Episode 33: Translations, transforms and traumas

(4 August 2020)

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David: Hello and welcome to episode 33 of Two Chairs Talking, a podcast run by myself, David Grigg and my co-host as always Perry Middlemiss. How’s things Perry?

Perry: Good thanks David. Although things have changed just a tad in Melbourne since we last spoke.

The Pandemic

David: Yes, we’re now in a State Of Disaster, not merely a State Of Emergency, but a State Of Disaster.

Perry: And the weirdest thing was hearing that strange word curfew, which I don’t believe whether they had applied to us previously in this state and now we have a curfew from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM for six weeks.

David: Yeah, so you gotta stay at home unless you’ve got an absolute rock solid reason to be out and that’s the rock solid reasons gotta be to go to work I think; after the curfew you can’t even go shopping or seek medical attention or any of those things. Yeah, well, you probably seek medical attention I suppose.

Perry: If you had a medical emergency after curfew and you can’t hold on. That’s alright, you know my supposed to be going out of their house to go buy any food or shopping or going for any exercise or anything but I went out this morning to go for a walk and the streets are pretty deserted. Very deserted Yeah.

David: Anyway, everyone wearing a mask.

Perry: Everybody is wearing a mask, which is a good thing.

David: Which is a good thing. Yeah so.

Perry: Anyway, we’ve just been sitting at home, haven’t we David?

David: We have, we’re sitting in our little bubbles here. It’s just like being on a spacecraft somewhere, isn’t it?

Perry: It is a bit, it is a bit.

David: On our way to Jupiter or something.

Perry: As long as you’re not going to Uranus like they did in Ad Astra, because that would be incredibly boring like the film. But there we go. We’ve mentioned that last week, and as we said last week this week we are moving on to something else.

The World SF Convention

David: Indeed, indeed, now I believe, Perry, that you’ve been attending the World Science Fiction Convention over the weekend. Tell us about that.

Perry: I have been attempting to attend bits and pieces of it as a virtual worldcon. The first one of its type. It’s been very strange really to be involved in a virtual convention where all of your meetings are done via Zoom or Discord, which I found rather weird. I spoke to my son about this and I told him about that a lot of the interactions were being done by Discord and he was of the view that was a very strange thing to be using because it was mostly a gaming platform. But anyway, Zoom was working pretty well and thank God that we have that available because otherwise we would have been struggling. But look, it worked out alright. Generally they weren’t too bad. You do find though, that with Zoom meetings it’s quite strange that you can actually find out that somebody is able to talk for 10 minutes without drawing breath. I never knew that was able to be done. The indigenous Australians with their didgeridoos have a tendency to sort of circular breathe. They sort of breathe in and out in one flow, and I think some of these Zoom participants have finally got around to learning this ancient technique and really magical technique because, they just don’t shut up. You needed to put your hand up and say ‘Well excuse me. Could I say something?’ Because otherwise. Otherwise, I mean when there’s a lot...

David: ...of people that can be really hard to sort of break in and enjoy conversation, I think.

Perry: Absolutely, but anyway they did the best they could in the in the circumstances and I think they did a pretty good job. We will have a bit of a chat in a minute about some of the things that came out about it, but no, no it was alright.

David: Sure, I mean really, it was a tragedy for them that they couldn’t hold the actual physical convention like they’ve been planning for 10 years. But still they, they rolled with the punches and they seem to have done pretty well.

Perry: I can’t even imagine the emotional toil that would have taken.

David: Alright, it’s just.

Perry: That all that was just would have been terrible. It would just you’ve done all that hard slog, thinking right? Everybody is going to turn out we’re going to have a good big party and everybody is going to enjoy it. And then they’re going to go off and go around New Zealand and New Zealand fandom will just explode because of this event.

David: Yeah, that’s right, that’s very sad. Anyway, there we go, but the one thing we probably should talk about in a bit more detail was the fact that they had the Hugo Award ceremony again. Again, virtual and George R. R. Martin was the toastmaster who some people seem to think went on a bit long and about things he shouldn’t have. But never mind we won’t touch that I don’t think.

Perry: Well, we could, we could. I mentioned some of the controversies that came out about it all but look, it was... It was a long ceremony. It really was over 3 hours. You know there’s 19 awards they give out. Gosh no, I think there’s basically three, no, there’s two. There’s two associated awards they give out. That’s the Astounding Award for Best New Writer that used to be called the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer. But that was changed over after last year’s convention in Dublin; and the Lodestar Award, which is the Young Adult Award which was born a few years ago, so they’re the two that are added in and there are 17 categories for the Hugo awards now. But people keep talking about wanting to add others right? Please no! So I think what we should do, David is just basically talk about the fiction awards quickly. Then mention some of the dramatic presentation ones if you like and then and then move on. So how about we start at the top of the big one as George calls it, the novel. That was won by A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. Picked that one, really happy. It’s a good book. I can recommend you read that one. If you haven’t read it, I reckon you’ll enjoy it.

David: Well, I’ve got it there in the Hugo voting package, but I haven’t actually got to it yet.

Perry: Well, there you are. I think it’s pretty good, but it’s going to be the start of a series, so best that you get in on the ground floor and catch up now before you have to follow up with a lot of reading later on. Novella was won by This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El Mohtar and Max Gladstone. That’s the 2nd one I’ve got right, David!.

David: Yes, you picked that one too.

Perry: I thought that was good. Again as I said and we said a while back it’s very similar to the novella that was written a couple of years ago by Ian McDonald Time Was, but I didn’t think it was as good as that. But anyway it was the best of the ones that are there and that’s all you can do. You can only be the best of the ones that are nominated in there. Oh, one thing that has come out from the Hugo Awards, which I should mention in the novel category: that after the Hugo Awards are announced, the Hugo administrators give out all the statistics for all of the books that were nominated for the top 10 or 12 or so nominated and the voting statistics, how they basically where they started in terms of their first votes and all the way right down through and how they were knocked out in the way through. Interesting to note that Ann Leckie’s novel... as you remember she did the Anciliary Series a few years ago, which were excellent. She wrote or published last year in 2019 a book called The Raven Tower, which is her first fantasy novel, which I haven’t read. It received enough nominations to make the final ballot, but she declined the nomination.

David: Ah, how come?

Perry: They don’t ever say, all they say, is that she received enough nominations—about third, I think in terms of the nominations—but knocked it back. Why she did that, don’t know, her choice. She will do what she wants, but anyway, that was just that was just interesting.

David: Just before you go on from there; in reading some of the responses that people had to their awards, I was interested to see that Neil Gaiman was talking about the fact that Terry Pratchett had a book nominated for the Hugo Best Novel some years ago, but he withdrew it for reasons I’m not totally clear.

Perry: I think Gaiman basically said that being nominated and having to wait for the Hugo Award ceremony, which is about second last night or the last night. The convention would totally ruin...

David: ..his convention, yeah, that’s right, that’s what he said.

Perry: His anxiety levels would be so high that it wouldn’t be able to handle it.

David: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, that’s fair enough.

Perry: Well, if you go with the idea that you’re not going to win if you do win, it’s an added bonus. But maybe he, maybe he couldn’t come to that. So anyway, you know. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been nominated for awards, and I thought now I’m not going to win this and haven’t. On one occasion I did win it. Odd, but there we go. So novelette was won by Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemison. I had this is number 4 on my list so didn’t do very well with that one.

