What The Ursas Do Right
February 16, 2012
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Many people would snarkily answer “nothing” to this category, but the fact remains that the Ursas get a lot of things right, and anyone looking to set up their own award would do well to examine those things and put a lot of thought into them. As with everything on this blog, these are solely my opinions.
- They continue to exist. The importance of this one cannot be overstated. In a fandom where most of the community’s services are run on love and devotion, a run of five years doing the same thing is already enough to set you apart from the pack. The Ursas have been around for ten. They come around every year, they operate in more or less the same way, and they announce their results every spring. They’re reliable, and that means they have a history, and that means they have weight. They have a constant core of people who put in the work every year to make the awards happen, and that’s harder to make happen than you might think.
- They stick to their guns. The Ursa Major board decided at the outset what kind of award they were going to be. They handle most complaints about the Ursas without panic, without sea changes in the face of public opinion, with the kind of calm assurance that this is what they’ve chosen and these responses are an expected result of that. They can distinguish between people honestly complaining about flaws in their process (few) and people unhappy with the results (many). That said…
- They adopt change when necessary. New awards are added as the board sees the need for them, to reflect the changing nature of the fandom—not always as quickly as the fandom might like, but they usually get there. And in response to the nomination of Softpaw magazine, the board did attach a new clause to the Ursas last year that gave them the right to exclude any publication for “obscenity.” To my personal tastes, that’s a bit uncomfortably vague, but the board promised restraint and so far (in one year) has held to that promise.
- They do exactly what they say they do. Apart from perhaps a little hyperbole in proclaiming their winners the “best” in furry fandom rather than the “most popular” (a forgivable marketing statement, I think), the Ursas promise winners by popular vote and they deliver.
- They don’t discriminate. Anything is eligible. You get enough nominations, you’ll get your work on the ballot (pending the board’s review for “obscenity,” as noted above, but there were some adult works in the 2010 awards that were not flagged, so they aren’t going nuts with the censorship as some people feared and some people hoped they would). The point is that the works are truly chosen by the community at large—the board has no say in what goes on the ballot. They just count the votes.
Those are the big things. The Ursa process has been improved over the years and is necessarily clunky to prevent robotic ballot-stuffing. Their voting system is functional enough to do what it needs to. And despite the complaints, they have amassed a pretty good record (if you look at the nominations) of standout furry fiction over the past decade.