As I mentioned in an email a few days ago, the 2008 MEFAs will begin accepting nominations this Sunday, May 4. Nominations will be open until June 15. So right now seems like a good time to make some announcements about what will change about that part of the awards.
First, I want to explain about this email I'm writing right now. The MEFAs are a complicated awards system and take some getting used to. So to help educate members, every week I'll be making a post at MEFAwards and at the LJ community mefas. These won't be sent out as special notices but they will have a subject starting with "ADMIN." So watch out for these; I hope everyone will take the time to read them. I'll try to be quick, though this post will be longer than most, as there's a lot to talk about.
Second, I want to remind everyone: keep an eye on your spam filters. All MEFA-related emails should be coming from addresses ending in "mefawards.net" after the @. But we're emailing you to let you know you've been nominated for an award, and many spam filters are sensitive to emails like that - so please, before you delete your spam box, check that there aren't any emails from an @mefawards.net email address.
Now, on to the changes about this year's awards.
1. New FAQs and Rules
I've added several new items to the FAQ section of the website, prompted by questions people had in 2007 and also by changes we made in the post-mortem after the 2007 awards. Some new FAQs:
--- "Are series and anthologies of stories eligible?" in the Eligibility FAQ
--- "What are main categories?" in the Categorization FAQ
--- "Can I include spoilers in my reviews?" and "What do I do if a review contains spoilers but isn't labeled as such?" in the Voting FAQ
--- "Common Acronyms and Terms" - a totally new FAQ
In addition, there will be lists of the most useful FAQ items for new nominators, voters, and authors. So if you're new to the awards, that will give you some places to start. (Or even if you just need a refresher!)
2. Changes to the Website
The overall structure of the website is basically the same, so if you participated in the past there will be a lot that is similar. But there are some important changes that I think people will enjoy discovering. For instance, there is now a timer on the review form that tells you how long until you are automatically logged out. Hopefully this will help people from losing their review because they logged out while entering it.
Another thing about entering the reviews that has changed is that there's a check-box at the bottom of the review form that allows you to tell the website that the review contains spoilers. This will allow us to warn people reading your review that the review might give away part of the story. Use the golden rule: if you hadn't read the story and were looking at the review, would you like to be warned that the review might include spoilers? If so, check the box.
The page where you go to look at the nominated stories now is a little simpler. There's a neat new feature that lets you see how many stories involve any of the available places, characters, events/time periods, subgenres, lengths, or source materials; and with a single click you can pull up the listings for all of the stories that involve those things.
Also, on the home page (what you see when first logging in), there will be a randomly-selected story displayed. There will also be a randomly-selected review, from those that are visible at that point of the awards (i.e., final while the awards are going on, final or hidden after voting closes). The point of this is to make it easier for you to vote. If you don't have time to look at the whole story list, maybe this randomly-selected story will spark your interest.
3. Characters, Settings, Canonical Events, and Subgenres
One of the most common frustrations I've heard about in past years is that it's hard to use the lists of characters, settings, time periods, and subgenres. And those lists often can get long and unwieldly, I agree. So we've put a lot of work into making them easier to use.
On the nomination form, the list of characters will be grouped by races, so you'll be able to see all of the Gondorians together, and all of the Elves together, and all of the Hobbits together. There are also lots of "other" character listings - like "Other Kings of Gondor" or "Other Brandybucks" or "Other Elves of Aman," where you can select a general group if a character you like isn't listed. If a character changed races, she'll be listed with the race of her birth (like, Arwen is listed with Half-elves, not with Gondorians; Eowyn with Rohirrim, not with Gondorians).
Settings are listed by regions, too. So the Houses of Healing will be listed as "Gondor - Minas Tirith - Houses of Healing," and will be displayed with all the other settings in Gondor. Canonical events will be listed in chronological order, and subgenres and poetic forms will be listed separately.
All of this will hopefully make it easier for authors to find appropriate settings, characters, and so on, because it will display similar items near each other.
4. The Archive
One of the most useful (IMO) additions to the site is the archive. This will list all of the stories nominated in previous years, by author. Which we had in 2007, but the archive does much more. For one thing, it's searchable, which some people had requested in the past. It stores basic nomination info, like what category the story competed in and what prize (if anything) it won; who nominated it; and the summary. Plus -- and here's what I'm really excited about -- it displays the votes.
So as an author I can see all of my stories that have competed, and all of their reviews, in one place. And as a reviewer, I can now search for a specific title or author and find whether it's been nominated in the past.
