June 20, 2011

Are You More Likely to Read a Stoker Award Winning Book?

Last weekend marked the 2010 Bram Stoker Awards ceremony. I only started paying attention to literary awards a few years ago. Since then, I've had pretty good luck using the lists of nominees as recommended reading. Heck, it was how I discovered Lisa Mannetti's The Gentling Box, the 2008 winner for Superior Acheivement in a First Novel, which I consider an amazing piece of writing.

So what about you? Do these kinds of awards encourage you to seek out winning books, or do you dismiss the whole notion as arbitrary, rigged, or plain uninteresting? Me, I look at them as good reference material when searching out new authors and prospective book purchases.

Let's have a gander at this year's winners:

Superior Achievement in a Novel
Rot and Run by Jonathan Maberry
Dead Love by Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Apocalypse of the Dead by Joe McKinney
Dweller by Jeff Strand
A Dark Matter by Peter Straub (WINNER)

Straub's novel is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. Thoroughly entertained by Ghost Story and Shadowland, I figured it was about time I took a crack at one of his recent works. Funny though, as I've read some contentious blogger comments about how the novel is over-rated and Straub only won because of name recognition. Perhaps, or perhaps it was the best of the bunch. Maybe this year I should read all five and judge for myself.

Superior Achievement in a First Novel
Black and Orange by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (WINNER)

A Books of Tongues by Gemma Files
Castle of Los Angeles by Lisa Morton (WINNER)
Spellbent by Lucy Snyder

A tie, wouldn't you know? And here's the funniest bit for me: Of the four nominated books, those are the two I don't own. Go figure. Well, I have Ethridge's Black and Orange on my wish list, so I guess I'll just have to add Lisa Morton's novel as well.

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
Invisible Fences by Norman Prentiss
The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman
Dissolution by Lisa Mannetti
Monsters Among Us by Kirstyn McDermott
The Samhanach
by Lisa Morton

Of the novellas listed here, I've only read The Painted Darkness and Dissolution. I was rooting for Mannetti's Dissolution, but it was not to be. Oh well. I get the feeling the other three novellas, winner included, are stories to watch out for.

Some of the other winners of the night include: Haunted Legends by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas for Superior Achievement in an Anthology; Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King for Superior Achievement in a Collection; and "The Falling Man" by Joe R. Lansdale for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction.

Random Thoughts:

I'm actually reading Ellen Datlow's anthology, Supernatural Noir, right now and wouldn't be surprised to see that wind up on next year's short list.

I periodically hear people bemon the state of the horror genre, but I gotta say that 2010 turned out to be a pretty great year for finding some entertaining and rivoting stuff, and 2011 is shaping up to be just as good.

What I find interesting is how the self-publishing craze is offering quite a few gems as well. And you simply will not see any self-published work getting a nomination.

While I keep an eye on the short lists for several awards, I am very much behind in reading those books--especially outside the horror genre.

Anyway, congratulations to all of the Stoker Award winners, and kudos to all the authors fortunate enough to be shortlisted. Keep up the good works.


  1. Dark Matter definietly won because of name recognition. Like an actor winning an award for a so-so acting job over a younger pool of other contenders simply because "he deserved it for his body of work". I loved Ghost Story and Floating Dragon. I liked Lost Boy, Lost Girl and In the Nigth Room.

    But A Dark Matter was a disappointment. It had such potential, but as the pages disappeared, as I neared the ending, all I could think was "Is this it?" It paints a pretty picture and is a good examination of character. But the story, it just stopped and left me thinking "What the Hell. Where is the rest of the story."

  2. Couldn't get through dark matter: I found the prose too labored and I gave up.
    The stokers have gotten very controversial - there's a section of the horror community that thinks the Stokers have been corrupted by politics and cronyism. Well, i get that impression from Brian Keene's site, and a twitter feed called Strokerawards.
    Some say the Shirley Jackson awards are the more legit awards to win.

  3. I gave away my copy of A Dark Matter without even reading it! I'm really not swayed by awards, I do read books that have won them but there's always been something else that's made me want to read it.

  4. I'm not swayed by awards as I once was.

    I agree with the others. I tried Dark Matter and hated it. I think I made it about half way before tossing it aside.

    Nice post, Gef.

  5. You know me: I only read horror when it's labeled as dark fantasy. I do think I'd be more inclined to read one of these titles, though - they're purported to be the best in the genre!

    ALSO: I am reading Supernatural Noir too! Almost had nightmares last night, but kept reading until I found one of the less dark ones to sleep on. *grin*

  6. I agree with the consensus here: Although I am a huge fan of Peter Straub (have been ever since discovering his hipster-horror story "Pork Pie Hat" in an anthology), this book just did not live up to the rest of his body of work. I finished it...but was genuinely disappointed by the time I finished.

    Regarding awards, I haven't paid much attention to them in the past. Often times I'll pick up a book that I'm interested in, and see that it has won an award of some sort, but it's never swayed me one way or the other when it comes to purchasing it. Although I have noticed that a large number of the more literary works I have enjoyed have been short-listed for the Booker Prize...so I have toyed with the idea of seeking out other unheard-of titles with the same designation.

    I must say, though, I have put a book back on the shelf because it has an "Oprah's Book Club" sticker. That's just something I haven't been able to get past. Am I alone on that?


  7. Yikes. Doesn't sound like I'm in for that much of a treat when I read this.

    Bradley - I've got In the Night Room sitting on my shelf, but lord knows when I'll get around to it.

    Mac - The Stokerawards on Twitter can be pretty humorous. And, yeah, Shirley Jackson Awards are another I keep an eye on, along with the Black Quill Awards.

  8. Ellie - I agree that reading a book solely because it won an award is not good practice. I've been burned more than once doing that.

    Peter - Well, I gave Twilight 400 pages to sway me, so I can afford Straub a lot more than that. :)

    Celia - Ah, I look forward to review of Supernatural Noir. It's an interesting mix so far.

    Jonny - I've got Pork Pie Hat on my wish list. Looks promising. Good to hear you liked it--that bodes well.

    And, no, you're not alone with the Oprah thing. I've read a couple on the list and liked them, but that's it. Huge grain of salt after the James Frey debacle.