David: Me neither. I didn’t rate it very highly.

Perry: Short story, it was The Last I May Know by S.L. Huang again I had that is number 4 on my list. So again, didn’t do very well, so ended up with two out of the four. So that’s a bad average familiar. I think that probably did as best as I’m going to be able to do. So anyway, it’s not...

David: ..so bad, but the two biggies you got, the two biggest.

Perry: A couple of other notes, the related work. This is a piece which cannot be fiction in any form, shape, or form. It can be any anything else. Now I always thought the ‘anything else’ was probably going to be a published work, but the 2019 John W. Campbell Award Acceptance Speech by Jeanette Ng was nominated and it won, yeah, there’s a bit of controversy about that one. On the basis that from my perspective, it’s a 3 minute off-the-cuff speech as opposed to all these books that were written that take years of research.

David: It doesn’t seem right to me.

Perry: Your mileage may vary, but I wouldn’t have had it there.

David: It struck me as being pretty odd.

Perry: Yeah, OK, so another couple that we could deal with: Dramatic Presentation. So the Dramatic Presentation Long Form the winner was Good Omens. The whole series. That was the Pratchett and Gaiman television series you were just talking about. Yeah, Short Form the winner was The Good Place with the episode ‘The Answer’.

David: You haven’t seen that.

Perry: No, I haven’t seen it either.

David: I’ve watched the two episodes of Watchmen that were nominated, which were both excellent. But I say this is The Good Place I haven’t seen so don’t know.

Perry: I think... I’ve got a feeling that the Watchmen... Well, I can tell you because I’ve actually got the... Just let me check for a minute. OK The Good Place was first, second in a tie was one episode of Watchmen: ‘A God Walks Into Abar’ and The Mandalorian ‘Redemption’ that was the that was the best of the episodes of that particular series that we discussed last week, I think, so that’s where they ended up. Now a personal favorite of ours: The Expanse ‘Cibola Burn’ came in at #4, but the written series of The Expanse won the Best Series, so that’s good. That’s a good award given to probably the best of the hard science fiction series going around at the moment. And as I mentioned on a Facebook post, my father would have been very happy about that because he was a big fan. And, uh, he was reading the series only up to within about a week of his death. So he really, really enjoyed it. And I’m very pleased with that. Sure, sure, yeah, that’s so that’s good.

David: And I think that episode of The Expanse was OK, but it didn’t seem to me to be the best that they’ve done, so I think it’s probably fair that it didn’t win that particular category.

Perry: Oh yeah, but all of this stuff so much David, I don’t really care. I’d rather it had won, but there we go. That’s different strokes.

David: And I think I told you by email that I was just watching the Hugo ceremony intermittently and kept coming in and out in effect for a while I was sitting at my computer doing other stuff and I had it running, the video, running a little picture-in-picture window in the corner of my screen. But because of that I had the closed captions turned on. And so I was kind of reading what they were saying. And of course it’s one of those things where it’s electronically transcribed in real time, and so the most amusing point for the night for me was when the next category was announced, which was going to be the Best Rheumatic Presentation.

Perry: Yeah, they were a few things I know that Charlie Jane Anders is she Annalee Newitz won the Best Fancast and Charlie Jane Anders’s name was translated into Chocolate Jackhammer. Which I think is stunningly funny, really funny but...

David: That should be her alias from now it.

Perry: Should be her alias from now. Final thing before we finish on the 2020s, which I want to talk about in terms of the novels, Interestingly enough, and I’m just putting this up as a comment because I just think I think this is this is indicative of how the SF field is changing over the last 10 or so years: the last five Best Novel Awards have been won by women. This year, every nomination, every nominee on the ballot was written by a person who identifies as female, and you know, so there’s five or six of the last seven novel Hugos have been won by women.

David: Right. Now there’s a big...

Perry: ...change when we start talking about the 1963 Hugo awards there. There’s something I want to mention there which relates to this. So just move on to the 1963 Hugo Time Machine.

The Hugo Time Machine (1963)

David: Well, so we’ll do that. We’re going to go back to the year 1963 in the Hugo Time Machine. Yeah, so in 1963, which was an interesting year for science fiction. The nominees for particularly the novel category were pretty interesting. So where do we start Perry?

Perry: Well then the 1963 Hugo Awards were given at Discon One in Washington DC, and that’s sort of interesting because Discon Three in Washington DC is the Worldcon to be held in 2021, so that’s good thing to be thinking about. But I think we might as well just start into the novels. So I’m just working our way through that. Again, we have this particular year. We only have two categories, that is the novel and the short fiction. They still hadn’t got to the point where they were breaking the short section out into the various category lengths.

David: Which is pretty silly when you think about it, because one of the nominees is like a four page short story and another nominee is like a full length novella, pretty long novella, where you’re trying to compare those two is it’s pretty hard, I think.

Perry: Yeah, who knows, who knows?

The Sword of Aldones

Perry: So the first one I’ll do. I’ll deal with the first one. This is The Sword of Aldones by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This was an Ace Double. This is number 2 in her Darkover series. Originally published with The Planet Savers, which was number one in the series, but that’s chronologically written, by the way, not what the final timeline is going to be. There was, you know, 20 odd novels in this whole series overall, but she wrote them all out of sequence, and so I thought that I’d read Planet Savers first then The Sword of Aldones because I was thinking, ‘Well, you probably have to read the first one before you get the second one’. Now the reason why Zimmer Bradley is interesting on this particular ballot and I went back and did a check this morning just to make sure I was right on this. She’s the first woman who has appeared on the Hugo novel ballot. Didn’t win, but she’s the first one that has appeared there, so that’s interesting.

Now before I go into the discussion of this particular novel, there’s a couple of sub genres of science fiction that I wanted to give an explanation for, because this particular book or this particular series has been noted as being one of the prime examples of one of these genres, so the higher level genre that I wanted to talk about is a ‘planetary romance’. Now these deal with SF stories where the bulk of the action takes place on one or more exotic planets. So that is known as better somewhere else in the Galaxy. Now these planets are often inhabited by very human like aliens, you know, sort of think Star Trek all the time where everybody that came across was a variant on a human being: two arms, two legs, one head just different facial structures.

David: Makes it easier to do the costuming. I think.

Perry: Yes, but in these in these planetary romances, a lot of the time interbreeding between humans and these other aliens is sometimes possible and basically what I would know David. That’s like you and I tried to basically interbreed with a carrot. It just isn’t going to work. So generally the planets are hospitable to human life, so humans just get out of the spaceship, just wander around. It’s like going outside into your backyard, which is all we can do at the moment. But you know what I mean? It’s basically exactly the same as that. Now that’s the higher level genre, and underneath that there is a form of another sub-genre which has been referred to as ‘sword and planet’ and this is a bit like ‘sword and sandal’ stuff. You remember the sword and sandal gladiator stuff where everybody just uses swords and basically all dealing with sand or so you know, like the Russell Crowe film, the Gladiator would fit into the sword and sandal style; Spartacus as well. For this being sword and planet, it’s a planetary romance where the adventures involve hand to hand combat of some form, but they only ever use swords and knives. They don’t use energy weapons or guns, or any of that form, even though they’ve got a very high level of weaponry and technology on these planets. It’s basically the idea that you have to get up close and personal.

