Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Awards: A Flashing Beacon of What NOT to Read

Back when I first began trying to get published, I never thought about winning an award.  Years before, I learned that most books that had 'award winner' on them weren't books I enjoyed anyway.  (Unless they'd won the award decades before, when the award still meant something good.)

I think it started with the Newberry Award.  I mean, I knew if the book had 'Newberry Award Winner' on it, the likelihood was that I wouldn't like it.  And not because it's an award for kids' fiction. (I read MG, YA, NA, Adult.  I don't care, as long as the story is good.) The philosophies put forth in those books was at best 'meh' and at worst made my skin crawl.  And you know, it really didn't wreck my world to avoid them.  Of course, I didn't think about what would happen when my daughter got old enough to be introduced to those books.

Flash back to the summer of 2003.  My daughter was enrolled in the summer school program at the private school system where I worked.  It was a good program and she was around bright children all day.  (Or so I thought, but we won't go into all that.)  One weekend, I'm in the living room, sitting on the couch reading, when I hear the most heartbreaking, parental-soul-wrenching wailing coming from the Kid's room.  I jump up and run in there because I figure she's injured herself horribly.  Nope.  She was reading the required book for summer school.  A Newberry Award winner.  I promptly read it myself and was horrified at the ending.  I cried buckets, too, but more because my darling 9-yr old daughter with her positive sense of life had been subjected to this piece of shit where the basic message seemed to be 'don't want more than you have or want anything for yourself because someone will die'.  Needless to say, I got to work that Monday, marched the book into my boss' office and explained to him why this particular book wasn't in keeping with the school's stated philosophy.  He read it and pulled it off the 'mandatory reading' list - effective immediately.

And before any of you cry 'censorship', please note the book wasn't banned - it was just no longer mandatory reading.  Choose it or don't.   I guarantee my daughter would've put the damn book down long before she got to the tragic part if she hadn't HAD TO read it for school. 

I haven't read an award winning book that didn't suck since the '80s - when SF awards still meant good reading and they were the last to hold that distinction. (I used to inhale those old anthologies of award winning SF.)  Newberry, Pulitzer, National Book Award, Hugo... all had become crap with a message to shove down your throat.  Yay, just what I want from my leisure time.  And let's face it, 90% of reading is leisure time. (Mine anyway - your mileage may vary.)  If I want to learn something, I do research.  If I want a message, I'll get one through the news or on the net whether I want one or not.  (Heh, like I ever want a message.)  I'm 45 years old and my philosophy is set.  No amount of 'award-winning' fiction is going to change it.  When I pick up fiction, I want to be entertained.  If I take something positive away from the entertainment, cool.  If I take something negative away, I'm generally pissed off.  :cough:PayItForward:cough:

So, this past weekend the Hugo awards were held. I bought two books last night from among the authors who 'lost'.  I would've bought more, but, you know, fundage.

Anyway, I expected the results from those awards. They underscored my belief that award-winning books are best avoided.  I'll stick to sales ranks and following my gut when I shell out my stingy book budget.  And maybe I'll add in 'books that lost' because those were probably better than what won to begin with.

No, I never considered whether my fiction would win any awards, so I never aspired to any of them.  And considering what those awards have come to mean, I really don't want one.  I want to entertain my readers.  If they come away with a better view of the world or a better understanding of it, awesome.  It's not my goal, but it would be cool.  Maybe in the future, should book awards come to mean what they were meant to - good fiction - I would reconsider, but right now?  Nope.  For me, awards have become a flashing beacon of what NOT to read.  And I certainly don't want any of my books on a list like that.


  1. Well said.

    I don't go into all these award winners no matter how lofty their status. In the end, they're all machines built to award those who reflect the current trend, politics, or social media darling.

    Are there 'pure' awards that reward only merit? Maybe. But I've been too soured by these machines to ever look for them now. I'll trust my own judgment and let others be led by the nose if that's what they prefer.

  2. The Hugos this year were a travesty of political $h!+-storming of epic proportions. I caught only a small portion of the ugliness from a few blogs and Twitter. It. Was. Ugly. It seems all the "big" books now have agendas to get press and to be nominated for the "national/international" awards. If I wanted agendas, I'd...welll...not sure what I'd do because those things just p!$$ me right the hell off.

    Yeah. Anyway, I read to escape. I want a writer who can create a world where I want to live--or at least visit. I want to read about characters that I love or love to hate. And those are the books I want to write.

    I will point out one other thing--most of the books who win some of those awards have dismal sales but TPTB have decreed the books to be important. I just remember that Charles Dickens was panned by the critiques of his time. So were a lot of authors who are selling lots of books years and years after their deaths, So...

    Okay, crawling back into my writer's cave now. ;)

  3. I've always found award winning books to be lofty, preachy, pontificating or just plain boring. They tend to go over my head and I can feel my eyes glazing over, and my head nodding into sleep. I buy books for entertainment value and I don't really enjoy real life hardship books because they're full of horrible things & angst, which is not entertaining at all. That's probably why I read mysteries, romance, paranormal romance, fantasy, urban fiction etc. I can say without hesitation that I've thoroughly enjoyed all your books and expect to really enjoy your upcoming offerings.