Judith Merril Selected For Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

The late Judith Merril has been recognized with the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. The announcement was made at Readercon this weekend.

Robert J. Sawyer, one of the judges, confirmed the news in a comment on Facebook.

We did indeed select Judith Merril as the winner this year and the award is presented at Readercon. Judy was the unanimous choice of all four judges. The decision was reached September 1, 2015.

The current judges for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award are Sawyer, Elizabeth Hand, Barry Malzberg, and Mike Resnick.

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award was created in 2001 and goes each year to a science fiction or fantasy writer whose work displays unusual originality, embodies the spirit of Cordwainer Smith’s fiction, and deserves renewed attention or “Rediscovery.”

It may come as a surprise that the judges reached a unanimous selection in September, considering that Barry Malzberg subsequently wrote a column about Merril for Galaxy’s Edge, “There Is No Defense”, saying that before Merril moved to Canada in 1968, “She had been on an increasingly evident, now unapologetic campaign to destroy science fiction.”

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll and Gary Farber for the story.]

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10 thoughts on “Judith Merril Selected For Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

  1. Excellent choice and rather an interesting one as well. I haven’t read Malzberg’s column and I doubt I ever will. He dropped off my radar a long time ago. One too many mediocre novels. He’s a good short story writer, poor novelist.

    Merril’s fiction deserves to be widely read.

  2. Malzberg: hypocrite, lacks courage of his convictions, had BIG second thoughts, was too easily influenced by his fellow judges, or just wanted clickbait and attention?

    Whatever; Merril is entirely worthy of the honor and I hope it gets more people to read her work. She was great.

  3. I had to laugh at the reminder of Malzberg’s column. He wasn’t the only one to think Judy Merrill and other “New Wavers” were out to destroy Science Fiction. It was a time when many of those in the genre had discovered the wider realm of “literary” fiction, and wondered why *they* couldn’t write stories like that, and why editors wouldn’t buy them if they *did* write stories like that. It was when J.G. Ballard began to write “mini-novels” and Ellison was at his peak performance as a bete-noir. In fact, Malzeberg himself was accused of writing “New Wave.” I remember vicious arguments between Piers Anthony and Ted White on the subject in Outworlds. And then there was the day when Judy insisted, much over the llibrarian’s objections, that at least one shelf of various mainstream writers like Borges and Atwood be kept in Toronto’s SF library — then called “The Spaced Out!” “New Wave” was the “Sad Puppies” debacle of its day, and Judith Merrill was one of the chief architects along with Michael Moorecock. Of course, as we all know, “New Wave” didn’t destroy science fiction. It didn’t really even last long before traditional story telling forms won out. But I think it could be said that those traditional forms were stretched a little further and that in general the quality of writing in the genre was a bit higher.

  4. A great choice, overdue and sadly necessary.

    My two-degrees-removed Judith Merril story: one time I stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant on Spadina in Toronto, before heading out to Markham to go to Ad Astra, and by chance wound up sharing a table with a woman who told me she’d often participated in all-night-poker games with Merril. I have no way of knowing if that’s true, but I hadn’t mentioned Merril’s name, and it would be an odd one to drop at random…

  5. Based on the prior winners, it appears that the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award is honoring Judith Merril the author while Malzberg’s column was apparently (I have not read it) more concerned with Judith Merril the editor/anthologist/critic.

  6. Joel Zakem: We think being rediscovered is supposed to be agood thing. Who’s to say that what Malzberg wanted rediscovered isn’t precisely what he complained about?

  7. Science fiction gets re imagined every generation. The science and prose and influences and ideas constantly shift. If you can’t grow up and change with the ideas and times, you have the right to be cranky about it. Just don’t expect to have a sympathetic audience while you sound pathetic.

  8. I just discovered this while passing the time and searching on Judy’s name. I am so happy to hear this. Judy was not just one of the few female science fiction writers in the ’50s, not just the most powerful anthologist in the genre for a dozen years, not just a vocal dissident who fled her native USA to Toronto in 1968 in disgust, not just a knowledge resource at Rochdale, Toronto’s hippy college, not just the founder and inspiration behind Toronto Public Library’s Spaced-Out Library (over her protests later renamed the Merril Collection), not just the unDoctor TVO commentator on Dr. Who for over 100 episodes, not just one of the early members of the Writers Union of Canada who once exorcised Parliament. She was also a needy woman of uncommonly strong opinion. She died in 1997, and what remains is the largest science fiction and fantasy library research collection in the world, a Hugo-award-winning posthumous memoir completed by her grand-daughter in 2002, and a fading bunch of memories shared among her family, friends and acquaintances. It has been 18 years since Judy died, and the pool is shrinking. People die, or forget. The memory pool fades.
    This is why I am overjoyed that Judy was awarded the Rediscovery Award.

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