David: What does that remind me of? Light sabers, is it?

Perry: Possibly, but that’s a bit high tech there. So light savers is sort of like that, but it’s a high tech version of a sword. But here we’re actually talking about actual, actual swords or daggers, right?

David: So, so were thinking things like, um, Princess of Mars and Pellucidar.

Perry: Or something, yeah, so Edgar Rice Burroughs. I always want to say Edgar Rice Bubbles. Edgar Rice Burroughs stuff and the Marion Zimmer Bradley Darkover novels are considered to be prime examples of this particular genre, OK? Now this particular book in the Darkover series set in a Galaxy, which is slowly being taken over by Earth Terrans, so they’re taking it over in terms of politics and business. They’re not basically undertaking an invasion of the planet, they just basically turning up and just letting business and politics just take over. Now, so the planet of Darkover is a holdout, however, on the edge of the Galaxy it’s trying to retain its cultural identity in the face of the technology onslaught coming in from Earth. Lou Alton, who’s half terran and half Darkoverian. So here we go with this idea that you know that he’s got a Darkover father and Earth woman mother, they’ve been able to interbreed. He’s been away from Earth, has been away from Darkover for awhile And he returns to Darkover after about six years and plunges directly into some political and power struggles straight off the bat. You know, he doesn’t even know what’s going on, because that’s telling everybody what to do, which I thought was pretty weird. Now you don’t need to have read the first of the Darkover books to be able to get to this one, as I said. And the problem with the book is this particular book is this too many characters just flitting across the stage in short form. They’re there for a page and gone and then later on you have to remember who they are and what they did and what connection they had to the main character. And it just basically it just gets really, really confusing. It’s all over the place. Now the other point that I found difficult. It’s just that there are three female characters with first names very similar to each other. That all start with MAR or MARJ and I just got confused. because again the first time they come on. Somebody just walks on just walks off the other side says something just goes. Somebody else a page later comes in and I say ‘Hey was that the same one that was there before’ and then one of them gets referred to by name and then gets referred to by nickname that sounds very similar and I got confused and again you remember I said a while back, I did ask you, did you think it was necessary for a reader to make a look up character list to be able to work out who everybody was? I needed to deal with this. Yeah, and again, there’s the problem of all of the all of the male characters called by their family name or the female characters are called by their first name. This was a very popular and common writing technique back in the 50s and 60s, but it’s really. It’s bloody awful. I really don’t like it very much at all, and it’s sort of it’s demeaning to everybody and what I came out with this.

This is a really short book of 154 pages And it actually reads like the synopsis of a much larger novel. This could have been 400 pages. It’s 154. If it had been 400 pages, although it was probably pushing it a bit, actually would have felt more comfortable with it because I reckon I would have been able to figure out who everybody was and have a bit of an idea about what’s going on. The author actually later re wrote this book and basically chose the name and just wrote it and made it bigger. I think that she suddenly realized later on that she really had crammed too much into this. I only gave this 3.0 out of five. David. Look, if you’re interested in the Darkover Series, you’re interested in Marion Zimmer Bradley, if you’re interested in the history of the genre, and you want to read the first book nominated by that by a woman that ended up on the ballot, then read it otherwise give it a miss.


David: Yeah Alright, so I think I’m gonna talk next about a book called Sylva by someone called Vercors V-E-R-C-O-U-R-S. Now this is a really interesting book. One of the interesting things about this book is that it’s the first book I believe that was nominated for the best novel Hugo, which was in translation. It was translated from the French. The author Vercors is actually a pseudonym of someone called Jean Marcel Adolphe Bruler. He was born in 1902 and he was a French writer who during the Second World War joined the resistance and sort of fought against the Nazis, and while he was doing that, he was writing and his books or writings were published under the pseudonym Vercors. And he’s apparently written quite a few books which had a fantasy or science fiction theme. I could talk about some of those, but I won’t go into any detail. But anyway, He 1960, he wrote this book Sylva, and it was translated by his wife Rita Barisse, and was a finalist for the 1963 Hugo. Now, the interesting thing is that the concept is, is, bizarre. I actually read the first couple of pages of this and skipped to the last couple of pages, and I thought ‘This is a lot of rubbish, it’s just not worth looking at’, but I actually got hooked and I read the whole book and actually turned out to actually ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

So the premise, which is kind of admittedly absurd, is this guy who’s English and owns a manor or part of a manor and he is called Albert Richwick and he runs this place called Richwick Manor and he’s always been dead against the sport of fox-hunting. Anyway, one night he’s out and hears the hunt coming towards him, they’re chasing a fox and he goes into his house and he looks out the window and he could see that the hunt is getting closer and he sees the fox try to get into his yard, into the gate into his garden and he stands up to look and I guess is gonna go try and dissuade the hunt when they get closer. But the dogs, the hounds from the hunt get to a hole in the hedge and sort of back off, something strange is happening so that they get really freaked and run away and he can see some sort of creature in the hedge and he pulls this creature out. And he’s still not quite sure what it what it is and the hunt is still getting closer, so he actually throws himself on this creature to stop it from getting away and getting hunted by the hounds. And then so the hunt actually goes on and goes away. And they’ve lost the fox. And so this guy climbs up from the creature he’s thrown himself on top of and it’s a naked woman. The fox has somehow transformed itself into a woman, a human woman. So this is a kind of miracle. This yeah, totally, totally impossible sort of scenario. But then he’s left with this woman who’s still got the mind and instincts of a Fox and is just acting as though it was the fox and so he just doesn’t think he can let it go let her go because goodness knows what’s going to happen here. So he brings her into the house.

To cut a fairly long story short, he actually tries to raise this fox in a form of a woman and civilize her if you like and that’s what the whole core of the book is about. And so it’s really a book about becoming human coming from the animal into being a human being and the stages that you sort of have to go through. And there is really quite a transformative moment a fair way into the book where because he gives this young woman a name Sylva and there’s something else I’ll connect it to in a second, but he gives it a name and there’s a point at which she finally understands about death. She is slowly sort of gaining human understanding, and there’s a point where she suddenly finally twigs that people die and that she will die, and that’s kind of this transformative moment in which she becomes fully human. So it’s actually quite a deep novel. It’s well written, quite well written, and I thought that it is really interesting. Now the book apparently was inspired by an earlier book, which was written in 1922 by someone called David Garnett, called Lady Into Fox and this is the reverse of that in David Garner’s novel, a woman gets turned into a fox and in this book is the other way around. The fox gets turned into a woman which is really curious. It kind of ends in a bit of a away I didn’t quite like, but uh, it a curious book and really, really an interesting book. So I actually would rate it pretty high, so I ended up giving it four stars on Goodreads. I thought it was interesting. I really didn’t expect it. I thought this was going to be a piece of total rubbish and it turned out not to be. OK, so there you are.

Perry: Go yeah, well that’s good though I didn’t I didn’t get a chance to read this, because I just couldn’t find a copy of it anyways, yeah.

