Why I Will Not Be Entering the Lambda Awards This Year

“Lambda Literary nurtures and advocates for LGBTQ writers, elevating the impact of their words to create community, preserve our legacies, and affirm the value of our stories and our lives.”

This year, Lambda Literary has decided that there will no longer be separate Gay Mystery and Lesbian Mystery categories and there will instead be a single LGBTQ mystery category. Their claim is that they have “expanded the category.” That is absurd since they have, in fact, limited the amount of exposure available to LGBTQ mystery writers. Historically, there have been two winners and between ten and sixteen finalists. Now there will be one winner and five to eight finalists. Simple math tells you they have not expanded the category. In today’s world we need to call their statement what it is: a lie.

If Lambda Literary’s true goal were to increase the amount of exposure available to BTQ mystery writers, they have failed. To increase that exposure, they should have created either one group category for them or separate B, T and Q categories, similar to what they have done in Fiction, Poetry and Non-Fiction. By asking B, T and Q mysteries to compete in a category that will likely start out at sixty-seventy entries actually decreases the amount of exposure they and all LGBTQ mystery writers will get.

Certainly, any award is political, and for that reason should not be given too much credence. The criteria for what makes a “best” book often changes from year to year and from award committee to award committee. Having been a finalist for the Lambda Award eleven times in two different categories, and winning three of those times, I have given the criteria some thought. These are the things a committee may (or may not) consider: literary merit, how well a book fits the genre (both elements in the case of an award like best gay mystery) and, overall career of the writer. Unfortunately, the LGBTQ mystery committee will now, in addition, have to consider the category of the award itself. Have too many lesbian mysteries won in the last few years? Too many gay mysteries? Not enough Q? If there are no Bi mysteries for five years does the first to enter automatically win? Lambda Literary has succeeded in making this award more political and therefore devalued it.

All of this is particularly disheartening at a time when major publishing continues to completely ignore the majority LGBTQ mysteries. I’m currently reading Ann Cleve’s The Long Call which features a gay protagonist. The back cover is full of endorsements from other big mystery writers. Not one of them is a gay mystery writer. The reason for that is that there are no big gay mystery writers. They’re not allowed. The only writers allowed by big publishing to take on gay mystery are people like Ann Cleves and James Patterson—both presumably heterosexual. Clearly, this is not the time for Lambda Literary to diminish the value of LGBTQ mysteries.

Indeed, in looking at their award list it seems that Lambda Literary treats all genre work in this shabby manner – except romance which for some reason is still allowed its separate categories. Certainly, this is justifiable if there are simply too few entries to justify separate categories but as I’ve stated, that is not true of mystery which, I believe, always equals romance in number of entries.

You’ll note that I’ve begun with the Lambda Literary mission statement. A move like this runs completely counter to this statement. It does not nurture nor advocate for LGBTQ mystery writers, it does not elevate the impact of our words, it does not create community—in fact will likely prove to be divisive, or preserve our legacies, nor does it affirm the value of our stories or our lives. For those reasons I will not be submitting to the Lambda Awards this year.

13 responses to “Why I Will Not Be Entering the Lambda Awards This Year

  1. I support your decision, and thank you for exposing this.

    Why would they do this? What do they gain by reducing the opportunities for exposure of gay mystery writers to a wider audience? This is rhetorical, but it seems like Lambda Literary is trying to silence the whole LGBTQ spectrum of writers? And “not enough authors in the ____ category to have a separate category” is a disgustingly poor excuse.

    I know I’ve written about this before.

    As a voracious reader, I cannot tell you (or maybe I can) how difficult it is to find a decent number of gay mystery writers that I can sample and then pick up new series. At a time where we ostensibly have more choice than ever (what with self-publishing), it’s seems like gay mystery writers are being pushed out – by big publishers, Amazon, even the “self-publishing” sites like LuLu and Smashworks. I spend a lot of time searching for gay mystery writers – who are needed more than ever, in our crazy world that seems increasingly frenetic. And Lambda’s announcement reduces our exposure (and our legitimacy in the literary world?)

    I have noticed this issue for gay fantasy and gay romances as well, where I want to read gay men writers, not heterosexual women writing as if they speak to the gay experience.

    When it comes to gay romances and mysteries, the gay men I’ve spoken to (friends and acquaintances), seem to think it’s ok that heterosexual men and heterosexual women are writing in the gay romance or mystery genre because it “opens the genre to a wider audience.” I disagree. I think it is still just a bunch of heterosexual writers masquerading their romances or mysteries as “gay” to make it seem “exotic” or “risk-taking.” But the authors are mainstream heterosexuals targeting mainstream readers, supported by mainstream publishing houses, and pretending to be speaking for and representative of the gay community. And it diminishes us, as writers and readers and people. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

    As a reader, what can I do to help?


  2. Marshall,

    I completely agree. The question is why are they doing it? And alternately, why are they lying about it?

    My problem with the awards is the politics, infighting, and obviously very clique-like junior high school shenanigans.

    There are far better ways for us LGBTQ mystery writers to focus our energy and resources. Thanks for your thoughtful take and words of logic and wisdom.

    I’m not submitting either.

    –Marko Realmonte


  3. Marshall —

    Thanks for explaining all of this and for taking a stand.

    I think I can see what they’re trying to do, but this is not the right approach.

    For one thing, if I were an L, B, T, or Q writer, I would be even more upset.

    G mystery has the largest number of titles, by far.

    Lumping everyone together doesn’t achieve their goal.

    Actually I have no idea what their goal is since there’s no press release or blog post I could find that explains, in detail, what their thinking behind this change really is.

    If their goal is increased exposure for B, T, and Q titles, I’m all for that. The more, the merrier.

    But it’s hard to tell, for sure.

    So, I hope that you stirring the pot here gets some additional clarity and, hopefully, true inclusivity that matters.

    Back to writing…


    Liked by 1 person

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