A Hugo for Elise

For a number of years there has been, in our collective opinion, a notable gap in awards lists. In winners, in shortlists, in recommended-for-your-consideration lists. And 2019 is our last chance to rectify it.

So here we are, making a pitch to you that SFF has an oversight to correct, and one final opportunity to correct it. It’s time we got #AHugoForElise.

Image by Ileana Hunter, used with permission. Available as a print on Etsy.

Elise?

Elise!

E. Catherine Tobler, writer, friend, generally awesome human, and for twelve years — six of them as editor-in-chief — a badger at Shimmer.

There’s been nowhere else like Shimmer. Shimmer isn’t just a magazine, it’s a mood; one of those moods that sometimes comes over you without explanation, that you can’t express succinctly to anyone who asks about it, that has a complicated Welsh word that almost expresses the melancholy ache but just falls short.

It’s something that’s as much in the heart as in the head. Which is its achievement: Shimmer is singular and distinct. It’s like nothing else, but it’s always itself. Where other magazines have a character that shifts from one month to another, Shimmer has constantly nailed its aesthetic. You know instantly when you’re reading a Shimmer story: there’s a certain ambience of loss and regret and time that’s impossible to pin down and impossible to deny.

And it’s kept that up for thirteen years. Nearly fifty issues with hundreds of contributors from dozens of countries, all blended into that single Shimmer style through only two editors — Beth Wodzinski from launch, and, since 2012, Elise.

What greater editorial achievement can there be than such consistent, unique work? Being an editor isn’t about picking the best stuff that’s sent to you — it’s about picking the right stuff that’s sent to you, about helping it and shaping it with the gentlest of touches to be the best it can be. It’s not about being flashy and leaving your stamp on everything and putting yourself front and centre: it’s about doing the work with all the deftness you can summon, letting the author steer the ship while you pass down directions from the crow’s nest.

It’s hard to think of a better example of that deft touch than Shimmer. But now it’s closing down.

Last Chances

We have a history, as a field, of recognising great works upon completion. There’s the Best Series Hugo on the ballot now. There’s the Retro Hugos. Even the Oscars: everyone knows that Return of the King’s 11 Academy Awards weren’t really for that film, but for the series.

Shimmer is complete. The Badger Queen has returned to her set, and the High Badgers have gone west, and the mist that shimmered in the forest is fading in the bright light of day. This is the moment. The last moment.

Because for all those astonishing stories, for all that singular aesthetic, Shimmer has never been nominated for an award.

And we firmly believe that is an oversight.

There is a lot of remarkable work goes on in the field, and a lot of very worthy winners. But there’s more published in a year than anyone could possibly keep up with, and it’s human nature that our attention is caught by the things that make a splash, rather than by the solid, consistent, quiet work. It’s why the news headlines always go to the big, terrible tragedies, rather than the hard work of slow progress that changes the world more than any single event could.

We choose to believe that Shimmer’s lack of awards recognition has been an acknowledgement of its remarkable consistency, in tone and quality, rather than because it doesn’t deserve the attention. Because we know it deserves the attention.

And so we write this. We want to highlight a deserving candidate that has slipped under the radar for too long. Because if we don’t speak up this year, there’ll never be another chance.

What We’re Asking

Hugo nominations have opened. There’ll be a lot of awards eligibility posts and recommended lists asking for your attention; there’ll be more works than you can read between now and the March 15th deadline.

We’re asking for this consideration: please put down E. Catherine Tobler for Best Professional Editor, Short Form and Shimmer for Best Semiprozine.

We would never tell you what to do. Please only do this if you believe in the nomination, as with anything else.

Convince Me

It would be remiss of us to make this plea without demonstrating why you should consider it. There is too much of Shimmer for you to possibly read it all, so we’ve gathered some of our personal favourites here as highlights, including some from 2018. Please consider reading a few so you can understand what we mean when we talk about the consistency of the tone, and just what a remarkable editorial achievement that is.

  • A Whisper in the Weld” by Alix E. Harrow, November 2014: a stunning shard of grief, at turns gentle and fierce, as a family tries to survive being ground down by World War 2 and an iron factory.
  • Black Fanged Thing” by Sam Rebelein, January 2018: a tightly coiled masterpiece, capturing the suffocating sense of lives wasted or half-lived, of being hemmed in on all sides until you feel your soul wasting away.
  • The Triumphant Ward of the Railroad and the Sea” by Sara Saab, March 2018: strange and human and empathetic, a story of a competitive eater and her acquaintances on a self-driving train by the sea, and of her loneliness and uncertainty, too.
  • Feathers and Void” by Charles Payseur, May 2017: a dark and energetic space opera of crowships and comrades and thin threads of hope, vivid and defiant in the black.
  • In the Rustle of Pages” by Cassandra Khaw, May 2015: an aching melancholy of anticipated loss and the tragedy of age, of what we must lose to the years and how we fight it anyway
  • Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left” by Fran Wilde, September 2016: a multi-faceted story of growth and change and inevitability

Thank You

If you vote for Elise and Shimmer, if you spread the gospel here, if you simply enjoy the stories we’ve shown you: thank you for your time in reading this.

If you’re onboard, please co-sign below in the comments, and leave your own recommendations or stories of working with Elise. Please tweet about it with the hashtag #AHugoForElise, and talk about it everywhere else you talk to authors and fans.

We believe we can do this with your support, but even if we fall short, we’ll at least leave our gratitude written across the field. The Badgers will know what they meant to us.

We hope to see you in Dublin for the Hugo awards, and on Twitter for — we hope we pray we dream — the celebrations after.

— Alex Acks, Matt Dovey, Maria Haskins, Alexis A. Hunter, Suzan Palumbo, Lindsay Thomas, Wren Wallis