Reviving The Clive Staples Award
Six years ago a group of Christian speculative writers started talking about creating an award for Christian speculative fiction, and the Clive Staples Award was born. For two years we operated as a readers’ choice award and had modest success. However, for various reasons, the award went dark after 2010. We at Spec Faith would like to see it continue, and even to see it grow.
The “growing” part is still largely in the dream stage–with the goal to acquire corporate sponsors willing to offer a significant monetary prize. We’d also like to add a second round of judging, bringing in professionals to make the final selection of the winner while still retaining the readers choice format to select the finalists. But all that’s down the road.
What’s in front of us today is a second start, this time hosted here at Spec Faith. Starting next week we’ll open up nominations, then readers will have a chance to read books they haven’t read yet, and in a month or so, vote for the winner.
There are some requirements, both for the books that are eligible and for the voters who can vote. Here’s what you need to know.
Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction
Recognizing the best in Christian Speculative Fiction
The books that are eligible must be all of the following:
- Christian—either overtly or because of a Christian worldview
- published in English
- published by a publisher which has no direct affiliation with the author and which pays a royalty (i.e. not self-published, even through any of the services offered by publishing companies)
- published between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012
- in the science fiction/fantasy/allegory/futuristic/supernatural/supernatural suspense/horror category
Readers will nominate and will vote on the books they believe to be the best in the category.
- Authors, agents, and publishers may not nominate books with which they are affiliated.
- Those wishing to nominate a book must leave a comment including the title, author, and publisher.
Readers’ Choice Voting
Voters will be eligible only if they have read two or more of the books nominated. We want this to be a selection by readers of Christian speculative fiction, not just the fans of particular authors.
Below are standards to consider.
Standards for Clive Staples Award books:
I. Writing Style/Mechanics
- Does the quality of the author’s prose (syntax, tone, voice, pacing etc.) enhance the story?
- Is there a both showing and telling?
- Are there errors in word use, spelling, grammar, paragraphing, and punctuation?
- Is the setting well established and realistic?
- Are the speculative elements believable and necessary to the story?
- Does the main character have clear internal and external goals?
- Are the characters complex, with both strengths and weaknesses?
- Are the characters believably and realistically motivated?
- Is dialogue natural?
- Does dialogue make each person seem unique?
- Is there logical and appropriate character development?
- Is the story structured with a clearly recognizable arc of conflict, crisis, and resolution?
- Does the narrative flow, or does it tend toward the disjointed?
- Are the obstacles to be overcome sufficiently challenging to the main character?
- Are the events in the plot unpredictable?
- Is the resolution something new or unexpected?
- Was it credible?
- Did it seem believable?
- Does the story contain a central or dominating idea?
- Does the theme arise from the characters and events of the story?
- Is the theme consistent with a Christian worldview?
- Does the theme overwhelm the story, or is it well integrated into the story?
Watch for the announcement about the special Clive Staples Award page where you will leave your nominations.
Out of curiosity, why no self-publishing? If it’s good, it’s good, no matter where it comes from, right?
Hi, Ben. Thanks for your question. When we first conceived of this award, one of the goals was to bring awareness to publishers of the kind of books readers want to see in print. We also wanted to recognize and therefore to encourage the best writing. In that light, we followed the guidelines of the other key Christian fiction awards–the Christy and what is now know as the Carol.
We did discuss the idea that “someday” we might include more than one award, either separating by genre (so that science fiction is pitted against fantasy and fantasy against horror) or by audience (so young adult and middle grade books aren’t up against adult books–a decided disadvantage to the latter 😉 ).
Since the explosion of self-publishing, I can see a real need for a self-publishing division, too, but that has to remain a “someday” goal. The last year we ran the contest, we had 19 nominations. Imagine how many there would be if we added into the mix self-published books? What we end up with is a best book chosen by a majority voting, but not a consensus. In the end we’d have the kind of popularity contest we want to avoid.
This is not a contest about who can get the most friends to click over to our site and punch in a vote for their book. We want genuine speculative fiction readers who have some discernment as to what makes a good book. That’s why we require voters to have read at least two of the nominations. It ought to be a higher number than that, but that will have to be a “someday” goal also.
At any rate, we’ll see if we can grow this award and make it into something worthwhile.
I see. I still believe this is an unfortunate rule, but after reading the comments here and below, I do now understand where the rule comes from.
