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SFWA screws the pooch - KRAD's Inaccurate Guide to Life
ramblings from a mad fedora'd writer
SFWA screws the pooch
Edited to add: SFWA has investigated the matter and decided to keep "WEaT" on the ballot. I responded to that. Please read this linked post after reading the post below and before you reply in either thread. *grin* Thanks...

Original post:

The final Nebula ballot has been released.

For Best Script, one of the nominees is "World Enough and Time," one of the Star Trek: New Voyages fan films.

Yes, a fan film is on the Nebula ballot. The same Nebula ballot which would never sully its hallowed halls by allowing a media tie-in novel or short story, has a fan film on it.

Look, this isn't a knock on the fan films as such. But that's what they are -- they're fan films. They are not professionally produced. 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.

Remember a couple years back, a woman named Lori Jareo published one of her Star Wars fanfics? Imagine if that got a Nebula nomination. Think it's crazy? Maybe -- but Another Hope is the exact same thing as "World Enough and Time."

In 2002, John Ordover -- then a Star Trek fiction editor for Pocket Books -- started a campaign to get Nebula consideration for "Isolation Ward 4" by Kevin G. Summers, an excellent story in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds IV. The story actually made the preliminary ballot, but not the final ballot. That's as close as any professionally published, fully authorized tie-in fiction has ever gotten to a Nebula Award.

Yet, a similar campaign -- and it was a campaign, because I got e-mail from one of the campaigners trying to get me to recommend this -- for "WEaT" has apparently been more successful.

Mind you, it probably won't matter. For one thing, the Best Script Nebula is quite possibly the most useless award in the history of award-giving. For another, the Steven Moffat-penned Doctor Who episode "Blink" is also on the ballot, and I'd say it's definitely the frontrunner.

But it shouldn't be on the ballot in the first place. And my opinion, as a dues-paying member of the organization, is that it should be removed forthwith as not qualifying for the award. This should also be the opinion of everyone. Why?

From the Nebula rules, regarding the category of Best Script:

Script: a professionally produced audio, radio, television, motion picture, multimedia, or theatrical script

Star Trek: New Voyages is not professionally produced. Period.

I swear, if anybody trots out the, "Well, yeah, it's a fan film, but it's soooooo well-written and -produced that it may as well be professionally produced" argument (which was used on me when the aforesaid campaigner tried to get me to recommend "WEaT"), I will personally go to their house and show them what I can do with my brown belt. Seriously. I've written fanfiction. I'd like to think it's written at the same level as my professional work -- but you know what? It's still fanfiction. I wouldn't expect it to get Nebula consideration, and the very same people who happily went with putting "WEaT" on the ballot would be disgusted at the very notion of fanfic being on the prose portions of the ballot.

But it's the exact same thing.

I therefore urge the SFWA Awards Rules Committee -- Jeffrey A. Carver, James Patrick Kelly, and Connie Willis-- to remove this non-qualifying item from the ballot.

I gotta say, between this and the distinct possibility of President Andrew Burt, I'm seriously reconsidering my SFWA membership....

Current Mood: pissed off pissed off
Current Music: "Victor Jara" by Arlo Guthrie

88 comments or Please comment
scifantasy From: scifantasy Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Script (or Dramatic Presentation) Nebulae seem to be a mess no matter how you slice it. I recall that JMS resigned from SFWA over their reason why there was no Dramatic Presentation award around the time Babylon 5 was on the air.

You're exactly right about why "World Enough and Time" shouldn't be on the ballot. You'd think that legal tie-in fiction would get recognized by the SFWA before illegal fanwork.
scifantasy From: scifantasy Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I recall that JMS resigned from SFWA over their reason why there was no Dramatic Presentation award around the time Babylon 5 was on the air.

