I just learned that I recently won an award for a fic I wrote. I'm very flattered and honored that people thought highly enough of the story to nominate and vote for it, but I've long believed that awards are harmful to fandoms, and as a general rule, I like to avoid participating in them. (Had I seen the nomination earlier, I would have asked--politely, I hope!--that it be removed.)
What's more, some of my friends in this fandom have taken umbrage with the way these particular awards were run, which makes me feel even more embarrassed to be associated with them, even in such a tangential way.
I don't want to seem ungrateful, because I truly am honored that the story was so well received. How can I resolve this situation without hurting too many feelings?
Thanks But No Thanks
Fan awards can be a difficult project to undertake! The organization and logistics can be overwhelming, and the pimping may seem to bring little or no attention to one's efforts. Too, fan awards suffer under the generalization that they are all popularity contests with no emphasis on quality. Integrity is hard to maintain between sockpuppets on the one hand or a BNF's following on the other!
The outcome of fan awards is often in doubt, for both the 'winners' and the 'losers'--because what has been lost or won? Winners often receive a banner or graphic, personal satisfaction, and perhaps a measure of pride. Losers are, in some sense, shamed, and can, understandably, become jealous or bitter. Why, then, institute fan awards at all, when a rec list of beloved stories or art spreads good feelings without specifically excluding anyone?
Perhaps it's a matter of our brains' need to hierarchize, or perhaps it's simply that the Create Poll function on livejournal is just so tempting. However, the result can be that people receive awards who do not want them, and people lose awards who would have been happier never knowing that their stories were so (comparatively) ill-favoured.
Better by far than a vote in a fan award is a comment in the creator's inbox!
There is no obligation on writers or artists to participate in fan awards. Opting out at the nomination stage is often a feature of such a contest, and if the organizers are, well, organized, then this stage should involve contacting you--if not, your work should not proceed to the voting stage! This is, however, a courtesy. It's the internet: linking to things is part of our culture, and you can't control where your stories are linked once they're publicly posted. Whether for the purposes of reviews, recs, crit, or polls determining how many people like you more than they like the other creators in the poll, linking on the internet cannot be reined in.
After receiving an award you have several options. Most notably, you needn't do anything at all! Winners are informed of their success via form emails when there are many categories in the contest. Replying with a simple, "I appreciate you informing me," can be enough. You don't have to advertise on your journal or spread the word, especially if it's a contest that you don't personally support. If the contest is particularly egregious, or if you would like control over where links to your stories are posted, you do have the option of contacting the organizer and asking her to take down any mention of your work. Polite requests are often accommodated. If they're not, unfortunately, there isn't much you can do. (Of course, for winners who are proud of their accomplishments, a pimping or egoboo post can be a chance for capslocking celebration!)
Losing an award can leave a creator downhearted. Lashing out is too easy on the internet when feelings are hurt. Remember, you probably have a select group of friends to whom you can turn for support, either on IM or on a trust filter on your livejournal. Don't point fingers too vociferously! And never send your friends to launch complaints at the contest. If you have a legitimate grievance, contact the organizer (and document your correspondence!). If not, then vent, accept, and move on. If this contest wasn't to your liking, then your best recourse is to organize one of your own.
What we should remember is that there are many ways to contribute to fandom, and keeping the gift economy going with praise and recs is certainly one of them. Fan awards organizers are contributors too! They link fandom to stories they might not have otherwise seen, and they serve as recs lists for newbies. We may not always like their methods, and their conclusions about who 'wins' and who 'loses' might seem to be Wrong On The Internet, but in the end, they are harmless. Enjoy your win insofar as it is meaningful to you, and as for the rest--silence is golden!