Let’s Go Back to the Hugos: 1986!

It’s Hugo Week! You know what that means? It’s almost Not-A-Hugo-Award-And-Not-That-Campbell-Award-But-That-Other-Campbell Award time! Exciting!

(Are rebrands too radical for SF awards?)

Anyway, it’s time to go… Back to the Hugos!

Hugo Year: 1986

1986: Chernobyl. The Challenger. Hijackings. Bombings. Fires. Genocides. Reagan. Thatcher. Noriega. (If you think 2016 is bad, check out this timeline.) Also, I started Kindergarten and got in trouble for not coloring inside the lines. (It was because of those BIG crayons! Remember those crayons? I hated them.)

And Bob Shaw hosted ConFederation in Atlanta, Georgia, where Orson Scott Card took the big Hugo prize for Ender’s Game.

The list:

Screenshot 2016-08-13 at 9.21.48 PM

The Winner: ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card, followed by CUCKOO’S EGG by C.J. Cherryh, THE POSTMAN by David Brin, FOOTFALL by those fucking guys again, and BLOOD MUSIC by Greg Bear

My Kindergarten ballot:

Screenshot 2016-08-13 at 9.22.10 PM

Links to my reviews:

Cuckoo’s Egg by C.J. Cherryh – Because why the hell not? Cuckoo’s Egg is almost exactly the same book as the actual winner, Ender’s Game: a young boy is transplanted to a new society, manipulated and tricked by the adults around him, and becomes a formidable player in a diplomatic struggle gone wrong. The winning edge? The protagonist in Cuckoo’s Egg is more realistically portrayed as young and bewildered by his situation, and the story and motivations are more complex and convincing.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – A compelling and disturbing (and convenient and therefore unconvincing) tale about a boy soldier who is tricked into committing genocide. It is a good read, the young characters foster reader empathy, and it ends on a less jingoistic note than one would expect from a writer like Card. The “young kid trains hard, becomes X, and finds himself tale” is a bit cliche today, but there is my other theory: both Cuckoo’s Egg and Ender’s Game were actually inspired by Karate Kid. (I know… OSC had the idea since he was a kid. But still! What is it with the ’80s and these kid-grit stories?)

The Postman by David Brin – In the post-apocalyptic dystopia of the near-future United States, a guy finds an abandoned mail truck and decides to deliver some mail, resulting in a threading together of the sparse and suspicious survivor communities, while he propagates the myth of the United States. He also fights bad guys. It’s yet another neat idea from Brin that would be better handled by a stronger writer.

Blood Music by Greg Bear – This bad scientist guy develops a smart nano-virus that he injects and spreads to others, thereby propelling humanity (or, at least the Americas) into a post-human evolution that eventually inundates the US with smart grey goo. Sounds like a strong story, but it turns to mush, making it another story that could also be done better in the hands of a stronger writer. (It won the BSFA Award, and was nominated for the Nebula, so I am clearly in the minority here.)

Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – A lengthy, mostly US-centric story about the invasion of a herd of elephantine aliens who are I mean just completely baffled by human (read: American and Russian) behavior. Among the 100+ cookie cutter characters, a group of science fiction writers (heh heh) are recruited by the government (har har) to save the day (hardy har har). Eff me.


That’s it for Back to the Hugos: 1986! See you tomorrow when we time jump backward! 1946! oh, that. no…

11 thoughts on “Let’s Go Back to the Hugos: 1986!

  1. Hestia says:

    Blood Music was just okay and I haven’t read Cuckoo’s Egg, but ugh, what a pathetic ballot.


    • I think it was a bad year? The other ballots that year look similarly weak and even the publication lists look sad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hestia says:

        Yeah, I just popped over to Jo Walton Hugo roundup, and I think you’re right. Maybe Le Guin’s ALWAYS COMING HOME, which was sort of experimental (funnily enough, I’ve run across two critical bashings of this book — still haven’t figured out why.)

        Of the ones I’ve read, I might choose Tiptree’s BRIGHTNESS FALLS FROM THE AIR — not nearly as good as her best stories, but a Tiptree always has an interesting take on things.

        I also quite liked THE SUMMER TREE by Guy Gavriel Kay, but that one’s hardcore fantasy.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t say that I really liked any of these — what a down year in a down decade.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. S. C. Flynn says:

    Hmm…Ender 3 stars. Postman 2. Blood Music 2. Have not read the others, but you probably read better stuff in kindergarten that year…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Niven and Pournelle novel must be really bad,if you think it worst than “Blood Music”.


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