Scalzi and the Nebulas
Posted by hyperpat on March 19, 2007
John Scalzi announced his candidacy for the post of president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) last Thursday. While most of the commentary over on his Whatever site has been very positive, there has also been a strong thread indicating that he must be out of his mind to willingly take on a job like this. But his stated platform clearly lays out things that need to be addressed by that organization, things that have relevance beyond the internal workings of it, that might affect every sf fan.
Most prominent of these is his stated goal of bringing the Nebula awards back to the prominence that they used to have, when they rivaled the Hugo Awards in terms of importance and in recognizing the best in the field. As it sits now, the Nebulas trail the Hugos in terms of timeliness, often being awarded for books up to a full year later than the Hugos. Especially for paperback issues, when a book does receive a Hugo, it will immediately get notice of that award splashed on the cover, and it definitely helps drive sales and notice. Due to the time lag, though, a similar notice about a Nebula award frequently doesn’t make it, as the edition is already printed. For those books that don’t receive the Hugo but did manage to get the Nebula, by the time the award is made, often the book is no longer ‘fresh’, and publishers may not be willing to bring out a new edition of such material that would highlight its award status. And this is a shame.
Science fiction is still looked upon in too many circles as ‘entertainment only’ fiction, not worthy of serious consideration. As the Nebulas are awarded by vote of other sf writers, frequently the books that get the award are the more literate variety of offerings in the field, and often showcase just exactly how good works in the field can be. It would seem as if, under current policies, sf is voluntarily given up a great opportunity to promote itself as far more than ‘genre’ fiction.
Whether Scalzi is successful in his bid for the presidency or not, I hope that his airing of this issue will cause a true rejuvenation of the Nebula status, and perhaps a little better reputation for the field can be had in circles that currently unjustly denigrate it.