Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

October 7, 2011

Towards a Hope Mirrlees Award, Redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Sam @ 6:16 pm

Here’s a more detailed proposal building on my previous suggestion. Please do suggest alternative possibilities, explain why my suggestions won’t work, and point out the obvious things that I’ve forgotten!

What: A yearly award for the best fantasy novel of the previous year; a sub-award for the best first novel by a woman writer; and a second sub-award for fantasy artwork (cover, cartography, or illustration).

Eligibility: Must be arguably fantasy of some kind: high fantasy, low fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, rainbow fantasy, hamster fantasy if anyone decides to publish some. Must have first been published in English in the year since the last award. Can be submitted; may be co-opted.

Criteria: Quality, innovativeness, and an elusively magical sensibility. Sales, popularity, or past record will not be taken into account either positively or negatively.

Judging model: A jury of six, including a coordinator with a casting vote in the event of a tie. Each year, within three months after the award, the three longest-serving members resign and the remaining three co-opt three more members to serve for the next two years. If someone resigns during their term, another member can be co-opted immediately.

Shortlists: Shortlists should be published in good time before the presentation, and should show a commitment to inclusivity (without aiming to be comprehensively representative) and against discrimination of any form. At the same time, jury members should disclose any financial, professional, or personal interest they have in any of those books, their authors, or their publishers, and should consider recusing themselves from commenting on a book if they have such an interest. Those interests, on the other hand, shouldn’t preclude a book from consideration, or bias other jury members against it.

Award: An art object and a nontrivial sum of money, which should be raised through donations or sponsorship, but not co-branding, because having Mirrlees’s name on the award is important. Besides, that way people can say they officially have a Hope.

September 16, 2011

Towards a Hope Mirrlees Award

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Sam @ 11:27 am

A brief discussion on Twitter (brief because nobody disagreed) has resulted in the conclusion that a) we need more genre awards named after women, and b) there should be one named after Hope Mirrlees.

Why? — well, to address point a), it’s pretty much universally recognized that women’s contribution to fantastika is greatly undervalued. Not enough gets to market; not enough of that gets reviewed; and not enough of that gets nominated or chosen for awards. Having almost all our high-profile awards named after men or gender-neutral objects (the Tiptree is the sole exception that springs to mind) doesn’t help this; it flags the field as one dominated by men, and for men, and that “women’s fiction” is something unique and separate and lesser.

(Just to clarify, I do think there’s something qualitatively distinct about fantastika by women, as there is about fantastika by members of other underrepresented groups. However, discussing this here would be derailing, so we can do that some other time.)

As for point b), Mirrlees is an amazing author; in Lud-in-the-Mist she produced something utterly unique and strange, fantastic in the oldest senses of the word, and something that’s rarely given the acclaim it deserves.

I propose that we (collectively) establish such an award, for fantasy published in the previous year. There are a few questions that need to be nailed down, though.

  • Eligibility: All authors, women only, or a requirement for shortlists to be more-or-less balanced? English-language, for practicality as much as anything else. Should there be a geographical restriction?
  • Prize: Realistically, there would need to be a monetary award as well as an art object. Sponsorship or donation drives should deal with that.
  • Operating requirements: eg. website design & hosting, publicity, promotional materials, fundraising overhead, ceremony costs. Quite a bit of it can be crowd-sourced or donated, but some will require actual money.
  • Judging model: jury, popular vote, or a combination of the two? The same model for the shortlist as for the final choice?
  • Mission: basically, what’s it for? To encourage good writing & inclusive publishing, or to encourage a particular style or characteristic of fantasy literature?

A lack of reliable health & energy, combined with a lack of most of the relevant skillset, means I can’t take a proper lead on this, but if anyone fancies setting up a proper committee then I’m very much in. (Also, I’m about to go away for a week and a half. But I wanted to make a proper post for discussion first.)

Fundamentally, though, this is very much doable.

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