Help Cat Valente Design an Award

Cat Valente got active in discussing Jay Maynard’s award proposal at Black Gate and suddenly had an inspiration of her own, which has been discussed on Twitter and in File 770 comments all day.

Oooh, what if the awards were ACTUALLY for story? Like…aspects of story?

  • Best Ending
  • Best Twist
  • Best Worldbuilding
  • Best Villain
  • Best Action Scene
  • Best Romantic Scene
  • Best Death Scene
  • Best Dramatic Speech
  • Best Protagonist
  • Best Climax
  • Best Battle Sequence

I could actually get CRAZY excited about awards like that. And they probably would sell books like crazy. Without spoilers, knowing a book won an award for Best Ending would make me pick it up in a heartbeat! Plus, you would know damn well people had read the books. There would be so much discussion!

There I go, getting excited about a doomed idea


Absolutely! (Note, I don’t have a Twitter account, so that @mglyer isn’t me, although he is holding a mighty good-looking sandwich.)

What would it take to get this award off the ground?

Valente already has a short list —

Well, you need a couple of administrators to gin up a website and run the thing, access to a large community online to hash out the rules and categories and how to make it fair, for example, for both long and short fiction, and to design a nominating/awarding process, money for award trophies because it’s no fun without a statue, a con willing to host an award ceremony, and publicity. And, you know, a name…

Fire away. Personally, I need a good night’s sleep before I join the brainstorm. I’ll be interested to see what the night shift comes up with….

145 thoughts on “Help Cat Valente Design an Award

  1. Oh, and I’d charge $5 to nominate and vote, via Paypal or other online service, with no duplication of payer.
    And work out some variation on Scalzi’s voter suggestions.
    (I’m still thinking about the bug-or-feature aspects.)

  2. Some categories I’d think about (some of these have already been mentioned):

    Most Compelling Relationship
    Best Implemented Premise
    Most Convincing Worldbuilding
    Best Integration of Research

  3. And for the wild card category the first year, I’d love to see an award ror the book that you couldn’t put down even though you HAD to get to sleep. The book that made you late for work, miss your appointment, forget where you left your spouse, forget that you had children to feed, etc.

    That’s the book I’m always looking for and the one I’m happiest to find–the one that eliminates my ability or desire to live my real life for about 12 hours, even to the extent of skipping sleep or bowing out of activities I normally enjoy (like, oh, sleep) so that I can keep reading.

  4. A few thoughts on categories, voting, and such:

    Forbid each individual from listing an item more than twice on their ballot, at least for voting. (Maybe nominating, too, but I can see casting a wider net there. No limit, higher limit… it’ll shake out in the count.) Bake it into the rules from the outset, and that does away with “I loved everything about X!”

    Best Subplot
    Best (Main/Supporting) Character Development
    Best (Plot/Character) Arc in a Series
    Most WTF Scene (Good/Bad) – could cover Twist
    Best Banter (Overall/Scene)
    Best Easter Egg


    Best Page is a neat idea, but unworkable. Pages change between formats, and that’s before we even think about ebooks. Maybe Best Snippet, to encompass 500 words, 2 minutes, and so forth?

  5. I think that one proposal of Scalzi’s is definitely a bug, not a feature. The rest of it is good.

    $5 a pop is good; enough to get some cash for the shinies, and some pride on the line, but not enough to keep people out.

    And wholeheartedly seconding La Resnick’s idea of “Book That Kept You From Doing Life”. That moment when you finish the book, sigh, and realize the daystar has arrived already.

  6. Count me in as a third (fifth?) for “Most Potent Crack Cocaine in Prose Form” – aka the “OMG, it’s 9am already?” award.

  7. I like the initial category list, with a couple of caveats: I think “Battle Sequence” is redundant with “Action Scene” (I’d prefer just the latter, because it’s more all-encompassing), and I think Best Climax would be kind of unworkable in practice.

    I’d add something to represent excellence in use of humor. Best Snark? Best Comedic Banter? Best Comedic Speech? Best Pratfall? Or even just all-encompassing Best Humor category?

    I suggest calling the awards the Spoilers.

    Love this name!

  8. Love this name!

    I’m not feeling it. People hate spoilers. I spoiled part of Lord of the Rings for a friend and 35 years later I’m still hearing about it.

  9. Just to keep the brainstorm storming –

    To really kick up the fun level, a lot of these crazy categories could be great except for 1) being a pain to organize and administer having so many and such odd designations, and 2) often there are a 1 or 2 works that are PERFECT for an odd category but few others – especially year to year.

    So – just throwing this out there. What about having the awards in two general groups:

    A) Standard categories that would be general enough to have plenty of options every year (Best Opening, Best Ending, Best Protag, Best Villain, Best Worldbuilding, maybe Best Couldn’t Put It Down or Best Nonhuman, etc.)

    B) Then have fans nominate a work/award pair. Like “Most Memorable Wedding Reception/Storm of Swords” (or “Worst Wedding Hosts” perhaps?) or if you allow film as well something like “Best Emotional Use of a Walkman/Guardians of the Galaxy.” Etc.

