Thursday, January 15, 2009

Major Overhaul to Nebula Rules

I'm not sure how they managed to swing this -- particularly since it seems to have all been done very quietly -- but the current SFWA Administration is to be commended on a number of very smart changes to the Nebula rules:

1) Eligibility is by calendar year; eliminating the bizarre and counter-intuitive "rolling eligibility" that made the Nebs usually a year behind every other award.

2) There will be no preliminary ballot; the six works with the most nominations get on the one and only ballot.

3) Juries are gone, except for the Norton. (And that last makes sense, since nothing qualified for the Norton based on SFWA nominations this year. Of course, that raises the question of why SFWA gives out an award that its members can't be bothered to nominate for, but we'll leave that aside for now.)

4) My least-favorite category, "Best Script," is gone, to be replaced by what looks like its predecessor, the Ray Bradbury Award.

5) The Norton and Bradbury awards are firmly Not Nebulas, in the same way the Campbell is Not A Hugo.

6) To me, this is the most important one: nominations will be secret, killing -- or at least seriously maiming -- the perception that Nebula nominations were a huge round of team log-rolling.

I'm sure someone will be complaining about this online very quickly, in the name of that poor class of ink-stained wretches whose books are always published on December 31st, but these look to me like great changes which will go a long way towards restoring the respect and importance of the Nebula. Good job, SFWA.

[via Torque Control]


Tobias Buckell said...

Yeah, I thought it looked like a good overhaul myself. Even if it doesn't work out, or something unexpected comes out of it, they should get kudos for trying something new and more in line with how other awards are run!

Cheryl said...

Permit me one small nit-pick.

The Norton and Bradbury are Not Nebulas because SFWA says they are not, and for no other reason, as far as I can see.

The Campbell is Not A Hugo because it is owned and sponsored by Dell Magazines, and is only administered by WSFS.

These are not the same thing at all.

Unknown said...

Well, I complained online about it. Cause I'm crabby like that. And one of my complaints is the December thing, though I have others. I liked the rolling eligibility because I thought it made the Nebulas a higher quality, particular than the Hugos. And no, I'm not griping about my own authorial chances.

Andrew Wheeler said...

King Rat: The rolling eligibility thing was a noble experiment, but the Nebs tried it for a long time, and there was no notable increase in the quality of the nominees. And it did contribute to the general sense of the Nebs as being tired and out-of-date.

So it might be, like pure Marxism, one of those things that makes a lovely theory, but isn't so hot in practice.

Andrew Wheeler said...

King Rat: Another problem with rolling eligibility was that it was terribly confusing...and it seems to have confused you.

The point wasn't to have a work eligible for a period of two years; it was to have every work eligible for precisely the same length of time -- one year to the day.

Unknown said...

I didn't care that I didn't know the exact eligibility requirements. I was pretty sure I would only see books published in the last couple of years, and beyond that I didn't care. I don't know what the eligibility requirements are for the N.B.A. or the Booker. Not in detail.

Why is it important that people outside the S.F.W.A. understand the details?

Maybe the Nebulas weren't quite as popular as the Hugos, but I think that's mainly because the Hugos are voted on by the fans and so they see it as their award. I don't think changing the rolling eligibility is going to make the Nebulas more successful.

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