From pulp to Puppies

This is an interesting article on science fiction history that even references Castalia House:

Alec Nevala-Lee, an Asian-American science fiction writer,[2] has here written something remarkable: an intentionally PC multi-biography that nevertheless manages to be well-informed and informative, well-written and compulsively readable.

It’s the first substantive biography of John W. Campbell, Jr., the man – or, as we’ll see, some would insist on “the white male” – who basically invented modern science fiction; and that last point means that to do so properly, we have to take into account the three men – yes, again, white males – whose writing careers he promoted in order to do it.

It’s an index of Campbell’s importance that, although I am not really a science fiction fan – certainly not to the level of the fanatical creeps[3] that slip in and out of these pages – I could recognize almost every work referred to, and had indeed read most of them; and I bet you have, too.

Campbell started off with a bang, writing “Who Goes There?” in the August 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, later filmed as The Thing (1982), The Thing from Another World (1951), and again, not so well, as The Thing (2011).[4] Next, almost by accident, he became the editor of Astounding, and in the decades to come he would find young authors, eager to break into the big time, and feed them his ideas for stories. Even as his career wound down, and the magazine slipped from its dominant position, he was still able to snap up Frank Herbert’s serial “Dune World.”

It’s an interesting read that demonstrates the genre has long been populated by the brilliant, the bizarre, and the fundamentally broken.

And speaking of the Puppies, this is what a desert called victory looks like. Notice that no one, anywhere, pays attention to the Hugo Awards anymore. A glance at the Best Novel nominees will suffice to explain why.

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
  • Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Total nonentities. All six of these novels together won’t sell as many copies as a single Galaxy’s Edge novel. Novik would have been considered a C-level talent at best in the 1980s. And people could be forgiven for thinking that the Rabid Puppies were still dictating the nominees with titles such as “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington” on the short list.