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TrekToday - SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

SFWA Nebula Award Nomination Controversy

By T'Bonz
March 6, 2008 - 2:49 AM

This year's Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Nebula ballot contains a script entry which has proven to be controversial and has caused some of the SFWA members to protest its inclusion on the ballot.

As seen on the SFWA website, the 2007 Nebula Award Final Ballot has been released and contains an entry that some consider to be in violation of the rules of the contest. The entry is from Star Trek: Phase II, formerly known as Star Trek: New Voyages. The title of the nominated entry is World Enough and Time.

The controversy is due to a belief that the entry does not meet the eligibility criteria needed to be on the ballot. The rules state that an eligible script must be "a professionally produced audio, radio, television, motion picture, multimedia, or theatrical script." Star Trek fan films have traditionally not been professionally made, nor able to make a profit, lest they fall afoul of Paramount, which owns the rights to Star Trek. Star Trek: Phase II has always presented itself as "fan films" for fans.

One SFWA member who disagrees with the inclusion of World Enough and Time is author and editor Keith R.A. DeCandido. "They are not professionally produced," he said, referring to fan films, which Phase II has usually presented their films as being. "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."

Marc Scott Zicree, who co-wrote World Enough and Time disagreed with DeCandido's assessment. "As co-writer, director and executive producer of 'World Enough and Time' (and also as someone with a thirty-year career as a writer-producer in network television), I'm glad to clarify things and categorically state that 'World Enough and Time' was a professional production that utilized literally hundreds of men and women, many of whom work full-time in film and television, and that it was done entirely with Paramount's knowledge and approval, and in no way violated their copyright."

Michael Capobianco, SFWA president, posted a response from SFWA regarding the decision to keep World Enough and Time on the ballot. "The Board examined these questions and voted unanimously to keep the work on the Nebula ballot," he said. "The decision was based on evidence that was provided from a number of sources, and we thank the parties who made statements and provided additional information to the Board. Since the term 'professionally produced' is nowhere defined in the Award Rules, there is some latitude for interpretation. However, certain precedents had been set by the SARC, and they were followed by the Board insofar as they were applicable. It was noted that the spirit of the Nebulas is one of inclusiveness, and that none of the other Nebula categories include the 'professionally produced' criterion."

Capobianco went on to say that "One factor that was considered important was that Marc Zicree and Michael Reaves were paid for their script of 'Worlds Enough and Time.' Other factors were looked at, and, in at least one instance, it was concluded that the production only qualified under a technicality, but the technicality was in keeping with past interpretations of the Award Rules."

"It is clear from our investigation that Paramount has permitted WEaT to exist and encouraged its production and that of subsequent productions by the same company," said Capobianco. "This is not simply a fan production that was tolerated by Paramount; while it may or may not have been specifically authorized, it has had tacit authorization. Under these circumstances, the Board felt that WEaT should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed on the ballot.

In a follow up blog entry, DeCandido said, "What I have learned from this is that SFWA blithely put the words 'professionally produced' in the guidelines for Best Script without having a clear notion of what that means exactly." He added that "Personally, I think that CBS/Paramount's "tacit approval" is a dubious criterion to base this on, and seeing an organization that supposedly values the protection of copyright and trademark use that is disheartening."

Both of DeCandido's posts on the matter can be found here and here. Zicree's statement can be found here. Michael Capobianco's posting of the SFWA decision is located here.

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