue of this fanzine focuses on a different subject, and all five issues published in 2016 (#28-32) are included in the packet. The single focus aspect makes it difficult for me to love this mag, because any given issue might be about something I have no interest in. The 'zine is nicely done, but I have always found it difficult to "get into" it because of the themes. Of the finalists, this is by far the most traditional 'zine.

  • Lady Business - Why do you torment me with a lack of a table of contents? Ahem. The packet includes a representative sample of articles and reviews. I like the format of the reviews, with a spoiler-free section followed by a clearly marked section with spoilers. I generally like Lady Business, anyway, and I'm happy to see it as a finalist.

  • Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together - This packet came with a nice introduction and a table of contents (thank goodness!). The rating system is terribly amusing to me (in particular I love how they treated "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child") and fairly original, with points being added and subtracted in the final summary for each review. A nicely solid website.

  • Rocket Stack Rank - I'm not impressed with the PDFs in the packet, which are basically just flat-out screen caps of the website with no formatting adjustments (like removing the sidebar) that might make it easier to read. While I get that this is a website, that doesn't mean I want to read it like a website in PDF format. They might as well have just included a set of links and nothing more. That annoyance aside, there's a lot to look at on the website. There are some interesting articles, including a numerical look at the impact the slates had on the Hugo finalists. The reviews are particularly useful, containing a quick summary and star rating. There are sometimes more details, but the whole point of the site is to give readers an at-a-glance way of picking stories to read from a variety of sources. A typical "issue" simply lists stories by ratings. I'm not really sure how this fits into my concept of fanzine, but there is absolutely no doubt it is a useful tool for finding fiction to read.

  • SF Bluestocking - Another packet entry with no table of contents. PLEASE include a TOC, 'zine editors! I know you don't have to on your websites, but it makes perusing the packet much more pleasant. Ok, now that I've got that out of the way... there's a lot here, but unlike the other selections, it appears to be the work of a single writer. There are book and television show reviews, and while the writing is blunt and has good perspectives, from a reader point-of-view it almost doesn't fit my concept of fanzine, which includes more than a single perspective. I'd rather see this nominated in best fan writer, instead.
Conclusion: None of these are unworthy, but none of them stand out to me as the best of the best. I think I like the contents I read in Lady Business the best, but Nerds of a Feather is also great. Rocket Stack Rank is probably the most useful, but if Journey Planet covers a subject you love it would be fantastic. I honestly am not entirely sure how to rank these. At the moment, I'm putting Lady Business in first with Nerds next. RSR is third, Journey Planet fourth and SF Bluestocking fifth. The ever popular "No Award" will take the sixth spot. The order I put these in is more likely to change than other categories.

I will not be disappointed if any of these five entries win.


Greg Hullender said...

When we put the Rocket Stack Rank packet together, we argued over what to put into it. As you say, there's a lot on the site, and it wasn't obvious how to convert that into PDF form. Also, Blogger doesn't make it easy to create nice PDFs from the pages, although we did put several hours into the attempt. We did discuss having just a single file with nothing but a link in it, but we were afraid people would think we didn't take the task seriously.

We definitely appreciate your compliments on the usefulness of the site. That's our goal above all else.

Do you have suggestions for what a more effective packet would have contained? We're probably going to switch platforms between now and next year, so we ought to have more flexibility.

Tegan said...

Hi Greg,

The ideal packet, for me, tells me what the site/fanzine is about and has examples. So, I think one page with an explanation of the site followed by a couple of links to sample reviews and at least one link to an actual monthly ranking list would have been really useful.

So, your Read Me First PDF would be written fresh, not on the site, to make it cleaner.

The Monthly Rating needed a little more emphasis and explanation within the packet itself - the focus in the packet seemed to be on the "added value" posts, which were great, but it wasn't until I realized what the monthly rating posts were that the light bulb went on and my opinion jumped by leaps and bounds. You really need a simple paragraph about the ranks themselves to open your packet, then a couple of links to sample monthly rank posts.

For the rest, there has to be a better way to give some sample material than making a PDF from Blogger. I found the posts much easier to read on the website, so perhaps you might be better off with a couple of paragraphs, each explaining a different type of content you have on the site, with links to that content on the site itself.

Definitely not a single file with a link - but it probably could have been done with a single file with a few paragraphs and a few links. If you move platforms and have a way to get content more cleanly into a PDF, then all these suggestions are somewhat pointless.

I'll just say your website is the one I keep returning to, so you've climbed a couple of spots on my ballot.

The G said...

Thanks so much for your kind words about nerds of a feather, flock together! Glad you also appreciate our unique ratings system. It can be a lot of fun to play around with. :)