3/11/09

Are the AML/Whitney Awards Redundant?

In response to the announcement of the AML Awards, a reader commented:
Do you think a second doubler would be good for the awards or damaging? It was a surprise last year as the whole point of the Whitney's was to add a more populist perspective to LDS awards. If we have a doubler again this year, will it make having two awards seem somewhat redundant? What do you think?

I don't see it as a problem—and to me, your question sounds like a backhanded slam on readers of popular fiction. They couldn't possibly enjoy the same fiction that high-brow, snooty, elitists enjoy, could they?

:)

The Whitney's are based on popular vote. I think that as the industry continues to grow and more LDS "literary" fiction is produced, we might see a parting of the ways between these two awards. But when the field is limited as it currently is, it doesn't surprise me that both voting groups may select the same winners for Novel of the Year.

Also, the AML Awards and the Whitney Awards only crossover in two categories—Novel (which the Whitneys subdivide into 7 categories) and Youth Fiction. While they may end up awarding the same novel Best of the Year (or not), I don't think they'll agree on the Youth Fiction category. The Whitney's also allow for other genre fiction to get attention and awards.

So what do I think? I think both awards are cool and no, I don't think they're redundant.

Oh, and P.S.—
I don't know if this is a problem on my side (I have a similar problem with writers blogck), but in order to read the text in the current colors I first have to highlight it. The brown on darker brown is impossible.
On all of the 7 computers to which I have access and tested these websites, the posts are not brown on darker brown. They are brick red headers, lighter red links, and dark gray text on an off white background. The menu at the top and in the sidebar is the same brick red text on a very light rose background. So, I don't know what to tell you.

16 comments:

William Morris said...

I completely agree with LDS Publisher's notice. I'll also note that both last year and this year were somewhat unusual in that there were novels published that had appeal to both sets of audiences the two awards are geared towards -- _On the Road to Heaven_ and (and even more so, imo) _Bound on Heaven_.

If you look at the list of AML Awards for Novel, I don't see many of the other award winners that have quite the same wide appeal that these titles have.

Also: _Bound on Earth_ hasn't won yet.

One good thing, I think, about the Whitneys is that the populist approach combined with all the genre categories leads to a nice snapshot of the year whereas the list of AML Awards for novel is rather quirky.

William Morris said...

Oops. I don't know why that word notice got in there. That first sentence should be something like "I completely agree with LDS Publisher's analysis." or "take" or "response"

Josi said...

The entire point of both awards are to award great fiction--On The Road to Heaven was great fiction, that's why it won. There are plenty of people casting stones (many of them are casting them because they are annoyed that their books or their favorite books don't get the attention they think they deserve) but the point both award programs make is that there are great LDS writer's out there, and we ought to read their books. I"ll be interested to see what gets best novel this year--but I happen to like that the awards cross over with a title here and there, and yet retain their own personality as well. I know I'm aware of a lot more books than I would be without either of the awards.

Carl said...

It looks silly for such a small market to have two separate awards ceremonies. Very back-slap/self-congratulatory, having little to do with merit. The rumor mill is buzzing that they've had a hard time finding quality books to fill the categories, and a few of the nominated books are of dubious quality. Maybe fewer categories are in order. You can't expect LDS readers to take the awards seriously as a designator of quality if it is somewhat generally acknowledged that nominated books may not necessarily be representative of good writing.

William Morris said...

Name me an award that isn't back-slapping/self-congratulatory, that isn't influenced by industry politics and that every single year has a wealth of entries that are unanimously considered amazing.

The Whitneys and the AML Awards represent the two most active LDS publishing/reading populations that participate in the market for Mormon culture.

Award results (and even nominations) are by their nature often faddish and idiosyncratic. That's why they should be considered only one measure of the year in [whatever field we're talking about] (and why criticism is a good thing as is the passage of time as they tend to jointly separate out those works that are truly worth remembering and revisiting, etc.).

Carl said...

William, that is a good point, but now I'm stumped. Where would one go to find honest literary criticism of books in the LDS market?

Th. said...

.

For clarity's sake, if I was backhanding anyone is would have been the "elites" for being out of touch. But I didn't really wish to imply that either.

It is true that only the one category really overlaps, but it's the Best Picture of the Whitneys and one of the few AML awards most people are even vaguely interested in. I would like to see publishers support these awards by putting notices on book covers that it was nominated / won. Just like for the Pulitzer or NBA or Printz or Newbury or (etc).

William Morris said...

