It was Redshirts that put me over the edge.
I’ll admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to the Hugo Awards in the last 20 years or so. I’d read American Gods and The City & The City and loved them both. In general though, I saw what the award had become as much like the Oscars–open to only the well-connected. You had to have a big publisher, you had to be popular with the right people and go to the right parties. I stopped watching the Oscars when Sophia Coppola won Best Screenplay for Lost In Translation. Seriously–Best Screenplay? The part I managed to sit through before I fell asleep didn’t have any dialogue–it was a long shot of Scarlet Johansson’s butt followed by Bill Murray being tall in Japan.
That film would not have been nominated–much less won–if it had been written by Sophia Smith.
I am just as certain that Redshirts would never have made it onto the Hugo ballot if it hadn’t been written by John Scalzi, then president of the SFWA. I read the first few chapters that were available on Kindle for free, and they were cute, but not cute enough to get me to shell out for the rest. It felt like one of those movies they keep making based on Saturday Night Live sketches–take a fun idea and draw it out until it’s not fun any more.
Give it the same honor as Stand On Zanzibar, The Left Hand Of Darkness, Lord of Light, Dune, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Rendezvous with Rama, The Man In The High Castle? It was an insult to every writer who ever stretched the limits of imagination to create something extraordinary.
Science Fiction used to be the literature of big ideas, and the Hugos used to be reserved for works that made you think, that filled the reader with a sense of wonder at the possibilities. I’m not getting that from traditionally published science fiction any more.
I am compiling a list of self-published works that I think do deserve a Hugo award. Because I really think that self-publishing allows writers to play with dangerous ideas in ways that the traditional publishers have turned their backs on. I am starting with a few titles off the top of my head and intend to add to it.
I know that these are not eligible because they were published in years past. I am not making a list for books that I think should be nominated next year, I’m working on a list of books that I think are in the same class of literature as the Hugo winners back when the award meant something.
These are books that will mess with your head. They aren’t safe, they aren’t formula, and they don’t fit in neat little boxes on a shelf. They are the kind of thing that got me into Science Fiction in the first place. I’m listing them in no particular order. I’d also like to see your suggestions. I am looking for self-published titles that break down walls and escape the mundane. So, please, give me your recommendations.
Here are the first few of mine: