Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Future of Science Fiction and Fantasy. And Stuff.

I've got an idea that people of a different time would have called "the cat's meow." I don't actually know when this time would be, and I'e never heard anyone use that phrase, but I'm sure I read it in a book or perhaps a magazine article or something. The idea is for a new KIND of award for works that fall into the category of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Vampires, Zombies, Monsters and Killing Them, Military Sci Fi, and whatever else we are reading, watching, listening to because we are trapped in this awful reality and really need to escape. Now, I live in Woodstock, GA, Cultural Center of the Universe, so I'm gonna have to have the award near me, at least until it's potty trained. I briefly thought about Dragon Con, which is sort of next door, but hey: I fought that Atlanta traffic for YEARS, since 1969, and I ain't going back there without a struggle. But just a little bit farther away in the opposite direction is Chattanooga, and as we all know, LibertyCon is the coolest EVER, so:
I propose that LibertyCon create a new award, addressing the future of science fiction and fantasy, and whatever else we are reading. I suggest the name "Thiotimoline Award," after the chemical compound which has the property of dissolving BEFORE being added to water. (The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline", Asimov, I., March 1948, J.A.S.F.)
The award would be given annually for the best work in each category (perhaps mirroring the Dragon Awards), but for future works, published, say...oh, I don't know...five years out?
So, at Liberty Con 2017, the Thiotimoline Award would go to the best work published in 2021, five years after the current eligible candidates for awards such as the Dragon, Hugo, Nebula, and John Campbell. I suspect this will rapidly become a highly favored award by Toni Weisskopf at Baen , always a forward-looking publishing house, and perhaps the Big Five (or is it Four? can't remember) publishers as well. For them, it will have the dual benefits of providing authors with manageable yet concrete deadlines, while also making possible a long-term publishing schedule, constructed around an award-winning work.
One category will become particularly popular with the entire F&SF community. "Best New Writer," also doing business as the John Campbell Award among others, is currently appallingly retrospective, looking BACK at newcomers for the previous year, or even from the year before that! Instead of being 'New,' the award as currently construed should really be stamped with an expiration date. The winners of the Thiotimoline Award for Best New Talent are undoubtedly either not in the profession at all at the moment of the award, or have been laboring over fine-tuning a work for an agonizing number of years. Receipt of the award will therefore instantly become the the sort of thing that eager candidates strive for to an unprecedented degree. Imagine the impact this could have had in years past: Michael Crichton would not have had to waste all those years in medical school, for example. 
While the Best New Writer is certain to be the headline award, the others are not without their own allure. On Sunday in the Mad Genius Club, Dorothy Grant wrote a wonderfully informed article about something I didn't understand because I didn't read it, but it at least mentioned in passing (or something) about authors being concerned about shifting their genre. I THINK this means ( I glimpsed some of the comments, but really, y'all, I just ran out of time) that if an author has been writing books about exploding spaceships, but then has an idea for a series about the conflict inherent in a love affair between a hyperintelligent shade of blue and a leopard who shape changes into another leopard, but just in spots, then winning the award for Best Novel would not even be necessary: just showing up on the list of nominations would provide the encouragement needed to take the plunge. "Look! I'm nominated for Best Novella for 'Lilac Summer!'" "Oh, really? What do you suppose THAT's about?" "I have no idea, but it's not about an accountant born without bones falsely imprisoned for making out with his music teacher and conquering the world wearing a power suit! I'm up to number twenty-two in that series! I knew I was ready for a change!"
And then we come to what is likely to be the most pernicious, heinous, malevolent criticism of this precious little white kitten of an idea: Won't fixing a particular outcome five years into the future be deterministic? What about the grandfather paradox? What about freedom of will?
I dunno. Try it; if the universe implodes, it was a bad idea.

1 comment:

  1. I still remember that Asimov story! Thiotimoline. Right.

    Can you tell me if I might be writing SF five years hence, and thus possibly qualify? That would be very helpful after I finish the current trilogy. Which has a SF novel embedded in the trilogy in sketchy pieces (though is complete in my head, sort of).

    I've often wondered if I should turn some of those embedded stories (novels and screenplays) into actual stories. When the rest is finished, of course.

    Or whether I'm better off letting the reader imagine them, and not get myself into trouble.

    Their purpose is to show that characters, surprise, surprise! actually do something for a living. But I have wondered...