Back to the Hugos: 1996

It’s Hugo Week! Why am I so tired?

Anyway, you know what that means…

it’s time to go…

mrmrmrm…

Back to the Hugos.

Hugo Year: 1996.

Kofi Annan led the UN, Chuck and Di got divorced, and Jeeves joined the Internet with a capital ‘I’. Bombings, shootings, explosions, and viral outbreaks happened worldwide. Also, thirty black churches were burned to the ground in Mississippi. But gas was only a dollar!

Meanwhile, L.A. Con III was hosted in Anaheim, CA by Connie Willis.

The list:

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The Winner: THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson, followed by THE TIME SHIPS by Stephen Baxter, BRIGHTNESS REEF by David Brin, THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT by Robert J. Sawyer, REMAKE by Connie Willis

Continue reading

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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:

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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: Continue reading

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982) by Philip K. Dick

TheTransmigrationofTimothyArcherI’m experiencing a moment of short-term book amnesia as I stare at this post, which, I think, comes from reading too much Philip K. Dick, too quickly, at too cursory a level. Especially considering the few big and noteworthy elements of this book, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer should be more memorable than other PKD novels, especially within the VALIS framework: it’s PKD’s last novel before his death, the “official” third of the VALIS trilogy, and it’s atypical for its first-person, female protagonist. The story is a fictional working of the strange life and unnecessary death of PKD’s friend, the Bishop Jim Pike -again, more real-life nonsense that PKD is trying to make sense of by adding more nonsense. (This all reminded to me thanks to the Wikipedia plot summary). Continue reading

The nerdgods must be crazy, pt 2: SFaaNM and Blood Music (1985) by Greg Bear

BloodMusicMore from the nerddoomdeification category, Blood Music (1985) is Greg Bear’s multi-award-nominated and later SF Masterworked sci-fi novel about nanotech apocalypse by the hands of one single, sociopathic nerd. Like The Terminal Experiment (1995) that I discussed last week (to everyone’s terminal boredom, if the crickets were any indication— please bear with me, Zelazny is almost on deck), Blood Music relies on the actions of a sociopathic nerd protagonist to test out a dangerous and untested scientific hunch, with little thought or regard for the consequences. Another individual depicted as deity, if you please. Continue reading

The Divine Invasion (VALIS #2) (1981) by Philip K. Dick

TheDivineInvasionAnd yet–his ultimate move had fallen through because Linda Fox … it had been the wrong time. Her menstrual cycle, he thought. Linda Fox has periods and cramps? he asked himself. I don’t believe it. But I guess it’s true. Could it have been a pretext? No, it was not a pretext. It was real. (201)

Herb Asher experiences cognitive dissonance when faced with the biological reality of his Linda Ronstadt fantasy, while readers face similar uncertainty about the entire text. Which is the real timeline? Who is dead and who is alive? What do these weird names signify? Who knew that eyelashes could emote? Continue reading

VALIS (1981) by Philip K. Dick

VALIS1981Beyond the reality bending, beyond the suburban discontent, beyond the fragile male ego expressed as nonchalant sexism, PKD’s preference for the word “vast” most struck me from the very first novel I read by him, especially by the time Jason tells Alys, “But you’re vast,” (170) in Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. It’s not a word I hear every day, and Dick uses it constantly. 

Here’s the thing, though: Flow My Tears was published in February 1974, written before the 2-3-74 events that triggered the whacked out, mystical wanderings of VALIS, Radio Free Albemuth, and The Exegesis. So, “Vast Alys” existed before VALIS.

Continue reading

The Postman (1985) by David Brin

ThePostman1There’s something mythical about the persistence of the U.S. postal service which even still manages to carry on alongside the ever-expanding models of privatized shipping, especially in this age of digital communications and industrial shipping accounts. Even C.M. Kornbluth satirized those uncanny postal promises to weather any misery, his mail girl’s bureaucratic duty surviving without a hiccup during the Soviet occupation of the U.S. in his Cold War satire Not This August (1955). I assume Terry Pratchett beat the joke to death in Going Postal (2004). David Brin also exercises this confidence in the power of postal bureaucracy, imaginary though it may be, in his post-apocalyptic, Earth Abides-tribute, The Postman (1985), in which a post-civ loner, Gordon, stumbles upon a wrecked mail truck in the spring of nuclear winter and adopts the persona of a mail carrier to make favor with budding, hair-trigger communities of the ruined western United States.

It’s actually a humorous premise, this dystopian Johnny Appleseed of mail, and probably one that would be more successful in the hands of a deft SF satirist. Continue reading