The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “Sandkings,” by George R.R. Martin

Monday, August 26th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Peter Goodfellow

Cover by Peter Goodfellow

The Hugo Award was first presented at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention (sometimes called Philcon II), held in Philadelphia from September 5-7, 1953. No short fiction awards were presented the first year. In 1955, the first award for Best Novellette, not yet known as a Hugo Award, was given to Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s “The Darfsteller.” The award for Best Novelette was not presented in 1957 or 1958, returned in 1959 and then disappeared until 1967. It was on hiatus again from 1970 through 1972 and became a permanent ficture in 1973. The Hugo Awards are nominated and voted on by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention. Martin won two Hugo Awards in 1980, for “The Way of Cross and Dragon” in the Short Story Category and “Sandkings” in the Novelette category. He had previously won a Hugo for his novella “A Song for Lya” in 1975 and would win a second novella award for “Blood of the Dragon” as well as a Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form Hugo for season 1 of Game of Thrones. The only fiction category in which he has not yet won a Hugo is the Best Novel category. In 1980, the Hugo Award was presented at Noreascon Two in Boston, Massachusetts on August 31.

The Locus Awards were established in 1972 and presented by Locus Magazine based on a poll of its readers. In more recent years, the poll has been opened up to on-line readers, although subscribers’ votes have been given extra weight. At various times the award has been presented at Westercon and, more recently, at a weekend sponsored by Locus at the Science Fiction Museum (now MoPop) in Seattle. The Best Book Publisher Award dates back to 1972, although in 1975 and 1976 the Publisher Award was split into paperback and hardcover categories. Ballantine Books won the award each year from its inception through 1977 (winning the paperback for the two experimental years with the Science Fiction Book Club winning the hardcover award). In 1978, when Del Rey was established as an imprint of Ballantine, Ballantine/Del Rey began winning the award. The award was not presented in 1979 for works published in 1978, but when it was reinstituted in 1980, Ballantine/Del Rey picked up its winning streak. In 1980. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

In many ways, “Sandkings” is a predictable story. Simon Kress is depicted from the start as arrogant and cruel. Although the world of Baldur is not particularly well depicted, based on Kress’s personality and actions, the world seems to provide a breeding ground for a decadent society, at least the part of it that Kress is part of, although Martin does indicate that he has some sort of business that he must occasionally attend to which provides him with the means to pursue his decadent lifestyle, which centers on the collection, exhibition, and eventual discarding of various exotic animals/aliens.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Ray Bradbury

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

Cover by Arthur Lidov

Cover by Arthur Lidov

Cover by Joseph Mugnaini

Cover by Joseph Mugnaini

Lin Carter created the Gandalf Award to recognize lifetime achievement in fantasy. As with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author, which was founded in the previous year, the Gandalf Awards were administered along with the Hugo Award and presented at Worldcon. The Gandalf Award was given out from 1974, when it was won by J.R.R. Tolkien, through 1981, when it went to C. L. Moore. For two years, in addition to a Grand Master Award, a Best Novel Gandalf was also presented. In 1980, the awards were presented at Noreascon II in Boston.

Several years ago, I received a phone call from Ray Bradbury. When I hung up the phone, I turned to my daughter, who was in elementary school, and said, “Remember this call. You’ll be studying the author I just spoke to in school.” Several years later, I was at a parent conference for my daughter and the teacher caught me looking at a poster for Fahrenheit 451. The class had read Bradbury’s story “The Veldt” earlier in the school year and the teacher said, “I don’t want to accuse your daughter of making things up, but she says Ray Bradbury has called your house.” I confirmed the call to the teacher, but inside I was jubilant, my daughter had listened to me.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “giANTS,” by Edward Bryant

Sunday, August 18th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by John Sanchez

Cover by John Sanchez

The Nebula Award was created by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and first presented in 1966, when the award for Best Short Story was won by Harlan Ellison for “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.” It has been given annually since then. Ed Bryant won the award in 1979 for his story “Stone” and again in 1980 for the story “giANTS,” the first time an author won the award back-to-back.

Ed Bryant’s “giANTS” is a strange work of almost fan fiction. It is set in a world in which them 1954 B movie Them! has taken on immense importance. Main character Paul Chavez dreams himself in the movie, with himself in the role of the protagonist, and upon waking has a difficult time separating reality from his dream. Chavez also finds himself the subject of a relentless reporter, Layne Bridgewell, who is seeking an interview with him, one he only begrudgingly gives.

It takes a while to determine the actual role of Them! in the story since it seems to be a film that Chavez and Bridgewell have both seen and are aware of. At the same time, there is definitely something occurring with insects throughout the world and Bridgewell has lost family to bees while Chavez’s wife was killed by fire ants.

