Sun
Jun 26 2011 10:30am

Hugo Nominees: 1989

The 1989 Hugo Awards were presented at Noreascon III in Boston. The Best Novel award was won by C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen (post) one of my favourite books of all time. It’s about cloning and personality—physical cloning is taken for granted, building artificial personalities is all in a day’s work, replicating a famous dead scientist and politician. Making the cloned “son” of another scientist a “custom job” and different from his progenitor is slightly harder, and when it comes to replicating a whole society from the genes on up to the memes, nobody knows if it will work a few generations down the line. It’s a huge brilliant ambitious book with a wide vision; it blew me away when I first read it and would be in my personal top five books of all time. It’s in print and in the Montreal library system (hereafter “the library,” the Grande Bibliotheque web page is down tonight) in English and French. I think this is exactly the kind of book that should be winning the Hugo.

There were four other nominees, and I’ve read three of them.

We’ll do them in order of votes—the NESFA Hugo listing has them that way.

Orson Scott Card’s Red Prophet was the sequel to 1988’s nominee Seventh Son—another fantasy of the American frontier with folk magic. I liked it a lot less—in fact I liked every book in this series less than the one before. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English and French. I don’t think it’s a terrible Hugo nominee, but I think it’s an unimaginative one.

Lois McMaster Bujold got her first Hugo nomination this year with the Nebula winning Falling Free (post). I think of this as minor Bujold, but minor Bujold would be a major book from most writers. This is another book about using cloning to solve problems—in this case, solving engineering problems by genetically engineering quaddies, people with four arms and no legs, who can work well in zero gravity, until they’re suddenly made technologically obsolete when gravity control is invented. It’s in print and in the library in English and French. I think it has been eclipsed somewhat by Bujold’s later work.

Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net was one of those books everybody was talking about at the time. I didn’t read it for ages because I felt generally negative about cyberpunk. By the time Sterling had won me over by writing great short stories and I gave in and read this in the mid-90s, it was already laughably technologically obsolete. It’s a problem when writing about the near future, and especially writing about the near future of computers in 1988. Cyteen and Falling Free could still be in the future. Islands in the Net not so much. However, it’s a well written book in a popular subgenre, and one of the best cyberpunk books out there. I think it was good nominee. It’s not in print, but it’s in the library in English and French.

I haven’t read William Gibson’s Mona Lisa Overdrive, because I don’t have to keep eating to tell if a pot is full of marmelade all the way down. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English and French.

So, two women and three men, all American, three previous winners, one first time nominee. Two books set in multi-planet futures about cloning, two near-future cyberpunk Earths, and one historical fantasy. What else might they have chosen?

There’s a curious withdrawal—apparently P.J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton’s novel The Guardian, which I have neither read nor previously heard of, had enough votes for a nomination, but the administrators concluded that the votes were bloc votes and disqualified them. Locus says “A group of enthusiastic New York area fans was later discovered to be responsible for the votes, exonerating Beese and Hamilton.” It’s not in print and not in the library, and I’d say it has sunk pretty much without a trace.

SFWA gave the Nebula to Bujold. Non-overlapping eligible nominees: Lewis Shiner’s Deserted Cities of the Heart, George Turner’s Drowning Towers and Gregory Benford’s Great Sky River.

The World Fantasy Award went to Koko, Peter Straub. Other nominees: The Drive-In, Joe R. Lansdale, Fade, Robert Cormier, The Last Coin, James P. Blaylock, The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris, Sleeping In Flame, Jonathan Carroll.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which is for science fiction) went to Islands in the Net. Second place was Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Gold Coast, which would have been a fine Hugo nominee, with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsdawn third. (This is a juried award, and I really do find their decision making completely bizarre. There’s hardly a year I don’t type their stuff without a side order of “Huh?” Ignore Falling Free and Cyteen and commend Dragonsdawn? Oooookay.)

The Philip K. Dick Award, for science fiction paperback originals, had a tie. The two winners were Paul McAuley’s Four Hundred Billion Stars and Rudy Rucker’s Wetware. Other nominees: Becoming Alien, Rebecca Ore, Neon Lotus, Marc Laidlaw,  Orphan of Creation, Roger MacBride Allen, Rendezvous, D. Alexander Smith.

The Locus Award for Best SF novel went to Cyteen. Other nominees not already mentioned: Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov, Eternity, Greg Bear, Araminta Station, Jack Vance, Alternities, Michael P. Kube-McDowell, Adulthood Rites, Octavia E. Butler, Catspaw, Joan D. Vinge, At Winter’s End, Robert Silverberg,  Brothers in Arms, Lois McMaster Bujold, Ivory, Mike Resnick, Crazy Time, Kate Wilhelm, Venus of Shadows, Pamela Sargent, The Gate to Women’s Country, Sheri S. Tepper, The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks, Hellspark, Janet Kagan (post), Chronosequence, Hilbert Schenck, Children of the Thunder, John Brunner, Fire on the Mountain, Terry Bisson (post), Terraplane, Jack Womack, Starfire, Paul Preuss, An Alien Light, Nancy Kress, The Company Man, Joe Clifford Faust.

Of the ones I’ve read, I’d love to have seen Hellspark or Fire on the Mountain get more recognition, and either of them would have made a really good Hugo nominee. Adulthood Rites is excellent, but doesn’t stand alone—I wonder if we have sufficient series completed every year to have a “best series” award?

Locus Fantasy Award went to Red Prophet, other nominees not previously mentioned: The Paladin, C. J. Cherryh (post—and wasn’t she having a good year!), There Are Doors, Gene Wolfe, Unicorn Mountain, Michael Bishop, King of the Murgos, David Eddings, The Story of the Stone, Barry Hughart, Greenmantle, Charles de Lint, Lavondyss, Robert Holdstock, The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams, Wyvern, A. A. Attanasio, The Healer’s War, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Druid’s Blood, Esther M. Friesner, The White Serpent, Tanith Lee, Sister Light, Sister Dark, Jane Yolen, Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett, Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?, Tom Holt, The Changeling Sea, Patricia A. McKillip, The Reindeer People, Megan Lindholm, The White Raven, Diana L. Paxson, Walkabout Woman, Michaela Roessner, Silk Roads and Shadows, Susan Shwartz, The Nightingale, Kara Dalkey, Death in the Spirit House, Craig Strete.

You can practically see modern fantasy becoming a commercial genre before your very eyes!

Locus First Novel was won by Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road (post), which I think would have been a splendid Hugo nominee. I also notice David Zindell’s Neverness on the list—I’m surprised that didn’t get more attention.

The Mythopoeic Award went to Michael Bishop’s Unicorn Mountain.

And anything all the awards missed? Helen Wright’s A Matter of Oaths (post), Steve Miller and Sharon Lee’s Agent of Change, first of the Liaden series, Peter Dickinson’s Eva (post) which is YA and therefore got no attention from the SF community, S.M. Stirling’s controversial Marching Through Georgia, first of the Draka books, Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia (post), Salman Rishdie’s The Satanic Verses, Elisabeth Vonarburg’s The Silent City, Rachel Pollack’s Unquenchable Fire, Parke Godwin’s Waiting for the Galactic Bus, (post) and Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac.

So, while this was a good year overall with a lot of great books I’d have liked to have seen recognised, I don’t see any howling omissions from the Hugo ballot, and I think the five we have are pretty representative. So thumbs up for 1989’s list.

Other Categories

NOVELLA

  • “The Last of the Winnebagos” by Connie Willis [Asimov’s Jul 1988]
  • “The Scalehunter’s Beautiful Daughter” by Lucius Shepard [Ziesing, 1988; Asimov’s Sep 1988]
  • “Journals of the Plague Years” by Norman Spinrad [Full Spectrum (Doubleday), 1988]
  • “The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians” by Bradley Denton [F&SF Jun 1988]
  • “Surfacing” by Walter Jon Williams [Asimov’s Apr 1988]

Again, terrific novellas. All five of them are memorable and excellent. I think this is consistently the category with the highest quality nominees.

NOVELETTE

  • “Schrödinger’s Kitten” by George Alec Effinger [Omni Sep 1988]
  • “Peaches for Mad Molly” by Steven Gould [Analog Feb 1988]
  • “Do Ya, Do Ya, Wanna Dance” by Howard Waldrop [Asimov’s Aug 1988]
  • “The Function of Dream Sleep” by Harlan Ellison [Midnight Graffiti Jun 1988; Asimov’s mid-Dec 1988]
  • “Ginny Sweethips’ Flying Circus” by Neal Barrett, Jr. [Asimov’s Feb 1988]

I’d have voted for the Waldrop. No, the Gould.

