Jun 5 2011 9:55am

Hugo Nominees: 1986

1986 Hugo Award trophy

The 1986 Hugo Awards were presented at ConFederation in Atlanta Georgia, and the best novel award was given to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, a book about which I am deeply conflicted. I read it in 1985 when it was new and absolutely loved it. I’d already been a fan of Card’s for some time, and this is the pure essence of Card—a conflicted genius child forced into the act of atrocity. It has wonderful characters and a wonderful story and alien dreams... and a very troubling set of axioms that it took me a long time to recognise. Every novel has the author palming cards in the worldbuilding to get things to come out the way they want—so that looks like cold equations but it’s actually a cold deck. Sometimes when you stop and think it’s worrying that that is what they wanted. I loved Ender’s Game in 1985, I read it straight through twice. I know the names of all the characters and can quote large chunks of the text. And yet I can’t help seeing that there’s this pure tormented innocent forced, forced, into killing the all the aliens while having perfect compassion for them, and it makes me feel slightly ill.

It’s a great book and a worthy Hugo winner. I’d have absolutely voted for it in 1986. It’s in print, and in the Grande Bibliotheque (hereafter “the library”) in English and French. It’s still being talked about and stirring up controversy. But I find its view of necessity disturbing, and I doubt I will read it again.

There are four other nominees and I’ve read all of them.

Greg Bear’s Blood Music is a short fascinating novel of genetic engineering, nanotech, and artificial intelligence. This is probably Bear’s best work. It’s in print and in the library in French and English. The novelette form won the Hugo and the Nebula, and this may have made people reluctant to vote for it, feeling it had already won.

C.J. Cherryh’s Cuckoo’s Egg (post) is a space opera about aliens, communication, and responsibility. It’s infuriating that it didn’t get a British edition until years later. It’s in print in an omnibus, but it’s not in the library. My entirely unscientific perception is that this is not one of Cherryh’s better known books and it hasn’t lasted well.

Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is a big blockbuster about a near-future alien imvasion. I liked the aliens, but this is a style of book I tend to read fast and forget—multiple POVs, not much depth, fun, but only fun. I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that really belongs on the Hugo ballot. It’s in print, and in the library in English only.

David Brin’s The Postman is an intelligent tightly-focused near future disaster novel that asks interesting questions about the nature of civilization. I think the original novella-length version was the best. It didn’t lose by being expanded but it didn’t gain much either. I believe it was later made into a movie. It’s good, but it isn’t as original or innovative as Brin’s Uplift books. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English and French.

So, four men and one woman, four previous winners. Interestingly, we have three novels expanded from previously nominated short work—the Card, the Bear, and the Brin. All these books are science fiction, but they are very different. We have two disaster novels (one with aliens), two space operas (with aliens), and one pretty much pure science near future, also with aliens arising. So 1986 was a year where everyone wanted aliens. Lovely.

What else might the voters have chosen?

Ender’s Game also won SFWA’s Nebula Award. Other non-overlapping nominees were Tim Powers’s Dinner at the Deviant’s Palace, Brian W. Aldiss’s Helliconia Winter, Barry N. Maltzberg’s The Re-Making of Sigmund Freud, and Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix. I don’t like Schismatrix, but I recognise it as an excellent example of emergent cyberpunk and would have prefered to see it on the Hugo ballot than Footfall.

The World Fantasy Award was won by Song of Kali by Dan Simmons, which is too much horror for it to be seriously considered for the Hugo. Other nominees were The Damnation Game, Clive Barker, The Dream Years, Lisa Goldstein (post), Illywhacker, Peter Carey, The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice and, Winterking, Paul Hazel.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award was won by The Postman, with Vonnegut’s Galapagos in second place, Blood Music and Keith Roberts’s Kiteworld in third.

The Philip K. Dick Award for paperback originals was won by Dinner at the Deviant’s Palace, with a special citation of Richard Grant’s Saraband of Lost Time. Other finalists not already mentioned were Emprise, Michael P. Kube-McDowell, Knight Moves, Walter Jon Williams (post), Terrarium, Scott Russell Sanders, and The Timeservers, Russell Griffin.

The Postman won the Locus SF Award. Other nominees not mentioned so far: Robots and Empire, Isaac Asimov, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, Robert A. Heinlein,  Brightness Falls from the Air, James Tiptree, Jr., Always Coming Home, Ursula K. Le Guin, Eon, Greg Bear, The Proteus Operation, James P. Hogan, The Kif Strike Back, C. J. Cherryh (post), Contact, Carl Sagan, Artifact, Gregory Benford, The Memory of Whiteness, Kim Stanley Robinson, Between the Strokes of Night, Charles Sheffield, Chapterhouse: Dune, Frank Herbert, Ancient of Days, Michael Bishop, Dayworld, Philip José Farmer, Child of Fortune, Norman Spinrad, Tom O’Bedlam, Robert Silverberg, Starquake, Robert L. Forward, Five-Twelfths of Heaven, Melissa Scott, The Darkling Wind, Somtow Sucharitkul.

I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see the Heinlein, the Asimov and the Herbert down here instead of up among the Hugo nominees. Of the rest, the Tiptree and the Le Guin are great but flawed, they’d have been good nominees but not outstanding ones. The Cherryh is wonderful but doesn’t stand alone any more than one organ ripped out of a body would.

The Locus Fantasy Award went to Roger Zelazny’s The Trumps of Doom, an Amber book. Other nominees not previously mentioned: The Book of Kells, R. A. MacAvoy (post), Dragonsbane, Barbara Hambly, Lyonesse II: The Green Pearl, Jack Vance, The King’s Justice, Katherine Kurtz, The Summer Tree, Guy Gavriel Kay, With a Tangled Skein, Piers Anthony, Dark of the Moon, P. C. Hodgell, Silverthorn, Raymond E. Feist, Mulengro, Charles de Lint, Lovecraft’s Book, Richard A. Lupoff, Brokedown Palace, Steven Brust (post), The Damnation Game, Clive Barker, The Wishsong of Shannara, Terry Brooks, Wizard of the Pigeons, Megan Lindholm (post), In Yana, the Touch of Undying, Michael Shea, The Last Rainbow, Parke Godwin, Things Invisible to See, Nancy Willard, The Song of Mavin Manyshaped, Sheri S. Tepper, Wings of Flame, Nancy Springer, The Bronze King, Suzy McKee Charnas, Marianne, the Magus, and the Manticore, Sheri S. Tepper.

The Mythopoeic Award was won by Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds, which wasn’t Hugo eligible as it was published in 1984. Other nominees not already mentioned: Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock, and Manuel Mujica Lainez’s The Wandering Unicorn.

The Prometheus Award (Libertarian) was won by Victor Milan’s The Cybernetic Samurai. Other nominees were: Elegy for a Soprano, Kay Nolte Smith, The Gallatin Divergence, L. Neil Smith, A Matter of Time, Glen Cook, and Radio Free Albemuth, Philip K. Dick.

Looking for things they all missed, I see Pamela Dean’s The Secret Country (post), Geoff Ryman’s The Warrior Who Carried Life, Michael Swanwick’s In the Drift, and John Kessell and James Patrick Kelley’s Freedom Beach.

So... on the whole, this was a pretty good year where the Hugo nominations were doing what they’re supposed to. There are a number of things I’d rather have seen on the list than Footfall, but nothing that it seems really unjust to leave out. And there were three weak “old master” books that the 1986 nominators decided not to nominate, and good for them. So well done, voters of 1986.

Other Categories.


  • “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai,” Roger Zelazny (Asimov’s Jul 1985)
  • “Green Mars,” Kim Stanley Robinson (Asimov’s Sep 1985)
  • “The Only Neat Thing to Do,” James Tiptree, Jr. (F&SF Oct 1985)
  • “Sailing to Byzantium,” Robert Silverberg (Asimov’s Feb 1985)
  • “The Scapegoat,” C. J. Cherryh (Alien Stars)

Okay, that’s another great set of novellas and I’d have had a hard time voting. I think I’d have put the Silverberg first... no, the Tiptree, no... I don’t know. The Cherryh is good, and all the others are outstanding. This is the kind of nomination list that makes me happy.


