TEoAT is a Goodreads Choice Awards Semifinalist + Thoughts on Awards in General
Posted on November 10, 2015 Posted by John Scalzi 27 Comments
First: Hey, The End of All Things made it to the semifinalist round of this years Goodreads Choice Awards in the science fiction category. You can see a picture of the other semi-finalists above, which include a few write-ins from the previous round, which is all to the good. If you’re a Goodreads member, you can vote for the book you like in this category and several others as well. Here’s a direct link to the science fiction category; you can click through to the other categories from there.
Second: Someone asked me if being nominated for things like this made me feel competitive against the other authors in my category, not in the least because the Goodreads people are more than happy to try to get you as an author to engage your readers to vote for you through the various rounds.
In this specific case, the short answer is no, because a) the Goodreads Choice Award is not an award that means a huge amount to me — it’d be nice to win, sure, but any time I’ve been nominated I’ve thought about the award for exactly zero seconds after someone else’s book beat mine, and b) there are a lot of authors in the category I like as people and/or books I’ve enjoyed, and it’s genuinely difficult for me to feel competitive against them. I’d be delighted for almost all of these books/authors to win, excepting only the books I’ve not read by authors I don’t know, and I’d be perfectly happy for them to win, too, because why not? There’s also c) which is: Why be the asshole who has to feel competitive all the time, or feel that you’re owed an award? That’s kind of exhausting, and annoying to others. I’d prefer not to.
In a larger sense: You know, I’ve won my fair share of awards and have also lost rather more than I’ve won. In all cases my experience has been that it’s nice to win but it also doesn’t usually hurt to lose. The worst-case scenario to losing an award is that you are no worse off than you were before, unless you’ve made winning that particular award a cornerstone of your being for some reason or another, which is on you rather than anyone else. You might believe if you win an award, then it will move the needle in how you are perceived or are respected, and you know what? It just might. Then again it might not. Or it might for a limited time, after which you’re in the mix again just like everybody else. Or after you win it you might start acting like a twit, or might start worrying that you always have to top the thing that won the award. In which case the winning the award will become a net negative over time.
I’ve won and lost enough awards to know an award is not The Thing That Changes Everything. An award is fun, an award is nice, an award may even be, at times, significant. But at the end of the day, whether you win or lose, you still go home with yourself, and you don’t change — at least, not because of an award. It’s perfectly fine to want an award (I’ve wanted them from time to time, you can be assured) and it’s perfectly okay to be disappointed if you don’t get one. But ultimately, putting the responsibility for your happiness onto an award, which is, generally speaking, a thing over which you have absolutely no control, is a very fine way to become unhappy. Which will not be on the award, or any of the people who voted for it. It will be on you, whether you want to own that fact or not.
What I suggest is this: Hey, you’ve been nominated for an award? Cool! You’ve made the semi-finalist round? Neat! Made the finalist round? Awesome! You win the award? Whoo-hoo! You lose the award or didn’t get nominated this time around? Oh, well, your life is still probably pretty decent, all things considered. Maybe next time! And so on.
In the meantime, be happy for the success you have and also for the successes others have, which in point of fact do not diminish the opportunities and success you may find. Envy and jealousy and a zero-sum approach to awards is no way to go through life, my friends.
As someone who spent nearly all of my teenage years envious of peers who’d had a chance to develop social skills, I would like to offer the opinion that no envious person has ever ceased being envious after being told “Envy is no way to go through life” or similar (true) statements. In my experience, you just have to grow out of it.
There have been a number of times where I have told my daughter when she was younger, “I’m going to tell you something now which you might not understand or even agree with but I’m telling you so you’ll remember it’s been said.” And you know what? Later on, when she was ready, she remembered what I said.
Which is to say that it’s entirely possible no one will be immediately be swayed by these particular set of words. But it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be said, or said by me, or said now. Because, perhaps, later, when someone is ready, they’ll remember.
As a reader, awards are less about which book wins and really just an opportunity to talk about What’s Going On. What books did I miss reading this year? Even some of the drama about why a jury liked this book instead of that one can result in interesting conversations.
I do think they also serve to do what they say and reward authors and other creators. But it is imo just a side effect.
There’s no way that Star Wars Aftermath should have been nominated. It was not good.
I didn’t mean to suggest that such words (counseling against long-term envy) shouldn’t be said – only that the person saying them shouldn’t be surprised if the words have no effect, immediate or otherwise. I’m very glad not to have felt envy for many years (and I would wish the same for others), but this had nothing to do with what anyone else said to me at any time.
