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Unless you’ve been away from the Internet for the last week, you’ll know that Christopher Priest went ballistic on this years Clarke Awards short list.

What you might have missed is that a week or so before the Clarke Awards list was released the short list for Australia’s premier genre award (also judged by a jury) the Aurealis was announced. Which is all well and good. But what’s interesting is how little commentary there’s been on the short list from Australian critics and writers, including me. Theres been no claims that the judges for each section were incompetent or that the awards should be canceled this year or that one of the books might have been written by a piss-soaked internet puppy.

Instead we get some people note that the awards have been announced, the odd pat on the back to friends and colleagues and… well… that’s about it.

You could argue that the lack of comment might be because of the strength of this years list. And you might be right. But no matter how good a list it is, if it’s not generating discussion – whether positive or negative or somewhere in between – then what’s the point of it.

That’s why there’s a part of me that wants to go all Chris Priest on this years Aurealis Awards ballot. I want to rant and rave about how the fantasy novel category is filled with another bunch of multi-series doorstoppers and how fucked Australian horror must be if it can’t muster up a decent book for the list and how… I’ve run out of puff.

You see, when I look at that award ballot I realise that other than the Westwood, the Hannett and Life on Mars edited by Jonathan Strahan, I’ve read bugger all on that list. And you know what, I bet I’m not alone. I bet that a good chunk of Australian fandom only becomes aware of what their fellow country-people have published when the ballot is announced. And maybe that’s a good thing – exposing people to new stuff that they can read. But it also means that no-one voices their opinions on whether the ballot is actually any good. And so arguably the main function of an awards ballot, to continue the SF dialogue, is lost for another year.

A few years back we did have our very own Chris Priest dissecting the Aurealis Awards. Ben Peek* spent two years commenting on each category.** His critiques were honest and harsh and weren’t necessarily met with smiles and congratulatory boxes of chocolate. It probably didn’t help that he also mocked the award and those involved on his LJ. Peek was also a lone voice and so when he decided not to bother anymore… well that’s when the crickets and tumbleweeds took residence.

What I loved about the aftermath of Priest’s critique was that the smart people in the room decided to take what he’d said seriously and actually explore the issues further. And for the last week the internet has been abuzz with pro-active discussions about the Clarke award and the nature of awards and ballots in general.*** I just wish that each year the Aurealis Awards would provoke a similar sort of positive outburst rather than fade in the background.

Maybe I’m asking for too much. I mean if I can’t be fucked reading Australian fiction throughout the year then I only have myself to blame. But I think that at very least, even if we haven’t read every single thing on the ballot, we should be discussing the Awards. For example this year there should have been an outcry from the Australian horror community. Not necessarily at the judges – who I know and trust – but at the community itself for failing to generate novel(s) interesting enough to actually form a ballot.

But the silence is deafening.

So I suppose that leaves me with the following questions. If no-one is actually discussing the Aurealis Awards ballot, than what’s the purpose of it? Is it really just an opportunity to recognise the best Australian writers in a given year? Or more distressingly is Chris Priest showing us that here, in Australia, we’re simply not passionate enough about our own awards?

* Admittedly, Priest has been around the block a few more times then Peek.

** Find the posts here and here.

*** Nial Harrison on the Strange Horizon blog has helpfully provided links to all the commentary. For my money, it’s a toss up between Cat Valenete and Nick Mamatas as to the best reaction to the Priests’ post. That said, most of those links are worthy of checking out.

Mirrored from The Hysterical Hamster.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 1st, 2012 12:01 pm (UTC)
I definitely think those kinds of robust discussion is what's missing from our scene. Not necessarily *quite* that robust, perhaps, but look, it shows people care.

The biggest danger to the Australian scene has always been apathy, more than criticism. How to combat that? The only way is to read things, and talk about them and treat them as if they are relevant.

I think the awards themselves are an important voice in helping to create that, but yes, we want the discussion to go further, ideally.
Apr. 1st, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
I love the word robust.

I'm personally trying to read more Aussie stuff this year. I'm also trying to sniff out any hype books from Australians that are due out in 2012 and worth reading. But yeah I know it's tough. The thing about Priest is that he'd read most of the novels on what is a much smaller ballot than the Aurealis.

But hey challenge is a good thing.
Apr. 1st, 2012 12:34 pm (UTC)
Mondy, you have to take one for the team...
Apr. 1st, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
HA! I'm hoping to be better read this year. So you never know.
Apr. 1st, 2012 02:13 pm (UTC)
May I link?
Apr. 1st, 2012 09:10 pm (UTC)
Apr. 1st, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
Getting people to read is half the battle - and there's nothing more tiresome than a wave of 'these things I haven't read obviously don't deserve a place on the shortlist compared to this one thing I have (probably) read by a friend of mine.'

Yes please to people other than the Aurealis judges actually reading the works! That is one of the main aims of having an award in the first place, after all
Apr. 1st, 2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
The thing is I should have read your work and Margo's and Jo Anderton's and others last year. But I didn't. I'm going to try harder this year.
Apr. 1st, 2012 11:07 pm (UTC)
The moral of the story is totally READ MY BOOKS.
Apr. 2nd, 2012 07:51 am (UTC)
Very true.
Apr. 1st, 2012 10:59 pm (UTC)
i wonder if i could have got chocolates?

look, the truth of it is that what i got was abuse. personal abuse, at that. when i met people for the first time, a number of them weren't real nice, either. that impacted a little on my fiction, to the point that it was actually stopping me from getting published, taking away opportunities, and so on and so forth. i like criticism and i think it's fun and i don't write it for authors, but for readers like me who think it is fun--but i write fiction because i love it, and after you've watched a lot of people just stop talking to you, or tell you various things about how unprofessional you are, you just have to make a call on it.
Apr. 2nd, 2012 07:55 am (UTC)
I think your LJ post sums it up. Artists are generally insecure about their art so bad reviews are like a stab to the chest with a machete. And when that criticism comes from another writer - someone whose meant to be in the Brotherhood, or whatever - then it's so much worse.

But all the writers have done is create an environment where the only review are positive and often come from their friends. At least that's how it feels here.

And personal abuse because of your taste is simple just wrong. Even if you're being a cock.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
it is pretty much an environment of deals for your mates, at least in some quarters. i tend to think it turns off people who are honestly interested in reading the work, because there's no sense of value in it all, after a while.

as for the personal abuse... it was what it was. you gotta have a sense of humour about all of this, really.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )



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