Sun
Jul 24 2011 9:30am

Hugo Nominees: 1993

The 1993 Hugo Awards were given in ConFrancisco in San Francisco. The novel award was a tie, Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep (post), and Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book (post). A Fire Upon the Deep is galactic science fiction, a book sizzling with ideas and alien names and characters and adventures. Doomsday Book is about time travel and disease — a quieter book altogether, and one focused on character and history. I really like both of them.

There have only been three ties in Hugo novel history — Zelazny and Herbert, Vinge and Willis, and last year’s Bacigalupi and Mieville. One of the reasons I started to write this series is because Mike Glyer on File 770 said “history has broken the tie between Willis’ and Vinge’s novels.” This astonished me, and made me decide to revisit the Hugos in the light of history, starting right in the beginning when they really are history. Because for me, the tie between Vinge and Willis definitely hasn’t been broken, and certainly not in Willis’s favour as Glyer believes. These are two genuinely great books, and they have remained poised neck and neck through time in their very different excellences. I’m sure there are people who don’t like one or other of them, and even people who don’t like either of them, but I feel that the two of them between them display the best the genre has to offer in its depth and diversity. People are always saying to me “What one book should I read?” and I am always growling ungraciously that no one book can do it, you need a cross section. Two isn’t enough either. But if you read both A Fire Upon the Deep and Doomsday Book and consider that science fiction readers gave them both our highest accolade in the same year, you might get the idea.

They’re both in print. The Vinge is in the library in English only, and the Willis is in the library in French and English. (“The library” for this week is played by the Grande Bibliotheque as usual.)

And it was a brilliant year even apart from them.

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

Maureen McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang (post) was a first novel and a paperback original. It’s a mosaic novel set in a Chinese-dominated near future communist USA. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’m delighted to see nominated. I picked it up because of the nomination. I wasn’t voting that year, but I saw the nominees in Locus and wondered about this and picked it up to see, liked the beginning and bought it. And it’s wonderful. It won the Tiptree award and the Lambda. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars is a huge book about people who live for a very long time terraforming Mars. I didn’t like it, but I recently realised that the reason I didn’t like it was because I liked Icehenge so much that I prefered that vision and couldn’t really focus on this story. I need to read it again and be fair to it. But even not liking it, it’s a good nominee — it’s an ambitious SF book that’s using up to date science and telling a story that couldn’t be told any other way. It’s in print and in the library in French and English.

John Varley’s Steel Beach is perhaps the weakest of the nominees. It’s set in a retconned version of his Eight Worlds stories (post), and it’s about a journalist on the moon. It has an excellent and much quoted first line. I wanted to like it, but I found it unsatisfying and overlong. It’s not in print and it’s in the library in French only.

So, three men and two women, all Americans. One far future space opera, one time travel, one near future Earth, two middle distance solar systems. What else might they have picked?

SFWA’s Nebula Award went to the Willis. Non-overlapping nominees were Jane Yolen’s chilling Briar Rose, John Barnes’s masterpiece A Million Open Doors (post) and Karen Joy Fowler’s Sarah Canary. Any of these would have been a good Hugo addition, and I really think the Barnes should have made it.

The World Fantasy Award was given to Tim Powers Last Call. Other nominees not previously mentioned were Anno Dracula, Kim Newman, Photographing Fairies, Steve Szilagyi, Was, Geoff Ryman.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award was awarded to Charles Sheffield’s Brother to Dragons. Second place was Sherri Tepper’s Sideshow, with Vinge third.

The Philip K. Dick Award was given to Through the Heart, Richard Grant with a special citation for In the Mothers’ Land, Élisabeth Vonarburg. Other nominees were Æstival Tide, Elizabeth Hand, Iron Tears, R. A. Lafferty, Take Back Plenty, Colin Greenland. This is a consistently interesting award that often turns up things where nobody else is looking.

The Tiptree went to McHugh. Other nominees not mentioned so far were Correspondence, Sue Thomas, Lost Futures, Lisa Tuttle, Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream, Judith Moffett, Venus Rising, Carol Emshwiller.

The Locus SF Award went to Willis. Other nominees not mentioned yet were: The Hollow Man, Dan Simmons, Anvil of Stars, Greg Bear, Chanur’s Legacy, C. J. Cherryh (post), Mars, Ben Bova, The Memory of Earth, Orson Scott Card Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson, Worlds Enough and Time, Joe Haldeman,  Crystal Line, Anne McCaffrey, Count Geiger’s Blues, Michael Bishop, Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh (post), Aristoi, Walter Jon Williams (post), Labyrinth of Night, Allen Steele, Mining the Oort, Frederik Pohl, Lord Kelvin’s Machine, James P. Blaylock, Hearts, Hands and Voices (The Broken Land), Ian McDonald, Jaran, Kate Elliott (post), Glass Houses, Laura J. Mixon, A Deeper Sea, Alexander Jablokov, Alien Earth, Megan Lindholm.

And here we see the difference between “books I really like” and “books I think are good.” I adore Jaran and Hellburner, and I don’t really like Snow Crash, but I actually gasped when I saw that it was here and hadn’t been nominated for a Hugo or a Nebula, because like it or not, I do think it was one of the most significant books of the year.

The Locus Fantasy Award was won by Last Call. Other nominees not previously mentioned were The Spirit Ring, Lois McMaster Bujold, A Song For Arbonne, Guy Gavriel Kay (post), Winds of Change, Mercedes Lackey, The Magicians of Night (UK title Magicians of the Night), Barbara Hambly, The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan, Domes of Fire, David Eddings, Small Gods, Terry Pratchett, Last Refuge, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, The Cutting Edge, Dave Duncan, A Sudden Wild Magic, Diana Wynne Jones, The Gypsy, Steven Brust & Megan Lindholm, Forest of the Night, S. P. Somtow, Flying in Place, Susan Palwick.

The Mythopoeic Award was won by Briar Rose. Nominees not yet mentioned were Susan Schwarz’s Grail of Hearts and James Blaylock’s The Paper Grail.

So with all these awards was there anything that was overlooked? Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite, Greg Egan’s Quarantine, Terry Pratchett’s Only You Can Save Mankind (post) (we give Hugos to YA now, even if we wouldn’t have thought of it then), Harry Turtledove’s Guns of the South (post) and Debra Doyle and James Macdonald’s The Price of the Stars.

This is a year where I remember thinking at the time how exciting the nominees were, and yet now I can’t understand how Snow Crash isn’t on the ballot. I’m sure I read Snow Crash because everybody was talking about it. But maybe it was one of those books where word of mouth took time to build, because I read Snow Crash because everybody was talking about it in 1994. I’m also sorry A Million Open Doors didn’t make it, not just because it’s a terrific book but also because I’d then have discovered Barnes with a good book instead of Mother of Storms. I think it’s also possible to argue that Briar Rose and Last Call could well have made the list. So on the whole I am slightly less happy with this list than I was in 1993, but I still think it’s pretty good — a good view of where the field was, with some omissions. Great winners. And China Mountain Zhang.

