Yesterday The Guardian‘s Book Blog published the final short list for their Not the Booker Prize contest. There was, I regret to say, not a single work of speculative fiction on it. China Miéville’s The City and The City missed the cut by 4 votes. The other spec fic titles were nowhere.
But here’s what interests me about the whole thing. Voting was entirely free, and the contest encompassed the whole of fiction, not just our little corner thereof. And yet only 794 people nominated (as compared to 639 who nominated in Best Novel for this year’s Hugos) and discussion of the voting is rife with allegations of ballot stuffing.
That tells me two things. Firstly free voting alone won’t get you a lot of participation: people have to care about the award in question first. And secondly, if you do have free voting, you had better make sure you do get a lot of participation, because people will try to stuff the ballot. A fee, even a quite small one, would have deterred most of that, I suspect.