SHORT STORY

  • “Kirinyaga” by Mike Resnick [F&SF Nov 1988]
  • “The Giving Plague” by David Brin [Interzone #23 Spr 1988; Full Spectrum #2 (Doubleday), 1988]
  • “Ripples in the Dirac Sea” by Geoffrey A. Landis [Asimov’s Oct 1988]
  • “Our Neural Chernobyl” by Bruce Sterling [F&SF Jun 1988]
  • “Stable Strategies for Middle Management” by Eileen Gunn [Asimov’s Jun 1988]
  • “The Fort Moxie Branch” by Jack McDevitt [Full Spectrum (Doubleday), 1988]

BEST RELATED NON-FICTION BOOK

  • The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1957–1965 by Samuel R. Delany [Morrow/Arbor House, 1988]  (post)
  • First Maitz by Don Maitz [Ursus, 1988]
  • The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by James E. Gunn [Viking Press, 1988]
  • A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists by Robert Weinberg [Greenwood, 1988]
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror: 1987 by Charles N. Brown and William G. Contento [Locus Press, 1988]

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  • Beetlejuice
  • Big 
  • Willow 
  • Alien Nation

Pretty good winner, but really? Willow? Big?

EDITOR

  • Gardner Dozois
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Charles C. Ryan

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

  • Michael Whelan
  • Don Maitz
  • David A. Cherry
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Thomas Canty

SEMIPROZINE

  • Locus ed. by Charles N. Brown
  • Science Fiction Chronicle ed. by Andrew I. Porter
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction ed. by David G. Hartwell, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Susan Palwick and Kathryn Cramer
  • Interzone ed. by David Pringle
  • Thrust ed. by D. Douglas Fratz

I remember buying the first issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction in Forbidden Planet. It was so exciting! It had an article by Delany. The whole thing was marvellous. It was twenty years before I saw another copy.

FANZINE

  • File 770 ed. by Mike Glyer
  • Lan’s Lantern ed. by George “Lan” Laskowski
  • Niekas ed. by Edmund R. Meskys
  • FOSFAX ed. by Timothy Lane
  • Other Realms ed. by Chuq Von Rospach

FAN WRITER

  • Dave Langford
  • Mike Glyer
  • Arthur D. Hlavaty
  • Avedon Carol
  • Chuq Von Rospach
  • No Award
  • Guy H. Lillian III

FAN ARTIST

  • Brad W. Foster
  • Diana Gallagher Wu
  • Stu Shiffman
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Taral Wayne
  • Merle Insinga

SPECIAL AWARDS

Saul Jaffe—SF-Lovers Digest

Alex Schomburg—Noreascon III Special Art Award

SF-Lovers Digest was the first online anything to get an award. It was a mailing list that later evolved into the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written. I’m only here today because of that newsgroup, for whatever values of “here” you like. Without it I’d never have met Emmet, I’d never have moved to Montreal, I wouldn’t be writing for Tor.com and I might never have taken my writing seriously. So go Saul Jaffe and the Noreascon III administrators.

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER (Not a Hugo)

  • Michaela Roessner
  • Delia Sherman
  • Christopher Hinz
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Melanie Rawn
  • P. J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton
  • William Sanders

Interestingly long list.

Michaela Roessner’s first novel, Walkabout Woman, had been nominated for the Mythopoeic Award and won the Crawford Award for best first novel. It was followed by three more novels in the nineties, but I haven’t seen anything from her in the last decade. I don’t think she’s one of the more spectacular successes of the Campbells.

Delia Sherman has also just published a well received first novel, Through a Brazen Mirror. Sherman has gone on to have a solid career, writing with her partner Ellen Kushner and alone, and is publishing these days mostly fantasy YA. Her work has been nominated for the Nebula, the World Fantasy, the Mythopoeic and the Tiptree.

Christopher Hinz’s first novel Liege Killer won the Crook Award for best first novel. He has since written a couple of sequels and some comic books.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch won in 1990, so let’s leave her for next year.

Melanie Rawn had also just published her first novel. She went on to have a strong career writing fat fantasies; she has published ten and has a couple more forthcoming.

I know nothing about Beese and Hamilton beyond what I’ve quoted above.

Unlike all the other nominees, William Sanders had published only short work. He went on to have a career writing mostly short work and editing.

Writers who published first novels in 1988 and who did not get a Campbell nomination include Ian McDonald, Elizabeth Moon, Daniel Keyes Moran, Matt Ruff, Paul McAuley and Storm Constantine. They may not have been eligible because of earlier short work—this is why the Campbell is a weird award. It’s for “the best new writer who becomes visible fast” and I’m not sure how useful that is.


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.

74 comments
Nancy Lebovitz
1. NancyLebovitz
Islands in the Net has a handwave I'm exceedingly fond of. The cold war is over through some very obvious means. It's so obvious that it's never described, but the future people are very smug about how much smarter they were than the folks who couldn't figure it out.

I'm not saying I would have liked that move if it had been imitated much, but it was solidly funny once.
manglar
2. manglar
"Four Hundredy Billion Stars" could have been a worthy nominee. It's a bit slow, but it' shows a deep characterization of its protagonist.
A sequel, "Eternal Light", is arguably McAuley's best novel.
Also, "Terraplane" was the most interesting entry in Womack's Dryco series.
Rich Horton
3. ecbatan
Well, as for novels, I have very little to say. I had somehow become disconnected from Cherryh, and I didn't read Cyteen, still haven't. This doesn't mean I think it isn't any good -- it's probably excellent, and I really do mean to read it some day.

Of the other novels mentioned, I like Islands in the Net quite a bit. I love Ian McDonald's Mars of Desolation Road -- it would have been a nice nominee. I certainly would have nominated The Gold Coast -- it's a very good book, and it's about an industry I understand reasonably well (from the inside). KSR didn't get it all right, but he made a fair try. There Are Doors is a strange dark fantasy, not easy at all -- not my favorite Wolfe, but as with all Wolfe, worth your attention.

I haven't read The Guardsman, but by all accounts it was ordinary at best. The nomination was clearly the result of some funny business -- I don't think the suspicion of a campaign on their part can have done Hamilton and Beese's future careers any good, even though they were shown to be uninvolved. Todd Cameron Hamilton was an artist as well, and not bad. I've never heard of Beese in any other context.

I notice now that Hamilton -- as I said, a pretty good artist -- got nominated this year for a Hugo in that category, but never again. I do think the controversy about the novel nomination stained his reputation (apparently unfairly) and made it unlikely he'd get much future love from the Hugo voting populace.

One sort of cult classic appeared in 1988: Glen Cook's The Dragon Never Sleeps.

From outside the genre, Milorad Pavic's Dictionary of the Khazars is a fine strange book first published in 1988 in English (1984 in Serbian).

Two eligible names for the Campbell who didn't get nominated: Allen Steele and Patricia Anthony. Moon wasn't eligible, nor McAuley, nor Moran, nor McDonald. (Great year for M's, though.) Matt Ruff probably was, but I don't think many people in the genre noticed Fool on the Hill until after Sewer, Gas, and Electric, though to be sure it did make the Locus list. And as far as I can tell, Storm Constantine was also eligible.

Roessner wasn't a bad choice at the time, but on the strength of later careers, Rusch would seem the clear winner. Sherman is a very nice writer too. And William Sanders is an excellent writer -- some of his short stories are just brilliant, and his novels (many of which are thrillers or mystery) are first rate as well. As Rusch got her Campbell in 1990, I'd lean (with hindsight, of course!) towards giving this year's Campbell to Sanders or Sherman.

--
Rich Horton
Michal Jakuszewski
4. Lfex
Cyteen is a very impressive novel, but I never warmed to it. Not a bad winner, but I wouldn't vote for it, then or now. Red Prophet and Falling Free are both decent nominees, perhaps not great novels, but not out of place on the list either. I liked first three Alvin Maker books, written during what looks like the best years of Card's career, but after them series jumped the shark, IMHO.

Islands on the Net and Mona Lisa Overdrive just aren't my kind of thing. I think I read Gibson, but I don't remember anything about it.

This year had two debut novels which I think are absolutely brilliant - Desolation Road and Neverness. I think I would go with the latter which is one of my favorite books ever, but Desolation Road comes close to it. Interestingly, McDonald went to having a long and brilliant career and still remains one of our top writers, while Zindell wrote the same boook over and over again, in still more watered down and weaker form. The sequel Requiem for Homo Sapiens trilogy is decent enough (but it is strictly "more of the same" type of sequel", but his fantasy tetralogy is simply awful.)