Other Categories

NOVELLA 

  • “Barnacle Bill the Spacer”, Lucius Shepard (Asimov’s Jul 1992)
  • “Protection”, Maureen F. McHugh (Asimov’s Apr 1992) 
  • Stopping at Slowyear, Frederik Pohl (Pulphouse/Axolotl; Bantam Spectra) 
  • “The Territory”, Bradley Denton (F&SF Jul 1992) 
  • “Uh-Oh City”, Jonathan Carroll (F&SF Jun 1992)

I’d have voted for the McHugh, which still gives me chills thinking about it. But the Shepard is also very good.

NOVELETTE 

  • “The Nutcracker Coup”, Janet Kagan (Asimov’s Dec 1992) 
  • “Danny Goes to Mars”, Pamela Sargent (Asimov’s Oct 1992) 
  • “In the Stone House”, Barry N. Malzberg (Alternate Kennedys) 
  • “Suppose They Gave a Peace...”, Susan Shwartz (Alternate Presidents) 
  • “True Faces”, Pat Cadigan (F&SF Apr 1992)

SHORT STORY 

  • “Even the Queen”, Connie Willis (Asimov’s Apr 1992) 
  • “The Arbitrary Placement of Walls”, Martha Soukup (Asimov’s Apr 1992) 
  • “The Lotus and the Spear”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Aug 1992) 
  • “The Mountain to Mohammed”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Apr 1992) 
  • “The Winterberry”, Nicholas A. DiChario (Alternate Kennedys)

I’ve never been all that excited by “Even the Queen.”

NONFICTION BOOK 

  • A Wealth of Fable: An Informal History of Science Fiction Fandom in the 1950s, Harry Warner, Jr. (SCIFI Press) 
  • The Costumemaker’s Art, Thom Boswell, ed. (Lark) 
  • Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth, Camille Bacon-Smith (University of Pennsylvania Press) 
  • Let’s Hear It for the Deaf Man, Dave Langford (NESFA Press) 
  • Monad: Essays on Science Fiction #2, Damon Knight, ed. (Pulphouse) 
  • Virgil Finlay’s Women of the Ages, Virgil Finlay (Underwood-Miller)

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION 

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: “The Inner Light” 
  • Aladdin 
  • Alien 3
  • Batman Returns
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bah, humbug.

PROFESSIONAL EDITOR 

  • Gardner Dozois 
  • Ellen Datlow 
  • Beth Meacham 
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch 
  • Stanley Schmidt

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST 

  • Don Maitz 
  • Thomas Canty 
  • David A. Cherry
  • Bob Eggleton 
  • James Gurney

ORIGINAL ARTWORK 

  • Dinotopia, James Gurney (Turner) 
  • Ron Walotsky, Cover of F&SF Oct/Nov 1992 
  • Michael Whelan, Cover of Asimov’s Nov 1992 
  • Jim Burns, Cover of Aristoi (by Walter Jon Williams; Tor) 
  • Michael Whelan, Cover of Illusion (by Paula Volsky; Bantam Spectra)

SEMI-PROZINE 

  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew Porter
  • Interzone, David Pringle 
  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction, David G. Hartwell, Donald G. Keller, Robert K. J. Killheffer & Gordon Van Gelder
  • Pulphouse, Dean Wesley Smith

Not Locus. Odd.

FANZINE 

  • Mimosa, Dick & Nicki Lynch 
  • File 770, Mike Glyer 
  • FOSFAX, Timothy Lane & Janice Moore
  • Lan’s Lantern, George “Lan” Laskowski 
  • STET, Leah Zeldes Smith & Dick Smith

FAN WRITER 

  • Dave Langford 
  • Mike Glyer 
  • Andy Hooper 
  • Evelyn C. Leeper 
  • Harry Warner, Jr.

FAN ARTIST 

  • Peggy Ranson
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Merle Insinga 
  • Linda Michaels 
  • Stu Shiffman 
  • Diana Harlan Stein

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

  •  Laura Resnick
  • Barbara Delaplace 
  • Nicholas A. DiChario 
  • Holly Lisle
  • Carrie Richerson 
  • Michelle Sagara

Laura Resnick was nominated on the basis of some excellent short work. She has since gone on to write a large number of well-received fantasy and paranormal romance novels, with more books due out this year.

Barbara Delaplace and Michelle Sagara were discussed last week in their first year of eligibility.

Nicholas DiChario had also published short work only at the time of his nomination. He has gone on to have a quiet career publishing SF novels and short stories, he has been a finalist for the Campbell Memorial Award twice.

Holly Lisle’s first novel Fire in the Mist had just come out at the time of her nomination. She has gone on to have a successful career publishing fantasy and paranormal romance novels, alone and with co-authors ranging from Marion Zimmer Bradley to S.M. Stirling.

Carrie Richerson had published some well received short stories, and has gone on publishing short work but has not had a very visible career.

Other people who might have been eligible for the Campbell this year include Susan Palwick, Stephen Gould, Maureen McHugh, Poppy Z. Brite and Maya Kaathryn Bornhoff.

If we had a Hugo for best first novel instead, it would be much easier to compare like with like and to know what was eligible. But on the other hand, it might blight the prospects of astonishingly brilliant first novels that would otherwise make the main Hugo ballot — like this year’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, last year’s The Windup Girl, or indeed China Mountain Zhang and Neuromancer, if people nominated them only as best first novel and not for the novel Hugo.


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.

52 comments
James Davis Nicoll
1. James Davis Nicoll
One of the flaws Doomsday Book suffers from is the same one later books in the series - and I am looking at the two recent Hugo nominees here - suffered from, which is that Willis' internal model of How Stuff Works in the UK and in particular how telecommunications work seems to have frozen technologically some time in the 1930s . Now, in her defense, I cannot see any way for an American author in the 1990s to research a faraway semi-mythical land like the UK, as I assume there were no libraries in the US at that time and that all British people must have been kept carefully sequested from Americans, forcing her to rely entirely on Georgette Heyer and Dorothy L. Sayers novels as her guides to modern and future Britain. The alternative is to cast doubt on her basic research skills.

The other issue is that if any of the characters ever had a meaningful conversation with another character, rather than keeping vital, need-to-know information to themselves either on purpose or by chance, then Willis wouldn't have the running-around-like-a-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off plots that she loves.

