Award

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See also: Recommendation
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Fans have organized a variety of awards to recognize and reward outstanding fanworks and fan activities (such as infrastructure work by archivists, for example). Some awards work via open voting, and others restrict voting to the members of a particular mailing list or community. However, some kind of voting must take place, otherwise there would be no difference between awards and recommendations.

Offline Awards

Some conventions organize awards, for zines or other fanworks. The Fan Q Awards, given at MediaWest*Con, originated as Star Trek fic awards but have have expanded to all active fandoms.

Anime conventions often feature AMV competitions.

Online Awards

Online, the most common awards are for fanfic, though some awards also have categories for fanart, fanvids, or websites. Preventing vote tampering is more problematic in online awards than for those attached to cons. Online awards often provide banners or other graphics for the winners to display on their websites or journals.

Controversies

"The Editor's Choice Awards." Possibly frustrated with current awards, a fan put this idea out there for a new fanzine award, one that never got off the ground. Click to read.

Because awards involve ranking fanworks, they often cause wank, especially if the fans who organize the award aren't sufficiently transparent in their organization to avoid allegations of bias, whether through the setup of the award's categories, the nomination and voting procedures, or outright vote tampering.[1]

Comments from 1988:

The awards ceremonies are over for the year, and neither TCTS nor any of its contributors won any awards. That's not surprising (and that's not because of the calibre of the work herein!). How many of you voted in the Fan-Q and/or Surak Awards? How many of you have even heard of either group of awards? ...You four may put your hands down now. Aye, there's the rub. For all the hoopla around these 'prestigious' awards, they don't really mean much. Too few fans are involved, too many zines go unread by those involved, and what few zines, writers, and artists are nominated, those who pay to do the actual voting haven't read or seen the work of all of the nominees.

Yes, that's right — you pay to vote. A dollar a vote. Think we should buy some votes? Pssst — here's a buck, Vote for Teresa Sarick as best author; Gennie Summers as best artist; TCTS as the best fanzine in the world. C'mon, there's nothing illegal about it...

We've got nothing against the idea of fanzine awards, it's just the way the two awards [sic] groups handle things. The Motion Picture Academy of the Arts, at least, requires its members to have viewed all the nominations for the categories they vote on in the Academy Awards. For fanzine awards it doesn't matter; you can vote sight unseen.

The Fan-Q awards as a total of twelve categories, consisting of Best Zine, Best Writer, Artist, and "Poet/Filker" for Star Trek, Star Wars, and "General." Short and sweet, but lumps too much in the "General" category. TCTS would have to compete in there with diverse things like GHOST RIDERS (westerns), SONIC SCREWDRIVER (Doctor Who), LEEPIN' JEEPS (Rat Patrol) , and so on. Too wide a field, but what else can they do to keep it succinct? And is there that many Star Wars zines being published than Doctor Who or Blake's Seven to deserve a separate category?

The Surak awards dispenses completely with the 'riff-raff of "General" and Star Wars awards, and limits itself solely to Star Trek. There are more categories — different kinds of artists (portrait, action), stories (long, short), graphics, foreign zines, and so on. But then double every category for a separate set of awards for "Age Statement Required" zines. Thus you have categories like "Best Writer Short Story -- General" and "Best Writer Short Story — Age Statement Required. Fine, but 99% of "Age Statement Required" zines are K/S zines, and K/S fandom is a whole subgenre of Star Trek fandom that should have its own awards. (Why not have an Academy Award for best X-rated picture?) Why segregate "Age Statement Required" material in the first place? This implies it can't compete on its own two legs with general Trek work. Curiously, some of the Surak Award categories this year only got one nomination (an indication on how poorly distributed the nominations were?). The Powers That Be decided not to give an award in some categories, and to give it in others to nominees "who surpassed the criteria necessary to be included on the ballot." What criteria? No actual voting was needed; they were automatically given the award. There was no 'no award' choices on the ballot, something needed as a failsafe measure to the voting.

Flawed. Sadly flawed. But it's all fandom's got.

So save your dollars, forget your votes. Go but [sic] a zine instead. [2]
Comments from 1994:
The FanQs are wildly unobjective, amounting to a popularity or "reputation" vote, not one based on QUALITY. People vote for the names they know, whether or not they've read the nominated work, or have enough knowledge of the fandom to know if "the name" can actually write, say, QL as well as they wrote Blake's 7 or Starsky and Hutch. If you've only read one of three nominated zines, but thought it was pretty good, who do you vote for? The nomination process is so screwy that there have been allegations of tainting at that stage (you need 3 nominations to be considered for the ballot, and your senile, non-fannish Auntie Em can nominate and vote. If there are MORE than 5 nominees in a category, ONLY the top 5 nominees are put on the ballot. So it's a "pre-vote", only you don't know whether or not you have to mobilize the pre-voters...) (However, "Never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence," as the button says.) The nominations for 1994 closed on different dates for members and non-members of MediaWest, through bureaucratic glitches. MediaWestCon takes a hands-off, "FanQs are not run by MW", etc. approach, but there is actually a mutualistic relationship, with each feeding off and supporting the other. (Don't believe it? Look at who is specifically barred from consideration for FanQs. And where most of the ballots are handed in.) In partial recognition of the popularity-poll aspect of the FanQs, the award was changed from "Best" to "Favorite" in 1993 (or was it '92?). Recent past, anyhow. Also in partial recognition, many fandoms are starting their own awards -- Star Wars has had their own for ages, and I was in the room where the U.N.C.L.E. awards were being planned this year. Australian Rules ballots listing ALL the published stories in the fandom for the year were gaining favor as I crashed. I suggest that any list citing FanQ results emphasize that they are a FAVORITE award, not a BEST or QUALIITY one. [3]