This is a majorly cool part of the site that I'm really excited about. It will replace the old list of previously-nominated stories.
You'll still need to look both here and at the list of stories that have already been nominated in 2008, but I think having the archive will make it a lot easier to tell what's eligible and what's not.
Speaking of eligibility....
5. Changes to Eligibility Rules
There are two major changes to eligibility rules. They have to do with works-in-progress and poetry that is posted in larger stories.
In previous years, works-in-progress had to have been updated within a year of when that year's nominations began. For instance: in 2007 nominations opened on June 1, so all WIPs had to be updated since June 1, 2006. That's no longer the case; we won't be checking when WIPs were last updated.
That doesn't mean that every WIP is suddenly eligible. Remember, WIPs are only eligible if they've never been nominated before, and finished stories are only eligible if they've never been nominated as finished stories. So if your WIP competed back in 2005, even if you're still plugging away at it, it's not eligible again until it's finished.
Another thing we looked at in the post-mortem is how to deal with poems that also appeared in longer stories, like a song that some of the characters sang. This causes a problem because of that same rule that I mentioned above, that finished stories can only compete once. If a poem competed, and then a story containing that poem competed in a later year, you could argue that the poem competed twice. This is why we don't allow drabble series to compete, and then for drabbles that are part of that series to compete in a later year. (Or vice versa, for the drabble to compete first and the series to compete later.)
However, there's often an added factor with poems: a lot of times the poems and stories are by different authors. And unless both are listed as co-authors, maybe in the past the poem competed without the poem author's permission, if a story containing it competed. Or, in the reverse situation: maybe a poem competed that would make a story ineligible, without the story author giving the go-ahead.
So: if a poem and story are by different authors, and both authors aren't listed as co-authors when a piece is nominated for the MEFAs, the nomination of one won't affect the eligibility of the other. If the poem and story are by the same author, or if both authors are listed as co-authors, the nomination of one *will* affect the eligibility of the other.
Oh, and there's a grandfather clause - if a piece was nominated in 2007 or earlier, we won't count it against you (because this issue was vague); but if you accept a nomination in 2008 or beyond, you need to be aware that you could be affecting the eligibility of a poem that appears as part of the story, or of a story that is published including that poem.
One last thing I need to talk about. I know this email is a bit long.
6. The Two-Weeks Rule
One big change for the 2008 awards. Is the two-weeks rule. Here's the idea: the liaisons will try for two weeks to contact an author, through email and anything else we can think of like LJs or archives where the author hangs out.
If, after two weeks of trying, we've failed to make any contact with the author, then the liaison will approach the person who nominated the story. The nominator will be given the option to withdraw the story and nominate another one in its place; or to leave the story in competition in case the author *does* make contact. (The nominator can try his- or herself for a little while, and then later have it withdrawn if they'd like.) The point is, if it looks like we won't be able to get in touch with an author we may let the nominator replace it. This is why it's important to enter your nominations early so you can replace them if the author is hard to reach.
This doesn't mean the author has to finish everything to do with a nomination within two weeks. All an author has to do is let us know they've received emails about the MEFAs; just a two-line email along the lines of "I got your emails, I'd love to compete, and I'll work on the stuff you told me to do this weekend" will do the trick. Or even "I got your emails, I need to think about whether I want to compete." In either case, the liaison now knows that she's being read.
Also, this doesn't mean that stories will be automatically withdrawn two weeks after they're nominated. This will only happen at the liaison's and the nominator's discretion, when they're run out of ways to try to reach the author.
Btw - when you nominate an author it's really helpful if you drop them a line to let them know they've been nominated (if you know them, of course). That way they can be on the lookout for an email.
I'll end this email with a brief note on time zones. And then I really will be done.
I said that the MEFAs would start on Sunday May 4, but for many of us in America it will actually start Saturday May 3. This is because the MEFAs are based on Greenwich Mean Time. All MEFA days begin at 12:00:01 AM, GMT; and they end at 11:59:59 PM, GMT. I have no head for time zones and so I won't try to explain when exactly that is in various local times. Instead, go to http://www.mefawards.net/MEFA2007/, the 2007 website. At the bottom of the page there will be a line like:
Page Served at: 2008-05-02 07:33:20 GMT
This is the official time according to the site clock, at the time you loaded the page. Compare that to your current time, and you'll see when the MEFA day begins and ends. (For reference, when I loaded that page, it was 3:34 AM on May 2, here in the U.S. Eastern time zone.)
Thanks for reading this far! If you have any questions, please reply and I'll do my best to answer them. Otherwise, happy nominating in a few days!