UPDATED: Victoria Strauss, one of my fellow judges, has also posted about the experience, mentioning Jess Nevins' amazing Victoriana book and going into some detail about the Bruce Holland Rogers. Among others.
UPDATE UPDATE: Andrew Wheeler's posting about the WF Awards.
Thanks, Dana, for guest blogging! I know everyone enjoyed it.
I'm here in the con hotel at World Fantasy.
As I'm sure you know by now, the World Fantasy Award winners have been announced. You can find the full list here.
We did the judges panel today, often known as the "justify yourself" panel, and it went very well. Although I'd heard about some grumblings in certain quarters, most of the people grumbling didn't actually show up for the panel and thus missed out on understanding why we picked what we did. I guess they didn't really want to have a dialogue about it. One thing I did emphasize is that I think the professional and non-professional categories should be reorganized to something more focused, like Best Related Book, Best Editor, or whatever. Because right now it's just a mishmash of stuff and trying to decide a winner is a little like comparing anvils and oranges.
The judging experience was a great one and I feel like I have four new friends as a result of it, and I'm really proud of our selections on the whole. We had very few disagreements and no rifts or arguments during the process.
One book I very much want to mention is Bruce Holland Rogers' The Keyhole Opera, which for me and most all of the other judges was an amazing reading experience. I know this was a strong category and all of the finalists were wonderful, but there is something about The Keyhole Opera that made it my favorite book of the year. I hope people will give it a read, because it is phenomenal.
I think there was also some sense in the immediate aftermath in certain quarters that it was okay to give an award to one "mainstream" author but not two--in other words, there should only be one "special guest," Saunders or Murakami. I would hope this is a minority opinion, as there is a difference between the genre community, which is a social group as much as a group of writers, and the much wider country of Fantasy in general.
I do know one thing: as judges, we recused ourselves where necessary, we considered the evidence (not the hype) over and over again, reading stories and books several times, and we voted with our hearts and our heads, with no concern for genre politics of any kind. In this sense, it was one of the purest experiences I've had as a member of the genre community and it was an experience that made me feel very proud of fantasy and of my fellow judges, who I love dearly.
As I mentioned on the panel, I was very sad to have to choose a winner in any category. I thought the finalist list was deep and wide and rich.