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Old March 6 2008, 03:49 AM   #1
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SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

This year's Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Nebula ballot contains a script entry which has proven to be controversial and has caused some of the SFWA members to protest its inclusion on the ballot.

As seen on the SFWA website, the 2007 Nebula Award Final Ballot has been released and contains an entry that some consider to be in violation of the rules of the contest. The entry is from Star Trek: Phase II, formerly known as Star Trek: New Voyages. The title of the nominated entry is World Enough and Time.

The controversy is due to a belief that the entry does not meet the eligibility criteria needed to be on the ballot. The rules state that an eligible script must be "a professionally produced audio, radio, television, motion picture, multimedia, or theatrical script." Star Trek fan films have traditionally not been professionally made, nor able to make a profit, lest they fall afoul of Paramount, which owns the rights to Star Trek. Star Trek: Phase II has always presented itself as "fan films" for fans.

One SFWA member who disagrees with the inclusion of World Enough and Time is author and editor Keith R.A. DeCandido. "They are not professionally produced," he said, referring to fan films, which Phase II has usually presented their films as being. "What's more, they're unauthorized and, by the letter of the law, illegal. In fact, one of the reasons why they're not prosecuted, is because they don't turn a profit, which is one of the legion of ways that they're not professionally produced."

Marc Scott Zicree, who co-wrote World Enough and Time disagreed with DeCandido's assessment. "As co-writer, director and executive producer of 'World Enough and Time' (and also as someone with a thirty-year career as a writer-producer in network television), I'm glad to clarify things and categorically state that 'World Enough and Time' was a professional production that utilized literally hundreds of men and women, many of whom work full-time in film and television, and that it was done entirely with Paramount's knowledge and approval, and in no way violated their copyright."

Michael Capobianco, SFWA president, posted a response from SFWA regarding the decision to keep World Enough and Time on the ballot. "The Board examined these questions and voted unanimously to keep the work on the Nebula ballot," he said. "The decision was based on evidence that was provided from a number of sources, and we thank the parties who made statements and provided additional information to the Board. Since the term 'professionally produced' is nowhere defined in the Award Rules, there is some latitude for interpretation. However, certain precedents had been set by the SARC, and they were followed by the Board insofar as they were applicable. It was noted that the spirit of the Nebulas is one of inclusiveness, and that none of the other Nebula categories include the 'professionally produced' criterion."

Capobianco went on to say that "One factor that was considered important was that Marc Zicree and Michael Reaves were paid for their script of 'Worlds Enough and Time.' Other factors were looked at, and, in at least one instance, it was concluded that the production only qualified under a technicality, but the technicality was in keeping with past interpretations of the Award Rules."

"It is clear from our investigation that Paramount has permitted WEaT to exist and encouraged its production and that of subsequent productions by the same company," said Capobianco. "This is not simply a fan production that was tolerated by Paramount; while it may or may not have been specifically authorized, it has had tacit authorization. Under these circumstances, the Board felt that WEaT should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed on the ballot.

In a follow up blog entry, DeCandido said, "What I have learned from this is that SFWA blithely put the words 'professionally produced' in the guidelines for Best Script without having a clear notion of what that means exactly." He added that "Personally, I think that CBS/Paramount's "tacit approval" is a dubious criterion to base this on, and seeing an organization that supposedly values the protection of copyright and trademark use that is disheartening."

Both of DeCandido's posts on the matter can be found here and here. Zicree's statement can be found here. Michael Capobianco's posting of the SFWA decision is located here.

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Old March 6 2008, 09:42 PM   #2
Geoff Thorne
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

I saw the piece. I liked it a lot. It is certainly of professional quality. However, due to the reasons outlined by Mr. DeCandido, it shouldn't be considered in competition with professional films. It is not a professional film, regardless of its technical quality.

This is the inherent problem with creating fan fiction. If the Nebulas wish to had out an award for excellence in this area, I suggest creating a separate category specifically for fan fic.

Hell, then I could play too.

But fan fiction, filmed or otherwise, should not be considered in the same category as pro fiction. Not unless the fans wish to operate under the same rules and restrictions that constrain pro production.
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Old March 6 2008, 11:55 PM   #3
Admiral James Kirk
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

I'm not sure I agree with you. The movie was written, directed and produced by show business professionals and had many professional actors in it. It just wasn't produced by a major movie studio. It was an independant film with the copywright holders sanction attached to it.

Besides I wonder if Keith would argue this if Stephen King were nominated for a novel he wrote that he had printed by a vanity publisher. Would he argue that it wasn't a professional novel just because it wasn't published by any of the major book companies?
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Old March 7 2008, 05:42 PM   #4
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

SFWA has deemed the script eligible, even if there is still some question of its legal status to a group of the members, myself included. But the script has been deemed eligible according to the Board's interpretation of the rules as they stand now.

