The Rules for the Campbell Award

The John W. Campbell Award was first awarded at Torcon II in 1973 in the memory of John W. Campbell, Jr., the greatest and most influential editor the field has seen. Campbell was known for his discovery and nurturing of new writers and the publisher of Analog (Conde Nast at the time) decided to establish an award to be voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction convention for the best new writer of the previous two years. The award has been given out annually since 1973 and it continues to be presented by the publisher of Analog (presently Dell Magazines).

In the late 70s additional non-Hugo awards were added to the ballot, and in 1980-81 an amendment to the WSFS Constitution was passed limiting the Hugo ballot to the Hugo Awards and the Campbell Award. The Campbell Award is thus uniquely sanctioned by the World Science Fiction Society.

While the Hugos are defined in some detail in the WSFS Constitution, the Campbell Award is simply mentioned twice: "3.7.3: Nominations shall be solicited only for the Hugo Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer." and "3.10.2: Final Award ballots shall list only the Hugo Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer."

This means that beyond the broad outline that the Campbell Award must be nominated and voted on like the Hugos and that it is for new writers, the rules for awarding the Campbell are set by the publisher of Analog in the person of the editor of Analog, presently Stanley Schmidt. (Where the publisher of Analog has not said differently, the relevant Hugo rules apply.) The publishers of Analog have not codified the rules for the Campbell, but did provide guidance to the Noreascon 4 Hugo Administrator. Our understanding of the rules is documented on this page.

Eligibility is determined by the date of the writer's first professional publication of SF which must be in the two years previous to the year in which the award is given out, so for Noreascon 4 in September 2004, writers whose first professional publication was in 2002 or 2003 were eligible. There is a substantial advantage to be gained from increased visibility, so the Hugo Administrators must take care to assure that all nominees actually had their first professional publication in the previous two years.  To do that they must know the effective date of a publication and whether it was professional.

What is the Date of Publication?

The effective date of publication follows the Hugo rules: "3.2.5: Publication date, or cover date in the case of a dated periodical, takes precedence over copyright date." and "3.2.6: Works appearing in a series are eligible as individual works, but the series as a whole is not eligible. However, a work appearing in a number of parts shall be eligible for the year of the final part." (Note: Section 3.4, Extended Eligibility does not apply -- the WSFS Business Meeting has no standing here.)

What is SF?

The Campbell Award is for professionally published SF. As with the Hugos ("3.2.1: ...Hugo Awards are given for work in the field of science fiction or fantasy...") the term SF must be read broadly and includes pretty much the entire range of the fantastic.

The award is for professionally published science fiction, so other kinds of writing are not relevant and do not make the writer eligible for the Campbell. Excluded works include:

What is Professional Publication?

Most complicated is the definition of "professional publication". There is some confusion as to the meaning of those words, since the WSFS Constitution uses the term "professional publication" in the definition of the Hugo categories and SFWA also has a definition of "professional publication" for membership qualification purposes. Neither is exactly what is meant by the publisher of Analog, though the SFWA definition is very close. For the purposes of the Campbell Award only, "professional publication" happens when the work is sold for more than a nominal amount and is published. For example, in 2003 the publishers of Analog specifically cited Interzone and Artemis (both Semiprozines by WSFS rules) as professional publications for the purposes of the Campbell Award.

The main difference between the Campbell criteria and the SFWA rules for Associate Membership is that the publisher of Analog specifically includes a serial novel sale to a major SF magazine as eligible and so specifies that the $2000 minimum on the SFWA page should be $1600 for the Campbell. Additionally, the publisher wants Hugo administrators to seriously consider publications with a circulation over 10,000 as qualifying even if the publication is not professional by SFWA rules.

While in general, it is best to follow the SFWA rules, the Hugo administrator may occasionally have to rule on professional publication. How small a payment must be to be purely pro forma and therefore what constitutes professional publication is not precisely defined. Publication in fanzines or other publications which don't pay contributors in money is unquestionably not professional publication. Contest prize money is not payment and does not create a professional publication, but royalties received for the publication of the winning story in a contest winner's book may. In gray areas the presumption probably should be that the publication is professional.

The rule is "Anything that SFWA says is professional, we say is professional, but the publisher of Analog may add other things as well. We reserve the right to change this if SFWA changes its rules."

It is worth noting that in spite of following the SFWA guidelines for determining professional publication, there is no intention to limit Campbell eligibility to US publications. Professional publication anywhere in the world confers eligibility.

Note that publication by itself even in large quantity does not constitute professional publication and make the author eligible -- a writer might publish a story in a vanity press edition, for example, and yet be ineligible until the publication is offered for sale for money. Eligibility happens when both criteria (publication and for pay) are met. [A fascinating question is what happens if the writer sells a story for money, the story is published, but the writer is never paid.]

Two issues remain open:

Other Notes

Even when the governing rules are clear, the evidence may be unclear. The Hugo administrator must decide what the facts are based on the usual principles:

At one time, when the magazines were the overwhelmingly dominant vehicle for the publication of professional short SF, the WSFS Constitution defined a "professional publication" as one which had a circulation of over 10,000 copies (meaning the prozines) leaving everything else as fanzines. The development of fanzines like Locus into fully professional publications with huge circulation (compared with traditional fanzines but still short of 10,000 copies) led to their dominance in the Best Fanzine Hugo category while the traditional fiction magazines competed for Best Professional Magazine.

In 1982 the Hugo rules were changed by creating a new category "Best Semiprozine" bounded on one side by the traditional prozines and on the other by a new and complicated definition that was intended to separate the gorillas from the fanzines. The language used was somewhat imprecise and continued to use the term "professional publication" in its older sense of a prozine, and that usage continues to this day. At the same time the Best Professional Magazine category was replaced by a Best Professional Editor category.

The problem here is that these terms were chosen at a point when there were prozines that everyone recognized as prozines and things that everyone recognized as fanzines and no significant fiction markets in between. This is no longer the case, and the sloppy equation of "old-style prozine" with "professional publication" now breeds confusion. (It's worth remembering that the Hugos themselves are inconsistent: The Hugo rule of 10,000 copy publication is explicitly in force for Best Professional Editor and Best Professional Artist, yet cover artists and editors of hardcover books (which rarely see 10,000 copies printed) are unquestionably eligible by fifty years' usage in spite of being unambiguously ineligible by the (naive) 10,000-copies-defines-professional reading of the rules.

Whatever the Hugo rules mean by "professional publication" it doesn't match the Campbell rules and, given its history, shouldn't.