Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards 2018: an informal experiment

Subjective: “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes or opinions“.

Chaos: “the first created being” (Greek). No, that’s not what we’re after. “Complete disorder and confusion” …hopefully not. “Behaviour so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions“. YOU GOT IT.

(Kind of) Awards: “a prize or other mark of recognition” – well, you know, kind of.

Welcome to the Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards 2018!

In the dying days of 2017 – right in the middle of the annual agonising over favourite reads of the year – C of The Middle Shelf proposed hosting a new set of entirely informal awards. The idea was simple: a jury of bookworms would read, review and debate a set of categories, largely in public for the entertainment and horror of the broader community.

…who are we kidding, it was an excuse for a group of people to have a great time discussing books. Needless to say I was delighted to be allowed to take part.

Why the Subjective Chaos Kind of Awards?

This has been an organic process from day one – from finding our panel to agreeing our categories to debating our shortlists. We embrace the idea that rules are more like guidelines anyway, and were delighted to make up new ones as we went. Chaotic indeed. It keeps things more interesting.

We also want to be clear that this is an informal experiment in picking the best of the year. We have a jury and some shortlists (we’ll get to those in a minute!) but there’s no actual award (yet?) and any ceremony will probably look like a small group of people making a fuss on Twitter.

…and last but not least, this process is as subjective as we are. Our shortlists reflect our reading, which has been broad (we may now be disappearing under our rapidly-expanding TBR piles), but we are a small group of (predominantly European) bookworms and there will be many worthy titles that have escaped our consideration.

So consider this a People’s Choice Award of limited scope, if you will. Or just some bookworms having too much fun sharing their favourites and finding new excuses to Read All The Books.

The Panellists

AKA “who are these People anyway”

The Categories

After some debate (and consideration of how much time seven people with full-time jobs can spend reading), our categories are as follows:

  • Best Fantasy Novel
  • Best SciFi Novel
  • Blurred Boundaries: Best Speculative Fiction Novel
  • Best Novella
  • Best Series (must have had an instalment published in 2017; may be incomplete)

Each member of the panel commits to reading the full shortlist for any category they wish to judge; panellists can opt out of a category due to time constraints (as our ‘1000 word limit’ on series length to date was one of the first rules to sail out the window).

The Shortlists

Our shortlists have been as organic as the rest of our process. We agreed early to make a primary and secondary nomination per category, giving us back-ups in case of multiple jurors nominating a single title (prescient, as it turned out). We kept our cards close to our chest, not sharing our thoughts until an agreed date for reviewing our shortlists together.

We also agreed – perhaps more contentiously – that no title would be represented in more than one category. This removes the chance of any single title dominating the awards, but required early debate on which categories best suited each nominee when we found the same title nominated in different categories (and that’s before you consider the chance of a Best in Category being represented in Best Series!)

The Nominees

Best Fantasy
Best SF
Best Blurred Boundaries
Best Novella

Honourable mention here to The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard, which was on the list until we realised it – ahem – was first published in 2016. Oops.

Best Series

What happens next?

Watch this space for further updates. We have begun the process of catching up on reading our shortlists and debating just how long that’s going to take us. I’ll be reporting back with details of our debates and deadlines once they’re finalised!

Edit: what happened next was that the lovely Mr Cornell apologetically reminded us that Chalk is a short novel, not a novella (by WSFA rules). After a brief reflection on our chaotic dedication, Chalk has now been moved to the Best Fantasy category.