My Failed Attempt To Influence The Hugos

By 1981, File 770 had accumulated two nominations for Best Fanzine and I’d been shortlisted twice for Best Fanwriter. I felt I should use that power for good.

Having enjoyed the book tremendously, I tried to get everyone cranked up about nominating Alexis Gilliland’s 1981 novel The Revolution from Rosinante for the Hugo.

I wrote a glowing two-page review for my December 1981 issue with all the buzzwords at my command. For example —

Gilliland weaves a dynamic plot from plausible economic, technological and bureaucratic rivalries. Mundito Rosinante is an asteroid adapted to an industrial space colony. Its economc purpose vaporizes in a series of financial manipulations on Earth, leaving minor investors, workers and some unexpected refugees to fend for survival.

Gilliland’s space colony, complete with schematics and material specs, becomes as dramatic an artifact as a Ringworld, Gaea or Rama. But uncommon to such a story, Gilliland moves things constantly forward with concise prose, and without expository lumps in which the universe stops to explain itself. Strong characterizaton and reliance on dialog express action and motivation so well that the novel’s background assumptions are implicitly explained.

And so on.

It’s been said the way to find out if you’re a leader is to look around and see if anybody is following you. Well, when the 1982 Hugo ballot came out I found nobody was.

But if Worldcon members passed over his novel, they did nominate Gilliland for another Best Fan Artist Hugo, and made him a finalist for the 1982 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo! as we always say), things no one needed my help figuring out.

In fact, Gilliland went on to win the Campbell, outpolling David Brin, Robert Stallman, Michael Swanwick and Paul O. Williams. If that comes as a surprise, just remember the choice was based on what they had published in the first two years of their careers. Brin’s stellar “The Postman” (1982) and Startide Rising (1983) appeared after his Campbell eligibility expired, while Swanwick had several Nebula nominations early but his awards dominance came later on.

6 thoughts on “My Failed Attempt To Influence The Hugos

  1. But nowadays, Mike, I wonder if the Internet doesn’t potentially make this all easier. How many Hugo voters read File 770 in December 1981. Any ideas?

  2. In 1981, well over a hundred. While I am poking fun at my pretentions here, at that time there were a lot of people who would not vote in a Hugo category unless they believed they had seen enough work to justify an opinion that what they were nominating was one of the best. So just convincing fans to read a particular novel (if I did) might not get them to vote for it even if they liked it. Part of the growth in Hugo participation that happened before the Hugo Voter Packet came along was among people who realized they didn’t have to meet unrealistic expectations to feel qualified to nominate.

  3. I remember the Rosinante novels, somewhat. As I recall, they seemed a bit dry and uninvolving at the time, but had interesting ideas and played with viewpoint. (The second book, iirc, was written from the viewpoint of the pragmatic/sociopathic bureaucrat who rose to power on Earth.) I suspect I would appreciate them more if I re-read them today.

  4. I was a tidge more successful. It took a couple of tries, but Randall Munroe got his rocket. Not in the category I’d proposed, but it worked for me, and I consider that task achievement unlocked.

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