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Campbell Award process

I have gotten a few questions about Ben Bova's TITAN winning this year's John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Some have asked if my recent post is an explanation for why the novel won the Award.

No, that simply describes my own feelings about the genre. For everyone's information, here's some info on the Campbell Award and its selection process:

The Award was created to honor the late editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine (now named Analog). Campbell, who edited the magazine from 1937 until his death in 1971, is called, by many writers and scholars, the father of modern science fiction. Writers and critics Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss established the award in Campbell's name as a way of continuing his efforts to encourage writers to produce their best possible work. Incidentally, Ben Bova edited the magazine for many years after Campbell's death.

Campbell-Award nominees come from the science-fiction publishers and from individual jurors. Jurors currently include Gregory Benford, Paul Carter, Elizabeth Anne Hull, me, Farah Mendlesohn, Pamela Sargent, Tom Shippey, and James Gunn as Award Chair. The jurors read all these books - usually starting in December or earlier - and then debate the books on their merits, coming up with a list of finalists in May upon which we vote for a winner.

We do not try to achieve consensus the way the smaller jury for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award does, though occasionally many favor the same novels. Some books are passionately put forth and others dismissed with equal passion. Not infrequently, the same book is both one juror's favorite and another's least-favorite. So far, no one has been moved to name-calling or bomb-throwing, but these debates can get pretty enthusiastic.

I hope this helps everyone understand the process. I'll ask for Betty's notes from when she announced TITAN as the winner and see if she's willing to share them here.

Best,
Chris

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Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
pyropyga
Jul. 13th, 2007 02:01 am (UTC)
Thanks for the information. Could you expand a bit as to how the jurors themselves are selected? Is there another level of administration to the award, or do the jurors themselves comprise the award's deliberative body both for the decision as to the award proper, and questions of procedure?

I would note it appears the web page for the award is somewhat misleading on the final process, there's a reference to "consensus choice" that could make a reader believe the final choice was rendered in such a fashion.

I imagine seeing notes would be interesting.
fjm
Jul. 17th, 2007 01:15 pm (UTC)
People need to know that, as Chris says, there is no consensus. This is an award *voted on* by the judges.
pyropyga
Jul. 18th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
Is this a straight up top-scoring single-vote sort of system? Or is it more complicated?
coalescent
Jul. 18th, 2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
I would also like to know more about the voting system.
mckitterick
Jul. 18th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
See below. I hope this helps!
mckitterick
Jul. 18th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
Normally, the voting process begins when each juror submits his or her top novels (usually three to ten) to everyone else on the jury. Mind you, this only takes place after several months of discussing each of the works, offering recommendations, debating the works, and so on.

I then compile a list of finalists and submit that to the jury before going public in case I missed something or if anyone feels something shouldn't be on the list; in that case, we would debate their merits and de-merits. Some time over the next week or two after that list appears, we each submit our votes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places (and sometimes Honorable Mention) to James Gunn, the Award Chair, who applies a metric to the votes (more points for 1st than 2nd, more for 2nd than 3rd, with Honorable Mention helping break a tie), and submits his calculations to the jury. If anyone notices an error, we correct it. If we find no errors, he then contacts the winner and invites him or her to be a special guest at the Campbell Conference and Awards ceremony to be held in early July.

We have, on occasion, aimed for consensus - and we might do so again - but any time you have a sufficiently diverse group, consensus is tough to achieve. Something I said during the awards ceremony this year is that any of the top three-placing works from any given year could have won the Award with a slight shift in juror opinion, and all of the finalists are worthy books. This is why we announce all three places during the ceremony and list them on the site, and why we list all the finalists - for both the Sturgeon and Campbell.

I hope this helps!

Best,
Chris
coalescent
Jul. 18th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Just to make sure I'm reading that right, could you confirm/correct a couple of things?

1. The threshold for getting onto the shortlist is one nomination (as with the Tiptree longlist). Is there a maximum/minimum number of titles for the shortlist?

2. You don't reread the shortlisted books before voting (unlike, say, the Clarke jurors).

3. There's just one round of voting, with the winner being the book with the highest numeric score -- which I must admit I'm a bit sceptical about, since it sounds like you could very easily end up with a book that's nobody's first choice winning. That depends a bit on the weighting, of course.
mckitterick
Jul. 18th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)
1. Right, it just takes one juror's final nomination. Nominations from publishers or other kinds of early nominations don't affect the list of finalists. No max, but we try to make our nominations match what we consider the best three-to-five, and most of these overlap (thus we don't have 50-book lists of finalists). It seems to work out well - I just counted the finalists that I've been posting since I started listing them, and it's consistently 12-15 books. As far as minimum goes, I doubt we'll ever have fewer than 10 due to the diversity of juror opinion.

2. Often at least some of us do, but by then we've likely read and re-read those works that the jurors have been advocating for months. Some jurors will urge the others to re-read something that they feel should win.

3. If memory serves, only those with winning votes can win the Award due to the way Jim weighs 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. It might be an interesting experiment to run two stages of voting, but I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't change a thing if people are really advocating certain books.

Best,
Chris
pyropyga
Jul. 18th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
Great, thanks for the information.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )