onsdag den 8. februar 2006

SKS's framtid - the short version

Hallo alla tilsammans!
In the following 19 (!) short articles (as there seems to be a newly developed problem with publishing long articles on this blog) I dare to present to you my view of SKS's future. I have already sent an e-mail with approximately the same content to all vice-presidents for consideration. But this is the short version:

  • we should stick together and keep it simple
  • anyone who wants to be eligible for nominating and voting for a Glass-key candidate has to be a member of the SKS
  • being a member of SKS (as a national society) involves only two things: The Glass Key (nominating the respective society's candidate and, after that, voting until we have a winner...) and hosting the AGM every five years (if there are five societies in the SKS willing to fulfill these (easy) conditions).
  • let's have some fun, folks
  • As for the rest of it, it's just something we have to work out. And we can work it out - if we want to. Why make things complicated, when they can be simple? After all, we're not Germans (and let's hope no Germans read this site and start burning Icelandic flags in protest of this insulting generalization of german philosophy...)

PLEASE - do not hesitate to comment upon each and every article concerning SKS's future - either as a direct comment on each article, or as a seperate article to be posted here (simply mail it to me: avarorn@simnet.is and I will post it asap.

SKS's framtid - Statutes and purpose

The main – no, the ONLY purpose of SKS should be what is stated in paragraphs 2 and 6 of its statutes.
It is my personal opinion, that there is no need to be too formal about this whole business. Of course we have to have clear-cut, simple and sensible no-nonsense guidelines, rules or statutes, which we have to follow. But the main thing is to ensure that nordic crime-writers, as well as academics and enthusiasts in the field of crime-writing, keep in touch, compare notes – and compare novels/short stories, with the aim of rewarding the best each year.
My idea of the SKS is that it should be a loose-knit organisation, what we in the north call a paraply-organisation, made up of the various, national societies, and – possibly – also individuals who care to join us and, according to paragraph 3, meet the requirements for membership on their own.
Such individuals will have to apply for membership and be accepted – or rejected – at an AGM, and we might well add some further amendments to our statutes as to how this is to be done (does the individual need to have published a certain number of books/short stories/articles or otherwise made him/herself worthy of membership? Does he/she need recommendation from one or more members? Etc.)
This, however, does not mean that these individuals have anything to say about who gets the Glass Key – this should be left exclusively to the juries of the respective, national societies. If, however, any of these societies choose to ask an individual who is not amongst its members to be a member of their jury, that, of course, is their prerogative.

SKS's framtid - No effort: No reward.

But – and this, to me, is a non-negotiable premise for any society wanting to have a say about the Glass-key – the respective society must be a member of the SKS.
To me, it seems unreasonable and, quite frankly, simply unacceptable for any society to insist on nominating and voting on a candidate for SKS’s Glass key, whilst denouncing SKS and refusing to be part of it at the same time.
It kind of reminds one of the story of the Little red hen (and for those who do not know this story,
  • here
  • it is).
    And surely, fulfilling the duties of a member of SKS is a lot less hassle than what that poor old hen had to go through before she finally got to eat her bread...
    If a society is not a member of the SKS – well, then it’s not entitled to enter a candidate for the Glass key. It’s as simple as that. Or that, at any rate, is my personal opinion on this particular issue. Feel free to disagree and try to convince me along with anyone else within SKS that this should not be so.

    SKS's framtid - The simple life

    Is it not possible to simply make this an organisation, where the five contributing societies (+ perhaps a couple of enthusiastic individuals) meet for a chat, an interesting exchange of views and experience and eventually a few interesting lectures from a few interesting extra/celebrity-guests once a year, and then simply go about their own business for the rest of the year?
    Does the co-operation have to go beyond the co-ordination of the juries and the joint prize awarded in the wake of that limited co-operation?
    Has it ever done so?
    And is it really necessary to have a full-blown organization with a seperate budget and all the hassle that comes with it? A board consisting of a president, five vice presidents and a secretary and whatnot? An accountant?
    My answer, until I hear otherwise, is no.
    This is how I see it: We have five, national societies, each of them different in some ways; membership-criteria, numbers, etc. But we know of each other, and we have certain things in common. And we want to meet each other and award a prize for the best, nordic crime-novel/book of short stories each year.
    So where’s the problem?

    SKS's framtid - The way it works - and should keep on working

    Each society goes about its business. Picks the best book in it’s own country and nominates it for the common prize. And every five years, each society commits itself to host the AGM to the best of its abilities. Five years notice should be ample time for every society to prepare for such an event. This should be – and really, as far as I can judge, are and always have been, when it comes down to it – the only things actually required of the national societies constituting the SKS.
    Is that really asking too much?

