Author Topic: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires  (Read 62751 times)

C.R. Barker

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A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« on: August 15, 2006, 11:48:12 am »
Having just completed my voting form for the BFS annual awards, I was struck by certain issues.

Most importantly, I quickly realised that I had not read the vast majority of the nominated works. I very much doubt I can be alone in this; indeed, I suspect it is probably the norm. But how tempting it was to vote nevertheless! There are few things more diverting than being presented with a quiestionnaire. How many of us have filled them in just to pass the time of day, or else impishly, with a view towards having a little bit of fun.

Various thoughts streamed through my mind. Should I vote for the people I had heard of even though I hadn't read their books? Should I vote tactically, picking out the more obscure nominees rather than the big hitters? Should I vote for someone I liked despite the fact I hadn't even read their story / book?

Just as all paths are said to lead to Rome, I kept coming back to the conclusion that I should only vote for things I had read which had impressed me. Although it seemed the dullard's way out, I restricted myself to voting in a little over half of the possible categories, whilst excusing my inability to cast a vote in the other categories because of unfamiliarity with the texts concerned.

In retrospect, I wonder just how many award winners win awards despite the fact that most voters probably haven't even bothered to read the winning entries? Possessing a recognizable name is surely the key to awards success, despite what they say about marketing in this way or campaigning in that way. I feel reasonably sure that the majority of awards in our genre must have been won by relatively well-known names simply because of their names.

This made me reflect upon the claim recently made by someone recently that awards are merely 'crude popularity contests'. Alas that would appear to be true. However, where should the blame lie, if any is to be attributed? Should it rest upon the shoulders of 'the establishment', who ensure that the status quo is maintained because it works very nicely in their favour. or should grass-roots members who vote without having actually read most of the works they are voting bear some of the responsibility?

The difference with an award like the Hollywood Oscar is that the people who get to vote have watched all of the nominations. So, even if a film is an obscure small budget one, it still stands a pretty reasonable chance of winning through should it merit recognition through talent. However, the BFS award is like the HWA Stoker voted upon by people who haven't actually read all or indeed the majority of nominations, and for that reason cannot possibly be much more than a personality-driven 'crude popularity contest' - or can it?

CB
http://hauntedriver.co.uk

ChrisT

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2006, 12:53:37 pm »
This is why I decided to put all the eligible titles available has a free PDF download from my website, until voting closes...

I only voted for that what I've read - not for names, which became a tough choice in novella and short story category, but not in novel since I only read one of the novels in the list (apart from the two I published...)

All awards, even the Oscars, are "crude" but you still like to be noticed by your peers, and some awards do help in future careers... it's rather nice to put such-and-such on the promotional bumf.

DFL

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2006, 01:28:22 pm »
===========
That's why I was willing to give away actual free copies of NEMONYMOUS FIVE (which ended up containing 3 recommended stories &, nemo in itself, best small press candidate).

If the jury (big or small) for any awards do not fully consider all the candidates (i.e. in this case read the stories etc. in their original setting), then they are not awards at all.  (In this case, the jury happens to be all the members).

I advertised this no-strings-attached (generous?) gift of mine - free copies and free postage to ALL members (an open-ended liability) - in fact advertised it from March onwards.  In the end, I only had ten members who asked me for this gift.

DFL

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2006, 01:49:11 pm »
BTW, I say 'open-ended liabilty' above as I personally didn't know how many BFS members eligible to vote there happened to be.  I fully expected to have to send out up to 300 free copies of NEMONYMOUS FIVE.
des

David Lee Stone

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2006, 02:23:41 pm »
It's my opinion that paid-up members of the BFS can vote for whoever and whatever they want to. I never bow to pressure, to popular opinion, to reputations of big hitters OR to hype of any kind.

I also never feel bad for not having read a majority of the texts. My interests lie in fantasy and dark fantasy, not in horror - therefore my votes will always lie at that end of the running as they are the titles I will bother to go out and read.

DFL

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2006, 02:34:52 pm »
I agree with the thrust of that last message.

However, if I were a member of a jury, I would feel obliged to view all the candidates.

des

David Lee Stone

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2006, 02:49:21 pm »
I also never VOTE......er......did I mention that?  ;D

ChrisT

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2006, 03:27:45 pm »
I also never VOTE......er......did I mention that?  ;D

Oh, so that cheque was a waste of time then?  ::) Can I have it back please...   ;)

C.R. Barker

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2006, 04:27:20 pm »
I also never VOTE......er......did I mention that?? ;D

Oh, so that cheque was a waste of time then?? ::) Can I have it back please...? ?;)

Can you fix me up with an introduction to the woman on the front cover of Shenanigans please? She sure gets my vote.

CB

David Lee Stone

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2006, 04:59:40 pm »
Haha! Isn't she lovely?? :-[

ps. Chris - cheque's in the post.

