Awards Awards Awards

1. BSFA Awards

For anyone who didn’t see the note buried in the comments of the shortlist post, Hal Duncan has withdrawn his essay “Ethics and Enthusiasm” from consideration for the Non-Fiction Award.

With that in mind, now, admittedly I don’t think it has a hope in hell of winning, but then I didn’t think it had a hope in hell of making the shortlist, so on the off-chance that it does… I think it would be criminal for my exploration of modes of critique to be accorded more status and attention than the exploration of issues of representation and diversity carried out by Deepa D, especially when those issues are precisely born of a disparity of status and attention. It would, I feel, be validating the very situation that requires redress if the BSFA Awards were to valorise abstractions that bear only a passing relevance to the field over a commentary that bears directly on its practical, political realities, not least because of the disparities of privilege at play here. It’s awesome to have people take note of what I say from my platform, but in this case I’m going to use that platform to say, there are other voices you should be listening to first.
So, with the utmost gratitude to those who put it there, and more than a little reticence because of course I’d fucking love a BSFA Award for non-fiction, I’d like to respectfully withdraw “Ethics and Enthusiasm” from the running, and leave the contest to those works which bear directly on the field.

The Guardian has noted the shortlists here — “After Booker snub, Adam Roberts in running for SF honour” — with a soundbite from me, in which I say I think it’s hard to pick a front-runner in the Best Novel category. All four books have been well received: Yellow Blue Tibia seems to have a critical mass of momentum behind it, Ark is a consecutive nomination for a previous winner of the Award, Lavinia is considered by many to be a masterwork by a multi Hugo- and Nebula-winner, and The City & The City has tremendous word-of-mouth. If you put a gun to my head I’d probably pick Mieville as the winner (I think it may be his year for a Hugo, too), but I wouldn’t want to put a lot of money on it. Nader Elhefnawy also has some thoughts on the shortlists here, and there’s an io9 post here.

2. Hugo Awards

Speaking of Hugo Awards, nominations are now open, until 13th March. Cheryl Morgan has a guest post at the Feminist SF Blog about “Hugo voting on the cheap” — which sadly means how to become an informed voter without having to buy a lot of books, rather than actual cheap voting memberships — with lots of recommendations for potential nominees. Joe Sherry has posted a draft of his Hugo ballot. I think this is a good idea, and will probably follow suit later this week.

3. The David Gemmell Legend Award

Nic Clarke reviews last year’s inaugural Legend Award shortlist for Strange Horizons. Part one of the review can be found here:

What do they mean by “in the spirit of David Gemmell”? According to the same web page, what they are looking for is something that grabs the reader immediately, with pace (“you know, books that you’re STILL reading at three in the morning!”), characters to root for, and convincing world-building. Stories, in other words, that take hold and won’t let go until the final page—the reason we all started reading fantasy in the first place.

Quality of prose goes unmentioned, but I’m afraid it won’t in this review; writing that makes me want to stab my own eyes out tends to interfere with my desire to still be reading at three in the morning. I’m fussy like that.

Part two is here, and there’s a related post by Mark Charan Newton here:

This, it seems, is one of the only actual comparisons of the fantasy titles that were shortlisted. I made noises at the time that no one was talking about the content of the books, and so here we go at last.

I must admit to finding it bizarre that any award can have a shortlist where titles are barely compared to each other. How can you call a book the “best” without such an analysis? Getting as many people to vote online seems a spurious way to go about this, when clearly no one could have read so many titles.

I’m not being grouchy here – please don’t misunderstand.

This is where my arguments lie: we bitch and moan about why we – the fantasy genre – are not taken seriously. But when we’re not going to compare and contrast, and dig into the content of some of the big fantasy titles of the year, how can the fantasy genre expect to better itself year on year? How can it expect to gain more respect? (If you don’t care for respect, then I guess that’s the end to my argument.) But we all know that we posses rather self-conscious moments, we fantasy readers, if we’re honest.

4. The William L. Crawford Award

Press release at Locus Online:

Jedediah Berry has been named the winner of the 2010 William L. Crawford Award for first novel The Manual of Detection. The Award, presented annually at The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, is for a new fantasy writer whose first book appeared the previous year. This year’s conference will be March 17-21, 2010 in Orlando FL.

The award committee shortlisted Deborah Biancotti’s collection A Book of Endings, Kari Sperring’s novel Living with Ghosts, and Ali Shaw’s novel The Girl With Glass Feet, and wanted to commend two other authors whose works were ineligible this year but were highly regarded: Robert V.S. Redick, whose The Red Wolf Conspiracy appeared in 2008 and whose The Ruling Sea appears in 2010, and Michal Ajvaz, whose The Other City originally appeared in Czech in 1993 but was first translated into English by Gerald Turner in 2009.

A good winner, and a strong shortlist, I reckon.

25 thoughts on “Awards Awards Awards

  1. Anyone has a right to an opinion about anything, and everyone ought to be able to criticize whatever they like, but I continually catch the foetid whiff of disdain off of Niall’s and Abigail’s opinions. I am merely (and deliberately) giving Niall back an experimental taste of the same disdain he emanates. And suggesting that if he had ever completed a novel and had it published he would understand why this attitude is so wrong. That is all. As a reader I often get the impression that certain people not only hold themselves above what they critique but actually *dont like fiction in general* and at times see it as an affront to them personally. Which is ridiculous.

    I am happy to think of the Bullington as a big fuck you to faux intellectualism, among other things.

  2. Which is ridiculous.

    Yes, Jeff, it is. Even from you.

    I often get the impression that certain writers not only hold themselves above mere readers, but actually *don’t like readers in general* and at times see their existence as an affront to them personally.

  3. Jeff, I don’t understand what it was that you felt was disdainful? Didn’t Niall just say “I certainly hope that Jesse Bullington can do better than The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart?” This doesn’t strike me as a particularly mean review, though it is definitely a negative one?

    I don’t have a dog in the fight; I haven’t read the work; I have only read one of Bullington’s shorts which struck me as good, though not spectacular. I’m just not sure what’s going on.

  4. I am merely (and deliberately) giving Niall back an experimental taste of the same disdain he emanates.

    No you’re not. You’re doing exactly what you always do when someone expresses a negative opinion of a work you esteem – try to deligitimize that opinion or the manner or fact of its expression. There’s nothing experimental about it.

    (Also, would it have been so difficult to continue this discussion where it started, so other readers could follow it?)

  5. I’m just not sure what’s going on.

    There’s three things you need to understand, Rachel: JeffV’s monsterous ego, his crippling insecurity and his quick temper. This means that:

    a) If JeffV thinks a book is good then it is good – this is an empirical fact – and not only is any suggestion to the contrary fundamentally misguided, it is a personal affront to him. This goes double if he is heavily invested in the author, as in this case.

    b) Despite being a reviewer for twenty years, JeffV is not confident in his critical skills. This means that he will never engage with the substance of a review but only attack the legitimacy of the review and the reviewer. This is also reflected in his feeble appeal to the authority of the quotes on the author’s website, rather than any attempt to present his own argument.

    c) He will usually attack this legitimacy in extreme haste, leading him not only to use intemperate words but to write incoherently, giving the general impression of a frothing mouthed simpleton. When this impulsive reaction wears off and he realises that he has given this impression, he will usually shamefully refuse any further engagement and absent himself (a practice generally known as shitting in threads). In this case, however, his temper obviously got the better of him again, reflected in the fact he failed to post in the right thread.

  6. And suggesting that if he had ever completed a novel and had it published he would understand why this attitude is so wrong.

    Actually, that’s not what you said. You said “given that you yourself will never produce a work of literary fiction as good as the Bullington”. Your revised version at least offers Niall the possibility that, should he go through the process of getting a novel published, he will see the light; originally you offered him no hope at all, because even if he did get a novel published, it wouldn’t be good enough. In other words, you’ve revised your view to “no critic’s opinion is worth a damn unless they’ve published a novel” from “no critic’s opinion is worth a damn unless they’ve published a novel that meets Jeff VanderMeer’s approval”.

  7. To be honest, given how often I end up arguing with people who feel I’m giving authors far more credit than they deserve (see several short story club discussions passim!), being accused of being disdainful is somewhat refreshing.

  8. To be honest, given how often I end up arguing with people who feel I’m giving authors far more credit than they deserve

    Only Baxter! And Paolo Bacigalupi. And probably any author who writes a horror story, given that most horror stories seem to require their protagonists be idiots.

  9. You’re allowed to like Pacific Shore, Icehenge and selected stories from The Planet on the Table.

    There’s not a long list of utopian novels that function as novels but Pacific Shore is on it.

  10. “JeffV’s monsterous ego, his crippling insecurity and his quick temper.”

    I would like to make it clear that I have found none of these things true in my acquaintance with Jeff. He and Ann have always struck me as being kind, concerned with helping others, passionate about their work, and generous with their time.

    My question to Jeff was genuine: I was wondering if I’d missed something overt, rather than something behind the scenes.

    I’m sorry there’s ongoing conflict here.

  11. I can’t remember if it was Niall here or Stephan at Live Granades who had a pan of Bova’s Titan that had no points in common with my pan of Bova’s Titan. Same destination but a completely different route….

  12. “There’s not a long list of utopian novels that function as novels but Pacific Shore is on it.”

    Woman on the Edge of Time.

  13. Something I read recently in a book of advice for aspiring authors was that writers should avoid being assholes on the Internet, because those asshole moments will inevitably become part of their professional reputation.

    That was really smart. Maybe Jeff VanderMeer should read that book. Oh, wait! He wrote it!

  14. You’re absolutely right. I have an ego, and when it comes to responding to stuff on the internet I go through phases where I have a hair-trigger. I need to do better, and I need to do it now. I apologize completely and absolutely for my comments. I should never have made them. And I do need to take my own advice. My apologies too for derailing this thread. I don’t know what else to say except I owe everyone who commented here a pint (Yeah, I know: “Not if I see you coming first, VanderMeer.”)


  15. It wasn’t me

    I would like to state for the record that I do know how to spell Stephen, despite the evidence to the contrary.

  16. I can’t remember if it was Niall here or Stephan at Live Granades who had a pan of Bova’s Titan that had no points in common with my pan of Bova’s Titan…

    Was it me?

  17. Actually, I did complain about the water, although on slightly different grounds. The rings are generally close to Saturn (aside from the giant invisible one discovered last year) and therefore would require a higher delta vee investment to recover than material orbiting Saturn in a more distant orbit. As well, comets may pass by Saturn but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are not moving at an impressive clip (for the outer system) when they so.

    Water is an astonishing common substance once you get out past the frost line in the solar system (Because it is made of H, the most common element in the universe, and O, the fifth (?) most common element in the universe). Unsurprisingly, this means water is a significant component of most of Saturn’s moons, many of which are small and have low escape velocities, while being in orbits where the delta vees involved in transfer orbits to the colony would be small. The whole water issue is obviously a complete non-issue.

    The sad thing is, anyone who wants stories set in the solar system can’t be choosy when it comes to reading material. The solar system as we currently understand it is not an attractive setting for SF authors.

    Of course, Bova once wrote how to book about space travel for SF authors that had no math. Math shy writers can always skip the equations if provided [1]. Authors who want to math cannot dig in if it is not provided.

    1:Of course, these days math-shy authors can just acquire the swingby calculator from jaqar:

  18. James: Just as well, since Pacific Edge is probably my favourite KSR, and if you tried to take that one away from me …

    Jeff: Thank you.

  19. James: The thing about Pacific edge is that despite appearances it isn’t really a utopian novel. It is a utopian novel set within a dystopian novel. It is my contention that the story of Kevin etc in Orange County is the utopian novel that the other strand’s character is trying to write in prison. KSR has said himself that utopia isn’t a destination its a process, and it is possible to see throughout his work an attempt to examine how that process might work. The Mars sequence, Galileo’s Dream, Icehenge, The Science In The Capital books and many of his short stories can described as utopia once removed.

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