Yes, that’s right, no one. And I am absolutely astounded that the Pulitzer committee wouldn’t award a prize for what is effectively the biggest category in the book market.
The collective *headdesk* from fiction authors and fiction fans was heard around the world, and I was among them. Really? What gives, Pulitzer? You’re giving the widest-read genre out there a kick in the pants. Not a good move.
But you know what this reminds me of? That time when the Grammy Awards cut contemporary jazz out completely, and Latin jazz to a sliver.
I didn’t forget that, and I don’t think anyone who is in the jazz genre has forgotten it either. My music people were and are certainly cheesed off. If you’re not sure what the Grammy move has to do with the Pulitzer, I’ll explain.
What do the Grammy Awards symbolize to the public? Acclaim. Critical reception. Accomplishment. Merit. In other words, all those things that people normally look to in order to determine if something is good. Because you know what? If something’s good, it usually wins awards, right?
Now, we know that that is not necessarily true. After all, plenty of great stories never see an award, and we know a hundred songs that got snubbed needlessly by multiple radio stations.
Why even go so far? Steve Cole’s Spin album is deeply underrated, and I don’t think that many tracks off it had ever been spun on commercial FM radio. And personally? I think that it’s his best CD. It’s bright, strong – hell, happy, even.
Now, the Grammy Awards sliced out the contemp-jazz category. What message does that send to listeners and Grammy fans?
It sends a message that this music is not good. It sends a message that this music is not worth spending money on. That this music is not worth someone’s attention. Even if, very plainly, that is not the case.
But that’s the message. And that’s the parallel, because the message is the same.
The article linked above states that anyone can apply for the Pulitzer for a fee, and everyone did. In other words, the message is that there’s a deluge of fiction out there and none of it is good enough. In all actuality? It probably is good enough, and because it didn’t fall into what’s considered to be “good enough” commercially – which does not necessarily reflect the public tastes – then it gets kicked.
But the fact is, there is good fiction out there.
To play devil’s advocate for a second, though, there is a metric ton – kinda literally – of fiction out there right now, especially now that self-publication opened up better access to seeing work in print. The Pulitzer committee was probably deluged with books, top to bottom. I can well see them getting overwhelmed with submissions, and I can understand that. After all – been there, done that, got the proverbial T-shirt.
As it is, though, the withholding of the prize is sending the same message to both authors and readers as the slicing of the jazz categories sent to the music world and to music listeners alike.
We’ve seen self-published authors take center stage with John Locke, J.A. Konrath, and Amanda Hocking. They’re new, and they put a solid crack into the idea that the only good fiction is trad-pub fiction. We see from author communities that there is both good and bad fiction. And we also see that good self-pub fiction that hasn’t reached the scale of Konrath and Hocking struggles to get acclaim, if it has to still get taken seriously first.
The thing is, while I do understand Pulitzer’s decision to withhold the prize for fiction, I’m amazed that they hadn’t even thought of the impact that this sends to writers and readers. Bad enough that authors get to hear all the BS that comes with self-publishing stereotypes, but now Pulitzer – a major player in the lit world – is reinforcing them.