ChrisT

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2006, 08:34:38 am »
I'll have to ask Frazer Irving - he drew her... that collection is now six years old. Where does the time go?  :o

Offline Jonathan Oliver

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2006, 09:11:26 am »
Frazer's genius! I'm publishing a collection of his work next year.
Jon

C.R. Barker

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2006, 10:39:33 am »
Actually, something else I wanted to say, and this is perhaps the most controversial......

I believe that Ramsey Campbell and Steve Jones should voluntarily request that the nominations they receive for BFS awards year-in, year-out be withdrawn. Clearly they possess a hugely unfair advantage, what with RC being BFS President and SJ having held office himself. I suspect that a large number of BFS members just vote for RC because they recognise his name and for SJ because they knew someone who once had a story published in one of his doorstopper anthologies.

Imagine if the Labour Party held an annual BEST LABOUR POLITICIAN AWARD and allowed Tony Blair and John Prescott to be nominated. They woudl win year-in, year-out regardless of merit.

Obviously Ramsey Campbell and Steve Jones should be considered for awards by separate, independent awards bodies, but the notion that they should even be allowed to enter the BFS awards system let alone cream off the prizes every year is preposterous.? ?

If I were President of an award body I would either lobby the relevant committee to pass legislation which would preclude those who hold office in said body from being considered for awards, or I should insist upon my nominations being withdrawn. It would be the Decent And Proper Thing To Do.

As I glance down RC's and SJ's list of award credits, I am appalled to find that three quarters of them have been awarded to them by the body they work so closely with i.e. the BFS. Little wonder that mainstream observers who are unaware of this conflict-of-interest believe them to be highly regarded professionals. However, my concern is that conflicts-of-interests of this nature are a cancerous blight upon both the genre and the organisation, with the result that it is extremely difficult for new writers / publishers / editors to break through.

Obviously there are only a certain number of horror novels and anthologies that the mainstream publishers will want to publish each year. Equally obvious is the likelihood that the typical mainstream publisher will look to the award-winners to supply these. So by winning BFS awards year-in, year-out RC and SJ consolidate their pole positions whilst keeping the younger, possibly more innovative talents firmly in the shadows.?

Judging by the precedent set by political leaders, those who benefit from preferment and high office will rarely relinquish the generous fringe benefits they enjoy voluntarily. Almost always they need to be prised from their position like limpets from a stone. For that reason the only way to improve the status quo is to encourage the system to change. In this case, the BFS could as a corporate body governed (presumably) by its members decide to pass legislation which would preclude those who hold office from being considered for BFS awards.

Anyway, I just wanted to ask other people what they thought about any of these points. More specifically, I would like to know whether it is technically possible for the BFS's rules to be changed on this issue, and if so, how does one go about kickstarting such a process?

CB
http://hauntedriver.co.uk


 





« Last Edit: August 16, 2006, 10:41:21 am by C.R. Barker »

Offline Jen

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #13 on: August 16, 2006, 11:17:42 am »
... yeah, but...   :)

... if your're going to start disqualifying people because once upon a time they've been BFS officers and people know their names, your start excluding all sorts of people...
David Howe used to be heavily involved with the running of the BFS but now runs Telos and has nothing to do with official BFS things, do we exclude Telos from the Small Press category, what about Gary Couzens who was chair for a while but is now concetrating on his writing?
Then there's Pendragon and Elastic... Chris and Andrew are now review editors for us, should their publishing imprints be excluded?  Then there's Peter Coleborn and his imprint Alchemy Press.  Nicki Robson was chair for a couple of years, but she's also a writer.  Jan Edwards, the same.  Jo Fletcher... Mike Chinn... Ariel...Andy Cox... Steve Lockley... 


How you change things...
Put together a proposal saying 1) what you think's wrong, 2) plan for what you think would fix it, and raise it as Any Other Business at the AGM.  If you can't make the AGM, email it to Marie and we'll raise the point for you and discuss it fully.


« Last Edit: August 16, 2006, 11:21:08 am by Jen »

ChrisT

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Re: A General Observation On Awards Questionnaires
« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2006, 11:56:07 am »
I think the problem could be the BFS's "closed" status - only members vote, and at the moment membership is sizeable but not a huge number.

Maybe the BFS could implement a similar award system to the Hugo's: if you went to WorldCon, then you're still eligible even if you're not a member of the WSFA. Therefore, if you attend FCon for the weekend then you're eligible to vote in the awards for that year.

This would mean, if implemented this year, an increase in possible voting numbers compared to previous years.

Mind you, in saying that, RC hasn't won best novel since 1994, and since then he's only won best collection twice. SJ, of course, has won every anthology award except for last year and 2001 but then his anthology is the only mass-market title available in the UK...