A few thoughts on selecting the Nebula Award finalists

This morning SFWA released the 2011 Nebula Award nominees and my first thought is hell yes! Partly this is because so many stories on my ballot made the final list. I make no apologies for that. When I love a story I want it to be recognized by the greater world, and awards like this are a great way to bring recognition and additional readers to worthy authors and works.

But I'm even satisfied with many of those stories and novels I didn't vote for. In fact, I think this is the best Nebula Award final ballot since 2009. At that time I praised the ballot because it contained so many of today's most exciting new writers. I could say the same thing about this year's ballot.

One thing non-SFWA members may not know is that the voting system used over the last few years has continually changed. For the 2009 ballot, SFWA members could see how many nominations each story received in the lead-up to the ballot selection. I really liked this because it allowed members to know which stories were gaining attention. If a story was surging in the tally, many members would go out of their way to read and consider it.

However, there was a downside to having a public tally--logrolling. People could see who supported each story. Because of this, it was claimed some SFWA members pledged to vote for different people's stories if those people voted for their own tales. Now, I personally thought this practice was rarer than people stated, but it was still a concern. And because of this in the two following years SFWA removed the ability of members to see how many votes a story received. Which of course caused many people to complain about a lack of transparency in the award process.

For this year's ballot, SFWA tried a new system. While SFWA has long hosted a section in our forum where members could recommend stories for the Nebula, this process was half-hearted and difficult to manage. Basically, if you liked a recommended story you replied to its comment thread in the member-only forum with another comment saying "Like."

This year, though, SFWA created an official recommended reading section on our site. You could add your support to and recommend stories and easily see how many other members liked the same stories. This system tallied the top recommended stories, and you could make recommendations either under your name or anonymously.

I personally found a number of stories through the list which ended up making my final ballot. I also believe this system allowed works by new writers to build support. And because this recommended reading list wasn't an official ballot, and could be done anonymously, it also cut down on the ability of people to logroll.

Anyway, congrats to all the Nebula Award finalists. And congrats to SFWA for improving the transparency and efficiency of this year's Nebula Award process.