Mailvox: the line between F and SF

An SFWA author writes concerning the upcoming SFWA election:

 I voted for you and my ballot’s going out tomorrow in the mail. I thought your opening statements were hilarious! Outlandish, too….  But anyway I liked most of your ideas for SFWA.

The idea of establishing two Nebula awards — one for SF and one for F is really over the top. They overlap. Just as a good story also overlaps with dark elements. (Which we politely do  not refer to as “horror” but it is.) This is the main reason I’m writing you –I’d like to know just how you would possibly chop SF & F in half –when novels and stories contain elements of both. “Hard” sf isn’t the only definition of Science Fiction. “Hard SF” implies that there is some explicit element of science explained within the story or novel (which Landis and Haldeman do well) but it’s not the only element and anything we imagine becomes fantasy.

This was my response:  In answer to your question, those nominating a novel for a Nebula Award would be expected to indicate that they considered the nominated work to be either F or SF as part of the nomination process.  A novel that received both SF and F nominations would have both types of nominations counted but would be put up for the award in the category that received the most nominations, assuming that it received enough combined nominations to qualify.  If the author happened to disagree with the categorization and the difference between the two categories was between one and three nominations, then the category would be switched at the author’s request.

Obviously, if everyone nominates something that is clearly Fantasy and the author prefers it to compete in the Science Fiction category because he believes he is the second coming of Isaac Asimov or because he thinks it will be easier to beat out Star Trek 562: Spock Takes a Nap than the most recent rewrite of a Brontë novel published by Tor Books, there would be no reason to accommodate that.

But if a book could be reasonably considered to be either science fiction or fantasy, to such an extent that it is unclear to the readers, there is no reason not to permit the author to determine which category the book most properly belongs.