In fact I liked that book quite a bit, so: People can differ in opinions.
That said, let’s not be slagging on any of the books here, please. If you don’t like a particular book, don’t vote for it. Simple.
So my takeaway from this post, slightly paraphrased, is this:
If you’re in the position that not winning an award for your published writing is in the top five bad things in life that’s happening to you, then you’re pretty damn lucky, so take a deep breath and go work on your next book.
Which I think is a very good point.
Speaking as someone else with a book on that list: yes, this. Winning awards is super fabulous. Knowing firsthand how pleased the winner(s) are to have won, also lots of fun. Being nominated for an award–big yay! Not winning an award–ok. Good for the winner! Especially if it’s a work I liked!
There’s no way that Star Wars Aftermath should have been nominated. It was not good.
You didn’t like it, and that’s cool. But there’s really no “should” with the GR awards. They’re not juried, they’re not a referendum on literature for the ages, they’re a vote on what books the members liked best. And I gather that in the case of SWA, it didn’t make the list based on whatever mysterious algorithm the GR staff is using, but on write-in votes, which means entirely on the strength of a bunch of readers liking it and wanting to vote for it. Just personally, I’m not sure how wise it is to pronounce on what people should or shouldn’t like.
I’ve won and lost enough awards to know an award is not The Thing That Changes Everything.
Except, of course, the Sandberg trivia challenge, in which you slaughtered all the competition. That set you on the path to glory. :)
As a reader, and not a writer, I love the Goodreads Choice awards as much as, and perhaps more than, any other genre awards. The actual winner doesn’t matter much, but the voting rounds provide such a treasure trove of items to add to my reading list, that they’re well worth my attention. They’ve always seemed just a notch above other finalist lists from the “personal reading pleasure” standpoint.
And the “young adult” list has produced absolutely winning Christmas choices for my kids over the last five years. They rave about my ability to choose good books, and it’s mostly from Goodreads lists.
Hey, I’ve read a few of those, and have actually heard of most of them. That’s unusual with awards in my recent memory.
I greatly enjoyed The End Of All Things, of course. Well, not of course, really, I just enjoyed it quite a bit.
Angles Of Attack was great, too. That’s a cool series with a very interesting alien enemy.
The Fold was a good read, though I figured out the twist fairly early on, because I am awesome.
I enjoyed Ringo’s zombie series well enough overall, but I thought Strands Of Sorrow was the weakest installment, mostly because it felt like the story just stopped rather than ended.And without spoiling the ending or starting a political fight, I’ll just say it was harder to ignore Ringo’s politics in this book than in any of his others I’ve ever read. And that’s saying something.
I haven’t read the Evan Currie, but I vaguely kinda-sorta know him of old from an online hangout so I’m glad to see he’s doing well. I enjoyed the one novel of his I read well enough, but I think his fanfiction was better.
I’m scared to try Armada. I loved Ready Player One more than is probably healthy, but I have a hard time believing Cline can make another modern teenager obsessed with pop culture from before he was born work, and the reviews I’ve read tend to agree with me. I’ll read it one of these days.
It’s my favorite award.
When the kerfuffle was in full swing I engaged one author who I will refer to as “I_was_Robbed” as to why him and his pack were not doing any better in the Goodreads awards. And perhaps he should go freep that award. They was a sneer but no real answer.
The answer is because there following is tiny and they can’t make a dent in the award.
I see one pup made the list. Good for him. Let’s see how they do.
Meanwhile, the host here? Well he finished second behind… “The Martian”. Now if you have to lose, that’s a nice work to place behind, yes?
I read things other than Science Fiction. So let me quote a 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards Winner on awards. Says Amy…
“The worst part of being nominated for any award is that despite your best efforts, you start to want the pudding. You spend weeks thinking about how it doesn’t matter and it’s all just an honor and then seconds before the name of the winner is announced everything inside you screams . . . “GIMME THAT PUDDING!!” Then comes the adrenaline dump, followed by shame. You didn’t even want the pudding and here you are upset that you didn’t get it. You think about all the interviews you did talking about the pudding or all the interviews you passed on because you didn’t want people to think you wanted that pudding too much. You leave the awards show hungry and confused. To combat this, I decided to distract myself in that awkward and vulnerable moment the “winner” was announced. I decided to focus my attention on something I could control. … Bits! Bits! Bits!” … Amy Poeler, “Yes, Please”.