    SKS's framtid - The president & the board

    To my mind, “styrelsen” should simply be made up out of the five, different presidents of the national organizations. If we do need a president for the SKS as a whole, these five should pick one from amongst themselves to represent the lot, as is the custom in every company board-room.
    It does seem unneccessary to have a sixth member, an extra “President” who is not amongst those five, but maybe I’m wrong. If so, please do not hesitate to tell me why.
    The same goes for that finance-stuff. Why does SKS have to be a formal unit with its own budget, financing, accountant etc.? It seems we have broken every rule of accountancy since the foundation of SKS with impunity, no-one pays his or her dues directly to SKS, no big – and hardly any small – mutual funds exist, very little, if anything, of these funds has been spent and there does not really seem to be any real need for mutual funds on the whole.
    And the whole book-keeping thing has been a desaster; when was the last time SKS’s books were on the up and up? And who has complained?
    Never, and no-one...

    SKS's framtid - Where?

    There have been voices saying that we should stick to one – or possibly two – venues for the AGM; Denmark (Horsens) and possibly the book-fair in Göteborg. This, some say, will make it much easier and cheaper all-round to attend.
    That may well be, when all is counted and the medium cost calculated. It will certainly be cheaper for the Danes and the Swedes. But this measure, to my mind, would go against the whole purpose of SKS as stated in paragraph 2.
    O.k., so there won’t be many Danes or Icelanders when Suomen Dekkariseura hosts the AGM in Lappland in the year 2011 or whenever. And even fewer Norwegians when we in Iceland invite you all to join us in Grímsey a couple of years later. But the few Danes, Icelanders, Swedes and Norwegians attending the AGM in Lappland – or wherever – will meet a lot of Finns. And a quite a number of Icelandic crime-writers, enthusiasts and academics will have the opportunity to meet some choice-crime freaks – and authors – when we host the AGM.
    It’s not unlike the football World Championships, or any other inter- or multinational event, when you think about it. Yes, a lot more Danes would show up at the World Cup if it were held in Denmark every time. But instead, a lot fewer people from every other possible host-country would be able to enjoy the spectacle. Therefore the AGM - and the awarding of the glass-key – should be held in a different country each year, in my opinion. On the whole, this offers a lot more people the opportunity to attend one.
    If the program sounds unintresting or the price seems too high for someone – anyone – in the other countries, they simply stay at home and read about it later. This should be no big deal. Neither for the hosts nor for those who choose not to attend. In a year or two, the AGM will be held closer to home, and they do attend. Along with the few from the other countries who make the trip, and the many from their own country who seize the opportunity they otherwise would not.

    SKS's framtid - when?

    As for the timing of the AGM – well, let’s say we opted for Horsens. That would mean that each national society would have to be ready with its nomination before the end of february or early march at the latest. Is that enough time? I don’t know. But I do know that this would call for a fundamental change in Riverton-klubbens statutes, at least. Should we opt for Göteborg, the awarding of the Glass key would take place in the autumn. Which may not be a bad thing in itself. But should we stick to the rotation-principle, I see no urgent reason to change the timing of the AGM. Do you? If you do, please say so.

    SKS's framtid - the question of language

    Another concern that has been raised is the issue of language. It has been claimed that the Finns and the Icelanders are at a disadvantage, because only books in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian can be nominated. There is, of course, no denying that this does put us Icelanders and the Finns at a certain disadvantage. But, inspite of my Icelandic nationality, I do not honestly see any sensible way around this problem.
    It is utterly ridiculous to insist on the right to nominate books in the original language of our countries, however beautiful and important we (rightly!) consider our languages to be. This would limit the possible choice of jurors in the respective countries far too much. There is no shortage of literary people in Iceland and Finnland who can read Danish, Swedish and Norwegian without the constant aid of a dictionary. The people in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, on the other hand, who can read both Icelandic and Finnish without major problems, are few and far apart. It’s not our fault they’re so handicapped...but what can we do?
    But what about German, then? some have asked. Or English, for that matter?
    Well, what about it? Should we allow Icelandic and Finnish crime novels in German or English translations as entries to the competition for the Glass Key? This will, admittedly, not limit the field of possible jurors quite as much as Icelandic and Finnish, although it will limit it more than before. But, on the other hand, it will expand the field when it comes to picking the candidates.
    So what is your take on this particular problem? Stick with the three nordic languages or allow English and German? Why/why not?
    Personally, I’d like to stick to the three languages. But that’s just one guy’s personal point of view.

