The following is the text of an email I sent this evening to the Parsec Awards Committee. If you agree, please chime in in the comments.
A couple years ago, the categories surround podcast novels were modified so that single reader podcast novels were given their own category, while full-cast productions were transferred in to the long form audio drama category. While this did solve the persistent issue that had excellent novelists like Nathan Lowell losing to full-cast productions on the basis of production lushness rather than writing merit, it has introduced a more basic, and more intractable, problem.
The Audio Drama artform is a well-defined one, stretching back to the very beginnings of radio. The Audio Drama community is a vibrant one, with many sets of awards all basically agreeing on the formula. These are dramatic, scripted presentations–a movie for the ears, so to speak. But Audio Dramas are not, and never have been, audiobooks. The audiodrama version of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, for example, has a different text from the audiobook version–it is a dramatic adaptation, with narrative weight shifted from the narrator to the dialogue and the soundscaping.
Full-cast audiobooks are a younger art form, dating back only to the 1980s or so (Simon and Schuster sometimes uses this format, and Full Cast Audio is a company wholly devoted to it). These productions contain the full text (or abridged text) of the novel, complete with all narration. The text of the novel is not adapted for the production, with the occasional exception of omitting dialogue tags. Soundscaping and music may be used, but not to the exclusion of the text. In other words, these are Audio *Books,* not Audio *Dramas.* Full-cast is a fully distinct art form, with a fully distinct history, format requirements, and production ethos.
I submit that conflating the two in a single category is a grave mistake. It does injustice to the unique difficulties and challenges involved in adapting a book to dramatic form or in writing an original dramatic script on one side, and to the different production challenges and more spare style and choices necessitated by the full cast producer.
The Full-Cast producers community is a bona-fide community within the podiobooks/podcast fiction community, even to the point where there is a podcast dedicated to teaching people the ins and outs of the form (The Full-Cast Podcast, which is a 2011 Parsec finalist for “Best Podcast about SpecFic Content Creation”). Yet, as a result of the category changes two years ago, Full-Cast productions have been effectively sidelined. Prominent full-cast community producers such as myself, Philippa Ballantine, Abbie Hilton, Chris Lester, Starla Huchton, et al., who produce full-length *unadapted* full-cast audiobooks have been placed in direct competition with long running episodic series such as Decoder Ring Theater (which is in no way a “long form” drama, yet consistently gets nominated as such), Prometheus Radio Theater (which does actual long-form audio drama serials), and other excellent dramatic production companies whose art form is entirely distinct from the full-cast format.
I urge you to rectify this situation for the 2012 Parsec Awards by giving full-cast audiobooks its own category (or categories, long-form and short-form, as there are a number of casts that do full-cast short stories). Bring us full-cast producers back into the fold, with a category where we compete on the merits of our own form, rather than being artificially forced into a category with equally excellent, but fully distinct, Audio Dramas.
Thank you for your time.
-J. Daniel Sawyer
2009 Parsec Finalist, Best Newcomer, Predestination and Other Games Of Chance
2009 Parsec Nominee, Best short story, Sculpting God
2010 Parsec Nominee, Down From Ten
P.S. This email also will appear later this evening as a blog post at http://www.jdsawyer.net