Yes, that’s right. Two writing-oriented Blog entries tonight! This second one is Nick Mamatas’s fault. Before going further, you’ll want to read this entry on his Livejournal. So, go do that. Then come back here. I’ll wait.
Done? Okay, good. Now, I don’t know the author who posted that. Perhaps she meant well. Perhaps she doesn’t know any better. But Nick is absolutely right in pointing out that it is exactly this type of stance and behavior that makes many professional authors grouse about the Stoker Award (mostly in private but sometimes in public). So what follows isn’t an attack on her. It is meant for the many who also perpetuate this type of nonsense.*
As you can see from the pic above, I’ve got eight awards, including two Bram Stoker Awards. You know what a Bram Stoker Award is? It’s a haunted house statue that the doors frequently fall off of. They are a bitch to dust around, attract chocolate fingerprint smudges from curious toddlers, and make perfectly serviceable paperweights. That’s ALL they are. That’s all any award is. A material object that you put on a shelf and then have to dust around.
The physical award isn’t important. What’s important is why you received the award. For example, right next to my Stokers in the pic above, you’ll see an award bestowed upon me by the men and women of the 509th Logistics Fuels Flight at Whitman Air Force Base (home of the B-2 Stealth Bomber). They gave me that many years ago for the Books For Troops program I used to run. To express their gratitude, these men and women pooled their money and commissioned that award, and let me tell you, it remains the single-most thing I am proud of in my fifteen-year career. The award itself is also a bitch to dust around, and it has a tendency to fall over anytime my cat or toddler jumps too hard, but the sentiment behind it means the world to me. I’m proud of that award because of why I received it.
I used to be proud of my Stokers, too, because the Stokers used to mean something. They meant that your peers — most of whom were well-read and knowledgeable and knew their roots — had judged your work to be superior. These days, not so much. The vast public perception is that the Stokers are now nothing more than a shill’s game — a primary election where the majority of the candidates promote their eligibility for a paperweight instead of the Presidency, and the electorate expects and encourages this behavior by grubbing for free books and patting the backs of those who pat theirs. Knowing that, it’s hard to feel the same sense of pride toward those two haunted houses as I do that award next to them.
Contrary to popular opinion, a Stoker Award will not help you sell a book or a movie. They do not mean you’ll get a bigger advance or better royalty rates. They do not sell extra copies of your books. To achieve these things, one does what writers have always done to achieve them. You write, submit, negotiate, and market.
Or, if none of those things are important to you, and what you want is a perfectly serviceable paperweight that is a bitch to dust around, then instead of spending your time writing, negotiating, and marketing, just keep doing what so many writers these days seem to be doing.
*Nick noted in his Blog entry that he has grown kind in his old age. So have I.
Postscript: This should go without saying, but I’m obviously not implying that every single person up for a Stoker or voting in the Stokers engages in these practices. They aren’t. Sadly, there are enough, however, who do, and thus, taint the entire process.
Postscript #2: For another take on the Stoker Award and what the statue is good for, read this by Mike Oliveri.