British Fantasy Society (4)

The Radio Times Syndrome

Recording of my comments from here. (Any further ones I make I shall put in the comments below).

I always thought the BFS was intended to be (and has been de facto) a Horror Genre Society; it was just that its founding fathers removed the ‘Weird’ from British Weird Fantasy Society (Weird Fantasy being at one time an alternative for Horror), because they didn’t want to be deemed ‘weird’! Is this a new flashing swords ginger group hoping to take it over? Smiley
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I don’t think there can be a strict dividing line between fantasy and horror, I agree.  I  just echo Caroline’s comment about joining the BFS because it was the only group approaching a Horror Society I could find, i.e. from the late seventies onward.
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Has anyone read Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s ‘The WEIRD’ yet? That’s what I thought the BFS was all about. The Weird – as Horror and Weird Fantasy (and Doctor Who and LOST…). Since when was it Tolkien or Flashing Swords?
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My reading, I feel, is a very broad church. But what you say within reason – a society is for like-minded people. Where do you draw the line?
This is what I said earlier, uncontested, on these forums a few weeks ago:
It may be interesting to consider the place of Fantasy in the map of our interests. Does it belong to Horror (BFS) or SF (BSFA)? Is it a diaspora between the two looking for its rightful Society or a core interest in itself?  I, for one, am interested in SF and Fantasy and literary speculative fiction, but am interested from the standpoint of a Horror or Weird Fiction enthusiast (the BFS was originally called The British Weird Fantasy Society, as David R reminded us).  I suspect that, say, a Fantasy enthusiast may be interested in Horror and SF, but interested from a Fantasy enthusiast’s point of view. And so on for a SF enthusiast.”  
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But when you spend money on joining a society of peers – you don’t think to yourself (do you?) that the more members the society attracts (by expanding the society’s core interest willy nilly) can only be for the better, i.e. for greater muscle. Greater muscle for what?  There is always an optimum balance, I feel, between a Society as an interest group and a Society as a commerical weapon that needs to draw on people outside that interest group.
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I still don’t understand why Fantasy belongs to BFS and not BSFA. I would like to bring other forms of literature into BFS, but I know – or thought I knew – it is tantamount to a Horror Society (with edges to other genres, not another genre with edges to Horror), so I don’t try to make it, say, the Proust Society.  For example, just as I know the Radio Times includes Radio listings at the back but is mainly bought by people for its bulk of pages and articles regarding TV listings. (A bad example perhaps, but it shows how a name can embrace something traditionally (by usage over years) quite different from the literal meaning of the words in its name)
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As Wittgenstein would have said, via a vis his ‘meaning of a word is its use’, the meaning of a Society or other grouping / publication etc is its membership / customers not its historically accidental name (like Radio Times?).
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I don’t think it is old guard versus new guard. I’m all in favour of rejigging the Awards system and have said so for years. And your’re right, it’s what the members want. Are the members interested in Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones books, Johnny Mains books, Ex Occidente, Ash Tree Press, Chomu Press, VanderMeers’ massive defining ‘The WEIRD’, Gary McMahon, Simon Clark,  Robert Aickman, Thomas Ligotti, Gary Fry, Black Static, Pan Books of Horror, Stephen King, literary literature associated with the aforementioned, etc etc. Or are they interested in something else?
That of course doesn’t prevent anyone being interested (as I am) in all genres of fiction, but if you’re joining a Society (with monetary outlay) one joins the Society for what it is interested in. One can join any number of Societies, also. I don’t think anyone would suggest merging all Societies of fiction (wild west, fantasy, horror / weird, sf, literary literature, chick lit etc) into one Society to give it more muscle or size.  That’s your choice – to choose which Society or Societies fits your interests best. (And as I suggested earlier to Caroline, all fiction is imaginative fiction).
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Re the Awards rejigging itself, I think below is the simplest, least controversial method (short of abolishing the BFAs: a method with which I have sympathy. Certainly we should not spend money on physical statuettes.):-

My still developing view is that the members should vote on a no holds barred ‘Long list’ and on the membership of the jury who then ‘in camera’ debate the list, add and subtract from it, and then come up with 4 in each category for the members’ final voting.  Or those democratically voted-in jury members actually come up with the winners themselves.  I’d be easy with either method. And I feel it is ludicrous to have separate horror and fantasy awards. It goes completely against the grain of my view about literature. But that’s maybe just me. ‘Weird’ fiction covers both?

5 Comments

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5 responses to “British Fantasy Society (4)

  1. “Rhys, I don’t think Horror and the type of fantasy you like (and I like, including your work!) are different from each other. They blend into each other inextricably. See the VanderMeers’ ‘The WEIRD’ as very recent evidence of this .”

  2. Des, the name name is the British Fantasy Society, not the Des Fantasy (or Weird or Horror) Society.

    I’ve never implied that. I was merely going on my perception of past empirical evidence of the Society’s interests predominantly (ie a gestalt to date of all members).

  3. If others are judging the BFS by those newspapers, they’ll probably not join the BFS anyway.
    Simply jurify (or abolish) the BFAs, (Simply means simply: jury voted by members, members produce long list, jury produce winners, and no split awards between genres) – and then the BFS will be as great as it has ever been.

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