The Award was created to honor the late editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, which is now named Analog. Campbell, who edited the magazine from 1937 until his death in 1971, is called, by many writers and scholars, the father of modern science fiction. Writers and critics Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss established the award in Campbell's name as a way of continuing his efforts to encourage writers to produce their best possible work.
The Campbell Award differs from the other two major awards in the field by being restricted to the novel and by its method of selection. The Hugo Awards are voted on by some thousand of the several thousand members who pay advance fees to attend the World Science Fiction Convention, which meets annually at different locations on Labor Day weekend. The Nebula Awards are voted on by some hundred of the nearly three thousand members of the Science Fiction Writers of America and presented at the annual Nebula Award meeting usually held late in April.
The Campbell Award is the only award of the three selected by a committee small enough to discuss among its members the novels published during the year and to arrive at a consensus choice. The current jury consists of Gregory Benford, Paul A. Carter, James Gunn, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Christopher McKitterick, Farah Mendlesohn, Pamela Sargent, and T.A. Shippey.
Nominations come from the science-fiction publishers as well as individual jurors. Nominations are usually requested in December by Chris McKitterick in the United States and Farah Mendlesohn in the United Kingdom, and the jurors read and debate the merits of these books through April. This process produces a list of finalists based on jurors' rankings, and the final decision is made after vigorous debate on the merits of the finalists during May. The winning author is usually contacted in May and invited to attend the Campbell Conference; the winner often attends the last day or two of the SF Writers Workshop, as well.