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Re: [MEFAwards] MEFAwards 2012 Ratings System: Objections and Alternative Proposals

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  • Marta
    Hi Doc Bushwell and all, Thanks for letting me know about your concerns. I want to apologize for the way this change was handled. According to the letter, you
    Message 1 of 89 , Jun 28, 2012
      Hi Doc Bushwell and all,

      Thanks for letting me know about your concerns. I want to apologize for the
      way this change was handled. According to the letter, you and everyone else
      who signed below obviously see it as a major change for the MEFAs. I can
      only say I didn't see it that way. Actually, when I was developing the
      content advisories we're using this year (several people contributed to
      that, but since I signed off I'll take responsibility here) I made a
      conscious effort to parallel the old ratings guide as much as possible.

      Why did we make these changes at all? There were several issues with how
      authors told their potential readers about their stories. First, the old
      ratings system asked authors to give a single rating for their story that
      covered everything � any sexual content, any violent scenes, any mature
      themes, whatever. But since this was all covered by a single rating, it was
      harder for readers to know why a story had a certain rating. We did let
      authors elaborate on this through warnings, but even that didn't get across
      all of what readers needed to know when deciding whether to read their
      story or not. So I decided the best thing to do was to have several
      different ratings � one for violence, one for sex, and one for everything
      else. That way authors could provide specific information and readers could
      make better decisions on whether they wanted to read this kind of story or

      I also wasn't comfortable with the whole concept of "warnings," as if
      things like an effective violence in a battle scene, or erotic content in a
      wedding night scene, were a reason *not* to read a certain story. Some
      readers will choose not to read a story with sex or violence (or both);
      some readers will be drawn to it, and others will be indifferent. I was
      trying to find a more neutral way to describe these questions than
      "ratings" and "warnings." Likewise, I was uncomfortable with the connection
      between explicit content and age. That smacks of trying to "protect"
      children, which I've never been a fan of. In any event, most Tolkien fans
      are adults and some of those avoid content rated adults at various
      archives. So whatever their reason for doing that, it wasn't their age.

      Most importantly, I was trying to avoid a bad situation we had at the end
      of the 2011 awards. As most of you know, the MEFAs don't allow some stories
      to compete based on their content. Stories with graphic, explicit sex
      scenes or their violent analogues usually aren't allowed. Last year I found
      out a story in our awards violated this rule (quite possibly
      unintentionally!) and so wasn't eligible to compete. I don't want to rehash
      that whole situation because it's not fair to the author. But the bit
      that's pertinent here is, that whole situation made clear to me the current
      way we handled things needed changing. We needed to know whether stories
      were eligible or not WAY before that point, which is another thing I was
      trying to address in the new rating policy. Under the new policy, if a
      piece is near that eligible/ineligible line, we make SURE it's eligible
      early in the award. In practice, that means anything with a "Mature" rating
      under the old system or a content advisory of "5" under the new system, for
      sexual content, violence, or themes.

      These are all changes, but in my mind they were fine-tuning of the current
      system, not a whole new system. For example, content advisory "5" was
      analogous to Mature under the old system � so the same kind of violent
      contact that would have earned a Mature now earn a "5" for violence. That's
      the intent anyway. It's completely possible that I made a mistake setting
      things up (I'm human, after all) so that there are changes. But if there
      are any, they were unintentional. That said, even if it is fine-tuning
      rather than a substantive change, maybe I should have discussed this more
      with the whole group. I'm trying to balance an increasingly busy RL with my
      commitment to the MEFAs, and I may have done a bad job here. The MEFA group
      is BIG, spread out over lots of different groups, so having a discussion
      like that does take a lot of energy and time on my part. That means I'm
      probably more hesitant to have policy discussions with everyone than I
      should be. I certainly didn't mean to force other people into a big change
      that caught them by surprise.

      One obvious solution to all of these problems is to just take away the
      requirement that MEFA-eligible pieces not have graphic sex or violence in
      them. I actually considered that when trying to decide how to handle these
      problems, but decided against making that change for two reasons. First,
      that IS a major change that we need a group-wide discussion before we can
      make that change, and at the time I was trying to get through a major
      grad-school exam. There also was a significant practical issue: some of our
      volunteers couldn't continue to volunteer at an award that allowed adult
      content, because of RL concerns. (I actually was in a similar position at
      one point, when I worked for a religious non-profit, though my situation
      has changed.) That was another reason I wanted to find another solution.

      That said, if enough people want to get rid of the requirement saying
      stories with graphic content aren't eligible, I'm willing to discuss it. Or
      if you guys can see a different, better way of handling things that handles
      things in another way. I really don't have the time just now; MEFA
      nominations themselves start in a few days, and I start teaching summer
      school next week so my time is really tight on both fronts. But things will
      be a lot calmer in a month or two, once we're through nominations and
      categorizing and once my RL is more manageable. So if you guys (or anyone
      else) wants to discuss how we handle ratings in future years, I'm all for
      that. Especially if you will be patient until I have the time to give this
      topic the attention it deserves.

      I'm really very sorry so many people are upset over the changes to how the
      MEFAs handle ratings � particularly *because* it's ratings. I've actually
      worked quite hard over the years to open up our ratings policies so more
      people can participate. You may remember, at one point the policies were
      much more restrictive for sex than they were for violence, and IIRC you
      couldn't link to an archive that had an NC17 warning; neither of those
      rules is true anymore. If this current round of changes is a step back, I'm
      willing to try to fix it for 2013 (for 2012, we're just too close to the
      start of the awards). I just ask that anyone upset by this change be
      patient and work with me once things calm down enough to talk about this

      BTW, if anyone out there doesn't want to participate under this policy, I
      can add you to our don't-nominate list (either for 2012 or permanently) if
      you email me at mefasupportATgmailDOTcom. Speaking personally, I'd hate to
      miss out on any of the authors mentioned at the bottom of Doc Bushwell's
      letter being part of the MEFAs �I just don't want anyone to do anything
      they're uncomfortable with. This is emphatically NOT my way of saying
      "don't let the door hit you on the way out"; I'm eager to come up with a
      policy that works better for everyone. But if anyone feels they need to
      take a step back, just let me know.


      (MEFA Admin.)

      P.S. - Doc Bushwell, I don't know how many of your cosigners read this
      Yahoo group. Please feel free to forward on this email to anywhere you
      think is appropriate.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Bonnie L. Sherrell
      Real life has been consuming my time the last few days. I, too, would like to be made part of any group that discusses this situation, both because I m on the
      Message 89 of 89 , Jul 1, 2012
        Real life has been consuming my time the last few days. I, too, would like to
        be made part of any group that discusses this situation, both because I'm on the
        ratings team this year, and because I write stories that examine many very adult
        themes in spite of being purposely written to lessen the impact of the topics so
        as not to be terrifically offensive.
        Bonnie L. Sherrell
        Teacher at Large

        "Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends." LOTR

        "Don't go where I can't follow."
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