2009 Ursa Majors open, but not to all
Nominations have begun for the 2009 Ursa Major Awards, furry fandom's popular award for excellence in published works. But new rules intended to safeguard the reputation of the Awards and its sponsoring events will exclude works which won nomination in previous years.
While nominees and winners will still be chosen by popular vote, the Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Association intends to block material they deem "obscene, libelous, or otherwise detrimental to the integrity and good standing of the Ursa Major Awards and the anthropomorphics fandom."
Their definition includes "works of a predominantly sexual nature, or which include explicit sexual situations involving characters which may be underage or non-anthropomorphic animals."
The UMA website also advises against "stacking", though it is unclear whether a request to vote or nominate a candidate - or even mentioning that a particular work had been nominated - would constitute such action.
Apparently legal in North America - though fear of legal action blocked their sale at Further Confusion - such works deeply concern many furs, including influential members of the awards committee.
As the Awards grow more popular, these members have become increasingly uncomfortable about the presence of materials which might spoil the image they wish to project for the fandom.
Worse, con staff - who form the bulk of ALAA members - fear having to sponsor an event celebrating works which they themselves have banned. In a publicly-posted comment to Eurofurence's representative to the ALAA, convention chairman Cheetah said (translated): "Damn it. So they have just nominated the people that we have officially thrown out of the convention."
Anthrocon art director PeterCat also expressed disquiet, suggesting segregation of "mature-themed" works from "pure wank material" so that he might "wholeheartedly support and be proud of the UMAs."
The popularity of underage pornography is not the only problem ALAA may hope to address. Last year, erotica writer Kyell Gold gained five nominations, four of which were in the same category, and won Best Short Fiction and Best Novel. While some defended these nominations, others felt furry publishing house Sofawolf Press had too great a share. Kyell's six lifetime wins have brought him equal to Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai.
In the wake of last year's events, the Awards opened a public discussion area and a LiveJournal. However, despite a promise for information last May, no information about the rule changes was published until now.
Nominations for the Awards close on 28 February; the final vote is scheduled for March 13-April 18. There is no change in the award categories, which have remained static since 2003.