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Aurealis Awards.

the aurealis awards were awarded last night. for those who aren't local, this won't mean much, and to local people, it'll mean only slightly more since the aurealis awards have been crippled through internal and outside politics since their creation. for an award, that's hardly shocking--in fact, most awards are, in some way, crippled by the politics, no matter how positive or negative the intent is. no award, then, is ever free of politics, and is never given purely on the basis that the work had merit.

for most people, this is a problem, but i think it goes both ways. awards serve not only to award a work that is worthy, but also to highlight political concerns. for example: giving an award to a well crafted book with strong gay characters in it not only rewards the craft under which it is written, but also sends a message to publishers and readers that gay lifestyles are as important as straight lifestyles and that they should be represented in literature, among other things.

the awareness of this is important, i think. literature (indeed, any form of art) does not exist in a cultural vacuum and it shouldn't be treated as if it does. (this doesn't mean that every selection will agree with you, or that your politics will be satisfied, but since when has anything ever agreed with everyone?)

that, of course, brings me to the aurealis awards.

the aurealis awards have always been crippled by the fact that they're trying not to be the ditmars. the ditmars, being a popular award with an open voting system, can be hijacked by a bus full of high school students during the nomination stage, and by the same bus load if they fork out money to go to the convention that they're handed out in. if they can't be bothered, the awards then fall into voting blocks and personal favourites and who wants to promote who and so on and so forth. a lot of people see it as a bad thing, which it is, but it also allows new voices to promote their work, which i think is an essentially good thing. (i should at this point mention i've been nominated three times for a ditmar and not once for an aurealis. if this changes the nature of my argument for you, well, welcome to the world of politics. if not, then cool.) the aurealis awards, however, are an answer to this voting style: a panel of judges for each genre, each voting until they reach an agreement about a winner. of course, since there is no money involved, and having a group of people agree on one books usually means it is the one that they didn't like the most wins, there's a real question in my mind of just how much credibility it does have when all things are said and done. i would probably say just a little, but i think in the end it's marginal, and the difference is found on the sticker that is placed on the winning novels afterwards.

(i read, somewhere, that actually having a 'hugo award winner' sticker on a book meant that less people actually bought the book. it's kind of funny, i reckon, though probably untrue, but it just popped into my head right then.)

and this, of course, brings me to the aurealis awards that were announced last night. it's a long winded way to get here, but that's the way i took.

The 2003 Aurealis Awards winners and shortlisted works are



WINNER Fallen Gods, Jon Blum and Kate Orman (Telos Publishing)

Wyrmhole, Jay Caselberg (ROC Science Fiction)

Terminator Gene, Ian Irvine (Simon & Schuster Australia)

Blue Box, Kate Orman (BBC Worldwide)

Orphans of Earth, Sean Williams and Shane Dix (HarperCollins)

Honourable Mention: The Earthborn, Paul Collins (Tor)

Short Stories:

WINNER “Louder Echo”, Brendan Duffy (Agog! Terrific Tales, Agog! Press)

“Acquired Tastes”, Stephen Dedman (ASIM #9)

“Amy's Stars”, Sue Isle (Orb #5)

“Sigmund Freud and the Feral Freeway”, Martin Livings (Agog! Terrific Tales, Agog! Press)

“State of Oblivion”, Kaaron Warren (Elsewhere, Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild)

Honourable Mentions:

“Clockwork” (Trent Jamieson / Glimpses); “'Cross the Nullabor to the Sea” (Cat Sparks / Glimpses); “The Earth Equation” (Shane Brown / Glimpses); and “The Wall” (Grace Dugan / Glimpses).



WINNER Abhorsen (Book 3 of The Old Kingdom Trilogy), Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Aware (Isles of Glory Book 1), Glenda Larke (HarperCollins)

Grass for his Pillow (Tales of the Otori Book 2), Lian Hearn (Hodder)

The Etched City, KJ Bishop (Prime Books)

Voyage of the Shadowmoon, Sean McMullen (Tor)

Honourable Mentions: Scrutator (Well of Echoes Book 3), Ian Irvine (Penguin/ Viking);

Lamplighter, Anthony O'Neil (HarperCollins)

Short Stories:

WINNER “La Sentinelle”, Lucy Sussex, (Southern Blood – New Australian Tales of the Supernatural Sandglass Enterprises)

“In the Bookshadow”, Marianne de Pierres (Dreamhaven Books)

“Tireki and the Wind”, Lily Chrywenstrom, (Fables and Reflections #4)

“Hope Chest”, Garth Nix (Firebirds)

Honourable Mentions: “Storm in a Chandelier”, Tracey Rolfe (Agog! Terrific Tales, Agog! Press)