It eventually turns out that rather than being the nightmare scenario Chavez fears, Them! provides the solutions to the problem of a world in which normal insects run amok. Bryant cleverly takes the biggest scientific inaccuracy of the film and turns it on his head, allowing Chavez to realize that creating a means of increasing the insects size is the fastest way to destroy them, due to the square-cube law.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Jack L. Chalker

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by H.R. Van Dongen

Cover by H.R. Van Dongen

Photo by Chaz Baden Boston

Photo by Chaz Baden Boston

Cover by Joe Wehrle, Jr.

Cover by Joe Wehrle, Jr.

The Skylark Award, or more formally, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction” is presented annually by NESFA at Boskone to honor significant contributions to science fiction in the spirit of E.E. “Doc” Smith. The award was first presented in 1966 to Frederik Pohl. The award takes the form of a lens on top of a podium. When Jane Yolen received the award in 1990, she placed the award in the picture window in her kitchen. On the next clear day, the lens focused the sun’s rays and burnt Yolen’s coat. Ever since, this cautionary tale has been related to the award’s winner.

The Edmond Hamilton/Leigh Brackett Memorial Award was presented at Octocon by the Spellbinders Foundation in the 1970s and 80s, with the award voted on by the attending membership of the convention. The convention and the award were only in existence for a handful of years, with the first award presented in 1977 to Katherine Kurtz at Octocon 1. The award recognized promotion of the “sense of wonder” in science fiction and fantasy. Some sources list the award as going, in general to the author, while other sources indicated the award was presented for a specific work.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “The Migration of Darkness,” by Peter Payack

Saturday, August 10th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Alex Schomburg

Cover by Alex Schomburg

Cover by Tim Mullins

Cover by Tim Mullins

The Rhysling Awards, named for Robert A. Heinlein’s poet from The Green Hills of Earth, were established by the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1978. Both the association and the award were founded by Suzette Haden Elgin. Each year, awards are given for Short Form poetry and Long Form poetry. The first three years of the award resulted in ties, with three poems tying in the first year, and two each tying in the second and third year.

Payack’s poem “The Migration of Darkness” appeared in the August 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, edited by George Scithers. The poem postulates that darkness, rather than being the absence of light, is made up of infinitesimal pieces of darkness that breed in dimmer regions, such as the poles, and migrate south each night to cover the world in darkness, only to migrate back to the polar regions, or possible westward, with the coming of night. Pieces of darkness that don’t make the migration congregate behind buildings and trees to form shadows, but their lives of, of necessity, short since the light will eventually find them and kill them off.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Piers Anthony

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Piers Anthony

Piers Anthony

Chthon

Chthon

Cover by Michael Whelan

Cover by Michael Whelan

DeepSouthCon has presented the Phoenix Award annually since 1970. The first Rebel Award was presented to Richard C. Meredith. The 1980 award was presented on August 23 at DeepSouthCon 18/ASFICon in Atlanta, Georgia, which was chaired by Cliff Biggers.

While Piers Anthony may currently be best known for his series of Xanth novels, in 1980, when he was presented with the Phoenix Award, the series was just getting started. A Spell for Chameleon had appeared in 1977 and been awarded the British Fantasy Award and nominated for the Balrog Award. Castle Roogna followed it in 1978 and The Source of Magic appeared in 1979, and that was all: a trilogy.

Anthony had published numerous successful series up to that point, including the Omnivore/Orn/OX series between 1968 and 1976, the first four volumes of the Cluster series and the Tarot trilogy. His Battle Circle trilogy had appeared between 1968 and 1975 and the Chthon duology was published in 1967 and 1975. In 1980, he had just published Split Infinity, the first novel in his Apprentice Adept series.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Locus Award for Best Fan Artist: William Rotsler

Sunday, August 4th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

William Rotsler Locus 5-small

The Locus Awards have been presented since 1971. In that first year, there was an award for Best Fan Artist, and another for Best Fan Cartoonist. William Rotsler won the latter, and that was the only year of that award. The Best Fan Artist award continued through 1975 (since then there has only been a Locus Award for Best Artist.) Alicia Austin won the first Best Fan Artist Locus Award, and William Rotsler won in 1972 and 1973. Tim Kirk won the final two Locus Awards for Best Fan Artist.

William Rotsler was born in 1926 and died in 1997. He began doing illustrations for fan magazines by the mid ‘40s, and indeed he won a Retro Hugo in 1996 for Best Fan Artist for that work from 50 years before. (As with many Retro Hugos, I suspect he won that award more for his later notoriety than for any knowledge voters in 1996 had of that earlier work.) Rotsler was a highly regarded fan artist by the late 1960s at least, when he began consistently appearing on Hugo ballots. He won the Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1975, 1979, 1996, and 1997.

