Why The Evidence Should Be Examined

Well, that was a disappointment.

John C. Wright’s “Heinlein, Hugos and Hogwash”  begins —

Robert Heinlein could not win a Hugo Award today.

If you are a fan of science fiction, you know how shocking that statement is.

With a hook like that I naturally expected him to deliver some kind of cogent argument. Instead, his Heinlein reference was a bait-and-switch.  Readers expecting to learn something about the contemporary reception of Robert Heinlein find themselves subjected to a belligerent rant about the critics of Larry Correia, Orson Scott Card, Elizabeth Moon, Theodore Beale and the SFWA Bulletin. Heinlein is just some talismanic figure whose name, once invoked, never appears again after the opening paragraphs of the article.

How does fandom actually regard Heinlein? When Steve Davidson tried to tackle all this in a rambling answer on Amazing Stories blog he only got the back of Wright’s hand for his effort

I am taken to task for daring to say Heinlein would not win the Hugo these days.

I regard the observation as unexceptional; a sufficient number of Leftists denounce Heinlein as a fascist and sexist, and who (by their own admission) do not vote on the merits of the author’s work but on his ideological purity, to defeat a nomination.

All the blogosphere’s disapproving comments about the people Wright defends in his article show nothing about contemporary Hugo voters’ willingness to honor Robert Heinlein. How do we know it shows nothing? Because Heinlein has been voted three Hugo awards in this century!

In 2001, when Worldcon members awarded Retro Hugos to works published in 1950, the winners included Heinlein’s Farmer in the Sky for Best Novel and “The Man Who Sold The Moon” for Best Novella. Then, for good measure, Destination Moon won the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo, made from a screenplay co-written by Heinlein based on his novel Rocketship Galileo.

Heinlein’s track record of winning Hugos does not mean there has ever been at any time a monolithic and approving view of Robert Heinlein. Let no one be deluded by this other ridiculous claim in Wright’s article — “But in his [Heinlein’s] day, few science fiction readers were offended by his or anyone’s ideas.” The period when Heinlein won his original four Hugos (1956-1967) was by no means some kind of golden age where nobody ever questioned his political views or criticized his work. Don’t kid yourself! He’s always been controversial within fandom. If you want to know what those days were really like, start by reading Alexei Panshin’s article about Heinlein’s attempt to stop publication of his literary biography Heinlein in Dimension.

Sound and Fury Signifying Trivia

Today’s trivia question: Every winner of the Best Fan Writer Hugo has made at least one professional sale, but two winners have never sold a science fiction story. Can you name them?

The winners since the creation of the category in 1967 are: Terry Carr, Richard E. Geis, Mike Glyer, Dave Langford, Cheryl Morgan, Alexei Panshin, John Scalzi, Bob Shaw, Wilson Tucker, Harry Warner Jr., Ted White and Susan Wood.

Most of the names are easy to rule out because their record in the sf field is so well known.

Wilson Tucker won the 1970 Best Fan Writer Hugo, then had Year of the Quiet Sun nominated as Best Novel in 1971.

Scalzi’s novel Old Man’s War and its sequels have received Hugo nominations.

Dave Langford’s “Different Kinds of Darkness” won Best Short Story in 2001.

Bob Shaw’s classic short story “Light of Other Days” received a Hugo nomination in 1967. He didn’t get around to winning the Best Fan Writer Hugo until 1979 (and again in 1980.)

Ted White’s first novel was written in collaboration with another Best Fan Writer winner, Terry Carr. Invasion from 2500 (1964) was published under the pseudonym Norman Edwards. Ted went on to write lots of other novels under his own name.

Terry Carr, in the middle of a run of seven other nominations for his fan writing and fanzines (Fanac, Lighthouse) had a short story nominated for the Hugo in 1969, “The Dance of the Changer and the Three.” The year Terry finally won the Best Fan Writer Hugo, 1973, he was also nominated for Best Professional Editor (in the category’s debut), and it was as an editor he won his last two Hugos (1985, 1987).

Alexei Panshin won the first Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1967. He declined his nomination in 1968, hoping to set an example for future winners. He also had great success as a pro. His novel Rite of Passage received a Hugo nomination in 1969 and won the Nebula.

