I’ve got a closet full of awards. It was fun being nominated and winning them. I’m always surprised and delighted when either event takes place. When all is said and done, I put them away and keep writing. I’m as happy to see my colleagues be nominated and win. If I’m up for one and lose, I try to get in touch with and congratulate the winner. What else is to be done? But there is bitterness and rancor. I’ve had that expressed to me by people concerning my winning the awards I have. They don’t get mad at the juries or the people who voted, but they are pissed off at me for some reason. It’s as if I awarded these things to myself. I’ve never asked anyone ever to vote for me for anything. Who has time? I’m writing and being with my family, teaching five classes a semester, and driving two hours to work and two back. In a way it’s kind of comical how much emphasis people put on these things. And some that are the most bitter and renounce the entire thing, I never see them turn down the nominations or refuse the awards when one comes their way. This, I get an enormous kick out of, but I understand. It’s human nature. As to whether the winning denotes the best poetry, fiction, non-fiction of the year, I most certainly doubt. As Liz says, that’s not really for us to know. Only time will tell. I agree with the others that the awards are basically for the community at large. I get the most pleasure out of seeing newer writers nominated and win or when attention is given to some work I have read and really love. I’m happy to see that the field is opening up somewhat to international voices and that the awards are beginning to follow suit. All that seems good. Should there even be awards? Who knows? I can’t really be bothered trying to figure it out. I’m busy trying to write the next story.
“Should there even be awards? Who knows? I can’t really be bothered trying to figure it out. I’m busy trying to write the next story.”
I think this is the best response possible.
I agree with Jeff (though I don’t have nearly as many awards in my closet!) Thinking about awards can only interfere with your writing. If you’ve won some, you can worry about whether you’ll ever win any more; if you never win any, you might waste a lot of time wondering why, why, why. I’ve had a nice run of nominations for various things in recent years, and while it’s a nice little ego boost every time, I quickly learned to smile and move on and try not to think about it. When I was nominated for a Hugo back in 2007, I didn’t go to the convention in Japan, and didn’t even stay up late at home glued to the internet to see the results. (It helped that I was up against Neil Gaiman, and thus could not possibly win. Imagine my surprise when I
woke to a dozen e-mails saying “Congratulations!” the next day…)
I will note that, practically speaking, winning awards can be a great boon for newer writers. A lot of doors opened for me after I won a Hugo — I started getting invited to more projects, simply because a lot more people in the field discovered that I existed. So there’s that.
I recall someone (maybe Michael Swanwick?) saying the nice thing about winning one of the big awards is… you can stop thinking about it. You’ll always be a Nebula or World Fantasy or Hugo Award-winning writer, so you don’t have to bite your nails and wish and hope this year will be YOUR year every time the ballots come out. For me, winning a Hugo did defuse any envy or jealousy I had over seeing friends get nominated and win — I’ve got mine. I can simply be happy for them. (Of course, ideally I would have simply been happy for them all along, but I can be a small and petty man at times.)
Not that I’d say no if I ever got nominated again. But it won’t bother me if I don’t ever have another work nominated, let alone win. (At least, I don’t think so. Ask me again in ten years.)