Author Topic: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?  (Read 25758 times)

Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #45 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
« Last Edit: October 06, 2011, 07:43:43 AM by Nemonymous »
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Offline Peter Coleborn

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #46 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...

Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #47 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.
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Offline J Naylor

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #48 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.

Offline cavscott

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #49 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...

Offline joshua rainbird

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #50 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
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Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #51 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.
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Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #52 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?
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Offline CraigPay

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #53 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.

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Offline Wayne Mook

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #54 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.

Offline johnny mains

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #55 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

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Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #56 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!
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Offline Rolnikov

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #57 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.

Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #58 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.
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Offline johnny mains

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #59 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?

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