Maybe I should send the book to “I_was_Robbed”.
Sorry for the typos. No way to edit?
I was pleased to see changes based on write-ins from the earlier round. Was surprised at how few categories I could vote in versus previous years. With the Hugo mess I’ve read more SFF and less eclectically this year.
If you’ve been nominated it proves that a) you completed a novel an b) it was published. That would fulfill a lot of people’s dreams.
“Oh, well, your life is still probably pretty decent, all things considered.”
We were just discussing this, earlier tonight. If somebody backs a money truck up to my house, what’s going to change? Well, for starters, I’ll probably drive a Lotus Elise instead of a $3000 truck. And I won’t sit in the cheap seats at the hockey game, I’ll sit in that $50,000 box.
But y’know, I have a truck, and sometimes I go to the hockey game. I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do; life’s been good to me so far.
My thought is that everyone who made the semi-finalist round for an award like the Goodreads one has possibly gained some exposure with additional potential readers. I know there are books on that list, for instance, that weren’t on my radar at all. Now they are. Will I buy and read some of them now? Maybe? Perhaps even probably. But whatever the odds, they are greater than before I even knew the book existed.
I figure that can’t be a bad thing for any of the semi-finalists, even if they don’t go any farther.
This post immediately brought to mind for me that immortal quote from Cool Runnings:
“A gold medal is a wonderful thing to have, but if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it”
I also concur with @stevethedm, I don’t pay much attention to who wins in the GR awards, I just add the entire nom list (more or less) to my ever-growing TBR list. This year I’m happy to see most of the noms are already on my list! I may yet reach the end in my lifetime…
It’s hard to have competitive feelings toward awards, given that
1) By the time the awards topic come up, you’ve already done everything you could do and cannot do anything more
2) When you did those things (writing, here), you didn’t do them with any award in mind
So, plenty of possible feelings on awards. But competition? Unless you are specifically targeting awards (like some groups named after young juvenile mammals combined with symbolic potential scandals)? Not going to happen unless you’re weird or can travel back in time to effectively run the competition.
I admire your restraint in Not Naming Names of people who overvalue awards. But that’s okay, most will probably out themselves in short order… again. (“John Scalzi gave me a butthurt!” or words to that effect.)
I am currently struggling with how to teach a five-year-old how not to waste energy on jealousy and envy. If anyone has suggestions, I welcome them.
i love the goodreads choice awards as a way of getting exposed to NEW awesome books to read.
I think the bottom line for most authors is sales. If winning an award promotes sales, that is great. In this case, just being nominated may promote sales, as I bet many people will choose to read books by seeing titles from authors they like on the slate.
If two authors get together and metaphorically drop their pants and compare their junk, it is going to be sales totals, not award totals.
Bah, I never read any author who has ever failed to win any award for which they were eligible.
In a completely unrelated note, my to-be-read list seems to be remarkably short recently. :)
Zer net-mouse, the only method I’ve had consistently work (when it works at all) is to have a bad example to observe. We were “blessed” with a neighbor-child that was consumed with such jealousy, envy and anger that every encounter was sure to include an outburst. Asking my kid to tell me about the other one (why do you think he’s unhappy? What do you think he should do about it? And especially Is this someone you want to spend time with? And Do you want people to spend time with you?) took it out of the mode of telling him what to do and into observing how people react to other people.
I have little knowledge of the Goodreads Choice Awards but from the little I have looked at them I do appreciate that they seem to be giving voice to a different sections of Fandom than some of your more traditional awards like the Hugo and Nebula Awards. A couple of examples:
1. Jim Butcher – Leaving aside the 2015 Hugo Awards issues (“No Award” for Skin Trade), Jim has gotten virtually no recognition for his work from traditional awards. It is nice to see for him and the fans that enjoy him that he has gotten recognition from a different source. Skin Trade came in 3rd last year in Fantasy and his new novel is up this year.
2. Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy – I am not a fan of the PNR & UF sub-genres but I appreciate that many are and that it is growing the overall fandom of SF&F and I am happy to see them so well represented in the Goodreads Choice Awards with the Fantasy 2014 winner and many of the 2014 and 2015 nominees belonging to these groups. I also do not that these sections of fandom are well represented at some other awards.
In short, it is nice to have a variety of awards to honor a variety of different people and to reflect the opinions of a variety a of different fan groups.
Tamora Pierce also said THoAT is #1 on LOCUS’s Hardcover Bestseller List, and Mazel Tov!