Er. This looks all wrong--he resigned because of the argument. He talked about it later, around when B5 began winning Hugo awards, but he'd been resigned for a while first.
shsilver From: shsilver Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
The jury is only empowered to add an item to the ballot, they can not remove an item from the ballot. The person to bring this to is SFWA Awards Rules Committee, comprised of Jeffrey A. Carver, James Patrick Kelly, and Connie Willis. They can make a ruling to remove an item from the ballot.
kradical From: kradical Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC) (Link)


And I already sent it to the Forum. *wry grin*
hughcasey From: hughcasey Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gee, that's funny... I just commented about this here:


I'd originally linked to Terri's post, but switched to this one when it was pointed out that her's was locked. Hope you don't mind.
kradical From: kradical Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Link all you want. I want this rant to spread as far as possible.....
thatwasjen From: thatwasjen Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not a writer and I'm not a member of SFWA, so I have no authority to rant. But I'm an editor, and a strong believer in copyright law (and a believer also that fanfiction is almost always a violation thereof).

So it seems to me that legitimizing fanwork is a slap in the face of every professional creator and a negation of their ownership of the characters, worlds, and stories they have created. Whereas tie-in media is sanctioned by the copyright creator(s), which makes it legitimate, and contracted for by someone with a checkbook, which makes it professional. Am I seeing this about right?
kradical From: kradical Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pretty much, yeah.....
From: ex_wouldyoue846 Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I gotta say, between this and the distinct possibility of President Andrew Burt, I'm seriously reconsidering my SFWA membership....

You know, you could always run for SFWA President. I don't know whether Estate members can vote, but if I can, you'd have my vote.
kradical From: kradical Date: February 22nd, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've considered running for SFWA President in the past, on the platform that, if elected, I will abolish the offices of President and Vice-President, and just let the executive director run things. I have not done so for a variety of reasons, not least being the very real fear that such a platform would be sufficiently attractive that I'd win....
nelilly From: nelilly Date: February 22nd, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Michael Reaves is a professional screen-writer... did he somehow lose his pro status by writing this screen-play?
scifantasy From: scifantasy Date: February 22nd, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course not--but a professional screenwriter doesn't automatically confer professional status on any screenplay, either. "Professional" means that you do something for a living; the underlying assumption, therefore, is that "professional work" is done for money.

While I can admit a certain amount of leeway, for issues such as the non-profit website work you referred to on hughcasey's LiveJournal, I'd argue that the difference is that there you chose to do work without profit, presumably for the purposes of furthering your career; here, there are legal reasons why there can't be money involved. If the non-profits you referred to had paid you, it would have been payment for services rendered. If Reaves had gotten money for "World Enough and Time," it would have been a violation of copyright.

Professional work needs to be free of legal tangles, if nothing else, and fanwork is a very, very, very large legal gray area.
(Deleted comment)
mabfan From: mabfan Date: February 22nd, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Keith, would it kill you to read the Nebula Rules before calling me out publicly to do something I have no authority or power to do?
kradical From: kradical Date: February 22nd, 2008 06:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sorry about that. I've edited the post, and will do likewise for the Forum letter.
drewshi From: drewshi Date: February 22nd, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hang on a moment. I'll give you that it shouldn't be on the ballot as it is technically an illegal production, but I'm so sick of people who are on the inside of the production field saying that people who don't make it inside shouldn't be acknowledged because they are not "professionals". You know damn well that this business is just as much snoozing and networking as anything else. I know one can argue, and I have thought it myself, if these guys are so great (the production group making the fan film), why don't they turn their efforts towards something legit and make a living on it? I can't answer that and I assume, like everything else that is usually up for an award, it's usually at the prompting of the producers. Submitting this for consideration considering it's illegal nature takes hutzpah.

But I am tired of the fact that just because someone who holds a position of authority, and the purse-strings for that matter, dictates what is good and what is not. As kids, we used to rail against the choices of writers in some of our favorite comics and Trek books. Watch how you throw that term professional around. The only difference between you and some really good fanwork is that the fan hasn't been discovered yet.
kradical From: kradical Date: February 22nd, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
What you just said has absolutely zero, zilch, nothing to do with what I'm railing against here. This has nothing to do with the quality of the work. This has to do with what's eligible for the award.

