[Disclaimer: I'll state this right up front. I have a short story that is eligible for the Aurora Awards (duh, look at the banner), but that's not what this post is about.]
Awards are meant to recognize the best of something. But who determines what “the best” is? For a lot of awards, it is a small cadre of experts/professionals. For others, it’s the members of an organization. I am not knocking these awards, but sometimes you see who won an award and think “Did they read the same thing I did?”
Now imagine an award where every fan has an equal voice in picking the winner. Where everyone gets to say what “the best” is. That is the Prix Aurora Award, which honours the best in Canadian speculative fiction and all Canadians can take part.
The Auroras covers a number of categories, including works of fiction, art and music plus events and publications. These categories are more diverse than the Hugos or Nebulas. Any work by a Canadian is eligible. All Canadians can nominate their favourite works and all Canadians are eligible to vote. (“Canadian” means a Canadian citizen living in Canada or aboard, or a permanent resident of Canada.)
To do this, Canadians register with the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA). There is a $10 registration fee, but this cost helps cover the creation of the physical awards. As well, CSFFA members receive an electronic voting package containing all the nominated works. Considering how much you might spend on books and ebooks (or, heck, coffee), this is a bargain.
But why take part? I’m going to borrow an idea Tanya Huff presented when she read at the Ottawa ChiSeries in July: We here in Canada fight to have our distinctiveness recognized. Being so close to the U.S., it is easy for us to be viewed by those outside Canada as an extension of the Americans or too small to have a unique voice. To put it simply: no one takes us seriously. But the question Tanya posed (and my apologies if I am mischaracterizing her statement): Why should we be taken seriously when we don’t take the Auroras seriously?
(Back to my own editorial:) In a country of 35 million, only a 190 ballots were cast last year. That’s about the size of a mid-sized convention. (For comparison, in only its second year the Ottawa Comic-Con had 30,000 attendees in a city of 885,000.) One-hundred and ninety is not a lot of voices deciding who “the best” should be.
As fans of speculative fiction, we fight for respect. We hate how dismissive some in the CanLit community are regarding our works. We endure comments from friends and co-workers like “You like sci-fi? Oh, my grandson just LOVES Star Wars!” We’re made to feel abnormal for our excitement over Doctor Who, Firefly, The Wheel of Time series or our steampunk goggles.
A hallmark of our community is that we are passionate and we are active. Like Wil Wheaton said: “It’s not about what you love, it’s about how you love it.” So we should not only appreciate the chance to have a say, we should embrace it.
There is one month left to vote in the Aurora Awards. Show your pride register with the CSFFA. Read the nominated works, post your thoughts and cast your votes. But most of all, spread the word about the Auroras!