Things You Missed Last Week (№40): The British Fantasy Society

Well, well, well. The British Fantasy Society (of which Atomic Fez is a member) has got itself in the newspaper again, as well as the Daily Mail and Sunday Express *. Oddly, the last time they were given space in the press resulted in a huge push to publish more female authors of horror, fantasy, and of other forms of ‘speculative fiction’, so it’ll be interesting to see what comes of this in the end.

The Logo of the British Fantasy Society
The Logo of the British Fantasy Society

I wasn’t going to say anything about this, but it all seems to be coming to a resolution, and for me not to have some sort of acknowledgement of the existence of the matter as part of this supposed “wrap-​​up of the publishing news” dog-​​and-​​pony show of mine seems a tad remiss. So, now that we can see the end of the thing, let’s whip though the main points.

It all got started when the ‘Short List’ for the British Fantasy Awards was announced and there was a great deal of space taken up in the list by Telos Publishing’s output as well the partner of one of the directors of Telos: David Howe. So far so good, except that he’s not only the chair of the BFS, which oversees the awards, he’s also the Acting Awards Administrator and thus is directly involved in the awarding of awards to winners. The votes are all tallied using a web-​​based spreadsheet, and everyone’s votes are registered using their BFS membership number and/​or their e-​​mail, so there’s no chances of his having done anything untoward at this stage.

Indeed, the BFS’s President Ramsey Campbell stated yesterday the following:

[I]t is our firm belief that no corruption or wrongdoing took place during the administration of the British Fantasy Awards, and that in this respect all awards should still stand as presented. We confirm that the summation of the votes cast was performed electronically and once the results were checked they were confirmed and verified by another member of the committee.

So, we’re all fine there; in retrospect, you understand.

During the awards, as well as right after, there was entirely a different tone to the vox populi. Given that five of the dozen awards – every single award for which they were nominated – went to either the publishing house of the Awards Admin or the lady the Daily Mail terms his “live-​​in lover” (as though the only thing that she does is snog the man silly), grumping was probably bound to occur. It just seemed a tad ‘too perfect’ for some people’s liking.

This is where Stephen Jones’s article on his web-​​site come Tuesday starts making the wheels of things turn, the title alone sufficient to getting eyebrows raised: “Putting the ‘Con’ into FantasyCon”. I urge you to read it, as there are number of excellent points to consider made within it. Note, however that “diplomatic” is not a frequently used word to describe the noted Editor and long-​​time BFS mover and shaker who is Stephen Jones. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Jones and his accomplishments. His tastes and business acumen are excellent, and – though his selections for stories to include in his anthologies are occasionally at odds with my own – he certainly knows what he’s doing. He’s not known for the most politic in ways of expressing his views, however, and this is something I can certainly nod my head at in complete understanding, as I possess the same trait.

Anyway, the point here is that even though Mr. Howe didn’t do anything at all wrong, everyone agrees that the appearance of something possibly have been fiddled with isn’t something one should permit to exist, as it then permits someone to rightly ask the questions posed by Mr. Jones. For deeper examination of that in this situation, head over to Pádraig Ó Méalóid’s LiveJournal ENTRY HERE, as he’s got a fairly good run-​​down of the ‘optics’ of the matter. Also good is Simon Morden’s entry RIGHT HERE examining both the time line of the decisions as well as a fairly good neutral examination of both sides of ‘the saga’.

As a result of the above: Mr.Howe has resigned as Chairman of the Society; Samantha Stone has returned her “Best Novel (2010)” Award; the next FantasyCon which was to be in Corby now might not be anywhere as the organizers have backed out, there’s no definite replacement for them, and it’s not east to find a venue for 500-​​or-​​so people for a week-​​end event in an Olympic year with a great deal of ease; and Graham Joyce has agreed to take on the position of ‘Acting Chair’ until such time as an Emergency General Meeting can be held in about six weeks’ time or so. Here’s Mr. Joyce’s statement, in which he says the following to put all of the above to rest (hopefully once and for all):

Meanwhile I will charge the committee with a priority agenda, which will include overhauling the Awards system; identifying and recommending new committee members; ensuring that proper records of meetings, decisions and accounts are transparent to all members of the society; and seeking  to enfranchise a wider “Fantasy” base for the Society.
     The proposed Corby FantasyCon will not now go head and we are looking for an alternative for 2012. The situation at this moment is fluid and we will attempt to keep members informed.

Something to keep in mind at this point is that the BFS is a dashed-​​fine organization and has had far more influence than it’s often given credit. The terms “horror” or “fantasy” fiction cause people to either picture a giant, blood-​​covered chainsaw; or a dragon flying above an impossibly-​​magenta mountain peak. Both images are incorrect for about ninety percent of the literary form. The UK is especially downwards in their glance when considering the genres, seeing either of them as ‘not actually literature, you know’, yet will happily praise Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Mervyn Peake for their Great Works of Literature. To form a society which aims to promote those sorts of works is quite brave, really. To continue to do this for so very many years is laudable, and hopefully the world of the ‘legitimate literature’ will re-​​welcome them to the fold.

If you need any more convincing of the worth of the BFS, have a look at THIS ARTICLE on the aforementioned site of Mr. Jones, and perhaps you’ll get a deeper understanding of the importance the Society has had in his career as well as the careers of others over the years. Another view on the same subject is THIS POST on the Theaker’s Quarterly and Paperbacks blog of Stephen Theaker which goes a long way to explain what effect the BFS can have on those who are less involved in the ‘pointy-​​end of the stick’ when it comes to creating or publishing ‘fantasy’, and simply like reading the stuff.

Atomic Fez is proud to be a member of the BFS and to play a part in supporting it both financially through that membership and adverts, as well as supporting its goal of promoting ‘weird’ and ‘fantastical’ fiction in all its forms.

LINKS FROM THIS ARTICLE

“This Week’s Fish Wrap” is an on-​​​​going series of posts summing up the news of the previous seven days in the publishing industry, and/​or announce the latest news Atomic Fez has about the publishing house, and appears here each Monday. It’s also quite possible that the posts merely serve as a dumping ground of links so that Atomic Fez Proprietor Ian Alexander Martin can find articles later to include in his occasional rants about how ‘EVERYONE ELSE IS ENTIRELY WRONG’ about various things.

* Non-​​UK residents ought to know that the Sunday Express is read by people who think they run the country, the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who actually do run the country, and the Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. Those who read London’s Sun don’t care who runs it as long as she’s got a good-​​sized pair of “fun bags”. [Full credit to the writers of Yes, MinisterRETURN ↑

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