Other books that would make my list are Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock (perhaps not as good as Mythago Wood, but still brilliant), and The Dragon Never Sleeps, very good space opera by Glen Cook.


Novellas list is very good indeed. I think I would go with Shepard. In novelette category my chioce would be Gould, and in short story probably Landis.
manglar
5. James Davis Nicoll
Paul McAuley’s Four Hundred Billion Stars

This shares a setting with two other books. One is a direct sequel to Four Hundred Billion Stars called Eternal Light and it deals with the reasons why the aliens in our neck of the woods are either extinct due to enemy action or cowering in undetectable refuges.


The other is Secret Harmonies (Of the Fall in the US), which is set some centuries earlier than Four Hundred Billion Stars and is about the wacky hijinks that ensue when colonists on a planet orbiting Tau Ceti (I think) are given evidence that the American interstellar empire has collapsed. Interestingly, not only is the US even bigger than it is today (incorporating Australia and perhaps even Canada) and has lasted well past the date when most SF authors either have it balkanized or absorbed by some world-state, it's holding together a sublight interstellar empire, which implies a planning horizon a lot longer than a few weeks.

The continued survival of the Soviet Union into the twenty-nth century is somewhat less surprising.

The complete absence of any great power outside those two is not surprising at all for SF of this era; generally the other nations only get to play Great Power if the US and SU remove each other from the board and I am certain humane examination of authors active in this period will eventually result in retroactively willing confessions that the concept that e.g. China or India could converge economically with the Great Powers had never occurred to them.

InFour Hundred Billion Stars and Eternal Light, the great power dominated the Re-United Nations (?) is Greater Brazil, in a version almost as repellent as the Greater Brazil in McAuley's recent pair of interplanetary adventures. This is because the US and SU removed each other from the board.

1: The main exception is for The Coming Japanese Superstate. You know how almost nobody saw the fall of the Soviet Union coming? That goes double for the Ushinawareta Nij?nen, the seemingly endless economic malaise Japan is suffering from. This is because many people, including SF writers, use what Fred Pohl called horizon forecasting (look at the horizon. No clouds? Probably won't rain), which can lead to models like:

President in 2009: Obama. President in 2011: Still Obama. President in 2912: probably still Obama because this looks like a stable trend.

I don't know whether it's possible to convey to younger people how utterly startling and intensely traumatic it was in the 1970s when it became clear that A: Japanese consumer goods were actually pretty good, B: American goods, not so much, and C: given a choice between quality imported goods and crap Proud American goods, US consumers would pick the cars that didn't empty their gas tanks backing down the driveway and steroes that didn't burst into flames when you turned them on .

2: I have to say the early Toyotas were not designed with NorAm road salt in mind; our first Toyota basically dissolved. It was still better than the POS Ford LTD we had one year.

3: To be honest, this only happened to me once.
David Levinson
6. DemetriosX
For me this year's list of novels is largely meh. I probably would have voted for the Sterling at the time. Of the various other novels for the year, I wouldn't have minded seeing Ivory on the list, though I'm not sure it's quite winner material.

Great novellas all around and the winner is probably the right one. OTOH, I'd at least have been tempted by the Shepard. Novelette, I'd have most likely gone for the Waldrop. "Kirinyaga" is an excellent winner in the short story category and likely would have been my pick, but I felt like he went to that well a little too often in the end. Of course, it's also notable, because this is Resnick's first Hugo nomination and he's been nominated every year since, with only two exceptions. That's pretty impressive.

Dramatic presentation: Roger Rabbit is an OK winner, though I feel like most of its relevance comes from the technology of the film, rather than the content. Alien Nation could have been good, but they delivered their message with a club. All the other fantasies, yeah, whatever. Willow is better than you might think, though.

Several new artists this time out. Thomas Canty has a very unique style in the field and is probably best known for his work with Terri Windling. Bob Eggleton makes his first appearance. He'd go on to win 9 of them to date, but this was very much the Whelan era. Poor Todd Hamilton got screwed here, too. He never got another Hugo nomination, either. I wonder if the controversy tainted him somewhat.
manglar
7. James Davis Nicoll
I certainly would have nominated The Gold Coast

That's the What if Tail Fins on Cars Were Six Feet Tall-style 1980s: Bigger, Better and Uncut one of the California trilogy? I understand that unimaginative extrapolation of trends is a core part of SF but I was never impressed by this volume. For me the only one I'd nominate for a Hugo is the third one, Pacific Edge, because it's an example of a vanishingly rare kind of SF; utopian SF with an actual plot beyond explaining to each other how utopia works. KSR did something not a lot of utopian authors do, handed the protagonist a problem not addressed by the basic precepts of the utopia in question (he's an unlovable loser who will be dumped by any reasonable woman in favor of any other alternative, including the nearest Snidely Whiplash; presumably some decades after the end of the book the character dies alone and unmourned). No amount of recyling or ecologically acceptable power generation is going to help someone with their love life.
manglar
8. James Davis Nicoll
The McAuley almost reads like McAuley deliberately sat down to create a gloomy, British version of Known Space.
Rich Horton
9. ecbatan
The great 1988 novella not nominated is "The Blabber", by Vernor Vinge, beta-version of his Zones of Thought universe, and a wonderful story on its own.

I'll have more about short fiction later ...
Christopher Key
10. Artanian
Would Neal Stephenson have been campbell-eligible? His first (very bad) novel, in 1984 was only SF if you kind of squinted at it sideways. Then again, I guess Zodiac is only marginally SF as it is, so his first really genre work wasn't until 92 with Snow Crash.

I think this year was the start of me getting off of the SF train and switching to mostly reading Fantasy, though it didn't really happen for a few more years. I don't really care for cyberpunk as a genre, though I could enjoy individual works, and it seemed like, at the time, the SF shelves switched over to almost nothing but cyberpunk, and most of it was really, really bad. Coupled with my favorite SF authors either dying off or only producing a book every 3-4 years, I was left with a dearth of stuff to read.

As for the nominees this year, I read Cyteen at the time, which was the first Cherryh I'd ever actually read. I read it mostly because the hardback was about 3 inches thick and I thought it would occupy a good chunk of that summer. I don't really care for the Card fantasies, so I didn't read that one either. I read the two cyberpunk ones, but I didn't actually discover Bujold until I got back to reading SF in the early 2000s, via Baen's website. So at the time I'd almost certainly have voted for the actual winner, and in retrospect probably still woud.
manglar
11. James Davis Nicoll
I read it mostly because the hardback was about 3 inches thick and I thought it would occupy a good chunk of that summer.

Allow me to recommend for your attention Austin Tappan Wright's Islandia, all 1014 pages of it (in the original 1942 edition from Farrar and Rinehart).
manglar
12. James Davis Nicoll
Starfire, Paul Preuss

I discovered to my surprise some years ago that despite not being a particular fan of Preuss', I owned everything he had written up to that point. That said, I don't recall anything about this one except I thought the cover was ugly.

He was mainly a 1980s author: 8 books from 1980 to 1989, 5 in the 1990s . The most recent book of his of which I am aware is 1997's Secret Passages.

It may be he is better known for writing Core, which became a movie of dubious reknown, but he also was involved in an odd project called the Venus Prime series. This was a set of six linked interplanetary adventures, all featuring a bioengineered woman named Sparta and her epic struggle against (um. Masons, I think). Each novel also included a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, around which the novels were accreted.


1: He was even more of a 1987 - 1991 author: of his 13 books, 8 were published in that four year period.
manglar
13. joelfinkle
>Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
>Beetlejuice
>Big
>Willow
>Alien Nation
>Pretty good winner, but really? Willow? Big?

Actually, probably the most optimistic and least militaristic year for SF/F films in a long time. Big, Willow and WFRR? are the result of "I saw it, I'll vote for it." Big did have terrific acting, but its fantasy component is just a macguffin for Hanks' performance. Willow has some great tihngs about it (Notably Val Kilmer's Madmartigan and some groundbreaking morphing special effects that look tired today), but just doesn't work as a whole story. It came close to being a great fantasy story, but missed the mark.
Alien Nation is another case where the performances exceeded the plot. Patinkin in particular created a great character that managed to carry over well with another actor on TV... but the plot, about aliens that can't stand salt water is just silly. I'd probably have voted for it.
René Walling
14. cybernetic_nomad
"So, two women and three men, all American..."

