Edward Lear
I got a comment on the last blog from Greg Hullender about the difference between a “slate” and recommendations. Greg and Eric Wong operate a website called Rocket Stack Rank that reads, reviews and ranks stories from pro magazines including, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Apex, Tor.com, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Their express purpose is to make it easier for people to find stories to nominate for the Hugo Awards, and Greg notes in his comment that the Rocket Stack list only represents the authors’ tastes and not any political agenda. Because I am now a WorldCon member and faced with making a responsible effort to nominate stories next year, I really appreciate this. I also appreciate the annual Locus recommended reading list as a helpful aid, along with efforts from other well-known reviewers. However, as a writer, there is something about these lists that bothers me.

Like everyone else, the authors of the lists are swamped with the amount of material out there, which means they have to make choices. This is usually to read award-winning pro magazines and anthologies, expecting what Greg calls the top 10-15% of outstanding stories will be located there. Locus has a broader recommendation list than Rocket Stack, as presumably they have a larger staff to read. As the Sad/Rabid Puppies suggest, these listings can’t help but include the authors’ social and literary biases. The end result of using these lists to prep for nominations, of course, is that a large body of SF&F writing is totally eliminated from consideration. It also helps insure the same magazines win the award over and over again. Because some pro magazines have low scores on diversity scales, this also reduces the likely diversity of the awards and contributes to the likelihood the same winners will be nominated over and over, to the detriment of writers who may be off-beat and brilliant, but publishing on the fringes.

I don’t have any solution to this problem. It’s just bothering me.