Edit: Since I posted this, Lightspeed announced that they’re no longer eligible for consideration in the semiprozine category. Still, they had some great 2015 short fiction, so be sure to check them out. Uncanny is still eligible.
A few months back, Ken Marable started the Hugo Recommendation Season blog in order to “encourage and focus discussion on award worthy works,” “better inform the nominating population of fans,” and “give every Hugo category its due attention.” And I figured participating would be as good an opportunity as any for me to somewhat finalize my own thoughts on what I plan to nominate for the 2016 Hugos. I say “somewhat finalize” because, of course, the whole point is to share and discuss recommendations and it’s certainly possible – indeed, I hope it likely – that I’ll discover something in the process that I’ve previously overlooked.
So this week, the focus is on the Best Semiprozine category, which, I have to say is a bit of an oddball. From what I’ve read, the category was first created in 1984 because Locus Magazine had been dominating the Fanzine category, having won in six of the previous eight years. The Best Semiprozine category, with its slightly esoteric eligibility rules, gave Locus an entirely different category to dominate instead (which it continued to do until another rules change in 2012 made it ineligible for that one also).
In any case, the folks at semiprozine.org have simplified things for Hugo voters by listing all the eligible publications on their semiprozine directory page, and I have two “definitely nominating” picks from that list: Lightspeed Magazine and Uncanny Magazine, both of which have contributed more than any other semiprozine to my list of potential nominations in the short fiction categories.
Lightspeed was last year’s winner, and they’ve continued to publish great material in 2015 including novelettes by Brooke Bolander, Dale Bailey, and Andrea Hairston; short stories by Kat Howard, Seanan McGuire, and Amal El-Mohtar; and interviews with Ann Leckie, Patrick Rothfuss, and Kazuo Ishiguro.
I particularly like their artist showcases, which have included artists like Julie Dillon and Wylie Beckert, as well as artists from outside the Anglophone world, like Li Shuxing and Elena Bespalova. The addition of podcasts for many of their stories is a nice bonus, as was their Queers Destroy Science Fiction special issue, highlighting LGBTQIA writers and artists and their experiences in the genre.
Uncanny Magazine, by contrast, is a comparatively new publication: they didn’t have enough issues to meet the eligibility requirement last year, but they’re now well past the minimum required for the Hugo, and they just recently met their funding goal on Kickstarter for year two.
Uncanny supplied some of my favorite short stories this year, including “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward An Oral History,” Sam J. Miller’s speculative alternate history of the Stonewall Riots; “In Libres,” Elizabeth Bear’s story of research students in a labyrinthine magical library; and “The Midnight Hour,” Mary Robinette Kowal’s tale of a mad king cursed to only one hour of lucidity a day.
As someone who’s completely new to organized fandom, I also appreciated the magazine’s non-fiction articles related to the history of fandom and its contemporary issues. A couple of representative examples include “The Future’s Been Here Since 1939: Female Fans, Cosplay, and Conventions” by Erica McGillivray and “Diversity Panels Are the Beginning, Not the End” by Michi Trota.
Added bonuses include great cover art by Julie Dillon, Tran Nguyen, Antonio Caparo, and others, as well as podcast versions of the stories, poems, and interviews.
I also appreciate that both Uncanny and Lightspeed offer ePub downloads for purchase (Lightspeed directly through their site, Uncanny through Weightless Books) for those who prefer the flexibility and formatting options that allows. Finally, both sites are attractive and easy to use, which admittedly, for me, has a huge influence over whether I’m willing to spend time with a site’s content.