As I mentioned earlier, I've been working these last several months with lots of MEFA volunteers on what we call our post-mortem – an annual discussion on how to improve the awards. It's hard to summarize all the things we decided on in one email, but I'd like to try. Thanks especially to Aranel Took, Tanaqui, Inkling, Elliska, Dreamflower, and Linaewen.
Some of the biggest changes include:
1. First, we'll be CHANGING HOW YOU SIGN UP FOR ACCOUNTS. Right now, if you want to join the mefawards.org website you have to either have a story nominated or else join the [MEFAwards] Yahoo group. We're going to let everyone sign up for accounts at our award website www.mefawards.org without having to join this Yahoo group, and we'll also give people a way to read and discuss award announcements directly at the website if they'd like. Don't worry - the Yahoo group and LJ community will still be here, and I'll still be making all announcements here. But this way people who aren't members of LJ or Yahoo can participate in the awards. And people that don't use that service anymore will be able to stay informed using the website.
It'll be a few months before we're ready to make this change, and in the meantime you will need to read site announcements at the [MEFAwards] Yahoo group or the [mefas] LJ community. Aranel needs to make some changes to the website to make this happen. Don't worry, once we get closer I'll fill you in on more of the details of how this change will affect everyone. But I did want to let everyone know it's coming. I think it will make it a lot easier for new members to join the awards.
2. Nominators, we're also HELPING YOU NOMINATE MORE STORIES. First, everyone's getting five extra nominations. While you can use these on whoever you want this is a great opportunity to reach out to new authors or even people who you've never nominated yourself but whose work you always enjoy. Additionally, we're changing the rule about poems that also appear as part of stories. One can compete without it making the other ineligible. We do ask that you not abuse this rule by nominating stories that really just show peoples' reactions to a certain poem; but if we're talking a longer story where the poem is just part of it - in that case, both are certainly eligible. A good rule of thumb: the poem shouldn't be more than 10% of the overall
length of the story it's appearing in.
3. One problem we've had in the past is with MATURE-RATED STORIES. As many of you know, adult stories aren't eligible for the MEFAs but mature stories are. This is partly because many of our members like having a more family-friendly awards but also because several of our more active volunteers couldn't participate if we linked to adult material. (RL can be pesky that way. :-) ) But where exactly do you draw the distinction on whether a story is mature or adult? To help with that, we set up a ratings panel a few years back, a group of long-term MEFA members who will read stories and decide whether they think they are mature or adult. If a story was rated adult, it wasn't eligible that year. And if the author put the story before the panel during nominations season, the story could be withdrawn and entered again in a later year (if for example the author changed the story, or MEFA guidelines changed).
But here's the wrinkle: if any story is withdrawn after a certain date, we treat it like it's run the whole year. That means it's not eligible to run again (unless it's a WIP, and even then it has to be finished before it's eligible again). So let's say I nominate a story that I think is mature, but a reader later complains about this. The story then goes to the ratings panel, and if they decide it's adult, the story is withdrawn. And if this happens late enough in the awards I've lost my chance to compete. To avoid that problem, we're tweaking the rules a little bit. If your story is rated "mature" you need to show that it's not really adult before it can compete. This can happen in two ways: you can either run it by the ratings panel during the nomination period, or else you can show us a major archive (not just a personal site or blog) where the story is posted with a rating that clearly fits within the "mature" rating. And this doesn't have to be the link you give the MEFAs; it can be any other site that basically shows the story fits our mature ratings. Either way, you need to show us it's not adult during the nomination period; otherwise, it won't be able to compete. But the real point of all this is that it also won't be pulled out of the awards later, if someone complains that it's adult rather than mature.
Actually, when I said "mature" above that's a bit misleading. We won't actually have ratings as we used to, this year. Instead we're using something called "content advisories." It will be kind of like selecting a rating for sex, and a separate rating for violence, and yet a third rating for other mature themes. The rating won't be general/teen/mature but instead will be a number (and we'll give guidelines for what's appropriate at each number). So for instance a story with no sexual content might get a sexuality score of 1, while a story that implies sex but doesn't depict it would warrant a 3 or 4. There are similar guidelines for violence and other themes. This will give the reader more information – some readers are fine reading a
story with a lot of violent content but want to steer clear of anything beyond a kiss (or vice versa). A six on any of these content advisories means the story would have been adult under the old system (so can't compete); 1-4 is clearly eligible, and 5 is the borderline case described above that may need to go to the ratings panel.
4. A lot of people are still confused by the TIME PERIOD CATEGORIES they get to choose from. So we're rejigging the list of categories available. Authors will now be able to choose from:
--- First Age and Prior
--- Second Age
--- Early Third Age (1-2770 TA) (1-1170 SR)
--- Mid Third Age (2771-2942 TA) (1171-1342 SR)
--- Late Third Age (2943-3017 TA) (1343-1417 SR)
--- The Great Years (3018-3019 TA) (1418-149 SR)
--- Post-Ring war (3020-3022 TA) (1420-1422 SR)
--- Fourth Age and Beyond
--- Modern Times
Some of those categories are a bit on the smallish side, so we may end up combining them. For example, if Second Age has four stories and Early Third Age has three, categorizers may choose to create a "Second Age and Early Third Age" category rather than sending all those stories to their second or third choice. The categorizers will make these decisions once all the nominations are in. But we'll try to keep those categories separate where we can, and people looking for stories will still be able to use them when finding stories to read.
Basically, "Early Third Age" is for events from the Third Age before the Hobbit/LOTR (like the ancient history of Gondor, founding of the Shire, the rape of Celebrian, etc.). Mid Third Age is for events set around the time of the Hobbit, and Late Third Age is for events leading up to the Ring War, including the childhood of most of the LOTR characters.
5. There are some other nifty changes to the website. For instance, the site will automatically show you reviews for your own stories - even if they contain spoilers and you asked the site to make you click to see each review with spoilers. (The idea is, *you* certainly know how your own story ends!) We'll also be adding a link to the reviews page so you can put stories on your wish list if the review is enticing. The site should load more quickly now. The list of events you use to find stories now has dates added, to help you use it more easily. We added a few characters and subgenres - that kind of thing. This is hard to describe, but I think if you pay attention to the web site you'll notice lots of small improvements like that.
That's it for the big changes! If you have any questions about these changes, now is the time to ask them. Earlier tonight I made an announcement giving the awards schedule and a full discussion of how you can handle out, so please do check it out (here). We're looking for nominators and authors, of course, but also liaisons, promoters, banner makers, and members of the rating panel. If you'd like to help in any ways, just email me at mefasupportATgmailDOTcom.
At your service, and your family's,