Connie Willis named SFWA Grand Master

J-Sun

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I can't really celebrate this as (except for "At the Rialto", which I found funny and good) I'm completely deaf, dumb, and blind to her work but she's certainly won all the awards to make this additional one a given. The vast majority sees something in her. It just disturbs me that we're to the point of giving GMs to such "recent" writers (for large values of "recent"). And Vernor Vinge, C.J. Cherryh, Norman Spinrad (especially, at this point), and even Mike Resnick and Jack McDevitt are some authors who are older than she is and all broke into print around the same time or before she did (barring, in some cases, her first fluke sale). (Also Carol Emshwiller and Katherine MacLean, but I don't expect Emshwiller to ever get anything but maybe a Nobel or Pulitzer and MacLean already is "Author Emeritus".) Since you have to be living to be eligible for this, the birthdate and general health is the key thing in terms of timing.

Anyway - I thought people might like to know if they don't already. Fans rejoice. :)

-- Hey, a link might be cool :eek:: 2nd hand press release.
 

D_Davis

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I've only read To Say Nothing of the Dog, and thought it was thoroughly mediocre.
 

kythe

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I read "Doomsday Book" several years ago, and loved it. It's a very gripping story about a time traveller who is abandoned during the Black Plague. Medieval history and a futuristic society are intertwined, it's one of the more memorable and moving stories of this nature that I have come across. I keep meaning to re-read it.

Unfortunately, I don't read enough at all to really make a decent comparison between Connie Willis as an author and the other authors mentioned.
 

Fried Egg

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I must admit that until very recently, I had not even heard of her and t hat she only came to my attention due to soon to be released titles by her in the SF Masterworks series. So I expect I'll come to sample her work in due course and form an opinion then...
 

J-Sun

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I must admit that until very recently, I had not even heard of her and t hat she only came to my attention due to soon to be released titles by her in the SF Masterworks series. So I expect I'll come to sample her work in due course and form an opinion then...
Interesting. Can other non-US readers speak to her general renown? She seems to set 90% of what she writes in the UK and she's ridiculously popular here, so I assumed she'd also be popular in the UK (though I gather she gets a lot of her UK facts wrong which Americans are less likely to pick up on, so maybe she annoys UK readers). And as far as non-US or UK, I have no idea how well-known she might be.
 

Vertigo

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I must admit I was completely unaware of her, until reading FE post on new additions to the SF Masterworks series. I shall maybe have to give her a try.
 

GOLLUM

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I've read some of her work and it ranged from good to very good but I didn't feel outstanding (..enough over a long enough period) nor have ever in my own mind associated Connie as a MAJOR (Giant) figure in SFF ..at least not someone I had anticipated would be at the front of the line for a highly prestigiuos award of the ilk of the SFWA Grandmaster gong.

Still I guess congratulations are in order....:)

Out of interest, following are previous SFWA Grandmaster winners...a pretty impressive list overall, most of them mega names in the industry in so far as my perception of SFF authors and the development of the Genre goes.

1975 Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)
1976 Jack Williamson (1908-2006)
1977 Clifford D. Simak (1904-1988)
1979 L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000)
1981 Fritz Leiber (1910-1992)
1984 Andre Norton (1912-2005)
1986 Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)
1987 Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
1988 Alfred Bester (1913-1987)
1989 Ray Bradbury (1920-)
1991 Lester del Rey (1915-1993)
1993 Frederik Pohl (1919-)
1995 Damon Knight (1922-2002)
1996 A. E. van Vogt (1912-2000)
1997 Jack Vance (1916-)
1998 Poul Anderson (1926-2001)
1999 Hal Clement (Harry Stubbs) (1922-2003)
2000 Brian W. Aldiss (1925-)
2001 Philip José Farmer (1918-2009)
2003 Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-)
2004 Robert Silverberg (1935-)
2005 Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)
2006 Harlan Ellison (1934-)
2007 James Gunn (1923-)
2008 Michael Moorcock (1939-)
2009 Harry Harrison (1925-)
2010 Joe Haldeman (1943-)
2011 Connie Willis (1945-)
 

Vertigo

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Hmmm interesting list Gollum and I'm ashamed to admit there are rather more names in there than there should be that I haven't yet read :eek: Jack Williamson, Fritz Leiber, Lester del Rey, Damon Knight, Philip Jose Farmer, James Gunn and Connie Willis.
 

J-Sun

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I thought I knew approximately how the Grand Master was given (though I knew I didn't know the details) but it turns out my idea was less correct than I thought. (I.e., I was wrong.) What's supposed to happen is that you become a member of the SFWA by professionally publishing 3 stories or a novel. Then you run for office in the SFWA and become one of the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, or one of four regional directors (the Board). If your fellow professionally published SF/F/H writers elect you to President, you can call for a Grand Master award to be given to a distinguished living member. The Board then nominates candidates and the Board and past Presidents (many of whom are luminaries, even Grand Masters, in their own right) vote. If there's a tie, the President breaks it. The winner is declared a Grand Master.

So, in theory, John Scalzi (President), Mary Robinette Kowal (Veep), Amy Casil Sterling (Treasurer), Sean Williams (Overseas Regional Director), and other officers, and past Presidents such as Norman Spinrad, Robert J. Sawyer, Joe Haldeman (himself a Grand Master), Ben Bova, Greg Bear, Fred Pohl (also a GM), Robert Silverberg (ditto), and others could have cast the votes for this, though it's not to say this is actually what happened in detail. These are just the principles. Prestigious indeed.

Thanks to past-President Michael Capobianco for helping me with this but, as the saying goes, any errors are, of course, my own.

For the full legalese: SFWA By-laws.

Note that, while those are the current rules, it used to be that only six Grand Masters could be made each decade when the award was created but the rule was changed in 1995, so this only fully affected the 80s when, alas, so many of the early masters began dying in significant numbers. But it explains why there are so many gaps in GOLLUM's list before '95 and only one after. (This part, I knew.)

Also, while it's not clear, it seems to me that the emphasis is on written works but it seems other factors can play into being made a Grand Master. I may be wrong, and apologies if so, but it seems to me James Gunn has written some significant fiction (Star Bridge, The Listeners, etc.) but he's probably more important as a critic, teacher, promoter of science fiction, and for his innumerable scholarly endeavors. I suspect distinguished contributions in other areas doesn't hurt even for some authors who may primarily have received the award for their written SF.

Vertigo: FWIW, I haven't read Gunn's fiction, either. For the rest, in order of recommended urgency to get to them, I might rank them personally something like

Fritz Leiber
Jack Williamson
Philip Jose Farmer
Lester del Rey
Damon Knight
Connie Willis

with the proviso that I have read little del Rey and have much more to go, so he could likely change and it's hard to pick between Leiber/Williamson and Knight/Willis.
 

GOLLUM

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Thanks for posting those details J-Sun.

I knew a bit about the SFWA and the process involving someone receiving an SFWA Grand master gong but not all of the details. Interesting.

I haven't read much of del Rey or Gunn yet in particular.

Speaking of works published by Grand Masters, Tor published a 3 volume set featuring works produced by the first 15 winners including insights by Pohl (Editor and one of the recipients) on the reasons behind why some of these writers were selected.

Presumably further editions will be produced but this set could be a nice addition to personal (or public) libraries?

Anyone have these?

Cheers.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0312868812/?tag=brite-21
 

Abernovo

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I too must admit I haven't read as many on that list as I should have, considering the luminaries on it. Fritz Leiber, Lester del Rey Damon Knight and (possibly most shocking) Ursula K Le Guin. Not sure how I've not managed to read Le Guin, as her books have been on my To-Read list for years.

I read Connie Willis' novella Time-Out, set in a US high school, some time ago in IAsfm, but haven't read anything else by her. Maybe I should try (after going out and getting a couple of leGuin books, naturally).
 

Vertigo

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Thanks for the recommendation JS they have all been added to my TBR Wish List (which is rapidly developing a life of its own and is imminently going to launch a bid for the take over of my entire computer)
 

TheDustyZebra

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I like Connie Willis, but there are certainly a lot of people I would think deserve to get there before she does!

