Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Semiprozine

After some consideration, I decided that I cannot judge the 'zines independently, solely on their own merits. I haven't read every issue of every 'zine, and won't be able to in the time left. Which means I'm going to have to judge them by the information and samples in the packet. And, with that in mind, it makes more sense to me to compare what each 'zine offers and doesn't offer in a single review post.

I feel a bit bad relying so heavily on the packet, but there's not a lot of other options - and with a 'zine, a good packet probably indicates the creators put out a good product.

I'm going to start with the Semiprozine, then do the Fanzines in another post. Of the five finalists I'm considering in this category, I'm subscribed to Uncanny Magazine. The others I'm familiar with only due to their online presence. I'm a demanding magazine reader - I want articles, stories, poetry, editorials, reviews and the whole lot in a single package. That said, I know that at least two of these 'zines specialize... which I will try not to hold against them.

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies - This is pretty much all fiction. The packet is a single issue, #200, featuring four stories and a link to the website for audio stories. I've always liked this 'zine and enjoyed quite of few of their stories, and skimming through the 2016 works there's a few I've read and enjoyed - so nothing strange there. I would be happy if they win, but I'm not sure they will be on top of my ballot.

  • The Book Smugglers - Some serious thought went into this packet, and I appreciate the work. There are stories, reviews, essays and a lovely article on Where To Start With the X-Men, which is a neat idea for almost any comic book any more. Solely from the sample packet, I'd want to read more of this 'zine. The reviews are solid, even when I disagree, and the essays are great. I particularly loved N.K. Jemisin's essay on researching for The Fifth Season and Carlie St. George's treatise on the Mary Sue trope. This is definitely at the top of my ballot for the moment, and certainly the one to beat.

  • GigaNotoSaurus - I really like having a table of contents. And that's what's missing from this packet. It's a generous packet; I think it has all the stories from 2016 in it. But I can't really tell for sure because there is no table of contents. And there's not much of a TOC on their site, either. It's a nitpick, for sure, but you don't win awards by annoying the judges. Ok, with that out of the way, this 'zine is a one-trick pony that publishes a single "longish" story every month. It does what it says on the label, and the one story I know I read from 2016 was good. But the mag as a whole is not my cuppa.

  • Strange Horizons - The packet appears to contain four issues, all published in July. The works include editorials, fiction, interviews, poetry, columns and reviews. While I loved this, I didn't find it quite as delightful as my current top pick. But this 'zine is certainly Hugo-worthy.

  • Uncanny Magazine - This 'zine contains almost all the stuff I love in a good mag, including interviews, fiction, essays, and editorials. It doesn't have reviews, which I also enjoy, but that's fine by me. I particularly loved Alyssa Wong's essay on villains, partly because I bounce off her work and don't know why, so it comforted me to read about her take on the universe in a less symbolic way. Perhaps the connection forged by reading that will make it easier for me to enjoy her next story? I can hope. Monica Valentinelli's essay also hit me, since we're about the same age and have shared some of the same experiences with being non-existent. Anyway, rather than get bogged down in details, I'll just say I adore this 'zine.
Conclusion: Every single one of these five finalists is worthy of the Hugo award. If I could say "give them all a Hugo!" I would. But since I have to rank them, I'm going to put Book Smugglers at the top with Uncanny a micro-step below it. Strange Horizons is next on my list with Beneath Ceaselss Skies and GigaNotoSaurus finishing it out. No Award will take the sixth spot on my ballot.