[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
let my mistakes reflect badly on SFWA, the Nebula Awards, 20Booksto50k or on
any of the other nominees.
[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
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
-The SFWA Board