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On Writing Awards

Two days ago I learned that City Without End is a finalist for an award, the 2010 Endeavour. It’s given out for a “distinguished Science Fiction or Fantasy Book written by a Pacific Northwest Author.”

Very pleased, of course. I think City Without End is the strongest book in the quartet of which it is a part. (The Entire and The Rose.) And it has a hell of a cover, you must admit Stephan Martiniere received a Silver Spectrum award for it.

Other nominees are:

  1. David Marusek’s Mind Over Ship

  2. Patricia Briggs’s Hunting Ground

  3. Cat Rambo’s Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight

  4. Camille Alexa’s Pushing the Sky

The thing about awards? You just can’t take them too seriously.

Are Awards (gasp) Random?

Yes. I’ve come to this conclusion after years of scientific study and being pissed off. Ever read an award winning book (or nominee) and felt completely unmoved? Well, you might think the book is a loser, but some judge thought it was amazing. It is all so personal to the reader, which books soar and which never achieve lift-off. For example, go to and read my reviews. Man, were they all reading the same book?

What Do Awards Measure, Anyhow?

Um, not necessarily the thing you read for, I must say. Me, I’m in it for a great story. A memorable plot line with characters I care about, an intriguing take on a theme. But often awards go to the book with the fine prose, no matter how dense and perhaps slow-moving. So, if you are in this field for the sake of Literature, you may have some reason to crave awards, but the rest of us should cool our heels and take a philosophical approach to them.

Do Awards Increase Sales?

No. Those who claim the Hugo, for instance does, are confusing buzz from readers who love the book, not because it won an award, but because it is a fabulous story.

Do Awards Impress Editors?

Yes, but what impresses them so much more is a fabulous story.

Do Awards Make Writers Feel It Is All Finally Worthwhile?

Yes. For about a day and a half. Then we are back to being pissed off again. See, we never get enough praise or reassurance. We never sell as well as so-in-so, and frankly the book we just finished always falls short of our original vision.

Shall We Boycott Awards and Dismiss Them Utterly?

No, friends, we’re not going to do that. Why not? Because awards are fun, even when we lose. They spice up things, give our genre a little publicity and self-respect, and occasionally are awarded to friends for whom we can genuinely celebrate. Awards are part of the Grand Game. We are in a game, you know. The publishing game. It has finicky little rules and sometimes we roll snake eyes; it is utterly trivial and also a blast. It is random, unforgiving, alluring, snotty and the only game in town for some of us. So let’s just slip into that party dress (OK, guys, here’s your big chance) and give a little shimmy.

The writing life needs a bit of fun now and then.

But I’m not going to shoot myself if I don’t win.


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