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Winning an award for a short story does not change anything, does it?

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After being an author of speculative fiction, mostly SF, for over a decade, I finally managed to be noticed in three of the four major German genre awards this year.

I am Austrian, but our fandom is not well organized, lacks of a national con and our mother tongue is German, so it is quite natural to get into competition with the Germans – especially as the story had most likely been published by a German publishing house anyway.

Well, after 2012 is nearly over and I won the Vincent Preis (= Vincent Award) as the anthologist of the best horror collection and achieved the third place at the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis (= German Science Fiction Award). But the best thing was, that I finally made it on the stage for the Deutscher Phantastik Preis (= German Award for Speculative Fiction) for writing the very best short story published in the previous year for the first time. Probably it is rather a novelette, but in Germany usually every piece of prosaicness published in an anthology is considered to be a short story – no matter of the length or other criteria. But that is not the point, it would be the same for all texts that are not a novel.

For me getting the DPP was a highlight of my whole life, but soon I got my happiness spoilt by others telling me that only a very few people know the award anyway and that I should not make the mistake to think that it would have any impact on my career as an author!

 

Of course this is not what somebody who proudly returns home with a gorgeous trophy made of metal and stone and a personal engraving wants to hear.

But: What is the truth about it?

 

Well, I can only tell you about my personal experience. Remember: I am an author, I do not have concrete statistics on the influence on book sales.

So there was the award ceremony at the BuchmesseCon in Dreieich. They already awarded other categories, then reading the nominations in reverse order of the votes and finally the moderator announced the first place for: Nina Horvath, “Die Duftorgel” (= “The Scent Organ”) published in the anthology Prototypen (= “Prototypes”) in the publishing house Begedia. (The story is about a scientist who invented a machine for basic communication with aliens who based their language on scents.)

So I went on the stage and took the award with the congratulations of the moderators. I got a microphone for holding a free speech on anything I wanted to tell to the auditorium that was really not small. (There were about 500 people attending the one-day event and the award ceremony was a highlight of it.)

I had been quite nervous about it and told by someone before that I should not worry and just say “thank you”, but it awakened contrariness inside me as I thought that I DO have something to tell!

So I did and off the stage – especially when the ceremony was over – I got lots of people telling me their congratulations or saying that I have deserved the award or that they kept the fingers crossed for me – and a lady telling me that she noticed broad cello tape sticking on my shoe when I went up the stage. (Well, at least she draw attention to the ceremony and it was the opposite from a hostile act to free me from that, so I take it with humour.)

Deutscher Phantastik Preis (DPP)
Nina Horvath and publisher Harald Giersche with the DPP.

 

But how did it continue? – Well, the biggest disappointment is something that is fact for every award: It does not turn you into somebody else. I won a trophy, not the genome of a superhero!

 

There had been a lot of entries in blogs and e-zines on the DPP. Most just copied the list. Some are from other winners who spread their own happiness to the world. Others are happy that their favourite author (who is usually not me, but bestselling author Markus Heitz) has won again in the category “Best Novel” (the moderators at the event made the joke that he has already got a camp behind the stage). Some entries even mention me in a personal way as the bloggers have worked on projects together with me and became my friends. The webpage Deutsche Science Fiction mentioned in their report on the BuchmesseCon that some people in the auditorium nodded their head as my speech was too self-confident. All these things were fine to me.

Something that makes me angry anyhow is people copying the list and not writing any or only a very little personal opinion, but do not mention all categories. The categories are equal. The trophy for the best novel or the best debut novel is not larger or more golden than the trophy for the best homepage or the best short story!

 

But what about the attention in general? – Well, I feel as if my own landsmen care less than anybody else in the world. Of course a few noticed (the ones that were on the event themselves or are friends of mine via facebook as the first congratulations popped up when I was still around with the people from the convention), but not even at my monthly science-fiction meeting anybody came up with congratulations. (Yes, after telling, but you also do not want to remind your friends of your birthday, don´t you?) The regional press had been informed, but prefers to report about charlatans who heal with the force of stones/water/their own hands or that a hot dog stand ruins (in their opinion) the beauty of a square.

 

But I especially noticed that the award (and the ones before) makes me more interesting to people abroad. And the award sure helps me to tell people who do not know me (well), that I am a “real” author.

Nevertheless I was a kind of disappointed when the first happiness faded away and no new opportunities appeared. Meanwhile a publishing house with a specialization on science-fiction made me an offer for my own story collection. There won´t be many issues printed, but therefore a hardcover, all signed and numbered to be attractive for collectors. Now I am satisfied.

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Nina Horvath has studied at the University of Vienna. Her mother tongue is German. She is a keen author of short stories and published over two dozens in zines and anthologies. Her favourite genre is science-fiction. She had also been editor of the short story collections "Die Schattenuhr", "Metamorphosen - Auf den Spuren H.P. Lovecrafts" and "Darwins Schildkröte". In 2012 she won the awards "Vincent Preis" for the best horror anthology and the "Deutscher Phantastik Preis" for the best fantastic short story. (This one was also 3rd at the "DSFP" for the best science-fiction story.)

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hm, it is very strange. The same happened with me in november 2012, when I won the second place in IEMed international short story contest in Barcelona. OK, it was not an sf competition, but the situation is little bit similar to yours. :/
    The organizers and the other winners congratulated me, I participated in the programs, they were wery nice and proud of me. I came back to Hungary, and nothing happened! Any media heard about this contest. I was shocked, so I decided to tell this event (my success) to them. Then they wrote a few articles at half out-of-the-way places; only the general consul of Hungary apologized to me, that they miss this event and they forgot to care with this.
    Essentially only the local tv and magazine of my hometown made real news about my achievement. After all, I realized: if I’m not a member of a greater literary club/league, nobody care with talented people, nobody bring the news.

  2. The question is: why is this? What is the reason of disinterest? Why don’t care with winners? In Hungary, people complaining, they can’t find anything to be proud. If they don’t notice such cases, there is no wonder, why! I thought this can happen only in Hungary, and I really shocked that it’s not true. The first place winner from Croatia told me, that only one media made an interview with her and that was not a big media in her country. I think, it was a local media too. I’m sad about it, because if anyone deserved the attention, it was her.

  3. I think it might be as short prosaic work has a very low reputation in Austria. I experienced that this is also that way in Germany (I also talked on this matter at my speech when I got the award, but in other countries it seems to be higher). And then science-fiction … also considered as “2nd class literature” here. I guess my situation is worst to the scernarios you described. The Croatian author at least got an interview by a local media!!!
    – I have also been offered one via e-mail by a German (and well, e-mail interviews by online-zines and blogs are always great, but somebody who had been writing and publishing year after year, will get some anyway, award or not!) and still have no questions for that.
    But never mind. I will keep going my way.

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