Having participated in several World Fantasy conventions as a professional, up to and including having been nominated for the award itself, I would like to offer a few formal suggestions that I feel would be of great benefit to the award itself. It is my understanding that these suggestions have all been brought to the attention of the administrators before, but I still feel compelled to mention them again, as these are topics that seem to come up every year.
Guy Gavriel Kay said in his excellent Toastmaster speech that one of the things the World Fantasy Award does best is that it focuses on widening the reach of the genre. It’s in that spirit that I would like to recommend a new category, for Best Young Adult novel. There is an obvious and tangible overlapping of talent, interest, and subject matter regarding the Young Adult and Adult fantasy markets, and that line was forever blurred during the Harry Potter years. By creating a Young Adult novel category, the World Fantasy Award can take ownership of that acknowledgement; consider that no other major sf/f award currently honors YA authors.
Another area that adds to the credibility and legitimacy of the industry is that of non-fiction studies. Whether they are biographies, essay collections, or scholarly works from academic presses, there are more than enough books ABOUT the crafting of fantasy and its authors that merit their own World Fantasy award category, as well. Adding a Best Non-Fiction category not only abets the study of fantasy as its own serious endeavor, but it completely de-clutters the Special Award: Professional category, leaving it free to honor and acknowledge the professionals in the field who don’t normally receive recognition: Editors, retailers, copyeditors, publishers, and so on. Every year, non-fiction books are nominated in that category, for no other reason than they don’t have a category of their own. A Best Non-Fiction award solves that problem handily.
And speaking of the Special Award, I would like to recommend that both special awards be re-named to honor someone in the industry. The Special Award: Professional could honor a writer or editor who is no longer with us, and the Special Award: Non-Professional could likewise reflect a particularly influential fan or similar. Re-naming these two awards would make them more sound more professional and less “generic.”
I am sure there are other factors to consider when adding categories to the awards ballot beyond “it’s a really nifty idea,” but I sincerely hope the committee will consider these suggestions as both positive and constructive feedback and at least discuss them the next time they are able to do so. It may be too late for the 2008 awards, but surely one or more of these suggestions could be implemented for 2009? In any case, thank you for your time and attention.