1: Except that somehow in the next fifty years, a time when some reading this may still be alive, all knowledge of the dark technology known as the revolving door will be lost to the extent a time traveller - a curiously ignorant supposed historian - will suffer SAN loss when confronted by one.
James Davis Nicoll
2. James Davis Nicoll
Mining the Oort, Frederik Pohl

Minor Pohl but one of the very few SF novels to consider the financial issues involved in a long-term terraforming project, as I recall.
Pseu Donym
3. Scotoma
From the Hugo list Varley's novel is the one that I would have given the
Hugo to, with the Vinge a close second. Willi's is on my ignore list, I
can't stand anything she writes.

As for other novels that were Hugo-worthy that year: Walter Jon William's Aristoi, Pat Cadigan's Fools and William Barton's Dark Sky Legion.

As for Snow Crash, I like it, but it's not much more than a well-written cyberpunky-action adventure, minor compared to his later The Diamond Age.
Rich Horton
4. ecbatan
I think this was one of the great years ever for SF novels. I loved both novels that tied for the win. I was surprised to see that Mike Glyer thinks history has broken the tie in favor of Willis -- when I started reading the sentence I was sure he'd say it had been broken in favor of Vinge! Doomsday Book is often disparaged for its historical inaccuracies (not to mention its Latin inaccuracies) -- also, as James notes, its inaccurate portrayal of the UK, and the later novels in the series have not particularly enhanced its reputation (though neither have they destroyed it). While A Fire Upon the Deep's succeeding novel (the prequel A Deepness in the Sky) greatly enhanced Vinge's reputation and that of the first novel. Moreover, it seems to me A Fire Upon the Deep is perceived as more influential -- or more accurately, more "foundational" to SF.

I still love both books, mind you. I found Doomsday Book really powerful. And A Fire Upon the Deep is one of the great Sense of Wonder books ever.

But what an embarrassment of riches! Snow Crash is tremendous fun, in my opinion. (And I don't mind the lack of an ending.) I didn't read it until years later, but I can see why it made a splash. A Million Open Doors is also excellent. Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi was his first major novel, seems to me. And I really like Red Mars, despite the science flubs (probably less significant in context than Willis' history flubs), and despite some longeurs.

In first novel, besides China Mountain Zhang, there was Steven Gould's Jumper, which is really good (much better than the movie!). And not precisely a first novel, but the first novel most people saw by him, and the first to be characteristic of him: Greg Egan's Quarantine. And Susan Palwick's Flying in Place is heartbreaking -- I was in tears for the last 50 pages or so of the book, which I read in a rush at an unplanned long lunch at my desk at work.

I also really loved Michael Bishop's superhero novel Count Geiger's Blues, which I don't think has got as much notice as it should have.

Two more very good novels came from true SF legends, and neither got the attention it deserved either. One is Algis Budrys' Hard Landing, which is very short (maybe 45K?), and which was published in one issue of F&SF. It is really first rate, and very underrated (as with almost all of Budrys). And Damon Knight's quite strange Why Do Birds was not much noticed in the field, but it too is excellent.

Other novels worth a look:
Jonathan Carroll's After Silence
Ian McDonald's Hearts, Hands and Voices aka The Broken Land
Donald Westlake's Humans
James P. Blaylock's Lord Kelvin's Machine
Debra Doyle and James MacDonald's The Price of the Stars
Judith Moffet's Time, Like an Ever Rolling Stream
and even Lois McMaster Bujold's The Spirit Ring -- one of her weaker novels, no doubt, but still enjoyable

Really a wonderful year in novel.

--
Rich Horton
James Davis Nicoll
5. James Davis Nicoll
One is Algis Budrys' Hard Landing,

Was that really this late? I could have sworn I read it in the 1980s.
Rob Munnelly
6. RobMRobM
I really liked Doomsday Book but it fits poorly with To Say Nothing of the Dog (which I also liked). Doomsday highlight how you're not supposed to take big risks during time travel and To Say Nothing is a frivolous farce where they send exhausted students all over time to save a bird sculpture and nearly cause a disaster - with the same guy in charge of time travel decisions in each book. Each works well on its own but the themes are at such cross purposes that, read together, they diminish enjoyment of each one.

Rob
David Levinson
7. DemetriosX
One of the better lists for novels that we've seen for a while. I'd probably have voted for Red Mars, which for me is the best of the trilogy. Nothing wrong with any of the others, either, though I just can't get into Vinge.

Not much to say about the short fiction. Most of the winners seem reasonable, from what I can remember. But it is rather amusing to look at the short story publication: 4 of the 5 nominees are not just from Asimov's, they're from the same issue. In fact, the McHugh novella is also from that issue. Five stories out of, what, seven or 8? That's pretty impressive.

Most of the dramatic presentation nominees are only barely genre. On top of that, Alien, Batman, and Dracula were all pretty bad. That said, given a decent slate, "The Inner Light" would be a worthy winner. There's some very good acting there from Patrick Stewart and the story is nice. (Though they may have borrowed the general concept from a Jack Chalker story, now that I think about it.)
James Davis Nicoll
8. James Davis Nicoll
Worlds Enough and Time, Joe Haldeman

Third in the Worlds series, as I recall, and oddly '70s and '80s in its sensibilities, AIfR. That may be because the first two books were from the early 1980s and also because I think the story that eventually became, in a much altered form, this novel was "Tricentential", the cover story for Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, July 1976 (with a Rick Sternbach cover that depicted planet backset by the North American Nebula, as I recall).
for
Rich Horton
9. ecbatan
So, oddly perhaps for me, the short fiction was less compelling.

I think Shepard's "Barnacle Bill the Spacer" is OK, but not close to his best work, and surely not the best work on the ballot, which is probably "Protection", though I also really like "Uh-Oh City".

No other novellas leap out at me as criminally neglected, but there are some good ones:
"Gypsy Trade" and "The Virgin and the Dinosaur", by R. Garcia y Robertson
"Grownups", by Ian R. MacLeod (probably should have made the ballot, wouldn't have been a bad winner)
"Naming the Flowers", by Kate Wilhelm
"The Final Folly of Captain Dancy", by Lawrence Watt-Evans
and the two halves of A. S. Byatt's Angels and Insects: "Morpho Eugenia" and "The Conjugal Angel"

In novelette, "The Nutcracker Coup" is really fun. Sargent's story seems very very dated, and indeed seemed so to me within about a year -- Dan Quayle was really not important enough to expend all that much energy on, seems to me. The other novelettes are fine work -- does any of them much stick with me? Not really.

Maybe Greg Egan's "Dust" would have been a better choice? Or Jonathan Lethem's "Vanilla Dunk"? Actually, I really liked Thomas Disch's rather savage (as usual for him) "The Abduction of Bunny Steiner, or a Shameless Lie". I also like R. Garcia y Robertson's "Breakfast Cereal Killers" and Alex Jeffers' novel excerpt "from The Bridge". (I don't think The Bridge has ever been published. Maybe it was planned as "just an excerpt" from the beginning?)

