I’ve agreed to be a judge for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards, and today my first box of books to consider arrived — 16 books in all, only 1 a hardcover, all the others trade paperbacks. Only 3 are from familiar publishers.

I’ve never been a judge before; the closest I’ve gotten has been, for over a decade now, to be invited to submit short fiction suggestions to the Sturgeon Award committee, suggestions which are then compiled along with others’ suggestions by the administrators and forwarded to the actual judges for their consideration. Not quite the same as being a judge, wherein I, along with four others, are tasked with considering all the eligible candidates, narrowing them down to a list of finalists, and then determining the winner.

The task of being a judge is potentially a huge undertaking, entailing the reading of dozens or hundreds of books, not to mention dickering with the other judges about what should prevail, but I only accepted the offer because of the informal lore I’ve gathered about how such judging actually works. Meaning that, no one actually reads through every candidate, or even a majority of them. Rather, a sort of triage process takes place, rather like ploughing through a slush pile — you *start* every book, read a few pages, and are able to quickly dismiss many right away, perhaps setting aside a few for possible consideration, and actually reading through to the end only a small minority of titles. I’m certainly *hoping* this will be the case, because otherwise the prospect of reading even 16 whole books in the next few weeks would not be plausible, not with other commitments and constraints. In any case, I’ll give it my best.

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