Monday, July 30, 2007

AUREALIS AWARDS

Well, it’s the season again: the Aurealis Awards have opened for nominations, and as usual, the arguments over the nomination process have begun.

I’ve played that game, and frankly, it bores me. What I’d rather do is draw your attention to this. Trent Jamieson is a subtle and talented writer, a major figure in the Australian SF short fiction scene, and one of the nicest and most graceful people going round. Let's be honest- the man is damned gentlemanly. Here he gives us, in the most articulate way possible, every reason why the AAs are a worthwhile endeavour, and why they deserve support and recognition. Go, read.

In point of fact, I like Trent’s approach so much, I’m going to blatantly copy it :)

So, for your edification and possible scorn:

A BLATANT LACING OF TJ’S SHOES

I’ve been nominated for the Aurealis Awards on several occasions, and won the award for Best Horror Short story in 2006.

What did it mean to me to win? Validation, in a way. A jury of my peers had decided that one of my works was the best they had seen that year. Many of the writers with whom I conversed on a regular basis, and whose works and careers I admired, owned that little glass crescent: Geoff Maloney, Stephen Dedman, Dave Luckett, Sean Williams. Now I could count myself amongst their number, and for the first time in my career, not feel that I was a squire in master’s robes.

I had been fortunate, in all the time I had been a part of the Australian SF scene, that writers of much greater experience and mastery of the form had treated me as an equal, without reservation, when they had every right to treat me like the neophyte I undoubtedly was. The perception, I’m certain, was entirely mine, but now I felt like I could look them in the eye. On very few things do I indulge my ego, but belief in myself as a writer is one of them. To have a group of my fellows judge my work against the warp and weft of Australian publications, and pin a blue ribbon on its chest, elevated me. It was one thing for me to believe in my work—I do, without question. That others believed in it, well, that was another thing altogether.

Attending the Award ceremony, which I’ve done for the last 3 years (alas, I shall miss out this year) has brought me face to face with any number of people with whom I’ve since established firm friendships, along with a whole swathe of others with whom I’d already conversed via email: Geoff Maloney, Paul Haines, Brendan Duffy; Rob Hoge, Kate Eltham, Jason Nahrung, Karen Miller, Rjurik Davidson, Trent Jamieson, Heather Gammage, Margo Lanagan, Robert Dobson, Stephen Thompson, Kirsten Bishop, entire busloads of Vision Writing Group members…... I’ve given my family an interstate holiday, been invited back to tutor at Clarion South and conduct workshops for the Queensland Writer’s Centre, eaten the best Italian food of my life, gone backwards down a roller coaster, fondled the leg of a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, been invited to contribute to anthologies, eaten the worst Lebanese food of my life, and may be on the verge of signing with an overseas agent… all because I had the chance to win an Aurealis Award.

Truth is, there are very few awards that have a directly beneficial effect on your career. That’s not why they’re important. Awards are important, at least to me, because they form a focal point for everything that’s going on around you at the time. They’re a nexus point, a way of underlining what came before, and what you aim for afterwards. And they give you a chance to frock up, clink glasses with your peers, and at least for one night of the year, pretend to yourself that what you do does matter a damn to the universe. It’s a good feeling.

6 comments:

Cat Sparks said...

Hi Lee,

I'm a big fan of awards myself, have a handful on my shelf and never quite believe folks who claim they don't care about them. But awards have to be run properly for them to matter. Winning a ballot award when it turns out only a handful of people voted is pretty disappointing. Likewise, winning a juried award when most of the eligible material wasn't considered… Yeah, you get a statue, but IMHO the meaning behind it is significantly diluted. An award is only as good as the respectability and accountability behind it. Ironing out flaws in the system might be boring, but if no one bothers with it, the credibility of the award itself is what suffers in the end.

Full marks to this year's director Ron and staff for the spiffy new online nomination form. It's snappy and pretty much idiot proof. The site design is a big improvement too. What does concern me is the regulations stipulating that most material must be submitted to the judges in print form. I feel that this is an unnecessary -- and perhaps prohibitive -- expense for some small publishers, and that judges should be willing to read material onscreen as last years' judges were willing to do. So far this year submitting material to the AAs has cost me a fair bit in photocopying and postage. Agog! Press elected to pay the $$ and abide by the rules, but I'm wondering if these rules will mean that some work doesn't get considered? To my mind, every eligible story that is not considered detracts from the strength of the result. I have voiced my concerns to the director and he has taken them onboard. Organising the AAs is a large and thankless task. I have every faith that Ron Serdiuk & his judges will do a terrific job.

I love the Aurealis Awards. Rob and I fly up to Brissy for them every year to do the glass clinking thing and hang with our ever-expanding pool of SF writing industry buddies. It's an honour to be nominated, but to me, awards are as much a celebration of community spirit as they are about personal validation.

Lee Battersby said...

Hi Cat,

Yeah, there are pros and cons every year. I'm just sick of listening to the likes of Ben Peek piss and whine year after year without having the balls to do anything about or be a part of anything. Rather than spit in the eye of the hurricane, I'm just going to go about my business and do what I have to do to get things done for me.

I can see where, as a publisher, it's a large-scale problem for you to deal with the rules this year, and I sympathise. But you, ate least, are willing to put your name where your mouth is, and be a part of proceedings.

I just liked Trent's decision to be publicly positive, and decided to buy into that juju this year.

Blue Tyson said...

Or from a reader's point of view if you ignore, say, Egan or Williams or whoever has another story that is really good because they don't send in 7 forms in triplicate on Tuesday, then it becomes an award of some other bunch of stuff, not an award for the best?

Lee Battersby said...

As a reader, you can choose to give a damn or otherwise about the awards at your leisure. As long as you read stuff you enjoy, then so what? If you base your leisure preferences on awards, then you probably think Marisa Tomei is a good actress.

And let's be honest, if you want to draw Egan into the argument, then every Australian SF award that's been given since he decided not to play has been worthless, so where's the harm in any of it?

Now, I said I wasn't going to get drawn into it, so I'm really not.

Kate Eltham said...

Not sure if this sheds any light on any of this debate, but the Aurealis Awards team do make special consideration for the costs small publishers face and try to accommodate wherever possible, including (but not limited to) offering to pay postage, offering to receive one printed copy and then Ron making copies himself for the judges, and sharing one copy between the panel (this last option is especially useful for anthologies where multiple stories may be nominated in one category) You just need to speak to Ron and work out the best solution. Ron also personally contacts any publisher of eligible material he identifies and encourages them to nominate. The main goal of the Awards committee is to raise the profile of the awards and generate enough publisher and bookseller interest to actually have a beneficial impact on book sales and promotion/distribution of award winners and nominees.

Geoffrey Maloney said...

Blue, mate, Egan witdrew his work from Aussie Awards years ago. Williams gets consider for everything he writes and often wins:} Can't see any problem there.

And what Kate said, I agree. And anybody who knows me and Kate knows that were not the best of friends. But I agree with her on this one.

Cat, yes, they cost you some money and me too as editors. But unless somebody with a big budget comes along and sponsors them I can't see there's a reasonable answer there. I still think that criticising something without a reasonable answer to solve the perceived problems is worth zero. Not that you're doing it but others are. I'd like to see the same people get stuck into the Ditmars. They're on much more fragile ground than the AAs are.

cheers

Geoff