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British Fantasy Society => British Fantasy Awards => Topic started by: disrepdog on October 04, 2011, 08:35:48 PM

Title: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: disrepdog on October 04, 2011, 08:35:48 PM
Over on facebook a rather lengthy discussion has been going on about how the awards are decided. A lot of people there (who attend F'con) have commented that they think the awards should move to a juried shortlist.

What do people here think and how could such a change be implemented if it was wanted by the majority?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 04, 2011, 09:24:17 PM
Igniting such a discussion here from that controversial Facebook discussion I think deserves your real name being appended.
des
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: disrepdog on October 04, 2011, 10:44:23 PM
I think my questions are valid as a member of the BFS and a F'con attendee for the the last 6 years. I haven't actually put anything wrong here have I ? I am trying to gauge the feelings of the BFS in the right place rather then on facebook. I am very wary of putting my name on a public forum. I'll pm you who I am and anyone else who wants to know. But I'd rather keep it off public view if that's ok.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 04, 2011, 10:51:39 PM
Well, it's not for me to say. It's just that with such issues stemming from that facebook thread - and the way such a thread might now go on this forum - I thought whoever started the thread should be up front with who they are.  But fair enough, of course.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 04, 2011, 10:58:03 PM
BTW, as far as I know, this forum is not strictly public - as only members can view it.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 04, 2011, 11:04:53 PM
Sorry, I just logged out to check and it seems to have changed. It is now public whether you're logged in as a member or not.
I personally don't really mind but I think someone should have mentioned that it was being changed (unless I missed the announcement).
des
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Del Lakin-Smith on October 05, 2011, 07:32:28 AM
Sorry. My fault. I was unaware of the forum now being private. I thought it was something that may have inadvertently changed when we migrated from one server to another.

Just to clarify though. Anyone can register, as far as I am aware, you don't have to be a BFS member. So although the forum is not open to guests it is open to anyone with an email address.

I have disabled access to guests again, but I would very much like to review this set up.

Best,

Del.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 08:52:44 AM
Del - the forum was always open to guests in the past. It changed sometime in the last year - if that was inadvertent, it would be great to get back to normal!

DFL - way to go on welcoming someone to the board. You didn't make quite such a fuss about real names when someone posted anonymously to say we should all be ashamed of ourselves on your behalf, I seem to remember.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 09:02:39 AM
Del - the forum was always open to guests in the past. It changed sometime in the last year - if that was inadvertent, it would be great to get back to normal!

Agree with that.

Quote
DFL - way to go on welcoming someone to the board. You didn't make quite such a fuss about real names when someone posted anonymously to say we should all be ashamed of ourselves on your behalf, I seem to remember.

Don't agree with that.
I did query the identity then, I recall.
Welcoming someone called disrepdog quoting that Facebook context was questionable at the time.
I now welcome the person now I know who it is.  It is a fair debating-point of course, and it seemed
'off' to be anonymous about it on what I thought then was a private-to-members board.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 09:06:15 AM
You said things like, "whoever you are".

What you didn't do was tell them that it was inappropriate to post anonymously, as you have here.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 09:09:08 AM
You said things like, "whoever you are".

What you didn't do was tell them that it was inappropriate to post anonymously, as you have here.

Well, if that is true - we all make mistakes. But I recall saying something stronger than 'whoever you are'.  And this thread is something far more important thatn that thread.

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Andrew Hook on October 05, 2011, 09:17:52 AM
Can we get back to the topic discussion...

I think it would be useful to have a long list nominated by members, following votes to a short list, and then a juried panel to read the final nominations. It's rare that I've read all the entries on the shortlist and I'm sure this is the case with many others in the BFS. To vote on the basis of not having read everything seems a little bizarre and whilst previously I haven't really thought about questioning it, having read over 300 books as one of the World Fantasy Award judges this year I can certainly see the benefit of a judged award. Of course, there will always be a question over who the judges are to be, but I certainly think it's worth discussion.

NB: I haven't seen the facebook discussion, so I have no idea how this overlaps with other views or what has been said there.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 09:23:18 AM
How about all members voting for a long-list and for the membership of two juries.
An oversight jury to add to the list.
An overload jury reducing it.
Then the two juries preparing a final voting list of 4 in each category for members to vote on, but only if they've read all four.

Brainstorming a bit.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 09:54:22 AM
Like Andrew, I'd leave the system pretty much as it is for now, but replace the final round of voting with a panel, ideally made up of BFS members so that the important connection to the membership isn't lost.

I wrote the current awards constitution, so if it's not working I have to take some of the blame. The idea was to encourage members to put themselves in the position of jurors. But I was profoundly dismayed this year to see so many people saying that they had cast their votes the day the list went up.

That problem was perhaps exacerbated because the shortlist was announced so late - there was only a month to vote, I think, rather than the two months previously allowed for reading and watching the nominated works.

I'd also extend the rule against recommending your own work to include the work of your partner, because the five-pound joint membership makes it far too easy to circumvent that rule.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: neilw on October 05, 2011, 11:06:03 AM
Genre awards come in two types: public/member voted awards (which are really just popularity contests) and juried awards (which for me carry more weight as barometers of quality). And as long as you appreciate "best" does not necessarily equate to "most popular" there's no real problem.

As voted awards measure what is "most popular among the electorate", there's no reason to expect the voters to read the entire year's published output and make qualitative decisions. They're just voting for what (or who) they like. These kind of awards work best when there are enough votes so that any skewing factors (such as attempts at log-rolling, or simply authors with sizeable groups of friends) cease to be statistically significant. They run into problems with small electorates. On the other hand there is less work involved in administrating them. Juried awards need much more organizing in terms of selecting the jury and making sure that they receive all the eligible materials and attend the required number of meetings. And the credentials of a jury are always liable to be questioned in some quarters.

Personally, I like the BFS as a member voted award, but the numbers of voting members need to be increased. That's not just a case of increasing the membership of the society, it's also about encouraging enfranchisement to vote across the existing membership and making it as easy as possible for them to do so in good time. For instance I really admire the advances the BSFA have made in recent years with publishing the shortlisted short stories (and engaging with Starship Sofa to produce audio versions) and reprinting the eligible artworks too. This way, members *can*, if they so choose, make a judgement on the basis of looking at all of the contenders (yes, this is more difficult for other categories, but that's no reason not to do it for short story and artwork).

The other thing I was thinking - I don't know how many people vote for the BFS awards, but my gut feeling is that the numbers aren't huge. Nevertheless, in the instances of accountability I think that the voting figures should be published - if not publicly, then at least for the membership to see. That's the only way to avoid stooshies like the one that's currently ongoing.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 05, 2011, 12:12:00 PM
I understand that the voting figures will be released. But David needs to fit it all in between his day job so please give him some time to post them.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: neilw on October 05, 2011, 02:18:18 PM
 Cheryl Morgan contributes her usual amount level headedness and experience.

For fan-voted awards to be respected these days I think that they need the following:

The rules should be posted publicly on the organizationís website
It should be made easy for eligible people to vote
Those responsible for administering the awards should be clearly identified and ineligible to receive awards
Personally Iíd also like to see numbers. People are always complaining about how few people vote in the Hugos, but I doubt that any set of national awards comes close unless voting is open to everyone. If you publish numbers, that puts pressure on to increase participation. It also helps the public know which awards are liable to be hijacked by a small clique.

It may well be that the BFS can clarify some of these issues, and I hope they do. If they canít, or wonít, it will reflect badly, not only on them, but also on all other fan-voted awards.

http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?p=11772
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 05, 2011, 02:51:44 PM
Stephen, when did the online voting system begin, and when did it replace postal voting? Do you recall?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 03:23:01 PM
We've been using a Google Docs voting form since the final round of 2009. Email voting has been allowed since before I joined.

We sent out paper forms throughout the 2010 awards, although mailing problems meant not everyone got the recs form that year. I think there was also a round in the 2009 awards where forms weren't sent out except on request, but I'm not sure (I wasn't the awards admin then).

For this year's awards paper forms weren't sent out: an invitation to vote was sent out by email (my emails from Debbie arrived on April 11 and June 29).
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: J Naylor on October 05, 2011, 03:27:19 PM
Awards are always difficult.  If they are voted it is often best to use the term "favourite" or "best liked" rather than "best" which has an inherent quality inference.

Awards from within a community often boil down to a cult of personality and almost inevitably end up in acrimony as lobbying groups wax and wane within the whole.

Juried awards are in their own way more susceptible to bias than voted awards sicne who appoints the jury etc can affect the outcome.

A very difficult area and one which would benefit from thoughtful and unbiased discussion concentrating on the mechanics of decision making etc rather than worrying about what is in place or how we got here.

Oh and remember you can't please all of the people all of the time...
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Selina on October 05, 2011, 04:29:16 PM
There are many, many different discussions of this on FB but a few things I noticed were that I think someone who is a non-publisher/writer was offering to be the awards admin next year, and that Cavan Scott was offering to organise a round table discussion/articles on the different options for the next Prism.

When David or another committee member gets the time it would be useful for a message to go out to members stating the current Awards constitution (so we all know what it is rather than replying on memory) and suggestions for how members of the society could participate in the discussion of how the awards should be done in future.

Hopefully this will spur people to volunteer more for things rather than any other reaction.

Alas, I cannot offer to do more than the reviews I currently do.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: DavidJHowe on October 05, 2011, 04:30:11 PM
I have seen the comments online about this year's British Fantasy Awards, and I am saddened that some people feel so unhappy about the whole thing.

