Since the start of the year, Guardian blogger Sam Jordison has been making an effort to get more mainstream readers to give some consideration to the SFF genre, by reading and reviewing the winners of each year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel from it’s founding year in 1953 onwards. He’s done a few so far, and I’ve been reading with interest, in part because most of these books are ones I’ve not previously been aware of–many of these award-winners seem to have been forgotten by the genre community at large, though perhaps fairly in some cases. It’s worth a read if you’re interested in that kind of thing.
I must say, however, that as much as I like what Jordison’s doing to bring attention to these overlooked works, he does still occasionally slip up and make statements that seem to display the same genre assumptions he is supposed to be dispelling. In the latest, for example, a review of 1955 winner Double Star by Robert Heinlein, he had this to say:
Yet although it’s readable, there’s never any escaping the fact that the book is an unashamedly improbable space opera: Lorenzo possesses remarkable powers of self-transformation that are never fully explained, he manages to pick up complex inter-galactic political nuances surprisingly quickly for a supposedly dumb actor and much of the plot hinges upon coincidence and implausible good luck. In short, Double Star is daft. But then, if you’re looking for realism, a book with multi-eyed and tentacled Martians is probably the wrong place to look.
It’s that last line that does it. With that sentence he manages to imply to his readers that books involving aliens should not be expected to have decent plotting or plausible characterisation, thus reinforcing some of the negative image of sci-fi that he spoke against in his first article on the Hugo.
Still, these are momentary flaws, and the look he’s giving people into the history of the Hugo–and on some level the history of the last 50 years of SF–is interesting enough to overlook small things like that. He’s still getting word of these books and writers out to people who haven’t otherwise known of them, and that’s a worthy cause.
In a related note, the nominees for the 2008 Hugo Award were revealed yesterday.