  • “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” Harlan Ellison (Universe 15; Twilight Zone Dec 1985)
  • “Dogfight,” Michael Swanwick & William Gibson (Omni Jul 1985)
  • “The Fringe,” Orson Scott Card (F&SF Oct 1985)
  • “A Gift from the GrayLanders,” Michael Bishop (Asimov’s Sep 1985)
  • “Portraits of His Children,” George R. R. Martin (Asimov’s Nov 1985)

I’d have voted for the Martin, but I can’t argue too much here.


  • “Fermi and Frost,” Frederik Pohl (Asimov’s Jan 1985)
  • “Dinner in Audoghast,” Bruce Sterling (Asimov’s May 1985)
  • “Flying Saucer Rock & Roll,” Howard Waldrop (Omni Jan 1985)
  • “Hong’s Bluff,” William F. Wu (Omni Mar 1985)
  • “Snow,” John Crowley (Omni Nov 1985)

Oooh, Fermi and Frost! You know what would be interesting? Reading all these short works now and looking at them in detail. Somebody should do that.


  • Science Made Stupid, Tom Weller (Houghton Mifflin)
  • Benchmarks: Galaxy Bookshelf, Algis Budrys (Southern Illinois University Press)
  • An Edge in My Voice, Harlan Ellison (Donning)
  • Faces of Fear: Encounters with the Creators of Modern Horror, Douglas E. Winter (Berkley)
  • The John W. Campbell Letters, Vol. 1, Perry A. Chapdelaine, Sr., Tony Chapdelaine & George Hay, eds. (AC Projects 1986)
  • The Pale Shadow of Science, Brian W. Aldiss (Serconia Press)


  • Back to the Future
  • Brazil
  • Cocoon
  • Enemy Mine
  • Ladyhawke

Gosh, Brazil, one of the half dozen genuinely SF movies ever made, and it didn’t win? And that piece of total tripe Cocoon was nominated? And people seriously think this is a category worth keeping?


  • Judy-Lynn del Rey (refused)
  • Terry Carr
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Shawna McCarthy
  • Stanley Schmidt

The note at Locus says that Lester del Rey refused the Hugo because of Judy-Lynn’s opposition to posthumous awards. This led to the present system where you have to accept or decline nominations.


  • Michael Whelan
  • Frank Kelly Freas
  • Don Maitz
  • Rowena Morrill
  • Barclay Shaw

Whelan deserved it just for the Cuckoo’s Egg cover.


  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • Fantasy Review, Robert A. Collins
  • Interzone, Simon Ounsley & David Pringle
  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew Porter
  • Science Fiction Review, Richard E. Geis


  • Lan’s Lantern, George “Lan” Laskowski
  • Anvil, Charlotte Proctor
  • Greater Columbia Fantasy Costumers Guild Newsletter, Bobby Gear
  • Holier Than Thou, Marty & Robbie Cantor
  • Universal Translator, Susan Bridges


  • Mike Glyer
  • Don D’Ammassa
  • Richard E. Geis
  • Arthur Hlavaty
  • David Langford
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden


  • Joan Hanke-Woods
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Steven Fox
  • William Rotsler
  • Stu Shiffman


  • Melissa Scott
  • Karen Joy Fowler
  • Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Carl Sagan
  • Tad Williams
  • David Zindell

Okay, a pretty good year. I’ve not only heard of all of them, I’ve read things by them.

Melissa Scott was nominated on the strength of two novels, The Game Beyond and Five Twelfths of Heaven which is the first of the only trilogy of alchemical polyamorous space opera I know of. Since then she has gone on to write lots of acclaimed SF including The Kindly Ones (post) and Point of Hopes (post). I really like her. I think she’s a great winner. She’s still writing.

Karen Joy Fowler won in 1987, so let’s leave her until next time.

In retrospect, Guy Gavriel Kay should perhaps have won—he’s one of the greatest living fantasy writers. He had only published The Summer Tree, which isn’t representative of what he would go on to achieve. But the people who nominated at voted for him at the very start of his career were getting it right.

Carl Sagan was really a science writer whose only SF novel was Contact. He died in 1996.

Tad Williams has gone on to be a major fantasy writer. He’s still writing.

David Zindell must have been nominated for his only publication, the novella Shanidar, which was the basis for his 1988 post-scientific wide-screen baroque space opera Neverness. He wrote four ambitious books in that universe, and has since been publishing his Ea cycle.

All good Campbell nominees, winding up a pretty good slate altogether.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

John Ginsberg-Stevens
1. eruditeogre
Oooh, Fermi and Frost! You know what would be interesting? Reading all these short works now and looking at them in detail. Somebody should do that.

I'm tempted to do that. I've been thinking about nomination lists of the past in relation to the current Locus Short Story Club discussion, where it seems that many observers are unimpressed by this year's crop of winners (I liked the de Bodard, honestly). Given the tenor of some of the comments, I find myself wondering if other lists have stood the test of time. I'm not sure that a direct contrast would work, but some close examinations of past lists would give us food for thought.
Ben JB
3. Ben JB
"looks like cold equations but it’s actually a cold deck."

Great. I actually recently re-read Card in preparation for writing some educational material for it, and I was amazed at the little slips and tricks he pulls to make sure we get the outcome he wants. I'm sure I loved it the first time I read it, when I thought I was a tortured genius who was only tortured by others because they were jealous. (It is very easy to paraphrase Ender's Game in Randian terms.) There are some really nice moments to it, but reading it now, it's too easy to see the author's hand fixing the deck.
Ben JB
4. seth e.
Obligatory reference to the famous John Kessel essay on Ender's Game is go!

I read Ender's Game when it came out and loved it, partly for the usual reason adolescent geeks do (especially boys, I bet) but partly because I thought Card was saying Something Important about childhood and violence, and how violence can seem like an attractive solution to children, for problems they aren't really equipped to understand.

Some of Card's later Alvin Maker books turned me off so much I didn't go back to his books at all for years. Re-reading Ender's Game in my thirties, I could see that what I had gotten out of it was maybe not so much what Card was putting in; nowadays, I wouldn't say that he was saying something important about children and violence, so much as using an important point about that relationship, in a very manipulative way, to sell an extremely dubious moral set-up.

But it's still an important book, if only because it's such an efficient focal point for conversations about science fiction and what it does. If Card hadn't written it, somebody else would have had to by now.
David Levinson
5. DemetriosX
For me, this is a pretty weak ballot for novels. I'm in that group that has never liked Ender's Game in any form. I can't necessarily say why, it has just never worked for, even though I tend to like early Card. I know why I don't like Blood Music. I tend to react to singularity/transhumanism in much the same way Jo does to cyberpunk. I read Cuckoo's Egg but I don't remember much about it. Footfall is fun, I enjoyed figuring out who the various tuckerizations were, but it's not really Hugo-worthy. The Postman was marvelous as a novella, but each subsequent story underwent a bit of a homeopathic process. Looking at the other books that year, I don't really see anything else, though. Maybe Child of Fortune or Tom O'Bedlam, but I don't know.

For the novella, I would probably have gone with "Sailing to Byzantium", though maybe "Green Mars". It should be noted that "Green Mars" has nothing to do with the later RGB Mars series. It's about a group of people climbing Olympus Mons on a terraformed Mars.

Novelette doesn't really say anything to me this year. I tend to read so fast that I don't necessarily absorb titles and/or authors along with the story unless it really stands out.

Short story is a great ballot. But for me, the winner hands down has to be "Flying Saucer Rock & Roll". I often just stop and run through it in my head just because.

Dramatic Presentation: Has to be no award. As with almost every Terry Gilliam film, Brazil is something I should like, but there is some disconnect that I just can't overcome. The rest are mostly meh. I liked Ladyhawke, but I'm not sure it's Hugo material.

The Campbells are another good list, but Carl Sagan really shouldn't be there. That was just pandering. The rest are good, though I don't know anything about David Zindell.
Kristen Templet
6. SF_Fangirl
Interesting list of novels of which I read three. I read Ender's Game in my late 20s. I expected to love it because from everything I it seemed to be the kind of sci fi I loved. I think I waited too late in my life because I was unimpressed. It did not live up to the hype, but I could imagine I might have loved it as a teen.