Harry Warner Jr. had 11 short stories published in the mid-1950s (and grumbled when that was discovered by his neighbors in Hagerstown — see the link below in comments).

Richard E. Geis has sold any number of erotic sf novels.

I trail this parade at a respectful distance, with one pro sale that appeared in Mike Resnick’s Alternate Worldcons.

That leaves two winning fanwriters to account for: Cheryl Morgan and Susan Wood. Cheryl has made nonfiction sales, but the Locus index lists no fiction. Susan Wood published scholarly work about the sf field, but no stories. So Morgan and Wood are the answer. (Subject to correction, as always…)

Update 10/12/2009: Of course Harry Warner sold short stories — text corrected. Thanks to Patrick Nielsen Hayden for the assist. Update 10/13/2009: And to Dave Langford for catching mistakes about Shaw’s story I have been helplessly repeating since, oh, 1967, although they ought to be avoidable  — I can always remember the exact year “Neutron Star” won its Hugo. 10/18/2009: Alexei Panshin’s comment gives the real reason he turned down his Best Fan Writer nomination in 1968.

My First Fanzine

I was a young teenager on the way to summer day camp, sometime in the late Sixties, riding in the back seat of the camp leader’s Ford station wagon. Among the junk on the floor of the car was a copy of Galaxy magazine, a name I recognized from H. L. Gold’s various Galaxy Reader short story collections, though Analog was the only pulp magazine I followed in those days. I picked this one up and paged through it until an ad caught my eye. Something named Science Fiction Review announced that it published articles by and interviews with a whole list of SF writers – including my personal favorite, Poul Anderson. What a revelation! It never occurred to me that these people talked to anybody but John W. Campbell, much less held their conversations in a nonfiction magazine that I could read.

I didn’t have the money to subscribe to SFR, or else I might have discovered fandom right away. Instead, the concept of such a magazine remained like a banked fire in my memory.

Around the same time, the Young Adult librarian at the local branch of the LA Public Library announced she was starting a science fiction discussion group. An eclectic handful of us came to the meetings, ranging from Richard Wadholm, the only one of us truly in tune with the Sixties, in his appreciation of rock music and Alexei Panshin, to Kent Halliwell, a conservative who read every issue of The Plain Truth and seemed disturbingly unsurprised the afternoon the librarian mentioned that the library’s most-stolen book was Mein Kampf.

After we’d been meeting for a couple of months, the librarian said the LAPL was willing to put some modest resources behind things the group wanted to do. I told them about my idea for a magazine, and the idea caught fire. As I mentioned, though I’d seen an ad for SFR we’d never seen a fanzine, or heard that word, so we tried to produce an imitation Analog. I wrote Campbellesque, pro-space editorials. Bryan Coles and Kent Halliwell produced political satires about the Galactic Congress. Richard Wadholm wrote short fiction and reviews. Mark Tinkle wrote poetry.

My parents contributed to a critical part of the plan when they agreed to make a Sears ink drum mimeograph a kind of family Christmas present.

The LAPL xeroxed the cover art, and I cranked out the rest of the pages on mimeograph.

That SFR ad had also fostered my ambition to get contributions from real pro writers. It implied they had all kinds of ideas and opinions they wanted to put in front of the public – which was true enough – so I naively offered them space for this purpose in our publication. I checked the LA phone books and located addresses for Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury. They actually answered, with brief, encouraging notes turning down my offer. They weren’t intended as contributions, obviously, yet it seemed a pity to waste them. So I began printing these in the “Rejection Slip” department, where the tables were turned and writers rejected a magazine.

Harlan promptly responded with another – surprisingly patient – note which essentially said, don’t do that again. So I didn’t.

And that is how our group started as a self-invented pocket of science fiction fandom.

It was not very long before our library-based fanac brought us in contact with mainstream fandom. We heard about LASFS from some Granada Hills High School students. Then, I finally did subscribe to Science Fiction Review and not only got to see that fanzine, but contacted one of its readers, Florence Jenkins, a local woman who had offered to give away her fanzines to someone who would come and pick them up. I came away with a carload of Granfalloons, Beabohemas, Yandros and other genzines of the day. I began to learn a lot about fannish culture. Before long, I was ready for new challenges – like LASFS poker.