Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Yet another Aurora Award?

by Rob - July 30th, 2012.
Filed under: Auroras, Awards.

So, the Aurora Awards committee — which has been AWFULLY proactive — has announced its intention to lobby for the creation of YAAA (Yet Another Aurora Award) at this year’s CanVention AGM, which takes place at When Words Collide in Calgary, August 12-14. My take:

They want to create a YA novel award. Note that YA fiction is already eligible for the best-novel Aurora, and has been nominated and won in that category in the past; nothing excludes YA fiction from making the ballot right now. Note, too, that the best-novel award currently comes with a $500 prize courtesy of SF Canada — one wonders if the people behind the YA initiative intend the $500 prize to now be split? Note too that JUST LAST YEAR we added a new category to the Auroras (poetry/song lyrics).

My position is this for ANY award, not just the Auroras: you want to add a new category? Fine. Show me what your likely ballot might have looked like for the last three years if that category existed.

There are five finalists in each Aurora category (unless there’s a tie), so tell me, folks: what five Canadian YA SF&F novels would have been on your ballot last year (works published in 2010), the year before (works published in 2009), and the year before that (works published in 2008).

DON’T just list five Canadian YA SF&F novels — no one disputes that five were likely published each year. List five WORLD-CLASS, AWARD-CALIBRE ONES for each of those years. Maybe they exist, maybe they don’t — but if you want my vote and support at the AGM, it’s up to you to convince me that they do. Because otherwise you’re cheapening the status of being an Aurora finalist. We don’t want to have any more categories in which just about everyone who does any work — regardless of quality — in that area becomes essentially an automatic nominee, because, y’know, we need five works to flesh out the ballot.

I’ve been arguing for years for those proposing new categories to put forth sample ballots from previous years. As I said in 1997:

Periodically, new Aurora categories are suggested. Among those put forth recently include best graphic novel, best TV show or movie, best poem, and best web site — many presumably with separate French and English trophies to be presented. I believe there already are too many Aurora Awards; adding more simply cheapens the value of each one. However, when a new category is proposed, I believe the proposer should be required to put forth mock ballots listing full slates of credible nominees for the previous three years in the suggested category: if five truly award-caliber works cannot be found in each of the preceding three years in a proposed award category, clearly there is insufficient quality work being done in that area in Canada to justify an annual competitive award for it.
Regardless of what sample ballots are put forth, if any, at this year’s AGM, I’m going to introduce a motion that we adopt this bylaw: whenever a new Aurora Awards category is created, a five-year moratorium is imposed on adding any additional categories.
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4 Responses to Yet another Aurora Award?

  1. As CSFFA members, one of the questions we should ask ourselves is how can the Aurora awards help the industry? How can we increase SF&F readership, and support the Canadian SF&F writers and publishers?

    Perhaps one of the ways such a goal can be achieves is by putting more focus the younger generation. (The future.)

    By creating a YA category, we may, indirectly, help to expose new 12-18 years-old audience to SF&F. Hopefully,within 1-4 years, these teenagers would become adult SF&F readers.

    As a side note regarding the 5 years moratorium proposal – I don’t think we should become a slow to react organization who can only make one change every 5 years.

  2. Hi, Ron. Noble thoughts — but the Auroras are hardly the first award in history, so rather than just thoughts, you should back up your claims with data: first, you need to show that in their 32-year history, the Auroras have proven themselves capable of influencing reading decisions on any meaningful scale; second, you need to show that some other award of comparable stature has done what you’ve claimed — within one to four years (your figures — one presumes you didn’t just pull them out of your hat) a new award will produce statistically relevant numbers of new readers. How do you back up that claim? Or is it just a hope?

    How ’bout this: rather than being in a rush to do things (yes, I know, you’re loath to be slow to react — although I don’t know why; awards and their attendant ceremonies are about TRADITIONS, not fads), show me the new poetry readers that emerged out of last year’s new Aurora poetry award (you say only one year is needed to see an effect) or — and I know it’s anathema to your desire to react quickly, but, again, you haven’t actually articulated WHY a momentary whim should become a permanent institution — why don’t we wait three more years and see what effect that new category has had (giving you the four years you claim as an outside number for what might be needed) before we start claiming that new Aurora Awards will have measurable impacts on the number of readers for a particular type of work? In other words, how about TESTING YOUR CLAIM, rather than just asserting it?

    Hope springs eternal, sure, and if your only tool (because you’re the CSFFA) is an Aurora trophy, then every problem looks like it’s best solved by the application of an a Aurora trophy, but I think you’re both overestimating the power of the Aurora and underestimating the complexities of encouraging teen literacy.

    And, most of all, Ron: SHOW ME THE SAMPLE BALLOTS I’VE ASKED FOR. Why dodge the question? If you CAN’T SHOW THEM, then please explain how this new award WON’T cheapen the notion of being an Aurora nominee? You’re going to add another FIFTY nominees this decade if you get your way, remember. It’s supposed to be an honour just to be nominated for the Aurora, and THAT, above all else, should be what the CSFFA endeavours to ensure.

  3. Ron, why on earth should Canadian Fans be thinking about how we can help the industy? We help the industry every time we plunk down our dollars or credit cards for their product.

    The Auroras are supposed to be about us acknowledging the best, not the better-than-anything-else-we’ve-got-right-now.

  4. Please, continue the story of FlashForward, MILLIONS of people wants it back, please, it would be best day of my life really, I hope you listen all of your fans..

    In hope –

    – Eetu from Finland

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