New Award Proposal at Black Gate

Jay Maynard has proposed “An Award for SF Storytelling” in a post on Black Gate, essentially the anti-Hugos, copying many of the existing Hugo categories and rules but purified of the tendencies Maynard disapproves.

The rationale for the (insert name here) Awards is simple. Over time, the Hugo voters have considered other factors than the most fundamental when evaluating a work. They have chosen works based on their political emphasis, or the race or nationality of the author, or other criteria aside from that which defines SF/F. Attempts to turn the Hugo Awards back to the foundations of SF/F have been met with derision and outright hatred. Despite their previous claims to the contrary, the Hugo Awards voters and others now say that the Hugos represent the World Science Fiction Society’s choices, not those of fandom at large.

The Novelette category would be eliminated, with short fiction receiving just two awards in the new system. There would be no editor or semiprozine categories. On the other side of the ledger, there would be a new YA Story category – one category for all lengths.

  • Best Novel – Written SF/F stories of 50,000 words or more in length.
  • Best Novella – Written SF/F stories between 5,000 and 50,000 words in length.
  • Best Short Story – Written SF/F stories 5,000 words in length or shorter.
  • Best Young Adult Story – Written SF/F stories of any length intended to be accessible to and enjoyed by SF/F fans under 18 years of age.
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form – Any SF/F story intended to be performed for an audience of over 90 minutes in length.
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – Any SF/F story intended to be performed for an audience in 90 minutes or less.
  • Best Graphic Story – Works of graphic art, with or without accompanying text, that tell an SF/F story.
  • Best Related Work – Any nonfiction or fiction work that is not itself a work of SF/F storytelling, but serves to advance the SF/F storyteller’s art.

Although he would make a logical ally for a new set of sf awards, none of Eric Flint’s suggestions for adjusting the novel category have been adopted — not that there’s anything keeping them from being considered in a later draft.

In the nominating phase, Maynard will implement the 4/6 and E Pluribus Hugo proposals given first passage at Sasquan. Then comes a most interesting twist — the finalists will be screened by a Judging Committee.

The judges shall evaluate each work solely by its storytelling. The judges may disqualify any work they find to have an emphasis on other than telling a good SF/F story. They may disqualify no more than three nominees in any category. The disqualified nominees will be replaced by reprocessing the nominating ballots from the beginning as though those nominees had never been submitted; the judges may not disqualify the replacement nominees. This power is expected to be used very sparingly, as the awards are intended to reflect the choices of fandom at large….

The Judging Committee shall consist of no more than five members. They shall be chosen by the Foundation Board of Directors, and selected for their knowledge of the fields of science fiction and fantasy and their commitment to uphold the ideals of the (insert name here) Awards. They may serve as long as they and the Foundation Board of Directors wish.

The final ballot will be voted on by the Single Transferable Vote method (which some traditionalists like to call “the Australian Ballot”).

Unlike the Hugo Awards, there will be no provision for No Award. (Take that, WSFSians!)

The awards will be administered by a nonprofit corporation with a 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

The voter eligibility rules seem difficult to reconcile with Maynard’s goal of truly representing all of fandom. To become an eligible voter for Maynard’s awards, a person must be vouched for by one or more existing eligible voters with sufficient status. A voter must have a “trust level of 1 or greater” —

When first registering to vote, a person’s trust level is 0. An existing eligible voter whose trust level is 3 or greater may raise or lower the trust level of up to three other people by 1 each, and this number rises by 1 with each additional trust level until a maximum of a trust level of 10 is reached. The undersigned, as well as prior recipients of a (insert name here) Award and current and past members of the Foundation Board of Directors and Judging Committee, may raise or lower the trust level of any person by 1. A voter may not raise the trust level of anyone who raised his own, nor of anyone in the chain of trust leading back to those holding unlimited trusting privileges.

What could be more welcoming?

Maynard still needs a name for his proposed awards, though he did express a preference:

Part of me wants to name it after Terry Pratchett and have the award be a silver asterisk on a nice mahogany base or some such, just to throw the asterisks back in David Gerrold’s face, but not only do I not know how Sir Terry would take it, the name would get people away from thinking about SF as well. I also want this to not be a Puppy thing, and that would detract from that.

Yes, it might. Have any successful awards been built on a revenge platform?

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624 thoughts on “New Award Proposal at Black Gate

  1. Meredith: Gotcha. Anyway, it’s just that he’s got this history of doing thoughtlessly cruel things and then responding self-destructively to critical responses. And I would like him to be stronger in the ways that’d help him do neither.