The Awards are and always have been a straightforward vote by the BFS membership and by FantasyCon attendees. These good people send in recommendations to create the Longlist, and then they vote on that Longlist. The top five-scoring entries in each category then go onto the Shortlist, and a final vote is done to determine the winner. One with the most votes wins. Simple as that. It is as completely unbiased as it can be.

People might be interested to see how the voting broke down this year:

BEST NOVEL - 116 votes cast
BEST NOVELLA - 102 votes cast
BEST SHORT STORY - 92 votes cast
BEST COLLECTION - 97 votes cast
BEST ANTHOLOGY - 111 votes cast
BEST NON-FICTION - 90 votes cast
BEST ARTIST - 108 votes cast
BEST SMALL PRESS - 110 votes cast
BEST MAGAZINE/PERIODICAL - 111 votes cast
BEST COMIC/GRAPHIC NOVEL - 77 votes cast
BEST FILM - 114 votes cast
BEST TELEVISION - 120 votes cast

So that's a total of 1248 votes cast overall (I believe there were 999 votes last year or thereabouts), and there were 140 valid individuals voting in the Awards (I did have to exclude a couple of voters as they were not BFS Members and had not attended FantasyCon either last year, nor were they listed to attend this year).

So the winners were simply those who those that voted thought were worth voting for. Several of the cateories were very close between the votes, with in some cases just one vote separating the winner. I asked Del Lakin-Smith, the BFS Webmaster, who was also looking after the online results forms, to do a double check count and tally to ensure complete transparancy in what the members had voted for. The results were as announced.

There has been criticism that perhaps I should have stepped down from Administering the Awards once it became apparent who some of the winners were (ie my partner Sam, and books published by Telos Publishing, a company that I co-run). It takes a lot of work to bring everything together, and because the voting is electronic and the counting is automatic (and was confirmed by Del) I assumed that everything was fine.

There have been comments about the choice of presenters for the Awards - again, several people who I approached declined, and so I had to go for people I knew were going to be there. I had an early discussion with Sarah Pinborough on this, and she agreed with me that it would be a good idea to go with some lesser known names and faces to present this year. So that is what I tried to do: to use the Convention GoHs (of course) and to also include some people who were less well known. If I was wrong, then so be it, but my intentions were to try and ensure balance in the ceremony.

I am very distressed about the nature of the comments being made online, and the BFS Committee will of course be discussing them and deciding what actions to take going forward.

Back to this discussion ... and the way to suggest and make change to the way the BFS does *anything* is contained within the Constitutions for the BFS and the BFAwards, both of which are linked to on the front page of the site:

BFS Constitution: http://www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk/about-the-bfs/the-constitution-of-the-british-fantasy-society/
Awards Constitution: http://www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk/the-british-fantasy-awards-constitution-ii/

To suggest a change, someone would need to redraft the Awards Constitution to reflect whatever they wanted to suggest. This should then be submitted to the Chair of the BFS, and would then be discussed, back-and-forth, between the BFS Committee and whoever raised it to iron out any remaining wrinkles and to ensure it's watertight (so, for example, what happens if a jury can't be set up for a certain award? Is that award not then presented? How many people should form a minimum jury? What happens if a shortlisted book cannot be sourced from the publisher? Is it then dropped? And so on). Then it is presented to the BFS Membership to vote on - either at the next AGM, or it could be put to a special vote of the membership.

There are other options other than moving to a juried (or part juried) system. We could make the votes totally transparant - ie show on the public website exactly who voted for what. We could open the votes to *everyone* as with the Gemmells ...

Over to you ...


David
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: disrepdog on October 05, 2011, 05:18:26 PM
Just to reiterate, anyone who wants to know who I am feel free to pm me. I am used to forums where your real name is hidden. I am happy to stand up and be counted should a round table discussion take place as has been suggested. 

Thank you David for your post, I now have a clearer idea of things. This was one reason I started this thread. I wasn't passing an comment on who won the awards this year and I am very saddened to read that Sam feels she has to give her award back. She won it on the way the awards are run at the moment.

I just wanted to find out the views of people here on the current system and if others think a change would be a good idea.

I do think a voted for longlist followed by a juried shortlist would be good. I also think Cheryl Morgan makes very good points.

I'd also like to add that I didn't know until Monday that F'con attendees could also vote, not just BFS members and I think I'm not alone in that. If the system stays then there could be 500 plus voters next year if they are all aware they can vote.

I'll also be emailing the committee offering help with next year's awards as someone with no connections to the industry but an avid reader.

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Jen on October 05, 2011, 05:39:50 PM
So those awards numbers - are those total votes received for the winner, or just for whatever choice in the category?
And do you have a breakdown of how many votes per item in each category?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: DavidJHowe on October 05, 2011, 05:55:16 PM
So those awards numbers - are those total votes received for the winner, or just for whatever choice in the category?
And do you have a breakdown of how many votes per item in each category?
The numbers are the total number of votes in each category (so a sum of the number that each of the five entries in each received) - you don't have to vote in every category, hence them all being less than the 140 people who voted.

I do have a breakdown of exactly how many votes every item got - heck we have the actual online spreadsheet which is filled in automatically as the votes come in, and which was then used to automatically tally them to get the totals. I also counted them all myself to ensure that nothing was awry with anything, and Del checked them as well. It's not possible for the Awards Admin to influence the voting in any way.

At the moment I'm hesitant to reveal the exact numbers as it could be embarrasing for those who came at the bottom each time. I feel that if there was a need to go to that level of detail, we might need to ask all those shortlisted if they minded the exact vote counts being revealed. I think (though am not sure if it actually says this anywhere) that the voting is meant to be confidential, and so I would want to be sure that no further storms would be caused by this information being released.

Hope that helps

David
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Jen on October 05, 2011, 05:59:22 PM
Okie doke.   ;D  I was just curious about in depth numbers because the Hugos release theirs... also I am just nosey like that!  ;) 
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 06:19:55 PM
I just wanted to find out the views of people here on the current system and if others think a change would be a good idea.

I was banging on about the BFS Awards voting system from 2001 - 2005, mainly on the TTA forum.  Then I gave up.
This was an accident waiting to happen - despite a warning two years ago when a very similar (if less serious, although serious enough to the people involved) situation of 'complaining against the results' happened.

BTW, sorry for querying the identity of 'disrepdog' who suddenly turned up here out of the blue on a then supposedly 'private' forum referring to an arguably 'difficult' Facebook thread that I had just read. Nothing personal of course, as I didn't know then who lay behind 'disrepdog' in that context.  Just wanted to safeguard the 'purity' of any thread set up to discuss this serious issue.

Yours, df lewis - Karl Edward Wagner Award winner in 1998 - an award I'm not giving back! :)
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: disrepdog on October 05, 2011, 06:35:09 PM
No worries, disrepdog does sound dodgy I guess. It's my user name all over the place and stems from my love of the disreputable dog from Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy.  ;D

I hope this does all lead to something positive
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 06:38:29 PM
I hope this does all lead to something positive

We two at least will make sure it does. :)
des
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 06:54:17 PM
Please could I ask the committee to consider and vote on this change, whenever it's convenient?

The Constitution currently states:

Quote
Recommendations may not be made for the recommenderís own material. Such recommendations will be ignored (though the voterís other recommendations will be added to the longlist as usual).

I propose changing this to:

Quote
Recommendations may not be made for the recommenderís own material or that of their partner. Such recommendations will be ignored (though the voterís other recommendations will be added to the longlist as usual).

It's a really useful rule, I think, but since members can circumvent it for a fiver it's losing its effectiveness. And it means I won't have to yell at Ranjna to stop her recommending TQF...
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 06:58:26 PM
That sounds fair enough, but should 'partner' be extended to include any (blood) relationship or any close friendship?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 07:17:11 PM
A further change I would suggest, and this is one which would probably need more fine-tuning and discussion, is to add to the "Notes on Eligibility" section of the constitution:

Quote
All recommendations must feature an element of fantasy or concern in part a work of fantasy.

I really think it's time to stop making ourselves look silly on this issue. As the awards stand, you could recommend The One Show for Best Television and The Guardian for Best Non-Fiction. I realise there are sometimes difficulties in identifying whether a given work has a fantasy element, but the hard cases are likely to be rarer than the easy ones, and the member recommending a work will always be able to advise the awards admin if there is any doubt.

For example, JAG should be eligible because one character is a psychic, but NCIS shouldn't. Halloween shouldn't be eligible, because it's about a serial killer, but Halloween IV should be, because he develops psychic powers.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: DavidJHowe on October 05, 2011, 07:26:45 PM
Please could I ask the committee to consider and vote on this change, whenever it's convenient?

The Constitution currently states:

Quote
Recommendations may not be made for the recommenderís own material. Such recommendations will be ignored (though the voterís other recommendations will be added to the longlist as usual).

I propose changing this to:

Quote
Recommendations may not be made for the recommenderís own material or that of their partner. Such recommendations will be ignored (though the voterís other recommendations will be added to the longlist as usual).

It's a really useful rule, I think, but since members can circumvent it for a fiver it's losing its effectiveness. And it means I won't have to yell at Ranjna to stop her recommending TQF...
How would this be monitored?  How is whoever is Admin going to know who the partner/mum/dad/brother/brother in  law/sister/cousins are for anyone who votes?

David
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 07:30:44 PM
The same way they currently know who is trying to recommend their own material - imperfectly, to some extent. You can't check every single road in the UK for speeding at any given moment, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a rule against it.

