It’s just a week to the presentation of this year’s Aurealis awards for Australian spec fic, taking place in Queensland.
Every time any award winners are announced, there’s always talk of how unpredictable these things are, how little they mean etc, etc. Inevitable, I suppose, because it’s not ever a first past the post thing. Book awards are not a race with a clear winner. Judges are basing their decisions on their own personal preferences and the judges of the books for 2006 would doubtless have selected different winners for the books entered 2005 which were judged by another group of people.
The one thing that makes the Aurealis Awards a tad different from many such awards is that the judges of a section (in my case fantasy novels) read pretty much every book eligible in that category (books published that year by Australians and Australian permanent residents anywhere in the world are eligible). In many other awards the books submitted are weeded long before the judges see then, simply because there are too many.
William Boyd, the latest winner of the Whitbread Award, now called the Costa Award, remarked that it was “the equivalent of a win on the horses or the lottery”, which is true – lovely to have, but don’t let winning put your nose too far up in the air, or feel that a loss is a kick in the pants.
So why then bother with awards at all?
Well, Boyd also said, “I think they’re a good thing because they encourage readers and that’s what all writers want.” I agree with that, but I also think it encourages writers. Not because we write to win or to be short listed, or because we can live on the prize money (the Aurealis has none) but because it means that there are people out there who care enough about what we are doing to have organised this prize in the first place, and others who do the work involved year after year, without remuneration, whether it be organization or judging. I find that encouraging; morale-boosting, if you like.
I don’t know who will win this year. There are books by four other very talented writers short listed (in my category, Juliet Marillier, Grace Dugan, Sean McMullen and Michael Pryor) but I do want to say thank you anyway. Thank you to all the people who have had a hand in this award. To all those who put in the work. I appreciate it and I’d appreciate it even if I wasn’t shortlisted.
And to all those who are going to the prize giving next Saturday, I wish I could be there, just to see you all.