I read Blood Music much more recently. I liked the beginning (which I believe was the novellette that won the awards) and didn't care for the end. So I think a novellete win and a novel loss is just fine for this book.

Finally I think I read Footfall around the same time as Ender's Game and had a similar reaction. I sounded like a book I should like (apocalyptic sci fi) but wasn't. The undevelopped, unlikable characters is what I recall the most about it. I did dislike it a lot more than Ender's Game and agree with you that it wasn't award nominee worthy.

I think you're right, though. Ender's Game definately is the most well-remembered and respected and therefore probably the best choice from the nominees and quite possible the best choice for the year.
Ben JB
7. James Davis Nicoll
Five-Twelfths of Heaven, Melissa Scott

Am I right in remembering that this was either the first or among the first fantasy novels published by Baen Books? Of course, it's among the first in general: Baen's first books came out in the previous year.
Ben JB
8. James Davis Nicoll
Artifact, Gregory Benford
David Brin’s The Postman
Greg Bear’s Blood Music
Greg Bear’s Eon

Ah, the heyday of the Killer Bs.
Ben JB
9. James Davis Nicoll
the best novel award was given to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, a book about which I am deeply conflicted. I read it in 1985 when it was new and absolutely loved it.

Same here (I also have distinct memories of when and where I read the original novella and not just because I managed to get set on fire while reading it ). I was very surprised when I reread the 1985 MMPK edition how wretched it was. Even simple internal continuity gets tossed if it blocks Card's place: space travel is simultaneously so expensive space stations cannot be visited and cheap enough that huge populations can be sent out to settle alien worlds around othyer stars, while Poland is at the same time under the boot of the Cruel Russian Bear and a Rogue Nation with Unrestricted Births.

Still, if one wants a sympathetic book about a genocidal genius, this is the one (Lucas Trask was more of a democide).

In my defense I was always sleep deprived back then.

1: Do not sit downwind of a tree where people are burning off tent caterpillers; the burning silk doesn't always shrivel but sometimes floats away like a tiny little WWII-era incindiary balloon.
Pseu Donym
10. Scotoma
Same here, loved it when I read it years ago, but haven't reread and don't know how it would hold up.

Whenever someone categorizes Schismatrix as cyberpunk I feel the need to correct them (someone on the internet is wrong, can't have that). Sure, it shares some of the same genetic code, but overall it's more like the first stirrings of the transhuman/posthuman SF that became en vogue a decade later.

One book I haven't seen on the list that is in my personal best of 1985 is Glen Cook's Passage at Arms. Maybe it's not a big, important book, but it's a very intense read and portrays space war differently than most SF.
Michal Jakuszewski
11. Lfex
Ender's Game is probably another case of a novel which was so immensely popular it just had to win. I loved it back then and would vote for it, but it didn't pass the test of time very well. Also, Card wrote several better novels, IMHO, includning Speaker for the Dead and Pastwatch, but this is the novel which made him famous.

The novel list was quite decent, IMHO. Cuckoo's Egg is one of my favorite Cherryh novels and today I would probably vote for it among these nominees. Blood Music and The Postman also were good, but I agree they worked better as novelettes. Footfall was great fun, but not really award material. Also, it feels quite dated today, as does most science fiction set in the Cold War world.

I also remember quite a few other novels which would make good nominees. My favorite is Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling - quintessential early posthuman novel. I suppose Sterling didn't invent the term "posthuman" but it is certainly the place I heard it for the first time. Schismatrix perhaps suffers a little from too much plot similarities to The Ophiuchi Hotline (there is also another well regarded novel which follows similar template - Vacuum Flowers by Michael Swanwick), but it still remains my choice for the first place.

Contact by Carl Sagan was also quite good, despite famously lame ending and inferior Hollywood adaptation, and would make a decent nominee. I think Eon by Greg Bear works better as a novel than Blood Music, even if it was less ambitious. Brightness Falls from the Air by Tiptree also was quite good, but it is another novels which suffers from too much similarity to another book - in this case Air Force One Is Down by Alistair MacLean. Still, I would chose it over Footfall as a nominee. I also like Five-Twelfths of Heaven a lot, but once again, not award material.

In short fiction, I would probably chose Silverberg, Martin and Sterling in their respective categories.
Ben JB
12. James Davis Nicoll
The Proteus Operation, James P. Hogan

Not a great book but useful as an ideological marker: it depends on the Holocaust being an historical fact so it predates Hogan becoming a Holocaust denier. Hogan once said "I got to know Mark Weber quite well during the time that I lived in California"; Hogan left California in 1988 so there's not a huge window for this to have occurred in.

Dinner at the Deviant’s Palace,

Pretty much the only Tim Powers I have never reread.

Child of Fortune, Norman Spinrad

One of my favourite Spinrads at the time; I wonder how it would stand up to a reread?
Pseu Donym
13. Scotoma
Ha, I've forgotten Child of Fortune, I loved it when I first read and still did on a reread a few years ago. There are some flaws, especially later on where it looked like Spinrad had written himself into a corner (at least that looked like it to me), but it's still very neat overall.
john mullen
14. johntheirishmongol
I liked Ender's Game but even at the time, I thought it was overrated. I don't remember reading any of the sequels, so I definately wasn't that impressed. I would probably have voted for the Brin book. As much as I detested the movie, the book was pretty strong with very good characterizations. I have to say, I enjoyed Footfall too. Though others here complain about stories with multiple POV, I rather enjoy the style.

So my question is: How are the nominees picked? Locus seems to have multiple nominees while the Hugos only have a few. It seems to me the genre by this point was big enough that multiple nominees didnt hurt. I have only been to 2 Worldcons, and I frankly don't remember.

I completely disagree about leaving dramatic presentations off the ballot. I think without movies, scifi would still be a small genre and would not have the market share and we would have lost too many great writers to other areas. The truth is a good writer is a good writer, and people go where they can make enough money to be happy. Most of the writers in the first half of the century couldn't make a living writing just scifi, and they either did other writing jobs or had other positions.

So for this years movies, I have no issue with Back to the Future winning. You may have liked Brazil but I don't see how you can consider it the only scifi movie. Time travel is one of the great general themes of scifi and it is a movie that still holds up. I might eliminate Ladyhawke, though its one of my wife's favorite movies and add Explorers, which was a fun kids scifi movie.
Ben JB
15. James Davis Nicoll
So my question is: How are the nominees picked?

Simplified: the pool of eligible voters (the members of the previous year's worldcon and (I think) the upcoming one) nominate eligible works they liked . Some poor group of bastards get to go through all these votes to find out which five got the most nominations; those become the official nominees (subject to various rules I won't get into. I have to leave something for Kevin Standlee to do).

Anyone who wants to buy a membership can do vote on the Hugos. It's not limited to a jury or anything.

1: Sometimes people nominate things that are not eligible yet. Whoops.
Rich Horton
16. ecbatan
As to novel -- hard to argue with Ender's Game at the time, or even now, given the relative weakness of the rest of the field. I'm like a lot of folks here -- I lapped it up at the time, and have gone on to grow misgivings about it since. Still, it's an intense book.

I do like Schismatrix, and wouldn't have minded if it won, but it's not a great novel.

Some not yet mentioned novels, or novels that I missed seeing in the above posts:

CV, by Damon Knight -- very readable, very enjoyable, kind of went weird at the end (though there are two sequels, which presumably take off from that point and might justify the weirdness)

The Nick of Time, by George Alec Effinger

Alien Main, by Lloyd Biggle and T. L. Sherred

and from the "mainstream":

A Maggot, by John Fowles

Last Letters from Hav, by Jan Morris

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

That is a pretty significant set of three books, really!

As to the Campbell, while Karen Joy Fowler is in my view clearly the best writer on the list, she got her award a year later. Guy Gavriel Kay has probably had the most significant career among these writers, but based on "body of work" to this time, Melissa Scott wasn't a bad choice, and she's had a fairly productive career since then as well.

