Chabon Interview in Wired

Wired’s interview with Michael Chabon in the March issue is a love letter to all his literary favorites, from Dickens to Iain Banks.

I had been taught early on in college and graduate school that I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I wrote genre fiction…. I might have stood up to it more han I did, but I wanted to be read, and I wanted to receive whatever benefits there were to be received from the people I was in workshop with, and he teachers I was studying from.

And you know, I wasn’t looking for a fight, and it wasn’t like I don’t love F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jon Cheever, and Vladimir Nabokov, and Eudora Welty, and all those people. I love their work just as much — if not more in some cases — as Arthur C. Clarke, or Frank Herbert, or whever it might have been. So I had just sort of allowed myself to fall into this channel as a writer that at some point I realized I didn’t want to be limited anymore.

[Thanks to Francis Hamit for the link.]

Long: Chabon in New Yorker

By Sam Long: The latest issue of The New Yorker magazine has a short story by Michael Chabon, titled “Citizen Conn” that may be of some interest to fans.

Set in a Jewish old-folk’s home in LA, it’s the story of the interaction of the home’s rabbi (a woman), a resident (Feather), and an old associate of his (Conn). Feather and Conn went to the same high school before WWII, and they were both nerds (or whatever the equivalent at that time was). They both became comic book artists and writers back in the ‘40s through the ‘60s, very much into superheros, and quite famous among comics fans of the time, but they had a falling out long ago. Conn wants to renew their friendship but Feather won’t cooperate. Kind of a sad story, (Oh, and the rabbi’s husband is a latter-day comics enthusiast—I won’t say comixfan exactly, but he remembers the C & F comics from when he was a kid.) Astounding Stories, Doc Smith, Edmund Hamilton, and H. P. Lovecraft get a mention.

Editor’s P.S. An interviewer asked Chabon if the characters are based on anyone:

Well, the obvious answer is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Stan and Jack met in the forties, began collaborating during lean times in the fifties, jointly revived the fortunes of Marvel Comics in the sixties, and then underwent a creative divorce that seems to have resulted in a certain amount of acrimony on Kirby’s side.

Snapshots

Wired reports the Army is moving ahead with plans for a laser cannon What next, the U.S.S. Death Star?

All the winners of the 2008 Mythopoeic Awards are listed at SF Award Watch.

There’s already a DVD of Denvention 3 Masquerade photos for sale. The committee expects to offer a DVD of the Hugo Ceremony this fall. And Laurie Mann has posted a vast collection of links to Denvention 3 news, blog and photo coverage.

Want to help with next year’s Worldcon? Anticipation’s volunteer form is online.

Keith Stokes reports on his January 2008 trip to Costa Rica, with beautiful photos, here.

And Keith takes you along on his March 2008 trip to Kansas and Nebraska, featuring Rocky Mountain Oysters, here.

Fast-Forward did a total of five podcasts from Denvention 3.

Peter Glaskowsky, a frequent contributor to Chaos Manor Reviews and attendee at 16 Worldcons, has a post about ebooks and Digital Management Rights on CNET.

Hugo-winner Michael Chabon’s affectonate comments about SF and alternate history can be found in articles at the Los Angeles Times, the UK’s Times Online, and the New York Review of Books.

[Links via David Klaus, Isaac Alexander, Rick Moen, Laurie D. T. Mann and Michael Kennedy.]

A Novel Apology

We interrupt this program for a correction that’s been waiting to be cleared for takeoff.

In June, while I was scoring points and polluting the blogosphere in my post “Is the Emperor Naked?” I was also committing what I think of as one of the cardinal sins of fan news reportage – failing to use all the information I had available.

I had received the zipfile of Hugo nominated novels from John Scalzi, but I hadn’t cracked it open yet. How absurd that I was opining about the political implications of only four nominees being distributed free while waiting in the file was a message that began:

As you know, we were unable to make an electronic edition of Michael Chabon’s Hugo-nominated novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union available to you. However, Chabon’s publisher has agreed to send a paperback edition of the novel to interested Hugo voters.

There followed instructions for requesting a free copy of Chabon’s book in advance of the Hugo voting deadline. John pointed this out to me after seeing my post, just one of those little facts that kills a perfectly good story. Or that should have. I’ve only waited to post this apology til now to avoid violating the publisher’s condition that the offer not be publicized online while it was pending.

2008 Hugo Voting Stats Online

2008 Hugo Award
Denvention promptly posted the full Hugo winner list and the complete report of the voting statistics, including the top 15 works or people who received the most nominations in each category.

Skimming over the results, I was intrigued that the outcome in the Best Novel category validated only 50% of the buzz I heard at Westercon, where it sounded like Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Brasyl were duking it out. Instead, the online buzz predicting a strong showing for The Last Colony proved more meaningful, as the Chabon and Scalzi novels finished 332 to 323, Yiddish Policemen’s Union winning by 9 votes. Helping to make the finish close, when Rollback’s votes were redistributed to the remaining two finalists, they split 104-40 in favor of The Last Colony (the other 42 votes either showing a blank or a nominee that was already out of the running.)

As for Brasyl, although it led the field with 65 nominating votes, on the final ballot it got only 110 first-place votes and finished fifth. In fact, only 464 out of 745 ballots cast a vote in any position for Brasyl.

Skipping down to the fan Hugos, after File 770’s category the race I was most curious about was Best Fanwriter. In last year’s cliffhanger ending Dave Langford edged John Scalzi by one vote. There was no such drama this year — John Scalzi started with 190 first place votes and required only a couple of elimination rounds to lock up a majority.

Scalzi made a very gracious acceptance speech that ended by encouraging people to seek out other quality fanwriters and spread the award around. Very likely, his win will crystallize in voters’ minds the (quite accurate) belief that they can look for prospective nominees in a lot of different venues and media. It will be interesting to see whether there is a ripple effect adding several new fan writers’ names to next year’s Hugo ballot.

In Best Fan Artist, Steve Stiles extended Brad Foster, Foster ultimately winning 165-115. Even though Stiles is formally the third-place finisher (based on the count when Foster’s votes are disregarded), I’m most interested in the stats of the “last nominee standing,” the one the winner needed to overcome to get a majority. Does this result mean Stiles is gaining ground among Hugo voters? On the other hand, Frank Wu withdrew this year — and despite doing so still got the most nominating votes — so he may be back in 2009 and that will change the outlook, too.

Westword Ho!

Denver’s alternative newspaper Westword has started its coverage of Denvention 3.

The new issue’s wonderfully funny comic strip “Worst Case Scenario” features a side-by-side comparison of the Worldcon and Democratic National Convention, both happening in Denver this month. Chairman Kent Bloom gets equal face-time with Nancy Pelosi for the first and last time ever.

The final set of comparisons poses Michael Chabon accepting the Hugo for Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and Barack Obama accepting the Democratic Presidential nomination. Say you heard it first in Westword!

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link. Also covered by Geri Sullivan’s LiveJournal.]

The Unpredictable Best Novel Hugo

Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union was announced as the winner of the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel over the weekend. A week ago there was a small debate here about whether winning the Nebula had conferred “front-runner” status on Chabon’s novel. Now with a Locus Award to its credit, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union surely is the favorite of bookmakers as well as book readers.

Or is it? How valuable are SFWA’s Nebula Award and the Locus Awards for predicting the Hugo-winning Best Novel?

They aren’t worth a darn, as it turns out.

The Hugo Awards were first given in 1953, SFWA’s Nebula Award in 1966, the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1971, and for Best Fantasy Novel in 1978.

Originally, there was a strong pattern of duplication. For seven of the first nine years of the awards’ co-existence they practically marched in lockstep, with the same novel winning all three.

Then, from 1980-1987, the Hugo-winning novel also won either the Nebula or the Locus Award almost every year – and Brin’s Startide Rising, 1984, and Card’s Speaker for the Dead, 1987, won all three. Only C.J. Cherryh’s Downbelow Station, the 1982 Hugo winner, failed to collect either of the other awards during this eight-year span.

Over the next 12 years, 1988-1999, the Nebula fell out of step, matching the Hugo winner only twice. But Locus Awards were voted to 10 of the 13 Hugo-winning novels (13 because there was a tie in 1993). During this period, only Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book (part of the 1993 Hugo tie) won all three awards.

For the last 8 years (2000-2007) there has been no consistency at all. Five the past eight Hugo-winning novels won neither the Nebula nor Locus awards.

However, two Hugo winners, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (2002) and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls (2004), scored all three awards. Interestingly, in both cases, it was the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel that completed the hat trick. The only other Hugo winner to receive another of the awards during this period was Vinge’s Rainbows End, which was voted a 2007 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Has there has ceased to be a significant overlap between Hugo voters and the pros who vote for the Nebula, or the general public who vote in the Locus Poll?

Despite there being numbers of SFWA members with Worldcon memberships, people who can actually vote for the Hugos, it’s obvious that Best Novel Hugo parted company with the Nebula long ago — they’ve only had a common winner four times in the past 20 years.

Now and then lightning will strike — even again and again and again, as in the old song — and a book will sweep. But the recent trend has been for there to be no lightning at all, for the Hugo winner to march to its own drummer. The divergence between the Hugos and the Locus Awards is fairly recent and invites the question — Why did things change? Speculation, anyone?

See the annotated list of Hugo-winning novels behind the cut.

Continue reading

Is the Emperor Naked?

SF Signal’s JP Frantz has posted Why I Stopped Reading: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon, an iconoclastic slam against the Hugo-nominated and Nebula-winning novel. (I won’t call it a review – he didn’t finish reading the book, remember?)

I’ve been waiting for the Best Novel Hugo debate to “go negative,” as it’s termed in election-year jargon. And that choice of jargon is no coincidence, for this category turned into a campaign the moment the other four nominees (McDonald, Sawyer, Scalzi, and Stross) offered free electronic copies of their novels to 2008 Worldcon members, an unprecedented move. (We still have to buy Chabon’s.)

That brilliant gamble can only pay off if people like one of their books better than Chabon’s, and I’m sure they’ve anxiously been waiting for any sign they’re gaining traction against the perceived front-runner (thus playing Obama to Chabon’s Clinton?)

And they ought to worry. These are the same Hugo voters who gave a Neal Stephenson novel the award a couple of years ago. Those people might do anything!