Most of the couples in the BFS, once the rule was in place, would simply stop recommending each other's work.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 07:31:57 PM
Sorry, I've just noticed you were talking about mum, dads, brothers, etc too - obviously that would be impossible. That's why I suggested partner.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: John Forth on October 05, 2011, 07:41:46 PM
Not to muddy the waters, but is there also an argument for limiting the awards to works produced by British authors/artists/film-makers? It seems daft dishing out awards to the likes of Stephen King and Christopher Nolan when they're a) never going to turn up to collect them; and b) barely likely to even notice they've received them.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 07:48:55 PM
Once you start any 'exclusions' in a member voting system, it becomes difficult. Partners become ex-partners, etc.  Currently, we trust the BFS committee to choose the KEW Award Winner. Why not use that as precedent to do that with all categories, perhaps with some strengthened  form of membership voting control over who is on the committee?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: GaryC on October 05, 2011, 07:59:09 PM
I don't know what Christopher Nolan's citizenship is, but he was born in London...

Des, what issues do you have with the Awards in the years 2001-2005? I was Awards Admin for those years, doubling as Chairman for the first two. Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I've acted as a "consultant" every year since, checking the longlists for errors of category, eligibility, spelling errors etc. I once caught someone using a pseudonym to recommend his own work.

In my day there was just one vote from a longlist, and the shortlist was simply the top five in the vote. The Awards Admin could and did recommend items to go on the longlist but was the only BFS Member not allowed actually to vote.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 08:04:36 PM
My main point, Gary, as I recall, was nothing to do with the admin (as I recall us discussing on TTA at the time) - but with a multi-jury system (i.e all members as jury) not reading all the books to which they were acting as jury.  There was more to it than that, I'm sure, and the system has changed slightly since then.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 05, 2011, 08:20:26 PM
BTW, Gary, with all your experience (probably second to none), I'd love to hear what you feel about any possible changes for the future in the Awards system.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 05, 2011, 08:31:49 PM
Awards to Brits living in the USA or Americans living in the UK? It all gets complicated trying to "ban" some people from the awards.

Good idea about ensuring a "fantasy" element. However, I'd argue that a novel about a serial killer could be considered "horror" and is thus "fantasy" and is thus eligible.

Difficult...
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 05, 2011, 08:33:45 PM
And elsewhere, someone said that SF was also missing from the shortlist, and others saying that the BSFA deals with that sub-genre. Don't forget that Michael Marshall Smith's ONLY FORWARD won the BFS award long ago. So we do consider other areas of the genre.

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 05, 2011, 08:35:05 PM
Off topic: I've just noticed that I am described as a "Barbarian Monarch" in this forum ... Eh ???
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 05, 2011, 08:41:24 PM
Off topic: I've just noticed that I am described as a "Barbarian Monarch" in this forum ... Eh ???

It's based on the number of posts on the forum.

Initiate > Warrior > Thaumaturge > Barbarian Monarch > Elder Darkness

I think they were something fairly random originally, and I spent five minutes coming up with fantasy versions. And then fifty more minutes trying to think of versions that were not gender-specific... They can all be changed in the forum's admin area.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: cavscott on October 05, 2011, 09:07:51 PM

To suggest a change, someone would need to redraft the Awards Constitution to reflect whatever they wanted to suggest. This should then be submitted to the Chair of the BFS, and would then be discussed, back-and-forth, between the BFS Committee and whoever raised it to iron out any remaining wrinkles and to ensure it's watertight (so, for example, what happens if a jury can't be set up for a certain award? Is that award not then presented? How many people should form a minimum jury? What happens if a shortlisted book cannot be sourced from the publisher? Is it then dropped? And so on). Then it is presented to the BFS Membership to vote on - either at the next AGM, or it could be put to a special vote of the membership.


Thanks David.

I am willing to redraft the Awards constitution in line to some of the thoughts that have been discussed over recent days.

If anyone would like to discuss the redraft with me then please contact me via email (cavscott@gmail.com) or DM on Facebook.

Cheers,

Cav
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 06, 2011, 07:40:49 AM
I agree with most of what Emma has said. Thanks.

My own personal reservation - over the years I have been more atttracted to Horror and Weird literature and Ghost Stories, and not so much these days to Fantasy or SF (although I retain an interest in all literature, mainstream or otherwise). I would like the Society to migrate in the direction it feels most comfortable with and I, personally, will follow (or not).
des
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 06, 2011, 10:02:27 AM
I am not against juried awards, as such. But setting up a jury isn't as easy as a lot of people think. Every year the prestigious World Fantasy Award committee have problems selecting their five-strong jury. Admittedly they, the jury, have to read *all* submissions rather than just the shortlist...
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 06, 2011, 12:06:01 PM
BTW, I can't find it now. But did someone earlier say that a fiction about a 'serial killer' allows it to be called 'fantasy'?  Not automatically, I'd say.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: J Naylor on October 06, 2011, 12:54:27 PM
I echo everything that has been said about jury selection.  Juried awards are just as open to bias and even more suscepetible to corruption than popular vote awards.  Finding jurors who are unbiased and unconnected is bound to be difficult but not impossible.

Where retained the voting system needs to be seen to be independent and transparent and many more people need to be encouraged to vote.   Of course the fact that most of the voters won't have read all of the works up for the award means that they will inevitably end up voting for their favourites.

Is there not scope for increasing the number of juried awards but retaining some membership voted awards?  All could still come under the BFS Awards but some would be "Members Awards" i.e. voted and be for "favourite" or "best liked" etc and the others would be juried and could have the title "best".

The idea of a "no award" category on the voting form has merit too.  members who don't think any of the shortlisted books should be winners could vote "no award" and a threshold set as a percentage of the vote which would mean a popular(voted) award is not made in a particular year.  This could serve as a "quality assurance" measure to counter bias in shortlisting.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: cavscott on October 06, 2011, 01:32:46 PM
I am not against juried awards, as such. But setting up a jury isn't as easy as a lot of people think. Every year the prestigious World Fantasy Award committee have problems selecting their five-strong jury. Admittedly they, the jury, have to read *all* submissions rather than just the shortlist...


Definitely realise that it's not going to be a walk in the park, but as I said I'm happy to help draft a proposal to see if we can make it work.

As for it having no BFS members at all? Hmmm. Not sure - perhaps we could have a mixture, members and industry bods (buyers, reviewers etc). That way there's still a link to the Society.

One think I did think of - how do we judge the small press award with a jury? Judges wouldn't be able to read everything they output...
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: joshua rainbird on October 06, 2011, 02:21:14 PM
BTW, I can't find it now. But did someone earlier say that a fiction about a 'serial killer' allows it to be called 'fantasy'?  Not automatically, I'd say.

No. 

The poster (Stephen Theaker, I believe) emphasised that serial killers would have to have a fantasy element.   ;D
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 06, 2011, 02:28:27 PM
I think I was referring to this from Peter Coleborn:

"However, I'd argue that a novel about a serial killer could be considered "horror" and is thus "fantasy" and is thus eligible."

If Horror needs a fantasy or supernatural element to be included in Awards, that will cut out a lot of Horror fiction.

Since I started with the BFS in the late 1970s, it has been primarily a Horror Society, as far as I can see, with strong representation over those years from Ramsey Campbell and Stephen Jones.
But as I say, just as one personal viewpoint among many, I am happy to consider following the BFS in whatever direction it feels most comfortable in going.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 06, 2011, 02:47:38 PM
If Horror needs a fantasy or supernatural element to be included in Awards, that will cut out a lot of Horror fiction.

Actually, please delete 'supernatural' from above because, I guess, many would not class 'supernatural' fiction as 'fantasy' fiction?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: CraigPay on October 06, 2011, 03:42:46 PM
An amalgamated BFS/BSFA British Speculative Fiction Society would solve all this messing about with this-and-that genre. But that is one almighty bunfight.

Craig Pay
http://craigpay.com
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Wayne Mook on October 06, 2011, 04:12:09 PM
I've not seen the face book thing but I can some of the people who started it. It's a small community and most people know each other, so a lot of the bitterness can be personal mixed in with professional jealousy. Whose work gets into an anthology can really cause some nasty rivalries.

As to the bias of horror over fantasy, I agree, but it's down to the membership. Although for years Michael Moorcock was the daddy of the awards.

The Jury system would not solve the problem, and as Emma said it would make it worse. Not only accusations of bias on how the panel is picked, but bias of the panel too (Industry people would be accused of backing their own product.) and then you have arguments and fallings out in the jury itself, listen to the rubbish that comes out around the Booker prize.

No long list and short list open to FantasyCon & BFS members is the best way.

As to changing it, put it to the vote at the next AGM, even if the committee don't like it the members there get the final vote. BFS and awards rules & regs are linked on the main website for all to see.

Just sorry I missed the AGM this year, anything happen?

Wayne.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: johnny mains on October 06, 2011, 04:57:33 PM
My tuppence

Jury consisting of a rota of available previous award winners going back to the early days, though if you find yourself nominated, you can either opt out and another non-nominated winner will take your place or your vote for the entire category becomes null and void. Then if a tie happens re: fall back voter. Not perfect but should mean that there is a spread of genres represented within the jury?

Members should be allowed to vote for the small press award and the media awards.

Jx

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 06, 2011, 05:22:27 PM
Jury consisting of a rota of available previous award winners going back to the early days,

I like this idea very much. And I'd even be eligible as a former KEW Award winner!
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 06, 2011, 05:26:23 PM
Okay, this is a long one...

