SF/F Authors Up for International
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

The world’s most lucrative prize for a work of fiction published in English is the 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The longlist of 147 nominees for the €100,000 prize was announced November 7.

Sf/fantasy writers I recognized on the list and their nominated works are: Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker, Lauren Beukes, Zoo City, Guy Gavriel Kay, Under Heaven, China Miéville, Kraken: an anatomy, Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death.

The shortlist will be announced April 12, 2012, while the winner will be announced June 13, 2012.

[Thanks to John Mansfield for the story.]

Ties for the Best Novel Hugo

That China Miéville’s The City and the City tied Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl for the 2010 Best Novel Hugo surprised me. Maybe, like many fans, I’m prone to underestimate fantasy novels as Hugo contenders.  

Bacigalupi’s SF novel had taken home every prize from the Nebula to the Compton Crook Award. It made Time magazine’s list of the Top 10 of Everything 2009. I expected it to win the Hugo by a landslide.

Now I’ve learned that hindsight is the only sight when it comes to Hugo handicapping. Other major awards may be poor predictors of Hugo success (see “The Unpredictable Best Novel Hugo”), still , they occasionally line up in the rear view mirror to make it seem as if picking against the favorite should have been the easiest thing in the world.

While The Windup Girl won the 2010 Locus Award for First Novel it finished far behind Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker in the SF Novel category. Meanwhile, Miéville’s The City and the City landed on top of the Fantasy Novel category. It was pretty clear that The Windup Girl would have serious competition for the Hugo.

The voters found these two novels indistinguishable in quality on Hugo night. Will they still seem so twenty years from now?

This is the third tie for the Best Novel Hugo in its history. Hindsight tells me it shouldn’t have happened the first two times.

In 1993 Doomsday Book by Connie Willis tied with A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.

It’s Doomsday Book Diana and I have given to friends we wanted to interest in science fiction. Connie Willis’ time travel adventure builds to a transcendent ending in which the efforts of an individual make a great deal of difference – not measured by how many lives are saved (a typical yardstick of stfnal heroism) but by the compassion shown to characters we care about in their hour of death, proving we do not all die alone.

Credit A Fire Upon the Deep with impressive ingredients: a richly inventive collection of aliens with unique psychologies, a new cosmology, a freshly imagined doom hanging over sentient life everywhere in the galaxy, and a set of mysterious histories that must be unraveled if anyone is to survive.

Three critical shortcomings hold it back.  

First, Vinge never made me really care whether his characters won out, he merely made me curious about the final choices that he’d craft into the ending. When a story of children in jeopardy fails to jump-start a reader’s emotional connection to its characters, that’s a bad sign.

Second, Vinge initiated a romance between the two main adult human characters, then allowed it to fizzle for reasons that were valid in terms of their personalties and circumstances, facts that didn’t keep me from losing interest in their fates.

Third, the author uses a narrative scaffolding that turns this into SF’s only “e-mail punk” novel. Really, even in the early days of the internet when Vinge wrote this novel, were readers expected to believe the myriad alien races filling the galaxy in times to come would communicate with messages that look exactly as e-mail did in 1991? The small amount of intentional humor provided by strange sentient creatures writing like regulars on rec.arts.sf-lovers is swallowed by the vaster, unintentional humor of a future supposedly as limited as the primitive Internet.

At least in my view, history has broken the tie between Willis’s and Vinge’s novels.

Then, in 1966, Roger Zelazny was an author of one of the novels that tied for the Hugo, a story serialized as “…and Call Me Conrad” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1965. That it won an award under the circumstances is remarkable, having been substantially trimmed from the version later published in hardcover as This Immortal.

When Ted White was an assistant editor at F&SF it became his job to pare Zelazny’s manuscript to fit in the magazine. He spoke in his 1985 Worldcon guest of honor speech about his painstaking efforts, the guilt he felt every time he trimmed a word of Zelazny’s prose – and that after he turned in the manuscript editor Ed Ferman summarily cut another 5,000 words. 

Even the full-length This Immortal feels slight compared with the best of Zelazny’s other award-winning novels such as Lord of Light, Jack of Shadows, and Isle of the Dead. Though it’s a good read This Immortal can’t withstand comparison with the novel it tied for the Hugo – Frank Herbert’s Dune, a canonical great work of science fiction.  

Three times there has been a tie for the Best Novel Hugo. Hindsight tells me it shouldn’t have happened the first two times. What will the verdict be when another generation judges the Miéville and Bacigalupi novels?

2010 Compton Crook Award Nominees

The nominees for the 2010 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award presented by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society are:

  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Dying Bites by D.D. Barant
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Johannes Cabal, the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard

 The winner will get his/her way paid to Balticon for two years, receive a plaque and $1000. Balticon takes place May 28-31, 2010.

The Compton Crook Award is presented for the best of the first novels published each year in the field of Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror. Selection is by vote of the BSFS membership. The Award is named for science fiction author Compton Crook, who used the nom de plume Stephen Tall. Compton Crook died in 1981. The award was first given in 1983. For more information check the BSFS website.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the story.]

Windup Girl in Time

Windup Girl cover art

Windup Girl cover art

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi made Time Magazine’s list of this year’s 10 best fiction novels, ranked number 9.

Reviewer Lev Grossman hits on everything I admired about as much of the novel as I read. However, I quit in the middle of a graphic description of the title character being sexually abused when I found myself wondering – is this my idea of entertainment? I decided it was not.

[Thanks to Janice Gelb for the link.]