A Question About Awards

I may very well be addressing this subject prematurely, but the seeming trend is interesting and I figure that more eyes on the subject as it develops are better than fewer, so lets have at it.

I recently paid a visit to the SadPuppies4 website where the Sad Puppies are gathering their “recommendations” for next year’s Hugo Awards nominations.  Keep reading, this is not about SP politics, it’s about our reading habits.

As I was working my way down through the short story mentions, I noticed what I think may be a trend:  more recommendations for freely available digital works than for those that must be paid for to read.

Recomendees for free online fiction are sourced from:  Fireside Magazine, Holdfast Magazine, Clarkesworld, Motherboard, FantasyScrollMag, Nature, Uncanny, Tor, FlashfictionOnline, DailyScienceFiction, The New Yorker, 365Tomorrows, SlateStarCodex, LibertyIslandMag and SCP-Wiki

While Recomendees for works that must be purchased are sourced from –

Writers of the Future Volume 31 and Baen Books’ anthology Future Wars and Other Punchlines.

There are, as of this writing, 42 recommendation comments in the short story list.  Many are “dittos”, a few are commentary.  Restricting the count to only initial recommendations for an individual work, there are 16.  However, some of those include multiple works;  the individual work count is 21 works, of which only 2 are not freely available on the web (.095%).  Adding weight to those selections are the numerous “dittos” for works that are free, while there are none for not-free.

I’ve not looked at whether or not the individual recommendations actually qualify under the rules, were initially published in 2015 or the quality of the stories.

And yes, it is early and there are only 42 comments, many by the same individuals, but I do believe that there is a distinct trend represented:  freely available, easily accessible works may very well swamp the nominations – if those works are given a little initial traction by readers, like including them on a recommendation list, because (I belabor), the fewer “objections” you place between a consumer and a potentially desirable product, the more likely they are to “buy”.  In other words, “click here and invest a few minutes” is far more attractive than “click here, pull out your credit card, wait for delivery, invest a few minutes”.

As I’ve noted, I’ve not made any judgments on the quality of the stories (will do later, but given the sources I expect the overall quality to be pretty high), but this nascent trend does suggest at least one conclusion: accessibility may very well become a leading indicator of award worthiness.

This is interesting given that (politics – sorry) one of the stronger Sad Puppy refrains has been “the Hugo Awards should be popular awards”, which is often accompanied by the concept that sales success equals Hugo worthiness.  A position that most Hugo Award voters clearly rejected this past year.

I don’t know the pay policies for all of the publications listed, some may very well not offer compensation except for exposure (while some others notably pay among the best rates in the business) but I do wonder what the above trend says about the “worth” of a story.  We’ve heard so much about the devaluation of music, writing (of all kinds) and art, I can’t help but think that this may be another indicator of the same (which plays a bit into the prognostications of Neil Clarke’s recent editorial) and which suggests an ironic twist:  if “free” routinely wins awards, will any writer be able to make a living writing?

That may be a bit extreme, but I do find it ironic that Sarah Hoyt (a leading puppy) gets one mention and no “dittos” (yet) for a story that must be purchased to read, while works from sources that are generally SJW – associated receive numerous “dittos”.

Food for thought (and it ain’t puppy chow).

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