Like many fans who first made their mark in fanzines, Rotsler later became a well-regarded professional. What’s interesting about Rotsler is that in fandom he was best known as an artist – but he made his mark as a professional as a writer. His best known work is probably Patron of the Arts, which was a Nebula, Hugo, and Locus nominee in its first appearance as a novelette in 1972. He expanded it to a novel in 1974. He also collaborated with Gregory Benford on the novel Shiva Descending (1980). His other fiction is less well remembered – much of it was work for hire, in such universes as Star Trek, Marvel, Planet of the Apes, and Tom Swift.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “Encased in the Amber of Eternity,” by Robert Frazier

Friday, August 2nd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Vincent di Fate

Cover by Vincent di Fate

Cover by Tim Mullins

Cover by Tim Mullins

The Rhysling Awards, named for Robert A. Heinlein’s poet from The Green Hills of Earth, were established by the Science Fiction Poetry Association in 1978. Both the association and the award were founded by Suzette Haden Elgin. Each year, awards are given for Short Form poetry and Long Form poetry. The first three years of the award resulted in ties, with three poems tying in the first year, and two each tying in the second and third year.

Robert Frazier’s poem “Encased in the Amber of Eternity” depicts a Pacific Northwest in the aftermath of a nuclear war that has depopulated the North American continent (and presumably most of the rest of the world). His imagery moves briskly from descriptions of various objects associated with lights and fire representing the falling missiles, to the bone-like remnants of human civilization, represented by Portland. The poem’s narrator, who seems to be a survivalist type, has managed to come through the catastrophe and offers a glimpse of hope that he will be able to find other survivors to rebuilt some sort of civilization, or, even if it is only him, at least he is still around.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 Ditmar Award for Best Fanzine: SF Commentary

Sunday, July 28th, 2019 | Posted by Rich Horton

SF Commentary 26-small SF Commentary 31-small

The Ditmar Awards, for achievement in Australian Science Fiction (including Fandom), have been presented annually since 1969. In most years some variety of a Best Fanzine Award has been given.

SF Commentary, edited by Bruce Gillespie, won the 1973 Ditmar Award for Best Australian Fanzine. Overall, Gillespie has won 16 Ditmars, for Best Australian Fanzine, Best Fanzine Editor, and Best Fan Writer. He has also won 3 Atheling Award for Best Criticism. (The Atheling Awards are part of the Ditmars, I believe, so in reality Gillespie has won 19 Ditmars.) SF Commentary first won the Ditmar Award in 1972, and most recently just last year, in 2018.

SF Commentary began publication in 1969. 99 issues have appeared to date, with the latest having just been posted at efanzines.com. It appeared very regularly through 1981, was revived from 1989 through 1993, again between 2000 and 2004, and one or two issues per year have appeared since 2011, these latest primarily in electronic form. In the early years John Foyster and Barry Gillam occasionally shared editorial duties with Gillespie, but since 1975 Bruce has been sole proprietor.

I have been reading issues of SF Commentary in this latest (post 2011) series regularly, and I have corresponded regularly with Bruce Gillespie in various fora since for the past 15 years. Bruce is intensely interested in SF and in its literary ambitions, and his magazine has long reflected that. SF Commentary issues are huge, and stuffed with long critical articles and reviews.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Janice Bogstad and Jeanne Gomoll

Saturday, July 27th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Janice Bogstad

Janice Bogstad

Janus 15, Cover by Jeanne Gomoll

Janus 15, Cover by Jeanne Gomoll

Jeanne Gomoll

Jeanne Gomoll

The Fan Activity Achievement Award (FAAN) were presented from 1976 through 1980 to recognize achievement by those who write, edit, and illustrate fanzines. The awards were revived in 1994 and have presented every years since, with the exception of 1996. The Best Fan Editor Award was only presented during the initial run of the award from 1977 to 1980. It was won in each of the first two years by Rob Johnson. Janice Bogstad and Jeanne Gomoll won the FAAN Award for Best Editor in both 1979 and 1980 for their editorial work on the fanzine Janus. They were also nominated in both those years (as well as 1978) for the Hugo Award.

Janice Bogstad began editing the fanzine Janus in 1975. She was joined in editorial duties by Jeanne Gomoll with issue 2 and the two co-edited the zine from 1975 through 1980, producing a total of 18 issues of the fanzine. The zine was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo three times, in 1978, 1979, and 1980. When Bogstad and Gomoll decided to stop editing the zine, the editorial duties to Diane Martin, who continued publishing another 8 issues between 1981 and 1990 under the auspices of SF3, although name of the fanzine was changed to Aurora. Following the publication of Janus, Bogstad began publishing the zine New Moon in 1981.

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