“Tangents”, by Greg Bear and Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

So, on to the joint winners of the Hugo and Nebula Awards presented in 1987 for works of 1986. This time there are two, a short story and a novel.

“Tangents” by Greg Bear, the short story in question, was originally published in Omni. I found scans of the original publication and thought I should share these two cartoons that were originally published alongside it. Unfortunately I can’t read the credits on the scan of page 12 which would have identified the artist, nor can I identify the signature on the first (the second is unsigned).

A conference hall full of people, with a sign reading "National Holography Association"; a man discovers that one of the audience is really a hologram.
Three men looking at two blackboards. Two of them are standing in front of a blackboard with a very complex equation written on it. One of them is sayiong to the other, "Cotsworth here claims to have found a simpler version." He pointing to the third man, who is looking at another blackboard which has the simple inscription "1 + 1 = 2".

This piece by Michel Henricot which illustrated the story itself.

A metallic, mouthless male figure from the chest up.

Second paragraph of third section of “Tangents”:

“None of my muscles move that way,” Lauren said. “You’re sure you can’t make him … happy, stop all this trouble?”

When I first read it in 2000, I briefly commented:

A story of the fourth (and higher) dimensions which is good fun but didn’t quite work for me.

I stand by that judgement twenty years on. The story is about the Platonic friendship between an adult gay man and a young boy, and about how we in three-dimensional space might perceive four-dimensional beings, and there is music in there as well, but it just doesn’t hang together for me. You can get it in the collection of stories by Bear with the same name.

Three other stories were on both the Hugo and Nebula final ballots for Best Short Story: “The Boy Who Plaited Manes”, by Nancy Springer; “Rat”, by James Patrick Kelly; and “Robot Dreams”, by Isaac Asimov. The Hugo ballot also included “Still Life”, by David S. Garnett, and the Nebula ballot also included “The Lions Are Asleep This Night”, by Howard Waldrop, and “Pretty Boy Crossover”, by Pat Cadigan. I’m sure I’ve read the Asimov but can’t remember which one it is, and I don’t think I have read the others.

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel, the sequel to Ender’s Game which had won both awards the previous year. A few weeks ago in the middle of the night I came across a fanzine article from 1987 drawing attention to Card’s own role in the Nebula process, but I failed to note it down and now can’t find it again. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

We’ve never seen them eat anything else. Novinha analyzed all three foods – macios, capim blades, and merclona leaves – and the results were surprising. Either the peclueninos don’t need many different proteins, or they’re hungry all the time. Their diet is seriously lacking in many trace elements. And calcium intake is so low, we wonder whether their bones use calcium the same way ours do.

Again, I first read it in 2000 and noted then,

Speaker for the Dead is a better book than Ender’s Game; a grown-up Ender, many centuries on thanks to time dilation, comes to solve the problems of the interaction between humans and the alien Piggies on the latter’s home world, and incidentally resolve several issues of the human society there as well. Tackles family life for adults as the previous book tackled children.

As with Ender’s Game, this time around the things that annoyed me about the book annoyed me more. There are two central tragedies in the narrative: Ender’s own hidden past as a perpetrator of genocide, and the unintentional homicide of the indigenous aliens, and also the well-intentioned destruction inflicted by the aliens on their human friends. But the real story here is about colonialism and colonisation, and there’s not much interrogation of that at all; and the fact that the aliens are given an insulting nickname throughout is frankly disgusting. But you can get it here.

There was one other novel on both Hugo and Nebula ballots, Count Zero by William Gibson, which like every other Gibson novel I have read I cannot remember anything about. The Hugo ballot also included The Ragged Astronauts, by Bob Shaw, which won the BSFA Award that year, and Black Genesis by L. Ron Hubbard and Marooned in Realtime by Vernor Vinge neither of which I have read.

The Nebula ballot also included The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, winner of the Clarke Award and a retrospective Tiptree Award and surely the most important sf novel of the year in retrospect, and Free Live Free by Gene Wolfe, The Journal of Nicholas the American by Leigh Kennedy and This Is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow, none of which I have read. The Handmaid’s Tale is a far better book than Speaker for the Dead, and it’s not to the credit of Hugo or Nebula voters that they chose the latter.

In the other categories, the Hugo for Best Novelette went to “Permafrost” by Roger Zelazny, one of the many by him that I rather like, and the Nebula to “The Girl Who Fell into the Sky”, by Kate Wilhelm. “Permafrost” was on both ballots, as were “Hatrack River” by Orson Scott Card and “The Winter Market” by William Gibson.

The Hugo for Best Novella went to “Gilgamesh in the Outback” by Robert Silverberg, and the Nebula to “R&R” by Lucius Shepard. Both were on both ballots, as was “Escape from Kathmandu” by Kim Stanley Robinson.

That was also the year that the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation went to Aliens, which is better than anything else I have mentioned in this post, apart from The Handmaid’s Tale.

The following year, unusually, there were no joint winners. The Hugo written categories were won by The Uplift War by David Brin, “Eye for Eye” by Orson Scott Card, “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight” by Ursula K. Le Guin and “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” by Lawrence Watt-Evans; and the Nebulas were won by The Falling Woman by Pat Murphy, “The Blind Geometer” by Kim Stanley Robinson, “Rachel in Love” again by Pat Murphy and “Forever Yours, Anna” by Kate Wilhelm.

So the next post in this sequence will cover two shorter pieces from 1988 that won in 1989: “Schrödinger’s Kitten” by George Alec Effinger and “The Last of the Winnebagos” by Connie Willis.