  2. @Bruce Baugh

    I certainly agree with that. I’m getting a sort of second-hand pain/stress from watching him be messily thoughtless and then messily unhappy about everything in ways that I’ve spent some time learning how not to do (mostly). I don’t think he’s got to the point where he realises that any of the problem is to do with him and no-one else yet, so I’m not sure any help for that can truly be offered.

  3. Jim Henley: I think this is more infuriating than an actual didactic story about the destructiveness of homophobia, because by simply assuming that and getting on with his real business, Chu implicitly removes homophobia’s valence from the realm of the contestable, as polite society has also belatedly done. If you have to write a story about how homophobia is destructive, it’s because the idea that homophobia is just and good remains vital, or at least something to entertain. If you no longer have to write that story, well shit. Game over.

    I just wanted to point at this with admiration and respect and say “yes, this” again.

  4. I went back over to Black Gate and caught up, mostly, with the comments.
    This caught my eye:
    Cat’s category list is unavailable. The cool kids took it away from the nerds. Should I decide that this is worth pursuing any farther and the heartache it will surely bring, I’ll definitely take Sarah up on her offer.

    Frankly, my suspicion is that CV is as big a nerd as anyone.
    But it is Cat’s list, and they are her categories, and I can well imagine she would be reluctant to have them dragged through the whole trust-list limited franchise mess.
    JM’s initial proposal argues a very, shall we call it hands-on?, management style, that would leave me not trusting folks behind the curtain.
    So it makes sense for her to take her toys and go home.

    Besides, Cat’s brainwave wasn’t what JM was proposing, but that doesn’t mean he can’t take his own concept and run with it.
    What he does need to do, though, is come up with a coherent project, because as proposed it’s just a mess.
    I can’t go back through the whole damn thread (shudder), but at some point JM said something plaintive about needing to police the membership in order to avoid having his award just being the same as the Hugos.
    And that is a valid fear, if he leaves it open to all fandom.
    Hence his need to curate the voters and nominations, but there is a better fix for it.

    Let him make it explicitly a conservative writers’ award.
    Let there be a positive code of beliefs, or credo of desirable characteristics in scifi writing, or some way to declare upfront and clearly the kind of works that are suited for nomination.
    He needs to spend a lot of time working this through: just what are the qualities of the works this award is meant to honor.
    So not a reactive anti-SJW, anti-HUGO award, but a pro- whatever.
    People keep mentioning that there is a Libertarian award (the Prometheus?)
    JM might take a look at their paperwork to see how they describe the focus of their award, as an example of how to do this.

    Then he doesn’t need to worry so much about membership.
    Honest, I don’t think anyone wants to mess with it.
    But, importantly, if the nominations are sufficiently constrained by definition, that should be enough to prevent the same-as-the-Hugos effect.
    If uncongenial types did turn up, they’d be limited in their ability to disrupt things by the terms of the award.

    Openly creating an award for this specific community would allow him to stop trying to both exclude and include other fans at the same time.
    This tends to make people crabby, telling them they are welcome to join, but first they have to get past the angry dog at the gate.
    Forget about “all fandom” and focus on serving that segment of fandom that is dissatisfied with the Hugos.
    Heck, someone suggested naming it the Sirius Award and that is brilliant.
    It embraces its etiology, and points to its target fans and writers.

  5. Just trying to catch up on this mess after being away for a busy real-life weekend.

    Wow, if I’m correctly understanding that Jay M. is believed to be falling into a depressive episode, I am very sorry to hear that. I hope he is able to get back to normal affect soon, if that’s really a current thing.

    I’ve remarked upthread that Jay has gone around being somewhat theatrically bitter and resentful for quite a while – like the persona Stephen Colbert portrayed on his (USA cable television) Comedy Central programme, except far less amusing. There’s a whole persecution narrative lurking in the background. I’d speculate that he was genuinely surprised to have alienated Cat Valente, having conceptualised himself as just a technician responding to various past outrages, such that of course nobody should take offence at various of his offhand insults: Those are merely the just defensive response of the injured, etc.

    Lack of self-awareness? Sure, but don’t forget that self-knowledge is always a difficult and unreliable thing.

