Author Topic: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards  (Read 38958 times)

Offline Del Lakin-Smith

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Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« on: November 25, 2011, 03:10:13 PM »
I set out below two resolutions and a set of recommendations.  I’d like members to be clear about how we arrived at these proposals.  The normal way would be to have a discussion at a Fantasycon AGM.  However, with the EGM restricted to those who could be in London on December 9th,  we looked for a more painstaking, democratic and inclusive process:

1)   We conducted an online survey that attracted well over 200 responses.

2)   The responses were analysed and proposals were drawn up firmly based on the results.

3)   I appointed a five-person working group representing various interests to look at the proposals in detail.  The working group comprised James Barclay, Peter Crowther, the President of the Society Ramsey Campbell, Marion Pitman and myself.)

4)   With reference to the survey the working group made amendments and finalised the proposals before you.

5)   The proposals will be put to an online ballot of the membership.

We want complete transparency.  The results of the survey (excluding individual comments) will be made available on the BFS website.

Regarding the survey, some very clear preferences emerged.  Where a few people were content with the old method of voting there was an irresistible call for a change of system.  Where a small number of people felt that there was nothing wrong with canvassing for votes, I have to say a very large number of members expressed distaste for the recent practice and clearly want to move to a juried system.  My own preference for a jury to provide a shortlist followed by a member vote was not supported.   There was however great support for a system whereby members come up with a shortlist and then a jury with “oversight powers” makes the final decision.  This is therefore the system proposed.

Rather more controversial is the idea of offering two awards, one for Fantasy and one for Horror, in the Best Novel category.  The survey yielded closer results on this matter and so needs to be put to the vote.  Having won this award myself with novels that might have gone in either category I can see technical discussions ahead.  However when I took on the job of Acting Chair I promised to look for ways of re-enfranchising some friends we might have lost through the dominance of the Horror genre over the last years.  I do think that if we want authors and publishers to put their weight behind the Society we can’t afford to be exclusive.  This is part of a wider policy and if we can tempt back some of the valued members we have lost by offering another prize then I think we should do so.  If the balance is restored in the coming years we can always return to a single prize if that’s what the membership wants.  Meanwhile I very much hope that members will support the proposal in Resolution 2.

The rest of the proposal is a set of Recommendations. My thinking here is that I didn’t want to tie the BFS or the Awards Administrator in knots, (for example, whether to have a jury of 3 or 5 members has an inbuilt assumption that it is easy to find willing volunteers) so whereas the Resolutions are decisive, these are firm guidelines for the administration of the awards which allow for fine tuning.  Built into these guidelines are checks and balances to avoid recent difficulties.   Some awards will have special juries or conditions.  This is mainly but not exclusively designed to spread the work around and to relieve the burden of the appointed main jury.  Otherwise most of the Recommendations are based on what we have already.
Online balloting pre-empts the cut and thrust of an EGM debate but it is a much more democratic method than restricting participation to the voices and votes of those who are available to attend the EGM.    Discussion can now be held on the on Forum in the forthcoming week.  If I hear a supported call for taking the resolutions or recommendations in parts, that’s what we’ll do.  Otherwise there will be three substantive votes, for Resolution 1, Resolution 2 and for the Recommendations.

The ballot will be conducted by secure online vote from mid-day Thursday 1st December to mid-day Thursday 8th December.  The result of the ballot will by announced at the EGM on December 9th and the meeting will go on to discuss priorities and the way forward for the Society.

Finally, I am ruling myself out of the ballot for 2012.  It’s not that I assume I would be in the running, and anyway I would only be eligible in certain categories; but right now I think it’s important to show a clean pair of hands.

This is an opportunity to reshape not just the awards but the character of the Society.  Voting is of course restricted to paid-up members, so please cast your ballot.  Online balloting, if it proves successful here, can become a vital decision-making tool for the Society in future years.

Happy voting!

Graham Joyce,  Acting Chair

###############################################

The British Fantasy Awards: Motion to the EGM December 9 2011-11-18

Resolution Part 1

The British Fantasy Society resolves that the BFS Awards shall ultimately be decided by a jury deliberating on a shortlist determined by the members of the Society.  The Jury shall comprise individuals directly or indirectly related to the writing, publishing and bookselling genre fields. The Jury shall include at least one non-member of the Society.