I strongly disagree with the idea from earlier in the thread that panels should be composed entirely of non-members of the BFS, and such a proposal would, I think, be very unlikely to get through an AGM in any case, although I've been surprised before (e.g. when they gave the go-ahead for ebook-only memberships last year). You might as well send them off to be decided by Martians - they're the British Fantasy Society's awards, and they should be chosen by our members (although Johnny's idea about past winners is interesting - there's an argument that past winners should at the least be given the permanent right to vote in our awards).

We don't need to go out looking for professional readers; we just need to identify the members willing to take on the responsibility. It might not be a bad idea to have one outsider on each panel, someone the rest of the panel has to look in the eye and say, yes, this really is the best book on this list. But panellists have to do that with each other anyway. The Best Newcomer panel has been made up of members for the last two years, and there's been no complaint whatsoever about their choices.

When the BFS tried having panels for all the awards in the seventies they were published in Prism - a good idea, I think. It means the panellists, if they make a really unexpected choice, know that their decision and motives will come under scrutiny, and that forces you to take the responsibility seriously, something that a significant proportion of voters aren't really doing. I saw one guy on Facebook saying that the grumbling about the results was tantamount to defamation, before saying at the end that he just voted for the people he knew... The problem is that the more principled and ethical the member, the more likely they are to say, I'm not voting because I hadn't read the books.

Anonymity: I'm not sure I agree either that anonymity in voting is important or desirable. Only the awards admin should know who is voting for who, and you can't check if people are recommending their own work without knowing who they are. You have to be able to check that people were members at the time when they voted. Also, the awards administrator being able to spot certain patterns in the voting can help them to identify which rules need tweaking. The problem this year hasn't been with people wanting to gain favour with those in charge, but more, as far as I can see, about a group of members with a shared interest in seeing particular people win. For one thing, the membership wasn't even aware, as far as I know, who was actually running the awards until the AGM.

That is, of course, a problem in itself: the BFS *must* announce immediately when a position has changed hands, even temporarily, so that any ethical questions can be raised before the event, rather than after. I appreciate and agree with David's point that with the work involved, it would have been impractical to step down in the middle of the awards. I'd suggest, though, that (i) the handover should have been made public, giving members the chance to express any concerns, and (ii) it would have been wise - either at the point he started to help out, or at the point when he wholly took over - to withdraw Telos from the category that might earn him a cash prize.

Banning the work of everyone who is working or has ever worked on the committee from receiving awards is impractical and undesirable, I think. Let's say author X's forthcoming novel from Quercus is such a corker that it's up for an award next year - it would be daft to exclude it on the basis that it's edited by Jo Fletcher and she was on the BFS committee umpteen years ago. The BFS is essentially a small press - it needs more people on the committee with publishing experience, not fewer, so let's not discourage them from volunteering.

Yes, the BFS has in the past rewarded people like Ramsey Campbell, Graham Joyce and Stephen Jones with multiple awards, and that's because they are the people producing the kind of work that BFS members tend to love. They were winners that, while reflecting the society's inclination towards weird fantasy over the heroic variety, FantasyCon attendees were happy to see win prizes. That insularity - which you also can see in calls to abolish the awards for film and television on the grounds that the winners don't come to FantasyCon - is a slightly different issue from the kind of boosterism that is so evident, for example, in those daisy chains of mutual five star reviews on Goodreads, and which to all appearances has produced this year's curious results.

I hope that the reaction to this year's results will have a positive effect even if the rules don't change, because it will encourage people to think twice before helping to push someone they are friendly with into a potentially awkward and embarrassing position. The results of these awards come under intense scrutiny every year, and if the winning material struggles to stand up to that scrutiny - whether because it's not very good, or because it's, you know, Sherlock! - questions are always going to be asked about how it came to win.

One last thing for now: it's been suggested somewhere that the awards administrator be a complete outsider. I doubt that would work, unless the BFS was willing to pay someone. I would however seriously suggest that the awards administrator not take part in BFS committee discussions. The BFS committee can be a tumultuous place (probably less so since I left, admittedly). Awards admin is a position that benefits from stability, consistency and experience: you need to know the rules inside out. Give them a free BFS membership for their work, of course, and let them lead committee discussions on rule changes, but keeping the awards admin out of the political side of things would, I think, have long-term benefits.

Okay, one more thing: I'm very impressed that David is sticking it out. No one who saw his immensely moving speech at last year's awards could have the slightest doubt about his love for the British Fantasy Society and his respect for the awards. While I'm disappointed by the results, I have no doubt that they would have been precisely the same if I had still been awards administrator.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 06, 2011, 05:51:35 PM
I'm in tune with everything Stephen says.

My views are (and I don't think they conflict with anything Stephen said, well, at least I hope not!):

If the formal rules were not breached, then the awards should stand and have been unquestioned, regarding which situation the precedent of a controversy two years ago should have provided fair warning.

If perceptions on the informal (in)advisability of actions and inactions of Awards Admin are an issue, then that is something quite separate from complaining about the results.  And that also would never have resulted in an article today on the Guardian Newspaper blog.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: johnny mains on October 06, 2011, 05:57:55 PM
Another way this could solve lots of arguments is have the awards split into different sections

Best Horror Novel, Short Story, Anthology
Best Fantasy Novel, Short Story, Anthology
Best Sci-Fi etc, etc

Then small press, newcomer awards etc covers all genres.

A little bit more work perhaps, but takes the fire out of all this genre vagueness or apparent one-sidedness?

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 06, 2011, 06:51:24 PM
Another way this could solve lots of arguments is have the awards split into different sections

Best Horror Novel, Short Story, Anthology
Best Fantasy Novel, Short Story, Anthology
Best Sci-Fi etc, etc

Then small press, newcomer awards etc covers all genres.

A little bit more work perhaps, but takes the fire out of all this genre vagueness or apparent one-sidedness?


Again, Johnny has come up with some very interesting ideas, imo.
The BFS to take over the 'speculative imagination' of the world - OK. :)
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: johnny mains on October 06, 2011, 07:05:38 PM
You could go further - create The Chartered Institute of British Fantasy and have have an award ceremony where awards are given for excellence within any field under this banner - though this would only really work for mainstream presses or small presses (also professional film makers and screen writers) that consistently bring out a quality product. A membership fee that would be high, but after the gathered get their moneys worth, the remaining money is used specifically to develop and nurture upcoming talent. You could get all the major publishers who publish horror involved, plus even a few distributors, the networks would be bigger, more jobs could possibly be created, new ideas forged.

A fool's dream maybe, but one I quite like!
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: CarolineC on October 06, 2011, 07:40:02 PM
Here's a thought ... prompted in my mind by someone on another forum asking what the BFS does for members. First, just to say that I'm now on the committee (since Sunday) so I don't know if I should be poking my nose in here, but I just wanted to throw in some of my own ideas for consideration - nothing to do with my committee role whatsoever.

Anyway, I was thinking ... does the BFS actually *need* to dish out awards? I mean, is it essential for the image of the society to do awards at all? Are they more trouble than they're worth (this isn't the first year there's been controversy over them, and it probably won't be the last)? Would time/effort (and money?) spent on awards be better spent on specific services to members, or on producing more publications, or on something else which the membership considers more worthwhile to them?

Maybe this needs a different thread? If so, let me know and I'll start one up ...

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: CarolineC on October 06, 2011, 07:40:52 PM
btw Johnny, great to see Back From the Dead win its award.  :)
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 06, 2011, 10:36:41 PM
Another way this could solve lots of arguments is have the awards split into different sections

Best Horror Novel, Short Story, Anthology
Best Fantasy Novel, Short Story, Anthology
Best Sci-Fi etc, etc

Then small press, newcomer awards etc covers all genres.

A little bit more work perhaps, but takes the fire out of all this genre vagueness or apparent one-sidedness?

All those awards would bankrupt the BFS -- cost of making the awards isn't cheap, I'm afraid.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 06, 2011, 10:39:17 PM
Oh Caroline, awards are nice things to dish out. Just wish more members participated -- and then we might get a good x-section of the Fantasy genre in the shortlist.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 06, 2011, 10:56:07 PM
Another rule change I have been thinking about suggesting for a while is a variation of the Joanna Russ amendment (http://blogs.feministsf.net/?p=1235). I would love to see the British Fantasy Awards adopt the Russ amendment itself, but I don't think that's ever going to happen... I would suggest that a variation might work very well for us - let's call it the Conan amendment:

Quote
If there is no work of heroic or epic fantasy on the best novel shortlist, the highest nominee of that type should also be listed (giving six nominees).

It's a simple, practical change that would be fairly straightforward to implement. It would guarantee at least one fantasy-fantasy novel on the shortlist every single year - and if that was combined with a panel of judges looking at the final round, it would have a fair chance of winning.

This would be much better than introducing a separate award, and it could possibly be applied to other categories as well.

(Edited to give the suggested amendment a name.)
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 06, 2011, 11:06:24 PM
Quote
All those awards would bankrupt the BFS -- cost of making the awards isn't cheap, I'm afraid.

I think award recipients would appreciate them just as much with a simple certificate.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: joshua rainbird on October 07, 2011, 01:13:48 AM
just an idea while we're at it - and a little distraction from the debate about the novel award -  considering that the BFS has just dropped two categories from the list (film and TV) and considering that the BFS regards itself as primarily celebrating the literary market why not be more transparent about this ?

The British Fantasy [Society?] Book Awards

the best artist award could be slightly amended to cover art, book illustration or literature inspired art/sculpture/installation/whatever with a fantasy theme   :-\
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 07, 2011, 05:47:09 AM
Stephen Ė you say the problem this year was "about a group of members with a shared interest in seeing particular people win," are you accusing David of wrongdoing, or accusing Sam and David's friends of cronyism?

