If you visit the Boulder Public Library this week, you might notice an informative display about the current award season on the Science Fiction and Fantasy shelves. Well, the first thing you'll probably notice is that the Bridge, the Adult Non-Fiction section and Teen Space are entirely closed off for renovations. But if that's old news to you, or if you're not easily distracted by construction noises or by big pressboard walls and out-of-place doors where walls and doors didn't used to be, or if you're just that focused on your task of reading every single book in Colorado science fiction author Connie Willis's bibliography (an admirable ambition!), then you might, on your way there, discover the library's spotlight on Nebula and Hugo nominees.
The Nebula Awards are organized and presented by Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Active and Associate members of SFWA are able to nominate those works published during the previous year that they feel are most deserving; the nomination period begins in November 15 of the year under consideration and continues through the following February 15. Active SFWA members get to vote on the final ballot between March 1 and March 30. This year, the awards will be presented in San Jose on May 17th as the highlight of the annual Nebula Awards Weekend festivities.
To be a member of SFWA, one must have met specific publishing criteria designated by the organization. (There is a lower threshold for entry for Associate members than there is for Active members.) Thus the entire Nebula nominating and voting body consists of published science fiction and fantasy authors.
The Hugo Awards are organized and presented by the World Science Fiction Society, the framework organization which puts on the World Science Fiction Convention, or "World Con," every year. The calendar for the Hugos is a little different from that of the Nebulas: Nominations occur during the January, February and March of the year following that under consideration, the final ballot is announced in early April, and the deadline for voting is usually sometime in July depending on the scheduling of that year's World Con. All current WSFS members are eligible to nominate and vote. Additionally, a WSFS membership endows eligibility to nominate (but not to vote) in the following year.
To be a WSFS member, all you have to do is purchase a membership to the World Science Fiction Convention. This year's World Con, the 72nd, will be held in London during August 14 to 18. This necessarily raises the price of admission for a science fiction and fantasy fan in the Boulder area. But you need not attend in order to vote your 2014 Hugo Award ballot. Voting this year--and nominating for next year--is also open to supporting members of WSFS. A supporting membership costs a fraction of the price of an attending membership and confers all the benefits of membership minus eligibility to attend World Con. That means you--you, reading along at home--can, for roughly $40 U.S., become a member of the World Science Fiction Society and have a say as to which works the science fiction and fantasy community deems "the best" for the year 2013.
Also, thanks to recent tradition, that supporting membership entitles you to receive the Hugo Voter Packet! Through the generosity of the nominees and their publishers, the majority of the works nominated to the ballot are made available, at no additional cost, to everyone who's eligible to vote. This year that's a particularly sweet deal, considering that the entirety of Robert Jordan's and Brandon Sanderson's Wheel of Time series has been nominated as a single work in the Best Novel category. You get all that, and you get to voice your opinion on which works are the best, which works are not so great, and, if you should think so, which works shouldn't be on the ballot at all. If you're able to spare the cash, I highly recommend you purchase your membership and become part of the 2014 Hugo Awards process.