I know what "professional" means, thanks, and one definition of it is that you get paid for it. Star Trek: New Voyages is not a professional production by any definition of the term. That doesn't mean it's good or bad -- this discussion has nothing to do with good or bad. It does have to do with whether or not it qualifies for a Nebula Award. The same Nebula Award that won't give the time of day to professionally produced tie-in fiction.

(And what the hell does schmoozing and networking have to do with anything? The two guys getting the nomination are professional screenwriters of many years' standing....)
(Deleted comment)
delkytlar From: delkytlar Date: February 22nd, 2008 06:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm with you entirely on this issue. Enjoyable as the New Voyages/Phase II productions can be, WEaT does not qualify under the standing Nebula rules. While I also doubt the likelihood of a win for WEaT, I hope your appeal is successful.

WEaT caused quite a bit of controversy at the time of last year's New York Nebula event. When a screening was proposed, it caused a lot of debate among the members of the planning committee about the (in)appropriateness of SFWA giving a premium slot to a fan film. I was firmly opposed to a SFWA-sanctioned screening. I do not now recall whether the screening ever took place.
pseudohistorian From: pseudohistorian Date: February 22nd, 2008 09:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow! I cannot believe that a fan film would make it onto the Nebula ballot, especially considering everything I've read about how other media tie-ins can't get nominated.

I totally agree with infinitydog that you should start a SFWA voting bloc committed to recommending tie-ins. I understand the concerns noted elsewhere about reading the works, but if they keep getting continuously nominated, there has to be a breakthrough at some point.

This also relates back to a lot of concerns I've had lately about fan works and copyright, so I hope you don't mind if I end up linking to your post when I post about this myself...
kradical From: kradical Date: February 22nd, 2008 09:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sure, link away....
nightwolfwriter From: nightwolfwriter Date: February 23rd, 2008 02:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Did you catch that Star Trek: The New Voyages is now retitling itself as Star Trek: Phase II?

Think that'll cause some confusion as to whether it's fan produced or officially sanctioned by Paramount?

Serious Chutzpah.
thehey From: thehey Date: February 23rd, 2008 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
This might be a worthy nomination, but until tie-ins are treated more fairly in the nomination process it doesn't belong. Pure and simple.

That said, if there is any justice, Blink will stomp over all others for the win. It's not only one of the best Who episodes, it's simply one of the best SF episodes ever written.
ogre42 From: ogre42 Date: February 23rd, 2008 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Here here! I could not agree more about Blink. one of the best I have seen.
mutarada From: mutarada Date: February 23rd, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I generally agree that WEaT should not be on the ballot, but really, the thing that gets me is that if a fan film was going to be nominated, why wasn't it something a little more original, you know, like Exeter? Granted, still a fan film, but at least they went their own way. Ah, if only Act 5 had been released...
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 26th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC) (Link)


I am curious what YOUR requirements for "professionally produced" are? Let's see... professional writers (CHECK), professional stunt coordinator (CHECK), porfessional director (CHECK), professional script consultant (DC herself) (CHECK), professional actors (CHECK - you dont have to like them or have seen them in "big name" movies... they are professional, normally paid actors), professional FX director (CHECK). Being PAID (or in this case NOT being paid) to make the episodes has nothing to do with whether it is a professional endeavor.

As for Paramount sanctioning or allowing it, I am only permitted to say two things on that... (1) It's CBS - not Paramount - who owns the rights to TOS, and (2) those of you who are *SPECULATING* this is done without CBS/Viacom's permission are doing just that... speculating - with NO facts at all. Read their forums - or attend the Premiere next month and see who shows up, and you can put your speculation to rest...
kradical From: kradical Date: February 26th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Professional?

I keep saying this, and I'll continue to do so until someone acknowledges it -- if I write fanfic, it's still fanfic, even though I'm a professional author. The fact that the number increases on a screen production doesn't change that fact. The resumé of the talent isn't the point at issue here, and that it keeps being raised is tiresome.