David: Well, I only found it. I’ll tell you how I found it. I finally found a copy on the Internet Archive and because it’s still essentially under copyright, you can borrow it from the Internet Archive for the princely time of one hour. So you can borrow it and read it for an hour. And then you go on. So I have to confess I did a few screengrabs and went through and read it. But I’ll dispose of those shortly.

Perry: Research purposes only, David.

David: For review purposes only. But yeah, it was a surprise, a real surprise to me, this book.

Perry: I don’t believe it’s in print. I don’t believe it’s available anyway, if you’re lucky enough to find a second hand copy you’re doing very very well. But yeah, first translated, first translated book, but I think we get another one for quite some time now that we’re sure when the next one was. I know we’ve had one translated novel that won, the Chinese novel The Three Body Problem from a couple years ago, but take a bit of research to go back and have a bit of a look to see whether anything else is there. Did Stanislaw Lem get nominated?

David: I don’t think anything by Lem would have been nominated. The Stugatsky brothers might have been nominated. Solaris came out in English translation in 1970. It was written in about 1960. Yeah, it was written in 1960, so would have been kind of eligible the previous year if it had been translated into English, but it hadn’t been.

Perry: Well we can look at that problem later, but it’s not just something that cropped up and... Given that we’re talking about 60 years in, about five or six books per year, so we’re talking well over 300 novels here. I don’t have them. All of my head David, then I bet you gave that money correctly, but that many there.

Little Fuzzy

Perry: Well, my next book that I looked at was Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper, a lovely little book.

David: Yes, quite a lot of fun.

Perry: It’s a lot of fun. It’s got nothing terribly... Oh well. actually, I’m being a little bit harsh. Very well. Let me explain what it is. So H. Beam Piper. Nice name for a science fiction writer because I think his first name was Harold, but having Beam as his second that’s pretty good. Now this is another one of those novels where humans are spread across the Galaxy and settling in exploiting planets as they go. Now on the planet of Zarathustra the Zarathustra company has the rights to explore exploit this class 3 uninhabited planet. Now, that’s important, not necessarily the fact that it’s Class 3 and whatever that may means but the uninhabited part is the interesting thing. Because surveys have been done and while there are a number of indigenous life forms, there’s been nothing there that’s found that of shows any form of intelligence.

This company is basically going in. It is just wrecking havoc all over the place trying to rip as much money out of it as a game causing large amounts of environmental damage all over the place. Changing the weather patterns flow. Does that sound familiar in terms of our current view stripping out large forests? Draining, draining, swamps and then suddenly realizing that they’re getting droughts everywhere that does sound familiar. Anyway, the main character of this particular book, Jack Holloway, is a one man show, he’s prospecting for things called sunstones which are sort of like opals. They are fossilized jellyfish that have turned into a wonderful gemstone if cut properly and polished. and are worth a fair amount of money, so he’s basically trying to prospect for these stones when he comes back to his camp on one day and discovers a small furry bipedal animal hiding in his bathroom or hiding in his house. And he starts playing with this thing, because it seems to be fairly friendly, and he starts thinking that it starts demonstrating a bit of intelligent or sapient traits that he’s not terribly sure about. And a day or so later the whole family turns up. So all these small—they’re only about a metre high or thereabouts, maybe a bit more—the whole family turns up so it’s father mother couple of kids and a little baby. He refers to the first one of them as a little fuzzy and then decides to call all of the rest of them fuzzies as sort of a generic as a generic name. Now word of his discovery of these things starts getting out. And he wants to basically make sure that, well, he believes, Holloway believes that these creatures are intelligent up to a certain degree, and that therefore the status of the planet is going to completely change.

Now, as you could imagine, the major company running the planet doesn’t particularly want this to come out, because if it does then they lose their rights to being able to exploit the planet and it suddenly becomes into a big Nature Reserve. Because the Federation of planets that are backing behind this society and in this particular novel are always on the lookout for sapient species: they found sort of seven, eight or nine of them in the Galaxy so far, and they are very adamant that you have to leave them as much alone as possible and not wreck the planet. The company of course tries to discredit Holloway. There’s a bit of a problem in terms of one of the species gets killed by one of the company’s representatives. Holloway shoots somebody that was going to shoot him and so there’s this big court case where the major part of the particular court cases to define what it means to be intelligent. Now the way the Federation has been running up until this particular time is that they say that you’re intelligent if you’ve invented the wheel or invented, or can use fire, well, these fuzzies don’t do either. They don’t use fire, and they haven’t invented a wheel, but they are showing enough indication of intelligence that basically they win over everything in the case and they are there, it’s the whole part of the novel. The major part of the novel, the interest part of the novel, is in the discussions about what it is to be intelligent and how do you identify that? So this is basically in essence the first contact novel where humans come into first contact with another intelligent species, which is a bit like them, but not like them and so you get this one. You get this lovely exploration of what it is to be intelligent and that’s what makes this thing basically stand out. Piper published a sequel of this code, Fuzzy Sapiens in 1964, and John Scalzi wrote Fuzzy Nation in 2011.

David: We should talk about that.

Perry: Which I believe you have read that.

Fuzzy Nation

David: I have read that. There’s a little bit of background, I think to this, which is that H. Beam Piper in fact committed suicide in 1964 and it appears that the last few years of his life were pretty depressing and he didn’t renew any of his copyrights. So Little Fuzzy and in fact almost all of H. Beam Piper’s short stories and novels are now in the public domain in America, because the copyright was never renewed and in fact Little Fuzzy is available from Standard Ebooks which I’ve talked about on this podcast a few times. So it’s available in a really nicely formatted ebook format for free from standardebooks.org. So I really wonder about John Scalzi writing this thing, this book called Fuzzy Nation, which is really just a complete rewrite of Piper’s novel, and I’m wondering whether part of that was that because it was in the public domain that publishers couldn’t make any more money out of it. And so they thought that if they got Scalzi to write this thing, they could make money out of his version of the thing. Now Scalzi’s version is updated in all sorts of ways, and it probably has more depth of character than the original book does. But nevertheless it’s a kind of like a blatant rip off of the original story. And I do wonder why you would do that. It’s really quite an odd thing to do, but you know, there we are. So yes, Fuzzy Nation is a more modern, slightly more modern take, but it’s basically exactly the same scenario. It’s the same planet, and we have a bit more maneuvering, political maneuvering, I suppose about the organization, that Corporation that’s running the place. But that’s about it. So yeah, I think it’s an odd situation to have had. Anyway, there you go.

Perry: Piper’s novel doesn’t go deeply into characterization. People are basically black or white. You know. They’re either very good or very bad. All of the company people are bad until they decide to turn, so they moved from black completely over to white and all the guys that are on the fuzzy side are all white and so it’s just the way that just the hats are just decided the one color and that’s that.

David: Yeah, so there’s a bit more depth in this Scalzi version of it, but even so I think it’s an odd thing to do.

Perry: Anyway, this yeah. Well I gave this one 3.6 so that would round it up to 4. Four out of five points. It’s a pleasant little thing. If you want to get a bit of an indication of what those fuzzies probably look like. And it may even have had an impact on them. If you think of the Ewoks out of Star Wars, it’s probably that sort of creature.

