The National Magazine Awards will go on without one very important category — fiction.
WWD has learned that The American Society of Magazine Editors, the organization that runs the awards also known as the Ellies, has suspended the fiction category due to a “decline in the number of entries.”
“After a continuing decline in the number of entries in the category, the ASME board has decided to suspend fiction for 2017,” he wrote.”To encourage participation in the category, ASME has in recent years relaxed the submission requirements from three stories to one, reduced the entry fee for small-circulation titles to $100, appealed directly to members of the Council of Literary Magazines and Publishers for entries and phoned past winners and finalists, asking them to return. The number of entries has nonetheless continued to decline. Only 14 magazines submitted entries in the category in 2016 — a fraction of the number of participants in other categories. Compounding the problem, few ASME members say they are competent to judge the category. The number of fiction entries has been a matter of concern to ASME since at least the early Eighties. ASME has nonetheless kept the category in place to show support for the magazines committed to the form. But that argument seems less and less tenable when fewer and fewer titles participate.”
Holt noted that ASME isn’t “killing” the category completely — just for 2017. It could reappear in 2018. While fiction is less prominent in magazines as it had been in prior years, titles such as The New Yorker, Esquire, The Paris Review, The New Republic, The Atlantic and smaller publications such as McSweeney’s, The Antioch Review and Virginia Quarterly Review have served as an important platform for young writers.
“I think it’s a real mistake and, with respect, the logic of the decision seems bureaucratic and small,” he said. “I have no problem rewarding all the corners of magazine-making, but why throw shade and turn your back on the deepest form of writing and artistry in magazines, the kind of writing that seeks to reach the deepest textures of human experience and the diversity of humanity? So now we have a set of awards that will honor the reviewer of Zadie Smith’s fiction — but not Zadie Smith’s fiction. It’s not the end of the world — awards never are, one way or another — but it’s a mistake and a back of the hand to higher things.”
Esquire editor in chief Jay Fielden echoed Remnick’s disappointment, adding: “I think it’s shortsighted and sad of ASME. I get that not every magazine publishes fiction these days, but it’s symbolic of the ultimate craft of storytelling. It ought to be championed and cherished by those of us who have the power to do so.”
The annual awards show will be held on Feb. 7 at Cipriani on Wall Street in New York.