Reading marathons on BookTube

In the new episode of Biblio Banter podcast Natalia is interviewing a BookTuber Faye from FayesParallelStories! Are you ready to read for 24 hours straight? How about 48? Or a month of reading Victorian novels with numerous strangers on the Internet? BookTube offers these and much more.

One would wonder what rules are there to join a marathon. In our episode we try to make a list of what you need to know about reading marathons, or readathons. Faye, a book blogger and our guest specialist on all things BookTube, will tell us about different organisation strategies, definitions of readathons, rules that are made to be broken and advantages of book marathons for readers.

Listen to us on Apple, Spotify, or any other platform of your choice! We also have Instagram where you can leave you comments, or come by our Twitter account to discuss a book or two. We would love to hear from you.

What Is a Book? Star Trek Edition, Part 3

Biblio Banter

The Doctor working on his holonovel.

Are holonovels books? In our final Star Trek-themed episode, we discuss holonovels, the creative process, and briefly touch on copyright and AI authorship. “Author, Author,” which is Season 7, Episode 20 of Star Trek Voyager, is our inspiration. The Doctor, or Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH), writes a holonovel about his experience on Voyager. His work is published before he can finish editing (the crew is unhappy with how they are portrayed in the narrative and ask the Doctor to make changes), and he must go to court against the publishers in order to recall publication. Don’t worry, Tuvok helps to win the trial.

Listen here to learn our verdict on whether or not a holonovel is a book and play along with our version of Kiss, Marry, Kill – Take to Risa, Trapped in the Delta Quadrant, Out the Airlock!

Images taken from:…

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Episode 11: Font or Digital Humanities – special edition

(c) geralt from Pixabay

In the new special episode of Biblio Banter Natalia interviews Annika, Tim and Anton about their studies in Digital Humanities. Together they try to define Digital Humanities and its place in the larger picture of the filed of study, revisit game Font or Cheese (see episode 4: Tittle*ating Typography) and discuss some good books.

DH practitioners experiment in the area “born of the encounter between traditional humanities and computational methods.”

Why the Digital Humanities Matter by Mark Bowles

Here are some useful links

(c) Pexels from Pixabay

Digital Humanities at the University of Stuttgart
Digital Humanities – Leiden University
Digital Humanities Quarterly
The game we played in this episode Cheese or Font

Listen to the episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and
Leave your comments here or on our Twitter @BanterBiblio

Episode 9: On Student Journals; or, A Tale of Humanities and Funding

In the new episode of Biblio Banter, Ellen interviews Laura and Natalia about the student journal, Satura, they started in the beginning of 2018. A lot of bragging and (bitter)sweet memories ensue.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Want to take a closer look at this student-made publication? No problem. Here you can download Volume 1 (2018) of Satura from the University of Münster’s website for free!

Listen to the podcast on Spotify, iTunes, and

What are your experiences with peer-reviewed or student journals? Have you applied to or been published in a digital journal of any kind? Share your publication stories with us! Comment here or on our Twitter page.

We are looking forward to your feedback!

Hot off the press! Issues of Satura wait to be picked up by student contributors and staff.

Ad Astra: The Nebulas and The Hugos

All of us science-fiction readers have heard multiple times that this or that author won the Nebula Award or the Hugo Award, or even both of them! But what processes lie behind the stickers and blurbs?

Image courtesy of ThorstenF

This morning a bookstagrammer asked me (well, not just me, it was a general post with a question that I couldn’t ignore) about the genre I turn to for comfort. This is a common question and you see these at last once a week in different profiles on social media. The answer sprung to my head immediately: science-fiction. Being my over-thinking self, I wondered ‘Why?’. Well, as Freud would say, it all comes from childhood, so I love sci-fi mainly because that was the first genre I was introduced to as a kid. My father is an avid science-fiction reader, so our home was always full of classic sci-fi novels. For me, reading about space exploration, aliens, other planets, spaceships, and the (post-)human future of our race will always be associated with the most comfortable and secure time of my life. Funny enough, I learned the words the Hugo and the Nebula way before I knew what these awards actually were (or that they were awards in the first place, haha). It just seemed so natural that my favourite Robert Heinlein novels have all these words on the cover.