A Fall of Moondust

David: Yeah. Alright, so the next book we’ve got in the list is A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke. So what do we say about this? It has a very interesting concept, I think you’ve got to say which is that—and this is all done before we knew very much about the Moon’s surface. At that stage they really only had telescopic views of the Moon. There hadn’t even been the Ranger series of probes that sort of crash landed into the Moon to sort of get more closer pictures, and so it basically it was an unknown situation, but they figured that there probably was a good deal of dust on the Moon, being battered by meteorites and micrometeorites over the millennia. And that’s true, as we saw from the Apollo landings. There’s a lot of very fine dust on the surface of the Moon. So. But in those days the knowledge was pretty poor. But so the concept is I think a clever one, which is that this very, very fine dust gathers into particular locations, almost as though it was a liquid. And this particular place on the Moon, where this dust has become almost like a quite deep sea, this is called the Sea of Thirst, they’ve dubbed it. Because it acts like a liquid you can actually run craft over it. Not quite sailing craft, but things that can move over the surface on skis or something like that. And so we look at this particular pleasure craft, which is a tourist craft called the Selene and this guy called Pat Harris is the pilot of this and takes people on these tours of the lunar landscape sailing across this sea of dust. And this dust acts in very peculiar ways. It’s like a liquid in some ways, but not like a liquid in others. Anyway, what happens to cut a long story short is that there’s a sort of a Moonquake, and there’s a sort of hole opens up in this sea of dust and sucks down this craft with all these tourists onboard and buries it under who knows how deep an amount of dust, and so it’s really a suspense novel about how do they, the authorities figure out that this has happened to the craft. Where is the craft gone? Gone missing for quite a while. They think it’s been buried under a landslide of rocks and things, and they’ll never be able to get, you know, everybody must have been killed, and they’ve never be able to recover the bodies, but slowly as the story goes on, there’s someone on a satellite at the Lagrange point between the Earth and the Moon who does an infrared study of the surface and comes up with this theory that the Selene has actually gone down in the midst of the Sea of Thirst and manages to convince the people on the Moon that this is the case and they can go hunting for it with infrared and they eventually do locate it. And then the whole rest of the story is once they’ve located this craft with the people on board who are all still alive, they discover. How do the heck do they get it out? And so this all is quite a well handled suspense story of how they how they finally manage to rescue these people who are in the craft. And of course the other part of this story is all about the people, the passengers and the pilot, and so on board the craft and how they cope with this situation that they’re in there for quite a while. They don’t know whether they’re going to be rescued, or whether even people know that they’re there, so that’s all reasonably well done. If you just see it as a story like that, it’s really not too bad.

The problem really, is, is that the characterization is pretty wooden, and there’s a kind of a romance happens between the pilot of this craft, Pat Harrison and the attendant, the stewardess, Sue Wilkins, and this romance builds during the course of them being trapped underneath. But the dialogue between the two is almost ludicrous because it’s really very clunky. And the other thing you’ve got to say about it is that it’s really full of, perhaps not misogyny, but certainly very sexist attitudes going back to these times and so—oh, I don’t know. There’s a whole bunch of things that just I went through highlighting things and it just became pretty obvious that the attitudes of the time of male domination and so on. Like they have electronic machines that transcribe people’s writing, and of course they’re all she. They’re all called she because if you’re a secretary, then you’ve got to be female, obviously, and then there’s one woman passenger who creates a bit of a problem for Pat Harris. And she’s like really sort of waspy and a difficult get-on-with character. And so you have you have this phrase. You know, the stewardess Sue Wilkins says ‘You know what her trouble is? I suppose you could call it in-growing virginity’, you know. ‘So what she needs is a good ****’, basically is what she’s getting at, what the end of that sort of sentence is supposed to be, but yeah, that’s the thing which really drags it down for me. If you leave it alone as just as the suspense story, it’s not bad, but the characterization and the attitudes at the time are really a bit hard to take, I think.

Perry: Yeah, I’ve found that. I found the characters—I made a note about there—they were squeezed out of a toothpaste tube. Basically, they’re all... Why only have one pilot? And they allow smoking on the board.

David: They allow smoking, yes, right? They come across a store of over 100 hundred packs of cigarettes in the stores...

Perry: Yeah, for Gods sake. But they don’t pass them out. They actually stop them because they’re having trouble with the oxygen, but otherwise you can smoke to your heart’s content, and they’re only checking into the controlling station once an hour, yeah?

David: So anything could happen within that hour. That’s why they can’t find them initially.

Perry: Yeah, that’s right, this sort of reminded me a bit of the basic idea behind the behind the Martian. You know, it’s sort of like a it’s a problem solving plot...

David: Yes, yeah, very much...

Perry: And if you take it from that perspective, as you say, it’s all right, but by God really, from this distance. It’s a bit difficult, it’s very creaky. The interesting thing about this book was it was originally published in the UK in 1961 and it was overlooked for the 1962 Hugos and then somehow ends up in the 63 Hugo ballot. OK, maybe it was a situation where it hadn’t been distributed very well in the US. Maybe it came out right at the very end of 1961 and they stretch things a bit, you know, might have been a Christmas book that came out in December as opposed to these days Christmas books coming out in what August? Yeah, and so they might well have just decided to stretch it a bit though to add it in, I don’t know. Look, I thought this was sort of OK, but Clarke’s got good ideas, but boy, boy he’s not a stylist by any stretch of the imagination. I gave this 3.4, I didn’t...

David: Yeah, I probably rated it very slightly high just for the suspense sort of element. And also I said the concept of this sea of dust I think is pretty clever. So I rate it a bit higher but it wouldn’t quite get to a four for me either, I don’t think, yeah.

The Man in the High Castle

Perry: So anyway, so that brings us down to the winner David, which this year is The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Now we discussed this pretty heavily in the podcast in episode 30, so we won’t go into this in much more detail at all, other than to say that it appears in the Guardian 1,000 books you should read before you die, or one of those things. One of those big lists, and I think it’s a major piece, I think it’s a major piece of science fiction that, but I think if you’re going to say to people, look at this, say 150, 200 books that you should read in the genre, this is probably one of them. I can understand that people have got to the point where they feel that it just doesn’t end very well, that the way that he wrote it with the I Ching throwing, throwing his sticks or his dice to get the next plot point, you know, I can understand that people might say, well, you never really know where it’s going. I just love the way it flowed, basically. And if you think about just about everybody in the book, they’re always trying to do try to be something else you know, like the Japanese consulate guy, he’s really keen on Americana, and he’s trying to get all of the Americana that he can, including the gun that he uses to kill somebody and so and then all of the major characters are attempting to be more than they actually first appear, I think it’s an excellent alternative history. Especially when you consider some of the other ones we discussed in that particular episode, I was glad to see that it was certainly is the best of the group, that are here and I was, I was really taken by this book. I gave this 4.7 yeah, so I get this is really a high mark. This is easily a five out of five star for me and one of the high points. There’s probably half a dozen really good Philip Dick novels, and this is one of them.

David: Yeah, sure yeah. Certainly it was a deserving winner of this category, but surprisingly enough I would have listed Sylva second in this collection. Pretty interesting considering how terrible I thought it was gonna be.

Perry: Yeah well anyways, yeah didn’t read it so maybe I should try some time.

David: Like it’s interesting yeah.

