July 20, 2019 – As Seen from 1986

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Arthur C. Clarke, July 20, 2019 robotic surgical arm

In the 1980s, science fiction, the red-headed stepchild of literature, the field that had been declared dead in 1960, the genre that Kurt Vonnegut decried because serious critics kept mistaking it for a urinal, became the hot new thing.

As we now know, a rising tide may lift all boats, but the few superyachts get raised to previously unimaginable heights. The corporate buyout of old-line publishing houses created the blockbuster mentality, wherein the few Big Names could be paid supermoney in the assurance that their being proclaimed bestsellers made them so and therefore return huger profits. Robert A. Heinlein got paid $500,000 for The Number of the Beast. Isaac Asimov made a million for his new Foundation books. And Arthur C. Clarke needed all his formidable scuba skills to avoid being drowned under the tsunami of money that arrived just by allowing others to borrow the magic of his name.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Carolyn Beresford

Cover by Carolyn Beresford

Cover by Jody A. Lee

Cover by Jody A. Lee

Cover by Matt Mahurin

Cover by Matt Mahurin

The National Book Awards were established in 1936 by the American Booksellers Association. Although the Awards were not given out between 1942 and 1949 because of World War II and its aftermath, the awards were reestablished in 1950 and given out annually since then. Since 1950, only US authors are eligible for the award, which is designed to celebrate the best of American literature, expand its audience, and enhance the value of good writing in America. From 1980 through 1983, the American Book Awards were announced as a variation of the National Book Awards, run by the Academy of the American Book Awards.

The first Children’s Book award was presented to Meinhardt DeJong for Journey from Peppermint Street. In 1980, the award rebranded as the American Book Awards (TABA) and increased the number of awards given, including creating both a hardcover and paperback award for Children’s Books. The winner of the first Paperback Children’s Book Award was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet was the third book published in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet (although it is the fourth volume viewed by internal chronology). It follows the established character of Charles Wallace Murry who must save the world from an impending nuclear disaster. Charles Wallace has demonstrated the ability to read other people’s minds and thought and connect to his older sister, Meg, through a process called kything.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Saturday, July 13th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Brian Boyle

Cover by Brian Boyle

Cover by Bruce Pennington

Cover by Bruce Pennington

Cover by Hal Siegel

Cover by Hal Siegel

The Seiun Awards are often described as the “Japanese Hugo Awards” since they are voted on by the membership of annual Japanese Science Fiction Convention. This description almost invariably is followed up by pointing out that Seiun is Japanese for Nebula. A Seiun Award for Best Foreign Novel and Best Foreign Short Fiction has been presented since 1970, although in 1980, the year being explored in this series, no Short Fiction Seiun was awarded. The first Seiun Award for Best Novel was presented to J.G. Ballard’s The Crystal World (originally published in 1966) and the first award for Short Fiction was presented to Thomas M. Disch for “The Squirrel Cage,” published in the same year. Because the awards are presented for works in translation, there is generally a lag of a few years from first publication. For many years, the Seiun Award foreign categories were presented at Worldcon as part of the Hugo Award ceremony.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama was first published in 1973 and by the time it was translated into Japanese, it had won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Locus Award, and the BSFA Award. In a Locus Poll in 1975, it was ranked the 20th best novel in science fiction history.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: “The Last Defender of Camelot,” by Roger Zelazny

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Paul Alexander

Cover by Paul Alexander

Cover by Alicia Austin

Cover by Alicia Austin

Cover by Lela Dowling

Cover by Lela Dowling

The Balrog Award, often referred to as the coveted Balrog Award, was created by Jonathan Bacon and first conceived in issue 10/11 of his Fantasy Crossroads fanzine in 1977 and actually announced in the final issue, where he also proposed the Smitty Awards for fantasy poetry. The awards were presented for the first time at Fool-Con II at the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas on April 1, 1979. The awards were never taken particularly seriously, even by those who won the award. The final awards were presented in 1985. Presented variously for “Short Fiction” and “Short Story,” this award was given out each year the Balrogs were presented.

Roger Zelazny’s “The Last Defender of Camelot” places an eternal Sir Lancelot in the modern era, dealing with such enemies as street muggers. Unsure of why he has a long life, he wanders the globe aimlessly, adapting to the new world while remembering the glory that was Camelot and searching for the Holy Grail. A (possibly) chance meeting with a fortune teller who turns out to be an equally long-lived Morgana LeFay informs him that he will never succeed in finding the Holy Grail, but instead the reason for his long life is that Merlin is about to awaken from his millennia long sleep and will need Lancelot to provide him with a guide to this future world.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Robert A. Heinlein

Friday, July 5th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Heinlein accepting the Nebula

Heinlein accepting the Nebula

Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein

The Forry Award has been presented annually by LASFS (the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society) since 1966 and is named for Forrest J Ackerman.  The award celebrates lifetime achievement in science fiction and the recipients are selected by a vote among LASFS members. The first award was presented in 1966 to Ray Bradbury and has generally been presented to science fiction professionals, although an occasional fan has received the award as well.  Ackerman didn’t receive the award until 2002. Robert A. Heinlein received the award in 1980. The award was presented at Loscon 7, the weekend of November 28-30 at the Anaheim Sheraton.