In Episode 3 of our podcast we interviewed Dr Simon Rosenberg about the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It made me think about the voting processes and decision-making when it comes to books in general and the fantasy genre in particular. In this blog post I would like to have a closer look at two most famous science-fiction and fantasy awards: the Nebulas and the Hugos. Let’s take a look at the structure of the awards and their traditions.

The Nebula Awards

Every spring somewhere in the States a group of science-fiction writers and critics get together to announce and celebrate this year’s best works of the genre. Established in 1965, The Nebula Awards® is given to the best novel, novella, novelette, short story, and script.

Who presents the nominees and votes for the winner?

The members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (further mentioned as SFWA because the name is just too long). BUT if you don’t know anybody who happens to be an active member of the SFWA, you can still try to get their attention:

“Members and non-members alike are encouraged to offer their eligible works for consideration for the Nebula, Norton, and Bradbury Awards by making them available on the Nebula Awards: Fiction area on the discussion forum.” or email it to it to the Nebula Awards Commissioner at

Nebula Rules

The SFWA President chooses a Nebula Awards Commissioner, who oversees and administers the Award (and also does everything that needs to be done for the Award to happen – sounds like a dream job to you? I wouldn’t be so sure). The above mentioned President also appoints a three person SFWA Awards Rules Committee (further abbreviated to SARC, for the same reason as SFWA). I still can’t really figure out what they do but apparently they look out for correctness of procedures.

The categories are as follows:

  • Short Story: less than 7,500 words;
  • Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words;
  • Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words
  • Novel: 40,000 words or more.
  • Game Writing: An interactive or playable story-driven work which conveys narrative, character, or story background.

(The list of categories I took from the official website of the Awards. It’s their original punctuation)

Interesting fact is that if the SFWA come up with any new category, the award would also be considered Nebula Awards. This means every year we could have a new form of literary work added to already existing categories and this new category would also be part of the prestigious Nebula family.

The Nebula awards year begins January 31, and it ends consequently on December 31.

The nominees should be first published and made available to the readers in English, in the USA, during this calendar year (so, if your masterpiece of sci-fi or fantasy is gonna be published in the US at 23:59 on December, 31st, you can still make it!). Also, if you publish online, it counts as being published in the United States. All active members of the SFWA can nominate a work in the nomination period from December, 15th till January, 31st next year (as life shows, these dates can be very different still). Fun fact: nominations via paper ballot override nominations via online form (Can anyone explain me the reasoning behind that, please?)

If the nominee’s dates and print data look weird, well, it’s for the poor Nebula Awards Commissioner to sort it out. The same Commissioner later composes The Final Ballot. It includes the top six works in each category that receive the most nominations. The winner in each category is the work that received the most votes in the Final Ballot. At the the Nebula Conference Banquet they announce the winners. You can watch The Nebula Awards Ceremony here or simply find it on YouTube. If you are interested, the results for 2018 are available on the official website. Wow, they actually have lists of all the results and nominees starting from 1965! I looked at the titles for last year – they are gorgeous. I immediately wanted to pick up and read each and every one of them. Yes, to my shame I have to admit I haven’t read any, and might have heard only about couple of them.

The Nebula Awards are not exclusively bookish though. In addition to the standard book awards there is The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation that is made for dramatic works such as motion pictures, television, Internet, radio, audio, and stage productions. In addition to the addition there is The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.

The Hugo Awards

The older book prize sibling of the Nebulas is the Hugo Awards, which began in 1953. This one is arranged and administered by the World Science Fiction Society (“WSFS” – oh look, another abbreviation). The WSFS is an “unincorporated literary society which sponsors the annual World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”) and the Hugo Awards” ( ) . It is claimed to be the most prestigious award in the world of science-fiction.

Hugo Award logo

During the Worldcon the members of WSFS can vote for the best in fifteen categories:

  • Best Novel
  • Best Novella
  • Best Novelette
  • Best Short Story
  • Best Related Work
  • Best Graphic Story
  • Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
  • Best Editor (Long Form)
  • Best Editor (Short Form)
  • Best Professional Artist
  • Best Semiprozine
  • Best Fanzine
  • Best Fancast
  • Best Fan Writer
  • Best Fan Artist

For the more detailed description of the categories go here.

So how do they do their thing?

The nomination period is from January till March; the members of the Worldcon can nominate works and people (up to five) from the last year. A shortlist is announced in April, in each category there can be no more than five finalists. Till the end of July the present members of Worldcon should find time to rate all nominees in a final ballot. The Hugo ceremony takes place during Worldcon. That is when the winners get their trophies.

