Quite a few people on Twitter today have pointed to this post by Nicholas Whyte which, amongst other things, uses reviews on GoodReads as a comparison to the Best Novel result. That’s a very good way to show how disputes like this must seem to outsiders. Other commenters have expressed surprise that the British Fantasy Awards tend to be dominated by horror fiction.
Of course things have been that way for a long time. The World Fantasy Awards have a strong leaning towards horror as well. The David Gemmell Awards were started in part because of a perceived lack of awards for epic fantasy.
You can get another view on this through the Karl Edward Wagner Special Award. The award rules say:
The Award may go to someone who has made an important contribution to the genre throughout his/her lifetime; or it may go to the organisers of a special event or publication that took place in the relevant year.
Steve Jones complains:
In recent years the BFS Committee has decided to also use it as a Life Achievement award
That certainly appears to be within the spirit of the rules to me, but Steve is upset that the award was used in this way. Apparently the FantasyCon committee and the BFS had a big dust-up over it.
It seems to me that very few living writers who are as deserving of a lifetime achievement award for fantasy as Sir Terry Pratchett, though I can think of some possibilities. Perhaps by “the genre” some people mean just “horror and dark fantasy”. But the point here is that this is an example of Dave Howe and his friends looking outside of the usual BFS group, and Steve Jones opposing that. Steve makes the same complaint about the award going to someone who didn’t attend the convention as he makes about the winners of the media awards.
So I think it is a mistake to this of this as a conflict between an in-group and someone with a wider view. I think it is actually a conflict between two rival factions within the BFS.
I suspect also that there are people who are horrified that the Hugos go to people like Paolo Bacigalupi, China Miéville and Connie Willis rather than to people who write Star Wars novels, because the latter sell much better. We need to be careful when we complain that award results don’t reflect popular tastes.