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Aurealis Award from Sunny Britain

A few days ago I said I'd convince Martin Lewis (ninebelow) to post his views on some past winners of the Aurealis Awards, just to give you an idea of how the scene is viewed outside the country.

Well, here it is:

One problem is that the pool of Australian fiction is simply not large enough to credibly support such an award. There is no shame in this. There is shame, however, in falsely praising minor works, a process which merely serves to undermine the reputations of all involved. There are two issues involved here. Firstly, the major fan and juried awards of the much bigger markets of Britain and the United States are not closed to entrants from outside those countries (although, of course, native entries often win.) It is an understandable fear that such an open borders policy in Australian awards would leave little, if any, Australian fiction on the shortlists. Perhaps, though, only lauding that rare fiction that can compete on the international stage is preferable to the current situation. Secondly, and more troubling, is the fact that the award is split into five categories - science fiction, fantasy, horror, young adult and children – further reducing the amount of fiction available. Even if the award is restricted to Australian fiction (and there is a clear case for this, especially given how liberally the judges interpret “Australian”) there can be no reason to sub-divide so excessively. Something has to give: together these two facts make the awards simply unsustainable.


Link.

Comments

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exp_err
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
What would be the point of another set of awards open to the same pool of work as existing, more established awards?

The point of awards open only to Australian work is to give recognition to the best Australian work, even if it usually is not on a par with the best of the best internationally.

If Campbell Primary School were to have short story awards and encourage its students to nominate their work, would you expect those awards to be open also to Neil Gaiman and Ted Chiang? Would it make the Campbell Primary School short story award a better and more credible award if it were? Would the students of the school be better off?

There is room for awards at different levels, and there is, and should be, kudos for winning an award at whatever level it is pitched. Not as much kudos for the Campbell Primary School writing award as for the Aurealis, and not as much for the Aurealis as for the World Fantasy Award, Hugo or Nebula. But that doesn't make it irrelevant.
benpeek
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:38 am (UTC)
heh.

the difference, i guess, is that the australian spec fic writers aren't children (though in some ways... ;)). they want to be seen as professionals, with a reputation that is equal to that around the world, and you can only do that when you're competing on an international stage. after all, aren't we pleased when an australian wins the world fantasy award? of course, because now they're an adult.

personally, it doesn't bother me that the award is australian only. to me, that's not the important part of lewis' comment: the important part is that the local scene doesn't have enough content to support so many divisions.


roberthoge
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:47 am (UTC)
> the important part is that the local scene doesn't have enough content to support so many divisions

But doesn't that then just support the argument for an award like the Golden Aurealis? You've said in the past, Ben, that it was silly to compare works across the genres but now you're saying the opposite.
benpeek
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:51 am (UTC)
no, what i said in the past was it was stupid to have five winners and then pick the winner out of the winners, thus making the divisions completely pointless, for you are judging divisions on what makes a successful horror novel, sf novel and so forth.

i have always said that you could do away with the divisions and just have a novel and short fiction category and a stronger award. i figure i've written it somewhere here one time or another.
exp_err
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC)
When Australian Spec Fiction Writers are the equal to any in the world, they are eligible for the World Fantasy Award. The existence of other awards doesn't detract from that.

Perhaps instead of the Campbell Primary School award, I should have used the CSIRO Staff short story competition as an example, to remove the imp[lication of treating writers like children. (The CSIRO staff newsletter has run such a competition twice, fwiw. The first time, it was open only to scientists working at CSIRO, the second time, it was open to all CSIRO staff).

The number of categories isn't something I feel strongly about. If there are at least 30 eligible published stories to choose among, that seems enough to me, but if you wanted to combine the categories into one award, I wouldn't complain.
benpeek
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:57 am (UTC)
well, even the CSIRO comparison is a bad one. after all, the staff at CSIRO are not professional writers (or wanting to be, for the most part).
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ex_benpayne119
Jun. 24th, 2008 08:16 am (UTC)
Well said.

I think the AAs are supposed to recognise the best Australian work. Their job is to select the best out of what's available. Not to compete with the Hugos or the World Fantasy awards... that would be redundant.
ninebelow
Jun. 24th, 2008 09:14 am (UTC)
What would be the point of another set of awards open to the same pool of work as existing, more established awards?

As Peek has suggested I do not neccessarily endorse such a position and it is a response to the least important of the two problems I identify.

However, I do not find it hard to believe that if the Aurealis Awards had exactly the same entry criteria as, say, the Arthur C Clarke Award (again, I am not advocating this) then the judges would still pick a very different shortlist.
catsparx
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
I was gonna stay out of this one... but you know me...

With great respect to Mr Lewis... Peek, your post reeks of cultural cringeism. Why do we need a Brit to tell us what our own country's awards mean? I don't believe that Australian spec fic awards mean any more to foreigners than, say, Lithuanian spec fic awards would mean to us. Why shouldn't Australians have an award for Australian spec fic? Why is everything only shiny when it comes from overseas?
benpeek
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
okay, here's the opposite: why is the opinion of someone overseas cultural cringeism? why is it not as valid as an australians point of view? why shouldn't he say that his opinion is?

the entire point of giving lewis' opinion was that it was someone outside the country. imo, that's what makes it interesting: it's the view outside, it's the one we don't see because we're in it. like it, dislike it, that's not the point. the point is that is it, and what can you do about it?

me, i don't particularly care that the award is for australians or not. i didn't say i agreed or disagreed. i simply said here was the view from outside. this is it, and whatcha going to do about it? ignore it? cool. doesn't change that's what some people are thinking.
catsparx
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:45 am (UTC)
Lewis's view is not the view from outside. It is a view from outside.
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ex_benpayne119
Jun. 24th, 2008 08:12 am (UTC)
I think Lewis draws a long bow in attempting to judge the Awards and the Australian scene as a whole on the strength of two novels... much like Paul Kincaid's dismissal of Australian writing based on one CSFG anthology...

Even in that one category, he's ignored works by Sean Williams and Jack Dann... hardly a thoroughly researched position.
drjon
Jun. 25th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
http://txtriffidranch.livejournal.com/107324.html?style=mine

I must say, I am impressed at least with the tone of the debate here...
benpeek
Jun. 26th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
classy, isn't it?

and what's with the link?
drjon
Jun. 26th, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
I thought the poster's comment one of the signs of a city becoming great is when its citizens respond to criticism of their home with "Yeah, you're right, but here's what we're doing to fix it..." instead of throwing tantrums or projectiles. was interesting.
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