    There would need to be some jury work or judgement or something to select a short list of word/award pairs. (Maybe a jury made up the previous year’s winners?) Then fan voting picks the top X (4 or 5 out of 10-12 short listed? or 1 out of 6??) that receive those special one-time awards.

    Considering this group of categories would be straight-up fun, even silly, awards, I think the worries of a cabal helping pick the short list wouldn’t be too bad. Alternatively, there could be successive rounds of internet voting to narrow the list to the winners if we do want to avoid any sort of jury altogether. (Although, I think having some sort of judgment to at least eliminate mean spirited ones would be in order and inoffensive.)

    No idea if it would be too convoluted or getting too wacky, but I think there could be a lot of excitement over “Nominate your own unique category and the work that must win it.”

  10. I like the idea of having some categories that are special and just silly, and I think those could easily be single suggestion or chosen by committee or a jury (like the Most Memorable Wedding Reception example). I don’t think the standard list should be too long, though. 6-10 first year, tops, and maybe keeping it lower would be better if you’re going to double or triple it to include more mediums than just prose.

    The Kickstarter refinements all sounds good, and I think it would also create a certain amount of community feeling to have that sort of start-up campaign.

    It would be nice, but not necessary and perhaps too expensive, to talk to one of the conventions about having a hall to hold an award ceremony. Award ceremonies are fun. 🙂

    The voting system is probably what will need the most hammering out. I personally wouldn’t mind paying the price of coffee to vote (and I’m definitely poor), if that’s the way people decided to go. Other than that… EPH? IRV? 3/6? So many options!

  11. Rev. Bob on September 13, 2015 at 5:52 pm said:
    Count me in as a third (fifth?) for “Most Potent Crack Cocaine in Prose Form” – aka the “OMG, it’s 9am already?” award.

    For me it’s more the “Oh dear, 5:30am… hmmm. Might as well just finish it then.”

  12. 3D printers. Peachy Printers are cheap. Peachy Juice, not so much. But it is an easy starting point for experimenting with designs without having to tie up a semi-public printer with failed shape after failed shape.

  13. Indeed. The base for this year’s Hugo (as well as a rocket) was 3D printed before Fishy made it in steel. He showed off the mockup at a Worldcon panel.

  14. Matt Y: Although might be confused with Greedo, and then we’ve got all the who shot first drama. (Han.)

  15. I’m going to make my way through the comments, slowly, but I had to add my $0.02 to the discussion upon reading one comment to my brother-in-law. If we’re going to have a Short Fiction or Serialized Fiction segment to the Awards, Best Cliffhanger.

  16. The Best Cliffhanger award’s nominees should be read early in the ceremony, but it should be the last prize given. 🙂

  17. Rev Bob –

    The Best Cliffhanger award’s nominees should be read early in the ceremony, but it should be the last prize given

    I would like to second this suggestion.

    In fact the awards should be given as they might occur in a boog, with best ending last, except for in the previous example

  18. @Rev. Bob:

    The Best Cliffhanger award’s nominees should be read early in the ceremony, but it should be the last prize given. 🙂

    I suppose it would be unnecessarily cruel to have each year’s ceremony begin with the awarding of the previous year’s cliffhanger trophy and end with the reading of the current year’s cliffhanger nominees.

  19. I’d like a freeform category to be decided every year by the administrators. For something that i so fantastically good, but doesn’t fit the larger categories.

    “Best weird gray rat that keeps appearing here and there”
    “Best strange monologues that just keeps on getting funnier and funnier”

  20. When I mentioned 3D printing, I also mentioned 3D printing services (i.materialise & shapeways) that can print in many materials including metals, clear transparent plastic, etc. While 3D printing on a home printer (RepRap-style filament extruder like I have at home, or a Peachy-style resin curing one) is useful for prototypes, the printing services could quite possibly make (the parts for) the actual trophies; and it might be interesting to see if one of them might be interested in sponsoring the awards in some fashion, since 3D printing is in some ways a bit of science fiction coming true.

  21. Actually that could also be a cool idea. What if each of the awards was like a puzzle piece or a stackable or interlockable shape. So one, by itself, looks kind of cool, but if you collect more than one, then they fit together in some way to make something niftier.

  22. The advantage to charging even a nominal fee is that you can then leverage the entire legal system to validate identity, if you do it right. There’s all this infrastructure just lying around. You can’t entirely depend on it to eliminate duplicate and/or fraudulent votes, but it’s probably a pretty good start.

  23. @Laura:

    That was my first thought as well, but I rejected it as going too far for such a silly gag.

  24. On the subjects of costs – a silly but possibly useful idea might be to not actually give out expensive physical trophies but only inexpensive real, but also “virtual” ones, corresponding of a unique design to which the winner receives a unique license – and can then print with the service and in the size and material of their choice.

    (Want it in clear plastic? sure … solid gold? go for it!)