In short story, I do like "Even the Queen", though it's a cause celebre for Willis-haters. "The Arbitrary Placement of Walls" is excellent -- Soukup is a good writer, shame she hasn't written much lately (that I've noticed, anyway!) A short story I really liked that year that didn't get much notice was "Steelcollar Worker", by Vonda N. McIntyre.

Also worth notice:
"The Last Robot", by Adam-Troy Castro
"Are You For 86?", by Bruce Sterling
"The Lost Sepulcher of Huascar Capec", by Paul Park
"The Cool Equations", by Deborah Wessell (one of the better reexaminations of the notorious Tom Godwin classic)
"Yellow Rome", by Avram Davidson

--
Rich Horton
john mullen
10. johntheirishmongol
Maybe I was really poor this year, or maybe I didn't trust any of the writers, or maybe it was just that kind of year, but I have not read any of the books nominated. I suspect I had just hit the used bookstores and caught up on books I had not read before. Anyway, there might be a couple there I will keep an eye out for or download onto my kindle.

Movies were pretty much meh for me too. Aladdin was adorable, but not really sure its genre.
James Davis Nicoll
11. James Davis Nicoll
Take Back Plenty, Colin Greenland

Honest question: I didn't like this back in the 1990s - did I misjudge it? I came across something recent by Greenland, don't recall what, that made me wonder if perhaps I completely misread it.
James Davis Nicoll
12. mutantalbinocrocodile
Relieved to see I'm not the only fan who just doesn't like Snow Crash. I couldn't even finish it, and I got into an argument about it with a friend/fan/English teacher a few months back. I saw where it was going--I just didn't care.

Not sure I agree with genre uncertainty about Aladdin. The heavy self-referential comedy makes it a little hard, but overall it's one of the only Disney movies that really does feel like fantasy. No hard-core worldbuilding, of course (in an hour and a half????) but a definite if indefinable sense of a world with a magic system and a past.
James Davis Nicoll
13. CarlosSkullsplitter
All the Hugo novel nominees are problematic to my mind.

Doomsday Book is a time travel novel that non-genre readers can and do read with pleasure. But it's poorly researched, and its plot depends on deliberately withheld information between the characters: it reminds me how modern horror movies have to address the problem of why cell phones don't work. I don't know anyone who has come fresh to it recently, so perhaps a new reader might find the blocks even more maddening.

Unfortunately, China Mountain Zhang is as big of a period piece as Norman Spinrad's Russian Spring. It's been eighteen years, and the social and political situations McHugh uses to add resonance to her novel have utterly changed. The human story -- especially Zhang as a closeted part-Chinese American encountering problems as each of these -- well, it's another future that never was (and you could see strong signs of this in 1993). It's a shame, because it's the best human story of the lot.

A Fire Upon the Deep, sigh. Once it was clear that Vinge believed in the underlying model -- not the space-operatic Zones, but a wholly unfalsifiable view of the technological "Singularity" (as if the Singularity didn't already take place in 1453) -- it became very hard not to read it as esoteric or religious fiction, something like the Narnia books or the Theosophist legendarium.

Since the theological references crop up over and over again, beginning in "The Blabber", it's not like Vinge isn't aware. I mean, the climax of A Fire Upon the Deep is a theurgic ritual! Yet people still think it's "hard" science fiction. I've wondered if Vinge isn't playing some deep Andy Kaufman-esque joke.

The Usenet references have dated badly as well: does anyone still think Henry "Sandor at the Zoo" Spencer is an infallible net.god any more? And if Vinge had to deliberately set up his universe to make intra-galactic communication like Usenet, well, that's a force, not a natural consequence of extrapolation. It's Tuckerization carried out at the level of communications medium, and judging by the squees it caused, it has to be considered deliberate fan pander. I would love to know what a young reader, immersed in Facebook &/or Twitter &/or text culture, makes of it.

Red Mars is, among other things, an airplane novel that relies on ethnic stereotypes for its characterizations, interspersed with sub-McPhee contemplations of Martian landscape and geology. It's also a political novel, but I have never found Robinson's politics convincing or engaging (not the same thing). It's a shame, because Robinson is a talent. He doesn't work well at novel length, and what he thinks his strengths are -- evocations of the natural landscape, the politics of the left, the process of science -- are wildly different from what his actual strengths are. (I would say gentle comedy.)

Steel Beach is a reimagining of Varley's Eight Worlds setting. I suppose we would call it a "reboot" today, to borrow a term from the superhero world. It's eighty percent brilliant, and I include the misanthropic and even plain mean streak which runs through it. (It's a hard thing to balance: it clearly hurt Varley's Titan trilogy, for instance. When done right, however, it's like a refreshing splash of cold water in the face.) But as a reimagining, Steel Beach falls prey to the dangers of nostalgia -- in this particular case, nostalgia for another science fiction writer, Robert Heinlein. Varley had obviously been influenced by Heinlein, but here he makes it explicit, and he sells it cheap.

Snow Crash should have been on the list, but it's also problematic. Stephenson was still getting his narrative tones and shifts attuned to the general reader -- a little like Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas, and Electric in that respect -- and Stephenson made the reader work for an ending (which, to be fair, is something he didn't stop doing until very recently). A lot of the infodumps are surprisingly lifeless for Stephenson.

Personally, had it been on the list of nominees, I would have voted for Last Call. Another book with out-of-genre appeal, and yet still classic Tim Powers, and I don't think it has any glaring weaknesses, as all of the above do. It might be his best book. In its absence, China Mountain Zhang, I suppose.

Dark Sky Legion is an obscure personal favorite. It's basically late Flandry (or early Jorj X. McKie) dealing with Whqrn pvepn guvegl naab qbzvav. Barton calls it an Ahrimanic novel. That's about right.

Hm. Looking further down the list, I see Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth, by Camille Bacon-Smith. I think that's the one with a section on Starsky and Hutch fandom. It makes me want to write a study called, "From Huggy Bear to Hogwarts".

Dude is a computer scientist and doesn't realize that not all infinite series diverge? really? I blame I.J. Good and Hans Moravec. Vinge's Zones are brilliant -- but I take it they were in the air at UCSD? I've read Russell Impagliazzo's 1995 paper on possible worlds of complexity classes, which look a lot like Zones, but Impagliazzo says it's a write-up of preexisting folklore in the field.
James Goetsch
14. Jedikalos
The Star Trek Episode "The Inner Light" absolutely haunted me--I think it was among the best sci fi I have ever seen on the tv. Stewart's acting was simply marvelous. And you say "bah, humbug." That is so funny to me and so interesting, how tastes differ. I agree with your reviews so much it almost shocks me when I find out you don't like something I like!
Fade Manley
15. fadeaccompli
"Even the Queen" is one of my favorite short stories of all time, but somehow I'd missed that it got a Hugo. Along with being clever and funny, it was--along with the Vorkosigan series--one of those scifi pieces that made me suddenly blink and wonder why certain types of technology were so often ignored in otherwise high-tech futuristic settings.
Beth Friedman
16. carbonel
It's probably worth mentioning that this was the first year that a concerted effort was made to get all as many as possible of the nominees together in one place.

