Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Big Win

There are many valid instances where awards must be given as a acknowledgment of achievement - specifically in the worlds of sports or academic activities. That's where accomplishments can be definitely, inarguably measured. If you've run a race faster than any of your competitors, if you've outscored your opposing team - these are the kind of concrete wins that deserve special commendation.

From fencing tournaments to spelling bees, whether it's on the local, national or worldwide level, these are the kind of contests where champions are rightly honored. It isn't about popularity, it isn't about the mood of the crowd, it isn't about gaming the system, it's about who was able to bring it on that day.

When it comes to the arts, things get a little fuzzy. The music, television, stage and film industries all honor their own and while many deserving artists are singled out each year, I don't think anyone believes that these awards are given in an objective, even-handed way. I love the glitz and pageantry and ballyho of these ceremonies but at the end of the day, it's pretty much bs. That's because so much of who wins these awards comes down to politics within their respective industries - and down to individual taste, of course. Determining what's best in any creative field is always bound to be imperfect and subjective - just think of the many notorious blunders made by the Oscars over the years. But an awful lot of work goes into making films, music, TV shows, and musicals happen - so if these industries want to honor their own with some made-up awards once a year with a night of collective ass-kissing, then so be it.

Given how popular and prevalent awards are, it should probably be no surprise to see the world of blogging becoming more award-happy as well. Bloggers have been passing awards around to each other in gestures of mutual appreciation and camaraderie for awhile now, as seen in examples at the right of this blogspot. Now the online horror news outlet Bloody Disgusting is giving a shout-out to bloggers with their Horror Bloggers Awards.

This is in direct response to a minor uproar over Total Film's recent Best Horror Blog Award in which news outlets like BD, Shock Till You Drop and Dread Central were nominated instead of actual horror blogs. While I do agree that Total Film should've been more accurate in their wording, or else nominated actual blogspots, my opinion on that controversy was "who cares?"

But because of that slight, BD's blogging awards are here with 62 (!) blogs in the running, including (to my surprise) this one. That's an awful lot of blogs vying for votes - and even with that huge number of contenders, I can readily think of many more excellent blogspots that inexplicably weren't included. In looking at this contest, and in anticipating more like it to come, I think that it may turn out to be that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The idea of honoring the efforts of bloggers is noble enough but as a community, I think that contests and competitions should be something we look at with extreme skepticism - if not avoid altogether.

As I said above, there's 62 blogspots nominated in BD's contest. Some of these blogs I already knew of; a good deal of them, though, I hadn't heard of before. The good news is that seeing these new names (new to me, at least) has brought them to my attention. But the reality is that no one casting a vote in this contest will take the time to look over each and every one of these blogs and make an impartial decision on which is best based purely on the merits of their content.

For one, what makes one blog better than another? Is it how frequently they update - because that really is so dependent on someone's personal situation, like whether someone is a student, is unemployed, is self-employed, is single or attached and so on. Is it how they write, because even within the small community of horror bloggers, there's many different styles - and skill with language doesn't always count so as much as passion. Is it the subjects they tackle, because I know there's a lot of well-respected blogs I don't frequent just because the subject they're dedicated to isn't to my personal taste. Even under the larger umbrella of horror, there's a lot of separate - if friendly - camps.

But all this varied criteria aside, the truth is at the end of the day people are simply going to vote for who they know. And even that isn't as easy as it sounds as in this case most of the people voting are most likely bloggers themselves (who else cares about blogs but other bloggers?) and probably fellow nominees in this contest - so how that will play out is anybody's guess. For the record, I won't be voting myself. I do have an opinion on what I feel the best blog out there is but voting for it would mean not voting for several other blogs I also love so I feel better just abstaining altogether.

Way back when, I used to self-publish a fanzine called Gravedigger's Union. Due to issues of time and money, it would take me on the average about a year to get an issue out - between writing all the content (with rare contributions from outside sources), finding photos, getting the layout done, and getting it published. After that, there would be the matter of personally schleping copies to comic book and music stores in the area (with some mail orders to fill, thanks to reviews of Gravedigger's Union in the magazine Factsheet Five, a publication that was dedicated to the 'zine community). From top to bottom, it was hard and expensive work but my reward was that I had a magazine of my own making to look at and the occasional snail mail response from readers. It was, in every way, a labor of love.

In light of my fanzine experiences, the opportunity that having a blogspot represents is something miraculous. That I can write something, and with a click, have it be read by people around the world - all with never leaving my home - is just amazing. I never check the hits that this blogspot receives because I know that no matter what, any single post I put up is going to be read by more people, in more far-flung areas, than ever read the fanzine that I put so much time and money into. As corny as it may sound - that, in itself, feels like a prize.

This is not, and will never be, a competition for me. Just by having this blog I feel like I'm ahead of the game - I don't need another win on top of that.


Matt-suzaka said...

