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a difficult decision, and a poll
telperion1 wrote in mefas

Hey guys,

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:

Poll #1851115 mefa-2012

Which of the following would you prefer:

Have the 2012 MEFAs, using the same rules and policies currently announced
Not have the 2012 MEFAs, and let the 2011 awards be our final season

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.)


(Deleted comment)
Thanks, Juno! (I replied in more detail over at Yahoo.)

OMG, Marta! I am heartsick over this. I look forward to the MEFAs every year-- they are one of the glues holding various parts of the Tolkien fandom together.

*praying for a miracle*

as long as religion has been dragged into this, i pray for you and the others receive peace of mind and spirit because you gave selflessly to give others joy.

Thanks, Nancy. I'm sure the other volunteers appreciate your good wishes. I know I do.

I'm glad the MEFAs meant a lot to you. Sorry to make you sad, though.

(Love the icon, too!)

If it's really one or the other, #1.

I say if it's really one or the other, not because I think admin will be persuaded to swap out the new guidelines in favor of the old guidelines or hypothetical revised guidelines, but because another possibility might be to simply take a year's hiatus. That is actually what some people thought was going to happen this year because we went so long without hearing anything about a MEFA 2012. Frankly, I would not object to such a hiatus if it was deemed helpful, but stopping the MEFAs altogether is unfair to the authors of General and Teen works (as described by the old guidelines) or 1-4 works (as described by the new guidelines.) I think the new guidelines are unfair to authors of Mature works (and, in my case, the people who want to nominate them), and we already know that authors of Adult works have been left out. That doesn't mean I'm in favor of extending their disappointment to the entire body of potential MEFA participants.

On another note, I have noticed and been displeased by some of the comments I have seen during these discussions against people of faith. I, and others, could probably have done more to speak up against that. I was actually preparing a post outing myself today, not as a person of faith (I'm a little ball of non-mainstream belief all my own) but as one of the two MEFA 2011 ratings panelists who read and offered opinions on the story disqualified last year. On my lunch break today, I discovered that the other panelist had come forward, which removed the last of my reasons for holding back: the possibility of violating or being pressured to violate a confidence, or putting someone else in an awkward position.

I am not a person of faith, nor am I a prude: I am an author of mature stories myself. I cannot attest to Neume's faith, but she is not a prude: she is an author of mature stories herself. Both of us joined the ratings panel because of a concern about the ratings cap and how such matters were to be judged, and a desire that, since a ratings system and potential disqualification procedure *was* in place, it be as fair as possible. Both of us are authors who could have lived quite happily without the cap on Adult material, and who have spoken up in favor of lifting the cap, but who judged the paneled story with the guidelines we were given, and gave our opinions accordingly. Speculation about prudes and/or Christians summarily tossing out stories was misapplied, and reading that Elliska was attacked is just awful.

I have wondered if some of Marta's reticence to discuss the matter stemmed from a desire to protect the confidentiality of the 2011 MEFA ratings panel. I appreciate that she has been in a difficult position throughout. I'm sorry that she feels it must come to this rather binary decision: no more MEFAs, or "one last hurrah" for 2012. I really don't think it needs to.

Edited at 2012-07-02 11:59 pm (UTC)

Hi The Lauderdale,

First, thank you for the courage to come forward. I usually don't talk about stories that have been withdrawn, not because I'm trying to hide anything from readers, but because this is sensitive material. If an author can't compete, the last thing s/he needs from me is to be put in the limelight s/he might not want. It doesn't feel like my place to start that conversation. Or to ask rating panel members to talk about what rating they gave a particular story. And regarding religion, I've been working with ratings panels for, what, four years now? Since they started. And those panel members almost always give a reason for why they voted the way they did. Even when I say I don't really need to know why, just what rating you think is appropriate here. They always seemed to be apply whatever the rating guidelines were fairly, and I never got a whiff of personal ideology (religious or otherwise).

But that's not even the real point here. People volunteering for the MEFAs are giving up their time for free. It's really upsetting for me to sit by and watch them be attacked personally - whether those attacks hit the mark or not. That's simply not the kind of environment I want to be a part of.

And that's the real reason why I only offered up two options. Those of us who are resigning are really and truly tired, on top of everything else. We had everything pretty much ready to go for the 2012 awards (except for odds and ends, but it's fairly minor stuff). We even had most of the volunteers recruited. That's the big reason we were willing to see the MEFAs through for one more season, because the hardest part of getting the awards ready to go are done. There's lots of work still to be done, of course (I'm thinking mainly once the awards get started, but we had done enough of it that we were all willing to see the 2012 awards through if that's what people want.

But I've just checked with the other volunteers who are resigning, and none of us are really interested in designing a new policy. Speaking for myself, it's just too much work for an awards program that (much as I still love it) I don't see myself wanting to volunteer with in the future.

That said, if there are people out there who think they'd like to take the MEFA's basic approach (using comments as votes) and build their own awards programs around it, I think that's a good idea. And of course you could make the rules anything you wanted - not that you'd need my permission! The current website was designed from scratch by Aranel Took and Tanaqui, and so we're not making it available to other groups. But you don't really need a website; we didn't have one our first year, when people simply emailed in their votes to a Yahoo group and volunteers counted them by hand, and that worked well enough for a start. If you've got people interested in putting in the legwork, go for it! I'd love to see what other people will make of this comments-as-votes idea, personally

I'm very sorry to hear about all this. You are all to be applauded and commended and praised with great praise for the time, money, energy, passion, and dedication you've devoted to these wonderful awards. I say finish out 2012 with a bang (not a whimper) and finish the MEFAs with a proud flourish.

Thanks for the well-wishes, Shirebound! If that's what people want (another year, I mean), we'll of course make them the best awards we can.


Thank you and everybody else who made the MEFAs possible for all the effort and energy you put into making the awards so much fun to take part in.

Thanks, Nath. And thank you for all your work as a banner artist and all the other things you've done. It's been great working with you these last several years.

I didn't vote because mostly I ignore the MEFA's and have for years. I've been rather vocal in my ire with many of the 'rules and regulations' but mostly the hypocrisy in the rating system. (In short, it infuriates me when some NC17 fics are deemed 'okay' and others aren't, due to a system I have yet to figure out. I chalked it up a long time ago to 'who loves ya, baby?) But then again, i wrote the book for being a Drama Queen, so chalk that up too. I embrace my drama.

I understand 'family-friendly' but isn't that what ratings are for? I think it's sad that your so-called wonderful awards that holds the Tolkien Community together, ignores some of the best fic out there... and no, I'm not including me in that mix.

That said, I was seriously considering entering a series next year.... not because I care if I get ratings or not - the entire series is complete - but I would like to know if and how I could improve my style. However, after seeing what is transpiring at the yahoo group... forget about it. I can get CC elsewhere, just fine, thank you very much.

I'm not saying all this to be rude or griping about sour grapes, it's just the whole argument is ridiculous. some people need to grow up. Some people also need to get over their fear of the word 'penis'... and that people have S-E-X.

and btw... I AM A Christian - practicing daily and proud of it and I'm no prude. I mean, God created sex, therefore, it's good! In fact - and Neume (who I think the world of) and CuriousWombat (likewise) among others can attest to this - if there were a Kama Sutra in Middle Earth, Gamling and Aefre not only would own a copy, they probably posed for the pictures. And that's NOT gratuitous... it's part of the story line.

Edited at 2012-07-03 05:05 am (UTC)

I am very sorry to hear this, Marta and appalled over what has happened. I know I had some minor concerns about ratings, but whoever runs an award has the right to decide the rules and those competing have to respect them, be it MEFA or the Olympic Games.

I am especially troubled to see people being attacked because of their religious beliefs.This is very wrong indeed.

I sincerely hope the awards will go ahead and continue in one form or another, maybe as a general and an adult award.I have had a great deal of pleasure out of them throughout the years, as have my fellow writers and it would be sad indeed if all that were lost because of a handful of people .

A very big thank you to Marta and all her team for the hours of hard work you have put into the awards.

Although I'm sad to see the demise of the MEFAs, I'm pleased to see that you are not allowing yourselves to be bullied into changing the principles that have always made the MEFAs a friendly, good-natured place to read and comment. I would like to thank you for the enormous amount of work that you have all put into providing such a great site.

I really haven't been following the debate myself, but I am so sorry to hear you all have been having to deal with this. Attacks such as you describe here are beyond the pale. The MEFA awards have always been a fun way to participate in Tolkien fandom and explore parts of it I don't interact with as much, and I'm grateful to the volunteers and organizers who have always put so much work into making it successful. No disagreement requires the kind of offensive vitriol you're dealing with. My sympathies, and while I'm very sad to see you deciding to close up shop, I completely understand needing to. Thank you for all your work; it may not be much, but I certainly appreciate it.

Dear Marta,

I am very sorry to hear about this attack on Elliska! Please convey my sympathy to her.
I am also very sorry that you feel you have been attacked in your faith, and I deeply regret that personal distress has been caused to you and Elliska, and also to Inkling and Aranel.
I haven't participated in the MEFAs for very long, but I have been enormously impressed by its complexity as a project and the enthusiasm and engagement of those who ran it.
I did have my problems with the new content advisory policy. It was going to make it considerably more difficult and complicated for me to nominate some of the stories I was hoping to nominate.
However, I regret the vitriol and jumping to conclusions that the heat of the discussion seems to have generated.
Please believe that your hard work for the MEFAs has been and is appreciated--whatever the results of the poll are.


Marta, thank you - and all the volunteers - who've put hours of time, buckets of love and energy, and good hard cash into the MEFAs. You must be feeling heartbroken right now, but eight years is a remarkably long time for a fandom project to survive and thrive. I really hope you feel proud of this achievement. And I hope you're starting to feel the Burden lifting.

I'm appalled to read that Elliska has received anonymous attacks. My sympathy to her.

I'm really sorry to hear this. While I wasn't entirely happy with the new ratings policy, I don't want to see the awards come to an end.

I'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to you and all the other volunteers for everything you have done for the MEFAs over the past years. Your committment and hard work is much appreciated!

Running the MEFA's has always been a team effort and I respect the decision made by the team. I had high hopes for a constructive outcome given what occured the past days being the optimist that I am. Who knows what will come out if this.

But I do understand that there are turning points: it becomes too much or things have been taken too far. For the first,it is up for every individual to say, I can't take it anymore, I am out. It is a hard thing to do, but quite often a healthy decision and ultimately restores the joy and peace. As for the latter, the attacks on Elliska is something I utterly reject since it is uncalled for.

I will end with offering thanks to everyone who has helped making this possible, it has been quite a ride.