Itís right at the end of that very, very long post, but I did say:

Quote
While I'm disappointed by the results, I have no doubt that they would have been precisely the same if I had still been awards administrator.

The Awards Constitution does provide for an audit of the awards to be done upon request, but I donít think anyone, not even Stephen Jones, has suggested that David might have fiddled the figures.

As for cronyism, no, that isnít a word I would use, because that implies a shady nod and a wink, a knowledge that youíre doing something wrong. I donít believe that there was any conscious desire to subvert the process here - they wanted Sam, David etc to win so they voted for them.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: disrepdog on October 07, 2011, 07:53:42 AM
Right briefly as I'm meant to be off to work!

If they awards stay as one vote per member it will stay as a popularity contest as I don't believe the voters will read all the shortlisted books/stories.

To be a valid juried panel it needs respected people outside the BFS committee to be on it. This could be respected reviewers as they'll have likely read the books anyway so not so much extra work. Plus maybe a random generated member of the BFS or two to get the for want of a better wod lay person's view.

The awards themselvs don't have to be expensive to make. For a start pick one design and stick with it then get a bulk order done. Works for the Oscars.....
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 07, 2011, 09:00:41 AM
Quote: "A few people have said it would be impractical to exclude BFS committee members and their family members from the awards due to lack of volunteers."

If committee members or their partners are excluded from the awards, would they want to be on that committee? BFS publications are not eligible already ... to exclude someone's story published in a Stephen Jones anthology, for example, would be wrong. There is an argument that the only person who should be excluded from winning an award is the administrator of the awards.

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 07, 2011, 09:08:35 AM
If the BFS is going to present awards, let's have them as objects of desire, not pieces of paper. If the BFS wishes to be seen as important in Fantasy -- it does, doesn't it? -- the award has to look prestigious.

As for costs. It's not a simple matter of picking a design off a shelf and buying a hundred of them. At the moment they are designed and then cast individually. I do know that David has been looking for alternative suppliers but that route hasn't been fully investigated.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 07, 2011, 09:14:17 AM
If the BFS is going to present awards, let's have them as objects of desire, not pieces of paper. If the BFS wishes to be seen as important in Fantasy -- it does, doesn't it? -- the award has to look prestigious.

Sorry, I completely disagee with that.  I think being awarded something by a prestigious organisation is prestige enough. Most 'concrete' awards look cheap anyway, however much they cost.
The important point is now building back that very prestige for the BFS, following that ostensibly damaging downgrade by the Guardian yesterday.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: jim mcleod on October 07, 2011, 09:19:03 AM
Why don't we use the review team more, I sure if you look at what books all us reviewers  choose to review fall into a pattern.  Why don't the review team nominate their favourite books of the year to the panel.  The panel then formulates a short list.  With each of the reviewers having a set number of books on the short list.  This could help to bring a more varied short list.


I voted, I hadn't read all of the books, and I never will.  I'm not interested in Science Fiction, an the only fantasy I read is that of the David Gemmill variety
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: J Naylor on October 07, 2011, 09:31:46 AM
There are a lot of valid points being made - sometimes in direct opposition to other equally valid points.  That just goes to show how difficult this sort of thing is.

We need to recognise that where a popular vote is made that it does not indicate the "Best" of something but actually the "most popular".  (Why do you think soap operas always win TV awards - shudder)    

Popular votes will also follow trends in the social makeup of organisations.  If someone is very active in social media, active in the running of an organisation etc then they are likely to get more support (votes).  

Finally I suspect the majority of voters had only read a fraction of the works listed and so feel they can only vote for works they are familiar with.

These factors are common to all voted awards.  People may not like it but they are fixed.   As was said above perhaps we need to look at the perception of the awards rather than the mechanics if voting remains a factor.

Juries and panels mean that in theory they have at least all read the books and so are judging equally.   Such panels do have their own inherent bias however.   How many people actually consider all the Booker prize winners to be great works?  

Perhaps having a panel which has:
1. BFS member who is not a writer/publisher/agent etc
1. Representative of a large publisher
1. Representative of a small press
1. Reviewer

(Or similar)  The panel would be compelled to change each year.  None of the panellists could have a direct interest in any of the nominees.

The awards could be of two types - Popular awards voted by the membership and juried awards by a panel as above (Oh look that is what happens already...)  The difference would be that this would be more explicit - change the name of the awards - Best Novel becomes Most Popular Novel if voted on etc.

We are back to addressing perceptions.

I don't think there was any wrongdoing in the awards.  I think the difficulties are in the structure of the awards and the lack of active members willing to help run things leaving them open to criticism.  I also think that criticism is easy and losers and their advocates/supporters ought to be gracious in losing. Then campaign discretely to get things changed if they are sure it needs change.  Otherwise they are demonstrating the same inherent bias they are complaining about.  

One good thing may come out of this. When politics rears its head like this people stand up, make their voices heard and volunteer.   Usually storms mean a few years of peace once the dust settles.   Whilst there is good reasoned debate going on about this I think there is an excellent chance of the storm being ridden out and some calm sunny waters ahead.

Find a solution folks.  Good luck with it.

PS since other posts made whilst I was typing:

On physical awards - it is possible to produce an excellent physical award at lower cost to the society. Alternatives are available, sponsorship is also an option.

On status of the Awards - this needs addressing.  A new awards system needs to be agreed and implemented very promptly to allow for next year. By my reckoning a 6 week timescale should be the maximum for coming up with a new structure.

There is however no such thing as bad publicity.  Capitalise on this and you can  get The Guardian to attend the awards next year - a big boost in status.

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 07, 2011, 09:33:44 AM
Why don't we use the review team more, I sure if you look at what books all us reviewers  choose to review fall into a pattern.  Why don't the review team nominate their favourite books of the year to the panel.  

That idea is a good one and worth considering, I feel.
I've reviewed a lot of specialist Horror-orientated books (Ex Occidente Press, Tartarus, Ash Tree Press, Chomu Press etc) as well as much TTA Press output, and others. That's some reviewing experience I, for one, can offer, and there are many other reviewers with varying exposure to different books.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 07, 2011, 09:47:35 AM
There is however no such thing as bad publicity.  Capitalise on this and you can  get The Guardian to attend the awards next year - a big boost in status.

I like this! :)
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 07, 2011, 10:00:24 AM
Having just mentioned, just as one example, Tartarus, in a previous post, a thought came to my head (dangerous activity, thinking!). I just reviewed their 'Mrs Midnight and other stories' by Reggie Oliver. This, I propose, should be high up on anyone's list for 'best' Collection for 2011.  But it is now sold out, I believe. How does this type of publication get to be awarded in some of the schemes being proposed on this thread?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Andrew Hook on October 07, 2011, 10:30:55 AM
I think the main problem is that the majority of BFS members are working within the industry: as writers, publishers, reviewers etc. FantasyCon is typically an industry event, not a fan event. If you look at EasterCon for example, I generally feel the fans outweigh the industry types in at least a 60/40 split, if not more. FantasyCon celebrates us as a 'family'. Until there are more fans as members of the society I don't think it would be possible for the votes/awards to be considered anyway other than they are at the moment. For example, out of the five novels on the shortlist I had read four of them, and out of those five authors I know four well enough to have spoken to them in some depth over the years (the only exception being Tom Fletcher who I haven't met, and The Leaping was the only novel I hadn't read). My vote went to what I considered to be the best novel out of those four, but an outsider might consider I voted for someone I knew. Considering we all know each other, it is almost impossible not to vote for someone we know.

Until the fanbase is extended to include more fans than industry types then however we shake it up won't make any difference. Whereas this year's results have been loaded in committee members favours I feel this is more an unfortunate coincidence (Telos winning Best Small Press last year, for example, I felt was richly deserved regardless that I didn't vote for them - and there was no outcry then). Previous years have seen multiple awards given to the Campbell, Crowther, Jones camp and regardless of how deserving those might be, to an outsider a society awarding an award to its own chairman seems a bit odd. I haven't seen this challenged by the same camp that have challenged the awards this year.

However, there are a lack of volunteers for the society, and to exclude all committee members from receiving awards might well worsen this situation. I was happy to be on the committee for editing New Horizons, which I enjoyed doing in my spare time. However, if I had felt taking on the editing role would have prevented myself from being longlisted or even shortlisted then I wouldn't have taken it on. I'm a writer first and foremost, and was a BFS committee member just to help out. I wasn't at the AGM this year, but prior to FantasyCon I was aware that because of time constraints the individual editors of Prism, Dark Horizons and myself for New Horizons were all stepping down due to other commitments. Finding people to step in - who, in the case of editing, invariably need some experience - might be even more difficult when they also might be writers/publishers in their own right. I'm not aware yet that an editor for the Journal has been found.

Again, until we are larger, until we have a bigger fan-based membership, then we won't have many awards given to those with no connection to the committee or to those who haven't already won before. Of course, conversely, what we will have are awards given for mass-market products such as Twilight and interminable fantasy tomes. That's the trade off. In many ways, I enjoy the BFS as a celebration of the small press and it's refreshing for it to be acknowledged within the award system, particularly since the small press is largely overlooked by the general book-buying public.

Finally, I think it regrettable that Sam felt pressurised into returning an award which was legitimately won. And those who voted for her must also be feeling cheated that their vote was apparently not the 'right' one.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Paul Campbell on October 07, 2011, 10:36:14 AM
J Naylor said:

Quote
Of course the fact that most of the voters won't have read all of the works up for the award means that they will inevitably end up voting for their favourites.

