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Monday 1 April 2002

Nebula Awards Voting Cancelled
by Paoli du Flippi

Paris, France (AP)-- SFWA President Norman Spinrad announced today that voting for the 2001 Nebula Awards has been cancelled.

The unprecedented action came in response to the “insane campaigning” tactics of SFWA members, according to a statement read by visibly furious author and chief executive Spinrad. “In past years we’ve managed to hide these shenanigans from public view, but no more. This year’s immoral and unethical tactics make it painfully obvious that the members of this organization — greedy sharecroppers, heartless franchisers, and media whores — are no better than politicians!”

While some sources attribute this year's antics to an address to SFWA members by political campaign managers James Carville and Roger Ailes at last year’s Worldcon, others saw nothing unusual in the events of recent months:

  • October: a mass spamming of the SFWA electronic mailing list consisted of a digital photo depicting the topless author Catherine Asaro seated upon Bill Clinton's lap. Plainly the work of a Photoshop prankster, the photo nonetheless resulted in several outraged members — both feminists and rightwingers — withdrawing their recommendations for Asaro's The Quantum Rose. (This misfortune was offset, however, by an equal number of new recommendations, accompanied by proposals of marriage and offers of modeling jobs.)
  • November: At a Barnes & Noble signing for author Andy Duncan in Weedpatch, Alabama, an unidentified man was witnessed handing out xeroxed copies of Duncan's story, "The Pottawatomie Giant," another Nebula frontrunner. Upon closer inspection, the story proved to be not Duncan's prose but rather some particularly outrageous "slash fiction" involving an erotic encounter between Lex Luthor and Clark Kent in their Smallville incarnations. The story quickly ended up on the Internet under Duncan's byline, and the ensuing controversy threatened his place on the ballot.
  • December: Reports of a dramatic upstate New York bank robbery cited one "George 'Hysteria Machine' Zebrowski", identified as an expatriate Polish associate of the Brooklyn-based Russian Mafia, who also dabbled in "pulp fiction". Of course, the criminal proved not to have any connection with the author of "Wound the Wind" — but the damage had been done to Zebrowski's sterling track record.
But the pace of malicious pranks only escalated in January and February:
  • Across New England, James Patrick Kelly found his every scheduled reading of "Undone" broken up by protestors accusing him of destroying protected wetlands and endangered species during the construction of his humongous New Hampshire McMansion.
  • Geoffrey Landis, on the ballot for his Mars Crossing, discovered a scientific paper promoting cold fusion posted under his name in several cyber-journals.
  • The disclosure that James Morrow was actually a Vatican employee seeking to give atheists a bad name caused the ranking of his "Auspicious Eggs" to plummet.
  • Connie Willis was forced to curtail her efforts promoting her novel Passage in order to deal with the assertion in the Weekly World News that her daughter was fathered by UFO aliens.
  • Spurious endorsements from "John Clute" and "Gary Wolfe" — "The best novel since Time began." and "Makes every other novel this year look like a pile of vomit." — nearly sank Tim Powers's Declare, when recanted by the genuine critics.

Still, the competitive spirit of Nebula contenders evident in these incidents might have gone unremarked — if not for the final blow, that which caused President Spinrad to suspend the whole awards process.

A masterful break-in at the offices of Locus allowed hackers to substitute files for the magazine’s April issue with counterfeits. Subsequent interception of proof copies with substitutes that matched Publisher Charles Brown’s expectations allowed the conspirators' bogus issue to be distributed without editorial intervention.

When the subverted edition reached the hands of subscribers, chaos erupted. Deaths of beloved SF icons were falsely announced. Numerous publishers were ostensibly bankrupt. Editors were committing suicide and murder to cover up embezzlement. The reputations of Patricia McKillip, Mike Resnick, and George R. R. Martin in particular, were beyond redemption.

Given the massive disruption and unreliability of all normal channels of news and publicity, President Spinrad deemed it impossible to conduct the Nebula voting with any assurance of accuracy.

In response to questions about when, if ever, the Nebula Awards would be revived, President Spinrad offered only the cryptic, "Maybe the same time Richard Calder wins the Booker Prize."

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