Other possible nominees

Perry: OK anyway, just as an aside before we go on to the short fiction, I just thought I’d give you a list of some of the other possible novel nominees that might have made it. Ballard’s The Drowned World.

David: OK.

Perry: Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

David: Yes, a collection of short stories made into a novel, I think.

Perry: But it might be a fix up on, maybe that’s it. Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange.

David: Oh yeah, now that should have been there.

Perry: Yeah, but I don’t know whether that would have got really wide distribution.

David: Yeah, probably not. British book.

Perry: Would not have been pushed as a science fiction novel. There would have been a straight literary novel and I don’t think people would have got anywhere near it. Read it now. Oooheee.

David: Yeah, but yeah, certainly you would think it if it had been distributed well and you know it’s only a word that would have been a worthy nominee, yeah, for sure. Oh yeah.

Perry: Absolutely worthy to be on the ballot, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.

David: A juvenile, very interesting.

Perry: But you know you have Naomi Mitchinson’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman.

David: I haven’t read that.

Perry: Yeah, but it’s got a very high reputation, very high reputation in the field. So look, there’s some interesting books there that didn’t make the ballot. This will become more and more prevalent as we get further into the 1960s where a number of books basically just don’t get anywhere near the ballot, when is some of them turned out to be real classics in the field, but I think Man in the High Castle was a pretty damn good choice for that year. Yeah, sure, I’ll be quite happy. I’m quite happy with the result.

So, short fiction, David, you’re going to look at the first one at least.


David: Ah, yes, well, let’s see. This is a very interesting story. This story is called ‘Myrrha’. Presume that’s how you pronounce it. It’s only a four page story. It’s interesting that they’re trying to balance this up with some of the much longer works in this category. And it’s very odd. How can we explain it? It kind of purports to be a psychiatric case study of this woman who’s gone totally crazy and her name is Shirley Spencer and she runs a farm. And she gets visited by someone she went to school with called Myrrha Kyranos, who’s obviously Greek with a name like that and indeed, is Greek and strange things end up happening. Bad things end up happening. Her husband Tom apparently has an affair with this woman? Or perhaps not? And eventually gets trampled by some horses on the property and dies.

Perry: Or perhaps not. I can’t make any...

David: Well, it’s one of those one of those stories which you have really have to figure out what’s going on, and it’s odd and her daughter Dory dies after eating mushrooms, poisonous mushrooms, and so this woman goes completely crazy because all these tragedies have happened to her. So it’s clear that there’s some desire on the part of the writer to make this about Greek mythology. But if you look up the story of Myrrha in Greek mythology, she was the mother of Adonis. But she got that way because she had a strong sexual attraction to her father and so she falls in love with her father, and she manages to trick him into having intercourse with her. I can’t remember now how she does that. Then when her father discovers that this has occurred, and who this person is had sex with, he draws his sword and chases after her, and she runs away from him across the entire breadth of Arabia, being chased by her father who seeking vengeance for this thing. And the Gods take pity on her, and transform her into a myrrh tree, you know, as in frankincense and myrrh, that sort of myrrh. And while she was in the form of a tree, she gives birth to Adonis. So that’s the Greek legend, which seems to have no relation whatsoever to this story, even though it clearly wants to get you to believe that there’s a connection with Greek mythology. The story is not at all the same, and it’s hard, and in fact I was trying to do some research on this, and I discovered while doing that Piers Anthony included this story, reprinted this story in the collection of his One and Wonder: Remembered Stories is just a collection of stories he remembers reading. And he says, well, I think I might just read this whole thing, so maybe it might make some sense. It doesn’t make sense to me, but here you go then. Piers Anthony says,

“For those who may find it confusing, here is the summary as I see it: Myrrha was furious about the slight on her character she believed Shirley had made, and conspired for drastic revenge. She arranged the deaths of the dog and Shirley’s daughter. She either seduced Tom and saved the semen to artificially impregnate the mare, or caused Tom to think he was having sex with Myrrha when it was actually...”

...yeah I won’t go any further. It’s just his explanation seems even more confusing than the original story really. I don’t know what to make of this. The fact that it was nominated for a Hugo, it makes me think I must be missing something. I don’t know what it is that I’m missing, but I didn’t get it. What about you? What did you think of it?

Perry: I thought that if I knew more about Greek mythology, I might be able to figure it out when looking it up I made exactly the same discoveries, as you found out about the Greek mythology of Myrrha and it has no connection to this...

David: ...at all, so doesn’t seem to have it all.

Perry: I don’t know why it ended up on the ballot, but interestingly enough, it’s actually in the same issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction as another story which you’ll get to later on this particular ballot. So that’s the Theodore Sturgeon that you talk about later. Maybe that’s why it got picked up.

Where Is the Bird of Fire?

Perry: Anyway I want to talk about a novella that’s on the ballot called Where Is the Bird of Fire? by Thomas Burnett Swann This was first published in the Science Fantasy Magazine #52 of April 1962, and it’s a fantastical retelling of the Romulus and Remus story of the founding of the city of Rome, with the main point of view character of this particular story being Sylva—so here we go, Sylva, Sylvia from your earlier book—he is half human, half goat mythological creature. So this follows the original story of Romulus and Remus fairly well, with the addition of Sylva becoming a close friend of Remus is helping him conquer the city of Alba Longa Which is the one they live near, which they, Romulus and Remus, conquer, they reinstate the King and then decide that they going to build another city just up the hill a little bit. Sylva also helps Remus get into contact with a dryad, a local dryad, who helps him conquer the city. Now Remus is killed by his brother Romulus; again that’s exactly what happened. The new city has begun and Romulus names it after his brother and he calls it Rome. Now this story was later expanded into the novel of the Lady of the Bees in 1976, the reason why it’s called Lady of the Bees is that the dryad is a friend of a whole lot of bees in the particular area, and she’s able to harness the power of the bees. They help Romulus and Remus invade and conquer the city. So that’s why it was called that. That was in 1976, so that was like 14 to 15 years later. Now this story is very different from the rest of the ones that are there on this particular ballot. Most of the rest of them are... this is more much more mythological. I suppose Myrrha is I suppose a bit more along this particular line. It just shows that the genre is starting to move a little bit. We’re not keeping everything into this hard science fiction stuff. We’re actually moving things out just a little bit further all the time. This one is a rather forgotten writer in the field. They died pretty young, at the age of 48 in 1976. But he wrote about 15 novels and published two short story collections. I don’t know if he had anything else on the Hugo ballot. We’ll find that out later on, but he’s remembered by people who write in the fantasy field but not remembered by really very many others, you know. He just basically faded away. This is a very well written story I got into it and I started it off and I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m not going to like this very much’. No so bad and then it just sort of floated along and it just sort of ended. I said yeah, this is perfect like this is really quite good. I rated this one fairly highly. I thought it was I thought was quite a good story.

David: Yeah, so it was. It wasn’t bad and it seems as you say, to follow the legendary story of Romulus and Remus, pretty closely, but just with this added fantasy element, which I thought was it was pretty well done. It’s not quite my sort of thing, but I thought it was pretty good.