Books have and will continued to be written about Robert A. Heinlein, some recent examples being William H. Patterson’s two volume Heinlein biography and Farah Mendlesohn’s The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein. From 1979, there was H. Bruce Franklin’s Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction, which I discussed on May 6. Of course, Heinlein also has his staunch devotees and partisans as well as his detractors.

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The Many Lives of Otto Mattix

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Otto 2013

Don Wiggins was one of the charmed young men who became college legends back in the days when just being a college student came with a halo of prestige. A native of nearby Jacksonville, he entered the University of Florida in the late 1940s and in 1951 was named to UF’s Hall of Fame. He graduated in 1952 with an Electrical Engineering degree and was immediately hired as an Assistant in Research before rapidly rising to the professorial ranks. His nerdiness was not in question, but he probably never got teased by the jocks at the football-crazed school. At least not twice. He was also faculty instructor to the Judo Club.

All of that paled to his true claim to fame. He was “father” to Otto Mattix, the school’s robot mascot, here with minor personages like the college’s dean and president.

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On Writing Advice

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Black Gate clouds-small

This isn’t my view, but it’s pretty darn close

Good afternoon, Readers!

It’s a beautiful summer’s day here in Ottawa, Canada as of the writing of this. A lovely cool breeze is coming in the window, mitigating the heat of the sun, while cotton-puff clouds float through an impossibly blue sky.

I’m sitting by the window while my dad cooks a spectacular fry- up brunch, letting my thoughts drift with the clouds. I have nothing with me but his old iPad and a cup of delicious locally roasted coffee from my friends at JenEric Coffee.

This is all a poetic way of saying that I’ve been thinking a lot about writing advice of late, and I figured I would share my thoughts with you.

(You want clumsy segues? I’m your gal!)

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Jim Burns

Monday, July 1st, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Deathworms of Kratos

Deathworms of Kratos

Farnham's Freehold

Farnham’s Freehold

Son of Man

Son of Man

The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards have been presented by the British Science Fiction Association since 1970 and were originally nominated for and voted on by the members of the Association. The Artist Award was created in 1980, when the inaugural award was won by Jim Burns, who would go on to win it three more times before the award was changed in 1987.  In 1987, the British Science Fiction Association changed the award to honor specific art as the Artwork Award, which Burns has won eleven times, including a five year winning streak.  His most recent win was in 2018 when his painting for the cover of The Ion Raider tied Victor Ngai’s painting for “Waiting on a Bright Moon.”

After leaving the Royal Air Force, Burns studied at St. Martin’s School of Art in London, graduating in 1972, when he signed on with the Young Artists Agency.  He began providing covers and interior illustrations for British publishers in 1973 and his work appeared exclusively in British editions through 1980. During that time, he also moved from using water colors to gouache to oils.

Some of Burns’ work that appeared in 1979 included a cover for Robert A. Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold for Corgi Books showing the main characters standing in a valley watching a flying city. His cover by Robert Silverberg’s Son of Man has an alien figure curled up in the foreground with a naked man reclining in the background. His cover for Edmund Cooper’s The Deathworms of Kratos is less easy to decipher, but appears to show a man in heavy space armor being attacked by the titular worms.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Michael Whelan

Thursday, June 27th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Wonderworks

Wonderworks

A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars

The Gods of Mars

The Gods of Mars

The Best Artist category was not one of the original Hugo categories in 1953, but was introduced at the second awards in 1955, when it was won by Frank Kelly Freas. Since then, some version of the award has been a constant, with the exception of 1957, when the award was not presented. Originally called the Hugo for Best Artist, it eventually became the award for best Professional Artist when the Best Fan Artist award was introduced in 1967. Michael Whelan won his first award in 1980, beginning a seven year run of winning the award. He eventually won the award thirteen times, most recently in 2002, along with two other Hugo Award for Best Nonfiction Book (in 1988) and the first award for Best Original Artwork (in 1992). He has been nominated for the Hugo a total of 31 times.

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 Artist award dates back to 1974, although in the three previous years, a Best Paperback Cover Artist award was presented and in the previous two years a Best Magazine Artist awards was presented. The first Professional Artist award was won by Frank Kelly Freas. Michael Whelan won his first award in 1980, beginning a twenty-one year run of winning the award. He eventually won the award thirty times, with one additional win for Best Art Book in 1994. In 1980. The Locus Poll received 854 responses.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Alien

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Alien poster

Alien poster

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Jones

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Jones

The Best Dramatic Presentation category was not one of the original Hugo categories in 1953, but was introduced in 1958, when it was won by The Incredible Shrinking Man. No Award won in 1959 followed by three years of The Twilight Zone and another No Award. The Award, called variously Best Dramatic Presentation and Best SF or Fantasy Movie, was given out annually from 1958 through 2002 when it was split into two categories, one for Short Form and one for Long Form. In 1980, the Hugo Award was presented at Noreascon Two in Boston, Massachusetts on August 31.

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1976 the name was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth name was still the name for the Best Novel Award. A category for Best Film was created in 1973 and ran years until 1990 and has not been replaced. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968.  Eleven years later, Ridley Scott released Alien. Although one is generally thought of as a spiritual science fiction film and the other is a science fiction horror film, there are similarities between the two.

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