Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A collection of thoughts that I will later regret posting. Yay.

There are a number of things that make me uncomfortable about the writing community. It's insular, for example. It's clique-y. But at some level that's just the way people are. Any group of people in an environment that selects for success based on subjective art valuation is going to develop similarly. Did that make sense? I suppose my point is that writing is art, and art is subjective, and so some of the things that make you like one writer more than another writer might have nothing to do with the actual writing. Even if you're trying to be honest with yourself, you're more likely to want to like something by your drinking buddy than you are something by some random stranger.

Anyway. Awards. I don't think we should give out awards, as a community. I don't see the point. I know it's for marketing, mostly, and because people like to get together and clap one another on the back and hold up shiny things and pump their fists. But this isn't nascar, bitches. There's no formula for value in a book. It's entirely subjective, so when you say "This is the best book this year" all you're really saying is "this is the book we liked best this year, and by 'we' I mean me and my friends, and it's a complete coincidence that we voted for our friend, because we're all friends. Dig it?"

Maybe awards are just shorthand for marketing types. I know that award-winning figures in to what kind of contract you can get on your next book, and it also helps with foreign rights sales. So if I win awards, I'll accept them out of pure mercenary efficiency.

I should point out that, in the above, I'm probably completely wrong and cynical and short-sighted. That people with a great deal more experience than me undoubtedly disagree, and industry folks won't take kindly to this thought process. That I'm probably shooting my career in the foot. I think that's awesome.


At 9:22 AM , Blogger colin said...

"Any group of people in an environment that selects for success based on subjective art valuation is going to develop similarly."

Once... twice... ah, ok.

Given the opportunity, cliques develop just about anywhere. I'm sure that cliques develop on lifeboats as everyone starves to death. There might even have been a movie about that.

Awards... yeah, it can get self-congratulatory and insular. That's probably as inevitable as the cliques. Then, of course, you get alternative awards from this sense of dissatisfaction, or people who just pick their own set of favorites and publish anthologies. All of it wonderful marketing fodder, I guess.

With my optimism (as mentioned last time I was here), I tend to believe that, on the whole, people who give awards do it out of an honest attempt to recognize real talent in the art. They might not always succeed, but I don't think there's a lot of harm in it.

At 5:19 PM , Blogger Splitcoil said...

Personally I pay no attention to notices plastered on book covers about the author's awards. Probably because I'm an arrogant prick with little regard for others' opinions on fiction. And I don't know anything about who gives out those awards, so I don't know what they mean.

But I can see how it would serve a purpose in marketing books, helping authors sell more. A person familiar with and partial to the particular clique that gives out a particular award will be more likely to pick up its winner's book. Others won't care. I don't see anything to resent there.

This is typical of practically every industry. I've been nominated for awards that would make some people gasp and tip their hats, and other people snicker and roll their eyes. It's a signifier of being appreciated by a particular clique, and that's all. People who know the cliques know what it means. Only a fool believes it's some kind of mark of universal admiration for the winner.

Of course, when the winner doesn't understand this, they can be very annoying.

You just wanna be Alan Arkin. Can't blame you there. Homey's a god.

At 10:17 PM , Blogger Splitcoil said...

One thing's for sure: you're never going to get an award for blog production if you don't pick up the pace, chico.

At 12:22 PM , Blogger colin said...

I see this time Split made sure he had posted before calling you to task for not posting.

At 6:25 AM , Blogger Splitcoil said...

Even my hypocrisy has limits.


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