“Louder Echo”, Brendan Duffy (Agog! Terrific Tales, Agog! Press)



WINNER Born of The Sea, Victor Kelleher (Viking/Penguin)

The Lamplighter, Anthony O'Neill (Harper Collins)

The Autumn Castle: Europa Suite 1, Kim Wilkins (Harper Collins)

Short Stories:

WINNER “Love Is a Stone”, Simon Brown (Gathering the Bones HarperCollins)

“The Wind Shall Blow For Ever Mair”, Stephen Dedman (Gathering the Bones, HarperCollins)

“Amy’s Stars”, Sue Isle (Orb #5)

“Kijin Tea”, Kyla Ward (Agog! Terrific Tales, Agog! Press)

“Blake’s Angel”, Janeen Webb (Gathering the Bones, HarperCollins)



JOINT WINNER Dragonkeeper, Carole Wilkinson (Black Dog Books)

JOINT WINNER Abhorsen (Book 3 of The Old Kingdom Trilogy), Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)

The Silken Road to Samarkand (The Sinbad Chronicles Book 2), Janeen Webb (HarperCollins)

Short Stories:

No Award


Long Fiction:

WINNER Mister Monday (Keys of the Kingdom book 1), Garth Nix (Scholastic)

Eustace, Catherine Jinks (Allen & Unwin)

Max Remy Superspy: The Hollywood Mission, Deborah Abela (Random House)

Jumpman Rule 2, James Valentine (Random House)

Dragonkeeper, Carole Wilkinson (Black Dog Books)

The Perfect Princess (Quentaris Chronicles), Jenny Pausacker (Lothian Books)

Short Fiction:

WINNER Lily Quench and the Lighthouse of Skellig Mor, Natalie Jane Prior (Hodder Headline)

Wolfchild, Roseanne Hawke (Lothian)

Tashi and the Royal Tombs, Anna and Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble(Allen & Unwin)

Lily Quench and the Magicians' Pyramid, Natalie Jane Prior (Hodder Headline)

Emily Eyefinger and the Balloon Bandits, Duncan Ball (HarperCollins)

The Lighthouse Secret, Penny Garsworthy (Word Weavers)


WINNER Nick Stathopoulos, for his outstanding contribution to the field of speculative fiction illustration.

short story wise, there was little surprise. brendan duffy's 'louder echo' has been picking up praise for a while, and will be reprinted in the hartwell years best fantasy (though it won the science fiction award). lucy sussex's 'la sentinelle' has likewise been praised, and picked up a horror nomination somewhere else, i think. (though it won the fantasy short story.) the only real surprise (and it wasn't much) was simon brown winning for 'love is a stone', which i do admit to not having read, but i though kyla ward's 'kijin tea' was going to scoop it for much the same reason as duffy's story. but, that said, brown is a strong author and has been around for a long time and produced fine work throughout that peroid, so it's not surprising that he did win.

however, short stories are not what make an award. it's the novels that give you the flavour of the year, that set the tone, and which give an award its standing.

this year, the winner for best science fiction novel was kate orman and jonathan blum's dr who novel, fallen gods, and for fantasy, garth nix's young adult novel, abhorsen. curiously, nix's novel also won for best young adult novel, and his new book, mister monday, won for children's novel. for horror, victor kelleher's born of the sea won.

now, to me, this list of winners reads like a political statement that says, 'we awarded based on craft only and not the politics of a book' which in itself is a statement is a political statement. this ideal for the aurealis awards has come riding out of last years awards, which caused a whole bunch of people to get upset about the quality of this, after the fantasy division decided that there were no eligible short stories for a fantasy award. the reasoning of the committee, from what i can recall, is that the stories they encountered with merit were not what they considered fantasy, and they were not confident in awarding a fantasy award to a piece of work that might be considered by some to be horror. which caused people to scratch and scream and mutter and murmur and then jump into this years system, and, by looking at these results, make a deliberate statement about genre boundaries, and how good work crosses everything.

good work is, of course, a matter of personal taste. so, for that matter, is reading a political statement into an award, but i'm going to it anyhow.

on the surface, the statement of 'good literature crosses all boundaries' is an idealistic one, but it doesn't work for me the more i look at it.

to begin with, there is fallen gods, the dr who novel. orman, by herself, has been writing them for years, and has quite the strong following; indeed, one of her solo novels was also nominated. however, whatever merits they have, the book is, at the end, a work for hire book, set in a shared world with rules that must be obeyed. the dr is also owned by a giant company, i might add. but, anyhow, by giving an award to orman and blum for their novel, you are sending two messages: one, that good work can be written in a work for hire gig, and two, that original, creator owned work, is not more important than the contract work you can do for a company.