And Ken, please remember that there are a lot more people than Keith who were involved in this. I was actually the person who brought it to his attention. So, if you're going to snark on anyone, I'm the one you should be aiming at, not Keith. He just became the public face of the controversy instead of me. But I'm the one who got it going.
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Old March 8 2008, 05:41 AM   #5
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

Admiral James Kirk wrote: View Post
I'm not sure I agree with you. The movie was written, directed and produced by show business professionals and had many professional actors in it. It just wasn't produced by a major movie studio. It was an independant film with the copywright holders sanction attached to it.
As James Cawley himself has pointed out, this is not so. And the fact that pros worked on it is irrelevant. If Kobe Bryant plays a pickup game on the streets of L.A., and brings along his teammates, that doesn't make it an NBA game. For that matter, if I write fanfiction, it's still fanfiction.


Besides I wonder if Keith would argue this if Stephen King were nominated for a novel he wrote that he had printed by a vanity publisher. Would he argue that it wasn't a professional novel just because it wasn't published by any of the major book companies?
I wouldn't, but not for the reason you think. See, the prose sections of the Nebula don't have that caveat. Fanfiction can be nominated for (and possibly win) a Nebula. Only the Best Script category has the qualifier that the script must be professionally produced.

This has nothing to do with the fan films and their quality, this has to do with SFWA and its rules of eligibility for the Nebulas.
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Old March 8 2008, 09:15 AM   #6
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

I have to wonder, what's the point of this? What's the goal? It can't be solely about the technicality of it.

Is it to preserve the legitimacy of officially licensed writing? Or is it implying that if this script deserves an award, so does fan fiction? It can't just be "Sorry guys, but rules are rules."

I just want to understand where you guys are coming from.
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Last edited by Spaceman Spiff; March 8 2008 at 10:36 AM.
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Old March 8 2008, 04:39 PM   #7
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

If by "this" you mean the initial complaint -- sorry to disappoint you but, yes, it's because the rules were violated. STNV isn't a professional production, and it has to be to qualify for the Best Script Nebula. When TerriO and I saw it was nominated, we both went, "Buh?" because the rules for eligibility specifically exclude it.

And James Cawley has said on this very BBS that STNV is, in fact, not a professional production, and in fact its amateur status is precisely why CBS gives the "tacit approval" that SFWA used as justification for keeping it on the ballot. Confused yet?

I've been a member of SFWA since 1990, and an active member since 1996, so I have a vested interest as a member in the organization actually following its own rules -- or, at the very least, examining their rules and clarifying them when it gets weird.

So yes, in fact, your assertion notwithstanding, it is "Sorry guys, but rules are rules." If you don't follow the rules, why bother having them?
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Old March 8 2008, 07:44 PM   #8
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

It seems that the rules were violated and when this was pointed out, there was a bit of dancing around to include the script anyway.

As someone who is an outsider who can be totally objective about this, what happen looks rather smoky and didn't look quite kosher. It would have been better for the committee to have erred on the side of caution, not including the script. Then they should have clarified just what it is to be a "professional production" so that this doesn't happen again.

One does want to maintain the integrity of the awards and when something like this happens, the value of the award is a bit sullied.
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Old March 11 2008, 12:23 AM   #9
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

KRAD wrote: View Post
I've been a member of SFWA since 1990, and an active member since 1996, so I have a vested interest as a member in the organization actually following its own rules -- or, at the very least, examining their rules and clarifying them when it gets weird.
The latter makes much more sense to me, especially since it's come to light that fan fiction has never been disqualified by the SFWA. Really, it should all be allowed, or none of it. In my opinion (for whatever that's worth), they should start with their intended goal--are they looking to reward professionals or professionalism?--then work from there.

Terri's stated that she's sure that these clarifications will be brought up on the ballot next year, so it sounds like some good will come of it all.

I just hope that if the heart of this whole thing really is advocacy for fan fiction, you guys will be on the side supporting well-done fan projects.
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Last edited by Spaceman Spiff; March 11 2008 at 12:33 AM.
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Old March 14 2008, 03:26 PM   #10
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

Let's put it this way, I suspect enough of a stink has been raised that these issues will be clarified on the ballot next year.

I can never be sure of anything with SFWA. One can hope sanity will prevail, though.
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Old March 22 2008, 12:39 AM   #11
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

If a non-professional production can beat a professional one, why not let it?
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Old March 22 2008, 12:43 AM   #12
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Re: SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

Grrr this place doesn't let you edit a post! I was going to add, it would only be an issue if it were the reverse: a professional production unfairly competing in an award for non-professionals.
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