The Jury shall be appointed by the Awards Administrator, subject to approval by the BFS committee.

The Jury shall deliberate on a shortlist of four nominations as determined by the membership by online or postal vote.

The Jury shall also have oversight powers to add nominations where it identifies an egregious omission or to subtract a nomination in the case of a poor quality nomination artificially boosted by the practice of canvassing.  In order to add or subtract such nominations the jury must make a unanimous decision.  The addition or subtraction of a nomination will be made in camera.

Resolution Part 2

In the category of Best Novel there shall be one award for Best Fantasy Novel and one award for Best Horror Novel.

Recommendations:

1.   The Awards
The British Fantasy Society (BFS) and the British Fantasy Convention (FantasyCon) present the British Fantasy Awards (BFA) annually. The BFS and FantasyCon jointly finance the Awards and appoint a Committee (minimum of two persons) to organise the voting arrangements and to assist the Awards Administrator. In the event of the demise of either the BFS or FantasyCon, the remaining organisation will continue to present awards for as long as is practical. The ballot procedure is open to audit following prior notification.

2.   Eligibility
BFS and FantasyCon publications are ineligible, although their contents (e.g. individual stories, articles and pieces of artwork) are eligible. The Awards Administrator may not be associated (either by writing, publishing or editing) with work nominated in any category.  The “relevant year” throughout this constitution is the calendar year (January to December) preceding that in which the awards are presented. Eligible voters: members of the BFS (the vote of a member whose membership expires after the vote is cast remains valid), members of the previous FantasyCon, and those who have registered for the upcoming FantasyCon.

3.   Changes to These Guidelines
Changes to these guidelines may only be made by a vote at the AGM of the British Fantasy Society, taken according to the same rules of procedure outlined in the BFS constitution.  A committee vote may not be used to reverse a decision made at an AGM.

4.   Categories

Novel  The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel and The Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel. 
Eligibility: fiction over 40,000 words published for the first time in the English language in any part of the world in any format during the relevant year. (*In the event of a dispute over genre category, definition shall rest with the author.)

Novella
Eligibility: fiction from 15,000 to 40,000 words published for the first time in the English language in any part of the world in any format during the relevant year.

Short Fiction
Eligibility: stories under 15,000 words published for the first time in the English language in any part of the world in any format during the relevant year.

Anthology
Eligibility: a collection of work by various authors, published for the first time in the English language in any part of the world during the relevant year. BFS anthologies are not eligible for this award.

Collection
Eligibility: a collection of work by a single author, published for the first time in the English language in any part of the world during the relevant year.

Screenplay
Eligibility:  a screenplay for TV, Film or Electronic Broadcast released in the English language in any part of the world during the relevant year.

Magazine/Periodical
Eligibility: non-fiction and fiction magazines, print and online, that were active during the relevant year. BFS publications (such as Dark Horizons and Prism) are not eligible for this award.

Comic/Graphic Novel
Eligibility: comics and collections of comics, published for the first time in the English language in any part of the world during the relevant year.  New collections of previously published comics are eligible.

Categories with special juries.

The PS Publishing Independent Press Award
Eligibility:  Independent presses active during the relevant year. Note that PS Publishing withdrew from competition in this category in 2009, choosing instead to sponsor the award.   *Special jury to be appointed by PS publishing.

Artist
Eligibility: any artist who has produced work during the relevant year.  This category covers artists who work in any format.  *Special jury to comprise at least one artist working within the genre.

Non-Fiction
Eligibility: items eligible for this Award include non-fiction books, chapbooks, magazine or online columns or single magazine or online articles. The non-fiction item must have been published in any format (book, magazine, small press or electronic) in any part of the world during the relevant year. *Special jury drawn from bloggers, reviewers and commentators on the genre.

Special Award (The Karl Edward Wagner Award)
The British Fantasy Special Award is known as the Karl Edward Wagner Award.  The Award may be presented to individuals or organisations. Eligibility: this Award is not necessarily restricted to an activity in the year prior to that in which the Award is presented. The Award may go to someone who has made an important contribution to the genre or the Society  throughout his/her lifetime; or it may go to the organisers of a special event or publication that took place in the relevant year. Recommendations for this Award will be sought from the membership.
*The BFS Committee will determine the winner of this award.

The Sydney J. Bounds Best Newcomer Award
The award is for a new fiction writer. The recommendations can be for a single work or more than one, provided they meet the eligibility criteria set out above. Recommendations for this award are sought from the BFS membership. Eligibility also requires that copies of the work(s) be provided to the voting panel by the appropriate author, editor or publisher. This award is sponsored and funded by the estate of Sydney J. Bounds and the winner will receive a cheque for £100. The winner is decided by a special panel of readers appointed by the BFS and will include representatives from the Bounds estate and the BFS.

(BFS Short Story Competition
The competition is subject to its own rules, which are at the discretion of the BFS Short Story Competition Administrator.)

5.   VOTING PROCEDURE
Voting Schedule

The precise voting schedule each year will depend on the schedule of BFS mailings and the timing of FantasyCon.
Recommendations sought: Jan-March.
Jury work: April-July.  Shortlist announced April.
Announcement of winners: usually September

Stage 1: Shortlist from the membership:  Recommendations may be submitted online or by post.

Each member may put forward up to three nominations in any category.

All recommendations should ideally be accompanied with publication details: year of publication, publisher, and title of collection, magazine, editor, etc, if applicable. If the information supplied is insufficient for the BFA committee to establish eligibility the recommendations may be excluded from the ballot form.

Recommendations may not be made for the recommender’s own material.

The four titles or names with the highest number of recommendations will go forward to form the shortlist of nominations.

Stage 2: The Jury
A Jury of three or five readers shall have the power to add up to two further nominations if they so wish.  The Jury shall decide a winner from the shortlist.  The Jury’s decisions shall be final.

Stage 3: Announcement and Presentation
The Awards are presented at FantasyCon or at a suitable alternative event if FantasyCon is cancelled in any particular year.
The Awards will usually take the form of a statuette. The statuette should be abstract or genre-neutral in design, avoiding any preference for horror, fantasy etc.

Resolutions and Recommendations are:

Proposed by Graham Joyce (Acting Chair)
Seconded by: James Barclay, Ramsey Campbell (President), Peter Crowther, Marion Pitman.


Offline The Beast

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2011, 03:26:12 PM »
Quote
The Jury shall also have oversight powers to add nominations where it identifies an egregious omission or to subtract a nomination in the case of a poor quality nomination artificially boosted by the practice of canvassing.  In order to add or subtract such nominations the jury must make a unanimous decision.  The addition or subtraction of a nomination will be made in camera.
Mmmm. So an obscure work that wasn't canvassed, but makes it through, could be thrown out on the assumption it was canvassed - Don't like that. Smacks of that "I know best" mentality, as demonstrated by out-of-touch politicians (that's not to say the jury members would be out of touch, but they could introduce their own favourites as much as a canvassed choice could).

Offline Grafire

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2011, 03:37:47 PM »
To The Beast, I say look at the detail.  It would require ALL the jury to agree to throw out a work.  As for them introducing their "favourites" the same requirement of unanimity would apply.  Furthermore if the Society can't find jurors of integrity it may as well give up now. At some point you have trust people. :)

Offline Dave Brzeski

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2011, 03:41:57 PM »
I would hardly think it likely that the jury would simply "assume" a nomination had been canvassed, without checking. It would be a hard practice to hide.

The only thing I'm not sure about is the separate best novel categories for Fantasy & horror. The line between the two is a little tenuous at times. Some would insist that any vampire novel was automatically horror, when most in recent times have been fantasy. I approve of the idea of letting the author decide which category their work belongs in.

Offline LouM

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2011, 04:00:21 PM »
I would hardly think it likely that the jury would simply "assume" a nomination had been canvassed, without checking. It would be a hard practice to hide.

The only thing I'm not sure about is the separate best novel categories for Fantasy & horror. The line between the two is a little tenuous at times. Some would insist that any vampire novel was automatically horror, when most in recent times have been fantasy. I approve of the idea of letting the author decide which category their work belongs in.

I think that's a fair point, David - it's certainly one I've heard before when the idea of split categories has come up. However, I also think the "author definition" clause attached to that should deal with the majority of genre queries  :)

Offline jared

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2011, 04:07:10 PM »
I'm not sure that splitting the award in half actually fulfils the mission statement of engaging both audiences. One credible shortlist (and a jury that's respectable across both genres) would do the trick.

