Unintended consequences & literary awards

The Hugos, voting systems and supporting memberships are a hot topic in SF fandom these days. I have a lot to say about it, but running a con while working full-time hours as a freelancer will severely limit one’s free time (translation: I have 3 different Hugo-related articles pending that might or might not ever see the light of day). But reading a post by K. Tempest Bradford with a title that is almost exactly the same as one of mine, I decided I had to post this one.

Croatia is a small country – New York City has more people than we do. There may be only four million of us but in that four million there are a lot of active SF fans and writers. We have seven annual cons, three annual anthologies, two magazines, three or more fanzines, more than a 100 genre authors and two genre awards… We are rich. 🙂We are also rich in strife, as small towns tend to be and a small town is what we are the equivalent of on a global scale, albeit one taking up some of Earth’s prime real estate.

I administer SFERA, the oldest Croatian national SF award and I have a Sad Puppy type of person, thinking they’ve written the next Tolkien or the Croatian Asimov every other year spouting shit all over me personally and the award I administer for not recognizing their genius. Online, as well as live, gossiping relentlessly behind my back. Such is the nature of awards.

Some years it’s not even a Sad Puppy kind of person, it’s my friends, colleagues and past winners of the award creating a ruckus. Small towns, as you might have read in a Stephen King novel, have their own ways of dealing with such things. Sometimes it’s gruesome and unfair and Carrie-like (see Balkan wars), and other times it’s more of an Oscar Wilde or Saki kind of thing.

So let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, the SFERA Award jury gave the best novel award to a famous Croatian photographer. It was the photographer’s first book ever. It was also the best novel among the nominated works, which also happened to include not only names known and well liked in Croatian genre literature and fandom but also names quite well-known in Croatian mainstream literature.

As I said, the photographer won. The SFERA Award winner in each category is decided by consensus, not voting. Either the entire jury agrees something deserves a SFERA 0r it’s better luck next time for everybody in the category.

A big chunk of Croatian fandom was outraged when the photographer won. His photos may be great, but his novel was certainly not! I chaired the jury and my personal bent toward PR was blamed for this particular win. The jury, with me presiding over it, was accused of putting promotion potential before quality. Worded a bit less politely, of course.

The outrage was such that immediately, in that very year, a new genre award was established. Its independent and secret jury read all the same books the SFERA Award jury did, the jury members worked under an entirely different – better and improved and much more quality oriented – system of rules, awarding the best works in three categories. One of the categories was best novel. The photographer won. Because he had written the best novel in that year.

I could be ironic in a number of ways now. Or point out in how many nuances that situation is different from the shitstorm the Hugos are going through right now. (And it is, in many ways). Thing is, it did look like a pretty big shitstorm to us as it was happening. And now?

Now I get to go to Pyrkon and Swancon and Loncon and any Worldcon and say:

Croatia is a small country – New York City has more people than we do. There may be only four million of us but in that four million there are a lot of active SF fans and writers. We have seven annual cons, three annual anthologies, two magazines, three or more fanzines, more than a 100 genre authors… And TWO genre awards. We are rich. 🙂

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About Mihaela Marija Perkovic

Mihaela Marija Perkovic was GUFF laureate 2013 and is now the European GUFF Adminstrator. She is also a writer. And Mum. PR wizard. Journalist. Translator. Clutz. Copywriter. SF fan. Writing workshops aficionado. SFera member. Conrunner. Lousy photographer.
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