I can't say that I'm that fussed by awards – they're never likely to influence my decision to read or to ignore a book. But boy, are they good for entertainment value sometimes. Pass me the popcorn and Coke …
Starring at the end of the pier every night this week is the saga of the Lambda awards. For those of you who haven't come across them, they're annual awards for GLBT writers. And now the organisers are stipulating that writers have got to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender to enter.
I admit my first thought was whether they'd be doing bedroom spot-checks to ensure the rules were strictly adhered to. Apparently not – it's being done on trust. So any cad and bounder breaking the rules can expect to be pointed at and roundly harangued up and down the internet.
In case you're wondering whether there's a sudden influx of straight writers entering gay awards, the answer is yes. I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, the m/m brigade.
These are mainly straight women, many of whom come from the world of slash fiction and who write what are basically romances about two men in love. In the past year or so, they've been moving from the underground to the more vocal. And they want to enter their work for the Lambda Awards.
Apparently the Lambda board have spent the past year pondering what to do. And their solution is to tighten up the eligibility rules. This has, as you might expect, gone down like a lead balloon in m/m quarters. There has been bleating about how the awards are just bound to be downgraded this year now the m/m crowd can't enter.
That sense of entitlement is, in the end, what swung it for me in favour of the Lambda board's decision. And it's their competition – they make the rules. Most awards are very precise in who they're aimed at, hence why you won't find an American writer winning the Booker prize, or a male novelist taking home the Orange Prize. And damn, there won't be a Pulitzer for me, either. I reckon eyebrows would have been raised at some speed if we'd been told white writers were entering – and expecting to win – awards for black writers.
And, to be brutally honest, I don't call what the m/m writers are producing gay literature. Their work doesn't address the gay experience in any way. It's basically fetishising gay men for a straight female audience. I'm sure some gay blokes read the books, but largely the novels are there for women to drool over pretty/handsome/well-hung eye candy, with not a lot in the way of plot. I've read a fair bit of m/m stuff, and I wouldn't be lining up to give most of it any awards. A lot is being self-published or from small publishers whose editing values aren't what you'd call high.
Of course straight writers have won Lambda awards in the past, and they will do in the future. I predict a sudden 'coming out' as bisexual for those m/m/ writers who feel that an award validates what they're producing.
It strikes me that the m/m brigade might be better employed concentrating their energies on getting the various romance writing organisations to be substantially more welcoming of work that doesn't fit into the tired old 'girl meets boy' box.