As to Five Twelfths of Heaven being the first fantasy Baen published, well, maybe, except that you can squint funny at it and call it Science Fiction, sort of in the mode of Richard Garfinkle. And anyway -- Spaceships! (Dorothy Heydt's ("Katherine Blake's") The Interior Life is unambiguously Fantasy -- or if not Fantasy, it's Contemporary, certainly not SF -- is it the first undisputably non-SF novel from Baen?)

Rich Horton
Ben JB
17. James Davis Nicoll
Dorothy Heydt's ("Katherine Blake's") The Interior Life is unambiguously Fantasy -- or if not Fantasy, it's Contemporary, certainly not SF -- is it the first undisputably non-SF novel from Baen?

Surely Janet Morris got there first with Beyond Wizardwall?
Ben JB
18. James Davis Nicoll
The Heydt goes on different lists:

Books that in retrospect might have done better at a different publisher


This would have done better with a different cover

How did the author put it?

(For those who haven't seen it, which is practically everybody, the cover shows a woman riding a horse through a dark forest full of weird little animals. Fine so far. But instead of being cloaked and hooded in black and looking rather like a Nazgul till you got up close, the woman is wearing a white fluffy ball gown with little cap sleeves, suitable for the junior prom in around 1940, and a pageboy hairdo to match. Sheesh.)

Dorothy J. Heydt
Rich Horton
19. ecbatan
OK, short fiction.

1985 was one of the great years for short fiction in SF history, in my view. I think that's reflected in the winners being all fine stories that didn't deserve to win.

For example, in novella. Yes, Zelazny's "24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai", is a fine story. But it's not the best of the year. Tiptree's "The Only Neat Thing to Do" is her best late story, and it's arguably the best "Cold Equations" reexamination ever -- well, or second best, Kelly's "Think Like a Dinosaur" is probably the best. But it's not the best. Neither is the very good Silverberg story, nor the OK Cherryh story.

For me, and by a wide margin, Kim Stanley Robinson's "Green Mars" was the best novella of 1985. I admit some personal investment there -- it's one of the stories I credit with bringing me back to the field after a few years drifting away a bit. But it's also a great great story. With a great last line -- "A new creature steps on the peak of green Mars."

And it's not correct to say it has nothing to do with the RGB Mars novels. It's true that it's not in the strict continuity of the novels, but it's clearly a beta version of that Mars, with some shared characters (or at least versions of characters), and with similar ideas (terraforming Mars, and longevity). It was eventually collected in The Martians, Robinson's short story collection that was a pendant to the trilogy.

There were quite a few more very fine novellas in 1985. Bruce Sterling's "Green Days in Brunei" is excellent -- it surely should have made the shortlist. Vernor Vinge's "The Ungoverned" is a good story, if not quite Hugo-worthy. Kate Wilhelm's "The Gorgon Field" is also good.

Now to novelette. I'd have voted for "Dogfight" among the nominees. But there were some outstanding ones that didn't even make the shortlist.

My favorite novelette of 1985 was Avram Davidson's "The Slovo Stove", which doesn't seem that well known these days, but which is thoroughly marvelous.

In addition, one of William Gibson's best stories was first published in 1985, though few people in the field saw it. This was "The Winter Market", which first appeared in Vancouver Magazine in November 1985. It got more notice after it appeared in Interzone and Burning Chrome in 1986, and the following year's Dozois Best Of.
There's also:

"Solstice", by James Patrick Kelly
"The Warm Space", by David Brin
"The Road Not Taken", by Harry Turtledove
"Lord Kelvin's Machine", by James P. Blaylock
"Mercurial", by Kim Stanley Robinson
"Tunicate, Tunicate, Wilt Thou Be Mine?", by Charles Sheffield
"Empire Dreams", by Ian McDonald
"Shanidar", by David Zindell (the first significant story, I think, from the Writers of the Future anthologies -- of course, this was the first year of the anthologies!)

The short story field was particularly brilliant. Again, the best story did not appear on the Hugo shortlist, though it did win the Nebula. This is Nancy Kress's "Out of All Them Bright Stars", in my opinion one of the very best SF short stories of all time.

Of the Hugo shortlist, to my mind the best story is "Snow", by John Crowley. Sterling's "Dinner in Audoghast" is also very good. I'd rank the Zelazny story behind those two. Perhaps as Jo suggests a reread of the whole shortlist would be productive. The Crowley story is pure SF, by the way (and very moving) -- we think of him as primarily a fantastist, because of Little, Big and the Aegypt sequence, but some of his very best work ("Snow", Engine Summer, and "Great Work of Time") is SF.

Other good short stories (some very good indeed):

Connie Willis's famously controversial "All My Darling Daughters"
James P. Blaylock's "Paper Dragons"
John Kessel's "A Clean Escape"
Andrew Weiner's "Klein's Machine"
my favorite Lucius Shepard story, "A Spanish Lesson"
Karen Joy Fowler's "The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things" (one of a few great SF stories with titles from Wallace Stevens)
John M. Ford's "Scrabble With God"
Greg Bear's "Through Road No Wither"
Lisa Goldstein's "Tourists"

Taken all in all, I think the list of short stories, including the Hugo shortlist, is about as good as list at that length as ever.

Rich Horton
Pseu Donym
20. Scotoma
I'm always amazed when someone can go on about the SF/F short fiction published in a given year. I mean, how many people have read as widely to actually comment. That's why I consider the novel Hugo the only sensible (from my POV that choices in that regard actually can come from an informed opinion, even if you haven't read all). It seems far easier to get a good overview of the novels in a given year than the short stuff. There's just too much to read. Which is only compounded by the fact that I remember novels far better than stories (meaning the title, author and year, the story if good I rarely forget).
Ben JB
21. ofostlic
On Melissa Scott: I really like her. I think she’s a great winner. She’s still writing.

Definitely a great winner. And she kept writing really well: I think The Shapes of Their Hearts and Dreaming Metal are as good as anything she wrote earlier.

I hadn't seen anything new by her since Point of Dreams, in 2001, and searching revealed only one new book, a Stargate tie-in. So she is still writing, but much less than in the 1990s.
Bob Blough
22. Bob
Well, I love short fiction and though I don't read everything (like Gardner and Rich do for their anthologies) I am a wide reader. In 1985 there were not too many to keep track of - there were four big magazines - F&SF, IASFM, Analog, Omni (which only had one story in each issue). The only major ongoing original anthology was Carr's Universe. I read all the "Best of...SF" anthologies that year - Carr, Wollheim and Dozois. Then if you read all the nominated stories from the Hugo and Nebula awards and the top five (at least) of Locus you would have read most of the important stories for the year. It's a little harder these years with so many good stories published on the net.

Anyway Novels had some real gems - but not many. I, unlike most people here, enjoy the novel Blood Music more that the novelette. The novel gives the story first hand and not as a "bar" story told to a friend, as in the novellette. That technique always seems to distance me too much to enjoy it in any story. I believe that Atwood's A Handmaids Tale is terrific as is the novel version of The Postman which remains my second favorite Brin novel (Kiln People coming in first). Schismatrix deserves a place on the ballot. I agree it's not so much cyberpunk as the beginning of the transhuman phase in SF (and while things done to excess become boring - the first things written in what eventually becomes a "trend" are very exciting and cutting edge, which is why Neromancer and Schismatrix are so important). I would end my top five with The Memory of Whiteness by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's flawed by still very, very good. As has been said Ender's Game is important to the field and was widely beloved at the time but when I finally read it (I was living in Norway at the time and couldn't get it right away) I actively hated it. It didn't work for me. It was cruel and I thought very poor Card (and I had read everything by him I could get my hands on from Hot Sleep and Capitol on through) and this was very disappointing. But then I dislike his next award winning novel even more - for different reasons). So there was no way this would not win and, as said, it has remained read throughout the years and seems to be a very good gateway book to SF for young readers.

Novellas - great choices but "Sailing to Byzantum" should have won. It is another best SF novella of all time, in my opnion. But the winner was also very good as was "Green Mars". The other two are good enough for nomination but not as good as those top three.

