Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Minnesota Book Awards

Ruth Berman asked me to post the following:

The Minnesota Book Awards for 2012 opened for entries on about August 13. The deadline for suggesting nominations is December 14 –accommodations are available for books published at the very end of the 2012)

Back in the 90s, they used to have a category of sciencefiction/fantasy most years, with the inevitable result that asciencefiction/fantasy novel by a Minnesota writer (or published by a Minnesota publisher) won a Minnesota Book Award each time, with resultant good local publicity for the field and the winner (and tosome extent for the other nominees in the category) and probablyincreased local sales for the winner (and to some extent for the other

But since then, there has never been a category of sciencefiction/fantasy at the Minnesota Book Awards forsciencefiction/fantasy – only a single category of “popular/genrefiction.” And most years the nominees for “popular fiction” have all
been murder mysteries. (Their guidelines list romance and graphic novels as other genre categories, but I don’t think any have ever been nominated.) In the two years when there was a single sciencefiction/fantasy novel among the nominees, Lois McMaster Bujold did not win either time. (“The Merchant of Venus,” by Ellen Hart, despite its sciencefictional-sounding name, is another murder mystery. One year, Neil Gaiman showed up among the nominees, but since he actually lives in Wisconsin, he wasn’t eligible, and the title was removed.)

Some of this immense imbalance probably reflects factors that can’t be changed (or not easily). The mystery field is larger than the sf/f field. The judges may have a preference for mysteries. Maybe mysteries could, objectively, be so much better than sf/f books every year as to shut them out. But one factor could easily be changed – there should be more sf/f books by Minnesotans getting entered for consideration. The Minnesota Book Awards categories are not the same every year. The judges add categories when they have a few books that strike them as deserving of consideration for an award in a separate category.

Back in the 90s, the sf/f books among the nominees were by Minnesota authors published by East Coast (mostly New York) publishers: Ace, Baen, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Jane Yolen Books (HarperCollins),NESFA, St Martin’s, TOR, Warner. The two Bujold books nominated since were published by easterners William Morrow and Baen, but it looks as if the East Coast publishers have mostly given up entering their Minnesotans’ books – surely if they were still entering them regularly we would be seeing enough good sf/f books coming out to result in a category for sf/f! To that end, Minnesota sf/f writers should be taking care to ask their publishers to enter them. It costs only $45 for one title (or for each title up to three, and $165 for a group of four or more) plus five copies for the judges to read. Possibly the East Coast publishers have since the 90s decided that the costs are more than they can expect to recoup from the extra sales – but books can be nominated by anyone who cares to cover the $45 & the 5 copies, *including the individual author*. If the publisher doesn’t want to enter an eligible book, the author should think about doing it.

It’s not just that if we have more sf/f books entered, we have a better chance of having them show up more often in the “popular fiction’ category and maybe winning it once in a while. With more entered, there would be a chance (a good chance, surely?) of getting back to the situation of a regular sf/f category, with a certainty that one of them would win, making good publicity for the field and for the other nominees.

I felt sorry this past year when Joan M. Verba (FTL Publications) entered my “Bradamant’s Quest” and “Ellen Kuhfeld’s “Secret Murder,” and neither showed up among the slate of “popular fiction” nominees. Looking at other sf/f books by local writers that came out last year, I had thought there was a real chance of a separate sf/f category for the year. But those others I knew about didn’t show up in the list of
entrants. And none of the other 50-some entrants in the “popular fiction” were sf/f (so far as I could judge by the titles).

By contrast, in the Midwest Independent Publisher Association’s set of annual awards, where the entrance fee is somewhat more expensive, the regular list of categories is generally larger and includes a category for sf/f – in which “Bradamant’s Quest” won.

The url for the Minnesota Book Awards is http://www.thefriends.org/programs/mnbookawards/mba_nominations.html

– and the sf/f field deserves the extra recognition it could get by winning some. Let’s try to increase the odds of getting the recognition by getting more of the eligible books entered.

Ruth Berman

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