"who else cares about blogs but other bloggers?" Ha! So true and when I saw how many blogs were involved and the very light amount of votes, I knew that there were too many and all of the voters (mostly bloggers) have probably already voted!

The contest is very flawed and even the nominations came about by commenter's saying what blogs they thought should be nominated. I'm thrilled that a few people mentioned my blog and am happy to be included for the running, and while I would love to win, I don't think I ever would, nor deserve it that much over anyone else either. I just look at the contest as something fun and nothing that should be taken too seriously. It is a made up award, after all is said.

Bloggers take themselves too seriously and that is proven by the whole uproar about the Total Film thing. I thought it was fucked up and it pissed me off too, but in the end, and as you said, who cares? It's drama for the sake of drama and while many in the blogging community think that the "blogging community" is better than drama, it is filled with it. Just look at the Ms. Horror Blogosphere bullshit.

How quickly every forgets why we are all here...for movies. If other bloggers want to get all up in made up drama and controversy, good on 'em. I don't have room for that shit and I'll be watching shitty horror movies and writing even shittier reviews for them in the meantime!

Great post, Jeff and make sure to vote for Chuck Norris Ate My Baby in the Bloody Disgusting Horror Blogger awards! Zoink!

Jeff Allard said...

Matt, as much as I think this contest is well meant but wrong headed, I'd be happy to see someone I personally know win it so good luck!

However, I do think that the blogosphere - at least in horror circles - is sadly becoming an increasingly catty and competitive place and I hope the tide will turn on that.

Anonymous said...

Both you and Matt took the words right out of my mouth. I definitely appreciate that folks nominated us, but at the end of the day, the awards and recogntion is not why I do what I do. Plus to have no nomination criteria whatsoever (i.e. you just started blogging last month, your're nominated!) kind of defeats the purpose.

Timmy Crabcakes said...

This all reminds me of our local poetry scene. Originally there was one reading a week in a coffeehouse... run by a guy who was tough to please, he didn't give out accolades lightly and neither did we. If a poem sucked people didn't applaud... but we would encourage the person to return with new stuff next week.
Eventually this all got poisoned to hell, lots of drama... poets with 'followings'... lots of different readings all talking about how the other ones weren't worthy. Most of them applauding frantically no matter what sort of horrid cat/Jesus/grandmother poem was being read.
It started out in earnest and with passion and eventually became a bunch of circle-jerk support groups.
Still, a good poet was a joy to hear, and regardless of the bullshit going on in 'the scene' there were still good poets around.
I'm sure some bloggers go nuts for applause... but it will always be easy to see which one's are doing it for the love of doing it.

Unknown said...


As someone with a similar history of doing fanzines, I feel both your pain and the sense of wonder when it comes to how easy blogging has made it to distribute one's work.

Four a number of years I published Pocket Full of Chumpchange fanzine. There's a part of me that misses the all nighters laying out articles and photos, painstaking transcribing tape recorded interviews, and prepping 100s of record reviews. I miss the thrill of Kinko scams and schelpping copies in my backback, approaching other kids at shows and asking them to buy my zine for a buck, only to ge turned away becuase they'd spent all their money on the 4 copies of the same 7" record with different colored vinyl.

Sometimes I forget how easy I've got it now.

Jeff Allard said...

PoT, I agree - the standards for nomination in BD's contest seemed lax to the point of being ridiculous.

Knob, mutual encouragement is great but not so much when it turns into a knee-jerk self-esteem fix.

And Mike, there's something to be said for the character-building difficulties of putting a fanzine out but I'm glad the internet age has given people without the resources to publish a 'zine a chance to share their interests.

Thanks for the comments, guys!

I Like Horror Movies said...

Im just stoked that we all like Horror movies and get to talk about them with people that care. Beats going to work and spouting off to people that only think Im a freak slash uncultured idiot. High five for getting to write about what we love!

Jeff Allard said...

High-five back to you, Carl!

Sarah said...

I just found your blog. I came out of zines too, but more recently. Writing zines (especially horror zines) now isn't too different than it was 10-15 years ago, even with more distribution systems and ways of contact via the internet. I had a horror/cult film zine and it confused people, mostly because I came out of the post-riot grrrl crowd and it's standard to write personal zines. My old zine friends still seem a little dumbfounded when I say more people have read my blogs than my zines. I left zines cos of soulsucking drama, and because I really cannot read personal zines anymore, but unfortunately I've come back to blogging after a 6 month break to see drama as well. At least it's easier to ignore blogs (which sounds odd, but take my word for it).

I haven't voted in the BD awards for the same reason you haven't.

Jeff Allard said...

Hey Sarah, thanks for stopping by! It's funny to hear that people are still doing print 'zines these days - although I'm glad to know that the internet age hasn't killed that sub-culture off. There's something very gratifying about putting together a 'zine and I'm glad for the years I spent proudly toiling on mine.

As for drama, I guess that's impossible to completely get away from. But I do my best to ignore it here and that seems to work out just fine.