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An Aurealis Moment

This year, Tansy Rayner Roberts (cassiphone) wrote a review of the Aurealis Award Nominations. It's quite different to mine, which is good, though I personally would've liked it if Tansy did reread the nominated stories and talk about them.

Ah well.

Anyhow, I get a couple of mentions:

I would, however, note that the omission of Ben Peek’s Black Sheep from the SF shortlist was something that surprised me; as it turns out, the work was not even submitted for the awards and thus was not considered, which I find disappointing as it was the most interesting Australian speculative fiction novel I read in 2007. I understand how hard it is for judges to read everything that is sent to them, let alone the works that aren’t, but this issue has been a problem for the AAs for years, and it’s something I for one would like to see rectified. The awards can’t be completely credible unless everything is considered and read and included, and I believe the awards team should take equal responsibility with the publishers and authors for seeing that this happens.

...

Best horror, short story Terry Dowling, “Toother”, Eclipse #1 Richard Harland, “Special Perceptions”, At Ease with the Dead, Ash-Tree Press Rick Kennett, “The Dark and What It Said”, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #28 Ben Peek, “Black Betty”, Lone Star Stories #23 Anna Tambour, “The Jeweller of Second-Hand Roe”, Subterranean #7

My absolute favourite story on the horror short list is the Tambour; I’m especially glad to see it there because I know from experience that the category system of the AA’s sometimes means that the more alternative, slipstreamy stories like those Tambour writes often slip through the cracks. I also found Dowling’s “Toother” entertaining and readable; I liked the odd crime procedural style. I thought the Peek story was well-written but struggled with the piratical overdose of 2007 to take anything more from it. I have to say, few of these stories really stood out for me as being “horror” in particular, but then it’s the area of spec fic I’m least qualified to comment on.


Now, to the controversy:

Yes, Black Sheep never made it to the judges, but that was my call. Sean Wallace (oldcharliebrown) told me it was requested, and then asked me if I thought it was worth doing, no doubt remembering the previous two years of whining speculative fiction authors who didn't like my opinions of their work. Not them, mind you, but their work. Personally, I didn't think it was worth it. I'm not even going to fake a polite opinion here to mask the most obvious knowledge that, when it comes to the Aurealis Awards, my name and my work has a nice red cross through it, and if you ask me and most people, the idea of anything of mine being given any money out of it is laughable. It's a good laugh, and I made that laugh, because I believed then--and now--that the thing that slows down local literature is a lack of critical and interesting debate over the work published. The Aurealis Awards made a nice big target two years ago and I hit that, twice, but you can't keep hitting it--other people have to do that, which is why I'm happy to see Tansy doing so. But lets face facts: the Aurealis Awards and I parted company two years back, and I've no interest them as ways to judge the quality of what I do. If you do, that's cool. Me, no thanks, so you ask me if it's worth it, my answer is going to be no, and I'm good with that.

Now, before I got that email, however, I had a conversation with Daniella Tidman, who works in Infinitas, and who was a judge on the Science Fiction panel. Somewhere in the conversation, she told that she didn't see the point in giving awards to obscure books that can't be found easily as it doesn't bring in new readers to the genre.

So, when I get an email asking me if I think it's worth it, I laugh, and say, "No."

Now, yes, I know, 'Black Betty' is nominated in the horror section, which I have to admit, makes me laugh because that section is run by Shane Cummings, who once called me a cancer. I've never actually met Shane, but there you go. Some people they got opinions. At any rate, the story was online, and I'm happy enough for Eric Marin (ericmarin) to get some cred out of it 'cause he published it, but I did nothing for it to be there, and it's just not important that it is. Reading the piece, that's important. You do that? No--well, it's here.

Anyhow, since I've not been contacted about it, I think we can all feel safe about the award going to someone it'll mean something for, as winners are generally tipped off beforehand so they can fly up, prepare speeches, and all that. Know anyone suddenly going to Brisbane for the ceremony? Put your bets down.

Awards don't mean a thing, but they have a use if they promote discussion and reading, and if that makes you go read a book or a story, then we're all cool. After that, it's nothing but noise, and time can be spent better, and unless you're throwing cash at me with the statue, I don't care.

Comments

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paulhaines
Jan. 25th, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
I ain't never been tipped off!

Interesting opinion about the obscure book thing. If it's hard to find etc. I mean, Amazon is pretty hard to find. It's just the fucking shipping cost that sucks.
ex_benpayne119
Jan. 25th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
Indeed. And if we the only thing that matters is publicity we should award all the AAs postumously to Heath Ledger and fuck off to the pub...
benpeek
Jan. 25th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
aw, man, woulnd't you want the heath ledger award?
benpeek
Jan. 25th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
yeah, what can you say huh? she works in a bookstore, though, so i suspect amazon isn't what she means.

anyhow, i can't believe you've never been tipped off. how impolite.
paulhaines
Jan. 26th, 2008 12:07 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know, if they had given me warning I could have prepared a long, witty speech that made me look intelligent, funny, pretentious and fucking annoying. Instead I got up and thanked a few people and came across as only pretentious. Just not fair, I tells ye.
benpeek
Jan. 26th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
i feel your pain, man. i really do.
strangedave
Jan. 27th, 2008 05:36 am (UTC)
when it comes to the Aurealis Awards, my name and my work has a nice red cross through it

You think the current judges have been told (or assumed for themself) that you are on some sort of blacklist due to past criticism or something? Seems a biggish accusation to make.
benpeek
Jan. 27th, 2008 05:53 am (UTC)
nah, i just think that anyone who calls me a cancer isn't going to be wanting me to win. it'd be nice if we could all believe in a world where everyone put aside their personal opinions, but that's not true. i mean, lets face it, i've used the aurealis awards to further my debates about the quality of local work and to question the criteria of getting stories, and the backgrounds of the folk involved in things such as awards--why give them positions of power if they're so unqualified or with conflicts of interest, after all?--so much that that if you got involved in the aas, you'd think i was a cunt from the outset.

which i am and which is fine. why bother pretending otherwise is all i'm saying.

it's really not an accusation thing. it's no thrill either way. but there are consequences for what i say and write.
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