ClariNet (Brad Templeton in a corporate disguise, IIRC) published the Hugo and Nebula Anthology CD for $27 or so, which was a great bargain at the time. (These days, the Hugo Voters' Packet is even better, but I see this as a precursor.)

It was the first time I really felt like an informed voter, because I'd read everything on the fiction list, and taken a good whack at the other categories.
David Levinson
17. DemetriosX
Carlos @13:
Minor nit to pick, but Vinge was at SDSU, not UCSD, which rather sets him apart from all those other SD science fiction writers. I agree completely with your critique of his application of mathematics to the Singularity. He also treats technological progress as a continuous function, when it seems far more likely to me to be a discrete one. That changes the behavior of the first derivative as the slope approaches infinity and calls a lot of his assumprions into question.
James Davis Nicoll
18. James Davis Nicoll
Because I am just this lazy: from a previous comment about the (choir music) Singularity:

Of course, the information Singularity is as nothing to the Textile Singularity, caused by the runaway effectiveness of investment in textile production. Just as a for example:

Looms in Britain
Year...1803...1820....1829....1833.....1857
Looms..2400..14650...55500..100000...250000

sorry about the dots: I don't know how to format tables here.

Simple extrapolation proves that there must be 140 billion looms in Britain alone and since the UK is something like a 20th of the global economy, 2.8 trillion looms worldwide.

My models suggest most organic matter on Earth was converted to some form of cloth in the early 20th century.
James Davis Nicoll
19. CarlosSkullsplitter
17: I don't even know if technological progress can be ranked cleanly! I speak as someone with a professional interest in that question. It's easiest to put it into a scalar and assume, but since when was the easy assumption correct in the human sciences? (And as for intelligence, forget about it.)

Not to derail: this idea is fairly common in SF, one of the strengths of the Campbellian tradition in fact. E.g., Heinlein's "primitive" Venerians who can manufacture liquid oxygen in Space Cadet.
Walter Underwood
20. wunder
Doomsday Book was the first Willis that really disappointed me. I guessed the twist with about a third of the book left, and the book lost all its interest. That's a big fail. If a book (or movie) isn't engaging the second time, there isn't really much there the first time. Blackout & All Clear are the second and third disappointments, with the same problem. Keeping secrets from the reader is not a plot. It just pisses me off.

I wouldn't re-read A Fire Upon The Deep, and I'm not sure I'd recommend it. The characters and plot, such as they are, get crushed by a huge pile of ideas. This would be a lot more fun as a late-night bull session than as a novel. A lot more fun.

I'd have voted for Red Mars. Regardless of the flaws, it owns Mars the same way that Tolkein owns elves. You have to write with or against it, but you can't ignore it.
James Davis Nicoll
21. Gardner Dozois
If the tie has been broken at all, I would think it was in favor of A FIRE UPON THE DEEP, which was important to the development of the New Space Opera. Both books remain very readable and entertaining, though.

I might myself have given it to ARISTOI, probably Walter Jon Williams's best book, and one that certainly should have been on the ballot. Probably QUARENTINE and LAST CALL should have been on the ballot as well. CHINA MOUNTAIN ZHANG (developed from her first sold story, "Baffin Island," for ASIMOV'S) is still powerful, although, of course, the relentless march of historical events has dated it by now. RED MARS is probably the best of the Martian trilogy. A MILLION OPEN DOORS would also have made a worthy addition to the ballot.

I myself wasn't wildly impressed by SNOW CRASH, although lots of other people were. STEEL BEACH was disappointing, although not nearly as much so as his previous TITAN trilogy, which was REALLY disappointing, particularly the last two volumes. STEEL BEACH brings him a little closer to being back to form.

In novella, McHugh's "Protection" is a very strong story, one of her best, although it's been curiously overlooked, in spite of the Hugo nomination (it's also one of the few stories that ever drew a six-page revision request from me, and the exchange of a half-dozen subsequent letters between us, back when letters were actually written on paper and sent through the mail). MacLeod's "Grownups" is also very strong, and very strange. I think either of those might have the edge on "Barnacle Bill," actually, although "Barnacle Bill" is entertaining. Also completely overlooked, oddly, is one of Fred Pohl's strongest novellas ever, "Outnumbering the Dead," which might well have gotten my vote. Wilhelm's "Naming the Flowers" is also good, and the two Robertson stories are great fun. Also of at least historic interest is the last story Isaac Asimov submitted to me while he was still alive, "Cleon the Emperor," which, to me, demonstrates the failure of the whole idea of "predicting" the future scientifically through social calculations, since in spite of all of Seldon's intricate calculations, the Emperor is unexpectedly killed by a disgruntled gardener who's pissed off over some minor offense.

Swanwick's "Griffin's Egg," discussed last time, became eligable for the Nebula this year with its American reprint, and I think I would have given the award to it if it had been on the ballot. It would have been between it and "Outnumbering the Dead" for me, probably. (Both printed first as novella chapbooks in England.)

In novelette, I lean towards something that didn't even make the ballot, Greg Egan's "Dust," another curiously overlooked story, although I think it contains some of Egan's most profound thinking about the nature of reality. "Vanilla Dunk" is one of the field's best sports stories, written before Jonathan Lethem ascended into the Godhood of mainstream acceptance. Yes, as Rich pointed out, political satire dates fast, and the Sargent was dated within months of it coming out; I thought she was rather kinder in her portrayal of Quayle than he deserved, actually. There was also a powerful Alternate History story by Ian R. MacLeod (who was having a very strong year), "Snodgrass," where the change in history is that John Lennon had left the Beatles very early on, before they became famous, and it follows, movingly, what the rest of Lennon's life might have been like. Another good overlooked story is Maureen McHugh's "The Missionary's Child."

When she won the Hugo for "The Nutcracker Coup," Janet went up to the podium and blurted out, "This was supposed to be Cadigan's!" That was very Janet.

I remain fond of "Even the Queen," although it's no longer really SF, since products to keep you from having your period are actually out on the market now. It did provide me with my moment of fannish immortality, when, accepting her Nebula for the story, Connie said at the podium that she didn't know how to describe it to friends, and I shouted out from the audience, "Call it a period piece!" Kress's "The Mountain to Mohammed" is also good, as is a little story by Robert Reed called "Birth Day."

