Monday, April 2, 2012

Award Season

I have a love/hate relationship with award programs since it means that I have to stop writing to read the entries if I am going to vote.  This is not easy.  My own stack-o-books and magazines is at least a year behind, yet I take the time to read all of the material I can find on the Nebula and Hugo ballots just so I can make a responsible choice.

Those eligible to vote for the Nebula and Hugo are encouraged to recommend and then vote on what they consider the "best" genre fiction written in the previous year. I'd recommend, except that I probably haven't yet stumbled upon most to the cutting edge work.  I end  up deferring the initial choice to others whose tastes are more (I hope) discerning. This may be a false hope since the process of getting work onto the ballot however is less about quality and more about politics.

There are campaigns waged among fans to get their favorites selected. Similar, but equally pervasive are campaigns among the professionals, most of whom profess to hold such boosterism in contempt.  Accusations of "claque" and "clique" fly about when awards are announced, insinuating that cabals or otherwise secretive groups manipulate the voting to their own purposes. Such machinations might indeed be true, but proof is lacking.

At the same time most professional writers are forced to promote their own works to their friends and acquaintances and anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see simply in order to survive.  It's a tough market out there and who doesn't want to be awarded something for their work if it means more respect or, more importantly, income?

It doesn't take much to get a favorite work to the top of the ballot.  Only a tiny percentage of eligible voters participate for the Nebula or Hugo and, of those who profess they have no time (or interest) in reading probably just vote for their friends.  For example, usually less than twenty percent of SFWA's active members recommended and voted for the Nebula awards and I suspect one would find similar apathy on the Hugo ballot. With such low participation the chance of garnering an award is high if a writer can get commitments from thirty of their eligible friends (the other votes will fall in your lap by random choice.) A dedicated group of thirty could probably jointly sweep the ballot, if they could decide who gets which category.  Protesting the influence of special interest groups doesn't work if people refuse to participate.  Dilution of their efforts is the only way to overcome such bias.

So, is it worth it to vote against such dedication. I think so and will attend the ceremonies, applaud the awardees, and respect the work that has gotten them there, regardless of how that happened.

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