you can argue the merits of work for hire and creator owned, but for me, in the end, an author (or authors) who create their own world, characters, events, narrative structure, thematic concerns, and so forth, have always worked harder and more admirably than the author who worked under a contract for a company, where the characters were provided, as was the world and the desired tone under which it was written. certain events and narratives can also be factored into this equation, too. by saying that both are equal, you are saying that the author of the creator owned novel might as well have not bothered with this extra work--which, in a genre where genre background setting is readily copied from book to book and is often the quick way of building a world and narrative, is not a sentiment that i would like to see encouraged by an award.

in the fantasy award, a similar thing exists. nix's book, abhorsen, is a young adult novel--it won the young adult novel section. by awarding it, you're sending out the statement that a good book will be for both adults and children, and will have things both can enjoy. but, in awarding it, you also continue the trend, in fantasy, towards an infantilism of the genre. already having taken a beating from tolkien's simplistic morals, fantasy has continued to trade a simplistic set of ideals with writers like feist, the eddings, pratchett, and gemmell--and now, having been joined to a bunch of young adult novels like rowling and nix's books, these simplistic right and wrongs and lack of adult themes continue. it's no surprise, then, that the majority of its readers of fantasy are young adults, and that when they get older, they move into different fiction, looking for adult situations and themes, as the ratings board says. (i've heard people ask the question: why does fantasy bleed readers when they reach their twenties? the answer, for me, has been that they've grown up, while the mainstream face of the genre hasn't.)

by award abhorsen, you continue to show the face of fantasy as being linked to a young adult audience. if you don't view this as a problem, that's fine, but for me, it is a problem. it limits the kind of novels that will be taken into the mainstream fantasy releases and ensures that the interesting and thoughtful work remains unpublished or pushed into the small press. which, of course, results in people bitching and moaning about elves and dwarves and princesses, as if those character descriptions were a problem--which, of course, they're not. they're a racial background in a character, and it's foolish to sit around and say, 'well, fuck, it has an elf and a dragon,' as if that explains the entire character and book. by that same logic, you might as well say, 'well fuck, it has an american and a dog.' but of course, this kind of thinking won't change if the kind of books awarded and shown to be the cream of fantasy are also, in fact, the best young adult novels of the day.

well, at least that's the way i think of it. of kelleher's horror novel, i can't say anything, and nix winning a children's award for a book that i thought was being promoted as a young adult novel doesn't leave me with thoughts either way. in the end, however, even my opinions about the books that won don't matter--the statement sent by the awards this year is that good work is important no matter where it comes from and it is a nice sentiment.

i'm just too cynical for it, i guess.


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Apr. 11th, 2004 09:50 am (UTC)
I've done work-for-hire, and I'm not sure that I would do it again unless I was working with characters that I really, genuinely loved. It's not so much that it's easier or harder than writing your own stuff; the problem is that it's more constricting, and all too frequently, more boring. You have to force each sentence out.

Apr. 11th, 2004 03:33 pm (UTC)
Although I think your comments about work for hire aren't off the mark generally, I think they are far less relevant in this particular case (Doctor Who books in general, not Kate & Jon specifically, since it could be said I'm a little close for objectivity). The Doctor Who series has had a wildly varying set of styles, settings, characters and themes. Much of them have nothing to do with previous efforts other than the presence of the Doctor, who often acts as an observer or catalyst rather than being the centre of the narrative.

Yeah, most media fiction is an unimaginative following of formula, possibly by people who can't write 'real books' (although there have been lots of 'real authors' who have written it for the money -- or just because they happen to want to). But I don't think you can point that stick at the Doctor Who books. From what I've heard, a lot of them still aren't great, but they have certainly been trying to break the mould.

I also think you're being a little overly concerned about the 'messages' that are being sent. Do you think a book should win if it is of a more proper genre (slipstream fantasy, or whatever) rather than what the judges think is the best individual book? Yeah, the whole awards process is greatly derided, but adding that criteria is hardly going to improve them.

I also really don't think you should comment on JK Rowling's 'simplistic right and wrongs and lack of adult themes' without having read the books. Sorry.

