25 April, 2010

Vying for the Vogels

TSV has just been announced as one of the nominees in the 'Best Fan Publication' category of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, New Zealand's national SF awards. The full list of nominations for the Vogels can be viewed here. The winners will be announced at Au Contraire, the New Zealand National Science Fiction Convention for 2010, taking place in Wellington over 27-29 August.

This year TSV shares the category with Phoenixine, the fanzine of the Wellington Phoenix science fiction club, and a third publication called The Event.

Phoenixine has been the recipient of the award in the Best Fan Publication category (formerly called 'Best Fanzine') for most of the last decade. The exceptions were 2009 and 2007, when there was no award in this category due to insufficient nominations (TSV was not eligible in 2009 as no issues had been published in the previous calendar year). TSV has been nominated most years alongside Phoenixine, but has only won once - and that was by mistake.

A miscount of the votes resulted in TSV being announced as the winner at the awards ceremony at Icon in Wellington at Easter 2005. The issues nominated for that year's award were my final two as editor, TSV 69 and 70. The error only came to light when the voting papers were checked a couple of weeks after the event. The organisers apologised and made amends by issing a 'Joint Award' to both fanzines. I wasn't at the convention and only heard that TSV had 'won' when I received the apology from the awards organiser. The rather fetching engraved trophy statuette, manufactured by Weta Workshop, still sits on my bookshelf.

TSV is a fantastic-looking publication with a high calibre of material, thanks to the talent and effort of current editor Adam McGechan and the zine’s many contributors. This might count for something if the Vogels were decided by an impartial judging committee assessing the quality and merits of each nominated work.

The awards are instead voted for by attendees of the national science fiction convention and by members of SFFANZ (Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand). TSV’s readership is barely represented in these spheres whereas many readers of Phoenixine are, I believe, SFFANZ members and/or frequent convention-goers. Naturally, they will vote for ‘their’ publication over any other nominee, whether out of loyalty or familiarity - or both.

Is there anything wrong with this state of affairs? Perhaps not, though in my view ‘Best’ is a bit of a misnomer for the category. ‘Most Popular’ would be a more fitting epithet. Maybe Phoenixine is thoroughly deserving of being called ‘Best’. I don’t know as I’ve not had the opportunity to view an issue in recent years. Regardless, that is not the criteria by which the Vogels are currently determined. The awards are not about quality but popularity.

It is a pleasure to see TSV and Adam’s name as editor very deservingly included on this year’s ballot, but it is a pleasure tainted with the certainty that this is the highest accolade we can hope to achieve at the Vogels.