The Nova Awards, given at Novacon in the UK since 1973 for work in British and Irish fanzines, have been suspended except for the occasional “Special Nova” to honor individuals of merit.
Steve Green confirmed to readers of his LiveJournal that the report in yesterday’s edition of Ansible, coincidentally published on April 1, was not an April Fool’s joke.
Green retired as awards administrator when he passed the Novacon chair to Tony Berry last year. The new committee discontinued the Novas.
Diminished voter support drove the decision, Green explained:
When the entirety of UK and Irish fandom has the opportunity to vote, virtually all of the candidates are available to read online and ballots can be cast electronically, but fewer than two dozen people can be arsed to take part, it’s impossible to see how the Novas could be justified.
As a winner of possibly the last award for best fanzine I am obviously biased. I can see how administering an award that is declining in its appeal must be dispirting but it is surely up to the administrator to find new ways to invigorate it. I am amazed that a convention with over 200 regular members cannot raise a sparrows’ fart compared with one of 60 (Corflu), although the obvious conclusion is that the Novacon electorate aren’t really interested in sf and fandom beyond the realm of partying and instant gratification. Was it really ever thus?
>>>>”…..the obvious conclusion is that the Novacon electorate aren’t really interested in sf and fandom beyond the realm of partying and instant gratification.”
Fandom, except perhaps for ideological fanatics of both the Far Right and the Far Left, some time ago lost any real interest in SF, and faanishness reigns supreme. Someone recently pointed out how there are almost no real sercon fanzines left. Cons are worse. At my first conventionsI thought that I’d found a universal brotherhood or Utopian sub-society that I could feel secure in. However, in the last several years especially, my perceptions have changed. I’ve come to believe that I caught the very tail end of the best years of fandom, and the beginning of its dilution into meaninglessness. People openly brag that they are there not for panels or art shows or other events of substance relating to SF literature and art – they’re there mainly to see their friends, to party, to get drunk, to apply to the concom for con funds for booze for private parties, to put on tarot classes (Asimov and Clarke would blanch) or to get laid, etc. I’ve dealt with concom members who were nobodies in their mundane lives, but could be little Napoleons drunk with power who enjoyed bossing and bullying people. I’ve come to perceive fandom as a Bizarro World version of a mad high school where people who would have been outcasts set up a parallel high school social class and political structure where they mimic the worst behavior in real world institutions they pretend to scorn. Kurt Vonnegut described the “granfalloon” as a ” a group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless….associations and societies based on a shared but ultimately fabricated premise.” That’s fandom today.
It used to be said, paraphrasing a line from an old SF story, that it was a proud and lonely thing to be a science fiction fan. When I first read about fandom in Harry Warner’s book 45 years ago, I never would have thought that one day I would find myself feeling that way – in the middle of a so-called science fiction convention. The last best alternative – or refuge – for the real fan is at places like Readercon or Pulpfest, where the entire emphasis is still on the books!
I’m pretty sure Graham hasn’t attended Novacon for at least a decade, so it’s not surprising he’s unaware of the many steps we tried in an attempt to “invigorate” the Nova Awards, such as: extending eligibility to Irish fanzines, residents of Eire and electronic fanzines; allowing voting via e-mail; opening the vote to all UK and Irish fans, not just members of Novacon; urging the editors of known eligible fanzines to plug the Novas in print and in correspondence with their readers; promoting the fanzine medium in our publications (such as Christina Lake’s column in all three Novacon 44 progress reports).
Comparing Novacon to Corflu isn’t all that helpful, since the former is a general sf event with a strong leaning towards the written word in professional print, whilst the latter is an overtly fannish gathering attended largely by people who’ve either edited fanzines or appeared in them. It would be equally pointless to ask why Corflu doesn’t have a dealers’ room or a video programme.
KBK: “Fandom, except perhaps for ideological fanatics of both the Far Right and the Far Left, some time ago lost any real interest in SF, and faanishness reigns supreme.”
That may be true in some quarters, but it’s certainly not a universal truth. For instance, the most ‘off-road’ Novacon 44 got was an appearance on Saturday evening by sf-themed rock band Crimson Clocks, fronted by the author Linzi Cooke.
No real sercon fanznes left? Maybe, but the fact is that there aren’t a lot of fanzines, period. What tthere are a lot of is web sites and blogs. I’ve been complaining that of the fanzines that survive, not *enough* of them are fannish — most of the new titles are tedious collections of reviews by people who don’t know how to write them, essays on the genre that have nothing new to say, and other matter related to the writers or publishing business. I read some SF still, but don’t want to read about it particularly. I like to read fanzines that amuse me or say something quirky.
Taral: “most of the new titles are tedious collections of reviews by people who don’t know how to write them, essays on the genre that have nothing new to say, and other matter related to the writers or publishing business”
That sounds a lot like the early fanzines, which eventually metamorphosed into the “amusing, quirky” publications you appreciate so much. Could the same evolution re-occur? Possibly not, in so radically changed a landscape.
Steven Green: We can hope. But the list of distractions is almost endless — gaming, costuming, convention running, cosplaying, Facebook — so there’s no telling. I don’t know how many of us Old Schoolers will still be around once fanzine fandom has re-evolved from the current generation of tadpoles.
Or am I using the wrong measuring stick? Maybe it isn’t so much waiting for First Fandom to evolve into Fourth Fandom (or whatever), as it is waiting for the average fannish generation to past (which has been stated to be two to three years)? I guess it comes down to whether we’re waiting for individuals to re-discover “fannishness” … or all of fandom to.
The reviews at LOCUS seldom veer into negative areas. Richard Geis’ variously named fanzine titles cheerfully often went after writers bad efforts, even if they were the “good guys”. Too much pandering towards writers isn’t good for the writer.
In THE ALIEN CRITIC (or some of Geis publication) recall a great number of pages written about Robert Moore Williams’ efforts and his responses back about how he had started to write badly so he could sell his work. You don’t see much of that anymore.
A friend and I visited Robert Moore Williams when we were in college. He lived in Southern California. I remember him explaining how “you have to stink ’em up just right” or else the stories would be too literary and people wouldn’t buy them. That was his theory.