The inherent problem with awards is that it assumes the only books in our To Be Read Pile are titles published in the past year. I read very few books during the year that theyíre actually published, due to playing catch-up on books published in preceding years. I didnít vote on this yearís nominations because Iíd read so few in any given category that I didnít feel I could make an balanced judgement.

However, most folk have no such qualms and blithely vote for the one book theyíve read, or a book they havenít read but by someone whose work theyíve enjoyed in the past.

Emma Jane Davis said:

Quote
As for cronyism, this is an inherent part of the way the current awards system works. People vote for their favourite book/person instead of the best book. That is no different to any other year. I wonder how many BFS members who voted have ever actually read all five books?

Now, I donít know David and Sam very well, but I will say this: theyíre amongst the two most genuine human beings Iíve ever met. Ironically thatís the problem! People are lazy, letís just acknowledge that, so when it comes to voting if they havenít read any of the nominations they either vote for someone theyíve read in the past or someone theyíve met in person and really like. ďOh, Sam and David are really lovely, Iíll vote for them.Ē

- But thatís not Sam and Davidís fault! And certainly they shouldnít feel guilty for being nice people. The laziness of the voters is not something they should be vilified for. Finally, I honestly do not believe that Sam or David knowingly canvassed for votes, other than what every single other writer does: ĎHi guys, just to let you know Iím up for an award.í

However, itís all about perception: within our little community (and letís face it, it is very small Ė 369 members according to figures released at this yearís AGM) we all know that Sam and David are the real genuine deal. To outsiders, like The Guardian, they donít know that. So when five awards are associated with just two people paranoid outsiders automatically throw up a red flag and say, ĎHang on a minute...í

This, I guess, was inevitably a train wreck waiting to happen: a lazy membership that has read too few of the nominations deciding to cast their vote instead on the basis of the warm personality of two people theyíve either met or simply saw talking during panels at previous conventions. A good number of people who did vote would have read those books, yes, but there is no denying that the majority simply cast their vote based on David and Sam outgoing, friendly natures. Again, thatís not their fault!

I do, though, fail to see how changing the awards to counteract the laziness of the membership is feasible.

One final point regarding this whole bizarre notion of not giving awards to people you know arenít going to turn up to receive them. So Stephen King didnít deserve to win this year? You know, Iím thoroughly sick and tired of this whole King-bashing simply because the manís a huge success. I read a huge number of short story collections in any given year, and I for one was delighted Kingís novella collection ďFull Dark, No StarsĒ won the award this year because that book totally blew me out of the water. Ditto his recent novel ďLiseyís StoryĒ. If you havenít read King since the 1980s then frankly Ė and I say this with the utmost sincerity and politeness Ė shut up.

That King issue does, though, highlight the fact that whenever titles released by professional publishers do turn up on the shortlist they stand out like a sore thumb, due to the fact that the vast amount of other titles are all small press. Thereís far too much fawning over the small press, frankly: yes, so and soís book is good, but only in the context of the small press. Do you get what Iím saying here? There is a scary proportion of our membership that does not read outside the small press, let alone outside a given genre.

Perhaps we should rename it The British Small Press Fantasy Awards? ;D
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: disrepdog on October 07, 2011, 10:47:12 AM
As for costs. It's not a simple matter of picking a design off a shelf and buying a hundred of them. At the moment they are designed and then cast individually.

You misunderstood me, I didn't mean pick one off the shelf I meant get something designed that represents the BFS and looks good then look at getting enough made that the unit cost comes down. I know this is possible and know companies who can produce such a thing. You need to look outside the box rather then at bespoke castings if cost is an option. I'm happy to help with that if required.

I too feel very sad that Sam felt she had to return the award because she won it fairly on the way the system is at the moment. I do think the awards administrator needs to be ineligible for an award.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 07, 2011, 11:02:19 AM
Having just mentioned, just as one example, Tartarus, in a previous post, a thought came to my head (dangerous activity, thinking!). I just reviewed their 'Mrs Midnight and other stories' by Reggie Oliver. This, I propose, should be high up on anyone's list for 'best' Collection for 2011.  But it is now sold out, I believe. How does this type of publication get to be awarded in some of the schemes being proposed on this thread?

Exactly, Des. But Johnny Mains won with a sold-out anthology so it is possible. I know it sold out because the only copies I've seen on eBay are far too expensive to buy.

I suppose that if shortlisted e-versions could be made available if there are no copyright infringements. But then e-people could get the book for 'free'. It's not an easy issue to resolve.


Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 07, 2011, 11:29:59 AM
[I suppose that if shortlisted e-versions could be made available if there are no copyright infringements. But then e-people could get the book for 'free'. It's not an easy issue to resolve.

Will the BFS be considering allowing awards for fiction only in an ebook format?  And, if so, will be they be in differentiated categories from real books?

And, in passing, I agree with those comments just now about Stephen King. (I reviewed FD,NS when it came out in UK)
des
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 07, 2011, 12:47:16 PM
Quote: "That King issue does, though, highlight the fact that whenever titles released by professional publishers do turn up on the shortlist they stand out like a sore thumb, due to the fact that the vast amount of other titles are all small press. Thereís far too much fawning over the small press, frankly: yes, so and soís book is good, but only in the context of the small press. Do you get what Iím saying here? There is a scary proportion of our membership that does not read outside the small press, let alone outside a given genre."

I fear you are correct, Paul
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 07, 2011, 12:48:55 PM
Excellent blog:

http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/?p=11772
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: J Naylor on October 07, 2011, 01:00:28 PM
Staggered rotation is a good idea on a Jury.  (2011/12 four people appointed but two knowing they are on for just one year.  They are replaced for two years for 2012/13 etc)

Not sure how I feel about specifying genders.  The optimist in me would like to think there would automatically be a mix. The pessimist fears such a proviso being the thin end of a wedge of tokenism.

Who would appoint or how would they be selected?  This should be the next question if we were to go for it.

I still think some awards should remain as a popular vote by the way since this helps members feel they can contribute.

I am not convinced about the one award being made by the BFS committee and the FantasyCon committee on a one person one vote basis.  It would be so easy for a FantasyCon organiser to load their committee should they wish. I am not suggesting anyone would but the loophole immediately brings the awards into potential disrepute.

Would it help if we talked more about suggested mechanics and structures rather than broad outline concepts?

(Sorry I have a task oriented personality ;D)
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Ros on October 07, 2011, 02:40:13 PM
I'd like to make some practical suggestions. A lot more people could have voted than did, and you need to ask people why this is. I think I did vote, but I'm not 100% sure as I may have taken one look at the shortlists and decided to come back later in case I'd read more of the material, and then forgotten all about it.

A good start would be sending out more email reminders to encourage people to vote. Maybe at least 3, with prominent links to make it easy for people to get hold of the shortlisted works.

Then you could let people log in and check whether they're eligible to vote this year, and whether they've already voted. If you had a different system it could allow people to change their votes right up to the last minute, as well.

I'm all for narrowing the focus - if there are fewer items on the shortlist it makes it easier to make the effort to actually read most of them and make an informed decision.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Andy W Marsden on October 07, 2011, 04:32:12 PM
Apologies for coming so late to the table. Having read through the thread, here's my little bucket of suggestions. I may be repeating those of others; I'm not copying, merely reiterating what I feel are good ideas:

-Split the BFS Awards into genre, and then have an overall Best (whatever) of the Year award. i.e. best Horror novel, best fantasy short story, best SF novella, etc., then Best Novel 2011, Best Short Story 2011, etc.
-Have the the split awards voted on as now, but the overall awards chosen (from the genre winners) by a BFS elected panel. This will make the process a two-tier system, through shortlists and voting, then judging, giving so much more weight to the final awards given. It also means every genre covered by the BFS gets a top award, and the BFS gives an overall award for the year that can be used to raise the profile of the awards, FantasyCon and the BFS.
-Have the genre rounds done before FantasyCon, allowing the final judging to be done ready for the actual event, in order to aid logistics.
-To alleviate the problem of cronyism, allow a new level of membership: "Fan" (ok, I know, sounds awful, someone I'm sure will come up with a better title) with slightly reduced benefits. This can allow many more people to be in the BFS, to vote for the awards, while still having professionals from within the industry doing the judging work at the top end. (Not my best idea, but an idea tabled nonetheless.)

Just some of my thoughts, tear them apart as you will.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: CarolineC on October 07, 2011, 05:56:15 PM
-To alleviate the problem of cronyism, allow a new level of membership: "Fan" (ok, I know, sounds awful, someone I'm sure will come up with a better title) with slightly reduced benefits. This can allow many more people to be in the BFS, to vote for the awards, while still having professionals from within the industry doing the judging work at the top end. (Not my best idea, but an idea tabled nonetheless.)

Not sure about that one! I'm a "fan" myself, not a writer nor any other kind of pro or semi-pro, so why should I have reduced benefits?

I think this opens up a whole new area of debate - one which we probably need to have, but probably not now whilst there are other more pressing things going on here. Yes, I'd love to see more fans in the BFS. I actually held out from joining for some time as I thought it was just for writers, editors, etc, and I'm sure there are others looking in who feel the same - but that's a whole new argument about how to attract those fans and thereby increase membership.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Andy W Marsden on October 07, 2011, 06:52:07 PM
Ooh yeah, sorry CarolineC, didn't want to come across as elitist!

