I have seen the comments online about this year's British Fantasy Awards, and I am saddened that some people feel so unhappy about the whole thing.
The Awards are and always have been a straightforward vote by the BFS membership and by FantasyCon attendees. These good people send in recommendations to create the Longlist, and then they vote on that Longlist. The top five-scoring entries in each category then go onto the Shortlist, and a final vote is done to determine the winner. One with the most votes wins. Simple as that. It is as completely unbiased as it can be.
People might be interested to see how the voting broke down this year:
BEST NOVEL - 116 votes cast
BEST NOVELLA - 102 votes cast
BEST SHORT STORY - 92 votes cast
BEST COLLECTION - 97 votes cast
BEST ANTHOLOGY - 111 votes cast
BEST NON-FICTION - 90 votes cast
BEST ARTIST - 108 votes cast
BEST SMALL PRESS - 110 votes cast
BEST MAGAZINE/PERIODICAL - 111 votes cast
BEST COMIC/GRAPHIC NOVEL - 77 votes cast
BEST FILM - 114 votes cast
BEST TELEVISION - 120 votes cast
So that's a total of 1248 votes cast overall (I believe there were 999 votes last year or thereabouts), and there were 140 valid individuals voting in the Awards (I did have to exclude a couple of voters as they were not BFS Members and had not attended FantasyCon either last year, nor were they listed to attend this year).
So the winners were simply those who those that voted thought were worth voting for. Several of the cateories were very close between the votes, with in some cases just one vote separating the winner. I asked Del Lakin-Smith, the BFS Webmaster, who was also looking after the online results forms, to do a double check count and tally to ensure complete transparancy in what the members had voted for. The results were as announced.
There has been criticism that perhaps I should have stepped down from Administering the Awards once it became apparent who some of the winners were (ie my partner Sam, and books published by Telos Publishing, a company that I co-run). It takes a lot of work to bring everything together, and because the voting is electronic and the counting is automatic (and was confirmed by Del) I assumed that everything was fine.
There have been comments about the choice of presenters for the Awards - again, several people who I approached declined, and so I had to go for people I knew were going to be there. I had an early discussion with Sarah Pinborough on this, and she agreed with me that it would be a good idea to go with some lesser known names and faces to present this year. So that is what I tried to do: to use the Convention GoHs (of course) and to also include some people who were less well known. If I was wrong, then so be it, but my intentions were to try and ensure balance in the ceremony.
I am very distressed about the nature of the comments being made online, and the BFS Committee will of course be discussing them and deciding what actions to take going forward.
Back to this discussion ... and the way to suggest and make change to the way the BFS does *anything* is contained within the Constitutions for the BFS and the BFAwards, both of which are linked to on the front page of the site:
BFS Constitution: http://www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk/about-the-bfs/the-constitution-of-the-british-fantasy-society/
Awards Constitution: http://www.britishfantasysociety.co.uk/the-british-fantasy-awards-constitution-ii/
To suggest a change, someone would need to redraft the Awards Constitution to reflect whatever they wanted to suggest. This should then be submitted to the Chair of the BFS, and would then be discussed, back-and-forth, between the BFS Committee and whoever raised it to iron out any remaining wrinkles and to ensure it's watertight (so, for example, what happens if a jury can't be set up for a certain award? Is that award not then presented? How many people should form a minimum jury? What happens if a shortlisted book cannot be sourced from the publisher? Is it then dropped? And so on). Then it is presented to the BFS Membership to vote on - either at the next AGM, or it could be put to a special vote of the membership.
There are other options other than moving to a juried (or part juried) system. We could make the votes totally transparant - ie show on the public website exactly who voted for what. We could open the votes to *everyone* as with the Gemmells ...
Over to you ...