Ditmars Awards and Myth-Information

This is the first of two posts I plan to write about the latest Ditmar Awards controversy which ran rampant in certain corners of the internet over the past couple of days. I’m not going to name names or list a series of links. If you don’t already know what’s been happening — and you really care — it’s easy enough to dig around and find out. I’m writing this post first, because it’s the easy one.  Tomorrow I’m going to talk about the perceived problems surrounding the Ditmar Awards and hopefully contribute to finding solutions. But first, today.

As a lot of you will no doubt be aware, there has been some very heated discussion (to use the word loosely) over the results of this year’s Ditmar and Tin Duck Awards. If you’ve not yet seen the results, they are listed in full at the Locus website. A bunch of folks won multiple awards on the night and one small press publisher, Twelfth Planet Press (to be referred to herein as TPP), was very well represented indeed. The fact that Alisa Krasnostein (TPP owner and publisher) was also convener of SwanCon36/NatCon50 was pointed out as a possible conflict of interest and accusations of lobbying and unfair advantage were made. Some people defended the awards and the winners, others sided with those who felt the results were “embarrassing” and did not provide a true representation of the Australian spec fic community. I participated in the discussion on one forum and see little worth in hashing through it all it again here.

However, an aspect that I find particularly troubling is the grouping of a whole bunch of individual award winners into one homogeneous TPP mass, a grouping which has served as the basis of a lot of the recent argument and debate. The phrases “16 out of 18” (as a ratio of TPP wins to total awards) and “clean sweep” were repeated in various forums, and the concept seems to have become a slippery “fact” that even folks who were defending TPP from various insinuations no longer dispute. Twelfth Planet Press sweeped the 2011 Ditmar Awards; what remained to be discussed was how.

But let’s take a closer look:

Between the Ditmars (including the Atheling) and the Tin Ducks, there were a total of 20 awards given out over eighteen categories (two categories resulted in ties with joint winners).

Twelfth Planet Press was the publisher associated with a total of 10 awards. (Ditmars: Novella/Novelette, Short Story, Collected Work, Fan Writer, Fan Publication; Tin Ducks: Written Short Form, Professional Art, Professional Production, Fan Written, Fan Production.)

An astounding achievement, certainly, but hardly a “clean sweep”. So where does that phrase, and the 16/18 ratio, come from? The “18” part is easy — you discount the fact that two categories (one Ditmar, one Tin Duck) had joint winners and simply elect to count the categories rather than the actual awards given. But how does 10 awards turn into 16?

Watch closely kids, here’s some stellar prestidigitation for you:

  • The Ditmar Best Achievement was awarded to Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, Rachel Holkner, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Tehani Wessely for the “Snapshot 2010”. This was not a TPP production but because Alisa was involved, you can count it as one anyway. So were her fellow Galactic Suburbanites, Tansy and Alex, for that matter. Plus Tehani reviews for ASiF (and won a Tin Duck for her work). Both Galactic Suburbia and ASiF are TPP productions. Doesn’t matter that the Snapshot wasn’t — you can definitely count it. That’s 1.
  • Now, Tansy Rayner Roberts also won Ditmar Best Novel and the Atheling Award. Power and Majesty was published by HarperVoyager and  “A Modern Woman’s Guide to Classic Who” appeared her own website. But it doesn’t matter, because she does work with Alisa and TPP as well, so these are obviously defacto wins for TPP. That makes 3 so far.
  • Then there’s Amanda Rainey, who won both a Ditmar (Fan Artist) and a Tin Duck (Fan Art) for her SwanCon36 logo. Nothing to do with TPP? No, but she has designed a lot of TPP book covers over the years. Sure, she’s also done covers for other small presses such as Ticonderoga and Fablecroft, but we’ll count these two awards for TPP anyway because Amanda does contract work for Alisa. There, now we have 5.
  • We can easily grab number 6 from the Ditmar Best New Talent, because Thoraiya Dyer has been published by TPP. Not exclusively, but enough that we can count her as part of the TPP conglomerate. That’s an extra 6 awards we can credit for TPP, which brings us to the magic number of 16. As in 16 out of 18.

