Awards

Jeff VanderMeer • February 1st, 2011 @ 10:02 am • Culture

It’s pretty simple. If you list your work so readers can remember what you had out that’s eligible in a given year, great. That’s kind of a public service, and if many people are going to do it, then everyone should do it or it becomes a potentially unfair advantage. John Scalzi also provides a a blog post where you can comment to recommend things. That strikes me as helping those who don’t have a strong blog presence make sure people remember. It’s also important to study awards you’re eligible for and make sure your publisher sends your work to any judging panels.

However, if you’re on twitter or facebook urging people to vote for you, I’m deeply unsympathetic. If you’re emailing people saying to vote for you, same thing. If you’re asking people in person to vote for you, that’s also not cool. If you’re suggesting with a wink that you’ll vote for something if they vote for you…not cool.

On the reader side…voting for things you haven’t read…voting in categories where you’ve read like three things that year…voting because you think someone’s cool…not cool.

This process will never be perfect, but let’s not consciously make it worse than it can be. And if you cynically think that awards are just there to be manipulated so what’s the harm…well, that does in fact make it worse.

The closest I could come to recommending my own work this year was a post about a book I had out and a free download, and giving that link to Cheryl Morgan—and even that made me feel uneasy. Anything else would’ve made me throw up a little in my mouth. It becomes more difficult with regard to anthologies because in that case we’re advocates for a lot of other writers, but it still makes me queasy.

Maybe I’m just an old crank, but that’s how I feel about it. Send your hate mail to: Get Off My Lawn, POB 1234, Sosueme, FL 54321.

13 Responses to “Awards”

  1. Damien G. Walter says:

    It’s a shame, but realistically, people are always going to do this. Especially that bracket of writers who know how to drum up a fanbase, but aren’t neccesarily great writers. However, I think its an act that quickly rewards back in negative karma. Not wanting to name them, but one of the UK awards is well known as a friends mutual society. So winning it really does a writer no favours.

  2. Steve Tem says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I find awards season increasingly depressing every year because of the behaviors you’ve summarized. A lot of writers seem to have their perspective skewed both on the process and the relative importance of genre awards.

  3. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Steve: It’s entirely possible it’s in part a more visible process now, but there’s also a way in which social media has conditioned us more and more to push “me-me-me”… I remember back in the 1990s being approached in person at cons by people wanting me to vote for them. It’s particularly hilarious since I belong to no writer organizations and am not a Hugo voter.

    Damien: You mean the ****? Just a shot in the dark.

    Jeff

  4. Karin says:

    People ACTUALLY think that awards are just there to be manipulated? What do these people think this is, the Oscars?

    Seriously though, I’d never heard of that attitude. If someone’s that cynical about it, just don’t participate instead of trying to be some lame second-rate anarchist about awards that 99% of the world’s population doesn’t care about.

    The rest of what you said is 100% trufax also.

  5. Cheryl Morgan says:

    Karin: There is no amount of success so small that someone will not feel the need to strike an outraged anarchist pose about other people wanting it.

  6. Amal El-Mohtar says:

    I have mixed feelings about not voting in categories where you’ve not read more than three things. I very much take awards I can vote for as “the best things you’ve read this year,” not “the best things the field has produced this year” — I want to have a hand in showcasing the things I’ve deeply enjoyed, but I’m not a judge on a panel, and I don’t feel that being a member of SFWA or an upcoming Worldcon necessarily entails reading an arbitrary number of things considered representative, I guess.

  7. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Well, that would be the very least of the crimes outlined here, Amal. LOL. I guess I personally wouldn’t vote if my reading was patchy in a category. But if my reading was patchy *but* there was one thing I totally LOVED, yeah, I would probably put it forward.

  8. Amal El-Mohtar says:

    Hee! Clearly I’m agreed about all the others mentioned. Except I do kind of dislike the atmosphere of “gosh I hate doing this” that seems to be required before posting Lists of Eligible Works. I don’t hate doing it! I am new to it and it is shiny and makes me feel I’ve achieved things, to have things eligible! But then to not say it seems to violate some Code of Shy and that makes me a sad panda.

    But also yes, I wouldn’t recommend something I hadn’t completely loved just to fill up the alloted spaces.

  9. SMD says:

    It’s not just you. I find it annoying just like I find people who won’t stop telling you to buy their book (or that it’s on sale) annoying. But I suppose with the awards people are doing something else entirely, which others have already pointed out: manipulating. This is why I don’t much care for awards that are voted on by the public, since it’s a little too easy to push and prod for votes based on “popularity” rather than on the quality of the work. But all awards are flawed in some way, even judged awards. They’re just different flaws…

  10. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Amal: I think the “gosh I hate doing it” bit will die down in a few years since it’ll become the norm.

    I just realized one other reason I don’t like doing it is that…we’re already so “on” during the promotion of a book that it is kinda of mentally wearying.

  11. Amal El-Mohtar says:

    Ahh, I completely get the wearying.

  12. Cheryl's Mewsings » Blog Archive » Award Season says:

    [...] to the pimping itself, Jeff VanderMeer pretty much nailed it here. There’s an etiquette to these things, and it is wise to follow that. After all, if you want [...]

  13. Gary Farber says:

    Jeff, as someone with a long perspective, I can assure you that people have been acting like dicks about this stuff ever since the Nebulas were invented; I used to be able to show you some of the early copies of SFWA Forum to demonstrate; it got much worse in the Seventies, and worse and worse ever since; teh interwebs are a humongous multiplier of Everything, of course, so it’s all amplified a gazillion times louder now, but it’s the same thing.

    Ditto that people are Not Great about voting thoughtfully, but the key is always to remember what you’re implying: these are just popularity polls for certain groups of people, a lot of it is, alas, personality as much as quality, where it’s published, there’s the Matthew Effect, and in general, the less seriously one can take it all, the better, but, of course, that’s always easier to say when the adrenaline isn’t flowing, and it’s always nice to get what we used to call “egoboo”.

    I think simple “this is my stuff that’s eligible this year” is just fine, myself. And even a little “I really loved this piece,” in a few places is perfectly reasonable. It’s the campaigning and drumming and begging that’s not just ick, but it undermines any point the awards have left at all, because it simply encourages others to campaign, and then it becomes nothing but political campaigning, and we might as well institute Best Campaign For Your Category Nebulas and Hugos, etc.

    And don’t get me started on the proliferation of awards. Best Red-Covered Novel With Small Type From A West Coast Writer Who’s Short And The Story Is About Badgers Award. I’m waiting for that one next.

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