First off, many thanks to whomever nominated Severed and Sewn for best slash, angst, and characterization. This particular story lists the primary pairing as Faith/Buffy. The action of the fic unfolds from Buffy's perspective and it's principally Faith that she directly interacts with. The content of the piece includes sex and shared emotional catharsis. I think most would agree that a fic like this belongs in the Slash category. I certainly do.
However, the story isn't really about Faith and Buffy. It's about Buffy mourning the passing of Angel of Spike. It's about her individual relationships with these two men, which are heavily explored. B/A and S/B are two distinct Het pairings. Where then do we draw the distinction in defining a story as het vs. slash? Most would say primary pairings are what categorically define fic in an award site context, but should author intent be taken into account? This sort of question puts a lot of responsibility on the weight of the nominator and, frankly, one that's pretty unecessary. I don't expect a reader to know or share my philosophical intentions when I post a story.
In addition to my slash nomination, I've also personally been nominated for Best Het author. Does this seem contrary? No, not at all. I've written femslash and I've written gen, but I primarily write about male/female relationships, and I think most people would consider me a Het author. I'd make this distinction whether I wrote one pairing or I wrote many (which I do).
Something that I was struck by was a comment made by angeariathat Het is somehow categorically defined as romantic or explores/develops a romantic relationship for the fic's primary pairing. If this is the case, then no one should consider me a Het writer. My work is not about romance or romantic relationships. I'm not interested in getting a pairing together. What I am interested in is exploring character's through their relationships with others. My work often includes intimacy, but not necessarily love. There's often a wealth of emotional energy being expressed, but not necessarily toward their partner. Defining het via romance is a narrow definition and one that, I think, principally serves longer, epic fics. Shorter fics and one shots don't always have the scope to make or break a relationship - to see the progression of a pairing getting together or breaking apart often requires more time and space that a longer story can spend chapters leading up to.
Over a year ago, I posed the question on my LJ What is Romance? and got some very interesting responses. Overall, I'd say romance is a genre where you can expect certain elements, including an exploration of the romantic entanglements of two (or more) characters, whether they're male/famale or male/male. Het and Slash I would broadly define as stories that explore the relationship of a primary pairing, romantic or otherwise. Gen, then, would be stories that focus on broader themes or character studies that don't include an intimate non-platonic relationship as its primary focus.
Gen fic and it's definitions was a major talking point at several of the panels at WriterCon this summer. enigmaticblueshandily wrote up some of her recollections about the Writing Gen Fic panel over at riters_r_us, and I encourage those of you that are interested to take a look. It was also a major part of the "Slash: Gay, Queer, Both, Neither?" panel I attended.
I think where you get into especially choppy waters is defining threesome/moresomes in an award site context. Assuming the threesome/moresome has mixed gender participants, the story's primary focus could be het, slash or both. At non-pairing specific sites, sometimes you'll get a Threesome category to address this circumstance, but at sites that don't what do you do?
I'm starting to increasingly wonder about this as my personal interest in multiple relationships in the Buffyverse evolves. We're generally forced to pick and choose which couple or relationship gets top billing in a fic, but what about fics where the primary focus is more than one relationship? Say you've got a fic with Buffy/Spike and Spike/Angel. Does Spike have to chose who he wants to "be with" at the end of the story for us to appropriately categorize it? What if it's unresolved, or he decides Buffy and Angel are better for each other, or he wants both of them, or he wants neither of them?