I believe I have read only two of her books, Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog. While I adore Bellwether and read it every couple of years and recommend it to friends (if you like Dilbert, you will like it), and I have read the other several times as well, I wouldn't say that either places her in Grand Master territory.
 

jojajihisc

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Also, while it's not clear, it seems to me that the emphasis is on written works but it seems other factors can play into being made a Grand Master. I may be wrong, and apologies if so, but it seems to me James Gunn has written some significant fiction (Star Bridge, The Listeners, etc.) but he's probably more important as a critic, teacher, promoter of science fiction, and for his innumerable scholarly endeavors. I suspect distinguished contributions in other areas doesn't hurt even for some authors who may primarily have received the award for their written SF.
I think maybe Knight and del Rey also probably fit under criteria other than what they produced in terms of SF novels. I'm not familiar enough with either to say for sure that's the case but they both seem more important to the genre for short stories and editing. The anthology series Orbit for Knight and of course Del Rey Books for del Rey probably being the most significant contributions.
 

Connavar

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I have always wanted to try Connie Willis she seems pretty acclaimed,respected and i dont even trust those populistic SF awards.

Its a shame though C.J. Cherryh hasnt got SFWA Grandmaster. More recent and less important SF authors shouldnt go ahead of her.
 

Count Zero

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I've not even heard of James Gunn, let alone read anything by him. I haven't read any Willis either, but I've read a couple of short stories at least by everybody else on the list, though I wouldn't really recommend several of them (A. E. van Vogt for instance).
 

J-Sun

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I think maybe Knight and del Rey also probably fit under criteria other than what they produced in terms of SF novels. I'm not familiar enough with either to say for sure that's the case but they both seem more important to the genre for short stories and editing. The anthology series Orbit for Knight and of course Del Rey Books for del Rey probably being the most significant contributions.
Yep. Those were two I was thinking of although del Rey doesn't seem to be any slouch at the fiction (he wrote a lot of minor stuff but some, IMO, very good stuff, too) and many people hold Knight's fiction in high esteem (though I didn't care for what I read). And, actually, it's my understanding Del Rey is named as much for Judy-Lynn as for Lester (ironically, she did the SF and he did the fantasy).

Others who almost certainly would have gotten it based on the reputation of their fiction but who did other major things in the field which couldn't hurt were Pohl (as a truly major editor and as an agent), Harrison (illustrator and editor/anthologist), Aldiss (editor/anthologist/critic), Moorcock (again, a major editor), and Williamson (scholar). And of course, being involved in fandom and with other writers can't hurt.

I have always wanted to try Connie Willis she seems pretty acclaimed,respected and i dont even trust those populistic SF awards.

Its a shame though C.J. Cherryh hasnt got SFWA Grandmaster. More recent and less important SF authors shouldnt go ahead of her.
I wouldn't call this one a popular award - it's a sort of juried award, really. But everything has networking and popularity woven into it to some extent and Willis' personal popularity apart from her writing couldn't have hurt.

But I definitely agree that, while I don't dispute Willis' getting it at some point based on just "objective" reaction to her career, I definitely agree she got it early and others should be ahead of her in line, including Cherryh.
 

AndrewT

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I'm surprised there is not a separate GM award for just fantasy or just sci fi. There is some overlap of course but separate titles seems to make sense. I see the list is more geared toward sci fi but it says sci fi and fantasy.
Are the winners selected democratically? For the title to mean something you would think that the large body of readers would help select. Although I've been reading for a long time I am new to these sites having been recently referred from goodreads dot com.
 

J-Sun

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Welcome! The selection process is described earlier in the thread. As far as the fantasy/SF thing, I really really really wish they were kept separate, too. It was originally the Science Fiction Writers of America and they changed their name and principles to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (without changing their initials and without changing "America" to "English-Speaking Peoples" - or adding "Horror" which is also included now) around 1990-something, IIRC, so I suspect more fantasy writers will start hitting the GM list as they have been the yearly fiction awards - in fact, Moorcock is likely on the list at least as much for his fantasy as his SF (though people like de Camp and Leiber could be, too - but I mean Moorcock under the new attitude). As far as fantasy grand masters, there is the Lifetime Achievement Award of the World Fantasy Awards, already. (I have to say I can't really speak to its quality and have no idea how it's awarded but it seems slightly less impressive to me than the SFWA list but still includes a huge number of great writers and some of the lists overlap.)
 
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