Author Topic: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?  (Read 47129 times)

Offline J Naylor

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #75 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.


Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #76 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.
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Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #77 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! :)
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Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #78 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?
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Offline Andrew Hook

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #79 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.

Offline Paul Campbell

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #80 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 they’re actually published, due to playing catch-up on books published in preceding years. I didn’t vote on this year’s nominations because I’d read so few in any given category that I didn’t feel I could make an balanced judgement.

However, most folk have no such qualms and blithely vote for the one book they’ve read, or a book they haven’t read but by someone whose work they’ve 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 don’t know David and Sam very well, but I will say this: they’re amongst the two most genuine human beings I’ve ever met. Ironically that’s the problem! People are lazy, let’s just acknowledge that, so when it comes to voting if they haven’t read any of the nominations they either vote for someone they’ve read in the past or someone they’ve met in person and really like. “Oh, Sam and David are really lovely, I’ll vote for them.”

- But that’s not Sam and David’s fault! And certainly they shouldn’t 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: ‘Hi guys, just to let you know I’m up for an award.’

However, it’s all about perception: within our little community (and let’s face it, it is very small – 369 members according to figures released at this year’s AGM) we all know that Sam and David are the real genuine deal. To outsiders, like The Guardian, they don’t know that. So when five awards are associated with just two people paranoid outsiders automatically throw up a red flag and say, ‘Hang on a minute...’

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 they’ve 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, that’s 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 aren’t going to turn up to receive them. So Stephen King didn’t deserve to win this year? You know, I’m thoroughly sick and tired of this whole King-bashing simply because the man’s a huge success. I read a huge number of short story collections in any given year, and I for one was delighted King’s novella collection “Full Dark, No Stars” won the award this year because that book totally blew me out of the water. Ditto his recent novel “Lisey’s Story”. If you haven’t read King since the 1980s then frankly – and I say this with the utmost sincerity and politeness – 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. There’s far too much fawning over the small press, frankly: yes, so and so’s book is good, but only in the context of the small press. Do you get what I’m 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

Offline disrepdog

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #81 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.

Offline Peter Coleborn

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #82 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.



Offline Des Lewis

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #83 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)
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Offline Peter Coleborn

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #84 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. There’s far too much fawning over the small press, frankly: yes, so and so’s book is good, but only in the context of the small press. Do you get what I’m 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

Offline Peter Coleborn

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #85 on: October 07, 2011, 12:48:55 pm »

Offline J Naylor

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #86 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)

Offline Ros

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #87 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.

Offline Andy W Marsden

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #88 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.
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Offline CarolineC

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Re: The Awards, should we change the way they are decided?
« Reply #89 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.
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