I have a couple of ideas for nomination already . . .
Looking forward to more info, especially seeing what others nominate. I’m always looking for more good books to read. 🙂
Lauren, thanks for your enthusiasm. Great to know you’re already considering some books to nominate. I love hearing that. This award is all about the books readers think are the highest quality. We want those to be recognized so other readers can find them and publishers will produce more of like kind. I’m looking forward to what books rise to the top. 😉
I highly object to this rule: “The books that are eligible must be all of the following: …published by a publisher which has no direct affiliation with the author and which pays a royalty (i.e. not self-published, even through any of the services offered by publishing companies)”.
I believe this rule is enough to ensure quality: “Authors, agents, and publishers may not nominate books with which they are affiliated.”
I understand the objections, and you make a valid point, Maryann, in saying that prohibiting the author from nominating his/her own book would help ensure quality.
Are there good self-pubbed books out there? Absolutely – in all the genres. However, when a person makes the choice to self-pub, the author should realize that self-publishing is not on the same plane with traditional publication. Some contests allow self-pubbed books and others don’t; moreover, there are contests specifically for self-pubbed.
Incidentally, one popular site (Novel Rocket) that runs an annual contest for unpublished authors accepts submissions from self-pubbed authors, considering them to be unpublished in the usual sense.
I’m sure you don’t realize that those of us involved with this award are doing what we do strictly on a volunteer basis. (No monolithic organization behind us. 😉 ) We even have someone who is willing to donate a small amount of money so that we can offer the winner a small prize. We do what we do, however, because we believe in Christian speculative fiction and the opportunity it affords a writer to present the truth about God.
I wish we could do more. I wish we could support every Christian speculative writer–which is why we have no stipulation on books we include in the Spec Faith library (other than that they are Christian and speculative). If God should so prosper, we may one day be equipped to add another award for self-published writers. We’re not at that place at this time. Who knows, maybe someone else will beat us to it and put together such an award before we can. That would be great.
As far as why we don’t include both under one award. The first reason is simple feasibility. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, there were 19 books nominated the last time we awarded the CSA. If we included self-published books, would that number double? Or triple? We try to promote each book by compiling information such as reviews and interviews. This is time consuming, something we can’t accomplish if we have 40 or 50 books nominated.
The other thing has to do with building credibility for the award itself. If we really want corporate sponsors, we need to go after books that have sold thousands of copies–most often books sold by publishers paying royalties.
While I wish we could please everyone, I understand that’s not possible. I only hope you won’t let your objections sour you on the award and the opportunity it affords to bring attention to our genre.
Glad to see work being done to bring this award back. Here’s a suggestion I’ve thought about before: could there be more than one winner, as in winners of different genres? “Specualtive” covers a wide range, and I think part of the problem with other awards right now is we all get lumped together: space ships, dragons, demons, and all. You’re really comparing apples to oranges (or, even, tomatoes).
HA! Michelle, great minds run in the same channel, as my mom used to say. I just posted my response to Ben saying that someday we’d like to develop more than one award. We’re just not there.
And because of the two year lay-off, we’re more nearly starting over than we are advancing to the next level. It’s a good move for us to have Spec Faith host the award. Hopefully many more people will learn of it. It only works if readers find out about it. It’s not enough for writers to participate–we love writers (hey, I’m one), but we want readers to have a voice, to get a say in what kind of books they enjoy, which ones they’d rank at the top.
Touching on the self-publishing question, I have a small thought. There are some marvelous offerings out there for 2012 (or earlier) that were self-published but were later picked up by a recognized imprint. Does the publication time-frame refer to books published for the first time this year, or could something that was self-published in 2010 (as an example) and then printed by a larger company in 2012 be eligible?
No opinion on the matter, just curious.
How exciting to see this award come back! Back when I first starting discovering Christian speculative fiction, I found the nominations an indispensable reading list. I wonder if you would allow me to post information regarding the award on my site? I’d love to help promote it in any way I can. For now I’ll try to start narrowing down nomination ideas…so many amazing books to choose from!
I wish you good luck at this. I can understand the need to exclude self-pubs, but if you ever decide to expand the awards into award by genre, you may need to open it to them, if just because Christian horror and SF tend to be very rare from traditional publishers. I think it will be cool just to see what people like; discovery of new novels for me has always been one of the hardest things.