Over the last several days this list has been buzzing about our new content advisory policy. This list has actually only been one aspect of everything that's going on. Elliska, the member whose job contract I mentioned a few days ago, has been attacked through anonymous reviews of her stories. She also had her perceived religious identity attacked – and, while this perception turned out to be wrong, it hit much closer to the mark when it came to me. (Right or wrong, personal attacks like this are completely inappropriate.) I also have been accused of purposely obstructing the discussions about rating, of filibustering and censoring authors and trying to put off changes rather than taking people seriously. I've also been talked down to and embarrassed before large groups of people.
The truth of the matter is I'm just a grad student. The MEFAs are playtime for me, a way to relax and encourage creativity – scheming is entirely too much work. :-) But they do take a lot of my time. During the busy parts of the awards (nominations and categorizing) I probably worked on the awards at least 3-4 hours a night, out of a fondness for this fandom generally and this awards in particular. I continued to work the rest of the year trying to make the MEFAs better, albeit for less time (I'd estimate ten hours a week on average during the rest of the year). I've also donated several hundred of dollars toward hosting costs over the years.
Other people have worked many more hours than I have, and for much longer periods of time; our first administrator Ainaechoiriel, and our webmasters Aranel Took, Tanaqui, and Anthony Holder jump to mind, not to mention all the liaisons, categorizers, banner makers and other volunteers who have been "insufficiently reluctant" over the years. None of us were paid in anything except gratitude (which we certainly appreciated!), and in the hope that the MEFAs were a positive contribution to the fandom. We did this because it made our corner of the internet a better place, and because it was fun.
But these last several days have not been fun. I don't mind vigorous debate and was fully prepared to discuss people's concerns with them, once I had the time to do that. This wasn't a delaying tactic – it's the simple reality that I didn't have time right now to discuss policies and to give these concerns the consideration they deserve. But the way people presented and kept pressing these complaints has made the MEFAs less a pleasure and more a stressful burden for me.
Speaking for myself, I have gone from sorta-kinda dreading the 2012 awards, to wanting to quit after the 2012 awards, to wanting to quit now. I have also talked to several other volunteers without whose help I could not run these awards, and they told me that they also didn't want to carry on with the MEFAs. (In the interest of transparency: that's Aranel Took, Inkling, and Elliska.) On top of getting ready for the 2012 awards and trying to answer concerns about the new content advisory policy, we started having one of the most difficult discussions I've ever had: whether to keep putting on the MEFAs.
I have loved working with the MEFAs since they started eight years ago. As far as I know, Inkling, Elliska, and Aranel Took all feel similarly toward the awards, or at least they did until recently. We've had a lot of fun putting them on, and many of the authors, readers and other volunteers who participated seemed to enjoy them. But after discussing the current state of things, we all came to the same conclusion: it simply isn't worth the effort anymore. If the reaction to the ratings policy is any indication, we're also apparently out of synch with the priorities of many fandom members. If that's right, then other people more in the swing of fandom these days can probably put on events that will make better use of peoples' time.
The bottom line: I am not willing to put so much time and energy into running an awards that lately has become so painful – certainly not past the 2012 awards. Aranel, Elliska, and Inkling aren't willing to do that either. Other people have of course been crucial to the MEFAs' success; I'm certainly aware of that (and thankful to those people!), and I don't want to dismiss their hard work. But the four of us are the volunteers most experienced with the processes required to manage the membership as well as the nomination and categorization seasons--the core administrative parts of the awards. With all of us leaving together, we do not believe that MEFAs can continue to function adequately.
In light of that, we don't plan to run the MEFAs in 2013 or in any future years. That doesn't mean the spirit of the MEFAs has to die. We invite people who like our basic format (awards where you vote by leaving comments – a style of awards that actually originated in the Star Trek fandom years ago, not with us) to develop their own awards set up along similar lines. You can code your own website or, if you want to start small, run it through a listserv or other online forum like we did back in 2004.
Aranel has also agreed to continue to host the MEFA Archive, so our archive of past nominations, winners, and reviews will still be available at www.mefawards.org. I've always said after every year that just because the voting ends, it doesn't mean you can't still enjoy the nominated stories. You can still read the stories and leave them reviews at their archive even if MEFA voting is closed – what author doesn't love a new review on an old piece? If anything, that applies now more than ever.
As for the 2012 awards, we are basically ready to go with those – but I only want to do that if people still want them. I'd like everyone's opinion here. Should 2011 be our last year, or would you like one more round? I've set up two polls, one at the [MEFAwards] Yahoo group and another at the [mefas] LiveJournal community, asking the following question:
Which of the following would you prefer:
Please vote at one of these places by Friday night. If you cannot vote at either Yahoo or LJ, email me at mefasupportATgmailDOTcom. The poll will stay open until 11:59 PM on Friday July 6.
And thank you to everyone who has participated over the years! I'll do a more proper thank-you once we decide whether to have the 2012 awards or not. This group has brought so many talented and passionate people from different archives and corners of fandom together – very appropriate for a group built around our love of the Fellowship of the Nine and all the alliances before it that made that quest possible.
Elen sila lumenn' omentielvo,
(ETA: When I set this poll up, I accidentally set it to display who voted for which option. I know some people may want to vote without this. If you don't want the poll to show what choice you voted for, please use the Yahoo poll or email me your choice to mefasupportATgmailDOTcom.)