By then Gibson was living in Canada and Mona Lisa Overdrive won the Aurora for Best Long Form in English. it was up against Machine Sex and Other Stories, Candas Jane Dorsey, Memory Wire, Robert Charles Wilson, The Silent City, Élisabeth Vonarburg, and Time Pressure, Spider Robinson. My vote would probably have gone to Machine Sex or the Silent City I'll also note this last book also won the
Prix Rosny Aîne in 1982, to my knowledge, the only book by a Canadian to do so. I haven't read the Wilson – something I will have to correct for I always enjoy his books.

So after a bit of a detour: "...two women and three men, four Americans and one Canadian..." :)


In the novel lists, I think The Last Coin deserves more recognition, but I'm not surprised it didn't win anything. Blaylock has a way of mixing the very serious and the absurdly silly which doesn't work for everyone.

I enjoyed Islands in the Net even though when I read it the tech was already getting problematic. There ought to be a genre that near future SF drifts into as time goes by, "Alternative Continuum" might be an OK name for it. It's for stories set in the future, but not a future we can reach from here. Or set in what was the future then, but is not our present or past. In addition to Islands and Mona Lisa Overdrive, 1984, Harrison's Make Room! Make Room!, and MacLeod's Fall Revolution series are examples of stories that drifted in that 'genre'.
manglar
15. CarlosSkullsplitter
I think I would have chosen Ore's Becoming Alien for the Philip K. Dick Award. And the Womack deserves more recognition -- they're cult books, but they're not (SF subculture) fan books. I don't think Grove quite knew what to do with them.

Good lord, "Kirinyaga" won the Hugo. It's almost as though Resnick thought that the real Kenya would never have an impact on American lives at all. And of course the Hugo voters agreed.

"Schrodinger's Kitten" is problematic in almost exactly the opposite way. The counterfactual premise is expansive, but Effinger doesn't put the work into selling it.

Of course the Delany is a masterpiece.

There are Doors: who wouldn't want to read a story about G. Gordon Liddy going up against Robert Graves' White Goddess? This is almost that story. There are Doors is almost a number of stories.
manglar
16. Gerry__Quinn
Jo says "I think is consistently the category with the highest quality nominees."

I've always felt the novella is the perfect SF length. Short enough to pulse with new ideas like a short story, long enough for some character and/or story development.
manglar
17. James Davis Nicoll
By then Gibson was living in Canada

Having moved to Canada in 1967, as a sort of draft dodger; that is, avoiding the draft was one reason he came here, along with IIRC the promise of sexually open-minded hippie chicks and affordably priced hash, but it turned out no attempt to draft him was ever made.

Obviously anyone who is notable, not totally despicable and who has ever seen a bottle of maple syrup will eventually be claimed as Canadian but I am not sure when exactly Gibson became a citizen. It's quite possible for immigrants to live here their entire lives without naturalizing; my mother (born in Massachusetts) lived her almost her entire life here and never became Canadian and my father (born in Pennsylvania) spent a generation here as a landed immigrant, only being deported the once; he eventually became a citizen and then promptly died so perhaps he was wise to hold off.

1: We had a commune on our farm in 1971. The one responsible guy had a nervous breakdown, they sank our canoe, they broke my bed, they drove our VW to Toronto and back with no oil, they used a chain saw inside the house and they tried to steal the family dog.
john mullen
18. johntheirishmongol
I wasn't enthralled with anything this year. I know I have read 3 of the nominees but nothing I would have nominated. Maybe it was my mood at the time but I didn't see anything that good or worth remembering. This may be one of my least favorite years. I liked Falling Free but not my fave Bujold. I tried the Card novels but thought they weren't very good.

I am pretty sure this was about the time when I started reading more fantasy and less scifi. I was teaching science at the time and so much of the scifi just didnt make any sense.

I will say that Roger Rabbit was an amazing movie at the time. Getting the toons to interact with people was a remarkable technical achievement and good fun to go with it.

I think I agree about the Campbell award. I don't know what good it does, and there seem to be so many misses.
David Levinson
19. DemetriosX
@14 cybernetic_nomad: Most Blaylock deserves more recognition. He's probably getting pigeonholed with the rise of the new steampunk movement and that is shame.
Nancy Lebovitz
20. NancyLebovitz
If anyone is looking for a long slow weird book, I recommend Werfel's Star of the Unborn.

IIRC, de Camp wrote a book in which Brazil was a power. Viagens?

I need a word for just remembering a few tags about a book, but having completely lost the story.
manglar
21. James Davis Nicoll
De Camp had a whole series set in the Viagens universe but that was set after the US and SU supplied each other with a one-time unrequested nuclear energy surplus. That didn't reduce the Northern hemisphere to a parking lot (as in Piper and an old future history of Vinge's) but it did reduce the US to second-rate power status, like France in 1950.
Melita Kennedy
22. melita
Correction:

Agent of Change, first of the Liaden series (not Liavek).

--

One of the few years where I've read all of the best novel nominees (except The Guardian, but I can picture its cover), although not by award time. I think Cyteen was the right winner.

I'm glad to see some shout-outs for Jack Womack. The Dryco series are funky.
manglar
23. libertariansoldier
"first of the Liavek series"?
Wrong universe; they write about the Liadens.

Love the series of posts you are doing. Brings back memories.
Michael Walsh
24. MichaelWalsh
The Guardsman also suffered by being published by Pageant Books which was a joint venture by WaldenBooks and Crown Books (the publisher, not the bookseller). A few months later Crown was bought by Random House and the imprint vanished shortly thereafter only to briefly appear on the remainder tables at WaldenBooks.

As for The Motion of Light on Water ... a stunning book. Currently in print from the University of Minnesota Press, who have also re-issued a quartet of Disch.
manglar
25. James Davis Nicoll
One sort of cult classic appeared in 1988: Glen Cook's The Dragon Never Sleeps.

Fun, epic-scale space opera whose publisher, Warner Questar, saddled it with an amazingly bad cover and then did a wretched job of distributing it. It wasn't an easy book to get hold of at the time and if I had not then been a Cook completist, I'd probably have missed it. Nightshade did a physical edition in 2008 and an ebook in 2009.
Andrew Love
26. Andy Love
Matt Ruff probably was, but I don't think many people in the genre noticed Fool on the Hill until after Sewer, Gas, and Electric, though to be sure it did make the Locus list.


Fool on the Hill got a very good review in Asimovs when it first appeared so I read it right away (and was delighted to meet Ruff at my first con 9 years later).
Jo Walton
27. bluejo
LiaDEN, of course, that was an idiotic braino on my part. Will edit to fix, thank you.
Rich Horton
28. ecbatan
Gibson is 63! I don't think of him as that old.

More on the short fiction, then.

As noted, the novella list is marvelous. I love "The Last of the Winnebagos", and it's certainly the story I'd have chosen from the shortlist, though I also think very highly of "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter". Brad Denton is a wonderful writer, and "The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians" is first rate too.

But, as I said, possibly the best story of the year wasn't nominated. (Perhaps because it appeared in a story collection, not a magazine or original anthology, and thus was not thought of as "new" by some people.) This is Vernor Vinge's "The Blabber", which shares some characters and a similar universe with A Fire Upon the Deep, but which (much like KSR's "Green Mars" vs. the Mars trilogy) is clearly not quite in the same future as the novel. But it's a great story, and above all just filled with true "sense of wonder".

On balance I'd still give the award to Willis, but both stories are great.

One other novella seems worth a mention: James Tiptree Jr.'s rather creepy "Backward, Turn Backward". I don't think the story works, but it is intriguing. Much better than the other big Tiptree story of 1988, "The Earth Doth Like a Snake Renew", which I quite frankly hate. Interestingly (to me, at any rate) both stories seem rehashes, thematically, of earlier Tiptree stories: "Backward" revisits the central idea of "Forever to a Hudson Bay Blanket", and "Earth" craps on the subtlety and elegance of "The Last Flight of Dr. Ain". ("The Earth Doth Like a Snake Renew" was apparently originally written as a Raccoona Sheldon story, but never sold. It only appeared posthumously, and I have wondered if she realized how bad it was during her life, which is why it didn't sell. Maybe not, mind you, but I'd like to think that.)

There is also a long list of excellent novelettes. The Hugo shortlist is OK to pretty good. I really like Gould's "Peaches for Mad Molly", and I like "Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus" a lot as well. Either one would have been a good winner, but the Effinger is good too. I'm not a big fan of "Do Ya, Do Ya, Wanna Dance?", partly because it trips one of my hot buttons (I don't like the meme "'60s were the best ever man, and rock and roll could have saved the world", which is just childish), and partly because it just doesn't take off for me. The Ellison seems minor.

