Sunday, January 25, 2015

Eligibility post redux

Continuing the season of THE BALLOT OF ALL POSSIBLE AWARDS ...

Here's a post from Ian Sales, more-or-less opposing the practice of putting up eligibility posts: although if you frack down for details, he's mainly against gigantic authors going on rampaging Vote For Me Rarrr campaigns through the pre-awards buzz, which should be, he reasonably reckons, a fan space. Also see Amal El-Mohtar's post which more-or-less opposes the practice of awkward eggshell dances (and internalised silencing).

So, for simply keeping informed about what an author's been up to, a well-maintained bibliography like Tim Maughan's here ain't too functionally different from a "this is what I wrote this year" post like Kat Howard's; they're both more-or-less equally handy & appreciated.

So does it make a difference whether you add the header "Eligibility Post!" and the sign-off "get votin' minions!"? My guess is that it does, but not a large or consistent difference. (Even a small difference can be amplified, obviously. A butterfly who flaps his wings in Peru and then tweets about it ten times daily to 50,000 loyal fans . . .)

But one element which is likely to make something of a difference is when an author picks which of their publications are their favourites. E.g., Rose Lemberg's eligibility post highlights two out of three stories and two out of eleven poems for consideration.

On one hand, it can be a kind of courteous and unassuming move: you're alert to the fact that readers may be whisking through looking for a kind of audition piece; if they like the one you recommend, they may read some of your others . . .  but they want to know the best place to start. On the other hand, there is inevitably at least a subtext of: psst, don't split the vote! If in doubt, nominate / vote for this one!

Eligibility is only half the issue. The other half is vote splitting.

So . . . I'm not sure what I think about this practice, but I think on balance I like it.

I like it, if only because tactical second-guessing (as in second sense of second-guessing) is second nature to me (argh here): what I mean is, where there is a risk of a split vote, it feels weirdly solipsistic not to try to take into account how others will vote. (And besides, I have way too much regard for my own sparkly special judgment to trust it in any context where its consequences involve intense interaction with the judgments of others). So a nudge from an author, either to roll with or to resist, can break the trance of indecision which inevitably results. (See my spine-free prevaricating over which if any Jonathan McCalmont column to nominate). Also it's interesting to hear authors' savagely reductive opinions about the best things they've written. If an author truly honestly has no idea, after genuinely trying to work it out, that is also really interesting to know.

So, yes. On balance, I like it, so for those authors who do identify as eligibility post-eligible, I wish more would pick out a favourite or two in their eligibility posts. (Even more so if they've published more than three or four short stories in a year. Although perhaps less so if they have biggish visibility, where that "authors in fan spaces!" point may start to apply, albeit qualified & transformed by a kind of #dontselfletyourvotegetsplit version of #dontselfreject).


John Scalzi's gigantic eligibility thread is all right I guess, but it's not very neat. I should like it neat as a pin. Can there not be a sort of science fiction intern?


To find (/ write?): has there been a really good thorough smart revisiting of Barthes and Foucault on authorship vis-à-vis with contemporary folk theory regarding diverse fiction, diverse voices, and the visibility of marginalized experience as embodied in fictional narrative? It feels like there are endless delightful little refinements just waiting to happen, like a zephyr that can blow both ways simultaneously. (I wonder if the notion "splitting the vote" also needs to be somehow cunningly inducted into the notion of "the text" tbqh).


A faint coda to #dontselfreject: not an awkward eggshell dance, more just a single flake of eggshell discovered during an otherwise excellent omelette: who if anyone should self-reject? Should Adam Roberts who is good as it were self-reject in full knowledge that Vox Day who is not good will not? Etc. A bit #NotAllMen-y, I know.


Meanwhile Greece!

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