I enjoyed the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio. As always, I'm left with slightly mixed feelings about what I expect to get out of such a gathering, as well as what I'm actually bringing to the show by being there. But there's no doubt that from my perspective as a writer and program participant, it all seemed well organised. The convention centre was, from a British viewpoint, typically huge and at times bewildering in its layout. I never did make it to the Green Room. But the panels seemed to be well attended and judging by the feedback, enjoyed by both participants and audience members. After two attendees were not able to make it, the panel on SF art and artists as writers turned out to be just Joe Haldeman and myself, but we enjoyed ourselves and I think we kept it just the right side of self-indulgence. Luckily, because I wasn't very well prepared, Joe had brought some examples of his own art along.
I did a few other program items but the one that will stick in my memory was the panel on the legacy of Iain Banks and the Culture books. Ably moderated by Vince Docherty, the panel also included Kim Stanley Robinson, Ben Jeapes and myself. In his opening remarks, Vincent stated that a female panelist had been unable to attend, which was why Ben had come on at short notice. (For the record, I'm not hugely bothered about panel parity on a given topic provided there is a good shot at balance across a convention's entire programming track, but it was good to hear that efforts had been made). What made this panel memorable, in my view, was that for once none of us were there to promote our own works or careers - not that my fellow panelists would have been so crass as to do that anyway, but it was one hundred percent Iain and his legacy that we were there to discuss. It was an honour and a privelege and I hope we rose to the occasion. I knew Iain only slightly, as I've written elsewhere, and I don't think Ben had met him. But we had all been saddened by his death, and brought to a renewed appreciation for the huge body of work he left us. Stan Robinson, though, had known Iain much more closely, and over a much longer span of time. It was wonderful to hear Stan's thoughts on both the books and the man. SF is much the poorer for Iain's passing, a fact that I think will only become more evident as time passes.
I didn't go to the Hugo ceremony, so I missed the controversy, such as it was. My wife was in town with me, but since she did not have an attending membership, we decided to go to see a film instead - Elysium, during which I mostly slept. I couldn't summon tremendous enthusiasm for the Hugo evening anyway. Some undeniably good works were nominated, and I didn't sense any great outpouring of anger after the results. I'd have liked 2312 to do well, certainly, but John Scalzi has been such a force for good in the field, taking a genuinely heroic stand, that I doubt anyone would have much begrudged his win for Redshirts, quite aside from the fact that it had many admirers. The fact is, though, that I didn't even vote. I just couldn't summon up the enthusiasm or the energy, in a professionally difficult year in which I'd read almost nothing eligible and in which the one book I did rate highly - 2312 - was to some extent likely to overshadow my own eligible novel, Blue Remembered Earth. (Stan's is the better novel, though - go and read it). I needn't have worried, though. When the full Hugo results were made available, nothing of mine had come to close to being nominated, let alone winning. Normally there's a work or two of mine somewhere down below the cutoff, which is enough to provide some crumb of consolation, but this year there was nothing. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised - I've made plain my thoughts on SF's year-long awards circus - but it was sobering all the same, as if my entire SF career was happening in some parallel world entirely removed from the Hugos. To be fair, I have had one Hugo nomination, for Troika back in 2011, for which I was genuinely grateful, and which is one more Nebula nomination than I've managed to notch up in 23 years of professional publishing. All of which probably sounds bitter, but actually I'm more bemused than disappointed. I do well enough commercially, and people whose opinions matter to me occasionally say nice things about my fiction. My short fiction is widely reprinted and anthologised. But the field has two conspicuous badges of merit, the Hugos and the Nebulas, and judging by those I'm just barely on the map.
Rather than end on a downbeat note, though, I'll reiterate that I enjoyed the convention very much. I appreciated the work that went in behind the scenes, and I saw a lot of people having a great time. I was personally disappointed that my friends from Helsinki did not succeed in winning their bid for 2015, but - hey - London is next. And awards or otherwise, I hope to be there.
