[Editor’s Introduction: Jonathan Brazee, who authored the 20Booksto50K Recommended Reading List which succeeded in gaining Nebula Awards nominations for several works, made the following statement in the File 770 comments section and asked for help in making it more visible:]
STATEMENT BY JONATHAN BRAZEE
I am Jonathan Brazee, and I worded the post that contained the 20Booksto50K Recommended Reading List. I am a writer as well as a retired Marine colonel. I mention that because I hold honor to be of vital importance, and I would not knowingly or purposely do something untoward or unethical.
For background, the intention for the list was for visibility. I knew any indie title needed nominations from the membership at large to make the ballot. I wanted to have a diverse ballot with indie representation, but not to nominate or vote for something just because it was indie-written or by a member of the group. All I wanted was for the works on the list to be considered and judged on their own merits.
In addition, the list was there to excite other group members about the Nebulas and SFWA itself, to show that striving for quality might be recognized.
HOWEVER . . .
I screwed up, and I take full responsibility for that.
I am writing this both as an apology, because regardless of my intention, my actions have hurt people and organizations that I care about. But I also write this so that other people can understand the nuances of where my mistakes lay. There isn’t anything wrong with reading lists, but mine made mistakes.
First: this specific post was not approved by anyone on the SFWA staff. The list grew out of a request for indie titles for consideration. I approached a SFWA staff member and discussed posting an indie reading list in the group. I was told it would be OK, but to steer clear of doing things that could be taken as encouraging a specific vote. And I think my first rendition of the list did that. Where I blew it was in the last rendition, where I took it further than the initial discussion and posts. No one on the SFWA staff vetted the specific post. No one said I could list the titles as I did. No one said I could write what I did about the Norton. That was my fault.
Second, I should not have listed the titles in the order I did or included asterisks. It was an attempt to encourage the 20Booksto50k membership at large, not for the small number of 20Books SFWA members who had or were going to nominate. It was stupid of me, and by doing that, I broke a rule that things behind the SFWA forum wall remain there. Although it was not the intention, I can understand the perception that this was a way to ask people to nominate a certain manner.
Third, I became too enthusiastic about a Norton candidate. Last year, two slots were left empty because only four had the minimum ten nominations. I wanted a full ballot, and when we had a book on the recommended reading list, I became too specific, writing that if ten people read the book, liked it enough to nominate it, and then did their nominations before the close, then it probably would get on the ballot.
My intent was to be enthusiastic about indies and get visibility on their work, not just for members of 20Booksto50k. There should have been indie titles by writers not in the group on the list.
I am supposed to be a writer, someone who understands the power of words. And I consider myself a smart individual. But the execution of my post, no matter the intent, was poor. When I write something that leaves the impression other than I intended, then that is on me.
I love SFWA. I love 20Booksto50K. I love award season and reading for them. Joining SFWA has been a dream of mine since 1975, and 20Booksto50k had helped me, and countless others, become better at the business side of writing. I would never purposely do anything to harm either of them. I have worked hard to help SFWA in every way I can, and I have tried to help others not just within 20Books, but to all writers. I hope I can still be a positive force for both groups, but if I’ve wrecked that, then I accept the consequences of my mistakes.
So, where does that leave us?
First, none of the other nominees asked me to put their title on the list. I would ask that you don’t hold it against them.
Second, 20Booksto50k was not directly involved with it. In this case, the group was a platform, nothing else.
Third, while the concept for an indie recommendation list was discussed with a staff member, the end post was not vetted. I wish it had been, as it never would have been posted as is.
Fourth, while I had what I consider the best of intentions, my unfortunate wording has cast a pall over the awards and caused ill feelings, something that has kept me awake at nights since this broke. I can’t turn back the clock, and I have nothing in my power to change what happened. But what I can do is to offer that my own nomination be removed from consideration for the award.
If there is one thing I hope to convey is that nothing was done with ill intention. Naivete, yes, sloppiness yes, but no ill intention.
Please don’t let my mistakes reflect badly on SFWA, the Nebula Awards, 20Booksto50k or on any of the other nominees.
SFWA BOARD STATEMENT
[Editor’s introduction: Today the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Board responded to the current controversy with a “SFWA Board Statement Regarding the 2018 Nebula Ballot” on the SFWA Blog.]
In light of recent events regarding the 2018 SFWA Nebula Nominations short list, the SFWA Board is aware of the ongoing issues. We will continue discussion on ways to improve our processes so that something of this nature does not happen again. With that said, we would like to make it clear that the organization frowns on any attempt to manipulate our Nebula Awards nomination and final ballot processes which includes logrolling and slate campaigns. In our ongoing dialogue, the SFWA Board will be working in concert with the Nebula Awards Commissioner and the Nebula Rules Committee to strengthen existing rules and guidelines to safeguard the integrity of the awards. We also do not condone abusive behavior in response to the stress of this situation.
In 2013, and as part of a larger effort to recognize just how much the publishing landscape continues to evolve, SFWA began admitting independent and small press writers to our organization. Since then, we’ve welcomed hundreds of new independent, traditional, and hybrid authors. The volunteers currently serving on the board proudly reflect this addition as well, with all nine elected positions representing each of those demographics. Our commitment continues to be towards the support of writers everywhere, members and non-members alike, embracing all of what the field has to offer regardless of the way creative, genre works are published.
Our SFWA Nebula Conference and awards have also evolved from the first ceremony over fifty years ago in 1966 to our most recent addition of a game writing award which debuted this year. We also understand that with growth such as this, sometimes comes the pain of finding our way forward. The recent controversy is no exception, and we fully understand just how frustrating something like this can be. Our goal with the Nebula Awards is to foster an environment which celebrates the exceptional work we all do. To spread that outward to the community and emphasize just how important the words we create continue to be. We gather at our SFWA Nebula Conference to network among our peers, hone our craft, and learn from one another, all while building up to a ceremony that hopes to recognize the work poured into each of those experiences.
With all of that said, the SFWA Board and staff regrets the shadow that has gathered over what we’ve all worked so hard to build. Not just a ceremony, nor just a conference, but a community, and the sometimes complicated relationships within. We sympathize with the invocation of painful echoes for many of us and the damage that sometimes comes as a result of what some may view as the best of intentions. Taking what we’ve learned from something like this, our largest concern will be focused on the careful repair of the rifts that have opened and how we can avoid something like this in the future.
Above all else, we hope we can move forward with our ongoing vision to make this organization into everything it can be. With that, we need your help. We ask that you continue to create and participate in SFWA events, programs, and services. We ask that you continue to reach out and let us know where we can improve.
And finally, when it comes to every Nebula Awards ballot, we ask that you judge each of the works with care and consideration. The work that stays with you, that moves you, that work that you love the most should earn your vote. It is our hope that you will join us on this very first step, showing just how strong we all can be when we work together.
-The SFWA Board