The Prix Apollo was founded in 1972 and presented in France for the best book published in French during the preceding year. The first winner was Roger Zelazny’s Isle of the Dead. The award was suspended following the presentation of the 1991 award. Only five times in the awards nineteen year history did it go to works originally published in French, including 1988, when it was presented to an entire series of 36 books written by Georges-Jean Arnaud. Although technically an award for a novel, in 1980, the award was given to John Varley’s collection The Persistence of Vision.
It isn’t entirely clear what the Prix Apollo was presented for. Varley’s debut collection, The Persistence of Vision was published by The Dial Press/James Wade in 1978 and contained nine short stories, published between 1975 and 1978. The collection wasn’t translated into French until 1979, which is why it was eligible for the Prix Apollo in 1980. However, the nine stories were published in two separate volumes in French. One volume, Dans le palais des rois martiens, contained five stories, including French translations of “The Phantom of Kansas,” “Air Raid,” “Retrograde Summer,” “The Black Hole Passes,” and the titular story, “In the Hall of the Martian Kings.” The second volume, Persistance de la vision, contained the remaining four stories, translations of “In the Bowl,” “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance,” “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank,” and “the titular story, “The Persistence of Vision.” It is possible that the Prix Apollo was given for the complete text of the original anthology, but also conceivable that it was only given to the volume which bears the name in French.
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.
Titan belongs to the subgenre of science fiction that Roz Kaveny described as “Big Dumb Objects,” or BDO, in her 1981 essay “Science Fiction in the 1970s.” As such, the novel is reminiscent of some of the earlier examples of that genre, such as Larry Niven’s Ringworld or Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. As with those earlier novels, a group of explorers, in this case human astronauts, find themselves exploring a massive artifact in space, often traveling into the interior of the world, as if they were space-faring European explorers delving into nineteenth century Africa.
In Titan, the BDO is referred to initially as Themis, and later as Gaea. The explorers are a band of human astronauts assigned to the Ringmaster: Captain Cirocco “Rocky” Jones and her group of six, split evenly between men and women. On a trip to explore Saturn’s moons and rings, they discover a strange object and immediately change their mission profile to explore it. As they close in on the object, their ship is grasped and pulled in. The crew awakens, widely separated with various levels of amnesia. Although Rocky manages to reconnect with four members of her crew, two of them, August, whose twin sister April is missing, and Calvin, who has managed to acquire a magical understanding of the world and creatures in it, go off to make their own way while Rocky, Bill, and Gaby begin their own exploration with only the knowledge imparted to them by the now absent Calvin to guide them.
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 Analog Award was launched in 1979 for works published in the magazine in the preceding year. The Best Cover category was added in 1980, so this was the first year the award was presented. The award has been given every year since then with the exception of the year covering works published in the magazine in 2002, when the award was replaced, for one year only, with a cover artist award, when it was won by David A. Hardy, who painted two covers for the magazine (May and December issues).
Paul Lehr painted the cover for the first installment of John Varley’s four-part serial for the novel Titan, which ran from the January to the April issue of Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact.
The artwork from the January 1979 issue of Analog seems to depict the spindle that runs up the center of the torus moon discovered in orbit around Saturn. The tower looks like a mixture of organic parts, wires, and high tech platforms growing out of a small globe and inside a massive dome. The night sky with other moons of Saturn can be seen through windows and a rainbow-like arc stretches behind the tower.
Varley has won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for his novellas “The Persistence of Vision” and “Press Enter .” He won an additional Hugo Award for the short story “The Pusher.” His novel Red Thunder won the Endeavour Award. The novel version of The Persistence of Vision won the Prix Apollo. His novella “In the Halls of the Martian Kings” won the Jupiter Award. He won the Prometheus Award for The Golden Globe. “Press Enter ” and “Tango Charlie and Foxtrot Romeo” both won the Seiun Award. In 2009, Varley won the Robert A. Heinlein Award. One of Varley’s most famous stories, “Air Raid,” which formed the basis of the novel and film Millennium, was originally published with the pseudonym “Herb Boehm.”
“Just Another Perfect Day” was originally published in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine in June of 1989 by editor Tappan King. Gardner Dozois picked the story up for his The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Seventh Annual Collection. When Dozois’s volume was translated into Italian in 1995, Varley’s story was translated by Massimo Patti and included in the volume Millemondi Inverno 1995. In 1996 it appeared in translation in the German magazine Galaxies #3 and was translated into Japanese in 1998. Varley included the story in The John Varley Reader and John Joseph Adams reprinted it in the April 2011 issue of Lightspeed, as well as a performance of the book in the Lightspeed Podcast for the same year.
One of the cliché’s of science fiction is the character who awakens to a blank slate, in an empty room, with no idea who they are, where they are, or even what year they are in. It is a way for authors to provide necessary information not only to the character, but to the reader. In “Just Another Perfect Day,” John Varley bases his entire story on that cliché, providing a letter to his amnesiac, written by a previous version of the amnesiac, to explain the important parts of what has happened in the twenty-two years since his last actual memory.
The majority of the letter explains to the reader what the day has in store for him, what happened to him in 1989 that caused him not to remember anything since 1986, and eventually the salient features of what has changed in the world that he doesn’t remember, notably that the Earth has been invaded by aliens, called Martians, although they don’t come from there, and each day they are interested in visiting with him for an hour to talk. The subjects of these discussions, both historically, and in the context of the day the story is set, is left up to the reader to conjecture.