On Wednesday the CBC announced the short list for its third annual Bookie Awards. Upon review, it didn’t take long to notice the dramatic change in format between this year’s nominations and last year’s. It took even less time for me to feel somewhat disappointed by this reboot. And being that I’m the sort of guy who will likely never find himself in a place to be nominated for any sort of writing award, I don’t mind sharing my disaffection.
While I am sure all of the nominated books are quality works, worthy of attention and praise, it’s hard to look at the structure of the nominations themselves and not wonder if somebody at the CBC has lost sight of what these awards are meant to do, or at least what they managed to accomplish last year; therein the Bookies broadcast an impressive range of talent and type in Canadian writing.
Of the utmost importance to this website’s mandate is the removal of the sci-fi/fantasy/spec-fic category. Last I checked, Canada still has a vibrant and supremely intelligent community of genre writers. Why is this fact no longer worth celebrating in the eyes of the Bookie Awards? Surely if there is room on the ballot for categories like “The Brangelina Award for Most Attractive Book Cover,” “The Hot and Bothered Award for Steamiest Read,” and “The Up All Night Award for Most Spine-Tingling Canadian Book,” then we can find a place for “The Most Fantastic Vision of Another World in a Canadian Book.”
Another problematic change is the addition of “Canadian Author of the Year” and “International Author of the Year.” What’s the difference between “Canadian Author of the Year” and “Best Canadian Book?” Furthermore, should we not expect to see a bit of overlap between the two? How is Will Ferguson the only writer to be seen in both categories? In fact, Will Ferguson is the only Author of the Year nominee to have a book nominated within the Bookies. Forgive my ignorance, but what constitutes an Author of the Year in this scenario? I’m not suggesting these authors aren’t fantastic within their fields. Rather, I’m calling upon the Bookies to offer some sense of qualification for their nominations.
And I do hope my readers will indulge any perceived lack of class on my part for what follows, but in what world do we put E.L. James, and her ersatz eroticism, in the same category as Sir Salman Rushdie? I won’t pretend that I have picked up a Rushdie book post-university, but surely the man who wrote The Satanic Verses is hors concours against an author whose claim to fame is stirring a select audience’s loins while broadly pissing off the kink community.
Also absent this year’s ballot are categories for graphic novels, short story collections, young adult fiction, and poetry. Off the top of my head I can think of enough Canadian authors who published in those categories within the last orbit of the sun to merit some individual recognition.
Taking a broad approach to the awards, I’m not quite sure what the overall message is meant to be. Actually, that’s a lie. I fear I know exactly what the take away is, I just don’t like it. Last year the Bookies made an effort to sample from many walks of Canadian writing in forming their nominations. Every category may not have appealed to every person who visited CBC Books’ website, but there was almost certainly something for everyone. Since the award itself is one of bragging rights and exposure, this diverse scope was good and just.
This year’s taxonomy of awards suggests a celebration of books deemed interesting only by the conveners of the Bookies. Lost is the attempt to mobilize a base of readers with a variety of interests. In only their third year, the Bookies have shifted from aggregators of talent, inclusive of divergent genre and medium, to arbiters of taste. This is not only unfair but a misrepresentation of creative culture in Canada.