Awards and their worth

Hold on ladies and gents of the Jack Verse, the dark hayride is going to get a bit bumpy for a moment. Are you ready for  this? I don’t think you are. Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to buckle in.



I’m going to say something that might not sit well with a lot of people, but I feel it needs to be said. First I’m going to preface this with the little bit of ugly that inspired this rant. Said ugly was a story about a book being nominated for this years Hugo award. If you’ve no idea what the Hugo award is, let me hip you to that bit of info. The Hugo award is given to the best science fiction or fantasy book of the year. This year one of the finalists for best short story happens to be Chuck Tingle and his book “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”. That’s right. The same author that brought you “Pounded In the Butt By My Own Butt” is a finalist in one of the most prestigious awards in the realm of scifi/fantasy. I’m not going to get into the “how did this happen”, because it’s has to do with the Sad Puppies (and enough has been said about them…plus I don’t want to give them any more space on my blog than necessary).

Suffice it to say, this could very easily turn the Hugo awards into a joke. Add to that, Tingle will wind up making bank because everyone will want to read his “work”.

This brings me to my feelings about awards…specifically in the arts.

Before I type another word, I want to preface this by saying I’ve held the following opinion for a very, very long time and only now have I decided to come out and vocalize said opinion.

And now, let’s opine.

With regards to the arts, awards are not just pointless, they’re damaging.

Okay, back down everyone. Put your brick filled purses, coin-filled socks, and brass knuckles away. Let me at least defend my position.

Me, me, me!

This is my biggest issue with awards and the arts…it’s all about “me”. When you first start out on your artistic path, you quickly learn how being an artist is all about being a part of a community. You live, breathe, and die together. Your art is a connection to something greater than you. And then, out of nowhere, you realize there might be accolades and golden statues to be had and all of that sense of community is flushed down the crapper with cries of “Vote for me!” You stop supporting one another because you fall onto a sword called “Assumption” which leads you to believe that award will bring you more and more…awards. Once you’ve been embroiled long enough, you realize those awards are nothing more than handing out ribbons for those that gather enough support. You can buy it, rent it, steal it, seduce it…however you can get it.

Or, you’re given said award simply because you weren’t given it last year and everyone was fairly certain you deserved it. I now call that getting “Decaprioed”. So you get some golden retroactive statue that makes you feel like you can now sit at the cool table at lunchtime. You slap a sticker on your art and say “See what I got?” Next thing you know, everything you do in your art is geared towards winning that golden statue once again.

You become reprogrammed, reconditioned to think that the award is the key to fame and fortune.

It’s not. Let me enlighten you a bit.

  • Plenty of actors have won Tonys and Oscars and have very little to show for it since.
  • The Billboard awards recognizes nothing more than who has profited the most in the industry.
  • The MTV Music Awards has little to do with music and everything to do with selling sexuality.
  • The Stoker awards haven’t been relevant in years (and the HWA is currently imploding).
  • The Hugo awards are on the verge of irrelevancy.

But I’m a best seller!

I see this all the time…writers claiming to be best sellers. This is my own personal opinion, but you don’t have the right to claim a best seller until it’s actually a best seller. What’s a best seller? Funny question, that. The music industry has a measuring stick with which to label sales. It’s called the Music recording sales certification. The ratings look something like this:

Media Gold Platinum Diamond
Album 500,000 1,000,000 10,000,000
Single 500,000 1,000,000 10,000,000
Music video 50,000 100,000 N/A

That’s right, in order to reach even the lowest rank, you have to sell 500,000 of something. In the publishing industry, we have no such system. Instead, what we have is the USA Today and the NY Times lists. Unfortunately, it has been proved that writers can buy their way into those lists (writers have been known to buy their books in bulk and even hire firms whose sole purpose is to get them on one, or both, of those lists). And then there’s the Amazon best seller list. I shouldn’t have to say much more about this particular list, because it’s already been detailed in this article.

Sure you might have a single book in your canon that is the best selling book of everything you’ve produced, but that doesn’t give you the right to stake that claim any more than Tide has the right to say it’s detergent whitens whites 99% more than other detergents. How did they measure that? Did they test it against every detergent on the market? Can we trust them? And just how “white” is “white”? Are we talking absolutes here? Isn’t that like Spinal Tap saying “none more black”? Or does it whiten 99% more than the previous iteration of Tide?

Here’s an idea

I know a few artists who have spent the majority of their time trying to figure out how work the systems. Instead of constantly improving their craft, they find back doors and loopholes to exploit. Instead of focusing so much energy on winning awards and popularity contests, maybe it’s time artists returned to their craft before art is no longer art, but a commodity to shill.

My job is to tell stories and do so in the best possible way I can. It is not my job to make Sad and Angry Puppies happy or fall to my knees before the altar of popularity and opportunity. I spill my heart, soul, and mind out to constantly improve on what I do. I may not be popular, I may not lay claim to “best selling blah blah blah”, but I go to bed every night knowing the masters (those who forged the paths for what we do) would look down upon me and not weep Sad Puppy tears of shame.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. I fully understand and wholeheartedly appreciate the support I receive from fans, friends, and family. That means so much more to me than an award or a label. Awards fade from memory and tarnish. The love and support of my fellow authors, readers, and loved ones does not. That is everlasting.