Friday, March 17, 2006

Sorry, don’t want that Hugo…

There has been a bit of discussion on some of the Australian blogs about whether one can opt to withdraw from consideration for an award.

And I say: No, you shouldn't be able to.

An award is not a contest. It is not something that you, the writer, enter. It is something bestowed on you - or your work - for your excellence.

If Aloysius Muddlesworthy decides - because he is a really, really nice guy and he has been winning the Best Book of the Year Award for residents of Downunder for umpteen years - that he doesn'’t want his work to be considered any more, and the organisers agree to allow it, then he is short-changing both the award and his fellow Downunderian writers.

How can Scintilla Cuddlesbug, this year'’s winner, feel proud of her win if she knows that the Muddlesworthy book was not considered? She -– and everyone else -will be wondering if her book really deserved the win, or whether it just won by default. That'’s not fair to her, and it devalues the Award.

And what about Spyte Sickleton, you might ask? He had a different reason for not wanting his work to be considered. Maybe he thinks the Award is crap. Maybe he thinks the judges take bribes. Or maybe he just had a row with the organiser. He might be paranoid, or he might have a very valid reason. The actual reason doesn'’t matter - he feels that if his work is considered, he is being a hypocrite after he'’s spent the past year telling everyone the awards suck. So, you might ask - shouldn'’t he be allowed to withdraw his work from consideration?

My answer remains : No. For the same reasons as above. If you are going to have an award for The Best Book of the Year in Downunder, then every eligible book should be considered - or discarded -– by the judges or the voters. Not by the writers.

Fortunately, Mr Sickleton still has a choice. He can refuse the award if he wins. That'’s his privilege. He should not, however, have the privilege of withdrawing in the first place.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree, Glenda. Refusing to be considered for the award smacks to me of trying to control the award process itself, and I find that offensive. Once your work is published and in the public arena, like it or not you do lose some power over it. People you don't like or agree with can review it. People you've never met can say it's crap on their blogs. And award convenors can include it in a shortlist (assuming it's not an award with a formal entrance component).

If you can't deal with that, don't put your work in the public arena.

Karen

Gillian Polack said...

I agree. And if the author really feels they don't deserve it or whatever, they could always do acceptance speeches saying "This award really belongs to all those struggling writers/editors/agents who have been overlooked."

BTW, if you ever write a roman a clef I want to read it.

David Cake said...

Thats pretty much the exact reasons why the Ditmars have a policy of not letting people withdraw. Though authors are free to explain why their work is ineligible if they think it is, of course.

Glenda Larke said...

Roman a clef? Who, me? I'd never dare...

Cheryl said...

In general I agree with you. I know, for example, that I would probably not have won a Hugo if Dave Langford had not moved Ansible into the semiprozine category, and I am very grateful to Dave for not withdrawing from the Fan Writer category despite many people urging him to do so. I know he is better than me, and winning just because he had withdrawn would feel odd.

On the other hand, I quite understand why people do withdraw. There's a huge amount of politics surrounding the Hugos, and one of the things that is always thrown at people who win is the accusation, "you only won because...". I had plenty of that myself. And I can quite see why people who have a perceived advantage withdraw, because they don't want to go down in history as "the person who only won a Hugo because...". Robert Sawyer, bless him, is thick skinned enough to deal with this, but a less self-confident person might have declined nomination in Toronto had they been in the same position as Sawyer.

There are other reasons for withdrawing too. I'm not privy to Terry Prachett's thoughts, but I can think of at least two other reasons alongside perceived homefield advantage that he might have declined nomination last year. One is that Terry is a really nice guy, and has been so phenomenally successful that he might have felt he wanted someone else to have the good fortune of winning the Hugo. Another is the wonderful skit he and Peter Weston did in Boston the year before in which part of Terry's script involved him begging Peter for a Hugo (Peter being the person who makes the rockets).

So yes, in general we hope that people will accept nomination, and almost eveyone does. But when people do withdraw they are generally not being arrogant, they are trying hard to negotiate difficult political and person issues, and happen to see withdrawing as the best way forward.

Of course if you really object to people withdrawing, the correct thing to do is to propose a motion to the WSFS Business Meeting to change the Hugo rules so that people can't withdraw.

Glenda Larke said...

Thanks, Cheryl, for pointing out that nothing is as straightforward in practice as it is in theory!

It seems very sad that, at the pinnacle of someone's success, there should be people so willing to shoot the winners down. It must take a bit of the shine off an award, any award.

Do I feel strongly enough about it to propose a motion? No, probably not. Although it does cross my mind that if it were on the rulebooks of an award that the nominations could not be refused by the potential recipient (except on the grounds of ineligibility as Dave pointed out), then it would prevent people saying: "Well, s/he should withdraw because s/he always wins, or s/he has a home crowd advantage ..." or whatever the complaint flavour of the month is.

Cheryl said...

Negative attention is just one of the prices you pay for success. I'm sure that people who win Oscars get vastly more hate mail than people who win Hugos.

I got nominated for a Ditmar a couple of times when I lived in Melbourne. It seemed slightly dodgy to me as I was only a temporary worker, not a permanent resident. But when I pointed this out to people I was told to shut up and be grateful, which I duly did.