I know it feels like a burn not making the short list, but it's OK to fill a smaller niche with the phenomenal talent that you bring. The important thing (to me, anyway) is that you continue producing the outstanding work that fills my craving.ReplyDelete
Don't let it get you down. Keep your focus, and take us back to the glitter band when you're ready. I'll be here waiting patiently.
This might cheer you up: A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals that Banks only earned a single Hugo nom in his career, and no Nebula noms.ReplyDelete
I wouldn't be surprised if someday the next generation of authors convene on panels to discuss the influence of your body of work, too. Although if posthumously, I hope it's many, many years from now. Cheers.
Hallo Alastair. Be assured that knowledgeable fans here find 2312 and Blue Remembered Earth equally excellent. I hope to read them soon.ReplyDelete
Well remembered! 'Twas nice to catch up, albeit briefly.ReplyDelete
I would also like to mention that you were kind enough to take time out of your busy schedule to come to a small (but very appreciative) gathering at a local library to do a reading and answer questions. I can vouch for at least two people were there who found you to be warm, kind and very entertaining. Thank you so much for making it out to Parman - and for what it's worth, Blue Remembered Earth was a joy to read and remains at the top of my list for 2012 (and 2013).ReplyDelete
I echo the comments above, Al. Blue Remembered Earth was brilliant, as was Revelation Space. Guess the best music doesn't always win the Brits! Keep up the great work.ReplyDelete
I just finished "Blue Remembered Earth" and loved it; I have not read 2312. In my opinion you should have won the Hugo long ago for novels such as "House of Suns" as well as "Chasm City". Your collections of short stories also deserve attention, I read "Deep Navigation" a few months ago, every story was phenomenal ! Regardless of whether you have won a Hugo or not, rest assured that you have a strong fan base. As long as you keep writing them we will keep reading them..ReplyDelete
I just finished Redshirts. A good read! 2312 kicks ass.ReplyDelete
Big shows always hide big politics below. And I am sure that a big chunk of the nominations comes from that, and how marketing and self-selling image is played by authors and publishers.
I've been reading SF for a lot of years now, since I was a child and when I discovered you some years ago, I purchased and enjoyed (one by one) all your books.
I enjoy each author for its special features, what make you unique. I enjoyed like nothing the climate you were able to create inside the vast and lonely lighthuggers. The epics and the plot in Chasm City almost made my heart stop beating sometimes.
And I think that this is what it counts. A lot of people like me (and it's really a lot of people), has replaced several hours of train travel to the work by incredible stories you made us live.
We are all very grateful and we hope you will continue for a lot of years!
I usually like Scalzi's stories, but in my opinion Redshirts was awful. It started well enough but it got progressively less and less interesting. The whole idea could have worked as a short story, not as a novel. I didn't expect it to be nominated, let alone win an award. His recent The Human Divide is luckily a return to form.ReplyDelete
Regarding BRE, yes it was very good. More optimistic than what I am used to from Alastair Reynolds but still fascinating. It is a kind of a treasure hunt story (clues leading to new clues) in a wonderfully realised universe.
Alastair, do you plan to revisit Terminal World at one point?
The Iain Banks panel was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. And let me chime in that Blue Remembered Earth is one of your best efforts to date. Looking forward to the next stories!ReplyDelete
If it's any comfort whatsoever, you and Iain M Banks are my two most-read modern sci-fi authors, and while I have never paid any attention to any awards nor the authors awarded them, I would have always assumed, if asked, that your work was consistently up there with the very best and regularly considered for such things. To discover this is not the case comes as a surprise, but changes nothing :O)ReplyDelete
I have been reading science fiction since the 1950s and l look forward to your books always. Just finished the latest on kindle which brought me here. Just like stan robinson you create real worlds with characters who help us explore the classic ideas of science fiction. I saw ksr and iain banks in discussion in london at the british library. So much humour and wisdom and so sad that iain banks has gone.ReplyDelete
Bugger the hugos and keep up the brilliant work.