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January 23rd, 2012

The Stoker Season

Ahh yes, it's that time of year again when HWA's business turns largely towards the Bram Stoker Awards. The preliminary ballot has been released, and the discussions have started. Let the games begin!

Every year, many of the same comments appear. "The Stokers are meaningless," runs a popular one...which of course presents the delightful philosophical conundrum of conferring meaning by mentioning it in the first place. One author recently referred to the Stokers as "whack", and hey - I suppose given how much I grumble about the Oscars every year, I can't deny anyone else their opinion, even if I think it's somewhat lacking in tact to publicly espouse same. The most perplexing complaint I've heard voiced was that winning a Stoker wouldn't get anyone a major publishing deal. Frankly, it never occurred to me that any award would garner someone a publishing deal; in my naivete, I think writing a kickass and marketable book (and having it submitted by a great agent) is how that usually happens.

But the one I really like, and that I hear spouted every year without fail, is the one that goes like this: The Stoker Awards mean nothing to the publishing industry.

I can only assume anyone who believes that has never paid much attention to mass market paperback horror novels.

Submitted for your approval: Evidence #1:



It took me about two minutes in my bookstore's horror section (yes, the Iliad has one!) to pull these books. What do they have in common?: Every single one of them mentions "Bram Stoker Award" somewhere on the cover. Now, granted - there are a lot of Leisure titles in that stack, and if you want to make a joke about that being why Leisure crashed and burned, I'll laugh with you. But not all of them are Leisure. Why, look - there's a Bantam Spectra title (of a Brian Keene book, no less!) with the attribution "Bram Stoker Award-winning author" splashed right on the front cover. Here's one for a Bill Gagliani book which touts the fact that he was a finalist:



And check out this one, from Alice Henderson's Voracious:



Wow - this isn't even about the author or the book, but someone else who is blurbing the book. 

This sure seems like a lot of references to something no one cares about, doesn't it?

And this, I suppose, is ultimately why the Stokers - and nearly any other award you can name - are hotly debated every year: Because they do have value. Are awards crass? Sure. Do they often bring out the worst in people, sometimes even those who are nominated? You bet. But can their effectivenes as a promotional tool be denied? As much as we all might sometimes wish that it weren't so...it is. Our culture loves awards, and they're here to stay.