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jerry hubert
Posted on Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 09:31 am:   

I was looking at a list of Hugo and Nebula awards and I was surprised that no books by Ray Bradbury or Kurt Vonnegut, nor any LOTR books won any Hugos. (I think they all predated the Nebulas.) Both awards seem to have been given to fewer mainstream books, but to more mainstream movies and television shows. Does anybody know why this might be?

Also, didn't they already have the Hugo awards this year? I can't find the winners posted anywhere. I think there were some people up for them who post on this site.



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Thomas R
Posted on Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 10:12 am:   

Both tend to go to SF/F. I am surprised Bradbury never won anything in short form, but by the time the awards came about much of his best work had been completed.

Vonnegut was nominated for something as was Thomas Pyncheon.

More mainstream works in TV/film make it because media SF has a good deal less to choose from. Further the definitions are less strict in it, and films with little SF can be labeled Sci-Fi. So there are many fantastical films listed as mainstream that fail to make it. I mean was Eve's Bayou even nominated? Did Federico Fellini or Akira Kurosawa films ever get nominated? Some of them did have fantastical or surreal content. In 1968 all the Hugo nominees for drama were Star Trek episodes.
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jerry hubert
Posted on Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 06:33 pm:   

Thanks. I always thought of Bradbury as a 1950's author but I guess as you said, most of his best work was before 1953.

I was wrong. The Hugo awards are in September and interestingly, "Farenheit 451" is up for a retrospective award. It was the Nebula awards in April I was thinking of. I was confused at first because I saw books from 2002 and I saw Neil Gaiman's name again so I thought it was last year's winners.
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jerry hubert
Posted on Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 06:37 pm:   

I think if "Fellini Satyricon" had been nominated that wouldn't have been so mainstream, not compared to "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."
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Thomas R
Posted on Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 07:00 pm:   

Yes, but films like Roger Rabbit are clearly SF/F. If an SF writer wrote such a story it could be a potential nominee. I thought you were thinking in terms of the more intellectual/literary versus SF issue.

If I misunderstood and you were asking "why are mainstream films and blockbuster SFnal, but in print that rarely happens" apologies. I thought you were talking about how mainstream films are more likely to get nominated than mainstream books. My thinking was it depends on what you mean by mainstream.

For example Twelve Monkeys lost the Hugo to an episode of Babylon 5. And I'm sure there have been several commercially successful films that were not nominated because the fans did not "feel" they were SFnal. Still as news coverage won the Dramatic Presentation Hugo once they are willing to go further afield perhaps, but I think that's because its a different world than print.
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jerry hubert
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 06:09 am:   

I think all I meant by "mainstream" was a book or movie almost everyone has heard of (Harry Potter, LOTR). So many people I know who are fans of science fiction television and movies, surprisingly never heard of Heinlein or Asimov, (When I mention Heinlein wrote Starship troopers, and the book "Stranger in a Strange Land" from the Billy Joel song, they don't seem to care) and yet they have heard of Bradbury and Vonnegut.

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Iron James
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 08:48 am:   

I think Bradbury is still doing work that is better than many Hugo winners. I've always thought of Bradbury as the Susan Lucci of the SF world.
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Thomas R
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 12:01 pm:   

I'm almost surprised by that, before Asimov became my favorite author I knew him as the dork they made fun of on Saturday Night Live and MST3K. Still I knew of him. Heinlein I thought was even more visible, not at Bradbury's level perhaps.

Still I always assumed the "ABC" that people had heard of in SF was Asimov, Bradbury, & Clarke. At the very least these people have heard of Arthur C. Clarke right?

Also I think a Harry Potter book did win a Hugo, to the annoyance of many. (Including me, in a mild way)
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jerry hubert
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 12:37 pm:   

I guess mainstream is a bad word to use for SF authors of the past 50 years or so. I think Asimov, Heinlein and even Clarke's writing mostly appeals to SF readers only, whereas Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. have a little more universal appeal, which may have been why it made sense not to give them awards specifically for SF (Why then Harry Potter, I don't know.) This is the first time I've heard of the ABC thing.
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jerry hubert
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 12:47 pm:   

Thomas, I found an interesting quote on a web site looking for "The ABC's of Science Fiction"
(it's the end of the fifth paragraph--I think I'm not allowed to copy and paste the text.)

http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/bradburylife.htm
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Thomas R
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 01:03 pm:   

Well yes, Bradbury is at heart a Fantasist and fantasist tend to be more acceptable in mainstream literature. They don't get their hands grubby by having to learn that awful science stuff. (Indeed one guy at Nightshades even told me haughtily how being brilliant at science doesn't even imply intelligence)
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Iron James
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 03:33 pm:   

Thomas, that sounds a bit silly to me. You have to be intelligent to be brilliant at science, but perhaps whoever told you that meant "smart," as in "wise." Like the old saying, "For someone so intelligent, he isn't very smart."

