Sunday, July 11, 2010

Campbell Award Continues Streak of Going to Book JWC Would Hate the Most

This year's John W. Campbell and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards -- for the best SF novel and work of short fiction, respectively, of the previous year -- have been announced ahead of next week's gala Campbell Conference. (Presumably to give the winners the chance to make plans to be in lovely Lawrence, Kansas in midsummer.)

In keeping with the tradition set by the very first Campbell winner -- Barry N. Malzberg's Beyond Apollo, a fine novel about the failed missions and sex lives of insane astronauts -- the Campbell jury apparently chose the novel from the shortlist that legendarily curmudgeonly and opinionated editor Campbell would have disliked the most. (It's nice to be in a field that has traditions, particularly traditions that simultaneously undermine the usual point of having traditions: to honor and revere our predecessors.)

The Sturgeon has no similar tradition, mostly because Ted Sturgeon liked a whole lot of stories -- that 10% that weren't crud, at least -- and it would be harder to shock the guy who wrote Godbody to begin with.

Anyway, those winners are:
Campbell: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Sturgeon: Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow
(I reviewed Shambling here last year; I've generally loved Morrow's work, but I found it didn't quite gel in the way I hoped it would. I've been avoiding the Bacigalupi book, because I suspect it would cause me to rant and complain enough to seriously annoy my family. But I may need to read it now; it's already won the Nebula and is up for the Hugo.)

Congratulations to both Bacigalupi and Morrow; despite my quibbles, both are excellent writers actively trying to expand the field and write great stories.

[via Locus Online]


Nick said...

I'm about a third of the way into The Windup Girl after getting it for my birthday and I'm loving it so far. But I expected to. Out of interest, what is it that you think will cause you to rant and rave about it? And for those of us who don't know much about Campbell (I just read his Wikipedia page) what about the Windup Girl would he have hated?

Andrew Wheeler said...

Nick: Well, aside from my oft-noted dislike for books that murder me and my family for background -- which is an essential arrow in Bacigalupi's everything-is-going-to-hell quiver -- some of the reviews and reactions to Windup Girl that I've seen say or imply:

1) That this near-future world has utterly forgotten or destroyed all vestiges of power generation using geothermal, water, wind, solar, and nuclear means

2) That it features centrally an engineered female sex-slave reminiscent of the main character of Charles Stross's Saturn's Children

3) That it also centrally features an Evil Corporations Are Evil plot straight out of the equivalent novel from 1968

4) That the neat-o kean-o springs that are the be-all and end-all of Bacigalupi's energy economy are physically impossible

5) And that, in general, it's yet another carefully-constructed Bacigalupi rant at everyone in the world whose sensibility is less ecologically advanced than his is, and their stupid little minds.

He's a fine writer, and I don't mind being lectured on my evil stupidity for the length of a novella. But I try to draw the line on that behavior at about fifteen thousand words. That's why I've avoided Windup Girl so far.

Campbell would have loathed Windup Girl purely because it's set in the aftermath of humanity failing to save itself, an outcome he categorically denied was possible.

Nick said...

Yeah, you're not going to like it.
To my shame I hadn't even considered point 1 but you've hit the nail on the head. I think the fact that it doesn't come across as condescending it testament to his skill as a writer. And I don't generally have an issue with books that murder me and everyone else but so far at least there's no apocalypse that he describes - he's just describing the aftermath which is a much more effective tool and doesn't make me think about all I know and love getting wiped out.

What is interesting is that he has a lot about Malaysia in the background and living in Singapore, I've been enjoying that even if I'm not convinced by it.

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