When You Care, When You Love

David: So that brings up to this brings us up to the Sturgeon story, doesn’t it? Now this is interesting in the sense that it was published as part of a special Theodore Sturgeon issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. And so the whole issue is about Sturgeon, with some of the stories like the one we’ve been talking about, Myrrha. So ‘When You Care, When You Love’ is the name of this story that was nominated. And again, it’s one of those stories which is a bit hard to summarize, but it’s basically about... We start off with this young woman whose name again is Sylva. Believe it or not, we’ve had several Sylvas in the course of this particular set of nominees, and I should have actually mentioned while I was at it that David Garnett’s book Lady Into Fox, the female character in that is called Sylvia. So there’s a lot of Sylvas and Sylvia’s in this. This set of nominees anyway. Sylva is the name of this young woman and she’s very rich. She’s inherited a huge global corporation. We discovered this as the story goes on, but as the story opens, she’s really just in bed with her husband and she’s lying there, admiring him, thinking how wonderful he is, and then he gets out of bed and suddenly he’s hit with this agony. This terrible pain, and he’s just squirming on the floor. And so Sylva runs out and gets hold of someone who’s her assistant and they call for a doctor. The doctor comes and then they eventually get a specialist involved and it turns out the specialist finally discovers that this young man, whose name is Guy has a form of cancer called Choriocarcinoma. Now this is a real thing. I looked it up on Wikipedia. It’s very unpleasant, sort of form of cancer and it can be classified as a germ cell tumor. It’s either cancer of the placenta in women or in men it can be something which arises in the testes. Anyway, the point about is that this young man is suffering this terrible disease and is going to die within six weeks.

Now she, as we discover, as I said before, is filthy rich. She runs this huge corporation and so she’s determined that she’s going to do everything she possibly can to save her husband’s life. Now the thing about this disease is that it essentially seeds the body with little... would you say reproductive objects which are almost like little embryos, seeds it throughout the body. Not quite, but that’s almost like what they are. And she eventually determines that she’s going to find a way to take these little things and turn them into a human being. So we also get quite a lot of back story of how she met this young man and where it was. And all this sort of how the romance got going. So it’s quite a long story, and there’s also some interesting nice stuff about this young woman and her assistant, whose name is Mr Keogh and how he really has a sort of affection for her. He had to look after her when she was quite young and so she has grown up with him as his her parental substitute, if you like and there’s a lot of quite interesting relationship material there. So that’s all very interesting. But then so the rest of the story is about this attempt, using all these huge resources that she’s able to bring, financial resources, able to bring to do this research and try to recreate her husband. Essentially, they clone her husband is what it comes down to. And then we get to the point where, yes, she looks like she may be able to clone her husband from these cells, but then he won’t be her husband. He’ll just be a blank clone, a child that’s growing up as any child grows up and developing their own personality. So she has this whole scheme to raise this child a bit like The Truman Show film, where they raise him with all these people pretending to be these different roles in order to raise him identically to how her husband grew up, and she, in the meantime, puts herself into deep sleep in order to be there when he finally reaches an age. So it kind of ends a bit strangely with a kind of an author’s note to the reader where he’s trying to sort of suggest to the reader: you might actually think you’re a real person, but you may actually be someone being raised in this sort of situation. This is kind of interesting. What did you think of it Perry?

Perry: Yeah, I did think it was interesting, but he just stops dead though.

David: Yes, it very, very much stops dead, yeah.

Perry: But it’s interesting that there’s a note from the editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction who was in charge, and I think was Avram Davidson and he states ‘We are proud to publish this new story by Theodore Sturgeon, it will form, though complete in itself part of a book. And he has promised us the privilege of publishing the other parts as they are written’.

David: And did he do that?

Perry: Never written.

David: Well, that explains it. That explains something.

Perry: I did a fair bit of trawling around to try and work out well? Oh OK, well this... It’s sort of enough of a Story to lead you along.

David: Yeah, yeah it’s very well written. Sturgeon was a damn good writer.

Perry: He was a damn good writer, but there’s a whole lot of stuff that comes through at the beginning of this particular novella, probably novelette length, where you think: Well, this is obviously lead-in material for something that’s going to go on beyond the end of the of the novelette which you never get to see. It’s quite peculiar from that instance, but all the research I did I couldn’t find anything that was there. I actually read a piece saying that he just never got around to writing the rest of it. The other film that—you mentioned The Truman Show—the other film or book that this reminded me of was The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levine, where an ex-Nazi goes to live in Brazil, and he’s taken some either some sperm or embryos that he has got. Of course, cells that he’s got from Adolf Hitler and attempts to clone them and then tries to bring them up by introducing the major events into their lives that happened with Hitler, like the death of a parent, death of a close friend, this sort of stuff. And then that’s the type of thing that he was able to do here. Where the Ira Levine thing I think was a pretty mid 70s sometime before it was when it was written. So there’s a lot of good things going on in this particular story, but it just stops. Yeah, it really does read like the first part of something that could have been longer and much better, unfortunately.

The Unholy Grail

Perry: Moving on, we get to ‘The Unholy Grail’, by Fritz Lieber, published in Fantastic October 1962. Another novelette; this is part of the Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser series of stories. This recounts an early adventure of Mouse as he was known at that time and is the only solo Grey Mouser story in the series so far. Fafhrd isn’t in this. This is all about the Mouser before he meets up, with Fafhrd. Mouser is the thief or he’s the thief of the two factors. The swordsman where they get together and basically go off on adventures. It was very much a strong sword and sorcery tradition and Leiber basically pretty much helped to invent it with this particular series of stories. Now in this one the Mouse is an apprentice of an exiled wizard in a land where magic is forbidden. He returns from a long quest to find his master dead, his house destroyed, and he’s arrested by the Duke who wants to clean it all up. Now he casts a spell on the Duke and escapes, only to be recaptured, and then utilizes the blackest of black magic to get it to escape, kills the Duke and escapes with the Duke’s daughter as you do, and that’s really the whole gist of it. It’s a minor story in the series. Useful for background of your registered in the father in the ground now so stories This is sort of OK, but that’s really about it.

David: Yeah, I would agree with that. It wasn’t bad. It was reasonably rated, but it wasn’t particularly exciting. It’s not my kind of thing anyway.

Perry: Just a slight adventure story and doesn’t really raise any major questions. It’s there to help you fill in the background of the rest of the series more than anything else, I think.

The Dragon Masters

David: Yeah indeed. Alright so we come to the winner of the short fiction category for that year, which was ‘The Dragon Masters’ by Jack Vance. Now I talked about this a little bit on in my interview with Rob Gerrand. We were both congratulating each other on how much we enjoyed the work of Jack Vance, but so, but I didn’t go to any great detail there, so I’ll try and cover it reasonably well this time. So it’s all based on a planet called Aerlith, and it seems that humanity is spread into the Galaxy and there was kind of a... If you think of it as the Empire was a thing called the Old Rule, and that was the Confederation of humanity spreading through the stars. But in years past, this seems to have fallen away, and these people are sort of stranded on this planet. A couple of groups of people here, so the remnants of humanity is surviving on this planet called Aerlith. But they are periodically attacked once every few generations by these aliens, who are the called the Basics or grephs. Because they are in a sort of star cluster and the star of the grephs comes closer and moves further away in the course of its orbit within this cluster. Now when the greph star comes close, they tend to invade the planet Aerlith and they often take away a whole lot of captives. So as this story opens, this has happened a few generations previously. It was the last time this happened and what’s happened is that the humans there are were able to capture a number of these aliens, and since then they’ve been breeding them and turning him into different versions of the basic form of this particular alien, and indeed they’re turning these aliens into... These things are kind of lizard-like and they turn them into this variety of fighting creatures that they call dragons and give them all these different names and so we have the ‘Termagant; the Long-horned Murderer and its cousin the Striding Murderer; the Blue Horror; the Fiend, low to the ground, immensely strong, tail tipped with a steel barbel; the ponderous Jugger, skull-cap polished and white as an egg’. Obviously that was a quote and so they use these dragons to attack other humans. And there’s a rivalry going on between one place which is ruled by someone called Joaz Banbeck, and he’s the Master of Banbeck Vale, and his rival who is Ervis Carcolo, who is the Master of Happy Valley. Ten miles is the distance between these two places, and so they kind of have battles against each other trying to conquer territory and so on using these fighting creatures based on the lizards.