    Also, I offer for consideration that Jay was taking a very techie approach: He went straight for inventing mechanism first before holding any substantive conversation about what his specific aims were, what the proposed award was intended to be for as a positive proposition, i.e., what cultural values they stand for as opposed to what they were to oppose. The values should then have been a guiding force in architecting the implementation, instead of the implementation coming first and immediately getting slagged by the innumerable people saying ‘Wait, you’re responding to the problem of (imaginary, delusional) gatekeeping at the Hugo Awards by creating an anti-Hugo Award with real, deliberate gatekeeping? Hypocritical much?’

    But this is one of the commonest failure modes of techie thinking: As a computer-tech diagnostician, I cannot tell you how many times, in helping such people, I’ve had to stop one of them in mid-anecdata and say ‘What problem are you actually trying to solve?’ I’m sure the large tech contingent here on File770 know exactly what I’m talking about: people wanting to deploy without properly considering what they’re trying to achieve and how best to get there.

    I do hope Jay gets some more friendly suggestions about how he might rethink how he’s proposing to get to where he wants to go. FWIW, the commentary on the conrunners’ Mailing List That Shall Not Be Named has been very much on the friendly side of neutral, and everyone wishes Jay good luck, albeit with various degrees of skepticism about practical details.

  6. Rick Moen: I do hope Jay gets some more friendly suggestions about how he might rethink how he’s proposing to get to where he wants to go. FWIW, the commentary on the conrunners’ Mailing List That Shall Not Be Named has been very much on the friendly side of neutral, and everyone wishes Jay good luck, albeit with various degrees of skepticism about practical details.

    I wish him all the best; I hope that he can get some assistance at examining his behavior, gaining some self-awareness, and understanding why he receives the responses he does. Until that happens, he is likely to remain trapped in an endless cycle of self-sabotage, the resulting negative reactions, and the corresponding depression at not getting a positive response. 🙁

  7. There are some ways in which Maynard’s friends are very much not helping him. The defensive insults (the one who referred to the puppies as Rationals, while denying he’d said people didn’t vote for works on merit… precious).

    I’ve written about 6,000 words on my problems with the proposal; a number of which (reading Black Gate) seemed to be things he was willing to address. Then his friends came in, and stirred the pot, which made what were tensions, into animosities (which Manyard’s petulant comments about how the rest of Fandom wasn’t jumping on board, or at least not critiquing didn’t help. I don’t think he is harmless in how this went).

    At root I don’t think one can have a serious “anti-award”. I’d like to see him come up with one that was based on a positive model, rather than one which seems to be, “The Hugo Voters Don’t Know What a Good Story Is Award”.

  8. I know this thread is stale and nobody is likely to see it (especially not Jay Maynard). But I woke up with this in my head — a blueprint for what I would have wanted to see from any puppy-based new award proposal — and it’s going to bug me all day if I don’t post it somewhere.

    Proposal for a new SF award*

    Science fiction and fantasy have been around for a long time now, with Worldcon (1939) and the Hugo Awards (1953). As the field of SF&F has grown and matured, the Hugos have grown and matured along with it. But that has left a significant minority of fans feeling alienated by recent Hugo nominees and winners. The awards no longer honor the kind of fiction we like to see honored.

    In light of that, this year we tried something which was, in retrospect, a mistake — we organized that minority to vote in bloc for a slate of pre-selected works, in order to give our minority more of a voice in the Hugo selection process than our numbers alone would get us. However, this had an even stronger effect than we were anticipating, and we ended up not merely having a voice on the ballot, but dominating it completely.

    That worked out badly. We will not be trying it again. Instead, we would like to start a new award that does honor the kind of fiction we like to see.

    1. Voting will be free, unlike the Hugos, but like the Locus Awards. We will find out how they make this process work with a minimum of fraud and ballot-stuffing. We will also find out how they finance their awards, and possibly follow that model.

    2. The final ballot will be juried, in order to make sure that it does select works that honor the kind of fiction it was designed to honor. That includes fiction with an emphasis on high-adventure imaginative storytelling, and a relative lack of emphasis on abstract ideas, socio-political themes, or literary qualities.

    3. The first jury will be made up of those of us putting in the work to get this award off the ground. One of our tasks will be to determine how future juries will be chosen.

    4. This first jury will also determine the award categories, with input from those of you interested in participating in this award. Do you wish the Hugos had a category for best video game? Maybe our award should have that — make a case for it!

    5. This discussion phase is set to end on (date). At that time, we will determine the name of our awards, determine the members of our first jury, get a website, and be able to fill that website with all the details about how the awards will be voted on and given out. Needless to say, we will also have determined our funding at that point.

