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I don't think there should be a Hugo award for "podcasts." But should there be an award for this kind of activity? What is a "podcast?"

A "podcast" is an audio periodical. With iPhones, iPads, Androids and other video-capable devices, there are now also video periodicals.

There are parallels here. Are there parallels that suggest splitting "podcasts" from fanzines? In the fiction categories, there's a big break between the written fiction categories (subdivided by length in words) and dramatic presentation (subdivided by length in time). There are clear differences between the experience of reading and the experience of watching/listening. There are significant differences between the skills required to publish text and produce video and audio presentations. It would be absurd to suggest that a movie based on a novelette be voted against novelettes instead of against other movies, long-form TV shows and plays.

So, yes, there's strong precedent to differentiate between text and a/v. But does that mean there's a reason to add a category for "podcasts?"

One of the loudest arguments from fanzine fans for splitting podcasts from fanzines is that podcasts have a much wider subscriber-base, are much more popular than fanzines, are going to steal the award from fanzines every time they're nominated. If that's true, then it's clear "podcasts" deserve to be considered for award even more than fanzines.

It's true. In many fan communities, podcasts are the leading tool for fan communication. Sure, go to a general SF convention, and there will be a few podcasters, maybe even a recording session or two. Go to a Doctor Who convention and you can't swing a cat without hitting a podcaster. There are recording sessions on the program, recording sessions in the consuite, recording sessions in the hotel lobby, recording sessions at the dead dog party.

It's a vital and active part of fandom.

So at this point, we've got strong arguments for separating text and a/v fanac, and a strong argument for having an award for a/v fanac. Let's look at what we've got for rules:

3.3.7: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Any theatrical feature or other production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.
3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.
3.3.13: Best Fanzine. Any generally available non-professional publication devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of the previous calendar year has published four (4) or more issues (or the equivalent in other media), at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year, and which does not qualify as a semiprozine.

So here's a hash:

Best Fancast. Any generally available non-professional audio or video periodical devoted to science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects which by the close of the previous calendar year has released four (4) or more episodes, at least one (1) of which appeared in the previous calendar year.

Please note: Best Fancast. There are podcasts that have nothing to do with fandom. There are podcasts that are commercially produced. There are fannish audio and video periodicals that are not distributed through iTunes or other traditional "podcasting" services.

Which fits nicely with the fanzine category. There are, after all, non-professional 'zines that aren't fanzines.

The "Best Fanzine" category should be updated to exclude nominees that qualify for Best Fancast.

Does this all make sense?
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Andrew T Trembley

June 2011

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