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ben peek
Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 02:14 am:   

This, I am afraid, is a thread shift from my blog. See, just before new year's, I made the comment that Australian fiction published on sci-fiction hadn't ended up being read by judges for the local award down here, the Aurealis Award. ( It was a small comment made by the fact that people were emailing me about the awards, and I figured talking to me in email about it was kind of pointless. Honest, I didn't expect much to go along, but the blog posts have gotten pretty big, so I figured I'd move it here, where people can debate more freely.

To be honest, I don't particularly care for the Aurealis Award. It's just an award, subject to all the problems that arise when you get a bunch of people to judge something. What bothers me, however, is that the skipping of the sci-fiction stories, for whatever reason, and the statement made by folk that it's not a problem because awards are difficult to run (which I sure they are) and that we should all just forgive, bumble along nicely, not step on any toes, is really part of a larger problem in the Australian local scene in which this kind of behaviour covers a lot of projects, fiction, attitudes, and so forth. Which I am sure will have people bitching and telling me that it's not true, which is fine, whatever, but it's my opinion and it's as valid as any other. And in my opinion, missing such markets as sci-fiction in consideration for an award that you plan to show to the entire world as the fiction the is representative of what Australians are capable of... this is not professional. This is not good for anyone associated with Australian speculative fiction.

That is what interests me about the fact that the stories weren't considered. I don't care for the award, but I care, for obvious and selfish reasons, about having a professional working independent press here.

So, with that said, the debate that began on the blog can be moved here. I'll get some people to move comments made later in to kick start it, though it could just die the death of boredom, I guess.
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kate e reposted by benpeek
Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 02:31 am:   

Okay, I got carried away and wrote a really long post on this topic but then I exceeded my character limit, so it's broken up into two bits...

At the risk of stirring this up again, I get really confused about this whole thing to do with the nominations. I've never had anything to do with the noms/judging part - thankfullly, they usually just task me with making sure we've got somewhere to party afterwards and that the trophies look pretty - and I didn't even have to do that this year (yay!), thanks to the gobsmackingly dedicated Lea Greenaway.

But here's the thing, right... The AAs used to be this award where the onus was on judges to read EVERYTHING in a particular category that was published in a year and then determine who should get the gong. This was helped by maintaining eligible works lists which diligent souls like Bill Congreve would maintain and the judges would also keep an eye out for material and make sure the panel knew about it etc. During this time, it was up to the judges to go out and buy copies of this material themselves, usually with their own money, so that they could judge it.

Now, I can see how it may be distantly plausible that in 1995 you could reasonably have expected to read the entire field of published material in many of the categories. There were only a handful of markets to track within Australia and Aussies weren't getting published in the pro markets in huge numbers (no more than now, probably less)

But it's not 1995 anymore. Hundreds of stories are being published. And putting aside for a moment whose responsibility it should be to make sure all eligible works are considered, it's a gigantic task to stay abreast of the field.

So as I understand it, and I'm a bit hazy on the details because this all happened when Rob, Rob D, Grace and I were having emotional and psychological enemas running the first Clarion, and subjecting all the participants to same, the major change that occurred for the 2004 AAs was that (a) a nomination form had to be submitted and (b) copies of the works were to be sent to the members of the judging panel.

Regarding (a), this nom form can come from anyone. It can come from the writer, the publisher, the director of the AAs, the judges, a well-meaning fan or friend, my dog... actually I don't have a dog, thank you VERY much Rob, but that's a touchy subject around here.

Regarding (b), yeah that's a bitch. I gotta admit it's hard, particularly for publishers, to make sure that four copies of everything are sent in for consideration. However, given that this is a volunteer award, run at a financial and time loss, isn't it fairer to place the burden of making sure copies are provided on the nominator (usually, but not always, the publisher or author) rather than the judges?

This is not the only award where you have to nominate. I noticed that Sonya Hartbett had won the IMPAC International Dublin Literary Award for Of A Boy. But to be considered, she had been nominated by the State Library of Victoria.

Here's another one, an excerpt from the Qld Premier's Literary Award guidelines:

Works may be submitted by authors, publishers, producers or literary agents.

