Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why Awards Matter

 By Hayden Trenholm

The voting for the 2010 Prix Aurora Awards ends on Saturday, May 22.  The Awards themselves will be given out at a banquet the next day.  By the time you read this, my novel, Steel Whispers, may have won the Aurora for best Canadian SF novel of the year.  Or maybe not.  And what difference will it make anyway?  Why does an Award voted on by a few hundred fans of the field matter?
Of course, you could say the same thing about the Hugos (less than a thousand fans generally determine those) or even the Nebula (voted on by the fewer than 1500 members of the Science Fiction Writers of America).  Heck, why not throw in the Golden Globes (selected by a couple of hundred foreign journalists) or the granddaddy of them all, the Oscars, voted on by the 6000 members of the Academy?
But, of course, awards matter, the Auroras no less than any other.  In fact, on a per capita basis more people nominate and vote for the Auroras than any of the other SF awards around the world.  The Auroras are a symbol of professional success for writers and artists (and an acknowledgment of volunteer contributions with the fan awards) and most – though not all – major Canadian SF writers have been or will be nominated or win one in the course of their career.
The Awards also help to establish you as a significant player in the field.  Since winning my own Aurora for short fiction two years ago, I’ve been more welcome as a guest at conventions and, I think, my stories get a little harder look by editors.  Was winning the Aurora the only factor?  I hope not.  I’ve worked very hard to promote my work and to improve it.  But being able to call myself an Aurora-winning writer hasn’t hurt.
Perhaps the most important element in the whole awards business is not in the winning at all.  Like pursuing happiness – whether or not you ever achieve it – pursuing an Aurora has its own rewards.  Obviously, no one can vote for your work if they never heard of it.  The annual awards process encourages writers to build their fan base and their web presence.  Editors and publishers like writers who do a good job of promoting themselves and their work. In the long run, the side effects may have more to do with your long-term success as a professional writer than actually having a few shiny statues sitting on your shelf. 
Still, whenever I feel the urge to pack it in as too much work for too little reward, I like to look up at my shimmering Aurora on its maple base and remember that, sometimes, it’s all worthwhile.


Hayden Trenholm’s short fiction has appeared in On Spec, TransVersions, Tesseracts 6. Neo-Opsis, Challenging Destiny, Talebones, Gaslight Grotesque and on CBC radio.  In 2008, after a record fourth consecutive short fiction nomination, he won the Aurora for his novella, "Like Water in the Desert."  His novel, Defining Diana, was released by Bundoran Press in 2008 and was nominated for an Aurora Award in the long fiction category.  A sequel, Steel Whispers, was published in August 2009 and is a nominee for the Aurora this year.  The third book of the Steele Chronicles, Stealing Home, will be published later this year.

Steel Whispers by Hayden Trenholm
 Four dead Borg and counting. Serial killer, gang violence or civil war? While the Special Detection Unit hunts for answers, a terrified family searchs for their Disappeared daughter, and war between society's elites takes an even nastier turn. Borg and genetic technology is evolving exponentially and Frank Steele finds himself up against unfathomable enemies.

Franks needs to find the key that ties it all together. He's sworn to protect every citizen. It's his duty as a cop. But now it's gotten personal and Frank has to face the ultimate test - investigating the death of his own son.

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