But there were quite a few more fine novelettes:

"The Hob", by Judith Moffet
"Mannequins", by Charles Oberndorf
"Deathbinder" and "Many Mansions", by Alexander Jablokov
"El Vilvoy de las Islas", by Avram Davidson
"King of Morning, Queen of Day", by Ian McDonald
"French Scenes", by Howard Waldrop

and an odd one: "John Ford's "'Tis Pity She's a Whore"", by Angela Carter, which reimagines the tragedy by the Jacobean playwright John Ford as a Western by the 20th Century film director John Ford. What we need now, I think, is a third level, a story reimagining Carter's reimanigination as a science fiction story by the late John M. Ford.

There were also a lot of very good short stories. I don't think the right story won the Hugo, at all. But the remainder of the nominees are very strong. I love Gunn's dark comedy, "Stable Strategies for Middle Management", and the Sterling and Brin are exceptional, and Landis's Nebula winner (for 1990! -- I think perhaps "rolling eligibility" had come in by now), "Ripples in the Dirac Sea", is also excellent.

For all that I'd have given the Hugo to a completely different story, Neal Barrett Jr.'s lovely "Stairs".

And other good shorts include:

"The Odd Old Bird", by Avram Davidson (best of the later Eszterhazy stories, I think)
"The Other Dead Man", by Gene Wolfe (one of his best shorts)
"At the Double Solstice", by Gregory Benford (files the serial numbers of a scene from one of the Galactic Center novels to make it a standalone short -- something Benford has done a few times)
"Bible Stories for Adults #17: The Deluge", by James Morrow (the 1989 Nebula winner)
"Blit", by David Langford
"Lily Red", by Karen Joy Fowler
"Mrs. Shummel Exits a Winner", by John Kessel (probably my second favorite story, behind "Stairs" -- became part of his excellent novel Good News From Outer Space)
"An Infinity of Karen", by Lawrence Watt-Evans
"Ado", by Connie Willis
"Remaking History", by Kim Stanley Robinson (this appeared first in 1988 in the UK anthology Other Edens II, and was reprinted in Asimov's in 1989. It got a Hugo nomination in 1990, which had to be withdrawn because the story was ineligible that year)
"(Learning About) Machine Sex", by Candas Jane Dorsey

Glad to see Tom Canty showing up in the artist category -- he's one of my favorites to this day.

--
Rich Horton
lake sidey
29. lakesidey
I personally loved "Player of Games"; it ranks among my all-time favourites. I'd have expected it to snag some kind of award....but maybe that's just me!

~ lakesidey
aka Mawhrin-Skel
Jo Walton
30. bluejo
Rich: Just thinking about "Backward, Turn Backward" gives me the shudders.
Rich Horton
31. ecbatan
Jo -- yes, "Backward, Turn Backward" is really creepy -- and I didn't mean in a horror story way.

Lakesidy -- early Banks was published only the UK until a year or two later, so it was hard for him to get enough notice for a Hugo nomination. The Player of Games is a good novel and would have been a worthy nominee. (Use of Weapons is my favorite, though.)
Pseu Donym
32. Scotoma
The one problem I have with Kirinyaga winning is that it's not the strongest story in the sequence, which was For I Have Touched The Sky. But apart from that, I think Resnick's Kirinyaga stories are some of the best stuff he's written and definitely worthy of a Hugo.
manglar
33. Bruce A.
Spinrad's "Journal of the Plague Years" does not hold up well on re-reading. (This is a problem with a lot of his near-future stories. See also: BUG JACK BARRON)
manglar
34. Urstoff
Does the New York Review of Science Fiction still exist? Their website isn't exactly up to date.
Jo Walton
35. bluejo
Urstoff: It certainly still exists, but it's not on very good terms with the internet.
Bob Blough
36. Bob
LFex said:
"Cyteen is a very impressive novel, but I never warmed to it. Not a bad winner, but I wouldn't vote for it, then or now. Red Prophet and Falling Free are both decent nominees, perhaps not great novels, but not out of place on the list either. I liked first three Alvin Maker books, written during what looks like the best years of Card's career, but after them series jumped the shark, IMHO."

I agree completely with this. I feel that there were good novels that year but nothing terrific.

In novellas the nominees were spot on. Any of them could have won and I would have been happy. There were not many after these that I would even suggest being nominated, however. I think Jo is right that the novella category is usually the one I agree with the most over the years.

Novelletes were very good this year and I love the winner. I only disagree with the Ellison. As much as I loved his 60's and 70's works his later writing has rarely worked for me. In it's place could have been: "The Glacier" by Kim Stanley Robinson, "Skin Deep" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch or "The Hob" by Judith Moffat.

The short stories this year contain some of my favorites of all time. Ecbatan mentioned "Mrs. Shummel Exits a Winner" by John Kessel and "Ado" by Connie Willis but no one seems to have my high opinion for a Nancy Kress story - "In Memoriam". I think it is one of her best short stories. Anyway those three were my favorites but I very much liked the winner as well as all the nominees. Others I think are great:
"A Midwinter's Tale" by Michael Swanwick
"Stairs" by Neal Barrett, Jr.
"At the Double Solstice" by Greg Benford
I think the short stories this year were very strong - many more really good stories than could be nominated.

So for me - the novels were fair but the short fiction was golden.
manglar
37. Petar Belic
Araminta Station, by Jack Vance was my first exposure to Jack's spell-like trance that I seem to fall into when reading his work. It's a wonderful book, but now that I've read most of his work I see it fits neatly within the rest of his oeuvre. Still, the baroque, alien and yet familiar world of Araminta Station was a revelation to me at the time, even if it didn't brim with unique ideas, the atmosphere was dense and electric. I was a little disappointed with the sequels, but Araminta Station stands up by itself as a great read.
manglar
38. Doug M.
Araminta Station is probably Vance's last really good book. Everything after that is either slight, flawed or both. I'd say "even slight Vance is worth reading", but books like Lurulu and Throy are pretty slight. Vance never wrote

Mind, Vance was already almost 75 when he wrote Station. And he's still around -- blind, and with limited mobility, but still perfectly lucid as of a few months ago. 95 years old, I believe. His autobiography won a Hugo last year. He gave up writing around 2005 or so. He says it wasn't age or health -- after nearly 60 years of writing, he just lost interest and walked away.


Doug M.
manglar
39. Rob T.
Interesting year for dramatic presentations, though a little off from the previous two years. Though I don't have the voting figures in front of me, I'm pretty sure Who Framed Roger Rabbit won the Hugo in a landslide, getting more 1st-place votes than the rest of the nominees combined. For a while I thought voters might be overrating Roger Rabbit a bit (not that I wouldn't have put it at the top myself), but maybe it's just that the rest of the nominees were underwhelming by comparison.

Willow and Alien Nation were honorable movies that fell short of their good intentions, while the other three nominees are all at least as worthwhile for what they portended as for their own entertainment value. Big was the first movie to really stretch Tom Hanks's acting chops; Beetle Juice was the first movie to showcase auteur Tim Burton's distinctive pop-gothic sensibility; and Who Framed Roger Rabbit is of obvious importance for its role in the late '80s animation revival, not just as a technical achievement but as a reminder about the great Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon franchises (just in time for them to be recycled as home video and cable fodder--and to provide time-tested models for comedy and character animation for a generation of up-and-coming animators).

Two of my other favorite genre-related movies of (IMDb date) 1988 were also animated, though as Japanese movies they would not get a proper North American release for a few years. My Neighbor Totoro was the first film from Hayao Miyazaki to get much international (or maybe just American) exposure, and many viewers cite it as their favorite Miyazaki film. (Another important film from Miyazaki's corporate home Studio Ghibli, the devastating Grave of the Fireflies, is neither sf nor fantasy but is essential viewing for animation fans.) The other film, Akira, had a huge impact on non-Japanese viewers who'd never been exposed to anime before. The plot didn't make a lot of sense (especially in the initial English dub), but the film's dazzling rendition of the urban future ranks with Fritz Lang's Metropolis and the Los Angeles of Blade Runner.

Most of the other animated films of 1988 were of more specialized interest. Don Bluth's The Land Before Time defined the state of the art in children's entertainment, while Disney's Oliver & Company continued the work of subtly redefining the state of the art. Off in its own corner was Alice, Jan Svankmajer's live-action/stop-motion hybrid adaptation of the Lewis Carroll books, one of the weirdest and most unsettling films I've ever seen; not for kids, unless they relish being creeped out.

