Campbell Awards Trivia

(The following post will be of interest only to SF geeks, so the rest of y’all are hereby warned. Geekery ahead!)

I think I may have just been eliminated for consideration for the Campbell Award, thanks to the updating of the eligibility rules of the award. The crux of the issue would be this story, which I sold to Strange Horizons back in 2001. By the Campbell’s previous eligibility rules, it did not qualify as a professional science fiction sale, so Old Man’s War would be my first pro sale in the genre, and I would thereby be eligible for Campbell consideration for the 2006 and 2007 Worldcons. However, under the new rules, it may be a professional sale (it’s unclear at this point), in which case my two-year eligibility for the Campbell ran out in 2003. Which would be, to say the least, an interesting development.

Mind you, I think the updating of the rules is good in a general sense, as it recognizes the increasing fragmentary (and online) nature of the SF field, particularly in short story work. Also, simply as a matter of opinion, I think Strange Horizons and other online sites should be considered pro sites; in the case of Strange Horizons, specifically, it pays pro scale and stories it has published have been nominated for Nebulas. What more do you need? If establishing the site’s pro legitimacy comes at the cost of my own Campbell eligibility, I wouldn’t begrudge SH the elevation.

As for me, well, I did get money for the story. I can’t and wouldn’t deny it was a professional sale, irrespective of previous Campbell definitions, because among other things, I am proud of that sale; it was the first time someone gave me money for writing science fiction. If it is decided that my Campbell eligibility has expired, then that’s the way it goes.

I do imagine the possible Campbell eligibility will come as a surprise to number of writers, however. As SH editor Jed Hartman notes on his online journal, “the Hugo administrators appear to be trying to ease the transition and not cost anyone their eligibility, but it looks to me like the current approach is going to mean some people’s eligibility periods are condensed from two years down to, well, this week.” Or, as I mentioned in my case, the period has already lapsed.

The solution to this is pretty easy: New rules should be effective as of the date they were put into effect; previous rules should be in effect for all work published while they were in effect. Or more simply: No grandfathering. Works that were previously ineligible should remain ineligible.

Naturally, I’m not disinterested in this particular formulation, because, sure, I’d like to have a crack at the Campbell, should someone see fit to nominate me. On the other hand, aside from my plight, disqualifying a certain number of writers and leaving others scrambling to take advantage of eligibility they didn’t know they were burning through doesn’t seem like the smartest publicity maneuver the Campbell Award administrators could make. We’ll have to see how it goes.

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