I disagree wholeheartedly with the notion that being paid (or not) has nothing to do with whether it is a professional endeavor -- at the very least, that's part of the equation, and must be at least considered when trying to define something's professionalism. It's not the only criterion, but it's not an inconsequential one, either.

I've been writing and editing licensed Star Trek fiction since 1999, so I'm fully aware of the corporate structure (which is why I always refer to CBS or CBS/Paramount -- it's really CBS, but adding the "/Paramount" on there keeps people from getting confused, since it was Paramount for so long). And yes, CBS owns the rights to the TV show; Paramount owns the rights to the films, including the first seven and the forthcoming Abrams flick. They're all part of the same big-ass conglomeration -- and, for the record, the same person does the approvals for all licensed Trek fiction, in prose and sequential art form, regardless of whether it's under CBS or Paramount's bailiwick (the two people in question who do so used to work for Paramount, specifically Viacom Consumer Products, and now work for CBS, doing the same job).

Having said that, who shows up at a premiere is equally irrelevant. Yes, CBS/Paramount turns a blind eye to the fan films from a legal perspective -- it's the exact same blind eye they've been turning to fanfiction since 1967 or so. The disclaimer on the New Voyages web site is the exact same disclaimer that has been put at the beginning of fanfiction for decades.

New Voyages isn't charging anyone to see "World Enough and Time." It's a free download, and the reason why it's a free download is because they would have to give CBS/Paramount a cut if they charged, and also enter into a licensing agreement with CBS to do the film -- just as Pocket Books, TokyoPop, Diamond Select, IDW Publishing, et al have.

Finally, I don't screen anonymous posts, and don't object to them (especially on LJ where even signed posts have abstruse user names). If you neglected to sign your name as an oversight, that's fine, and please disregard the rest of this paragraph. But if you deliberately left your identity vague, let me say that to barge in here and take a snotty tone, and also hint at your sooper seekrit insider knowledge ("I am only permitted to say two things on that") while hiding behind the protective shield of anonymity is more than a little churlish.
Re: Professional? - (Anonymous) - Expand
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 27th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)


Mr. Brown Belt,
Not only are the above mentioned folks (Marc Zicree, Michael Reaves, Leslie Hoffman, George Takei, and others)professional, so are our pyrotechnicians, make-up artists, and camera operators, among others. ALL work in the field of tv/movies for pay, including myself. Michael Reaves and Marc Zicree are both well known and respected ( as well as best selling) authors in thier own right. This is their work, and IS a well written wonderful story.
While it is true that our cast/crew is a mix of amateurs and pros, that should not take away from the quality of the piece. So, when you say the WEAT is not professionally produced..period, perhaps you ought to research your facts further, and not make generalities based on ignorance.
Take your sour grapes....and go make some wine with em' and stop whining already.

Not afraid of any brown or other colored belts....

Scott Moody
Producer/Camera Operator
Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase II
kradical From: kradical Date: February 27th, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: professional?

And again I say: the quality of the work is not the point at issue here. I'm fully aware of the pedigree and credits of Marc and Michael and George and Grace and the rest. Hell, I know several of the people involved in the production personally.

But that's not the point. I've been a professional author for fifteen years now -- but if I write a piece of fanfiction, it's still fanfiction. The fact that it's done with the same quality as my professional work doesn't change the fact that, say, my Highlander/Hercules crossover is fanfiction.

My grapes aren't at all sour, and I'm not whining. I'm also not denigrating the quality of the production because a) I haven't seen it (though I've been exchanging e-mail with Marc Zicree, and he's generously offered to send me a DVD) and b) the quality of the work and the resumés of the producers isn't at all what I'm talking about.
Re: professional? - (Anonymous) - Expand
Re: professional? - (Anonymous) - Expand
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 29th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Is it illegal if it's approved?

