Tag Archives: Hugo Awards

WorldCon Controversy 2015 – Historical Perspective

The current Worldcon kerfuffle may seem to some like a recent phenomenon based on the flaming currents of social media. However, such controversy has existed throughout the history of fandom. In fact, going back to the the very first Worldcon convention, prevalent members of science fiction were excluded based on their political beliefs. Sound familiar?

So with a desire to gain a better historical perspective, I called David Bischoff. I write science fiction with Dave, and he’s really the man to speak with regarding the history of SF&F fandom. Not only does Dave have a 40 year (and counting) history writing genre fiction, but he has extensive experience going to SF cons long past and getting into a heated debate or two…er, hundred.

The following is a transcript of our discussion: Enjoy!

Saul – What’s your thoughts on the Worldcon controversy involving Vox Day and the Sad Puppies?

David Bischoff – Well I just heard about all this hullabaloo when my esteemed colleague Jerry Oltion started posting notices on our local writer’s group page. I’m still puzzled about this whole thing about Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, I didn’t know it was about Libertarianism. I just thought it was about people looking to push their own sad self published books. I don’t really know how a political philosophy pertains. Frankly as far as that goes, this seems to more the kind of thing that L. Ron Hubbard’s creeps do. But then Ron was an SF fan and writer who lived in a slan shack in the early 40s, so the tradition goes way back.

Saul – Is this really on par with Hubbard?

David – What I know is this. Why are people taking this so seriously? I think it’s a hoot and great publicity for SF and Worldcon. — Vox Day is a genius!

Saul – (Laughter)

David – He’s done what John W. Campbell used to do which is have fun being a Devil’s Advocate and poking sharp sticks of pseudo-reason at the dopey heart bleeding liberals.

Saul – I don’t know, it seems to be more than just having fun. Anyway, where do you place yourself on the scales of reason?

David – Me? I’m a rational and perfect Super-Liberal who has voted Democrat all his life, but actually would prefer to hang with conservatives who are lots more fun. Did you hear about the gorgeous Wonder Twins and their books? Now I’d collaborate with them in a heartbeat. Oops! Maybe I better read one of these gems first.

Saul – Do you think Libertarian SF is making a strong comeback?

David – How the hell am I supposed to know? I don’t see sales figures. I do know that some of the looniest people I ever met were Libertarians. I went to the 1981 Denver Worldcon which was just winding down a Libertarian Conference and lots of the nutters were staying on to the Worldcon. I remember all these weird people talking intensely to each other about their various personal theories. The talk of the early Worldcon was how one Libertarian had gotten so overexcited in a discussion or argument that he’d keeled over with a heart attack and died on the spot.

Saul – Sheesh, that’s horrible.

David – Frankly, I think that science fiction people INVENTED Libertarianism. Prominent amongst these was Robert A. Heinlein, who actually had a strong medical excuse.

Saul – Now that’s interesting. Did you know Heinlein? What was your impression of him?

Well I met him all the time in SF. Personally I was lucky enough to not only meet him in personally not long before he died, but to witness him in remarkable action at an SF con in the mid 70s when he was guest of honor.

Saul – How did that go?

David – His stint at the Worldcon was wild. First, he had this blood drive. Awesome. On the other hand, did the blood bankers really want blood so filled with booze and drugs? Then he demanded that if you wanted a book signed by him, you needed to show proof you’d given at least a pint of blood that weekend.

Saul – Sounds pretty driven for a good cause.

David – And that was just the beginning. His Guest of Honor speech was in a special auditorium to accomadate the masses who wanted to hear him. He walked on stage to a standing ovation. He set an alarm clock and put it on the podium. “I have a half hour to talk, and that’s all I’ll take. When the alarm rings, the talk is over.”

He proceeded to ramble on about wonky political stuff, often incoherently, for the full 39 minutes.

Saul – Then what happened?

David – People started booing.

Saul – Really?

David – I for one was happy the speech was only a half hour. Now mind you, I’m a big fan of everything the man wrote before TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. I once had an argument about this with Charles N. Brown, the remarkable founder of LOCUS, but I know people who agree with me. Nonetheless, I still read and reread his earlier stuff and it was and still is great. The man was not only a modern visionary, he wrote like a dream and really could draw a reader into a book. Just recently I reread THE DOOR INTO SUMMER . Hey. Any books up for the Hugo this year as good as DOOR INTO SUMMER. Rabid Poopies? Sad Poopies? Hey that’s the title of your next book Vox Day.

THE DOOR INTO DUMBER

Saul – (Laughter.)

David – Anyway, I got to meet him another time because a woman I was dating once and a while at the time knew him and his wife Virginia. I lived in Maryland at the time. Heinlein was a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland and was attending a reunion there. Heinlein invited my friend to a party and she took me along as a date. My friend and collaborator Charles Sheffield was also there, so I was relieved about that.

Saul – So what happened at the party?

David – It was a wonderful party. Heinlein was so gracious. I think I heard later that he’d had some kind of operation that improved his mental facilities. You know, when you look back you can see there are plenty of SF fans and authors who were low grade autistic. Not Robert Anton Heinlein.

When he came over to chat with my friend and I shook his hand, and I asked him how his reunion was. He said it was wonderful. We talked a little more and he called Charles over and also a Japanese rocket scientist from NASA who both Charles and I knew and who was one of the biggest Heinlein fans in the world. We talked a bit more and then Heinlein excused himself.

