icsf awards

Posted by Sulkyblue (26th Apr 2004, 17:40)

There's been mumblings about icsf running some kind of book awards throughout the academic year. I thuoght I'd sumarise what the plottings are. (Yes, I'm bored at work.)

icsf awards
Following on from discussions on ousfg, irc and hopefully on e-mail I thought I'd compile this list of thoughts, largely because I have nothing else to do at work today.

The overall aim of the whole thing should be to either get more members, or get the members we have more involved. A huge percentage of the membership are completely unknown to the committee. Ie they either join and never return, or they join and only scuttle in and out of the library to borrow books. A key aspect of the society is almost completely absent from the events list with the only even vaguely literary event of the year being Picocon (something else the members don't come to). Previous suggestions to run literary events have always met with lack of enthusiasm and lack of ideas.

The overall structure of awards and a reading group could provide the framework for an extensive set of events. By starting with some kind of short listing at the beginning of the academic year and continuing with a schedule of reading group discussions through the winter term and spring we could either hold the awards themselves at Picocon or at the end of Spring Term. 3rd term is probably not even worth thinking about doing formal events as such. If the reading group is popular they can continue to meet as Magic does, just discussing more informal stuff.

A side aim of the whole thing should be trying to get members and committee reading more new sf/fantasy. From a practical point of view - these authors are more likely to come to Picocon. It looks good to the union (as Dave Clements pointed out) if we're doing something about the stuff we're actually spending our budget on.

Trying to separate out sf and fantasy is probably a bit beyond our capabilities (too much ranting) and would involve running 2 separate events so as not to alienate some of the members. I suspect it will come down to "any genre that can be argued in". As for time wise I'd guess that if we're looking to start doing something at the start of winter term this year would be either sept-sept or july-july, depending on whether there will be some short listing before the event starts. The problem occurs with hardback books - most undergrads don't buy hardbacks (I very very rarely do so). However limiting it to paperback releases could cause some confusion (and be harder to track) particularly with overseas releases.

Finally there's the question of the awards being for Best Book, or Most Enjoyable Book. I think it should focus more on "best book" with a fair amount of weighting given to whether the book is enjoyable or not. Also I think it should be for Book, rather than Novel, and hence include short story collections etc.

There are usually several steps in awards processes:

  • Long List - pretty much anything that's eligible.
  • Short List - Narrowing the above list down to a sensible number that are thought worthy of consideration.
  • Nominations - Narrowing further down to a small number for actual voting.
  • Voting - duh.

Long list is easy as it's dictated by release date. Some amazon hacking or something may be required if we actually want a list, but it's dictated by the period we choose.

Short listing I think should be a fairly sizeable freshers event very near the start of term. Maybe supported by something on the website for those that couldn't make it. This could easily take over a sizeable chunk of an evening or Wednesday afternoon (nibbles!). I would have a Chair (someone who is co-ordinating the whole awards event from start to finish I'd say) explain what it is the awards are all about and then just open it up to the floor for people to nominate their favourite eligible books. There would have to be a long list present to check for eligibility before arguments get too heated. Depending on the number of suggestions, the short list could either be made up of everything that's nominated and eligible, or anything that gets some support from others. The length of the short list and the amount of support needed for a book to make it on the list is going to have to be decided on the day really depending on the enthusiasm. I would suggest a short list of no more than 15 books.

Getting down to a list of nominations is pretty much the area I have least ideas about. I would say that there should be no more than 6 nominations. Getting people to read all of the short list isn't going to be particularly practical. Maybe this could be done over 2 meetings, giving people a chance to maybe read a couple more of the books. Could maybe balloon debate the books? But this would mean each book needs an advocate and this may scare off some of our quieter members and their suggestions.

However we get there, there should now be about 6 books nominated. This is where the reading group kicks in. The books should be ordered for reading, probably starting off with the shortest one so that things can get started, then maybe randomly ordering them. Depending on the books the library may have to purchase a copy or two, and links should maybe be set up so that the wealthier people buy the books and pass them on to the poor starving masses (again depending on how many people are taking part).

Meetings I'm guessing should be once every 2 weeks or so (enough time for most people to finish a book) and their format should just be a fairly open free discussion of the book. People could come along even if they hadn't read it so maybe someone should be elected to give a description of the book or something (a good starting point for discussion). There wouldn't be any set aim of the meeting, beyond just talking about the books and drifting off topic as much as desired ;0)

Once all books have been read (maybe with 2 being allocated over xmas or something) there will be the voting. Maybe preceded by a balloon debate or something. There's a question of whether we should limit it to people who attend the discussions, but I think just making it clear to people that we'd like for them to have read a majority of the books before voting will be enough to exclude the "this is the only one I've read so I'll vote for it" attitude. The whole thing comes to absolutely nothing but one author and one title. Yay.

Short list meeting - 2nd week of winter term
Nomination meetings - 3rd and 4th week
Reading meetings - 6th, 8th, 10th week of winter term
Spring Reading - 1st, 2nd, 3rd week of spring term
Summary Meeting - 4th week of term
Voting - following all that for 1-2 weeks
Announcements - Picocon? Although that may force some shortening of the timetable. (Could reduce to 1 nominating meeting + web discussions, then can get another book in the winter term. Or less nominations.)

Please post some comments about this, for me? Even if it's just that the whole thing sounds like too much hastle and you really don't care.

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read biography for - bigbob

 bigbob ( 26th Apr 2004, 17:51, Rank: Psycho Historian )  reply

getting books could be a way to promote the discount with waterstones (if we still have it). possibly even talk to them about more discount on the short list.

read biography for - karne

 karne ( 26th Apr 2004, 18:27, Rank: GSV )  reply

Are we talking an 'icsf internal' award? Or something more public? I'ld certainly like to see this go ahead, though I suspect we need to think more carefully about what 'Best Book' means. Maybe score by literary merit, enjoyability, accessibility, novelty, scientific merit, etc. That should provoke debate if nothing else...

read biography for - Sulkyblue

 Sulkyblue ( 27th Apr 2004, 11:57, Rank: Nazgul )  reply

Sorry, yes I was refering to an entirely internal system at this point.

I think the idea of scores could be interested, although mainly as a way to draw up a short list and/or prompt discussion, otherwise we run the risk of bringing the final award down to an matter of maths. It's definately a good way to indicate to people that there's more to think about then just whether they enjoyed the book.

read biography for - dormouse

 dormouse ( 27th Apr 2004, 13:12, Rank: Jedi )  reply

this sort of thing could be a good incentive for developing a book review/comment/rating system for the website like we've talked about in the past but never got round to, due to the conclusion that no one would use it. This would be a reason for people to actually contribute. I think it would be worth a try! i probably will build something regardless of whether we do the awards :)

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