Entrants must attach a completed and signed copy of the entry form.

Entry forms and copies of the relevant titles must be received by the Literary Awards Coordinator by Thursday 2 June 2005 (closing date). If entering more than one category, copies of the relevant titles must be received for each etnry with a completed entry form.

Copies of submitted works, books and manuscripts received shall become the property of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and shall not be returned to the relevant authors or publishers. The Literary Awards Coordinator may distribute copies of entries to the State Library of Queensland and other public libraries following the Awards ceremony.

So what about those awards that don't require a nom form, that claim to be a reflection of "the field". Let's take the big mother - the Booker Prize. The Booker, and this is quoting from their site cos I would never say such a thing, "represents the very best in contemporary fiction. One of the world’s most prestigious awards, and one of incomparable influence, it continues to be the pinnacle of ambition for every fiction writer."

Now, if you were claiming to represent the best in contemporary fiction, would you at least be reading everything out there? Heck no, read this:

"UK publishers may enter up to two full-length novels for a specific year. In addition, any title by an author who has won the Booker Prize and any title by an author who has been shortlisted in the last ten years may be submitted. Publishers may also submit a list of up to five further titles for the judges' consideration. The judges are required to call in no less than eight and no more than twelve of these titles. One thing that distinguishes the Man Booker Prize from other literary awards is that the judges read all of the submitted books. The list of submitted titles is strictly confidential."

There are similar guidelines for the Whitbread Award, the Pulitzer (completed entry form AND four copies of the book AND an entry fee), the Newbery Medal, the Miles Franklin(entry form AND six copies of the book AND $75 entry fee) and the CBC of Australia Book of the Year (entry form, entry fee AND TEN COPIES!)

All of the above mentioned awards, by the way, are administered by people who have, you know, paid jobs to do this stuff.

Why on earth would we reasonably expect a bunch of passionate and dedicated volunteers and peers of the Australian spec fic community to have to know about and read everything eligibile, and pay their own money for the privelege? It seems a bit steep to me.

This work doesn't just get done by happy little elves from Santa's Workshops while the good boys and girls of Aussie specfic are sleeping (or writing). Someone has to compile it and get it all in front of the judges. Now if it was me, and I wanted to be considered for a major award, I wouldn't be leaving it up to chance and simply hoping that someone remembers to read my story. I'd be doing everything in my power to make sure I was in with a chance. If it was the CBC Award, I'd email my publisher and check that they submitted an entry. If it was the Newbery, I'd probably enter it myself.

So where does that leave the eligible works from scifiction? I don't know. In previous years we've had Awards Directors who've personally had a better sense of what the important markets were and submitted entries themselves. Jason Nahrung did a lot of that last year for example. But given that the stories are freely available on the web, cost nothing to distribute, absolutely ANYBODY could have submitted them to the AAs, and Lea put notices and reminders on major aussie specfic email lists, I don't know that all of the blame can be landed squarely at the feet of the administrators, or the so-called "infrastructure" of the awards themselves.

Kate E.

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lea greenaway reposted by benpeek
Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 02:34 am:   

Aurealis Awards
Hi and thanks for the comments, and for the suggestion I catch up with this blog. As the director of the Aurealis Awards for 2005 let me answer some of the questions raised:

Do works have to be nominated?
Yes. All works considered in this year's Aurealis Awards should have a
'Submission/Nomination Form'. The forms are available in Word format you can type
multiple entries into for short stories (and novels in the 2006 version).
They are on the website or you can ask for them by
emailing the director ( which is me at present but that address will get the person who takes over from me for 2006.)

Why a nomination form?
With over 100 novels and almost 300 short stories being considered need I
say more? Keeping track of entries was like putting socks on a chook at
times. : }

Who can nominate works?
Anyone. Author, editor, publisher, agent, best friend, fellow author, other
interested party. BUT someone has to provide a copy for each judge in the
division the work is nominated for (three judges per division) and for
central admin purposes (to the director). Or someone has to nag the
author/editor/publisher to nominate a work and provide the copies.

