Episode 26: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!

And we found him! Gary returned from the wilds of Louisiana where he seems to have suffered through awesome parties, excellent musical performances, and wonderful meals to join me in the Pod to discuss his adventures in New Orleans, Neil Gaiman, a science fiction sense of community, ending the year in SF, whether Lois McMaster Bujold writes hard science fiction, and why we don’t know who the nominees were for the 1956 Hugo Awards.

3 thoughts on “Episode 26: Live with Gary K. Wolfe!”

  1. You summoned me, and through the magic of the Internet I appear.

    The situation on Pumzi is not entirely clear as I didn’t get an definitive response from Nnedi, who probably didn’t get a definitive response from the film makers (who, as I recall, did not seem to know what a Hugo Award was or why they should want one). However, here’s my best guess.

    If Pumzi was only shown outside of the USA prior to 2010 (presumably only in Kenya) then it is eligible under the First US Publication rule (which was extended for 2010 by the Melbourne Business Meeting). If, on the other hand, it was shown publicly in the US in 2009 (even if only at a small film festival in one city) then we have missed our chance because we should have applied for a special Limited Distribution extension in Melbourne.

    The book that Gary refers to as having been out very late (it had a 2008 cover date but did not get to anyone before 2009) was The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.. It did get an extension, but it only got 13 nominations, well short of the 29 that 5th place on the ballot got for Melbourne.

    As for 1956, I can’t say because I wasn’t born then (even I’m not that old). However, I do know that it took quite a while for the Hugo voting system that we know today to become formalized. I believe that in the early days the awards were voted on at Worldcon by those attending. There may have been no nomination stage that year.

  2. There is, of course, one way you could disqualify the Vorkosigan novels as hard SF, but I think you’d find that it would also disqualify most of the novels that you’re fondest of classifying as hard SF: they include only applied science (e.g. engineering, primarily biological) and not cutting edge theory in physics, requiring mathematics that most of us can’t follow. That extreme seems silly, however, equivalently as silly as does simply including any novel that merely asserts an SF explanation for its backstory, which would include Heinlein’s The Glory Road, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels, and Octavia Butler’s Fledgling , as well as the Pern novels.

    Incidentally, both times you mention Diplomatic Immunity, I think you may have meant A Civil Campaign. Diplomatic Immunity is a caper/mystery which turns on aspects of Cetagandan biological science, set in a community of biologically engineered people who have four arms (the quaddies). A Civil Campaign, at first blush, appears to be a romantic comedy with some political aspects. However, one of the primary plot elements turns on the ramifications that being able to change sex have for Barayaran inheritance law. And the primary not-as-much-of-a McGuffin-as-you-first-might-think, the butterbugs, which are literally all over the place, are a development of biological engineering for economic purposes. In the Vorkosigan novels, as in life, economic purposes always have political implications.

    The science is everywhere, but always fully embedded. The plot almost always turns on the ramifications of the use of science.

    I’m reminded of an NPR interview I heard many years ago. A woman, who was a physician, who had lived most of her life in the Soviet Union, was being interviewed about her memories of life in the USSR. Asked about what it was like to be a professional woman in that environment, she hesitated and said, “There were no five year plans for toilet paper or sanitary products, just big machines, so they were always running out.” (That can’t possibly be an exact quotation, after all this time.) Women have always been as interested as men in big ideas. The rubber meets the road a bit differently sometimes.

    And, yes, I think most of the central tropes of SF have been turned upside down (or sideways) by women authors.

  3. I think part of it is that there are two schools of what defines Hard SF. One is SF stories predominantly occupied with exploring a scientific idea. The other is SF stories that are grounded in reality or that doesn’t explicitly require breaking known or accepted laws of physics.

    With the first definition, the Vorkosigan stories sometimes qualify. With the second, the Vorkosigan stories definitely qualify.

    Obligatory TVTropes link.

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