Meanwhile, my main comment about Mister Monday winning is that I didn't think it was all that good. A lot of really interesting stuff was in there, and played up to some of Garth Nix's strengths, but the whole seemed kind of rushed (as if the company wanted seven books in a hurry maybe :-)
Apr. 11th, 2004 05:11 pm (UTC)
people will read things into awards no matter what. me, i just figured it would be fun to take a critical eye to the aurealis awards, since there is a general lack of a critical eye on anything australian. as to do i think a book should win because of it's genre being more important... well, no. but what's in that book? is that slipstream novel dealing with a thematic concern of immigrants? then yes. that's what changes it for me in an award criteria. i feel it gives it more weight and content and reflects upon an industry stronger, making it more revelant and reaching out for a larger audience.

in the case of dr who books, if they're more ambitious or not is not the point. i'm not really talking about the book itself, or the series. i was talking about what it represents, and since the book is a work for hire shared world book, just is star wars, star trek, and the wizard of the coasts books are, it brings with it the general beliefs that surround work for hire books. imagine what the response would be if a star wars novel won the science fiction award.

last night i was talking to someone who didn't know who dr who was, and after i explained it to her, she laughed, and couldn't believe someone had given a serious award to the book. this is the kind of perception i'm talking about.

and i put the jk rowling comment in just for you, david :)

Apr. 11th, 2004 09:30 pm (UTC)
So you think we should give awards based on what people who haven't even heard of the books think?

I do understand the attitude. I happen to think gaming fiction is generically bad, even though I've read some good examples and (somewhat unexpectedly), have come runner-up in just such a contest. So such prejudices exist and there is a foundation for some of them. But if you're going to turn a critical eye, I think you should be paying more attention to the details than broad generalisations.

and i put the jk rowling comment in just for you, david :)

And I didn't even mention your Tolkien jibe. Yes, I've gone off generic fantasy and Tolkien is a big part of those tropes, but I do think his original is rather more complex and interesting than his imitators have managed.

(Of course, I am now waiting in fervant anticipation for the first book to be described as 'comparable to Rowling at her best...' :-)
Apr. 12th, 2004 03:40 am (UTC)
>So you think we should give awards based on what people who haven't even heard of the books think?<

well, no. but then it's not as simple as that. apart for giving an award for excellence, awards form a calling card for a genre--they're the things that are publically displayed and held out for new readers to come along and see. with an award for a small, local genre, like ours, this is doubly the case.

the details in this case, and by that i take it you mean if fallen gods or abhorson are good novels, with good craft, ect, ect, are, to me, secondary. other people are going to think otherwise, and that's fair enough, i'm not saying they shouldn't, but i tend to think that these facts will not be considered by the majority of people when they consider the books.

as for tolkien... i think we're just going to have to leave the differences there. i really loathe those books, and everything in them (which, naturally, i don't think as beign complex). but such is life.
Apr. 26th, 2004 09:02 pm (UTC)
"however, whatever merits they have, the book is, at the end, a work for hire book, set in a shared world with rules that must be obeyed."

Just for the record -- the Doctor Who books are not work for hire. They're contracted just like original novels; we get royalties rather than a flat fee, and we retain the copyright on our novel. (They retain copyright on Doctor Who itself, which means neither one of us can arrange a reprint without the other's permission.) Also, the rules for Who are practically nonexistent; there's no house style, most of the books stand alone rather than being tied together, and since most Who stories are produced by licensees rather than the Beeb directly, there's a clear separation between the franchise owners and ordinary novelistic editing. In the case of "Fallen Gods", the BBC's entire input on the book was that they wanted one line changed, ironically to make the book more standalone.

I recognize that you're only interested in discussing "statements" being made rather than looking at the actual content of a given book; I tend to think that's a complete inversion of priorities, but that's a different argument and one I don't want to get into again. I just wanted to make sure the facts are correct.

(Though just out of curiosity, are "Hamlet", "Paradise Lost", Stephen Baxter's "The Time Ships", John Gardner's "Grendel", or "Sir Gawain And The Green Knight" diminished because their authors didn't create the worlds and characters they drew on?)
Apr. 26th, 2004 10:17 pm (UTC)
>I recognize that you're only interested in discussing "statements" being made rather than looking at the actual content of a given book; I tend to think that's a complete inversion of priorities, but that's a different argument and one I don't want to get into again.<

it really was a deliberate inversion, and one i honestly wouldn't have bothered with playing with, if it had been FALLEN GODS itself. (i'm justing that so that you don't feel as if i wrote this to focus on FALLEN GODS.) there was also nix's book that won two awards, and the way that the short stories themselves were at various times crossing the boundaries and genres. it seemed to me that there was a statement in there, so why not have a bit of a poke at it and see what came out.

thanks for the info on the dr who liscene workings.

and as for the last bit, in the case of baxter's TIME SHIPS, yes, totally--but mostly because i felt that such a book was totally unnecessary, and a bit of a cash in. HAMLET, i wasn't aware of coming from anything, PARADISE LOST no, and the gardner books i haven't read, though i am aware of where they come from, and would probably say no. if pushed, i would probably admit that the 'shared world' aspect of dr who novels sets them apart from the examples you note, even though you also note that the books are meant to be stand alone. (and now that i think about it, i might put SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT in the yes category, as there are enough arthur books out there to form a shared world ;))
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