Outside of animation, I can't think of many films that would have substantially improved the 1989 Hugo ballot. One 1988 film I liked a lot, Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, was actually nominated for the 1990 Hugo. The 1987 West German film Wings of Desire got some nominations for the 1989 Hugo, and I'd have voted for it if it had made the ballot (and if I'd been voting for the Hugos in those days). Some giddy/spoofy/silly films that might have made the ballot if there weren't better alternatives are Scrooged, Earth Girls are Easy, Young Einstein, The Lair of the White Worm and The Wizard of Speed and Time. Two genre-related indie films from 1988 that I've always meant to see are Miracle Mile and The Navigator: A Mediaeval Odyssey. Both look interesting enough to be cult classics, but their failure to set the world on fire since then suggests I haven't missed much (but I still want to see them some time).

Among 1988's non-genre films likely to interest sf fans, I'd like to recommend Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (the true story of the conquest of Australia by an alien species), The Way Things Work (the ultimate "Rube Goldberg machine" movie), and A Very British Coup (actually a TV movie, but this near-future story of a conspiracy to undermine a left-wing British government is too good to dismiss on account of wrong medium).
manglar
40. Doug M.
Blah, dangly sentence in that last one -- please excuse. What I was going to say is that Jack Vance's work from 1970 to 1990 never got the love from the Hugo voters that it should have. Vance won only two Hugos for his fiction, and both came in the 1960s. His work in the 1970s and '80s was certainly at least as good and arguably better, but he appears only once on a ballot and wins no awards.

Why? Well, it probably didn't help that Vance mostly refused to engage with fandom. Before 1970, when the field was smaller, this was perhaps not such a big deal -- if Vance wasn't fan-friendly, he at least had an active social life, and was friends with other SF authors (Anderson, Herbert) who were. But as the field grew, and fandom became more institutionalized, I suspect Vance was more and more disadvantaged by his reluctance to give interviews, do pieces for fanzines, come to cons, or attend fannish social activities.

And this lets us segue to the Problem of Resnick.

Mike Resnick: Mike Resnick is a nice guy. He's sort of... energetically amiable. I like him.

And that's the problem. A lot of Mike's stories are, frankly, not that great. The Kirinyaga stories did not remotely deserve to win multiple Hugos. At best they're a series of pretty minor and predictable yarns about an imaginary Africa. At worst they're obnoxiously wrong about their African subject matter. (Full disclosure: I have spent a lot of time in Africa in the last few years. Suppressing a rant here.)

But Mike is a really likable guy. And there's no point in pretending that doesn't make a difference with the Hugo voters.

Vance is by far the better writer! The big philosophical questions that Resnick lumbers around, Vance addresses with offhand grace. But Vance wasn't fan-friendly, and Mike really, really is.

Not only is he personally likable, but he's been deeply involved with fandom for over fifty years. He was a fan himself; he went to hundreds of cons; major fan figures like Earl Kemp and Lou Tabakow were close personal friends.

This is not to say that Mike has nothing going. He's written a lot of stuff, and some if it is good. He's won other awards besides the Hugo, so it's not all about likability and connections.

But it's really hard to read Mike's work and say, oh yeah, this guy deserves more Hugo nominations for writing than anyone who ever lived. According to the Hugos, Mike is the single best short story writer the field has ever produced. That's just obviously not right.


Doug M.
Claire de Trafford
41. Booksnhorses
I haven't read many of these novels - wonder why? Oh yeah, A levels! Just catching up with McMasters now and enjoying her Miles V books - fantasy not so much.
manglar
43. Scotoma
Doug, while I respect your opinion, I disagree. Whether the African background in the Kirinyaga is completely off the mark doesn't really matter, as you could have easily exchanged it with any kind of people who want to return to a primitive life-style, hoping that this will bring their much yearned for personal utopia. I've met people like that, maybe because of that I found the Kirinyaga stories so convincing.

As for your remarks about fandom, I think there many people like me who never go to conventions or have an interest in doing so. I'm rarely interested in the personal backgrounds of the writers I'm reading or whether they are nice guys or not. I don't know much at all about Resnick or Vance, wasn't even aware that the latter wasn't that fandom-loving. All I know that I loved Resnick's Kirinyaga stories upon reading them and I think they're definitely Hugo-worthy, whereupon most of the times I tried reading Vance I was utterly bored.
lake sidey
44. lakesidey
@31 Ecbatan: Ah! I didn't know that....that might explain it. I haven't read Use of Weapons yet but will surely look out for it - only read Player of Games, Consider Phlebas and Excession till date (and liked them all).

~lakesidey
manglar
45. Bruce A.
Doug M's comment at #40 reminds me of the argument my wife and I have had for decades, over whose characters are the best Competent Men, Heinlein's or Vance's.

To me, it's no contest: In a Jack Vance story, a blowhard like Jubal Harshaw would end up against a wall and shot. Because that's what a Competent Man would do with a Jubal Harshaw.

Mike Resnick's stories are extraordinarily well-crafted, but sometimes you can see him lining up the push-buttons that appeal to the Hugo-voting crowd. (What was the name of that Resnick story a few years back, that was a riff on ERB's John Carter of Mars stories? That was one where the buttons were pretty big and brightly-colored.)
manglar
46. CarlosSkullsplitter
43: The problem with the Kirinyaga stories is not in their treatment of primitivism and utopia, but that they coopt an existing culture which the author mainly knows as a tourist. You're absolutely right that the stories -- which I personally find ham-handed -- could "have easily exchanged it with any kind of people who want to return to a primitive life-style". The question arises, why didn't Resnick do so? Why not with American protagonists? Why not with protagonists from a wholly imaginary culture?

Using someone else's culture to explore symbolic questions is, like it or not, a politically charged act. If I were to write a story about a Jewish space colony trying to recreate the good old days of the Baal Shem Tov in the same way that Resnick wrote about the Kikuyu and Kenya and its utopian ideals, I would be castigated for my simplistic understanding of Jewish culture, and rightly so. It can be done well -- perhaps you think Resnick did it well -- but it requires a lot of imaginative sympathy and solid research, neither of which previously had been hallmarks of Resnick's career, much as I enjoyed Santiago.

The main reason, as far as I can tell, that Resnick gets a pass on his treatment of Africa is that the continent is still exotic to most science fiction readers. (There's also a contingent of freaks who claim that this sort of analysis is all "politically correct" nonsense -- these people are fools.)
manglar
47. dmg
"Non-overlapping eligible nominees: Lewis Shiner’s Deserted Cities of the Heart, George Turner’s Drowning Towers, and Gregory Benford’s Great Sky River."

The diminution of one of SF's great masterworks - George Turner's, Drowning Towers (its title in Australia and England is far better, The Sea and Summer) - continues, now to a sidenote.

No question that Turner's ascetic prose style is not for everyone, but Turner's novel, not to mention his oeuvre, should have gained wider access, especially in a field of literature that reveres 'ideas.' I blame the the book's US publishers. (Hey, I gotta blame someone! :-)
* Arbor House published the US hardback in 1987 to glowing reviews - the ecstatic review in Locus caused me to buy and devour the novel. Of course, the book's many excellent qualities helped feed my voracity. But Arbor House did not enjoy great distribution channels, and so the novel enjoyed a very limited print run of a few thousand copies, if even that many.
* Avon published the paperback almost 10 years later. 10 years! And then did nothing to support the book. I always wondered why a publisher would even go through the expense of publishing a book, if they had (have) no plans to support its release. Oh, how innocent I was back then.

The books indignities continue: it has all but disappeared, with no subsequent printings; no grassroots efforts to bring it to the attention of a reading audience starved for good books (not more extruded fantasy)... and now a sidenote as a statistical reference only. (Have you read the book, Jo?)

This saddens me, because Drowning Towers was the first book for which I purchased multiple copies in hardback, placed them in the hands of like-minded readers, and then quizzed them to assure myself they actually read the book! (I was pushy back then.)

Of course, as I said above, the book is not for everybody; Turner's prose style can read cold, dispassionate, logical. The book offers no easy answers; in fact, offers no answers at all. And then, once complete, came the book's afterword - frightening then but especially now, in light of Turner's prescience. Look at his checklist, and then look about you at the world of today, 25 years on. Scary.

And so it goes.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
48. tnh
dmg @47: These things happen. Personally, I've never understood why Tim Powers's novels don't make the NYTimes bestseller lists; and the same goes for Edward Whittemore's historical fantasies.

