Taking another break from award winners, here’s a look at novels published in 1979 that did not win any awards.
C.J. Cherryh published Hestia, a stand-alone about an engineer, Sam Merrit, who travels to the title planet to build a damn to help the human colonists. Upon arrival, Merrit realizes that the dam will not only prove to be the panacea that is sought, but would also destroy the local indigenous species. Cherryh uses the novel to explore personal and ecological responsibility and the sense of entitlement the colonists have.
Jerry Pournelle’s novel Janissearies is the first of the similarly titled trilogy, although it is also set in the wider world of his Co-Dominium universe that began with his novel King David’s Starship. The novel follows a group of American soldiers who have been rescued from an ambush in Africa and given the chance to put their talents to use in a medieval level society among the stars. Although Pournelle’s main character faced mutiny, he wins through in the end, establishing himself as the undisputed leader of the force.
Kindred, Octavia E. Butler’s time travel novel that shuffles Dana, a twentieth century African-American author, between her own time and the antebellum South was published in 1979. The novel offers a look at the sort of compromises Dana must make to survive as a slave as be able to continue to exist in her own time. Butler offers a complex view of slavery and race relations in the novel, partly because of the way she has caused Dana’s own existence and fate to be entwined with that of Rufus, the plantation owner. …
Karl Edward Wagner was a man fascinated with monsters and, by most accounts, tormented by an overwhelming host of personal demons. A bearded and brawny hard-drinking Southerner who typed with two fingers like his childhood idol Robert E. Howard, he is perhaps best known for his iconic sword-and-sorcery character, Kane: a red-haired, black-hearted warrior whose love of battle and lust for knowledge combine into one all-consuming will to power. Wagner himself was an unlikely combination of savage and savant, his rough outlaw biker exterior sheltering a deep love for tales of imagination and wonder. At one time a practicing psychiatrist pursuing a doctorate in microbiology, he left that field for a writer’s life. He went on to edit numerous anthologies (including DAW’s The Year’s Best Horror from 1980 to 1994), co-found his own short-lived press, and pen several novels and collections. Most of Wagner’s original work is currently out-of-print. Centipede Press is releasing two hardcover collections of his short horror fiction this year. Hopefully, this will re-kindle interest in the man’s work, making it more available (and more affordable) for those who wish to read it.
I was first introduced to Karl Edward Wagner’s work through his R.E. Howard pastiche, Conan: The Road of Kings, a ripping good tale any fan of the barbarian hero should read. From this I moved onto the Kane material, tracked down in musty used bookstores or acquired through well-placed eBay sniping. Over the holidays I managed to find one of his horror collections stuffed into a shop’s bottom shelf. It is Wagner’s first horror collection, In a Lonely Place, and through it I discovered yet another impressive facet of the late author.