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Bob K.
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 10:41 pm:   

Lucius is working on a few small projects for us, one of which has to do with an examination of the Hugo and Nebula awards. It would help this project a lot if we could get some brief synopses from the regulars here of the award-winning short stories, novellas, and novels of the past couple decades. Just a mention of central conflict or conceit and a description of the main character or characters would be enough. For example, "Hugo, SS 1993, 'Barnacle Bill the Spacer': a severely retarded man with a latent, almost spiritual sensitivity to danger is instrumental to saving a space station" (that's probably not right; I'd need to skim the story again, but you get the idea). However, if you could add an opinion as to why you think it won, that might be helpful too. I'll forward the replies on to Lucius when this thread seems to have run its course. The project's not an attack on the awards or the works that have won, but will be, shall we say, unsentimental about them. That's probably as much as I will or can reveal, but feel free to conjecture. If you post a synopsis, I'll see that you get a free copy of the final product, which will be available within a couple of months.

Thanks,
Bob
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Bob K.
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 11:00 pm:   

Here are a couple links that will be helpful:

http://www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/Db/Hugo.html
http://www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/Db/Nebula.html

I'll start, arbitrarily, at 1984 here and we can go forward from there (these probably aren't quite right; feel free to correct me):

Nebula

Novel, Startide Rising: A ship of humans and intelligent chimps and dolphins hides out on a water world to escape aliens who are after the priceless artifact they carry. The crew must fix their damaged vessel and figure out a way to pass the blockade orbiting the planet.

Novella, "Hardfought": Representing, respectively, humanity and the alien race we've fought against for millennia, an adolescent girl and an alien engage in a violent struggle to reach mutual understanding.

Novelette, "Blood Music": A scientist injects himself with intelligent leucocytes to boost his mental and physical abilities, but the blood cells have an agenda of their own.

Short Story, "The Peacemaker": A young boy who sees the East Coast destroyed by the rising ocean feels personally responsible somehow for the disaster and contemplates a sacrifice to set things right.


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Bob
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 11:12 pm:   

1984 Hugos

Novel, Startide Rising (again)

Novella, "Cascade Point": Story based on hard-SF idea of using higher dimensions to travel through space. (Haven't read it.)

Novelette, "Blood Music" (again)

Short Story, "Speech Sounds": An illness has made wiped out most people's ability to communicate, either verbally or through writing. Conflict involves a semi-verbal person trying to communicate with a relatively unimpaired one.
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Bob
Posted on Tuesday, March 08, 2005 - 11:37 pm:   

1985 Hugo and Nebula Winner

Neuromancer: a famed computer hacker is recruited through various proxies by AIs seeking freedom.

[Lucius has read this one, so it won't help to dwell on it too much.]

If people find it more interesting to comment generally on what award winners have in common and use the plots for support, that'd probably work. Obviously, the idea of outsider as hero comes up again and again and a superset of that idea is the more general idea of alienation. Animals, especially intelligent animals, come up again and again. I guess animals are devalued by civilization but have evident advantages all the same: superior smell, agility, intuition, lack of guile, etc. Animals have simple, categorical traits: the wise owl; the sly cat; the loyal, though base, dog. Hmm...I get the invalids, monsters, and cyber-cowboys as outsiders with special gifts, but I think I'm missing something about animals. Why _do_ animals show up all time?




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Bruce Chrumka
Posted on Wednesday, March 09, 2005 - 08:54 am:   

Hi Bob,

Nebulas:1981

Timescape: Desparate effort to send critical information into the past in order to prevent a global ecological catastrophe. Depiction of alienated, working scientist.

Unicorn Tapestry: Psychiatrist interviews non-classical vampire. The vampire Weyland is a charismatic anti-hero loner.

The Ugly Chickens: Ornithological detective story concerning efforts to trace a small brood of dodos to depression-era Mississippi. Classic Waldrop.

Grotto of the Dancing Deer: Immortal Basque loner survives millenia by flying under the radar. Classic Simak.

1981: Hugos

The Snow Queen: Lost princess, the clone of a global tyrant, gains throne.

Lost Dorsai: Castout member a super-warrior cast performs noble act of self-sacrifice.

The Cloak and the Staff: Loner sparks one-man rebellion against invaders of Earth.

Grotto of the Dancing Deer: see above

1982: Nebulas

The Claw of the Conciliator: Castout torturer continues his journey to the throne. Classic Wolfe.

The Saturn Game: Gamers save the world - if memory serves.

The Quickening: Earth's population is randomly re-shuffled geographically; told from a single POV. Vintage Bishop.

The Bone Flute: declined by Lisa Tuttle.

1982: Hugos

Downbelow Station: Big-scale space opera featuring charismatic starship captain.

The Saturn Game: see above.

Unicorn Variations: Loner saves world via chess-match with unicorn. Vintage Zelazny

The Pusher: Loner deals with time dilation by chatting up small children.

...and now, back to work!




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Bruce
Posted on Wednesday, March 09, 2005 - 08:58 am:   

Hi again Bob,

I chose to go back a few years prior to '84 to illustrate a point that likely runs through the history of the awards, that being a predilection for heroic or anti-heroic loner-types saving the day or driving the narrative as the case may be.
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Bob K.
Posted on Wednesday, March 09, 2005 - 10:10 am:   

Thanks, Bruce. This is exactly what I wanted. The last twenty years is arbitrary. I think Lucius will be picking more recent examples, but to show consistency throughout the history of the awards is helpful too. You're first on the list for a free copy.

Bob
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Bruce
Posted on Wednesday, March 09, 2005 - 02:06 pm:   

Thanks, Bob. Just a few more...

They'd Rather Be Right: Loner telepath and AI save the world.

Double Star: Ham actor saves the world.

Stranger in a Strange Land: Isolato from Mars saves the world.

Way Station: Immortal loner saves the galaxy.

This Immortal: Immortal charismatic loner saves the world.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: AI and group of charming rogues save the moon.

Lord of Light: Charming rogue god saves the world.

Ship of Shadows: Mentally damaged loner saves the generation ship.

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas: Lone neglected child saves the city.

The Hole Man: Bullied misfit destroys Mars.

Hmmm, something of a common theme. And by the way, I enjoyed most of these award winners when I first read them; some of them I'll certainly re-read with great pleasure [Lord of Light, for example].
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Bob
Posted on Wednesday, March 09, 2005 - 10:39 pm:   

This one I remember:

"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas: Lone neglected child saves the city."

But the child didn't save the city, right? The child was a victim, abused and kept in the dark to scapegoat the evil of the Utopian city. The heroes were the ones who walked away. Still, on one level it's clearly a parable about treating outcasts with respect, and those who walk away are self-selected outcasts. They walk away singly, as a private act of conscience, not in organized protest.

A quintessential Nebula/Hugo story.





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Bruce
Posted on Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 08:27 am:   

I was being pretty flip with that one-line synopsis. What is 'saved' by the horrific neglect of the child is the sybaritic affluent lifestyle of Omelas, not the city itself, which is utterly tainted. Every citizen at majority must confront the reality of the child's suffering being the basis for the prosperity of Omelas, and their continued presence in the city is a tacit support of the abuse. As I recall, Ursula K. LeGuin wrote it in order to extend a theme by William James; it reminds me of the lotus eaters in Watership Down.

It is again an examination of outcasts; the child and the individuals who leave the city and regain their humanity.
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StephenB
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 07:15 am:   

Bob, I'll do some for you, but not now, I've got to run....
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Bob K.
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 09:03 am:   

Okay, thanks, Stephen. And, yeah, Bruce you remember the story better than I did. Got any from the last five years? That's when my SF reading has really dropped off (or rather turned to acquisitions reading, come to think of it). There's the Diamond Age: Lower-class little girl in precarious slum is tutored by an advanced, interactive computer manual that instructs her by making her the heroine of her own fairy tale and thereby helps her escape danger, improve her station, and -- what is it she does at the end? Lead an army of other AI-tutored girls to stop some terrorists or something? I forget.
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Bruce
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 11:17 am:   

Bob, you know, I don't recall the ending of 'The Diamond Age' either. The plot-line wandered aimlessly after the halfway point. Hasn't stopped me from reading Stephenson's other books though.

I recall the older award winners better than the recent ones probably because I don't tend to reread as many books as I used to. But here's a few more recent examples...

Bronte's Egg: Abused genetically-engineered 'toy' dinosaurs forge path to their destiny.

Blood of the Dragon: Disenfranchised princess forges path to a glorious destiny, replete with dragons.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Disenfranchised prince forges path to his own destiny, or, young orphan with untapped powers confronts deadly enemy who killed his parents.

Hominids: Neanderthal quantum physicist from an alternate Earth accidentally crosses to our Earth, madcap hi-jinks ensue.

The Quantum Rose: Egregious hybrid of Romance & SF. I'm still scratching my head over this award.

The Moon and the Sun: Court politics in Louis XIV's Versailles featuring a captured mermaid.

The Soul Selects Her Own Society...//Sister Emily's Lightship: Emily Dickinson as SF heroine. [Neal Barrett's story is still my favorite of this sub-subgenre].

I've heard the awards being dissed as populist beauty contests with lots of politicking but some terrific stuff does get recognized. Recent favorites: Jeffrey Ford, Kelly Link, Ted Chiang, Liz Hand, Greg Egan, etc.

