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Thursday 1 April 2004

SFWA Announces "Permanent Rolling Eligibility" for Nebula

by McClain Wahewski

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has announced its latest revisions to the rules governing the eligibility process for the Nebula Awards. Though collectively referred to as "permanent rolling eligibility," the changes actually occur in three steps.

First, all stories or "similar prose-related productions" (the wording is presumably meant to avoid excluding poems, live performances, and other art forms that are not technically stories, novellas, novelettes, novels, or scripts), previously eligible for a year from date of publication, will continue to be eligible until they have acquired the ten recommendations necessary to be placed on the preliminary ballot.

Second, any work making it onto the preliminary ballot will remain there until it has been voted onto the final ballot or its author has requested that it be removed.

Finally, any work which has been placed on the Nebula ballot and failed to win an award may re-qualify to be placed on the preliminary ballot upon receipt of ten additional recommendations.

The practical effect of these changes is that all works of science fiction and fantasy will henceforth be eligible for the Nebula Award indefinitely.

Why such a radical revamping of what was once a straightforward annual award? A SFWA spokesperson, speaking anonymously, explained it thusly: "The problem is that some of the best works of SF are not initially popular, either because of inadequate promotion on the part of the publisher or because the votership was simply not receptive to innovative work. Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, to our lasting shame, never received a Nebula. Had this system been in place then, an award would have been, in time, inevitable."

The first Nebula Awards were presented in 1966, well after the Foundation series was completed. When challenged to name a similarly deserving contemporary work that would benefit from the revisions, the SFWA spokesperson said, "In all modesty, my own most recent novel was a classic, and yet it didn't even make it onto the preliminary ballot. So there really was no alternative to tweaking the rules." And if the current tweak doesn't work? "Then we'll just keep on tweaking," the spokesperson snarled, "until justice is done!"

McClain Wahewski contributed Scandal Spreads: Bones of the Earth Based on de Camp Classic? in 2002.

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