New Voyages is perhaps started in the spirit of fan fiction, but as far as I understand it, it's not an illegal production. It has the full blessing of Gene Roddenberry's estate and the studio that holds the Star Trek rights and has received various kinds of support from them. George Takei and some other Star Trek actors have appeared on the Web show. And I believe that the SciFi Channel is going to begin airing the show on t.v. in a legal deal. So maybe that's what SFWA based the decision on.
mrsftv From: mrsftv Date: March 2nd, 2008 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Marc Scott Zicree statement

I got permission from Marc to post his statement about Star Trek New Voyages online and have posted in on my blog, the SFTV Blog. You can read it at:


From: (Anonymous) Date: March 5th, 2008 12:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

From their website

This is from the SFWA Rules website:


"Sometimes the rules are ambiguous—such as, for example, the requirement that a dramatic script be "professionally" produced. What does "professionally produced" mean? The rules don't say. We may be called upon to decide, but we can't give you any advice on it until we see the final product."

Why didn't the Star Trek story Ordover wanted make the final ballot? If it made the preliminary, it doesn't seem that the professionally produced issue was triggered. From the rules you published, "professionally produced" only seems to apply to scripts. That other Star Trek story was more of a short story or novellette, and it WAS published in a book form by a real publisher. It doesn't seem that the SNW story failed on the technicality. It just didn't make it.

This is different. Clearly, the people making these awards are not requiring studio backing to be considered professionally produced. They made their case, and it was reasonable and strong. Not making a profit doesn't mean not professional. I don't think this is a big issue at all.
cnvarbiter From: cnvarbiter Date: March 7th, 2008 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)

So when do fans stop being fans?

I'm on Terri's side. If there's approval, it's got to be written and explicit. All else is no more than the approval that fan fic has always gotten: "we appreciate your love of our product, so we'll leave you alone if you don't make money." Having pro actors and authors involved does not mean that the copyright holder has granted license. Nor does having CBS employees compliment the effort, no matter their position. Harve Bennett spent some time last year complimenting and critiquing a Trek tribute script that I wrote and directed at a con. So, yeah, a former Trek exec was aware of my effort and liked it. I didn't take that to mean I had license to distribute it for money, or that it was a professional production, even though I have been paid professionally to write licensed Trek material. (Not nearly as much as Keith, but still...)

I echo Terri's concern over what happens to the rights of those of us who've created original universes if someone without a license is allowed to use our characters, call their production professional, and claim that it in no way violates copyright.

To that I add another concern -- what happens to fandom when we start elevating certain ones of our number to the status of "super-fans?" Sure, there have always been Big Name Fans and fans who made the transition to pro. But when we start singling out certain fan endeavors and saying "these are just so good that they're too good to have the adjective 'fan' in front of them..." What are we saying about fan creativity? Is 'fan' a synonym for inferior?

This is a fascinating discussion, and pretty much everyone who contributed has added something interesting to it. I'd be especially curious to know more about the statements that so many of the participants in this NV production were paid, and how that kind of money was raised for a non-profit production. It's quite an achievement. And I don't mean to deride NV or any other fan productions in any way. I think it's amazing what's being accomplished. To me, it's what fandom should be all about. It's just... why are some of us in such a hurry to make it not fannish?

-- Steve
kevin_standlee From: kevin_standlee Date: March 7th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: So when do fans stop being fans?

And again, what difference does it make whether there is approval or not? It's not SFWA's place to rule on business relationships in conjunction with the Nebula Awards. As I wrote, SFWA shouldn't have even taken a position on the legality of the production, because it's not actually relevant. And if you establish the precedent of "Any work with a potentially murky legal issue is ineligible," you have now muddied the waters badly. One of the comments to my opinion on this pointed out several past works, including a Hugo Award winning novel, that would have been affected.

I'll say it explicitly: Even if the copyright holder on the franchise had issued a cease-and-desist order on WEaT (rather than the benign neglect they seem to be exercising), its script was still eligible for a Nebula Award.
88 comments or Please comment