Monday, July 30, 2012

The 2011 Shadow Awards

I was one of the judges for the 2011 Shadow Awards. You might not know what those are, so I'll tell you. They are the awards presented by the Australian Horror Writers Association. No, I am not Australian. Yes, I am a horror writer. I was asked and I was very, very honored to say yes.
I was also swamped with an amazing array of stories, because along with my co-jedges, I was helping to decide who should come out on top of a very serious competition.

The choices were not always easy. But then, that's half the  fun, isn't it?

Still, that said, I wanted to bring to your attention one particular tale by one particular writer. The lady in question is Amanda Spedding. The story was the winner of the short story competition for the Shadow Awards. The story was called "Shovel Man Joe" and I think it's about perfect.

Sometimes it’s easier to judge a contest than other times. Easier does not, for the record, mean easy. It’s never easy. There are too many considerations: length of story, caliber of writing, those are relatively easy to quantify. They are almost concrete. The grammatical errors are an aside, by the way. Editors are supposed to fix those and if they should fail, it’s either because the story demands deliberate mistakes (a few authors insist that typos and misspellings are deliberate and will, in fact, fight tooth and nail to keep them) or because the editors in question suffer from the horrible frailties of being human. For that reason that sort of error never gets considered by me when it comes to judging a story. No, the thing here is that judging stories and collections by their merit means more than just whether or not the story is well made. My co-judges might disagree, and if they do I will certainly not take it personally. That’s part of the fun of having more than one judge. We disagreed a few times.

Except when we didn’t. And we disagreed more often, oddly enough, on the honourable mentions than we did on the winners in the selections. Let’s take, for example, Amanda J. Spedding’s “Shovel Man Joe.” Honestly? I think we all agreed from the very first. It’s a no-brainer. My God, what a brilliant story! I’ve never met Ms. Spedding. If I did I suspect I’d make an ass of myself. It’s hard not to when you’re in the process of falling all over yourself. I’d be in that sort of hurry to shake her hand. Not only is “Shovel Man Joe” a truly amazing story, not only is it the perfect length, the perfect level of detail and the perfect synchronization of character, pacing and horror, it’s also an ideal example of cross-genrefication (Yes, I know that’s not really a word, but I don’t have a proper single word for “a perfect fusion of multiple genres and an example of why writers should feel obligated to stretch the boundaries of what they can achieve within their chosen fields.” So I had to make up a word. Deal with it. I’m a writer. I do that sort of thing.). Not only is it one of the best horror stories I’ve ever read, it’s also one of the best steampunk tales I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

If you have not taken the time to read Ms. Spedding’s simply incredible tale, you should immediately set out to rectify that problem.

Shovel man Joe

Follow that link if you want to read it.

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