I'm pleased to be able to point out that once again all of the short fiction winners were from ASIMOV'S.

"The Inner Light" was one of the best STAR TREK episodes ever. ALADDIN is certainly a fantasy, and so if fantasy is eligable for the award, and it is, deserves its place on the ballot--since it impressed a whole generation of kids, there's probably lots of people who would vote for it. The rest of the ballot, weak.

The Campbell ballot is also weak. In retrospect, it clearly should have been won by Maureen McHugh.
Jenny Thrash
22. Sihaya
I think I read Snow Crash in '95 for a cross credit anth/english course, and then passed around my copy through '96. The cover fell off, I taped it back on and lent it out again, and it was eventually lost, but my friends told their friends about "the most amazing book." The book's reputation spread in much the same way that its subject matter did - as a virulent meme.
James Davis Nicoll
23. James Davis Nicoll
Yes, as Rich pointed out, political satire dates fast,

I would just like say at this moment how very, very surprised I have been in recent months to have encounter not one but two works that are set in the present day, do not seem to be set in worlds where 1991 was markedly different from ours and yet feature Soviets (and not as historical figures).
James Davis Nicoll
24. wingracer
Snow Crash will forever be cherished by me as one of the most enjoyable reads ever. I can understand why it didn't get any awards, it's not the sort of "serious" work that gets the trophies but for simple reading pleasure, I will always love it.

Red Mars bored me to tears. It's the kind of novel I usualy love but it just didn't work for me. I was so bored by it that I have never bothered to read anything else by K.S.R. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset at the time.
Alex Jeffers
25. AlexJeffers
@ 9. ecbatan
Thanks, Rich, for the shout-out to my otherwise long-forgotten "from The Bridge." You've never seen a novel called The Bridge because there never was nor was intended to be one -- the novelette was self contained from the git go. Bad titling on my part.
Michal Jakuszewski
26. Lfex
Yes, it was a very good year for novels. I am rather happy with a tie, since two deserving novels got a Hugo, but I would also say that if the tie was broken, it was in favor of A Fire upon the Deep. I didn't like China Mountain Zhang or Red Mars at all (I also strongly prefer Icehenge), but I think Steel Beach was quite good and in any other year would be a perfectly good nominee. Not in this year, though.

I would probably give first place for Snow Crash or Aristoi, placing both a little above Vinge and Willis. Other possible nominees unclude A Million Open Doors, The Harvest by Robert Charles Wilson (his best early novel IMHO), and Hearts, Hands and Voices (aka The Broken Land) by Ian McDonald. I also liked Anvil of Stars (somewhat inferior but sill enjoyable sequel to Forge of God) and The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons, but I would list both below books I mentioned above.

I liked "Barnacle Bill" a lot and I don't remember reading McHugh story (probably I didn't), so I have no quarrel with this verdict. Kagan and Willis also were enjoyable stories and quite decent winners, IMHO.
James Davis Nicoll
27. James Davis Nicoll
Red Mars bored me to tears. It's the kind of novel I usualy love but it just didn't work for me. I was so bored by it that I have never bothered to read anything else by K.S.R.

To paraphrase (one of the cyberpunks? Was it Bruce Sterling?) everyone needs to read at least one KSR work to discover for themselves what it is about his work that they dislike.

That said, Red Mars is better than his Antarctica. Who knew a book set there could be dull?
David Betz
28. RDBetz
I'm glad you feel Snow Crash was a significant book, even if you didn't like it. I get the sense you've got a real problem with "cyberpunk". It's very interesting to read this series, especially to get your perspective on the books/authors we disagree on, especially William Gibson.
James Davis Nicoll
29. James Davis Nicoll
Flying in Place, Susan Palwick

Depending on how one sees a particular element of the story, this is either fantasy or purely mainstream. This won the the Crawford Award for best first novel.

Her second novel, The Necessary Beggar, did not come out until 2005. In the interval there was rueing and lamenting .

1: Exactly the sort of issue my idea for an Elliot Lake-based humane encouragement facility for writers could address. Writers may fret about the radiactivity but it's not so bad; it's the bears that will get them if they wander too far into the woods.
James Davis Nicoll
30. James Davis Nicoll
Depending on how one sees a particular element of the story, this is either fantasy or purely mainstream. This won the the Crawford Award for best first novel.

And is highly recommended.
Rich Horton
31. ecbatan
Flying in Place is wonderful, indeed. And the "particular element" of the story is sufficiently ambiguous that I was able to give it to my wife (not and SF/Fantasy reader) and she loved it too.

As to the difficulties with Vinge's Singularity, sure, they're very real -- the mathematical arguments against it are sound, and particularly the argument that technological change is likely to be more discrete than continuous. (Or, rather, to change at variable rates with occasional discrete jumps and fairly common long plateaus or gentle slopes.) (Plus the laws of physics sometimes intervene.) But that doesn't really seriously hurt A Fire Upon the Deep, seems to me, unless you want the novel to be a) pure hard SF (which it obviously isn't), or, worse b) pure extrapolation, predicting a likely to happen future. I think the novel qua novel, and the wonder behind, remain intact.

McHugh wasn't eligible for the Campbell -- indeed, she was last eligible in 1990, as she had a pseudonymous piece in Twilight Zone magazine in 1988. And "Baffin Island" and "Kites" both appeared in Asimov's in 1989. She would have been a good nominee and worthy winner then, though KKR wasn't a bad winner herself.
Bob Blough
32. Bob
I look at what people debate as SF and what is not SF due to the passing of the years and wonder if any SF scenarios ever pass that test? Much of Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Simak, and others of that era have been passed by - so what is really SF in that context? I think of "outdated SF" as alternate proto - histories that never happened. They were SF at the time and remain so, even if pyschohistory, or the singularity will never happen, or there are scientific flubs in the Mars trilogy and "The Cold Equations" or even if a D. D Harriman/Paul Atriedes/name your pick is never born. SF expands my thinking and often my world by the vastness of it's concerns while at the same time reaching deeply into my heart resonating with being human in a mysterious universe.

As you can guess, I really liked both winners a lot and agree with those who think it was a terrific year for novels - too many good ones to nominate them all. I thought he short fiction was much poorer this year then normal - some that are great - "Barnacle Bill, the Spacer", "Even the Queen", "Protection" and "Grownups" by Ian MacLeod. Others I liked but nothing really great.
James Davis Nicoll
33. CarlosSkullsplitter
31: Rich, for me the "sense of wonder" depends on whether something could happen, if not within the physical universe itself, at least within a setting with rigorous rules, where the wonder doesn't depend on out-of-the-box genre devices. (So the use of faster-than-light travel is neutral, and a passage meant to evoke a sense of wonder by describing it, not so much.) Does Vinge play by consistent rules? It's not at all certain.