Novelettes are extremely good as well but I thought the weakest one won. All of the other four would have been good choices but the best was "All My Darling Daughters" by Connie Willis - a story that is very different from other Willis stories yet contains all the Willis' trademarks so that no one else could have written it. Others just as good as these were two by Shepard "A Spanish Lesson" and "The Jaguar Hunter". Brilliant year for novelettes.

The Short Story category was terrific, too. I agree with Rich that the best short of the year was the Nebula winner. "Out of All Them Bright Stars" by Nancy Kress was the creme de la creme. I also would have included "The God's of Mars" by Dozois, Dann and Swanwick and "With Virgil Oddem at the East Pole" by Harlan Ellison. Also, Karen Joy Fowler had a three great shorts this year "Praxis", "The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things" and "War of the Roses".

I would love to re-read all these short story nominees again and post about them. I actually have been doing that as this series continues. But, I am up to only 1979, as I write this. It will be difficult to read them all for 1985 because I don't believe that "Hong's Bluff" has ever been reprinted. Unfortunately, I no longer have the Omni in which it was originally printed. Am I wrong about a reprinting? Maybe in one of the Best of Omni collections?

Scotoma - I also love to read novels. For the 1985 novels, I read 25 of them and I still haven't read most that are mentioned here. Wow, I just counted that. That is a lot of novels and short fiction. How did I find the time to read all that as I read at only a medium rate? True, I don't read them all in that specific year Many are read later on and enjoyed just as much.
Ben JB
23. etranger
What always bothered me about Ender's Game was the ending, where Ender rescues the infant hive queen. It seems completely out of character for him-- Ender has been trained his whole life to kill on reflex. Throughout the whole book we see that his first instinct is to kill and only feel remorse afterward; it is part of what makes him so tragic-- his own body and instincts betray his good intentions and noble character. From the two bullies he confronts, to the Buggers, to the musquitos on the lake with his sister, Ender kills on instinct. But suddenly, at the end of the novel, Ender's first instinct is to be loving. I realize that this is Card's way of showing that Ender has been healed. But we do not get to see this healing process at all, so to me the ending feels jarring and unearned.
Michael Burke
24. Ludon
A friend had loaned me his copy of Ender's Game when it first came out. I enjoyed the story but never felt compelled to get my own copy - nor could I bring myself to want to read anything else by him.

Just over a year ago a friend referenced Ender's Game while discussing one of my stories. I wanted to go back and see what he was talking about but I still could not buy a copy. After seeing that Ender's Shadow was the same story from a different POV, I picked up that one and read it. For as much as I was drawn into the story, when I finished I knew that I'd never it again. Since then I've read a handful of his other books (each with the same reaction) and it took reading Songmaster to get me to see what I've been picking up on in Card's stories.

I see a meanness in Card's storytelling voice. Be it a comment spoken or only thought about a minor minority character in the Shadow (Bean) series, or all those responses to someone's reaction to Ansset's 'beauty' (or just the POV character's reaction to what he/she thinks is another's reaction) in Songmaster, Card's stories seem to be full of little bits that do nothing to advance the story but rather serve to make the story seem more interesting by stroking the reader's hate. At least, that's how I've come to see it.
Ben JB
25. Gardner Dozois
I have very mixed feelings about ENDER'S GAME Hugo win. The subtext of the book has always made me uneasy. On the other hand, looked at from the perspectives of commercial success and wide influence, it's almost certainly the most significant novel of the year. Year after year, when teaching various Clarions and other writers workshops, most of the kids have listed ENDER'S GAME either as their favorite novel or the novel that got them interested in reading SF in the first place, and there can be no doubt that the impact it had, especially on younger readers, was very widespread indeed. Critics tend not to like it, so it usually doesn't get mentioned in retrospective lists of the best SF novels of its decade--and yet, it was, and remains to this day, one of the bestselling SF novels of all time. With only one possible exception, it's hard to see what else you could realistically give the Hugo to in that year. The only other novel from that year I see as even approaching ENDER'S GAME in popularity, influence, and longevity is SCHISMATRIX, and I agree completely with Scotoma; SCHISMATRIX is not a cyberpunk novel at all, it's an early ancestor of the posthuman SF that would dominate the next decade. Both the Le Guin and the Tiptree novels have some great stuff in them, but don't really deserve to win overall. BLOOD MUSIC the novel is weaker than "Blood Music" the novelette, as THE POSTMAN is weaker than the original story. In fact, it's hard to see what you could realistically give the Hugo to here, except for ENDER'S GAME and SCHISMATRIX. Lindholm's WIZARD OF THE PIGEONS is now considered a minor fantasy classic in some circles, but it's not really Hugo material. I agree with Jo that it's good that the weak Heinlein, Asimov, and Herbert novels didn't make it on.

Another strong year for novella. The voters went for the most flamboyent story--the Zelazny, which is one of the best of the late Zelazny stories, but not up to the best of his earlier work--but my vote would have gone to "Sailing to Byzantium," with "Green Mars" as second choice. "The Only Neat Thing To Do" is not my favorite late Tiptree--it seems too sentimental to me, in a manner that's calculated to work the audience; a tear-jerker. My favorite late Tiptree is "Slow Music," from a couple of years before.

In novelette, I'd go for "The Winter Market," perhaps Gibson's single best story, with "Dogfight" as a follow-up, although the Martin, the Bishop, and even the Card are also strong. As someone mentioned, Lucius Shepard published two of his best stories that year, "The Jaguar Hunter" and "A Spanish Lesson."

In short story, I'd go for "Snow," one of my favorite stories of the whole period. "Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" is a hoot--no other term really describes it, one of Waldrop's best. The Sterling and the Pohl are also very strong, as is the Blaylock.

I enjoyed BACK TO THE FUTURE, an entertaining movie, but I respected BRAZIL a lot more.

I was in the audience with Lester Del Rey refused Judy-Lynn's Hugo, saying bitterly "If you wouldn't give it to her while she was alive, she wouldn't want it after she was dead."

In 20-20 hindsight, Guy Gavriel Kay and Tad Williams have had the most significant later careers, but I'm not sure how the situation looked at the time. Then, I probably would have voted for Karen Joy Fowler.
Nancy Lebovitz
26. NancyLebovitz
I've only read Ender's Game once, and I was probably at least 35. I was disgusted by the adults who'd conned Ender into doing their killing, and annoyed that he took on guilt for something he had no way of knowing was happening in the real world.

I pretty much quit reading Card after the one about the woman with genetic OCD who felt compelled to follow the details of wood grain-- I wasn't comfortable with the way I got fascinated by his degree of character torture.

And besides (Alvin Maker) it's just plain wrong for water to become an evil force. People are mostly made of water.

I thought the original "Blood Music" (I thought it was a short story, perhaps I only remember the good parts) was better. It worked very nicely as a horror story, but I thought there were too many fudges in the novel so that the human race could survive.

Footfall had an interesting bit that wasn't followed up on. The aliens require humans to follow all of their own laws. I expect that if that were made the center of a story, rapid simplification and rationalization of laws would happen quickly.
Pseu Donym
27. Scotoma
I remember reading Footfall and seeing the writers tying themselves into knots to make it even halfway believable that the aliens could actually lose to the humans. Didn't liked it then or now, but at least it's ten times smarter than similar stuff in cinema like Independance Day.

The Postman (the novel), was my introduction to Brin. I never liked post-apocalyptic stuff before, and haven't much since then, but that was the biggest exception. Uplifting but in a way that was mostly believable with a few neat twists to the usual formula. Earth & Kiln People & the Uplift novels were great, but The Postman remains my favourite. Whatever happened to him, why isn't he writing anymore?
Ben JB
28. James Davis Nicoll
Whatever happened to him, why isn't he writing anymore?

He is: he had a serial called Shoresteading in Jim Baen's Universe in 2008 but I don't think it was ever published as a hardcover, trade paperback or as a mass market book. He's also had short works published here and there (one of which is a 201o story called Shoresteading included in Hull's Gateways; not having read the JBU Shoresteading, I cannot say if one is a edited version of the other or he wrote two stories with the same title). He seems to be some sort of consultant, perhaps of the !Futurist! variety; he belongs to the SIGMA group that was mentioned obliquely a few Hugos ago, the SF authors who advised Defense on various issues (look for sigmaforum dot org).