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Duane
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 11:53 am:   

I think the Empire of Ice Cream and a couple of Chiang's award stories, though more skillful than most, fit your template.
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Bob
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 01:26 pm:   

>The Quantum Rose: Egregious hybrid of Romance & SF. I'm still scratching my head over this award.

Yeah, what the heck? This is another trend I see a lot in the genre, if not among the top awards, then certainly among the top sellers. Maybe it snuck in via Anne Riceian vampire erotica?
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Bob
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 01:39 pm:   

What was that story about a crippled, abused, retarded child who sacrificed himself to save the world and whose story was narrated by his sentient pet cairn terrier?
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Bruce
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 02:02 pm:   

I skimmed The Quantum Rose muttering WTF is this? Couldn't believe it beat Declare or A Storm of Swords or The Collapsium. Hell, it even beat Connie Willis and she's usually a lock!

...and you're forgetting that the crippled, abused, retarded child was also an amnesiac prince with super powers.
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Bob
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 02:25 pm:   

>...and you're forgetting that the crippled, abused, retarded child was also an amnesiac prince with super powers.

Yeah, I did forget that.
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Bruce
Posted on Saturday, March 12, 2005 - 02:35 pm:   

"I think the Empire of Ice Cream and a couple of Chiang's award stories, though more skillful than most, fit your template."

Yep, Duane, you could make a case for that...tormented, 'gifted' isolatos who drive the narrative. That can be said of the 'Book of the New Sun', which was inundated with awards, and is the classic story of the isolated, mostly noble outcast who backs his way into a throne. Very much a typical Nebula winner and one of the best stretches of writing in the last thirty years, full-stop.

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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, March 12, 2005 - 02:40 pm:   

I've got to do some things before I head out to a party, so I'm going to have to put this off again.... I'll try to find a year where I've read a number of the stories to use.
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Bob
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 08:43 am:   

Could you guys post some synopses of Ted Chiang's award winners? Thanks.
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Bruce
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 10:41 am:   

Tower of Babylon: A massive construction project mirroring the Tower of Babel actually reaches the fundament of Heaven after decades of building, with ambiguous results. Told from the POV of one of the laborers.

Hell is the Absence of God: Visitations by angels performing bonafide miracles have collateral side effects. One man's quest for satisfaction from God; reminiscent of 'Blameless in Abaddon' and other James Morrow religious satires.

Story of Your Life: Linguist attempt to decode alien language; elliptical, second-person narrative.
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Bruce
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 11:00 am:   

Bob, this URL has some useful comments on Ted Chiang's three award winners.

http://www.computercrowsnest.com/articles/books/2005/nz7599.php
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Bob
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 02:58 pm:   

Ted's schtick seems to be taking a fantasy premise and treating it in a scientific way. His golem story, "72 Letters," treated alchemy like a science. I don't remember the characters in his stories. Do they follow any pattern?
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Bruce
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 03:26 pm:   

Bob, I'd have to go re-read the collection to see if there were any typical traits his characters share. Not that that would be a real hardship...
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Bob
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2005 - 09:58 pm:   

By the way, Jim Kelly just wrote a column suggesting there should be website Hugos, and look who he put at the top of his list for his Best Fiction Site pick:

http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0505/onthenet.shtml
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Bruce
Posted on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 - 07:52 am:   

The fact they're listed alphabetically is a complete coincidence! :0)

Bob, now you have to publish a story about a mentally-challenged, amnesiac dog who nobly sacrifices himself to save an abused budgie and it's Hugo time! Ellen will be so jealous.
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StephenB
Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - 08:22 pm:   

Ok here's some:

Winner of both the 1991 nebula and hugo for short story,

Bears Discover Fire, Terry Bisson: Bears discover the use of fire in between interstates in the American South, as a lonely elderly man bonds with his nephew and copes with the loss of his dying mother.

1996 hugos (I haven't read them all but...)

Novel: The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson: Set in in a rigid Neo-Victorian future China where conformity holds sway and nanotechnology is common. The young heroin is taught how to think for herself and question those around her by her grandfather, in order to change society for the better.

Novella: The Death of Captain Future, Allan Steele: A socially and psychologiclly complex pastiche of Edmund Hamilton's golden age space opera from the 40's.

Novelette: Think Like A Dinosaur, James Patrick Kelley: A tale of morality concerning the cold equations involved with a technology that dinosaur-like aliens have taught to humans, which allows men to travel over vast distances as superluminal signals.


Short Story: The lincoln Train, Maureen F. McHugh: An alternate history where Lincoln survies Booth's attempted assassination but is so gravely wounded that the Secretary of State ends up running the country.

More to come.
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Bob
Posted on Thursday, March 17, 2005 - 11:40 am:   

Thanks, Stephen. Free copy for you.
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StephenB
Posted on Saturday, March 19, 2005 - 07:19 pm:   

Thanks Bob. I'll probably do a few more for you sometime.

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