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SFWA Grand Master Award

Entry updated 8 May 2023. Tagged: Award.

A lifetime achievement Award presented to living authors (only) by the Nebula Committee of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, as part of the annual Nebula Awards presentation for work appearing in the previous year. The Grand Master Award was inaugurated in 1975, when the first presentation was made to Robert A Heinlein. In theory this honour is awarded only from time to time, but since 1995 it has become rare for a year to be skipped. It goes always to writers who are senior in both status and years. Since 2002 it has been formally known as the Damon Knight Grand Master Award.

Also listed below are further SFWA life-achievement honours. Author Emeritus awards were introduced in 1995 for, apparently, long-time sf writers not considered worthy of Grand Master eminence; in 2004 this briefly became the more tactful Author of Distinction. Some controversy ensued when Robert Sheckley, then by no means retired from writing, was named as Author Emeritus in 2001. The Grand Master honour, along with Author Emeritus when presented, was normally announced well in advance of the Nebulas: for example, the 2009 winners were both released in Summer 2008, in which year the term "Author Emerita" was introduced for the lesser honour's fourth female recipient. The Solstice Award for life achievement – which unlike Grand Master and Author Emeritus/Emerita may be presented to deceased as well as living recipients, and to anthologists, artists, critics and publishers as well as authors – was added in 2009 and renamed the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award in 2016. In that year, the one-off Ray Bradbury Award for achievement in genre drama was also presented. The 2014 non-Grand Master career award, generally assumed to be equivalent to Author Emeritus, was termed "Special Honoree"; this term appears to have been quietly discontinued.

Most recently in 2023, explicitly addressing the sense that several potential Grand Masters had been disqualified by the accident of early death or belated recognition, and with the aim of "correcting past omissions", SFWA introduced the Infinity Award as a posthumous equivalent of the Grand Master. The inaugural honoree was Octavia E Butler.

In all listings below, the years given are the years of the actual award presentations, whether in the past or (owing to the now usual practice of pre-announcement) forthcoming. [DRL]

Grand Master

Since 2002 this has been formally termed the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

Author Emeritus

  • 1995: Emil Petaja
  • 1996: Wilson Tucker
  • 1997: Judith Merril
  • 1998: Nelson Bond
  • 1999: William Tenn
  • 2000: Daniel Keyes
  • 2001: Robert Sheckley
  • 2002: not awarded
  • 2003: Katherine MacLean
  • 2004: Charles L Harness (as "Author of Distinction")
  • 2005: not awarded
  • 2006: William F Nolan
  • 2007: D G Compton
  • 2008: Ardath Mayhar
  • 2009: M J Engh ("Author Emerita")
  • 2010: Neal Barrett Jr
  • 2014: Frank M Robinson ("Special Honoree") – a presentation intended for the 2014 Nebula ceremony, which through organizational error was not made; it was presented in 2015 and may be counted among that year's awards.

Solstice Award

Since 2016 this has been formally termed the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award.

Ray Bradbury Award

This was given only once, as below, as an award for overall career achievement. For SFWA presentations to individual dramatic works and/or their scripts, see Nebula.

Infinity Award


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