“Pardon me, I really should go and talk the the Admiral over there now. But before I go, in case I get too tired and have to go to bed — Dave. Could you do me a favor.”

“Sure!” I said.

I was ready to give blood.

Saul – Ha!

David – He winked at me. “Just a minute.” He went off into the bedroom of the suite. When he returned he had a copy of one of my books.

“Could you honor me by autographing this for me?”

And he even had a pen. I find tears in my eyes now even as I think about that. You know what? Robert A. Heinlein won some Hugos and he cherished them. I don’t think he needed any help in getting on the Hugo ballot, ever.

—- To be continued in my next post. Stay tuned. —-

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2011 Hugo Awards

By now, almost everyone should know that the Hugo Awards are out. But for those of you who weren’t at RenoVation (like me) and perhaps went out and had fun on saturday night, go to thehugoawards.org to see this year’s winners. If you have time, then I suggest you hang out at Ustream and watch a replay of the ceremony. Enjoy!

The Futurians

Who were the Futurians? They were an amazing group of fans and writers who gathered between 1935 until 1945.  On the left we see a some of the founding members: Frederik Pohl,  John Michel, and Donald A. Wollheim.

The entire membership can be found here, but includes many who went on to have influential careers in Science Fiction. Wollheim, seen in the picture, organized the first science fiction convention on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia, which later transformed into what we now call Worldcon.

What would Science Fiction have become without them? It’s hard to say, but certainly the genre we know and love was forever changed by their vision and writing.

C.M. Kornbluth – The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary

 Many of you may not remember Cyril Kornbluth, an outstanding science fiction writer who sadly died in the late ’50s, but his impact on Science Fiction endures until today. With the publication of a new biography by Mark Rich, I think it is time for everyone to reacquaint themselves with the life of a great writer from SF’s golden age.

Rich has spent years gathering data, and the biography covers everything from Kornbluth’s early life and member of the Futurians, all the way through to his tragic death in 1958 from a heart attack. Rich’s attention to the books detail is impressive. Not only do we get a full index, but also more than 40 pages of chapter notes.

The biography talks about many of Kornbluth’s literary accomplishments. My favorite novel by Kornbluth is THE SPACE MERCHANTS, written in collaboration with Frederik Pohl. However Kornbluth’s life work covered an impressive array of  techno, economic, and sociological issues, which even until today cause us to pause and question. As Rich puts it:

“…he expressed his commonality, moreover, by responding to the great events of the day: the concentration camp, the atomic bomb, the Red Scare, McCarthyism, the erasing of gender lines, the culpability of the intelligentsia, the tragedy of the Organization Man, and the brutalizing, numbing and dumbing-down effects of mass culture.”

I don’t know how you feel, but I don’t believe all the above issues have yet been resolved. More reason in my opinion to understand Kornbluth’s work, and the man himself.

So, if you love SF from the golden age, this biography is a must read. I highly recommend it.

Harlan Ellison – Dangerous Visions

Harlan Ellison was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame last month. At the age of 77, I have no idea why they waited so long. However it’s great news nonetheless.

Ellison wrote so many novels and short stories since the ’50, it’s very difficult to single one out. However, I would like to highlight one book of his which I think (at least in my mind) is quite significant: Dangerous Visions, edited by Ellison and published back in 1967.

Why was it so important. It was a ground-breaking anthology that made manifest the New Wave revolution in Science Fiction. Smashing head on with the expectations of SF publishing, and setting new horizons for what Science Fiction (as a genre) was capable of.

And the list of authors is breathtaking: Robert Silverberg; Frederik Pohl; Philip José Farmer; Robert Bloch; Brian W. Aldiss; Philip K. Dick; Larry Niven; Poul Anderson;  J. G. Ballard;  John Brunner; Keith Laumer;  Norman Spinrad; and so on, and so on. I don’t think there’s anyone in this anthology who isn’t famous.

It’s books like this which take Science Fiction to new literary heights , and I venture to say we have yet to see a similar work of its kind. Perhaps, we never will.

The Second Trip – New Wave from Bob Silverberg

Does anyone remember this novel?  The Second Trip was written by Robert Silverberg and first serialized in Amazing Science Fiction. It was later released in novel form  in 1972 . It’s quite enjoyable to read a book like this. With a story set in the year 2011, seeing how the author envisioned our “present day” is a blast.

The book’s theme revolved around capital punishment, which was deemed too harsh. Instead, violent criminals are subjected to coercive therapy that effectively erases their personalities, which are replaced with artificially constructed memories to form a person deemed useful to society.

The novel includes graphic scenes of copulation and sexual assault, and long stretches of the narrative between the pro and antagonist which must share the same body. In my opinion, this placed The Second Trip squarely within the New Wave sub genre.

Perhaps its shock appeal has diminished over the years, but it’s still a good read. Check it out if you have time.

Conflux 7 – Australian speculative fiction convention

Looks like I’m going to Conflux 7, the seventh speculative fiction convention held Saturday October 1 to Monday October 3rd in Canberra.  That’s in Australia Mate!

The first was in 2004 and was the national convention (Natcon) for that year. Since then, Conflux has become one of the most well known cons in Australia.

This year’s special guests include Kim Westwood (Author), Natalie Costa-Bir (Editor), Lewis Morley and Marilyn Pride (Artists), and others. Check the Conflux website for more details.