There's no help for it. Readers like what they like.
manglar
49. James Davis Nicoll
The diminution of one of SF's great masterworks - George Turner's, Drowning Towers (its title in Australia and England is far better, The Sea and Summer) - continues, now to a sidenote.

Hey, *I* went on at length about Turner in last week's thread.
Marcus W
50. toryx
Evidently I haven't read much that was published in '88. Most of the stories that were nominated and won this year I still haven't read.

But, I agree that both "The Last of the Winnebagos" and "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter" are great stories. Although I'm a huge Willis fan, I'd probably have voted for the latter.

For technological achievement, I've always sort of admired "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" but I never really enjoyed the movie itself. The one thing I did like was the time period it was set in but the story itself just sort of bored me.

"Willow" seems to be one of those movies that people either really love or really hate. I liked it at the time but now not nearly as much. I seem to recall reading (recently) a claim from George R.R. Martin that it set fantasy back several years in the movie industry but there was nothing about his reasoning for why that is.

For me, "Big" was really just all about proving that Tom Hanks had the potential to be a damned fine actor. It was an entertaining film but I always thought the more interesting story would have been what it'd be like to go back to being a kid after being an adult for several weeks.
manglar
51. Jeff R.
I don't get the anti-Big sentiment at all. If there were a short story with a similar fantasy macguffin as its only SFnal content that was as well-written as Big was -acted and -directed, I doubt anyone would begrudge it a short story nomination...
manglar
53. dmg
tnh @48: Thank you, Teresa. I must wonder, though, whether readers can like what they like largely because their selections can be only from those before them. Which fact, if correct, argues for the coming disintermediation of the publishing industry. Perhaps that change occurs already. What do I know (anyway)? You offer a better, more knowledgeable perspective, so I defer to your expertise and insights. Please say more, if so inclined.

James Davis Nicoll @49: Please provide a link. I missed your comments, but would very much like to read them.
manglar
54. James Davis Nicoll
I've never had a link failed to get nailed as spam but I will give it a try in my next comment. Wait, that's the stupid way because I know it will fail. Let me try this thing you Earth humans call cut and paste:

"Second place was George Turner’s The Sea and the Summer."

Man, would he have fit the post-2000 zeitgeist well. This is set in a world where extreme climate change and a general economic collapse turn out to be less fun than one might expect; Austalia's cities, generally coastal, are semi-flooded and nobody is as well off as they were two generations earlier.

Born in 1916, his first SF novel wasn't published until 1978; before that, he was an award-winning literary writer and a noted SF critic. Between 1978 and his death in 1997, he wrote eight novels and a dozen short stories. And lots of essays.


and

Turner had two series:

Ethical Culture: Post WWIII, humans have what they hope is an international system that will avoid future grand conflicts; it turns out not to be terribly robust in the face of unexpected stresses like returning starfarers or the discovery of immortals:

1 Beloved Son (1978)
2 Vaneglory (1981)
3 Yesterday's Men (1983)

(I've occasionally wondered if this influenced Shirow when he was writing Appleseed)


The Sea and Summer (AKA Drowning Towers) (1988)

and I think all of these

Brain Child (1991)
The Destiny Makers (1993)
Genetic Soldier (1994)
Down There in Darkness (1999)

Are set in the same universe or a very similar one.


and

As far as I can see for the Turner, the first US edition was a 1988 one. I am not at all sure the Roberts ever had a US edition.

Huh. Thought I said more than that.
manglar
55. dmg
Quantity of words does not mask their quality, or lack thereof. You said enough to whet any reader's thirst if he or she wants to discover first hand the wonder that is George Turner.

Thank you.
Pseu Donym
56. Scotoma
@46
People clamoring for more diversity in genre all the time, but then when an author uses a different culture, he's doing it wrong because he hasn't done his due dilligence, like living there for years. Sometimes you can't win.

As for coopting a culture, if I remember it right, Koribo lead only a small group of Kikuyu to his utopia, the bigger part remained on Earth. But it's a few years back, so I might be wrong.
manglar
57. dmg
bluejo @52: Someday, perhaps soon, you and I will meet. I request now the honor of getting to know you better over drinks or meals whenever that might be. I am buying. (And, yes, I know you are married. :-)
manglar
58. CarlosSkullsplitter
56: there's a continuum between living there for years and pulling things out of one's anatomy. Resnick is apparently much closer to the platyhelminth end of the scale.

Let's do the search and replace. If an author had a passing familiarity with Jews -- they like bagels, they don't eat pork, there was a war -- read Leon Uris and Theodor Herzl and toured Israel a few times, and then wrote a science fiction story called Eden based on what he thought a Jewish intellectual's primitive utopia would be like -- and stylistically, it was just as well-written as Resnick's story -- how well do you think it would be received? Would it win a Hugo?

Continuing on with the search and replace: "If I remember it right, Greenbaum led only a small group of Jews to his utopia, the bigger part remained on Earth." Would this make the stories better?

Fake diversity is not diversity. Goodness knows I have read too many SF stories with the coal-black African with an apostrophe in his name and perfect white teeth who doesn't have a country or a history, and I suppose Resnick is an improvement on that, since, after all, there really are Kikuyu and they really are from Kenya etc.

But the stories are about how Resnick thinks a utopianist would act. As you said yourself, "you could have easily exchanged it with any kind of people who want to return to a primitive life-style."

The Kikuyu are entirely incidental to the stories. It's not about them or their culture. Resnick is using them as a bit of fancy wrapping paper.

In that sense, it really doesn't matter if Resnick got the details right, since they're just shadow puppets Resnick is moving around to illustrate his point. But the larger message is, the Kikuyu are so unimportant to the concerns of the SF readership that they can be used however the author likes and it will still be acceptable or even laudatory.

(I am tempted to write a story where science fiction fandom is used however I like to prove whatever point I want to make. It doesn't become real until one's own ox is gored.)
Pseu Donym
59. Scotoma
You're missing the point, I said you could have easily exchaged it with any kind of people, because people like that exist in every culture. Yes, the Kikuyu are fancy wrapping paper, because it's a story not about the Kikuyu, but about people who are also happen to be Kikuyu. At no point in the book is there a statement that reads like, the Kikuyu are this or that kind of people. You're reading something into it that isn't there.
manglar
60. CarlosSkullsplitter
Why use the Kikuyu at all? They're fancy wrapping paper used to give the story an exotic flair. You agree with that.

But you don't seem to get that this treats them like objects. Would you like to be treated like an object? I don't think so -- or if so, you'd be the first I've met.
Pseu Donym
61. Scotoma
I disagree that his means treating them like objects, but I think we've derailed the threat long enough and I'm walking away from this.
manglar
62. Doug M.s
A lot of Mike Resnick's stuff clicks into place when you learn that he was a weedy kid who grew up reading -- and absolutely adoring -- ERB's Tarzan novels and the works of Alexander Lake.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Lake is very readable! But his books are safari memoirs from the 1950s, describing Africa in the 1910s and 1920s. Basically, Lake was your classic Great White Hunter -- shot several zoos worth of animals, lots of hairsbreadth escapes. And like Karen Blixen and Elspeth Huxley, he drew an utterly compelling portrait of a lost Africa of loyal bearers, brave native guides, and sinister witch doctors.

But here's the thing: Resnick never seems to have gotten much beyond that so-cool colonial Africa of Lake's books. Kikuyu society as depicted by Resnick is pretty much exactly Kikuyu society as depicted by Lake. And Alexander Lake's work is, let us say, slightly fictionalized; he wasn't an anthropologist or a historian, but a retired hunter spinning yarns.

It's a bit as if someone were to write about modern Indians trying to get back to the idyllic utopian India depicted in Kim.


Doug M.
manglar
63. CarlosSkullsplitter
62: Oddly enough, I was thinking about mentioning Turtledove's 1988 story, "The Last Article." For Turtledove, India and Gandhi were used as objects to make a point about non-violence and Nazis. This got pushback from readers in later discussions, some of whom were of South Asian origin. For them, the objectification was especially obvious and repugnant.

And like "Kirinyaga", "The Last Article" is something of a fan favorite. I see references to it in crazy places -- the old magazine science fiction short story is something of a storage repository for the political id in the United States. Political commenters will use the story as if it had the weight of evidence. (Did that many people read The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction back then? Or did the basic plot get transmitted by word of mouth or viral email?)

To that extent, the Resnick story is not merely inartistic but bad because it presents an imaginary utopian movement as a real cultural enterprise in modern Kenyan society. And people who read science fiction are prone to take fictional arguments at face value. They use stories to think with. That's fine if you're using them within the world of stories. In the world of flesh and blood, it's less than fine.

