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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Barry B. Longyear

Saturday, January 26th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Barry B. Longyear

Barry B. Longyear

Peter Graham is often quoted as saying that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. I was reminded of this quote last year while reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards (Tor Books) when Rich Horton commented that based on Graham’s statement, for him, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was 1972. It got me thinking about what science fiction (and fantasy) looked like the year I turned twelve and so this year, I’ll be looking at the year 1979 through a lens of the works and people who won science fiction awards in 1980, ostensibly for works that were published in 1979. I’ve also invited Rich to join me on the journey and he’ll be posting articles looking at the 1973 award year.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer was established by the publishers of Analog magazine in 1973 shortly after Campbell’s death. Eligibility for the award begins with an author’s first professional sale and runs for two calendar years. This stipulation has meant that some major authors who didn’t make a splash at the beginning of their career were not eligible for the award when people began to recognize their names. The award may be given out on the bases of either short fiction or novels.

The John W. Campbell Award are currently administered by the Hugo Award committee on the same ballots and is presented at the Hugo Award ceremony at Worldcon, but it is emphatically not a Hugo, to the extent that some joke the awards name is the John W. Campbell-not-a-Hugo Award.

Prior to the establishment of the award, the Hugos did, on occasion, recognize new authors. In 1953, Philip José Farmer won the Hugo Award for New Author and Robert Silverberg won the award in 1956. The award was attempted in 1959, but the (not-insignificant) authors on the ballot, including Brian W. Aldiss, Paul Ash/Pauline/Ashwell (appearing separately under both bylines), Rosel George Brown, Louis Carbonneau, and Kit Reed, lost out to No Award.

The Award currently takes the form of a plaque presented by the editor of Analog, but in recent years the winners of the award have begun creating regalia to go along with it. Noting that Hugo nominees receive rocket shaped pins to denote their nomination, the Campbell winners arranged to have a pin made that shows five pen nibs arranged in a star shape. In 2005, previous winners Jay Lake and Elizabeth Bear arranged to have a tiara made to pass from winner to winner each year.

If you look at Barry B. Longyear’s byline for 1978 and 1979, you’ll see him all over Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. He made his debut in the December 1978 issue with the story “The Tryouts” and quickly followed up with stories in the January, February, March, May, July, August, September, October, and November issues of IASFM as well as stories in the Spring and Fall issues of the sister magazine, Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine. Twelve stories in a year is pretty amazing, especially when one of them is the novella Enemy Mine, which would go on to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. Longyear’s debut year was even busier than that when you take into account that in four of the issues he appeared in, he had a second story appear under the name Frederick Longbeard. And in two issues, he had a story appear under the byline Mark Ringalh. In fact, the Fall issue of Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine contained “The Star Show” by Longyear, “Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” by Ringdalh, and “The Jaren” by Longbeard. That wasn’t enough for Longyear, he also published three poems, one using the pseudonym “Shaw Vinist” appeared in the February issue of IASFM alongside stories by Longyear and Longbeard and two poems appearing with Longyear’s story in the October issue, one of those using the pseudonym Tol E. Rant. Clearly, Asimov’s editor George Scithers had found an author he could work with.

Eight of the stories Longyear published in that first year, “The Tryouts ,” “The Star Show,” “The Magician’s Apprentice,” “The Second Law,” “Proud Rider,” “Dueling Clowns,” “The Quest,” and “Priest of Baraboo” were part of his Circus World series and all of them with the exception of “The Star Show” were included in his 1981 collection Circus World.

His breakout story, of course, was Enemy Mine, which will be covered in more depth in the article on that novella’s various awards for the year.

Longyear would go on to write novels such as Sea of Glass, Naked Came the Robot, and The God Box as well as a couple novels set in the world of television’s Alien Nation, as well as his own Infinity Hold series, including Kill All the Lawyers. Between 2006 an d2011, he published the stories in the Jaggers and Shad series. In addition to the Circus World collection, he also collected his stories in It Came from Schenectady and Dark Corners. His first year was certainly his most prolific and he would never write a story that matched Enemy Mine in popularity, although over the years, he would keep returning to that universe and expanding on the story, all of which were collected in his omnibus The Enemy Papers in 1998.

Longyear won on his second nominations, losing in his first year of eligibility to Stephen R. Donaldson. In 1980, Longyear beat Somtow Sucharitkul (a.k.a. S.P. Somtow), Diane Duane, Lynn Abbey, Karen G. Jollie, and Alan Ryan. Sucharitkul would win the following year.


Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Webinar: Web Sites” in The Tangled Web. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7.

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