And let’s take one last look at the number 18, shall we? As mentioned above, this was derived from counting categories rather than awards. In the Ditmar Short Story category, I tied with Cat Sparks. My story came from a Morrigan Books anthology, Cat’s from a TPP book. In the Tin Duck Fan Art category, Amanda Rainey’s SwanCon36 logo (designated TPP as above) tied with an artwork by Christina Lorenz. But if you’re making the case for a “clean sweep” then you simply use the number of categories for your total while counting any tied category with one TPP winner as win wholly for TPP. Sure, it’s not entirely accurate but does get rid of a couple of troubling non-TPP award winners when it comes to crunching numbers, and leaves only the winners of Ditmar Best Artwork (Shaun Tan) and Tin Duck Written Long Form (Juliet Marillier) standing apart from the Twelfth Planet Press crowd.

Quite a feat isn’t it? Of course Shaun Tan did supply cover artwork for Fablecroft, which is run by Tehani Wessely who won a Tin Duck for her ASiF reviews (a TPP publication) so perhaps we can count him as part of TPP as well. Then it would be 17 out of 18. I wonder if Julia has any connections with Alisa . . .

See how ridiculous it all gets? The Australian spec fic community is incredibly small, especially when you consider the wealth of creative talent and productivity to be found within its ranks. As I said somewhere yesterday, the famous rule about six degrees of separation is overkill when it comes to Aussie spec fic — two or three degrees would be enough to put you in touch with just about everyone else. To lump individuals, and their individual achievements, together in order to belabour a point or bolster an argument — just because they’re friends or have worked together on other projects —  is both unfair and unwarranted. It belittles the awards, it belittles individual achievement, and it belittles those who make such generalisations in the first place.

Regardless of which side you stand on the Great Ditmar Debate of 2011, and what outcomes you’d like to see in terms of rule changes or future voter encouragement (more on this tomorrow), I hope that at least you agree that care needs to be taken when talking about such potentially sensitive issues. Facts need to be correct, especially when you’re relying on said facts to argue a particular case. Moreover, I really do hope that the myth of the “TPP Clean Sweep” or the “16/18 ratio” gets put to bed. It’s not accurate, it’s not fair, and it’s not helpful.

And I thought this was the easy post.

[Disclaimer: Although I have not worked with Alisa Krasnostein or Twelfth Planet Press previously, I will be publishing a collection as part of the Twelve Planets series in 2012. I don’t believe this has any bearing on my opinions expressed either in this post or elsewhere over the past couple of days, but I’m happy to acknowledge the relationship.]

SwanCon, MegaPodcasts and Ditmar Awards

SwanCon36 was a wonderful convention and merriment was had by all. I was on a lot of panels and even managed to sit in the audience for quite a few that I wasn’t involved with — which doesn’t always happen, depending on how busy I am catching up with people and how good the bar is (and it was a very good bar). My program highlights were seeing Kaaron Warren interview Ellen Datlow — it was more of a friendly conversation — as well as being on a very lively discussion panel with Kaaron, Ellen and Paul Haines called “Darkness Beyond Borders”. Heaps of fantastic audience involvement and fascinating debate about horror and dark fiction, where the genre fits and how it bleeds into the mainstream. The live Galactic Suburbia podcast was also a lot of fun to watch and there were quite a few enthusiastic discussions over the weekend — on and off the program — concerning eBooks and social media. Much food for thought!

Speaking of podcasts, Jonathan Strahan from Coode Street, Helen Merrick from Pangalactic Interwebs, Alex Pierce from Galactic Suburbia and my own good self got together to record a live SwanCon MegaPodcast on the Friday afternoon. You can download or stream it from The Writer and the Critic, and the others will no doubt have their own links floating about the place in due course. It was a blast and gave me a welcome practice run for recording W&C with Ian live at Continuum 7 in June.

On Sunday afternoon Ticonderoga Publications threw a 15th Birthday celebration and launched their two newest anthologies, More Scary Kisses and Dead Red Heart. There were yummy cupcakes and fine wine and some heart-fluttery readings — I read an extract from “Frostbitten”, the story I have in More Scary Kisses, although I had to make a last minute switch when I saw there were kids in the room! Ticonderoga has been releasing some remarkable books in the last few years, with more exciting titles to come. I’m particularly looking forward to Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa L. Hannett, due for release later this year.

