The 2018 Anthony Awards nominees were announced yesterday. There is much to be said about that list, but its most interesting feature is how little it overlaps with the corresponding Edgar Awards shortlist, in terms of both choices and outlook.
While I've rarely agreed with the MWA's picks in recent years, this year's were particularly surprising to me because of the leave out of some of the most popular and best-reviewed crime novels of 2017 in favour of books whose links to the genre were sketchy at best and also because of the shortlist's extremely strong "noir" bias. I understand that the MWA laudably tried to be more inclusive with unprecedented showing of women and minority writers, but the only diversity I care for in that context, that of genres, was sorely lacking, reminding me of the "finest" hours of the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and Trophées 813.
Coming after this noir-fest, the Anthony shortlist offers a breath of fresh air. Very few Edgar nominees make it, unfairly in some cases, but it restores some of the MWA's most outrageous snubs. Also and perhaps more importantly, it is genuinely diverse in terms of both people and books. The Best Novel category runs the whole gamut from cozy to post-modern to noir as it should - and the Short Story selection refreshingly avoids any Akashic item.
Why the difference? Well, the Edgars are given by the professionals whereas the Anthonies are given by the fandom - and the gap between them amounts to a precipice. There has been a lot of discussion in the Sci-fi milieu about the Nebulas, the Hugos and their respective merits and biases but everyone I think can agree that they tend to nominate/crown more or less the same books. It's pretty rare that a book wins one prize without being at least nominated for the other. In the mystery field, however, it happens all the time. Louise Penny is a case in point, having won the Anthony and Agatha a zillion times but still waiting for her Poe statuette (she was nominated only once but lost to - William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace, one of the precious few times when the Edgars and the Anthonies concurred)
We have thus a potential schism but the good news is that it doesn't seem about to happen - the mystery fandom as of now is much less quarellous than his sci-fi/fantasy counterparts and there are not yet local sad puppies. Still, the direction taken by the Edgars should be of concern to any mystery fan as they are for better or for worse the most prestigious awards in the field, and the risk of them becoming one-sided and/or irrelevant is real. Some will say the damage has already been done, but I'm an optimist - a cautious one. See you next year to see if The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle makes the Edgar shortlist.
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