Can judges nominate works?
Sure, but they have to be able to produce at least three copies for judges
to read. I don't think any judges did this year, but they did ask me to chase up on
works and ask for them to be nominated. Which I did with varied success due
to lack of time (mine) and sometimes lack of response.

Did the judges chase up work?
The judges often went to great lengths to identify works for consideration,
as I know to my cost - my little heart sank when long lists arrived to be
followed up! : ) I don't remember SicFiction being mentioned, but it may
have been lost in the welter of other admin work. If so, my apologies to the
judges who called for it and to the authors whose work wasn't considered.
(Anyone out there like to volunteer to be a 'chaser' for the 2006 round?)

Are all the works considered in the 2005 Aurealis Awards on the Entered
Works on the website?
Well we tried to ensure that was so. I was not notified of work considered by the
judges that wasn't entered and their current brief was to consider entered
works. So if a work is not on the website, I don't believe it was read and

Do you have to give permission for art work to be used for promotional purposes when you nominate a work?
Not any more, as people who emailed us pointed out, often authors are not able to give that permission. I will approach the finalists and their publishers asking for some sort of promotional material
Wanted: Slave labour for the Admin Team 2006
Not only will we be looking for a director, deputy director and web manager
who will enter the works as they are received, but we will also need someone
to follow up judges' suggestions and someone else to promote the Awards on
the lists, blogs, in Locus etc. This last person will ideally be someone
with an encyclopedic knowledge of the field (something lacking this year as
I was new to the field when I took over in May this year.)

Do you get paid?
Nope. All the people who are involved in the Aurealis Awards are volunteers.
The judges get to keep the works sent to them for reading. The works sent to
the central admin (director) get given away as prizes at the Awards

When is the Aurealis Awards Ceremony and where?
The 2005 division winners, Golden Aurealis Awards for short stories and
novels and the Peter MacNamara Award will be announced 25 Feb 2006 at the
Conservatorium at South Bank in Brisbane. Tickets $20 available from Pulp
Fiction Bookshop (07 3236 2750).

How can you help?
Spread the word when the AAs are open in 2006 and tell all your friends,
lists, blogs, etc about the 2006 procedures.

Tell them what?
* All works must be nominated to be considered
* Three copies of the work have to be provided for each division the work is
nominated in
* Details will be available from the director (
or the website (

Suggestions for improvements (like approaching Locus - thanks Ellen!) welcomed with open arms.
Lea Greenaway
(Director Aurealis Awards)
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Russell B. Farr
Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 06:59 am:   

Just to correct something Kate E said: "During this time, it was up to the judges to go out and buy copies of this material themselves, usually with their own money, so that they could judge it."

This didn't change in 2004. As a judge in 2000 and 2002 I was regularly being sent material, and much of what I bought was stuff I was going to buy anyway. I certainly don't recall ever buying anything specifically for the purpose of judging for the Awards.

See, back then what often happened was that a person would know several judges, and shoot them an email asking if they had a copy of the relevant work and if not send them one. Or it would work the other way, the judge would let the publisher know that they'd bought a copy of the work so they shouldn't bother sending them one. So instead of costing the publisher 4+ copies, it may only cost one or two, and no forms had to be filled out.

It took me over three hours to nominate five stories last year. With an anthology and a collection scheduled for 2006, as well as 8 TiconderogaOnline stories, I'm expecting things to take longer.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 07:00 am:   

As I've suggested elsewhere, the simple solution for works outside of Australia by Australians to be nominated is send your pr release to all the worldwide venues for such news:
Locus online
newsgroups such as this one
Internet newsletters such as
Hellnotes, Gila Queen Guide to Markets

It's really easy. I've been doing it annually for almost 20 years as co-editor of YBFH, which is more a labor of love for me than a money-maker.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 07:09 am:   

That's how it works with World Fantasy Awards. The judges try to find all the work available on their own. With every magazine or webzine I've worked for I've made sure that the judges got copies of the works I published that were eligible.

However, the editor/publisher has to know the award exists and the time frame for stories to go out. The administration of WFA sends out mass announcements.
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Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 08:39 am:   

What Ellen said.
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Lea Greenaway
Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 02:03 pm:   

Thanks Ellen, very useful - will pass the info onto the next director.

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