  25. Yes to Aspects.

    I’d be inclined to keep Hollywood blockbusters out, at least until the award has gotten through the first few years and is standing on its own. They have a way of sucking all of the oxygen out of the room. If everyone has seen Robots in Love but only a few people have read My Alien Lover, then even if they are competing in different categories, the robot kiss will be the one that everyone is critiquing.


    Do not let go of it and throw everything you’ve got against the wall.
    It will work. Now its just the details that are left.


    How about a “Hat Trick” category.

    Something along the lines of


    – Read the eBook, listened to the audio book production, and then re read it dead tree style. In no particular order.


    – Listened to the soundtrack, then read the book, and then watched the movie or TV show. In no particular order.


    – Read the book, purchased the action figures, and then listened to the audio book production, while simultaneously acting out my own personal stage production using the action figures. In no particular order.


    – Read the book, then made my own costume in the likeness of my favorite character, and then purchased every single one of the finely crafted limited edition replica props made by the most skilled artisans from around the world, using the authors exact details, and employing methods of construction that have not been used in over one hundred years or more. In no particular order.


  27. If the general sentiment is that categories should be pruned to some single digit or not much more than single digit number, I’m fine with that but otherwise I am entirely serious in proposing Best Infodump.

  28. My random thoughts:

    1. I’d much prefer to see the awards focus solely on literature rather than the broader audio-visual landscapes. My main reason is that readers are a fairly small community compared to movie-goers or tv-watchers and it would be pitting communities of different scale against each other creating potential in-fandom ill will (we’ve had enough of that over things like the Best Dr Who episode category) and crowding out whichever community is smaller. The secondary reason is that the audio-visual mediums are much more communal efforts and it is difficult to recognize one person for their work rather than trying to figure out how much credit the actor vs director vs writer deserves.

    2. Serious categories that are persistent year to year should make up the bulk (no more than 10) of the categories with any humorous categories being single year categories.

    3. Consider leveraging social media to use the award to get people talking about good storytelling moments year round and avoid the ‘what did I read in the last 12 months’ problem. Something like a hashtag or webform where you can put in what you’ve been reading and what aspect of it hyped you and every couple weeks randomly select some for each category to tweet or email (opt in only) what other fans are getting excited about lately. To me this would be even more awesome than the awards themselves because it would give me awesome reading suggestions all year (including before the award season) to increase my reading list.

  29. 3. Consider leveraging social media to use the award to get people talking about good storytelling moments year round and avoid the ‘what did I read in the last 12 months’ problem. Something like a hashtag or webform where you can put in what you’ve been reading and what aspect of it hyped you and every couple weeks randomly select some for each category to tweet or email (opt in only) what other fans are getting excited about lately. To me this would be even more awesome than the awards themselves because it would give me awesome reading suggestions all year (including before the award season) to increase my reading list.

    How about getting Kyra on-board and doing the award bracket style? Get your nominations, seed them and then encourage people to vote in the pairings, give them a week between heats, and encourage people to talk about why they loved what they voted for. Could call it Cat Valente presents: A Mike Glyer production, the Kyra Bracket awards for storytelling, the Brackies for short.

    Second option, smaller number of nominees and do it at a con, scantron sheets, have to give your membership number to vote, the heats posted in the morning newsletter, the ballot boxes close at the end of the day’s programming, final winners announced at a ceremony. People will spend all day talking about the match-ups. Agonizing over choices.

  30. I love the idea of these awards, though as the number of categories proposed grows it all seems more likely to fail through complexity. I agree that there should be a set number of core awards to be given every year, then maybe, throughout the nominating process, allow anyone who nominates to suggest one additional category. When nominations close, those proposed categories that receive a percentage (to be determined) of the number of nominators would be added to the final ballot for that year. As new categories are proposed they could be listed on the award Web site. Or maybe list proposals on the Web site before nominations, with proposal period closing before nominations open, and allow people to nominate one or two from that list. Those (number to be determined) which receive the given percentage (to be determined) would be added to the final ballot.

    As for the physical award, someone earlier suggested something to do with puzzles. That made me think of the core awards each being one piece of a puzzle that would be mounted on a plaque, so a nominee might win the piece for Best Villain one year, and a year or two later the piece for best Plot Twist, and then the piece for Best Main Character, and so on until he or she completed the puzzle and was awarded a special plaque on which to mount them all…though I suppose eventually that could lead to writing to the award if people grew obsessed over winning that final piece or two. And writers with a gift for characterization might end up with multiple Villain or Main Character bests before they filled out the other categories. And maybe the puzzle idea is better suited for mysteries than SF/F?

    Then I thought maybe have the awards be links in a chain or charms on a necklace, hung from ribbons or plain chains that could be shortened if awards were added year to year. Or, like military honors to be pinned on — I did love those scenes at the end of the movie Z where each successively higher-ranking officer marching in to testify had a greater expanse of chest covered by medals and ribbons.

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  32. Cat, if you would like help in doing the nitty-gritty work for this award, once you all work out the details, I can help with that. I helped found and organize the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, I’ve help run some Nebula Awards weekends, and I’ve put together a number of awards in math, so I have some experience with organization, administration, paperwork, and so on. I may also be able to help in getting funding.

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