Speaking of the trophies! Unlike The Nebulas website, the Hugos like to show off their trophies. Here you can find a gallery of all Hugos, and the article on the process of their creation. In 2019 the Worldcon was in August in Dublin, and it was charmingly called the Irish Worldcon.

The world of book prizes is dark and full of terrors. I am glad to be on the furthest possible receiving end of it – I would get the book with the prize emblem on the cover. I would know the book must be good, it went through a thorough quality control after all… right?

Here are the links to the official websites of the awards

Nebula Awards

The Hugo Awards

Worldcon official website


Image courtesy of TweSwe

What does smuggling have to do with books?

Book smuggling is mentioned in Robert Darnton’s cycle of the life of books. We talked about it in the first episode of our podcast. You can find it here.

One of the agents in the life of books that Darnton mentions is a smuggler. Not a vocation one would expect when talking about books and reading. Still, the illegal and risky movement of books across borders was occasionally necessary. Another proof of power of books and literature.

When government banned particular kinds of literature in the Soviet Union and some countries in Eastern Europe, samizdat was born. It was a system of publication that allowed to print and spread the prohibited literature. Here is a definition of samizdat by Merriam-Webster. This kind of publishing activity appeared around the late 1950s. The term ‘samizdat’ means both a way of publishing and a kind of literature produced by it. The familiar contemporary term ‘self-publishing’ has a lot in common with that publication practice of the Soviet times. Even the meaning of the two parts ‘sam’ (self) and ‘izdat’ (izdatel’stvo – publisher) sound so well-known and harmless. But the reasons and political influence of these two ways of book creation differ greatly.

Contemporary self-publishers choose this way due to economic, professional or even personal reasons. Samizdat authors and publishers had no other choice to bring their works to readers.

File:Russian samizdat and photo negatives of unofficial literature in the USSR.jpg
This image of typewritten samizdat copies and photographic films is from the Wikipedia article

There was also ‘tamizdat’. This lesser-known term is more closely connected to book smuggling. The literary works prohibited by the authorities could have been smuggled out of country (most often to Europe) in order to be properly published there. This is ‘tamizdat’; ‘tam’ means ‘there’. Foreign tourists brought manuscripts out of the country and returned with published books, one copy at a time. Or sometimes smugglers were citizens of the Soviet Union who were allowed to travel abroad. Ultimately, all book smugglers risked being caught crossing the border with banned literature.

“Writers were not only forbidden to create works that were dissident, formally complex, or objective (a term of reproach), but they were also expected to fulfill the dictates of the Communist Party to produce propaganda…”

from Literature under Soviet rule, Encyclopedia Britannica

Samizdat and tamizdat are closely connected. Some of the prohibited books were published abroad, smuggled into the Soviet Union and then became objects of samizdat – people would make hand-written copies (or even page-by-page photographs) of texts that would later be passed on or sold. This was an illegal enterprise, one was always at risk of being prosecuted for it. Another popular way of spreading this literature was through carbon copies. One typewriter could make multiple carbon copies at a time, so can you imagine the quality? All of us high quality e-book readers today, can we imagine reading with such dedication?

A close-up of a samizdat page (also Wikipedia)

Some of the examples of Russian literary classics that were originally published via tamizdat are: poems by Joseph Brodsky, Venedikt Yerofeyev’s Moscow to the End of the Line, and The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago was, for instance, first published in Italy in 1957. Books were considered luxury goods so the amount of smuggled materials was not very high, although, I believe, it is not easy to hide a 200-page manuscript in your luggage and hope no one would find it.

There was also ‘Gosizdat’, but this is a tale for some other time.

When I first discovered that there is academic interest in the role of smugglers in book publication and distribution, it changed the image of library-dwelling book historians in my head to that of dashing and brave adventurers. In my own eyes, I could finally combine my two childhood dreams: working with books and being Indiana Jones! There is much to research in the history of book smuggling, can you imagine what an exciting field of work lies ahead?

Here are some suggestions for further reading:

P. Steiner On Samizdat, Tamizdat, Magnitizdat, and Other Strange Words

D. Pospielovsky From Gosizdat to Samizdat and Tamizdat

Friederike Kind-Kovács, Jessie Labov Samizdat, Tamizdat, and Beyond: Transnational Media During and After Socialism