Ditmar Award 2011

Because SwanCon36 was also the 50th National Science Fiction Convention, the Ditmar Awards were presented on the Sunday night. I’m extremely proud to report that “She Said” (my piece from Scenes from the Second Storey) tied for Best Short Story with “All the Love in the World” by Cat Sparks. Cat’s story is brilliant and Sprawl, the Twelfth Planet Press anthology in which it was published, also won Best Collected Work. Twelfth Planet did extremely well at the awards overall which just goes to show what a powerhouse it has truly become in SpecFic publishing.  It’s worth pointing out that TTP doesn’t just publish traditional print books, but is also heavily involved in new media production, with Galactic Suburbia and the ASiF review website being well represented in the awards:

  • Best Novel: Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)
  • Best Novella or Novelette: “The Company Articles of Edward Teach”, Thoraiya Dyer (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Short Story (tie): “All the Love in the World”, Cat Sparks (Sprawl, Twelfth Planet Press) & “She Said”, Kirstyn McDermott (Scenes From the Second Storey, Morrigan Books)
  • Best Collected Work: Sprawl, Alisa Krasnostein, ed. (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Artwork: “The Lost Thing” short film (Passion Pictures) Andrew Ruhemann & Shaun Tan
  • Best Fan Writer: Alexandra Pierce, for body of work including reviews at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Fan Artist: Amanda Rainey, for Swancon 36 logo
  • Best Fan Publication in Any Medium: Galactic Suburbia podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Tansy Rayer Roberts, & Alex Pierce  (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Best Achievement: Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, Rachel Holkner, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, & Tehani Wessely, Snapshot 2010
  • Best New Talent: Thoraiya Dyer
  • William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review: Tansy Rayner Roberts, for “A Modern Woman’s Guide to Classic Who”

Locus has published the full list of Ditmar nominees and winners, as well as the results of the Tin Ducks and the other awards presented at SwanCon over here. Congratulations to everyone!

Now I’m back home and very tired, but also very much looking forward to the next time I get to hang out with the fine folks that make up the Australian speculative fiction community. Enthusiasm! Creativity! Gin and tonic! What more can you ask from a long weekend?

SwanCon 2011

I’m off to SwanCon over at the Hyatt Hotel in Perth this Friday and it’s turned into quite a busy convention for me! Here’s all the official panels and other fun stuff I’ll be doing:

  • 2.00pm — Friday, 22nd April — Plaza 1
    SF Book Club: The Windup Girl

    Discussion panel with Robin Pen, Helen Merrick, Andrew Cameron, Kirstyn McDermott, David Cake
  • 3.00pm — Friday, 22nd April — Freshwater Bay
    MegaPodcast: Read/View or Die

    Live podacast with The Coode St, The Writer and the Critic, The Pangalactic Interwebs and Galactic Suburbia
  • 4.00pm — Friday, 22nd April — Plaza 1
    Darkness Beyond Borders

    Discussion panel with Kaaron Warren, Kirstyn McDermott, Ellen Datlow, Paul Haines.
  • 6.00pm — Friday, 22nd April —  Conservatory Bar
    Book Launch: Toast the Twelve Planets!
  • 10.30am — Saturday, 23nd April — Plaza 2
    Author Reading
  • 11.30am — Saturday, 23nd April — Freshwater Bay
    The Mid-List Crisis and the Cult of Celebrity Authors
    Discussion panel with Ellen Datlow, Justina Robson, Kirstyn McDermott
  • 10.30am — Sunday, 24th April — Plaza 3
    Casting Your Pod

    Discussion panel with Grant Watson, Kirstyn McDermott, Helen Merrick, Jonathan Strahan
  • 5.00pm — Sunday, 24th April — Freshwater Bay
    Book Launch: More Scary Kisses / Dead Red Heart

It looks like it’s going to be a fantastic convention. Now all I have to do is pack . . .