Thought experiment: if A Fire Upon the Deep were written with magical and high fantasy tropes, as Vinge alludes to in his text, and as Jo has tested herself, as opposed to pseudo-scientific ones, would it be even a tenth as powerful? The book uses the goodwill its readers have built up toward the idea of scientific and technological progress as a source of wonder.

But if the ideas that drove the novel were actually viewed as a beta test for a new crackpot religion? (Something that SF is no stranger to.) Unlike the obvious example, A Fire Upon the Deep would still be a pretty good adventure novel. The Tines are a well-designed alien species, the Fall of Relay is a bravura set piece, etc, the plot and pacing are in the tradition of Anderson, Piper, and so on. I think people would hold their noses at the DC-8s and read past those passages. But an award winner? (Well, the Usenet pander would still be there. It wasn't enough to sway voters to give Vinge a clear win, so.)

I *know* that for some readers, the thought that the Singularity could actually exist in the universe made A Fire Upon the Deep especially compelling. How do I know? They said so. As Eliezer Yudkowsky explained, "Short of experiencing our actual Singularity, the Vinge novels come as close to drawing a picture of What Lies Beyond, as we will ever see... A Fire Upon the Deep is probably the best of these; it comes right out and shows you the Transcendents, awesome, moving on a galactic scale. And oh, yes, it won a Hugo." For these people, the wonder was in seeing the applied theology, not the adventure.
Rich Horton
34. ecbatan
A couple of notes -- I read A Fire Upon the Deep before I knew of Usenet, and all that pandering (which is a bit silly, in retrospect) went over my head. So that wasn't a reason to like the novel, for me.

Same same the belief in the Singularity -- I've been a Singularity skeptic forever. (An FTL skeptic too.) However I will say that I WISH FTL were possible -- not quite so sure about the Singularity. But I don't THINK that made me like AFUTD. No argument that for many admirers this aspect was important.

Does AFUTD depend for (at least some of) its power on the goodwill people have built up towards tech/scientific progress? Would it lose power if rewritten as high fantasy? I think you are on to something there -- I still feel that power is somehow earned in context, but I think I need to ponder that some more.

--
Rich
Rich Horton
35. ecbatan
One thing more -- Vinge can readily be refuted to the extent he insists a Singularity WILL happen, cannot be avoided. (As someone noted, some infinite series converge -- more to the point, these aren't pure infinite series -- they might stop, go backward, whatever.) But all AFUTD needs is the potential that a Singularity COULD happen. (Well, that and some FTL handwaving etc. etc.) I'm still a skeptic ... but I don't think the possibility has been conclusively refuted.
Darius Bacon
36. Darius
On the math in comments 17 and 13: where did Vinge ever offer any? He made a metaphor, his Singularity as a point where extrapolation breaks down. Are you thinking of Kurzweil?

Vinge's published opinions.
James Davis Nicoll
37. CarlosSkullsplitter
35: Rich, Vinge's creed has a pathway for "Failed Dreams" too. But he literally can't imagine (or admit, perhaps) that the basic premise of the Singularity is ill-formed. There might be reasons it won't happen -- Vinge hypothesizes software failures as a primary reason, or we could wreck the planet -- but that infinite series should still diverge, dammit!

It's a rich and imaginative theology, make no mistake. But it is literally unfalsifiable. If we don't get a Singularity, it's because our software isn't good enough. This informs the backstory of A Deepness in the Sky, where a sort of induced idiot savant technology is used to get a few more percentage points improvement over the most advanced software in the Slow Zone. It's all of a piece.

By the way, he's still using that "flatworm at the opera" metaphor from Marooned in Realtime. The reality is that the basic workings of the universe seem to be encompassable by the average human mind. (This ties into a slan tendency from Vinge's earlier work: brighter is better! Hah.) It's worrisome when authors start believing their own fiction.
James Davis Nicoll
38. CarlosSkullsplitter
36: Darius, Vinge took I.J. Good's 1965 paper as his starting point in his 1993 essay:

Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultra-intelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an "intelligence explosion," and the intelligence of man would be left far behind.


That's a prosy way of describing a divergent series. Vinge not only agrees, but thinks Good doesn't go far enough:

Good has captured the essence of the runaway, but does not pursue its most disturbing consequences.


"Runaway," "explosion," these are not words people with a mathematical background would use to describe a convergent process. Vinge might think post-Singularity intelligence will eventually plateau, but he definitely thinks it will be beyond human ken should it ever do so.

(If you disagree with idea of reformulating of prose into mathematical statements, well. "Samuelson had been kinda kinky about the idea of street-fighting," but it won him a Nobel.)
James Davis Nicoll
39. Petar Belic
The only reason I read Doomsday Book was because it tied with A Fire Upon the Deep. I wanted to see what could tie with Vinge's astoundingly fun and inventive novel. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. People missing phone calls as plot devices for the future means that either the author thinks her readership is stupid, or she... well, let's not go there. While I enjoyed some parts of the events taking place in the past, for the most part it read very poorly. I was quite astonished that this had tied with Vinge and made me realise I had to re-evaluate what I thought about the Hugos.

As for AFUTD:
"I would love to know what a young reader, immersed in Facebook &/or Twitter &/or text culture, makes of it."

- hello, I thought it was still amazing. Yes the texting seemed quaint, but Vinge made it quite specific that bits cost a LOT of money, and over long haul communication routes, the simpler messages were likely to be the de rigeur. Video communication was described (like the puppet-controlled dictator giving an apologetic piece) but the text formatted messages provided a sense of immediacy and involvement which engaged me as a reader.

Note, I have never used 'usenet' or was at all familiar with it when I read it.

The translation paths (Triskweline->Samnorsk->????) were a lot of fun and provide information on just how far the original message may have diverged from the intended. In this case, the spirit of Claude Shannon was on full display! Does anyone remember 'Hexapodia as the key insight' summary, it always makes me smile to reread that phrase.

Greg Egan's work is always worth a read, but I feel I could never suggest his work to someone else, it's quite intellectually dense. I feel like my university math only just gets me though some of his work!

Still, as someone stated, this year was an embarasment of riches, and we are lucky to have got so much great fiction to read in one year.
James Davis Nicoll
40. Petar Belic
I just wanted to respond to one more thing:

"The reality is that the basic workings of the universe seem to be encompassable by the average human mind."