So when the story opens, it’s been several generations and the star that the grephs come from has come closer and closer, and indeed it’s time for a new attack, and indeed that’s what happens. The grephs arrive and the humans desperately fighting against these aliens. Now there’s a third party involved, which is a group of humans who apparently were here on the planet before the other humans arrived, called the Sacerdotes, and these are like hermit like people, and they live naked in caverns. And they are sort of like priests or Hermits, and they’re very much focused on philosophy, and navel gazing and trying to determine the right way to live. And but they still have a pretty high level of technology and more than the rest of the humans on the planet. And they produce metal and glass to trade. And so one of the strategies that Joaz Banbeck puts into place is when the grephs arrive again is to try to get the Sacerdotes to help him to fight off the aliens, but they don’t want to be part of it, they’re all above this sort of thing, so he manages to organize it so that when the grephs are attacking the humans, their artillery that they bombarding the humans with gets closer and closer to the caves where the Sacerdotes live and finally to the point where they break down the wall of this cavern and the Sacerdotes are forced to defend themselves against this attack, and in doing so disable the spacecraft the aliens have come on, and eventually the humans manage to get inside and conquer the aliens, so it’s a nicely written story.

Jack Vance has got this, I don’t know, a lovely way of dealing with names and words and concepts and I enjoyed it and well, it’s the first Jack Vance story I ever read and it really sucked me into reading his work in the future. In the version that I read, as I mentioned in the previous interview with Rob Gerrand, it’s beautifully illustrated by Jack Gaughan with these illustrations of these dragons, these evolved creatures. The other thing I’ve omitted to mention is that the aliens themselves also have bred the men that they capture, the people that they captured, into being these fighting creatures. So we have this mirror image if you like of the aliens having shaped humans into the forms that are useful for them and the humans having shaped the aliens into forms that are useful to them. So it’s a really, really clever concept, I thought, so I liked it a lot, still like it a lot.

Perry: I can certainly understand that. I think that’s one of the classics in the field. I can’t believe that I had neglected it up until now. Certainly the best of the ones that are on this on this particular ballot. Jack Vance is an excellent writer. He’d really just basically has a style of his own. Yeah, but it’s just easy to read and then he seems to be very knowledgeable in terms of warfare and history and...

David: Some great battle scenes, aren’t there? Yeah.

Perry: So really is quite good. There’s a number of number of echoes of things down the line later on that you could basically almost push back to this, I mean there’s a touch of the Star Trek Borg in the aliens come from the other planet down to enslave the humans, you know there’s this idea that, Oh we’re here now and you’re just going to have to surrender. Well, we don’t want to. What, what? Sorry? Sorry I don’t understand. No, it’s now time for you to surrender. We’re not gonna do that. Yeah, what I don’t understand? You know this is really good, because there’s just one track. The only got one track. But I’ve also got mostly got echoes of The High Crusade by Poul Anderson in this particular story.

David: Yes, this is much better though.

Perry: Yes, yes, I would heartily agree with that, but it’s just you know, these connections here.

David: Certainly that business of humans... maybe John Campbell would have liked it... humans overcoming aliens with the most superior technology.

Perry: This wasn’t published in Analog or Astounding. It was Galaxy magazine so Galaxy was picking things up, some quite good work up at that time. So look, I look overall, I really do think this was the best of the lot. I think they’ve put the perfect choice in this particular case.

Other possible nominees

Perry: A couple of stories that may have ended up on the ballot. The major one, specially with your notes about ‘Myhrra’, and in terms of why the hell was that there, a major one which I think was also published in Galaxy magazine, so it wasn’t it wasn’t off in some wilderness somewhere is ‘The Ballad of Lost C’Mell’ by Cordwainer Smith.

David: That wasn’t nominated.

Perry: How that wasn’t nominated is beyond me, I really don’t get it, yeah? And got a couple other things R. A. Lafferty ‘Seven Day Terror’; John Brunner’s ‘The Fullness Of Time’ and Le Guin’s first ever published story ‘April in Paris’, which is quite a quite a beautiful little time travel story. It’s a lovely little story, better than, better than ‘Myrrha’, let me tell you. Yeah, so there’s a number of others, so it’s just. It’s just strange, where, some of them won and you know you just don’t know exactly what it is, why they actually, why they actually they won, so.

David: You know it’s a mystery.

Perry: Other Hugos that were handed out that year, David, Dramatic Presentation: No Award. The nominees were the Twilight Zone TV series, which I think won the previous year. Last Year at Marionbad.

David: Oh, I remember this film I saw that.

Perry: Deeply, deeply weird film. The Day the Earth Caught Fire and Burn Witch Burn so they didn’t, nothing won there. Professional Magazine went to F&SF which was edited by Robert P. Mills and Avram Davidson came in at the end, I think. So beat out Analog, Fantastic, Galaxy and Science Fantasy. Best Professional Artist was Roy Krenkel.

David: Don’t know him much at all.

Perry: And Amateur Magazine was Xero by Richard A. Lupoff and Pat Lupoff and there were two special awards given out to P. Shuyler Miller for book reviews in Analog and Isaac Asimov for science articles in F&SF. And if it is, if I think Asimov had been screaming the fact that he had never got a Hugo up until then so they decided they better give him one to shut him up. Though it’s not actually a Hugo, it’s a special award. Given it out by the Worldcon Committee, which doesn’t really count. Yeah, so there’s a note here also, on the site section award database, which is an excellent, excellent Website if you want to get all the information about this stuff, saying that the 1963 convention was the first to restrict nomination to members of the current convention or the prior year’s convention with final voting open only to members of the current convention, and that’s the scheme that’s currently in place. So that’s where that started. So things are starting to move. And yeah, but anyway we still only with two fiction awards. We’ve ended up with four major fiction awards and a few others these days. So things move from there. I think the good news is I’ll take the two winners as Classics in the field, so certainly worth everybody’s time.

David: Indeed. OK. Well, we’ve been talking a while, I think we might sort of wind up there.

Perry: Next episode, we’re probably going to go back to reading something a little bit other than science fiction all the time, so we’ll see what we come up with David. Still working on that and a lot of things that I have to read that I have yet to get to for some time.

David: Yes indeed. I have this very long list of things I have to get through. So until next time. See you in a fornight.

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