I think fantasy is more acceptable to mainstream readers because they're more concerned with story and character and wisdom, rather than with science and intelligence.

I love science, and my earliest desire in life was to be a scientist, but where reading is concerned, I agree with the fantasy crowd far more often than not. I love science FICTION, but I usually can't stand reading SCIENCE fiction.
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Thomas R
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 04:02 pm:   

I was being a bit weird there.

First the person who said that was intensely hostile to me at the time, enough so the moderators gave him a warning. He calmed down a bit later so that statement may have not represented him and so I shouldn't have brought it up.

Second I think what I mentioned is only a small part of why fantasy is more acceptable. Literary people are basically required to accept fantasy because most literature before say the Enlightenment had elements of what we'd call fantasy. To a large degree Shakespeare was a fantasist. Granted this is most true in plays Midsummer Night's Dream or The Tempest, but Hamlet, MacBeth and a few others have strong fantastic elements. (You could say the supernatural was accepted as real then, but these have stuff like ghosts or seers or wood sprites which were not accept as real by mainstream theologians or scholars of the time) Even after the Enlightenment there was a tradition of fantasism in the work of the Romantics like Goethe, Coleridge, etc. As well as just eccentrics like Blake.

Now there is a tradition of scientific and sociological speculation in literary history. There's like Orwell, Huxley, Gilman, Swift, More, Plato, Machiavelli, etc. However much of that was utopian/dystopian. Hence stuff in that vein can still be placed with mainstream literature instead of SF. (Herland, Handmaid's Tale, Brave New World, 1984 and Clockwork Orange sometimes aren't even thought of as SF. Likewise Fahrenheit 451 is placed in with the classics in bookstores I go to these days)

However realistic speculations of the future can be avoided in literary history, as they don't have that tradition, if one chooses so some choose to.
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Candy Tutt
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - 12:53 pm:   

"You could say the supernatural was accepted as real then, but these have stuff like ghosts or seers or wood sprites which were not accept as real by mainstream theologians or scholars of the time"
Not all that 'stuff' is necessarily fantasy fodder.
I'll give you the wood sprites, okay - however, sixteenth-century Europe was hardly a safe atmosphere in which to voice one's beliefs regarding seers and spirits. Those who persisted in passing on folk traditions of hauntings and psychic predictions, however real, were dealt with harshly by 'mainstream theologians,' backed by the Church, whose stance was, 'if it isn't written in the Bible, it's heresy.'
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Thomas R
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - 01:47 pm:   

Yet there was a ghost in Hamlet, even though I'm not sure Anglican tradition allowed that. Well some of them believed in a middle ground between Heaven and Hell, but as they could NOT call that Purgatory they weren't quite sure what they meant by that. Maybe Shakespeare got in through a technicality and decided being a ghost was the middle ground. Indeed there's some tradition in English ghost stories where being a ghost basically is the replacement Purgatory, even to the point of needing the mortals support/prayers to go to Heaven. Granted in Hamlet he doesn't need his kid's love or prayers, he needs/wants justice with a vengeance. I'm not sure that even fits the Medieval Anglicans.

So basically then Shakespeare was having supernatural beings likely not seen as real by most of his audience. People performing Neo-Platonic rites, consulting witches, or dealing with ancient myth. So he was in a sense writing many fantasies. Oddly I don't think he dealt much with the supernatural beings accepted as real, like angels or demons.

(Granted this could get blurry. There are novels about angels and demons now, with writers who truly believe in those things yet I think they get classed as fantasy by most SF folk)
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Alex Irvine
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - 01:51 pm:   

To call Shakespeare a fantasist is to use a twentieth century term that would have been meaningless to him. The aesthetic principles by which Shakespeare's plays were judged in his day, and for a long time after he died, didn't give a damn about fairies or ghosts or Caliban. All that stuff was furniture the same way his fakey history was furniture, and it was treated as such.

It's not until you get to the mid-twentieth century that people get all wired up over whether the plays are absolutely realistic or not, and this goes both ways. On the one hand, you have New Critic-style treatises explaining the fantasy stuff away as irrelevant; on the other, you have a brand-new group of fantasy ideologues claiming Shakespeare as one of their own. He would have been equally confused by both movements, and aghast at the both pedantry of the criticism and the abysmal quality of most contemporary fantasy that wants to trace its ancestry to him. The truth is that Shakespeare is about language and people; everything in his plays exists as a way to explore one or the other.
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Thomas R
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - 02:00 pm:   

Well yes I know, but I was originally just referring to the fact there is a tradition of fantasy/unreality in literature that makes fantasy more acceptable. There isn't the same kind of tradition of SF in literature. Even Wells tried to write more contemporary things to gain respectability.

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