May 18th, 2008

gold shells

Who gets to say what's the best?

The Guardian Book blog has been interesting lately. Blogger Sam Jordison has posted some entries on the Hugos, reviewing some past winners and also commenting on the field in general. One of his posts on voting for literary prizes specifically posed the question that if democracy is good, can voting to determine a literary prize be bad? A commenter pointed out that the Hugos can't be said to be democratic as you have pay to attend or at least to support the Worldcon to vote, and that the number of people voting is very tiny.

The post also referenced a mention last year of a British trend I have not observed in the States—nonliterary celebrity judges for literary prizes. Being an American, I'm not always familiar with the celebrities in the article or the comments, but I believe some of them are singers while others are sports stars. One of last year's commenter has an argument that summed up the entire debate, asking whether or not these celebrities were ". . . as well qualified as anyone to have a valid opinion on the merits of a book."

Well, I guess the Hugos have a leg up on mainstream awards in that they at least sift out those unfamiliar with the genre. And unlike other awards, you know what you're getting. I doubt most readers know how the Man Booker prize is awarded.