Taking a break from award winners, several authors published their first novels in 1979. Some of these authors had previously published short stories and one notable one was active in radio and television and wound up winning several awards for work done in 1979 (Douglas Adams). Here is a look at some of the debut novels of 1979.
Perhaps the biggest splash for a debut novel in 1979 was Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, although it was really a novelization and abridged version of his radio show of the same title, which had previously aired in 1978. The novel, of course, sparked a series of five novels by Adams, plus one more by Eoin Colfer, and adaptations for stage, television, screen, and upcoming, a streaming service. A satire on the tropes of science fiction, the absurdity of the situations and responses in the books hit a nerve with the public and have expanded beyond the genre, with people who haven’t read science fiction at least recognizing that the number 42 is a cultural touchstone.
By the time you read this, you will already have seen the announcement of RosettaBooks’ The Galaxy Project, or so I assume.
Rosetta is preparing to release e-versions of many of the best stories published in Galaxy in its heyday, which is a terrific idea, but is taking it a step further by launching a contest to find a novella or novelette which will, in the words of RosettaBooks CEO Arthur Klebanoff, “carry forth its tradition of outstanding science fiction writing with a new generation of authors.”
So, I hear you ask, what? Whatever might he mean by “tradition?”
Worry not, I live to educate. No, stop edging towards the door and looking at your watch, I know better.
In 1950, two things happened in fairly close proximity: John W. Campbell published a controversial article in the May issue of Astounding, and the first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction appeared on the newsstands in October. These two events were important in their own rights (for vastly different reasons), but there was a synchronicity – one might almost say a serendipity – at play that could be seen to have made a major change in the SF publishing scene at the time.