    *that doesn’t assume hostility toward Hugo voters, Worldcon members, or fans in general

  9. @McJulie, yes, that’s the sort of proposal I could whole-heartedly get behind. Heck, I’d probably enjoy the books they came up with. I like a good action-adventure potboiler as much as the next person…

  10. We will also find out how they finance their awards, and possibly follow that model.

    My understanding is that Locus simply finances the awards themselves, from the money they make selling the magazine.

  11. As much as I have issues with JM’s original idea, I kinda wish people would avoid heaping scorn on him for the ideas he included in his concept that were intended (as far as I can tell) as well-meaning [ie, the web of trust, which looks to me like it was intended to find real people and weed out bots without requiring a credit card, not to weed out people he didn’t like–never mind questions about implementation that might very well have resulted in exactly the effect people were concerned about, as well as big generational issues] rather than just the ideas that were profoundly disasteful (ie, the gatekeeping jury, the shots at the Hugo and the Worldcon community).

    I can understand him being disgruntled that his idea inspired a better idea (by someone who then invited him to work on it with her, if he desired), particularly since in as much as his idea has value, Cat’s idea is far superior, in that rather than doing the “we’ll work just like the Hugos but leave out stuff we don’t like”, instead she goes “lets focus on what makes an award ‘about’ a story and go from there”. But I don’t sympathize.

  12. Joshua Kronengold: I don’t sympathize.

    It would be much easier to sympathize with Mr Maynard if he could resist the urge to include a dig at or insult to the Worldcon voters every time he posts a comment.

    The blind spot which is apparently keeping him from noticing the fact that he does this must be the size of a supertanker.

  13. Joshua Kronengold: Systems don’t do what we want them to do, they do what they’re designed to do. Maynard consistently refuses to engage with that law of nature. I am of mixed minds as to whether he is being disingenuous or stupid, but in the end it doesn’t matter. The Web of Trust is a system which cannot succeed. There is no way in which this does not get gamed six ways to Sunday. Moreover, despite what he says he wants it to do, almost instantly in the comments people start talking about using it as way to protect the purity of the voting pool.

    If you are talking about setting up a brand new award, you really need to think about systems. And, in fact, most of his post is about systems and mechanisms. When the failure modes of those systems are pointed out, he either doubles down, or insists that the pure motives of the as yet to be named board will prevent these things from happening. If your’e going to talk systems, for heaven’s sake, talk systems. Look, not at what you wish they would accomplish, but what their strengths and failure modes are. Which he has consistently refused to do.

    Based on reading his comments, I suspect his motives are at best mixed, and what he really wants to accomplish is not clear in his own mind. That would certainly explain why his proposed systems are such a muddle. He is correct that you need a way to verify voters, or else you will end up naming a bridge Steven Colbert, or some astronomical objects Larry, Moe, and Curly. This is obviously a problem. But his solution is not merely a bad one, it is a spectacularly bad one. You couldn’t design a worse system if you tried.

    It is possible that he is merely extremely muddled, rather than acting in bad faith. But the proposal is so very, very bad it is all but a compliment to assume that it’s malign, rather than merely stupid.

  14. Josh: He’s doing two things with his Web of Trust. One, verifying the “real person” status. If that was all it did, then no one would (I think) have much problem with it. But it does a lot more than that.

    The attendant “Trust Points” where one has to be supervouched: three people, each with at least three trust points have to affirm that you are a “trusted” before you can vouch anyone in . So it takes nine people to get one person to the level they can vouch for three people. That’s horrible math… a recipe for a really small voting pool.

    And why would anyone need to be vouched for more than once, if the idea is merely to be sure that one is a real person? Why/how does the attendant, “untrust” kick in? That can’t be about someone being a real person. If someone isn’t a real person you don’t just reduce the amount of “trust” you give them, you zero them out of the process.

    Even if there is no ill intent, I can’t see any way it doesn’t get gamed to shape/limit the voting pool. Which is at odds with the idea of an award for all of fandom.

  15. Ok, no, it can be done with less than nine people, but that is it’s own self-limiter, since three people combining to raise three people to the level of being able to vouch three people exhausts their ability (absent more people spending trust points on them) to increase the size of the voting pool.

  16. Thrust points seems doomed to work, but if you have read the comments you can see that Jay is open to alternatives and even said that one proposal (mine actually) might work better.