Additionally, awards may face criticism for privileging BNFs, i.e. for making the awards personal "popularity" rather than "quality" contests.[4] Comments from 2005:

I find fanfiction awards to be skewed. Firstly there is the fact that the fics written by generally more well known authors get more exposure (via the fan base) and more general readership. Of course, people are encouraged to read all entries...but seriously when there are over a dozen categories with half a dozen fics for each, not everyone is going to bother. So people vote for what they know and trust. It's human. But it also makes the entire competition look like a popularity contest at times.[5]

Some fans dislike awards on principle, either because they don't see the benefits of awards outweighing their potential for strife within a fandom, or because the whole enterprise of "awards" for fanworks is seen as pompous or elitist. (Links to meta about awards?) Others felt that awards served as an constant reminder that they never 'measure up'. Seriously, though, it’s a good thing I got two awards that year. My K/S stories continued to be nominated, but I never won again. Once I went to Starsky & Hutch fandom, I wasn’t even on the map until C Frost (Charlotte Frost) had been in the fandom for five years. Stories much loved now were bypassed completely in the nominations (in one case, not even included on the list of eligible stories, even though SH was a very small fandom at the time.) In TS (The Sentinel) fandom, I been little nominated and haven’t won. I don’t participate in awards anymore. I’ve been losing for 18 straight years and can do without the constant reminder that I don’t measure up. [6]

Other fans dislike awards as they do not reflect a reality of what is "best." Comments from 1998:

The problem with personal awards is that they are subject to the whims of the creator. I could easily make a list of stories that I like, that I enjoy well enough, that I'll read...and those that I'll quit reading in the middle or absolutely detest. Some folks out there might trust my opinion, but in the end, it's just my *opinion*--and I don't think that qualifies as grounds for an award. Grounds for recommendation maybe, but an award?

The other problem with personal awards, as I noted elsewhere, is determining the criteria for judging, as well as the criteria for accepting (or rejecting) certain stories. What constitutes "good" for any particular judge? I'm not likely to enter a contest unless I agree with the criteria for awarding the prizes. Otherwise, the award is meaningless to me *as an award*. It may be flattering, but no more so than to receive email from an individual who took time to write and tell me how much s/he likes my fiction.

The more I think about this notion of "personal" awards, the more it raises the hairs on the back of my neck. I'd like to suggest that folks stick to pages of recommendations, rather than set themselves up to judge awards, at least not without better ellucidation of the criteria for those judgements. [7]

Some fans disliked the word "award" rather than the practice of awards. Comments from 1998:

I have no problem with people making judgements about stories, or making those judgements public on personal webpages ... I think reviews and recommendations are great; they can give folks just entering a genre of fanfic a fine place to start. But the "award" business is making me antsy. Reviews and recommendations are understood by their very nature to be personal opinions. "Award" has different connotations. Capice? [8]

Interview with a Ballot Stuffer

See THE ACID DESK: Vol 1, No. 5, Archived version for an interview with a fan who stuffed the ballots in the 1996 Spooky Awards for the X-Files.

Did Awards Morph Into Recs?

The internet brought many fans online, something that obviously had an effect on fandom and fan activities in many ways.

One thing the internet affected was the visibility and variety of fans. Fandom had moved from a more or less decentralization to being much more spread out. No longer were there recognized bases of fandom, a starting point for formal awards on pre-approved topics. Not only could fans communicate more easily, but they were voicing their taste for specialized aspects of fandom.

A comment in 2005:
[That] decentralisation/fragmentation has lead to a lack of awards. I think that's true (and for those I have seen, the problem of subjectivity when it comes to declaring something 'the best' applies, but the shortlists are a good collection of fics as you say.) What about recs as a corrective to this problem? Granted, it's fragmented again, and even more subjective as its usually the responsibility of one person or a small group... i do thin[k] it seems to be the grass-root response to the problem of splintering. [9]

Fan Awards by Fandom

Meta/Further Reading

References

  1. 1994 Usenet thread discussing allegations of bias and tampering in the FanQ Awards (accessed 5 May 2010).
  2. from the editorial in The Clipper Trade Ship #60 (July 1988)
  3. posted by Dotty Klein, dated June 27, 1994.
  4. Merlin Missy, Anything You Can Write, I Can Write Better -- Fanfiction Awards Posted 13 December 2007 (accessed 5 May 2010); WebCite
  5. gossymer. Let's talk about fanfiction awards. Posted 27 June 2007 (accessed 20 February 2009); WebCite
  6. Charlotte Frost. Memories and reflections on stories I’ve written Posted 2005 (accessed 22 December 2009); WebCite
  7. Macedon at alt.startrek.creative, 1998
  8. Randy Landers at alt.startrek.creative, 1998
  9. comment by profshallowness at Fanthropology: Fandom: Evolution; archive link, March 15, 2005