Back to the Hugos: 1975!

The Hugo Awards are this weekend! But time-travel Hugos are much more fun! So let’s go back to the Hugos: 1975!

The member vote for Best Novel:


Le Guin wins, but I can’t believe Inverted World placed last. That’s insanity.

My pretend, retro Hugo ballot:


I’m having a hard time deciding between the anarchic experiment The Dispossessed and the mind-bendy Inverted World as a first pick. Both are delicious; I love them so much. Maybe they should tie. In comparison, Flow my Tears and Fire Time are pretty forgettable, with misplaced identity and Middle East allegory being the only things I much remember about them. (And for those who haven’t read either, I’ll let you guess which is which.) And people, I know you LOVE the Moties, but it’s lame and stiff and boring, and I don’t think readers-of-color would appreciate the all-too-familiar social hierarchy of Larry and Jerry’s alien society. That ain’t no racial commentary, it’s just lazy characterization. *aggressively shakes finger at Larry and Jerry*

Not that anyone is keeping score or anything, but there are three well-known conservative authors on this list. (And who knows about Dick. We didn’t study the politics of the fifth dimension in my comparative politics classes, but I’m pretty sure that’s where that dude resides.) However, both books by those conservative authors can easily be classified as “message fiction,” with Fire Time advocating land sharing between hostile groups, and The Mote in God’s Eye addressing unsustainable population growth… with a rather severe Malthusian solution, permeated by an ugly anti-immigrant message. And let’s not talk about the “good girls don’t use birth control” message.

Message fiction: a favorite technique of SF writers from all political persuasions! (Not that anyone is saying otherwise. Because that would be dumb and nonsensical.)

Did you know: Manufactured controversy = Free advertising

See you tomorrow for *shock* and *gasp* a year I just might almost agree with… 1985!

Fire Time (1974) by Poul Anderson

Firetime1‘I’ve not gotten what news God or Ian Sparling now have.’ Her reference wasn’t theological; Goddard Hanshaw was the mayor (p. 28).

A sidesplitting line, not standard in this page-light, philosophically-laden extra-planetary romance, but deserving enough to get top-billing by me. Perhaps a sign of what Anderson could be if he ditched the political romance for more satire; maybe his slim novels would be better appreciated by new SF fans.

But Fire Time holds itself together better than the overreaching, underpaginated People of the Wind, or the galumphing The High Crusade (an ideal playground for satire, but the humor fails in its puerile simplicity). Another space yarn with parallels to Earthen conflicts, fodder for typical Andersonian commentary on ideological conflict, shared territory, and humanism. Continue reading

People of the Wind (1973) by Poul Anderson

PeopleoftheWind1stMay was a month of second and third chances, when I read popular SF authors that have somehow captivated the fandom, but have not captivated me. In these cases, it’s simply a matter of preference: I’m not macho enough, girly enough, or childish enough. In the case of Poul Anderson, I’m simply not impressed enough. Maybe I haven’t chosen the right Anderson books. Continue reading

One to read with the kiddos: The High Crusade (1960) by Poul Anderson

TheHighCrusade 1stWhen a spaceship lands in the English shire of Ansby during the middle of the Hundred Years’ War, Sir Roger, Baron de Tournville, leads his knights to battle against strange blue “demons,” then hijacks their ship to mount an attack against France. But the lone alien survivor of the Wesgorix, kept alive for information, misleads his captors and autopilots a return to his home empire. Do the merry English bat an eye? Hardly!  The sprawling interstellar empire of the Wesgorix is simply another territory for the Crusade-happy Baron to claim in the name of King Edward III and Christendom.

Monty Python meets Hitchhiker’s Guide? Why not? While the marrying of medieval romps and galactic pioneering sounds as fun today as it did over fifty years ago, the execution is sparse for modern SFers whose mash-up expectations require hundreds of pages, years of research, valid science, and ironic nihilism. But when the first tenth of a novel is dedicated to its most famous fans’ love letters, you know you’ve stumbled on to an important piece of SF history. Continue reading