  17. In Tron Guy’s proposal, there is a class of entities described as “those holding unlimited trusting privileges”. The proposal is not entirely clear about who these entities are, but at first blush, I think they are “The undersigned, as well as prior recipients of a (insert name here) Award and current and past members of the Foundation Board of Directors and Judging Committee”. “The undersigned” is possibly Jay Maynard?

  18. It’s good to know he’s considering ditching the Web of Trust. It was such a gobsmackingly bad idea.

    If Jay could construct an award which would engage and distract the Puppies, I would be eternally grateful. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on what it takes to create such an award, even in the short term, much less understand how these things work in order to gain sufficient prestige to suit either himself or the people I wish he would distract. For my own purposes, it doesn’t matter if Jay Maynard creates it, or if someone else takes the idea and runs with it in a constructive fashion. I don’t care. I am perfectly comfortable ignoring the Tiptree awards, and the Mythopoeic awards, and can cheerfully ignore the Maynards, too. I have a good imagination, but it doesn’t stretch as far as 1) Jay creating a sustainable award, which 2) is sufficiently prestigious that the most egregious puppies leave my community alone.

    Mind you, I’ve been wrong about many things. I would have given long odds against CONvergence managing to create a cheerful, sustainable, wildly successful convention. I’m delighted to have been wrong about that, by the way. Hopefully, I’m wrong here, too.

  19. Cubist: “The Undersigned” seems to be those who are foundational to the award. So when the actual charter is written will they be known. Maynard did offer membership in that class to Scalzi. Scalzi (as many would have predicted) rejected it.

    With some vehemence.

  20. I’ve never seen video of Maynard before, so I never imagined the accent:

    (Didn’t mean to embed that – don’t know how to make it just a link.)

  21. Pingback: Top 10 Posts for September 2015 | File 770

  22. I should post this here for posterity’s sake. Jay never responded. I posted this as a comment on his thread on the 22nd.

    I’m going to try something more positive today. Yours to do with as you will. I’ve taken bits and pieces from comments here, other places you’ve pointed to, and other conversations I’ve been involved in elsewhere.

    Happy SFF Storytelling Awards (put your name here)

    These awards are for stories which are frequently overlooked by other SFF Awards as the stories are just fun entertainment and do not touch on serious social and/or political issues.

    Given out for best
    1. MilSF
    2. Fantasy
    3. YA
    4. Urban Fantasy
    5. Paranormal Romance
    6. Shared Universe
    7. Media Tie-in
    8. Best series

    Criteria for books/stories:
    1. Books should be fun, comedic, entertaining (all subjective “I’ll know it when I see it stuff)
    2. Books should have an upbeat belief in the human spirit
    3. Books should be full of rich non-stereotyped characters
    4. Books should be light on social and political messages (subjective as we tend not to see messages we are in agreement with)
    5. Character growth is good
    6. Happy endings or happy for now endings are preferred. If it is a dystopia story it should include hope. If the character dies in the end they should die fighting for something they believe in.
    7. Books should have beginnings, middles, and ends.
    8. Science/magic should make sense in the books universe

    Nominating & voting:
    5/8 – I like 2 round nominating but it’s more work for administrators
    Small fee or free (no clue how you fund this)
    3D printed items?
    Internet wall?
    Piece of paper?

    Questions & problems:
    1. Funding
    2. Administering
    3. Name
    4. Getting people on board & excited
    5. Must stay positive and drop past baggage to move forward
    6. Do you want a convention involved in giving awards or wait a few years/never
    7. Software & website
    8. Logo
    9. Do you need to incorporate to protect mark
    10. Who is taking on
    11. Do you want awards for just books? Additional for shorter written work? Comics/graphic novels? Games? Anthologies and magazines rather than individual stories? Filking? Podcast? Blogs, fanzines, tv, movies, stuff I forgot? Word counts?
    12. How many years for eligibility? Different for Trad published than self-published as self-published takes more time to get “legs” Or separate awards with different eligibility for trad/self-published so they aren’t competing & it’s less confusing to voters?

    Ways to fund:
    1. Kickstarter/crowdfunding but make sure you have lots of support first & someone experienced in running Kickstarters running the campaign
    2. Small group of early investors
    3. Out of your pocket
    4. Other I’ve not thought of

    I’m sure there are lots of things I’ve not thought of. But I tried to pull together bits and pieces from all over, remove my bias, make it positive and enthusiastic, and include all the details I could think of which it takes at a big level to put something like this together.
    Comment by TashaTurner – September 22, 2015 3:28 pm

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