Unfortunately the original article talking about one particular session (the one where Larry Niven helpfully suggested how to terrorize Hispanics into avoiding medical services) seems to be gone but googling a particular sentence from it,

"The 45-minute panel discussion quickly deteriorated as federal, local and state homeland security officials, and at least one congressional aid, attempted to ask questions, which were largely ignored."

points at versions of the same story.

“It is impossible for you to succeed without us!” he shouted at the assembled officials, while banging his fist on the table and at one point jumping off his chair to wave a mobile phone in their faces.

(He being David Brin) should also work.
Pseu Donym
29. Scotoma
So, he's part of Monty Python now. I mean, that's the only sensible explanation.
Ben JB
30. James Davis Nicoll
Seems to be an echo of Team B, Daniel O. Graham's crowd. If you like SIGMA, you'll love Team B.

I forgot some graphic novels, including 2010 Tinkers, which I have not read. Oh, but it seems to be online; just go to his wikipedia entry.
Ben JB
31. Doug M.
Seriously, go read the John Kessel essay on _Ender's Game_. It's great.

We avoided nominating the weak Asimov, Heinlein and Herbert books, but there was still one 'minor work by a major figure' award this year. "Paladin of the Lost Hour" would be Ellison's last Hugo for a long time, and I think even his fans will agree that it's pretty minor Ellison.

"Dinner in Audoghast" is only just barely fantasy, but it's one of the best pieces of short historical fiction by anyone anywhere ever. Good grief, what a huge talent Sterling was back then.

Nobody's mentioned _Science Made Stupid_, which is a pity, because it was a truly wonderful work. In the dark days before the internet and the Journal of Irreproducible Results, there just wasn't a lot of funny writing about science available to the general public. _Science Made Stupid_ was basically a book-length collection of Mad Magazine pieces, and I mean that in a good way. A lot of the jokes were silly, but the ones that hit were brilliant.

_The John W. Campbell Letters_ seems to be one of those books that everyone is aware of but nobody has actually read. (Inevitable exception: Carlos.) There's some wild stuff in there.

Doug M.
Ben JB
32. Doug M.
_Song of Kali_ is a pretty dreadful book, and one that actually looks worse in retrospect -- you can see some of Simmons' later hangups hobbyhorses already beginning to emerge. It's got the same "capital-E Evil likes to hang around with poor brown people" thing that Lovecraft rightfully gets lambasted for, but for some reason there are always people popping up to say, goodness no, that's not what Dan Simmons meant at all!

Compare and contrast to the treatment of an evil cult in _Dinner at Deviant's Palace_. DaDP was Tim Power's only attempt at straight SF. It's not a great success on those terms, but viewed as a horror novel, it's pretty good.

Powers is a practicing and fairly devout Catholic. He never goes all C.S. Lewis on us -- you can read and enjoy his books without knowing or caring about the author's religious views, which never emerge beyond the level of subtext. At best, his views inform the books with a certain hard-edged morality and/or take the plot in some fascinating directions. (A recurring theme in Powers is that there are certain things that you *can* do, but that you really, really shouldn't. Magic is usually firmly in this category.)

Anyway, _Dinner at Deviants Palace_ is basically a novel about Religion Gone Very Bad in the form of a scary brainwashing cult. The fact that it turns out to be run by a life-sucking alien horror is almost beside the point; the alien is actually less scary than the cult itself. Which is really quite scary.

Meanwhile, _The Green Pearl_ is Vance of the second rank, but it includes several of Vance's best set-piece sequences: the first part with the green pearl, Aillas and Tatzel's escape down the Cam Brakes, and Glyneth's trip through Tanjecterly. Unfortunately these are embedded in a rambly and broken-backed book that doesn't really go anywhere interesting. Totally worth reading, mind -- even second rank Vance is very very good -- but a bit of a letdown after _Lyonnesse_.

Doug M.
David Levinson
33. DemetriosX
As near as I can tell, the only thing Tad Williams had published at this point was Tailchaser's Song, which, let's face it, is a) just Watership Down with cats and b) a very early exponent, if not the first, of the "my cat ran away, so I will create adventures for him to get over my loss" subgenre. Point b) might be hindsight. I'm a hardcore cat person, but that whole subgenre bugs the heck out of me.

On his blog, David Brin indicated he was working on a new novel last year. He hasn't said whether anything has come of that, but maybe we'll see something in the not too distant future.
Rich Horton
34. ecbatan
Gardner -- I was idioscyncratically calling Tiptree's work up to "Slow Music" "late middle Tiptree", and her work beginning with the Quintana Roo stories "late Tiptree".

May not make any sense, but it's how I have her stuff broken down in my head. To me there is a break in style there -- mostly a lessening of intensity.

James -- I'm pretty sure that the "Shoresteading" in Gateways and the "Shoresteading" in Jim Baen's Universe are the same story, with perhaps some editing differences.
Ben JB
35. Doug M.
Best dramatic presentation: Jo, you may not be aware of this, but most Americans saw a version of _Brazil_ that was quite different from the one you Brits got. Universal Studios thought the film was too long, too dark and too difficult for American audiences. So they cut it by a third and gave it a happy ending with Jack and Jill going off together. (No, seriously.) After Gilliam protested, they backed off and eventually arrived at a sort of compromise. The final American release was a version that was still quite different from the origiinal -- around 15 minutes shorter, and with various scenes changed around -- but that kept the original ending more or less intact.

I've seen both versions, and the original, British version is clearly superior. The American release is much weaker. It's... muddy. The original movie was pretty tightly constructed; despite its visual richness, there isn't a lot of fat on it in terms of plot or cinematography. So the cuts actually do a lot of damage. It's still gorgeous to look at, but the black satire has lost much of its edge, and large chunks of the plot now make no sense.

I would have voted the Best Dramatic Presentation to the American version anyway -- it's still an impressive achievement -- but I can't actually fault the (mostly American) Hugo voters for not doing so. They literally didn't see the same movie you guys did over in Blighty.

Meanwhile, I think people are being a bit too dismissive of _Back to the Future_. Yes, it was a light comedy, and not particularly deep or thoughtful. But it was unquestionably SF; it was a major commercial success that inspired sequels, an animated cartoon, theme park rides, books, and video games; and it's still very much part of the culture. The flaming tire tracks have become a lasting video cliche (I've seen them pop up as recently as this year, in a Discovery Channel show on relativity) and so has"where we're going, we won't need roads". Fun to watch, SFnal plot, good acting, good special effects, major success, and still fondly remembered 25 years later... what more do you want?

I agree that _Cocoon_ was tripe, and _Ladyhawke_ not much better. But _Enemy Mine_ was a decent attempt at bringing the award-winning Longyear novella to the screen; it has serious flaws, and I wouldn't call it a great or even very good movie, but it has heart. Lou Gossett, Jr. and Dennis Quaid both deliver solid performances, even hobbled by a not-so-great script.

So, you've got two major movies, one great, one good, and one flawed but worthwhile adaptation. That strikes me as perfectly cromulent.

Doug M.
Ben JB
36. Gardner Dozois
As far as I can tell, the "Shoresteading" in GATEWAYS has been revised and has had some wordage added to it, but is fundamentally the same story as the online version. Brin tells me in correspondence that he's working on the next "big Brin novel," so we'll probably be seeing more from him soon.

DINNER AT DEVIANT'S PALACE came as a disappointment to me after THE DRAWING OF THE DARK and THE ANUBIS GATES, and I think it's one of Powers's weaker novels.

Yes, "Dinner at Audoghast" is a terrific story, although I agree that it's really historical fiction with the thinnest coating of fantasy. Still like "Snow" better, although I'd recommend the Sterling to anybody.
Ben JB
37. Doug M.
Gardner, I agree that overall it's one of Tim Powers' weaker novels. But the bits with the cult are creepy as hell. The rest, sure, forget about it.