Carl:

Well, I don't know that it's *honest*, but we try to do some of that at A Motley Vision.

Josi said...

Literary criticism is always going to be subjective--it's the nature of the beast when it comes to people sharing their opinions. There are reviewers that read more critically than others, as well as reviewers that can be turned off by one scene easier than some, thus influencing their overall opinion. As for books of dubious quality--the Whitney's works on a reader nominated system, if good books aren't nominated by readers, they aren't considered. The judges then hone it down to the top five--if there aren't five really good books in that catiogory there is the option of accepting less, BUT the feedback is, again, subjective. Some people love mystery novels that involve romance, other people find anything remotely-romantic as a distraction from the central theme--thus they won't like it. Yet some people will. Many people want to make the awards (Whitney or AML) fit THEIR impression of what's good, when that isn't the point at all.

The problem with fewer categories is that it isn't necessarily fair to weigh a romance novel against a science fiction adventure novel--there are genre expectations that must be met, thus the books need to compete against books with similar expectations. The Whitney's already got a lot of flack for putting romance and women's fiction in the same category last year, now they're getting flack for having women's fiction and general together. If anything the cry is for more categories, not less, but then that raises all kinds of other concerns.

I would like publishers to give the books more recognition like the cover suggestions--but in a market where so many books only sell through one print run, it's going to be tricky to get industry-wide support on that, though I hope we do.

I also agree that AML and the Whitney's have similar and yet separate goals, which means there is room for both of them without them stepping on each other's toes. But there will always be people that find the AMLs too intellectual and the Whitney's too fluffy, another nature of the beast one would call the LDS reader.

Emily M. said...

William, have you reviewed _Waiting for the Light to Change_ at AMV yet? It's nominated for a Whitney in two categories. I've been reading it, and it is quite impressive. _Bound on Earth_ is still my favorite, but it would not surprise me if _Waiting for the Light to Change_ did well. I feel like it's a book that deserves more buzz than it has received. The writing is tight (if not lyrical like Bound on Earth), the characters compelling, and it's as good a tragedy (a redemptive tragedy, I guess) as I have read in a long time. I will probably review it at Segullah sometime, but I would love to hear Laura Cramer's take on it as well.

If the Whitneys did not exist, I might never have heard of _Waiting for the Light to Change_, and it's a really great book. So no, I don't think the two sets of awards are redundant.

Becki said...

My family has discovered so many great books through the Whitney awards. My kids have been reading all of the books in the Youth category and have discovered some fabulous authors they might not have otherwise read. There isn't a single book in the category that my kids haven't loved, so I have a hard time thinking that this competition won't be tough.

The same can be said of the other categories. Personally, I'm glad I'm not voting. Two of my favorite books are against each other...and they're by the same author. Best of luck to the judges in casting those votes.

William Morris said...

Emily:

I have not. I haven't even heard about it. And I also have not been very aggressive about going after review copies and no longer have access to a library than can quickly and easily procure me ILL loans from Utah.

But thanks for suggesting it.

It doesn't look like the AML or Meridian have reviewed it either so it wasn't on my radar at all.

Jennie said...

William, I reviewed Waiting for the Light to Change August 2008. You can read it at Meridian or go to my web page www.jennielhansen.com

I reviewed all of the books in the General Fiction category except The Reckoning which wasn't submitted to me. I've since read it, but it's a little late to
review. I don't review 2008 books in 2009. All five of the books in this category are outstanding, have strong themes, and are worth reading.

Back to the original question. It is not hard to find outstanding books in every category of the Whitneys and the slight crossover with AML doesn't create a redundancy. Each set of awards has its own place, though I suspect the Whitneys have a larger audience and are more visible.

Emily M. said...

William, I wasn't really aware of _Waiting for the Light to Change_ either, until now. I am very impressed with it. I have not read as widely in LDS fiction as I would like (either more literary or more popular), so it has been fun for me to read the Whitney finalists this year and really get a feel for what's being done.

Kudos to everyone at both AML and the Whitney awards--these things are a lot of work.

Anonymous said...

In Hollywood, they have so many award shows; that is redundant. Oscars, Academy Award, Tony's, Emmy, Golden Globe, and who knows how many more.

Granted LDS is a lot less of a market, but I wouldn't consider two awards that overlap slightly as redundant.

William Morris said...

Thanks, Jennie! I must have missed it before. I really, really wish Meridian Magazine had RSS feeds for its major columnists. But now at least I know that if I go to your Web site, I can catch up on any of your reviews that I missed.