Offline Andrew Hook

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2011, 04:55:36 PM »
I like this. It seems sound and workable. The only foreseeable difficulty is in getting sufficient jury members. Other than that, bring it on :)

Offline JackLynton

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2011, 05:06:17 PM »
grief, that's a lot of awards. The BSFA has just three or four

Offline Grafire

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2011, 05:20:20 PM »

It is a lot Jack!  I tried to delete some but I wasn't allowed.  Though the number of awards hasn't changed apart from the proposal to add the extra novel award.

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2011, 05:22:11 PM »
My initial thoughts...

BFS members are barely involved at all - basically we get to make three recommendations in each category and then we're out - and the jury can choose to just ignore us anyway...

There's no need to include the bit about the voting schedule depending on the schedule of BFS mailings, since members' involvement is so minimal - you won't be sending anything out to us except a recommendations form, if that.

The jury - isn't everyone who reads a book involved indirectly with writing, publishing and bookselling?

I wouldn't have much confidence of this procedure producing a credible shortlist - from experience the recommendations tend to be all over the place. You're likely to end up with shortlists made up of items that randomly got three recommendations when other stuff got two.

It sounds like the proposal is to have one single jury reading all the nominees in eight categories? Plus all the overlooked stuff that gets pulled in? A lot of work for a handful of people. And it means almost all our awards get decided by the same three or five people? Not sure about that...

Fantasy / Horror - where does science fiction go? I can see us ending up with one shortlist of horror, and one shortlist of dark fantasy... If the fantasy award is restricted to sword-swinging fantasy, that would leave a lot of material out in the cold.

If the shortlist is announced in April, the jurors won't have had time to read the shortlisted items, and so won't have been able to exclude any rubbish ones in camera.

The FantasyCon committee are no longer involved in deciding the Karl Edward Wagner Award?

If the BFS committee can no longer vote on changes to the awards, there's no need to include the bit about them not being able to reverse decisions of the AGM. I'd note too that that means anyone joining the committee at the AGM won't be able to make any changes at all until the following year. It might be worth adding something regarding online membership votes, so that there is at least the possibility of making changes in response to problems.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2011, 05:33:10 PM by Stephen Theaker »

Offline DavidJHowe

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2011, 05:29:03 PM »
Can we see a clear definition of what 'Canvassing' is?

So if someone shares the link to the voting on their FB Page or blog and reminds people that voting is open and to vote for whatever they felt was best ... is that canvassing?

Can that sharing be done by anyone? Or is it forbidden for people actually on the lists to promote the fact that they are on the lists? So is a publisher allowed to say that they have made the longlist at all?

What if someone sends out a note to their friends, or posts on their FB that they're voting for person X ... is that canvassing?

Does canvassing have to be done by the person actually nominated? What if someone else posts on FB or sends emails saying that they think that X is the best and should win ... is that canvassing?

What if someone emails the jury to tell them that person X had canvassed and so should be barred ... what evidence would be needed? It could be that the person reporting it is just trying to cause problems ...

Basically, what criteria would the jury use to decide? And how would they prove it?

David

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Offline Del Lakin-Smith

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2011, 05:36:17 PM »
The results of the survey have been posted on the main site for your perusal.

http://www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk/news/british-fantasy-society-awards-survey-results/

Enjoy,

Del.

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2011, 05:39:31 PM »
If anything, the shortlist in this system could be much easier to game than the old one.

Say Author X has a short story collection out, and a dozen friends all recommend stories from that collection. You could easily end up with a shortlist made up entirely of one author.

And then what? The jury chucks them all out if they don't think they're good enough? I can see that being a bit controversial.

It's a shame as well that through this process we lose the longlist entirely, which does provide a nice bit of encouragement and recognition to people who don't make the shortlist...

Offline Grafire

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2011, 05:40:09 PM »
I think we all know perfectly well what canvassing is without having to define it.

Offline Grafire

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Re: Overhaul of the British Fantasy Awards
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2011, 05:44:37 PM »
Stephen, It might comes as a shock to you but not everyone is out to fix or game these awards.  The vast majority of the members of this Society are decent, trustworthy people of integrity who just want an award to reflect quality in the genre and who have no interest in subverting the process.  If Ididn't think that I wouldn't have spent all this time looking for a new system.  In fact if i didn't think that I wouldn't want to stay involved with this Society, which I very much do.