Monday, July 27, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Editor, Long Form

Vox Day (Castalia House)
Sheila Gilbert (DAW Books)
Jim Minz (Baen Books)
Anne Sowards (Ace Books)
Toni Weisskopf (Baen Books)

If I could wave my hands and remake the categories for the Hugo Awards, Best Editor (Long Form) would disappear. Not because the editors are not worthy of recognition, but because it is impossible to evaluate.  At least when we vote for the Short Form Editors, we are really recognizing the overall body of work in putting together a particular magazine and / or their work in compiling an anthology.The short form editor is, ultimately, the face and the vision of a particular 'zine or anthology so when that 'zine or anthology is successful, the editor was successful. We don't know and can't know how much editorial work was involved in helping the author better craft the submitted story, or if a given author submitted a piece of work which barely needed to be touched. We just know if the end result of the editor's "good eye" was something we appreciate.

This is where Long Form is yet more difficult. In most cases, the editor is not the face of a publishing house and does not acquire and edit every book published by a given house. The Long Form Editor Hugo Award is not for Best Publisher, and yet it is impossible to evaluate the work the editor did that year. Presumably the Long Form editor both acquired and helped shape the final product of each book published with his or her name listed as editor, but how much credit goes to the editor in terms of being "best" versus simply having the good taste and fortune to acquire something awesome.

But this is where we are left to evaluate the editors, with a further challenge of how difficult it would be to read everything published by each of these five editors, or even just a solid representation of those works published. I read over 100 books each year and I read widely enough and mostly works published prior to the eligibility year that hitting sufficient works from each editor is nearly impossible.

What am I left with? Looking at the Hugo Voting Packet and evaluating my impression of the works listed from each editor as a measure of quality and "best" for 2014. 

Anne Sowards and Sheila Gilbert both included a list of what they edited last year. Toni Weisskopf did not, but noted to go to to see her work. Neither Jim Minz nor Vox Day included sample lists of their editorial work, though Vox Day is the editor of Castalia House so presumably everything published there had Day's editorial work.

From that perspective, and without knowing specifically what Weisskopf edits at Baen compared to what Minz has edited, I would recognize Weisskopf's work as editor and publisher at Baen followed by the lists of Sowards and Gilbert. Jim Minz I place lower simply because neither Weisskopf nor Minz included their work and while Baen is very much worthy of recognition, there is no way for me to separate the two - so Weisskopf gets the nod at publisher and Minz is slid down the ballot. I recognize this is likely a disservice to Minz, but if I can't tell which works are his...  Vox Day has fifth slot, above No Award, because while I can't quite tell which novel-length works were published in 2014, I do feel comfortable acknowledging that I am not the intended audience for Castalia House and I am not interested in much if not most of what they publish.

My Vote:
1. Toni Weisskopf
2. Anne Sowards
3. Sheila Gilbert
4. Jim Minz
5. Vox Day

Standard 2015 Hugo Disclaimer:
In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and let my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such.

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote.

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