This is not provable. At every stage during human history, theologies were invented to make the basic workings of the universe 'encompassable by the average human mind'. In only the last 0.005% (random number but you get the idea) timline of human existence, have we even been aware of quantum level events. Does this mean we know all that can be known about the basic workings of the universe Right Now? It's possible, but statistically unlikely. Observer effects come into play.
Jo Walton
41. bluejo
I also read aFUtD before encountering Usenet -- but this did give me the delightful surprise of discovering that it was real a few months later, and also saved me from many typical newbie mistakes.
James Davis Nicoll
42. CarlosSkullsplitter
40: You're misreading the word "seem": it's a hedge, but there is no evidence that this is likely to be overturned. You need to presuppose an infinite number of physical theories that increase in complexity faster than normal human culture can assimilate them. It's possible, but Occam's Razor has been good to us so far. Vinge would like to deny its utility. Why? well, you see, he has this neat idea about the future...

The argument from history fails, since for most of human history we did not have the scientific method. Even so, some significant fraction of humanity has lived since its development (after all, circa one percent of all humans who have ever lived are or were American citizens). "Statistically unlikely" -- show me the underlying statistical model and we'll talk.

Frankly, if I want a sprinkling of mysticism in my mathematics, I would turn to Rudy Rucker, who is sharper than Vinge, and has a much more jaundiced view of cultishness (he did spent time in Jerry Falwell's Lynchburg, as I recall). I love Campbellian science fiction, but I am deeply aware of its failure modes. Horrible people have regularly used those failure modes -- specifically of Campbell-style SF -- to sucker the gullible.

41: I do wonder how many of the attendees and voters at ConFrancisco -- right next to Silicon Valley -- were already involved on Usenet. I find it an interesting coincidence that the convention was held right at the beginning of "Eternal September," so A Fire Upon the Deep would become backward-looking about a vanishing net.culture almost as the award was being given.
Brian R
43. Mayhem
Time for a quick diversion, I was trying to think of what I was reading around this time, and the mention of China Mountain Zhang brought it back to me.

How big was David Wingrove's Chung Kuo series in the US?
I remember in NZ waiting anxiously for each book to come out in the early 90s, but looking back through the previous years Hugos, or indeed on the site as a whole, it barely gets a mention.
David Levinson
44. DemetriosX
@36 Darius: It may not have been Vinge himself, but the first time I encountered the concept of the Singularity, the argument rather explicitly stated (and I'm paraphrasing here, it was a long time ago) that the rate of technological change was increasing and approaching infinity. In mathematical terms, that's the slope of the curve of a graph of technological change or the first derivative of the function describing it. And the rules are different if you're talking about a discrete function.

Vinge is a mathematician, so naturally he views the world as nails that fit his particular hammer. The odd thing is that he occasionally seems to be using the claw-end or the handle instead of the normal striking surface.
lake sidey
45. lakesidey
I remember a time in 2005 when my work required me to spend three months in a remote corner of the world. On the advice of people who'd been through that stint before ("there's nothing to do out there!!"), I took a backpack full of novels along, mostly stuff I'd heard the names of but never found the time to read until then.

And thus it was that in one magical week I read both Brin's "Startide Rising" and Vinge's "Fire upon the Deep". I knew little about either author (or either book) except that they were well-spoken of. I cautiously kept my expectations low. And yet....and yet!

The sheer sense of wonder. How does one describe it? There were moments in both books where I had to stop, put down the book, and catch my breath, thinking to myself - this, this, is why I starting reading science fiction.

(I was lucky enough to also have "The Uplift War" in that backpack, so the next week was pretty awesome too ;o) Alas, it was three years before I managed to lay hands on "A Deepness in the Sky" Worth the wait, though)

I don't judge whether these books are realistic, or possible, or even probable. I don't know whether they will go down in history as memorable works of literary art. I don't really care; to me, what matters is that those books made me think. And, maybe more important, made me happy.

Maybe some people are turned off by Vinge's theories and hence decide to avoid his books; that's their loss. As for me, I'm eagerly waiting for October!

~lakesidey
James Davis Nicoll
46. Petar Belic
Startide Rising and A Fire Upon the Deep are a real 'one-two' punch combo, I am jealous of your experience! Those two books made me 'think' as well, so I think that the experience is not in the minority. I look forward to more works from both authors, but I think Brin really needs to stretch himself, and not in the way of 'Heaven's Reach.' I believe he may be writing a new sequence in the Uplift universe at the moment. As for Vinge's theories they are controversial, but they do provide a nice literary device to play with. I too am eagerly awaiting October.
I was disappointed by the finale of the Chung Kuo series, but after the author's belated 'apology' for it with the relaunch of the publishing, I thought about re-reading it again. Not sure if I will though.
Soon Lee
47. SoonLee
Goodness, it was a great year wasn't it?
William S. Higgins
48. higgins
In #13, Carlos writes:

The Usenet references have dated badly as well: does anyone still think
Henry "Sandor at the Zoo" Spencer is an infallible net.god any more?

Yes.
James Davis Nicoll
49. David DeLaney
:Does anyone remember 'Hexapodia as the key insight' summary

It, like Gregor Mendel, is not forgotten.

--Dave
James Davis Nicoll
50. CarlosSkullsplitter
48: oh, those poor souls. I never followed him, but I once saw him make an elementary error in historical interpretation on a crosspost (but one which fit certain ideological priors) and then try to weasel his way out of it. I suppose by the standards of the Usenet spaceflight enthusiast community he looks like some sort of god, but that was a giant bowl of mueslix even in its heyday, and I can't imagine what sorts of crankery are there today.
Kevin Maroney
51. womzilla
Carlos,

"I mean, the climax of A Fire Upon the Deep is a theurgic ritual!"

You might notice that the introductory chapter of Fire explicitly refers to the legend of the mummy. It's an sf novel very much aware of its fantasy tropes.
James Davis Nicoll
52. Alan Heuer
Here is how I voted in 1993:

Best Novel
1. A Fire Upon the Deep Vernor Vinge
2. Doomsday Book Connie Willis
3. China Mountain Zhang Maureen F. McHugh
4. Red Mars Kim Stanley Robinson
5. Steel Beach John Varley

Best Novella
1. "Protection" Maureen F. McHugh
2. "Barnacle Bill the Spacer" Lucius Shepard
3. "Uh-Oh City" Jonathan Carroll
4. "Stopping at Slowyear" Frederik Pohl
5. "The Territory" Bradley Denton

Best Novelette
1. "Suppose They Gave a Peace..." Susan Shwartz
2. "In the Stone House" Barry N. Malzberg
3. "True Faces" Pat Cadigan
4. "Danny Goes to Mars" Pamela Sargent
5. "The Nutcracker Coup" Janet Kagan

Best Short Story
1. "The Mountain to Mohammed" Nancy Kress
2. "The Lotus and the Spear" Mike Resnick
3. "Even the Queen" Connie Willis
4. "The Arbitrary Placement of Walls" Martha Soukup
5. "The Winterberry" Nick DiChario

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