    SKS's framtid - The different approaches in Finland and Iceland: I

    The way we have done it here in Iceland, we’ve simply nominated the best, Icelandic crime novel of the previous year and left it to the author/publisher to see to it that it gets translated in time to be eligible for the Glass Key. The Finns have gone about it the other way around and only nominated a novel amongst those already translated. Here, we have counted on the publishers to realize the importance of the Glass Key, marketing-wise, and until this year, they have seen the light.
    It has – maybe unfortunately, maybe fortunately – always been the same publisher, and they’ve always coughed up with the money to pay for the translation (except the first time, but that was before they really realized... and then the author, Viktor Arnar, saw to it personally that his story got translated).
    This year, however, it looks as if there will not be an Icelandic novel amongst the contestants for the Glass Key. The jury in the Icelandic crime writers organization did nominate a novel, as usual, but now the publisher (and yes, it is the same old publisher yet again) refuses to pay for the translation. They base their decision upon the fact that this particular novel is not really a traditional crime-novel (and maybe the fact that it is more than 500 pages long has got something to do with it as well...).
    This is something we just have to live with – or that, at least, is the attitude amongst us in the Icelandic crime society. In Finland, just like in Iceland and, for that matter, every other Nordic country, the best, Finnish crime-novel is picked out every year and awarded a prize by the Suomen Dekkariseura-jury.
    The difference is, that in Finland this particular book is not automatically nominated as local entry for the Glass Key-competition. I have been told that this is not an option in Finland. That there is no way, they can simply nominate the best, Finnish crime-novel and then count on the publishers to get it translated, the way we do here in Iceland.

    SKS's framtid - The different approaches in Finland and Iceland II

    I cannot pretend to know better, but I still have to ask – has this approach really been tried?
    Somehow, I find it hard to believe that Finnish publishers do not realize the commercial value of a Glass-key nomination. And I have even more problems imagining Finnish publishers being poorer – or for that matter, cheaper – than Icelandic publishers, who are working a market that just this january crossed the 300.000 persons-line.
    O.k., maybe they have to be convinced, but has anyone tried – really tried – to convince them about the importance and the possible (or, to be more accurate, the certain) gain of having one of their novels nominated for the Glass Key? And we’re talking about clear-cut financial gain as well as prestige... Has the board of the Suomen Dekkariseura ever gone to the publisher of this or that year’s best, Finnish crime novel and said, this is the best Finnish crime novel of the year and we are nominating it for the glass key, but in order for it to be eligible for the prize, it has to be translated into Norwegian, Danish or Swedish – and it’s your responsibility to see that this happens...

    SKS's framtid - other possibilities

    But allright, let’s assume – until someone corrects me – that Finnish publishers in general are too stubborn, too tight with their money and/or too short-sighted to realize and embrace the opportunities involved in the Glass-key nomination and therefore refuse to spend a few thousand euros on a translation. And that not even the example of Arnaldur Indriðason is enough to convince them otherwise. What then?
    Maybe there are unexplored avenues in the Nordic apparatus, maybe we can get some sort of a stipendium in aid of translations from Finnish and Icelandic, in spite of the recent cut-downs in the cultural sector of the Nordic Council’s operations. Who knows? And who is willing and able to find out? Such an application would probably be more likely to succeed if it came from SKS, rather than from the respective national societies, so maybe here’s yet another task for the organization...

    SKS's framtid - The glass key

    I think we have to change the statutes in order to clarify once and for all what kind of manuscripts/works of fiction we accept. Also, it is important, I think, to ensure that in the final round, the juries will choose between two books and two books only. If this means an extra round of voting every once in a while, then so be it. And even if no book is nominated from this country or that, each national society should commit itself to participate in the vote. This year, as I said, we will probably not be in the running, but none the less we certainly want to have our say about the other books nominated for the Glass key.

    SKS's framtid - Bottom line

    Bottom line: Lets keep it simple - and stick together
    Anyway, I´m rambling. I’ve written much more than I intended.
    But the point of it all is: Let’s stick together, and let’s keep it simple. Every national organization keeps on trucking at its own leisure. Does its thing. One of those things is to nominate a book for the Glass key every year and consequently participate in the voting for the best nordic crime novel (or however you want to put it), which then will be awarded the Glass key. Every five years, each and every national society which wants to be a part of this has to host the awarding ceremony and a seminar and an AGM (and a damn good party all round) in the name of SKS. This is really all it takes, when it comes right down to it, isn’t it? Picking the best of the best of nordic crime fiction, awarding the Glass Key and having some fun while we’re at it? And that, to me, does not seem to be a very arduous task. What do you think? Well, think about it ... and talk about it ... and, by all means, write about it!
    Best regards and wishes from your so-called president,
    Ævar Örn Jósepsson.