What I mean is, create a level that allows fans of the genre to join, still get lots of fun benefits, but without belittling them (you!) and still have the writers/publishers/editors have access to the things they require that fans don't. As you say, a topic for discussion another day, but still well worth a thought as we go forward.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Del Lakin-Smith on October 07, 2011, 11:35:42 PM
I definitely agree with the idea of having a system that allows people to log in to check whether they've voted and change their vote. I'd nag people with an email every month or two, unless their email is already registered as having voted. This is something I could volunteer to put together, though I don't want to step on Del's toes.

I wear steel toecaps for a reason  ;)

I agree completely Emma. A system like that would really help with the security, functionality and perception of the awards process. One of the principals I work to is to have full integration with other systems to help with support and interoperability, so the system I am looking at would integrate with the current web services that we are running. I would love your input and consultation on approaches and system functionality on ensuring the future proofing of the awards system.

I think you would be invaluable in a role in the BFS. Have you considered approaching the committee?

Del.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: joshua rainbird on October 08, 2011, 01:27:25 AM
^ if you're seriously looking at an e-mail nagging system to promote voting please ensure members (especially me) can opt out of it   ;D
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 08, 2011, 09:08:22 AM
Cheryl Morgan has suggested on her blog that a preferential voting system might be worth discussing, but also points out a potential drawback:

Quote
the BFAs use first-past-the-post voting on the final ballot rather than the preferential balloting that the Hugos use. This means ... that the winner in each category (assuming 5 nominees) could have had the support of only about 21% of the voters. People often complain that the system the Hugos uses means that a genuinely daring and different work will never win, because the system always favors works with mass appeal. This is true, but the system also makes it hard for any one special interest group to force a win against the will of the majority. The smaller the group of voters, the more likely it is that a small group of friends can come to dominate the results.

It's a suggestion worth discussing, although it might well make the bias towards horror worse. The occasional heroic fantasy book that makes it onto the shortlist would stand even less of a chance than it does now.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 08, 2011, 09:19:52 AM
Nearly all the discussion has centred around how we pick the winner, but perhaps more could be done about the way the shortlist is built. As we discussed at last year's AGM, the shortlist is very vulnerable to a half dozen people joining specifically to vote, because of how the usual members' votes are distributed so widely over so many books. The members at the AGM felt that if we ended up with lots of new members as a result, that wasn't so bad, but I don't know.

I've suggested above the "Conan" amendment, which would guarantee at least one heroic fantasy nominee every year - does anyone have any other ideas?

For example, do we need to reconsider three points for first choice books? Is that the real source of our problem? Just look at some of the unusual nominees over the last couple of years - the nomination for my own magazine last year is a prime example. I love my little mag, and I'm very proud of the work we've published in it, but it got onto the shortlist as the result of a small group of people who like it, rather than wide support among the membership.

How about something like this as an alternative: rather than choosing our three favourites, let members choose up to ten things they'd like to see on the shortlist. No points, just let everyone choose ten - and make the nominees the five that get the most choices. That would, I think, ensure a broad base of support for every single nominee.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: GaryC on October 08, 2011, 10:26:33 AM
Full disclosure: I was BFS Chair 2000-2003 and Awards Administrator 2001-2005. Note the two-year overlap there. I did have a collection and a short story in the running those years and in both cases had to watch them miss the shortlist by a single vote each.  :( Since I left the Committee in 2005, I've been asked to do an informal check of the longlist, or at least part of it - only as regards eligibility (publication date), category correction where necessary for fiction recommendations (wordcount), and picking up errors and typos etc.

Some thoughts on some issues raised above:

Splitting the awards according to genres means more expense in terms of cash and time. Also, how do you decide if a novel is horror or fantasy or SF when some could be counted as more than one? (At the risk of starting the 90s slipstream debate up again...  :)) Also, ensuring that one nomination is heroic fantasy is tokenism to my mind. And why should heroic fantasy be so favoured? Why not urban fantasy, paranormal romance or a YA novel?

The shortcoming of a juried award is finding jurors who are willing and able to do the job and also experienced enough to do a good one. (I'm confident enough of my own tastes in prose fiction, but I know very little about graphic novels and don't consider myself competent to judge them.) Much as I'd be honoured to be asked to be a World Fantasy Judge, I do know that 300 books is about six times the number I'd normally get through in a year, and that would kill my reviewing commitments, not to mention my own writing. As for diversity of jurors, nice idea in principle but it would be hard enough finding the jurors in the first place. Also, this presupposes that male jurors would always favour male writers, and female jurors female writers. I don't accept that I do, and I don't think I'm alone.

You could reduce the workload and have a voted shortlist, at which point a jury took over. That would still give them a reading list of five novels, five novellas, five short stories, five anthologies, five collections, five non-fiction items and five graphic stories - still hefty, and assuming no voting ties, but manageable. Though as we know many novels are very long these days...

(As an aside, one thing I've suggested in the past for Fantasycon is a panel something along the lines of Not the Clarke Awards which is done every year at Eastercon. A group of readers, critics etc talk about the five shortlistees and discuss which should win and which will win, and which should be on the shortlist but isn't and which is on the shortlist but shouldn't be.)

As for voted awards, as Cheryl Morgan says, the BSFA and the Hugos are both voted for and there's always the question of who's been voting for whose friends and how crap the voters' tastes are. They both use the Australian ballot system instead of the first-past-the-post that the BFS uses. It's not difficult to do, though it will add to the counting time. Voters rank the shortlist in order of preference. If the first place has more than 50% of the vote, it is the winner. If not, then fifth place is eliminated and that book's second-place votes are redistributed, and so on until either the winner has over 50% or when you've only got two books left, in which case the one with most votes wins. If there's no overwhelming winner then the winner will be the one *most liked* by the majority of voters. Under first past the post, the winner need only be liked by 20% of the electorate if the opposition is sufficiently divided.

Talking about the word British in the award, I'd allow books to be eligible both in the year of their first publication AND in the year of their publication in the UK, with "publication" meaning in the English language.

As for someone's (Emma's?) point about Susanna Clarke losing Best Novel to one of Stephen King's Dark Tower novels, well that's down to the taste of the voters and for the record I think that rather showed the voters to be out of touch as to my mind Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is one of the most significant fantasy novels of the last decade. I was Awards Admin that year and voting was very scattered, with King winning by a single vote.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: frank on October 08, 2011, 11:45:35 AM
This is to Mr. Howe or anybody in a position to be forthcoming with such information: May I ask which of the books that came first and second had only one vote separating them? May I also ask for confirmation in understanding the following (to clarify I have fully understand the proceedings) - The winners were simply those who others thought were worth voting for, rather than having read all the entries. Forgive my stupidity if I have misunderstood this.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Peter Coleborn on October 08, 2011, 11:47:26 AM
Excellent comments Gary.

I've always liked the 3-2-1 system (ie vote up to three item in preference order). It's perhaps a bit simplistic but could, maybe, increase the number of votes cast three-fold. I guess the Australian system is like that but more scientific.

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 08, 2011, 12:02:17 PM
Excellent comments Gary.

I've always liked the 3-2-1 system (ie vote up to three item in preference order). It's perhaps a bit simplistic but could, maybe, increase the number of votes cast three-fold. I guess the Australian system is like that but more scientific.

That's a superb idea. Easy to understand and simple to implement - and uncontroversial, since it's just what we use for the previous round. While I think the three points can let things leap out of the longlist a little too easily, that wouldn't apply to the shortlist, where everyone is voting on the same five things.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 08, 2011, 12:13:15 PM
to my mind Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is one of the most significant fantasy novels of the last decade.

Hear ! Hear! In fact of all time, I'd say.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Paul Woodward on October 10, 2011, 08:49:45 PM
Perhaps the awards could be voted on through a ballot box at the FantasyCon, obviously any members not able to attend the Con could  have a postal or electronic vote in advance? Then the results could be posted up with numbers of votes cast etc before the Awards ceremony. I put my money where my mouth is and say I would be happy to be involved in administering the ballot box and count at the weekend.
Voting could then be part of the fun activities at the weekend of the FantasyCon?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: NeilCFord on October 10, 2011, 09:30:22 PM
Posting the results would take some of the mystery out of the awards ceremony, so I would suggest against it, but voting at the con is definitely an idea worth pursuing. I've already offered elsewhere to assist in that process.

- Neil.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Jen on October 10, 2011, 09:32:03 PM
Though, timewise, it might make it a bit tricky for getting the names engraved on the plaques on the awards...  :-*
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: NeilCFord on October 10, 2011, 10:43:01 PM
Well there are a few options:

1. Just have the award engraved with what it is and the year. The recipient knosw what it was for.

2. Hand out blank satues and get them engraved afterwards.

3. Go old school and use Dymo labels to put the winners on. They'd be quite unique then.

- Neil.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: disrepdog on October 11, 2011, 06:45:12 PM
All excellent points Emma.

I've thought a tiered price with an opt in/out for publications a good idea but it may be that that will cause the end of the publications due to lack of funds.

I get what you say about men vs women and their reading preferences so a jury has to be carefully selected, but still think a couple of BFS members on a jury could be good. (btw I'm clearly an exception as despite being a woman I read epic/military fantasy, sci fi, horror and am never likely to pick up a paranormal romance   ;D)

On the subject of engraving the awards then I think it's reasonable to leave it to the winner get their name engraved if they want. They keep the ward so as you say they know it's theirs. Thus enabling voting to take place at Fantasycon which I think a great idea if we don't have a jury system.  I'd be willing to count votes and am numerate  :). As a mother of children who win sporting cups and trophies getting them engraved is no big deal and not expensive.

