And sorry Lanko, everything you wrote about IS bias. It doesn't matter if you started off with it in your head (prejudice), it came down to a tie and you wanted to throw a buddy a bone (favoritism), or because you know a writer is always writing about cool stuff you never pick up on, so you figure some of that stuff is probably in there, so you vote for their story (bias).
No, it's not.
People may like or not like certain aspects or elements in their stories, be it darkness, extreme violence, profanity, romance or comedy. That's their preference.
If I use those elements in my story, and later people tell me they didn't vote for it because it wasn't for them, I'm not calling anyone biased because of it. You simply can't appeal to everyone.
Others may say that Fantasy isn't as appealing to them as Horror, or Romance, or Science Fiction. That's preference.
I remember when Terry Pratchett died, and one "critic" at The Guardian completely bashed his work and his fans, because for that critic Fantasy was for children, magic and make-believe worlds absurd and Fantasy would never have the same depth and writing as "true Literature" would. The funny thing? He had never read anything of Pratchett's. Now that's
bias. And as fellow Fantasy fans, I'm sure you can easily find similar people around.
You can call all this personal preference - it's personal, and it's based on your preferences - but it's not fair if you have a reputation for mediocre stories
Since you said that, now I'm gonna call you on it and ask you what are those mediocre stories and if they received large amount of votes because of the author's name.
And what science you used to determine its supposed mediocrity and voting bias.
You can call all this personal preference - it's personal, and it's based on your preferences - but it's not fair if you are competing with someone who has a reputation for excellence. Things as minor as uniform color have a measurable bias in the Olympics, so it's not like anyone's a cackling, fun-spoiling favorite-monger, but anonymous is more objective. Because science.
How is that so?
Some people are here for years, with 10+ or 20+ submissions. Some people are published authors. Others may be writing their very first piece. Of course it's more likely to be differences in skill and execution.
What would be fair to you? Put entries of published authors in one group, unpublished past winners and veterans in another and newbies in yet another?
Oh wait, there are some months where newbies have way more votes than those veterans or published authors. Another refute of the whole bias thing.
When I entered I was another newbie going against way more experienced people, and most likely they too passed through the same thing. I had to learn and adapt to the format, do things differently, have structure, make every word count. It isn't a quick process, it doesn't happen from one month to the next. And it's invaluable to pass such skills to long form, which is my long term plan and objective.
And if I simply think that my stories were not receiving votes from 10 or 20 other people because they were going automatically for older members simply because of name, then the biased one would be me, not the other 10 or 20 people around.
I like having to make every word count and work my ass off to be able to compete against the more experienced and more advanced members. It's how you improve.
Also, there's nothing objective or scientific about book and story reading. If anything, it's one of the most subjective
things out there. You can absolutely love what other person hated and vice-versa for absolutely different reasons.
Just like people can vote (or not) for the same story for different reasons and preferences.
Also, this "judging by the writing" is not free of its own biases and personal pet peeves as well. I'm sure we have plenty of them from writers books, blogs, publishers, agents, editor and even other writers.
"Don't start describing the weather", "Don't use too many POVs", "You are telling too much", "Don't use adverbs", "Don't use second person", "This is too flowery!", "Don't do this and that".
Authors break those rules all the time and can be extremely successful in doing so as well.
So "judging only by writing" isn't this "absolute neutral free of bias" people are making it out to be. You have your own preferences about various aspects of the craft as well.
Those things I mentioned could make you cringe and make a story lose a lot of points with you, but someone else may simply not care. Why is that not considered bias by you as well?
Also, if someone is really that biased towards or against someone, anonymity does really nothing for the problem. They will continue to vote (or refuse to vote) for that specific author, the only difference is that it's now happening by chance
and may affect different people (if they can't simply identify easily whoever is their "target").
Personal preference (theme, style, voice, etc) will have far more impact on your voting.
I will say to any newcomer that you have nothing to worry, being pretty much a newcomer myself, with 9 or 10 entries. There are people here with 20+ over years of submissions.
There was never a winner that I didn't vote for or that I felt it didn't deserve even if I didn't vote for it myself. There are plenty of first time winners this year, which disproves positive bias towards others, and veterans winning for a second or third time, which also disproves negative bias.
There are veterans who haven't won for a very long time, who had their first victory recently and very old members who write very well and still have yet to win.
This contest is on it's SIXTH YEAR. That's right, that's more than HALF A DECADE. It will complete 72 different contests by December.
And with 72 contests over more than half a decade, do you know how many victories the top author has? Five. Yes, five.
So rest assured and go write and then submit! Then analyze, ask, practice, and write again and submit again!