_Schismatrix_ is just terrific, a picaresque novel set in a Solar System that's been quite thoroughly colonized by humans who are no longer always exactly human. It got reissued a few years back in _Schismatrix Plus_, an omnibus including the novel and all of the short stories set in that same Shaper/Mechanist world. Since _Schismatrix_ was excellent, and so were the stories -- several of them were nominated for, or won, awards -- this is really an excellent deal.

Astonishingly, a few copies are still available on Amazon; as of right now, they have seven left. (Eleven bucks? Good grief. I should order an extra copy right now.)

Cover love: this was still the Age of Whelan, with two of the five Best Novel nominees sporting Michael Whelan covers.

Doug M.
Kate Nepveu
38. katenepveu
ofostlic @ #21: Melissa Scott is currently working on a six-book series of _Stargate: Atlantis_ novels co-written with Jo Graham & Amy Griswold, which is in progress. I believe not all are credited on each book, but my impression is that since the books are a "season six" for the cancelled show, they are all working together on all of them.

She also has new "Points" writing in the works, hooray! And I think she has an unsold original novel co-written with Jo Graham making the rounds.
Ben JB
39. James Davis Nicoll
Emprise, Michael P. Kube-McDowell

Ah, yes, this one. It starts with Science! inventing a de-fissionizing ray that forever ends the threat of Atomic Doom. Unfortunately it also ended the threat of nuclear power plants, just as the oil ran out with one of those Energy Crisis-inspired gurgles. Hilarity etc but civilization does eventually recover.

This and Vectors were probably his weakest novels and I thought this was interesting enough to buy the rest of his SF....

Knight Moves, Walter Jon Williams

WJW does Zelazny. I think WJW shares a problem with John M. Ford, in that his work is various enough to make it more challenging to build a constituency.
Ben JB
40. James Davis Nicoll
just as the oil ran out with one of those Energy Crisis-inspired gurgles.

Before anyone asks, I don't remember clearly if coal and coal products played a major role in the post-oil world. The US is sitting on a significant fraction of the world's coal supply and one would expect that to be significant in a post-oil world. I don't think coal is generally seen as sexy enough for SF: you never see books like Tom Swift Junior Jr. and His Amazing Catalytic Smog Inhibitor.
Ben JB
41. James Davis Nicoll
I was in the audience with Lester Del Rey refused Judy-Lynn's Hugo, saying bitterly "If you wouldn't give it to her while she was alive, she wouldn't want it after she was dead."

Not Owen Lock reading a letter from Lester del Rey?
Pseu Donym
42. Scotoma
I've once upon a time read McDowell's The Quiet Pools, a book I really wanted to like. After that experience I haven't touched anything else by him.
Ben JB
43. Gardner Dozois
It might have been Owen Lock reading a letter from Lester del Rey. It was long enough ago that I honestly don't remember. I remember the sentiment expressed, though.
Ben JB
44. James Davis Nicoll
And a follow-up to 40: I also don't recall if the fission-suppress had global reach, interplanetary or interstellar. If it's interplanetary or interstellar, then interesting things happen in the sun because suddenly helium two becomes a stable element, which I think IIUTC facilites the proton-proton reaction. In real life helium two is so unstable I don't think it's ever been verifiably observed and I don't know what the half-life would be, aside from "extremly brief".
Ben JB
45. James Davis Nicoll
Weird: has the running count for comments at the top left always been one less than the actual number of comments?
Ben JB
46. etranger
I'm not sure why this happens, but it seems to occur semi-regularly. If you look closely, there is no comment number 37, so in fact the comment count at the top left is correct. As to why there is no number 37, I have no idea.
Ben JB
47. CarlosSkullsplitter
Schismatrix is not cyberpunk. It's transhuman-punk -- and here, I think it's the punk that's throwing Jo off, when it's a novel that clearly plays with the same toys that (say) Vinge does in his Usenet trilogy. (The last third, Sterling has explicitly said, is meant to evoke "Clarkean transcendence".) But Vinge is nostalgic, and Sterling is postmodern. So.

Card, Card. It used to be that Ender's Game passed down through the junior highs by word of mouth, eighth-graders telling seventh-graders and so on over the years. Now it's often assigned reading, which should kill its popularity dead, and good riddance. It's a brazenly manipulative book in a genre not known for its emotional subtlety. Important, sure, many bad books are. But the junior high reader has dozens more options today.

The Campbell letters: wow, Campbell was ahead of his time... in terms of white resentment. Reading that thing made me wonder what Campbell said about the Jews when Asimov wasn't around. It's testament to the good qualities of Campbell's writers that they did not run with that particular ball -- or perhaps, some of them tried and failed to meet Campbell's editorial standards. Certainly you can find subliterary output along Campbellian Rassentheorie lines on the comment boards of most newspapers these days.

Probably #37 was deleted for being an ad or offensive content.
Ben JB
48. JeffR23
James: It was local. It was also cheap and easy to make, and got used on anywhere that even thought about housing a plant or weapons.

That book was also one of those books in which scientists and, by association, science fiction fans, became an actual persecuted minority group...
Ben JB
49. James Davis Nicoll
That book was also one of those books in which scientists and, by association, science fiction fans, became an actual persecuted minority group...

Given that the scientists' cunning scheme managed to bring about the premature deaths of millions, perhaps billions of people worldwide, this isn't that surprising.
Ben JB
50. Doug M.
#37 was me, and apparently it's being held for review by the moderator as suspect spam.

Well. Cover love! The Age of Whelan rolled on, with two Whelan covers on the Best Novel ballot (the Cherryh and the Niven/Pournelle). The cover of _Footfall_ isn't one of Whelan's greater covers, but still -- his range, all through this period, really was impressive.

Doug M.
Ben JB
51. Rob T.
I agree with Doug M.'s defense of Back to the Future, which has a bad rep for being the "wrong" film to win the Hugo. Given the erratic distribution of Brazil, it's remarkable that the film did as well at the Hugos as it did. (I think it came in a fairly strong second place.)

Aside from the big two, my nominees for the Dramatic Presentation Hugo (in a weak year for sf/fantasy cinema) would have been Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (in the Despression era, Mia Farrow escapes from her problems by seeing the same cheesy movie every day, until on-screen hero Jeff Daniels notices her in the audience and walks off the screen to be with her...), the New Zealand cult film The Quiet Earth (a man wakes up to find he's apparently the only person on Earth, with no clue as to what happened to everyone else), and Return to Oz.

Return to Oz flopped badly at the box office in 1985, partly because Disney found it difficult to promote a film that was far darker and edgier than audiences were expecting from a nominal sequel to the 1939 film of The Wizard of Oz. Today it seems to foreshadow Tim Burton's similarly dark and edgy revisionist take on classic fantasy and sf material. (Burton's own first feature as a director, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, also came out in 1985.) Return to Oz is also worth seeing for Fairuza Balk's remarkable performance as Dorothy, much closer to Baum's original Dorothy than Judy Garland's portrayal. Garland's performance is classic, but Balk's Dorothy may well be definitive.
Ben JB
52. Rob T.
In the comment above, I think I just invented or discovered a previously unknown historical period, the "Despression era". Oops.
Ben JB
53. Gardner Dozois
Oddly, for the chief drum-beater and propagandist for Cyberpunk, especially through his fanzine CHEAP TRUTH, Sterling himself never wrote much cyberpunk. Most of his work is early posthuman stuff, although he also wrote a lot of historical fantasy which is rather reminescent of a somewhat less gonzo Howard Waldrop.

I have held in my hand and read a letter from Campbell to a Big Name Writer (no, I won't tell you who, and if you guess, you'll almost certainly be wrong) in response to a story the BNW sent him which featured a black-run civilization of the future, rejecting it on the grounds that black people were not intelligent enough to run a civilization, a topic he elaborated on at some length. I'll bet that one is not in the collected Campbell letters.
Ben JB
54. Mark Pontin
Chip Delany has put on record the comments from Campbell that, alas, he himself received when he submitted NOVA to Campbell for serialization and Campbell declined the novel.

Also, Delany reports that "the Big Name Writer" Gardner alludes to was reputedly Dean Koontz (then an SF writer, who had appearances in venues like Pohl's IF and AMAZING).