I also think that reducing the number of awards could increase their worth.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Jen on October 11, 2011, 09:12:56 PM
Quote
I get what you say about men vs women and their reading preferences so a jury has to be carefully selected, but still think a couple of BFS members on a jury could be good. (btw I'm clearly an exception as despite being a woman I read epic/military fantasy, sci fi, horror and am never likely to pick up a paranormal romance

Shouldn't be that hard to get neutral jurors from within the BFS - by way of example - the BFS Best Newcomer jury this year was three women, and a horror chap won; last year the jury was two women and a man, and a female fantasy writer won.  We've strived to be completely unbiased in our reading of the submitted books despite any personal preferences for particular authors. 

I think it was Tim Lebbon who said somewhere on facebook that being one of the judges on a reading jury gives a weight of responsibility to see it done right.  (Possibly on that epic length comment thread of Sarah Pinborough's)
 :-*
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Jen on October 11, 2011, 09:19:15 PM
Quote
Regarding broader award practicalities - can I suggest that consultation with Tom Hunter (Clarke award admin) and Donna Scott (BSFA award admin) would be invaluable in a discussion of the way the awards should run?

Possibly consultation with Cheryl Morgan as well, since she's got the experience with the Hugos and has said on her blog she'd be willing to give advice.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Phil Lunt on October 12, 2011, 12:09:45 AM
I've thought a tiered price with an opt in/out for publications a good idea but it may be that that will cause the end of the publications due to lack of funds.

Don't want to drag it too O/T but, basically, it needn't cause the end of the BFS publications, just a change in the delivery of them. People who want to receive dead tree copies could pay extra, those who don't could Pay less and then just receive a PDF via email (I say PDF as ePub/mobi versions would require further work from the print set-up). Something like this could be implemented easily.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: J Naylor on October 12, 2011, 11:42:55 AM
This was suggested at the AGM Philatron and the response was that to be workable there is a minimum print run on hardcopy journals etc.  If too many people opt for the PDF version then it would make production of a printed version untenable.   
(Consider the merits of it as you will.)
Perhaps membership pricing levels are best discussed on a seperate thread.  Note that the current constitution says that membership prices are set by the committee not the membership/AGM.  There was a groundswell at the AGM objecting to price increases in membership.  Perhaps this is a constitutional issue that needs to be floated at an EGM restoring control to the membership.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Phil Lunt on October 12, 2011, 12:23:13 PM
This was suggested at the AGM Philatron and the response was that to be workable there is a minimum print run on hardcopy journals etc.  If too many people opt for the PDF version then it would make production of a printed version untenable.

Admittedly, yes, getting a few hundred copies printed would cost less per copy than if only 50 were printed, for example, but then maybe quotes should be requested from printers to keep on top of things. I've a few years experience of graphic design and print as well as doing work for non-profit orgs so I know what it can be like...
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Jen on October 12, 2011, 12:33:48 PM
This was suggested at the AGM Philatron and the response was that to be workable there is a minimum print run on hardcopy journals etc.  If too many people opt for the PDF version then it would make production of a printed version untenable.

Admittedly, yes, getting a few hundred copies printed would cost less per copy than if only 50 were printed, for example, but then maybe quotes should be requested from printers to keep on top of things. I've a few years experience of graphic design and print as well as doing work for non-profit orgs so I know what it can be like...

Although the case could made that since most of the membership prefer the dead-tree versions of things (at least according to the mutterings in the AGM, personally I prefer the Kindle edition of the Journal I've been getting!), then the e-membership variant could attract additional new members on top of the usual crowd, so the print runs remain relatively stable.  And since hikes in membership fees are purely to cover the postage costs, then adding in e-memberships gives more wiggle room for keeping rates stable.  And might even tempt more overseas members if they can be getting their e-membership for a similar rate as the UK.

(And this really needs a thread of its own, doesn't it.)
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Phil Lunt on October 12, 2011, 12:42:19 PM
Although the case could made that since most of the membership prefer the dead-tree versions of things (at least according to the mutterings in the AGM, personally I prefer the Kindle edition of the Journal I've been getting!), then the e-membership variant could attract additional new members on top of the usual crowd, so the print runs remain relatively stable.  And since hikes in membership fees are purely to cover the postage costs, then adding in e-memberships gives more wiggle room for keeping rates stable.  And might even tempt more overseas members if they can be getting their e-membership for a similar rate as the UK.

(And this really needs a thread of its own, doesn't it.)

Spot on, Jen!

(And, yeah, Del should be able to do a thread split and make a new thread out of this, I think :D )
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Jen on October 12, 2011, 12:49:19 PM
Although the case could made that since most of the membership prefer the dead-tree versions of things (at least according to the mutterings in the AGM, personally I prefer the Kindle edition of the Journal I've been getting!), then the e-membership variant could attract additional new members on top of the usual crowd, so the print runs remain relatively stable.  And since hikes in membership fees are purely to cover the postage costs, then adding in e-memberships gives more wiggle room for keeping rates stable.  And might even tempt more overseas members if they can be getting their e-membership for a similar rate as the UK.

(And this really needs a thread of its own, doesn't it.)

Spot on, Jen!

(And, yeah, Del should be able to do a thread split and make a new thread out of this, I think :D )

Started a new thread in the Suggestions board!  :-*
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Jen on October 12, 2011, 01:06:15 PM
Sooo, back to the awards...  :)

Not keen on the publishing industry creating the longlist - the ethos of the awards is that they're the BFS members choices.  Would much prefer for the longlist to be from suggestions by the members with the shortlist voted on by a jury that includes outside professionals as well as at least one BFS person to retain the connection. 

Have we thought about doing what the Hugos/Worldcon do and offering up supporting membership of Fcon with voting/rec rights to open up the voting pool a bit more?
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: David A. Riley on October 12, 2011, 03:35:55 PM
Luckily I missed all the fuss over the British Fantasy Awards this time, being abroad, but I have done my best to catch up with the arguments.

Personally, though I don't value the awards as much as some people obviously do, I like the idea that the Fantasy Awards are chosen by the members of the BFS and FantasyCon rather than some elitist jury. I believe this is one of the few privileges that should be retained by the membership and not handed over just because this time a number of people aren't happy with some of the winners. It was a freak result this time. Things like this can happen whatever system is decided on, but at least it is the democratic decision of the members. Look at the controversy over the Booker Award this year. There'll always be malcontents, whatever system we choose.

The grumblings of some people, perhaps agitated by sour grapes, will be no more than a a nine day wonder. It's a pity that one winner felt compelled to hand her award back. It's a pity that our chairman felt compelled to resign after an otherwise successful year. It's an even worse pity that some newspapers decided to take it up. I don't for one second believe there was any impropriety involved and cannot see why we can't continue as before.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 12, 2011, 04:19:25 PM
Personally, though I don't value the awards as much as some people obviously do, I like the idea that the Fantasy Awards are chosen by the members of the BFS and FantasyCon rather than some elitist jury.

I agree with the thrust of what you're saying, David.
Whatever the system, there should be no complaints about the results, unless the system was evidentially contravened.
But under the present system, I see each BFS member as effectively acting as a member of a jury (elitist or otherwise) but without reading all the candidate books!
des
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 14, 2011, 08:28:49 AM
I personally don't mind either way, but I'm confused about the officially intended state of privacy of this forum - and I thought others may be under a wrong inmpression about its status now following the conversation earlier on this thread.
The forum was originally publicly viewable, then it was changed to privately viewable (for quite a long while), i.e. private only to registered members of the forum when they are logged in - but then publicly viewable again (without announcement) and it is stil publicly viewable as far as I can tell.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Del Lakin-Smith on October 14, 2011, 11:13:41 AM
I personally don't mind either way, but I'm confused about the officially intended state of privacy of this forum - and I thought others may be under a wrong inmpression about its status now following the conversation earlier on this thread.
The forum was originally publicly viewable, then it was changed to privately viewable (for quite a long while), i.e. private only to registered members of the forum when they are logged in - but then publicly viewable again (without announcement) and it is stil publicly viewable as far as I can tell.

The forum is openly viewable to all. But you have to register to post. I don't know why it was made private, I was not involved in any conversation about it being made private, but that can come about when you have multiple administrators of a forum making decisions for the members.

I can see the merits of having a BFS members section that is closed to the outside world, but I am loathe to make any changes without consultation.

I am sorry if you feel that it was changed without announcement. That was not my intention. When I migrated the forum from one host to another there were a number of settings that did not carry through. I assume things that were not stored in the database, and this was something I assumed happened at that time. Hence me changing it to be open.

I hope that clarifies.

Del.

Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 14, 2011, 11:27:44 AM
I hope that clarifies.

Thanks, Del. Yes it does. As I said, I wasn't worried but I thought others might not know it was now public and is remaining public.
des
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Rolnikov on October 14, 2011, 01:30:34 PM
Thinking back, Del, I think it was just something that happened when David was looking for a way to reduce spam. There wasn't a committee decision to make it closed to guests or anything.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Colin (Black Abyss) on October 14, 2011, 07:44:36 PM
At the very least BFS members should be identifiable on the forums, that should be possible to organise (probably ???).

Not sure about the awards and not sure about a democracy (look at the state of the government we ended up with thanks to a democracy). Shouldn't it be a meritocracy and what's wrong with an elitist jury if the members voted for them. If we voted on a (representative) members panel and they were then given the job of reading a shortlist, wouldn't that be a fairer system than the current one (no offence to this years winners meant). members would still have their say on creating the panel and the shortlist.
Title: Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
Post by: Des Lewis on October 14, 2011, 08:02:21 PM
At the very least BFS members should be identifiable on the forums, that should be possible to organise (probably ???).

[...] what's wrong with an elitist jury if the members voted for them.

I tend to agree with both those points .