The Aurora Arbitration

I apologize to Tamara Sheehan for scoffing at her claim to be an Aurora nominee. At the end of “What Makes an Aurora ‘Nominee’?” I invited any Canadian fan who knew the history and usage of the Aurora Awards to chime in, and at Tamara’s suggestion I copied the question to Clint Budd, the Aurora Award webmaster. Clint says he thinks her short story would be defined as a nominee in their two-step process and I’m happy to adopt his view.

Clint says his earlier e-mail (quoted here) did assume the question was whether her story received any nominating votes at all.

Once Clint understood the larger question he pointed to the relevant section of the CSFFA Constitution:

Section 8: Nominations: Selection of nominees for the final Award voting shall be done by a poll conducted by the Canvention Committee, in which each nominator shall be allowed to make three (3) equally weighted nominations in each category. Assignment to the proper category of nominees nominated in each category, and eligibility of nominees, shall be determined by the Canvention Committee. 

Then Clint observed:

It uses the word “nominate” in a variety of forms and, despite somewhat awkward phrasing, I think its clear enough that the “Aurora public” send in “nominations.”

During this phase, the “nominees” have greater or lesser numbers of “nominations.”

When this period ends the number of nominations for each nominee are counted up and a new group emerges – the 5 that have the most nominations – referred to only as “the short list.” They are the candidates for the election phase.

If this terminology diverges from the usage of the Hugos and the Nebulas I don’t actually know. For better or worse – we have our own set of rules.

Where our website says “The Aurora awards are closest to the style of the Hugo awards …” it only says that we are “closest” – in comparison to others – not that we intend to exactly follow the Hugos in any specific regard.

For all practical purposes it’s the same as the Hugo nominating process. Even the WSFS Constitution refers to “the five eligible nominees receiving the most nominations,” and I’d been applying the precedent that a person named on a Hugo nominating ballot would not style himself a nominee unless he was a finalist.

Now that I have discovered the Aurora administrators use these terms differently, as Clint has explained, I will follow their usage when discussing that award. And again, I apologize for causing Tamara Sheehan such distress.

What Makes an Aurora “Nominee”?

Tamara Sheehan believes Aurora Award webmaster Clint Budd has verified that her short story “Twenty” was an Aurora nominee, based on this statement in his e-mail of yesterday:

I have your name (as part of a list kept for other reasons) and the name of the story – “Twenty” but no record of the number of nominations. So, yes, you’re right – the story was nominated, but didn’t reach the short list.

Do I need a better understanding of what’s regarded as an Aurora nominee?

The inference is that there is an Aurora “long list” as well as a “short list,” and that anything on the long list is also a type of nominee, like the finalists.

However, the official Aurora Award site says otherwise. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association gives this description of the Aurora nominating process:

The Aurora awards are closest to the style of the Hugo awards (which are presented by the SF Worldcon) in the method by which they are selected. First there is a nomination phase to select a short list. Then a voting phase to pick the winner from the short list using the Australian voting method (this method has the voter rank their choices in each category).

Since the CSF&F follows the usage of the Hugos, then they presumably do not characterize as nominees the works or people named on Aurora Award nominating ballots that fail to make the final ballot.

In Hugo usage nominee and finalist are synonymous. If you’re not a finalist you’re not a nominee.

A different case is the long-list/short-list arrangement used in the early years of the Nebula Awards where items on the long list were characterized as nominees and published in a preliminary ballot.

SFWA adopted a two-ballot system for the 1970 Nebulas. It circulated the member-recommended long list of nominees on a ballot for a preliminary vote and put the top vote-getters on the final ballot. That year 45 short stories were nominated and 7 made the final ballot. Works on the preliminary long list were regarded as nominees and recorded as such in Don Franson and Howard DeVore’s A History of the Hugo, Nebula and International Fantasy Awards (1978 edition).

If there are any Canadian fans who know the history and usage of the Aurora Awards and want to comment on this I’d welcome your participation. While I think Tamara Sheehan has made an innocent mistake, if the error is mine I’d be happy to correct it.

Sheehan’s Tips for New Writers

Tamara Sheehan, author of The Tenth Man and The Mediocre Assassin’s Handbook, gives three tips for aspiring pros that manage to be both sobering and entertaining:

Writing is work that can make you go crazy. It’s Sisyphean. It’s long hours for little acknowledgment. For the majority of us, it does not and will not ever pay as much as our day jobs. Want to go have a little cry? Go ahead. I understand. I did too, when I got it.

Update 10/05/2009: I revised this post based on the information discussed here