(I don't suppose I have to mention how made-up stories about Kenya have driven American politics lately, do I? Wouldn't it have been great if Resnick's Kenya had more to do with the actual Kenya? It might have inoculated a few people.)
Rich Horton
64. ecbatan
"The Last Article", however, takes on a very specific historical individual, and attempts to deal directly with his thought.

It can be argued with to the extent that it gets Gandhi's ideas wrong, but it does not seem fair to argue that it is a piece of cultural appropriation. Like it or not, Gandhi is a part of world culture, 20th century political culture. I think the problems with "The Last Article", real as they are, are of a different category.
manglar
65. CarlosSkullsplitter
64: as I understand it, the problem with "The Last Article" from a South Asian viewpoint is not only that it narrows and simplifies Gandhi's thought -- that happens to all figures of world historical importance (although it seems peculiar that narrowing a figure to make him and his philosophy lose in utter defeat should be considered an honor) -- but it narrows and simplifies the range of viewpoints within India at the time.

Only a few years later, Turtledove went out of his way to include a wide variety of viewpoints of white Southerners who fought for the Confederacy (and cleaning them up in the process -- John Beauchamp Jones? oh yes I caught that one). There's quite a bit of material on interwar and pre-independence Indian politics in English -- I have been meaning to read about the 1930 sedition trial of the mayor of Calcutta for some time; Orwell mentioned it in one of his essays -- and nothing a professional Byzantinologist should find particularly daunting to research.

Why the one and not the other?
manglar
66. Petar Belic
The thing is, I can read Mike Resnick's work and completely forget about it a few minutes later. However, with Jack Vance's work, I not only feel I've been immersed in the culture and odd situations you'd only find on another planet (despite them being confabulations), but I want to go back and experience it again after a few years. Odd authors to juxtapose, but there you are.
manglar
67. Rob T.
58:

"I am tempted to write a story where science fiction fandom is used however I like to prove whatever point I want to make. It doesn't become real until one's own ox is gored."



Somebody beat you to the punch, Carlos; Barry N. Malzberg's novellas "Dwellers of the Deep" and "Gather in the Hall of the Planets" (originally published under the pseudonym "K. M. O'Donnell") are perhaps the most pointed satires on sf fandom to emerge from within the genre itself. They did not earn much goodwill for Malzberg at the time. I enjoyed both in the collection The Passage of the Light: The Recursive Science Fiction of Barry N. Malzberg, which also contains several stories even harder on sf writers than "Dwellers" and "Planets" were on sf fans. (Coincidentally, Passage was co-edited and had an introduction by none other than Mike Resnick.)

The initial "Kirinyaga" story was commissioned by Orson Scott Card for a never-completed original anthology to be entitled Eutopia, which would have been composed of stories set in a variety of utopias on various planets. Some of the artificialities of Resnick's series may have their origin in Card's conditions for the anthology; for instance, Koriba's stubbornness and drive to stick to the Kirinyaga project to the bitter end certainly have more to do with Card's insistence that the story be told by "a dedicated insider" than with observation of how an educated Kikuyu is likely to behave.

I liked the "Kirinyaga" stories in their original magazine appearances, but haven't had the stamina to read them all one after another in book form. It may well be their ultimate importance will be in inspiring some currently unknown African writer-in-the-egg to create an enduring work of "insider" African sf, much as Chinua Achebe's irritation with Joyce Cary's Mr. Johnson helped inspire Achebe to write Things Fall Apart.
manglar
68. Doug M.
Resnick and Malzberg have been friends for nearly 50 years. They're both veterans of the soft-core porn industry of the 1960s. Not telling tales here -- like Robert Silverberg, they've both been pretty open about it. In fact, Resnick has several fascinating stories about it on his blog. For readers with an interest in genre history, here are a couple (SFW):

http://novelspot.net/node/1519
http://jophan.org/mimosa/m26/resnick.htm

Malzberg was not a great success as a porn writer; while he was able to write to the tight deadlines required, he couldn't dumb it down enough. IMS he produced a total of two novels, both of which were simply too thoughtful to be successful as porn. IIRC they're minor collectors' items today.

Resnick, OTOH, was a natural. Like Silverberg, he could write fast and to spec, cranking out X thousand words per day of whatever was required, punching first this button and then that one. Also like Silverberg, he eventually left the field, having first made a large pile of money, and moved to writing SF. Not exactly the same, mind; Silverberg was an SF writer, then a money writer, then back to SF. Resnick's track was fan, money writer, SF.

Anyway: if you read Resnick on Malzberg, there's a lot of affection and admiration there.


Doug M.
manglar
69. CarlosSkullsplitter
67: It would change my personal enjoyment of the Kirinyaga stories if Koriba is a satire on Card. (Card, whose subtle understanding of foreign cultures is obvious in his Capitol stories. Empire wasn't a fluke.) But if anything, it makes the use of the Kikuyu background more problematic.

The mention of Card and the mention of India reminds me that 1989 was also the year the Ayatollah Khomeini announced his fatwa against celebrity fantasy writer Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses. Card blamed Rushdie, of course. That legendary passage in the April 1989 issue of Sunstone magazine is literally titled "Good Guys and Bad Guys" (within a larger article titled "Walking the Tightrope"):

Rushdie is a bad guy in this story, and we defend him only because of the inappropriateness of the Ayatollah's response, not because what Rushdie did was good or even innocuous.


Not Rushdie's best book; and sadly, not Card's craziest article.
manglar
70. James Davis Nicoll
1989 was a turning point for Card, wasn't it? Didn't the Secular Humanist Revivals stop around then?

Card, whose subtle understanding of foreign cultures is obvious in his Capitol stories.

Ah, the hilarity of his Quebec....
manglar
71. Rob T.
69: I'm not saying Koriba is "a satire on Card" or that that anyone but Resnick bears ultimate responsibility for how the stories turned out (he did write 'em), just that some of the quirks of the stories can be traced to Card the editor's initial conditions. This sort of thing happens on a larger scale in sf, of course--witness the numerous anecdotes of how writers for Astounding had to either appeal to John W. Campbell's personal biases or else write their way around them.
manglar
72. CarlosSkullsplitter
71: No, I know, that was simply a conjecture I was toying with. Apologies for my lack of clearness.
John Adams
73. JohnArkansawyer
Lewis Shiner’s Deserted Cities of the Heart


There keep on being these years when I haven't read any of the nominated novels and find an unnominated one which I think is good enough to be the winner, and today, I remember why I didn't pick up Cyteen then and plan to remedy that now.

Carlos @ 58, Rob T. @ 67: I think pretty highly of Neil Gaiman's "Collectors" issue of Sandman, and then last weekend, going through my 1974 F&SFs, ran into the completely charming "Whatever Happened to Nick Neptune?" (and many other remarkable stories).
manglar
74. Neil in Chicago
I was very unhappy about the steady decline in the Alvin Maker series. Each is noticeably a step down from its predecessor.
But the last one to come out (Red Prophet?) was also the first novel in which I saw the horrible damage an author could take by getting too cozy with the self-chosen super-fans who created their own little online mockup of the story's setting.
(This is mentally filed with the notes on the contrasts between sf/genre fandom and brand-loyalty "fandom", provocatively presented as a case study in cultural appropriation.)
manglar
75. Alan Heuer
Here is how I voted in 1989:

Best Novel
1. Falling Free Lois McMaster Bujold
2. Islands in the Net Bruce Sterling
3. Red Prophet Orson Scott Card
4. Mona Lisa Overdrive William Gibson
5. Cyteen C.J. Cherryh

Best Novella
1. "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter" Lucius Shepard
2. "Surfacing" Walter Jon Williams
3. "Journals of the Plague Years" Norman Spinrad
4. "The Last of the Winnebagos" Connie Willis
5. "The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians" Bradley Denton

Best Novelette
1. "Schrodinger's Kitten" George Alec Effinger
2. "Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus" Neal Barrett, Jr.
3. "Do Ya, Do Ya, Wanna Dance" Howard Waldrop
4. "Peaches for Mad Molly" Stephen Gould
5. "The Function of Dream Sleep" Harlan Ellison

Best Short Story
1. "Ripples in the Dirac Sea" Geoffrey A. Landis
2. "The Giving Plague" David Brin
3. "Stable Strategies for Middle Management" Eileen Gunn
4. "Kirinyaga" Mike Resnick
5. "Our Neural Chernobyl" Bruce Sterling
6. "The Fort Moxie Branch" Jack McDevitt

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment