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"Even if you ignore the embarrassing ceremony and clichéd platitudes, few of these awards actually reflected genuine quality or what is happening in mainstream genre publishing today."
October 6, 2011 7:08 AM   Subscribe

British Fantasy Award winner returns prize; Sam Stone hands back award after criticism of judging process. [The Guardian] "Controversy has riven the 40-year-old British Fantasy Awards, with the winner of the best novel prize handing her award back just three days after it was bestowed. But the organisation and presentation of the awards has been drawing criticism since then, culminating in Sam Stone, the winner of the best novel award – named after American writer and editor August Derleth – announcing yesterday that she is giving it back. The biggest attack on the awards was delivered by editor and anthologist Stephen Jones, who on Tuesday posted a lengthy blog decrying the organisation of the BFAs and making several allegations against awards co-ordinator and British Fantasy Society chairman David Howe."
posted by Fizz (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Formatting of blog post sooo painful to my eyes.......
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:16 AM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Readable version.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:26 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Even if you ignore the embarrassing self-promotion and clichéd pleas for undefined notions of quality, few of these blogs actually reflected genuine sense or what readers actually give a shit about these days."
posted by clvrmnky at 7:26 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Even if you ignore the embarrassing self-promotion and clichéd pleas for undefined notions of quality, few of these blogs actually reflected genuine sense or what readers actually give a shit about these days."

MORE POTTER NOW!!! But seriously, this kind of response, which presumes to speak from on high on behalf of all readers everywhere, is unhelpful at best. Lots of readers take an interest in the broader world of genre publishing. Not everybody's reading experience starts and ends with the book: people care about authors, awards, industry gossip, and other inside baseball. Just because you don't consider reading a community activity doesn't mean no one else does either.
posted by Nomyte at 7:38 AM on October 6, 2011


Stephen Jones comes off as a bit of an ass, imho.
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:47 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


YEAH NERD FIGHT!!!!
posted by spicynuts at 7:53 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This sounds like internal drama, and like there's a whole lot of context missing.
Does anybody have any insights into this that might round it out a bit? I'm honestly kind of lost as to the significance or relevance of it all right now.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:08 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I haven't read the nominees yet, because I seldom do, ahead of time. I'm pressed enough for time that I often use last year's short list as a guide for this year's reading. Efficient, but I'm always behind the curve.

Still, in any artistic field, it's hardly surprising that a huge percentage of awards go to an independent flavor of the month, and less to the mainstream. That doesn't raise my eyebrows at all. It surely isn't prima facie evidence of anything.

But I think there's a lesson to be learned here: Even in a relatively small pond (compared to, say, the Hugos -- which are themselves a small pond compared to something like the Oscars) you really do have to follow standards like strict and transparent balloting processes and recusals in the event of potential conflicts of interest. If you aren't careful to avoid even appearances of impropriety, you won't have any answer when this sort of question is raised.

Howe may be entirely honest and aboveboard here, but it's too bad for Stone that he thought he could keep things less formal. If he could say "I recused myself and a chartered accountant tabulated the votes," this story couldn't exist.
posted by tyllwin at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't this kind of just what Stephen Jones does? All of his introductions to anthologies that I've read have been about 90% complaining about how everything is unfair and how much better things used to be.
posted by Scattercat at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


complaining about how everything is unfair and how much better things used to be.

Too bad Andy Rooney quit. ;)
posted by usagizero at 8:31 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"British Fantasy Awards voting figures: a miserable 116 votes spread over 5 books for best novel." Mark Chadbourn on twitter

Awards: Head – Desk – Repeat Cheryl Morgan

"Having just read Steve Jones' post about the BFS awards, can someone point out to him (as he hasn't allowed comments) that perhaps I might have been given the job of presenting the best comic award because I actually, you know, AM A HIGHLY QUALIFIED COMIC WRITER? To see insinuated lines hinting that I got it because I'm an 'old friend' makes me want to walk away from the BFS for good. Steve didn't bother to try to speak to me all weekend, & bar one time on Friday, blanked me and walked away every other time I tried to speak to him.Perhaps if he'd actually attempted conversation with me Sunday night or even Monday when he stood beside me ignoring me, he might have seen that I actually had many of the same concerns. So I don't think I'll be doing any more BFS events. The fallout's not worth it. For the record, I paid my BFS membership, paid my ticket, paid my hotel & worked with FCon organisers on panels and signings. NOT Dave Howe." Tony Lee over several posts on twitter

Back in the day I was briefly a member of the BFS and did a bit of reviewing for them. Compared to other organisations I've been associated with / a member of, they did seem a little bit disorganised / unprofessional. I also heard moaning that they are too dominated by horror and are not representative of the genre as a whole. Oh and yeah Brighton is a long way from a lot of the country but moving the con to Corby is madness... it's an awful place and a pig to get to by public transport (up until a couple of years ago it famously the largest urban area in Europe without a railway station)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:59 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I often wonder about people who win awards and then refuse to accept them or return them. Maybe it's just me but I'd feel like it was even more of an offense to refuse an award than politely accept something that others are giving to you. It's like that ugly sweater your grandmother gives you as a child for Christmas, you may not like it, but it's not always about you, it's sometimes about the other person. In which case you smile, nod politely, and say thank you.
posted by Fizz at 9:00 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, in this case she's not returning the award to protest the award or anything. She's returning it I guess to try to contain the controversy surrounding the whole thing. Which I don't think is going to work anyway.

I do sympathize with her situation, and Stephen Jones does look like an ass, but man as Cheryl Morgan said, "So what you are telling me is that the person who counted the final ballot was also the winner of one award, the publisher of two other winners, and the partner of the winner of two more." Even if nothing untoward happened, that's just bad form.
posted by kmz at 9:11 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I generally like Stephen Jones's work, and he certainly knows his stuff, but I have to admit I'm annoyed to see him get quite so pissy about this. Tony Lee isn't exactly Alan Moore, but his Doctor Who comics are well respected and he regularly turns up in 2000ad so it's not like he's this total unknown loser either. And dismissive of the entire category though he is I think Ian Culbard's adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness is a spectacular peice of work that well deserves it's award, even up against such stiff competition.

There's definitely a sense that the voting pool is so small that block voting may a have swung things in favor of more active campaigners, with embarrassing results for Teleos, but that's kind of the deal with small awards in general - I'm not seeing anything utterly horrific or completely fishy here, where a true mainstream heavy hitter like Full Dark, No Stars was in a category it won. It's also worth noting that the shortlist lent heavily towards small press.

So he's onto something, but it seems like he might be overstating the case and a bit ungracious about it.

I'm also now dead curious to know what that Pan Book of Horror anthology that beat out two of Stephen Jones's anthologies is like.
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on October 6, 2011


I'm also now dead curious to know what that Pan Book of Horror anthology that beat out two of Stephen Jones's anthologies is like.

So am I, but it appears to be out of print.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:45 AM on October 6, 2011


Damien G. Waters (the Guardians SF columnist, among other things) is calling for a united UK spec fic award.
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on October 6, 2011


I do sympathize with her situation, and Stephen Jones does look like an ass, but man as Cheryl Morgan said, "So what you are telling me is that the person who counted the final ballot was also the winner of one award, the publisher of two other winners, and the partner of the winner of two more." Even if nothing untoward happened, that's just bad form.

Seriously. Dude could learn a lot from Dowager Countess Grantham on Downton Abbey.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:20 AM on October 6, 2011


Paul Cornel recounts a happier story, from a happier con:
Worldcon: A Love Story

And even that contains the occasional refrain: 'I feel sometimes like this movemenent, this fandom, is dying of old age! Have you seen some of the Hugo nominations?! Some of those could have been written in the 1940s! And where are all the kids?! At other conventions, that's where!'

(And it WAS a bloody boring Hugo selection thsi year, if you ask me, in the short categories at least, which is where it counts)
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on October 6, 2011


Good lord. So much boring personal drama. Awards are stupid anyway. Someone could make the same case for the Oscars.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:10 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure someone does every year.
posted by Artw at 12:10 PM on October 6, 2011


I don't know why the guy with a book of his own, two of his publishing house and two of his partner on the lists hadn't stepped down before any voting or counting took place. Makes the awards sound quite bad.
posted by ersatz at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2011


Who was the guy the convention thought was more deserving of the lifetime award than Terry Pratchett?
posted by JHarris at 2:28 PM on October 6, 2011


Ladies and gentlemen, fandom.
posted by Hogshead at 3:31 PM on October 6, 2011


Folks seem to be ignoring the most pointed of Jones' criticisms:

The preliminary ballot was posted on the Society's website before most of the membership had any idea that they actually could start nominating, and it was arbitrarily decreed by the present Committee—without any discussion with the membership—that for the first time ever only electronic ballots would be accepted and that any postal votes would be ignored.

If either or both of those things is true, then this year's awards were conducted in a noticeably different way than previous years' awards. That this year's best novel award then went to the significant other of the chairman of the British Fantasy Society (and the coordinator of the awards, whose own publishing imprint won several other awards) is well worth pointing out, even if Jones goes idiotically overboard with the gossip and snark.

Too bad about that last part, because he has some great points that are only going to be obscured by the overlay of aggressive sarcastic shit.
posted by mediareport at 7:28 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's Cheryl Morgan's follow-up post, and David J Howe's post on the BFS forum breaking down the voting numbers. It seems bizarre to me that only 140 people voted overall. How many people usually vote, I wonder? And how many members does the BFS have? I realise the BFS has a number of influential and well-known members, but surely an awards process involving so few voters risks irrelevancy?
posted by hot soup girl at 8:19 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Howe resigns
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:30 AM on October 9, 2011


Graham Joyce: Following this week’s events I have agreed to take on the role Acting Chair until an Emergency General Meeting can be staged in December.

He sounds pretty solid.
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on October 10, 2011


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