Or, 22 Reasons Why Your Favorite Book/Author Didn't Win (and Someone Else Did)
- Award Types or Methods
The processes by which awards are determined, though varying in detail, fall mostly into four groups, as described in this Index:
Hugos, Nebulas, and other awards determined by membership of the authorizing body use basically the same process as the Oscar Awards, or political elections. Voters make recommendations or nominations; the top vote-getters are placed on a ballot, and voting on the ballot determines the winners. The Nebulas and Stokers use a two-stage balloting process in which initial recommendations determine a preliminary ballot, voting on which determines the final ballot; the Hugos use a single-stage final ballot determined directly from nominations. The method of tabulating votes varies; the Hugos use a complex system of ranked voting and successive run-off elections to determine final ranked results in each category. The World Fantasy Awards employ a mixed process, in which judges determine winners from a ballot composed of nominations both from convention members and from the judges themselves.
Juried awards often release a set of finalists, called a shortlist, from which the jury will select the winner(s). Judges are usually responsible for selecting finalists themselves, though sometimes they are limited to the works submitted to them by publishers. Examples include the Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip K. Dick awards.
A juried or committee award without a shortlist, in which the winner(s) and sometimes runners-up are announced without preamble, are described here as prizes. Examples include the John W. Campbell and James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Awards. The term is also used for awards determined by committee, e.g. various convention and fan awards.
Polls are like single-stage ballots in which winners are determined by a single round of vote counting, without a final ballot or official nominations, and are used by magazines who survey their readers via mail-in ballots. Examples include the Locus Poll, in which voters rank up to five items per category, and the Interzone magazine poll, in which voters indicate stories from the magazine they did like and those they didn't and votes are combined and subtracted to reach a final score.
- Nominees and Nominations
With rare exception the word nominee refers to a person nominated for an award, either for a particular work or for some ongoing achievement, whereas nomination refers to the thing nominated, or all things nominated collectively, including persons, films, magazines, etc. In this Index even where a distinction might be inferred (e.g. "Nominations and Wins"), the word Nominees or Nominations refers to all finalists for an award including the winners; thus the Nominee Indexes include everyone (not just those who didn't win).
Note also that "nominee" and "nomination" are applied broadly to refer to all finalists, runners-up, honorable mentions, etc., for the various awards and polls in the Index, even those that do not literally involve a nomination process.
- Story Lengths: Novella/novelette/short story
These three terms for works of fiction shorter than a novel, though somewhat interchangeable in general parlance, have acquired specific definitions both in genre publishing and as distinct awards categories.
These are not rigoursly adhered to, with some awards using a broader "short fiction" category, or combining "novella/novelette". (Update 2009) More recently, given the inflation in book lengths and the more frequent publication of novella-plus length stories as books, Locus Magazine has expanded the word range for novellas to be up to 60,000 words for purposes of its own annual poll.
- Novella: 17,500 - 40,000 words (roughly, 50-100 pages of a book)
- Novelette: 7,500 - 17,500 words (roughly, 20-50 pages of a book)
- Short story: up to 7,500 words (20 pages or fewer of a book)
- Book Types: Collection/anthology
Two terms for books containing short stories, by one or more authors. The common distinction is this:
But these are generic senses of the terms, and some specific book titles violate this convention, e.g. the annual best-of-the-year anthologies edited by Dozois and Datlow/Windling have the word "Collection", not "Anthology", in their titles.
- Collection: a book of stories by one author (typically chosen by that author)
- Anthology: a book of stories by many authors (chosen by an editor)
- Genres: Science fiction/fantasy/horror
The distinction between the three related fantastic genres isn't critical for purposes of this Index, since no award criteria includes explicit definitions; however, since some awards do ostensibly limit their purview to one or the other, the following descriptions are offered.
First, informal descriptions: "everybody knows", more-or-less, that
- Science fiction is about the future; technology, spaceships; aliens, time travel...
- Fantasy is about magic, dragons, imaginary worlds...
- Horror is about monsters, evil, the supernatural...
More abstractly, SF is about the impact of science and technology on the human condition, and typically depicts the consequences of speculative premises made plausible by scientific rationalism, at least implicitly. Fantasy explores imaginary worlds or imaginary premises with no appeal to the reader's understanding of the past or present world; the appeal of fantasy instead lies in psychological, social, and mythological expressions of the human condition. Horror lies on a different scale, since it does not necessarily entail fantastic (i.e. supernatural) premises, but is more concerned with expressions of fear and anxiety about either the known or the unknown world.
While most genre stories fall clearly into one camp or another, mixes are not uncommon: fantasy that has horror elements is often called dark fantasy; blends of SF and fantasy are sometimes called science fantasy; even SF and horror can mix, as in tales of grotesque aliens invading spaceships.
Several varieties of SF need justification since they may not fit the typical description involving science and technology. Alternate history is considered SF, because the implicit rationale of its speculation is historical principle, in contrast to imaginary worlds of fantasy that have no implied physical or temporal relationship to our own world. Tales of time travel, faster-than-light space travel, or extra-sensory perception and telepathy, all concepts whose physical validity is questionable at best, are still SF when stories presume scientific rationales, or at least rational principles, in their workings. That said, stories relying on flimsy or obsolete science (e.g., TV series full of double-talk, stories that assume clones would be telepathic, etc.) may be bad SF, but they are not fantasy, as some defenders of rigorous "hard" SF would dismiss them; fantasy is something else again. Finally, even pre-historic tales about early humanoids can be viewed as SF if they are fundamentally about discovery or exploration of an unknown world and how that affects the human condition. To summarize,
In contrast with traditionally realistic ("mainstream") fiction, which is about exploration of the human condition in a known universe, science fiction is about exploration of the unknown universe (where such exploration is advanced via the rationality of science, and often expressed via the impact of technology) and its affect on the human condition, fantasy explores imaginary worlds inspired by the known human condition yet unconstrained by limitations of the known universe, and horror is ultimately about humanity's fear and dread of both the known and unknown universes.
For a collection of definitions of SF, see Definitions of SF; among the most apt or well-known are those by Asimov, Heinlein, Pohl, Stableford, Sturgeon, and Wollheim.