On these matters, Delany is frank, but unfailingly measured and relatively diplomatic, since he says "usually I don’t see much point in blaming people personally, white or black, for their feelings or even for their specific actions—as long as they remain this side of the criminal."

More from Delany here, and it's worth reading for those who haven't --
Joe Romano
55. Drunes
Rob T: Ah, Return to Oz... I had forgotten about that movie. I saw it with my daughter back then. She would have been about 5 or 6. It wasn't what either of us were expecting, but we both loved it.

On a related matter, I'm starting to think that there's a kind of snobbery around here concerning movies. I guess I'm in the minority, but I've always thought any genre movie is better than no genre movies. Back to the Future was a fun movie. Maybe it wasn't as worthy a film as Brazil, but it was still a good Hugo winner. It probably didn't win any new fans for science fiction, but a lot of people saw it and liked it.

Finally, I read Ender's Game only after first reading Speaker for the Dead and looking for more of the same. Speaker for the Dead remains one of my favorite books, but I was truly disappointed with Ender's Game.
Jo Walton
56. bluejo
Drunes: That's the attitude that gave us "The Last Starfighter" and "Cocoon" on Hugo ballots although they're absolute tosh, "any genre movie is better than no genre movie, you don't have to make it good, we will give you our money anyway". It's amazing any good genre movies ever get made.
Andrew Love
57. AndyLove
WJW does Zelazny. I think WJW shares a problem with John M. Ford, in that his work is various enough to make it more challenging to build a constituency.

Yeah - He writes near-present thrillers, space-opera, far-future post-human stuff (, comedies of manners, cyberpunk, and hard fantasy - a pretty wide variety.
Ben JB
58. Gardner Dozois
Well, now that the cat has been let out of the bag, I'll confirm that it was Dean Koontz. I was staying in his apartment in Harrisburg for a couple of days in 1968, and talking about Campbell, as young writers often did in those days, and he got Campbell's letter out and showed it to me, saying that he was amazed by how racist Campbell was. I actually held the letter in my hand, and I can confirm that it really does exist. It was pretty bad, although he refrained from using the "n" word or saying anything you might have heard a redneck from Mississippi saying in those days--the tone was regretful, "more in sorrow than in anger," as he pointed out patiently that those simple, childlike black people were just not intelligent enough to create a civilization, or even successfully maintain one that had been handed to them by white people.

I loved RETURN TO OZ. Any movie that has Auntie Em and Uncle Henry, alarmed that Dorothy has started talking about talking scarecrows and tin men, slam her into the nuthouse for electroshock therapy is alright with me! Plus, the claymation still looks great, even here in the days of CGI.

Andy, it's a problem that Walter also shares with Robert Reed, who never writes a story that's anything much like the last story he wrote, varying wildly across genres and mood and tone, which also makes it hard for him to establish a "Brand Identity" or a constituency.
Rich Horton
59. ecbatan
Yet what makes recent China Mieville novels (specifically The City and the City and Embassytown) so interesting? The fact that they deviate so strikingly (and successfully) from a pretty consistent "Brand Identity" that Mieville had previously established! (I admit, I don't know how that's played at the box office! It plays with me, though.)

Doug (and others): any post that includes a link to an image will generally be held for review by the moderator. I noticed that when I made a post several weeks ago in this series pointing to a magazine cover.

Rich Horton
Andrew Love
60. AndyLove
Andy, it's a problem that Walter also shares with Robert Reed, who never writes a story that's anything much like the last story he wrote, varying wildly across genres and mood and tone, which also makes it hardfor him to establish a "Brand Identity" or a constituency.

Yeah. Robert Reed is on my list of "read that story first" authors, when I see his name in a magazine TOC. I hope he gets back to the "Beneath the Gated Sky" universe though - I'd enjoy a sequel to that.
Ben JB
61. seth e.
ecbatan @59 - I agree totally that Miéville's willingness to shift from one sub-genre to the next is one of his draws as an author. But there are some real through lines in all of his novels that turn them into a more coherent body of work than some authors have--specifically, the city as protagonist, and similar foregrounded attitudes towards societies and their construction. Well, I haven't read Embassytown yet, but the fact that I assume that stuff is in there is a sign that, for me at least, Miéville has a brand. You can honestly say that he's examining a very consistent set of ideas from different angles. The similarities are greater than the differences in sub-genre for me.
Rich Horton
62. ecbatan
Fair enough -- the interest in "the city" is definitely a constant (except arguably for The Scar), and is definitely continued in Embassytown.

What's most impressive to me is his ability to alter his "voice". Few writers do that well.
Ben JB
63. seth e.
I completely agree on that. And it was a relief to me personally, I prefer his newer voices to his original one.
Ben JB
64. Rob T.
I think the main thing wrong with the Dramatic Presentation Hugo (at least as of the mid-1980's) is not so much the wrong movies winning as the wrong movies being nominated. This was partly the fault of a certain number of Hugo nominators overly impressed by movies associated with big names in print sf or bedazzled by the latest offerings from Spielberg/Lucas wannabes, and partly the fault of a distribution system that made it difficult to seek out anything better. (Home video was not yet ubiquitous in 1986, and the window of time between a movie's theatrical run and its video release was a lot longer back then.)

I also think the quality of cinematic Hugo nominees has gotten better over time, as fans gain more access to more potential nominees and more confidence to explore beyond the established genre boundaries. It helps, too, that filmmakers have been expanding the genre boundaries themselves in recent years. (Despite the category's lapses, I would say the average Dramatic Hugo nominee of the 1980's holds up better than the average Hugo nominee of the 1970's, and that's not even counting the good stuff to come later in the decade.)

Thanks for this series of posts, Jo, and for citing all the categories even when they're as annoying-to-infuriating as Dramatic Presentation. I'm looking forward to the next one already!
Ben JB
65. Doug M.
I don't agree that "any genre film is better than none". Garbage is garbage, and garbage in a genre wrapper is actually more annoying.

That said, I must politely but firmly disagree with Jo. The number of genre films released in a year is much, much smaller than the number of genre novels or short stories. So it's going to be harder to find five good candidates. But this year's ballot had one awesome film, one very good film, and one decent film. I'm just not seeing the problem here.

Rob T., good catches on possible alternative nominees. I'd say "Purple Rose" occupies that blurry middle ground between metafiction and fantasy, but it still would have been a worthy nominee. "Cocoon" got on because it made a lot of money, I suppose, and "Ladyhawke" because it pandered to the SCA set. (Which it really did.)

Doug M.
Joe Romano
66. Drunes
Jo and Doug: There are a lot of crappy movies released every year, not just crappy genre movies. My point about rather seeing a crappy genre movie than no genre movie is just that. If you don't want to pay for cheese, don't. But I enjoy them for what they are.

I think Rob T hit the nail on the head, though. It's not so much that the wrong movie won a Hugo, the wrong movies were nominated. Case in point, someone earlier mentioned The Brother from Another Planet, a wonderful movie that was overlooked.
Ben JB
67. Alan Heuer
Here is how I voted in 1986:

Best Novel
1. Ender's Game Orson Scott Card
2. Blood Music Greg Bear
3. The Postman David Brin
4. Cuckoo's Egg C.J. Cherryh
5. Footfall Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Best Novella
1. "Green Mars" Kim Stanley Robinson
2. "The Scapegoat" C.J. Cherryh
3. "The Only Neat Thing to Do" James Tiptree, Jr.
4. "24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai" Roger Zelazny
5. "Sailing to Byzantium" Robert Silverberg

Best Novelette
1. "The Fringe" Orson Scott Card
2. "Portraits of His Children" George R.R. Martin
3. "A Gift from the GrayLanders" Michael Bishop
4. "Dogfight" Michael Swanwick & William Gibson
5. "Paladin of the Lost Hour" Harlan Ellison

Best Short Story
1. "Snow" John Crowley
2. "Dinner in Audoghast" Bruce Sterling
3. "Fermi and Frost" Frederik Pohl
4. "Hong's Bluff" William F. Wu
5. "Flying Saucer Rock & Roll" Howard Waldrop

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