The call has sounded again for the 2010 Fractal Universe Calendar. And the website for all things FU has been given a text-heavy facelift. But peel away the new cosmetic facade, and nothing has changed.
The FU folks get really upset if you call this whole shebang a contest. Check our archives for details. So, this year, they've pulled out all the stops to be unwaveringly clear to inform you that the venture is an "image submission process." But, hey, categorically, under no circumstances, is it a contest. How do we know? Because, like your mother, they said so. From the FU website FAQ page:
We would like to stress that while this is a wonderful opportunity for the fractal community as a whole, this is *not* a contest. The publisher will choose images that it sees as most commercially viable.
And, in case your eyes cannot focus in the new, denser FAQ verbiage, the posted announcements around various fractal venues, like Renderosity's Fractal Forum, also reinforce the non-contest nature of this year's process:
We would like to stress again this year that this is a commercial venture, and not a contest. The publisher will ultimately decide the final 13 images that will be included in the calendar.
You see, it's that second statement that presumably is the deal breaker. Because the publisher makes the final selections, the "image submission process" does not resemble a contest.
And we've argued before -- and say with a sigh again this year -- such a claim is ludicrous.
What exactly is one supposed to call this "image selection process"? If it's a publishing venture, it certainly deviates from standard practice. Publishers traditionally hire an editor who solicits material directly from those that publishers hope to publish. The editor is financially compensated for her or his services.
But what happens here? The FU "editor" actually is a screener who pares down submissions to a more reasonable number. After this initial cut, the finalists are tranferred to the publishers who serve as judges that make the final thirteen selections included in the calendar.
The model for this whole process is not one of proactive solicitation. It is, in fact, competition. And my edition of WordWeb Pro notes that a synonym for competition is contest.
And, if the process is competitive, then questions can be asked about the manner in which this particular competition is being run.
Like, in this case, how are the editors compensated? The traditional method is to simply pay them -- with a check. And one has to ask why that method is not used here. Instead, the FAQ tells us:
This year, Avalanche Publishing has again agreed to include at least one image from the editor in the final 13, in recognition of efforts as otherwise uncompensated editor / facilitator.
Neither Tim nor I have ever argued that the FU editor(s) should not be compensated for services rendered. We have, however, questioned why compensation has to be including the artwork of the editor. When such rewards are given, especially in a competitive environment, propriety becomes suspect and issues of professionalism should be raised. Contrary to what our adversaries claim, such compensation is professionally frowned upon because questions of conflict of interest invariably come into play.
If the publisher is willing to monetarily compensate artists for inclusion in the calendar, then why not just pay the editors directly for their efforts? This simple solution would eliminate suspicious activity like...
...like the fact that just over 40% of the Fractal Universe Calendar selected entries for the last four years were made up of images by the previous four editors.
The mists are lifting. Why should FU editors lobby for change? Apparently, it's good to be the editor.
For all of the fresh text covering the FU site, here are a few things that still aren't clear:
*What exactly is the editor's compensation? I'm confused. Ex OT troll Ken claims "at least one image included" is the only payment. But ex-editor Keith, in a now deleted (by him) OT comment, suggested that the standard payment ($200 for an image or $400 for a cover) is also given to images by editors. Which is it?
*Why doesn't the FU site list the editors for past years? Is it because the powers that be don't want you to do the math and discover the ratio of included images by editors?
*Who exactly are the we mentioned in the quotes above? This year's FU
contest website lists only one editor. The only other person listed is someone who maintains the website. Is this person part of the us? And how is the site's web designer compensated for her services?
*In the past, editors have often had more than one image included in the final selections. Precisely how many of the editors' own images can be included in the preliminary cut of 200? The FAQ does not say.
*The FAQ notes that the list of the final 200 images will not be made public. Why -- other than because we say so? There are no privacy issues involved. And artists who made the cut might have added incentive to submit again the following year.
*What protocols are in place to help prevent conflicts of interest -- like editors or even "the publishing team" recognizing the submitted work of friends or family? Blind judging is apparently not strictly used, since the FAQ notes that signatures are allowed on submissions.
*What, exactly, does this mean?:
Q: Will artwork, other than that submitted to you via this website, be considered for inclusion for the calendar?
A: Yes -- possibly. In the past, Avalanche Publishing has requested specific fractals or fractal types. Special requests of individual artists may be made by approaching them directly.
Okaaay. So, why not just do this in the first place? Pay editors to make solicitations. Then you'll have a true publishing venture, and OT will never again question your operating methods. But, apparently, you're running a competitive process to generate material -- and doing solicitations, too? Will you publish a list showing which images were submitted and which were solicited? What is the percentage of solicited images included (say, in the last five years)?. Can FU Calendar editors (past or current) be among those artists who can be directly solicited? This whole bit sounds suspiciously like Damien M. Jones' BMFAC rationalization of needing "a hedge against insufficient quality."
We hope you will find that your questions have already been anticipated and answered. If not, please contact us. We will try to answer you personally, and add your question with it's answer to this page -- here. Where necessary, we will contact the publisher on your behalf for clarification.
Fair enough. Consider yourself contacted...
Of course, Avalanche Publishing -- or any publishing firm -- is free to publish whatever fractal art it chooses. Then again, as artists, all of us have a stake in what is presented to the public as the contemporary face of fractal art. Do you feel the Fractal Universe Calendar's face in this regard needs a comprehensive facelift?
But that's another post for another day.