CHEAP TRUTH 14
EDITORIAL by Todd Refinery. Regular CT editor V. Omniaveritas is currently
out of touch in Haiti, where he is pelting the Tonton Macoute with concrete
blocks. And longtime CT contributor Sue Denim has our passports ready for a
romantic tour of her own.
CHEAP TRUTH TOURS CENTRAL AMERICA with Sue Denim
The current chaos in Central America is the result of foreign meddling,
greed, laziness, guilt, and misplaced idealism. That's a lot of factors, but
then, Central America is a hell of a mess.
So is this year's Nebula ballot.
What happened? Take an area -- say, Central America, or the SFWA -- that has
traditionally been governed by enlightened self-interest. Sweeten the pot by
making this area suddenly very valuable -- either politically or monetarily
-- and the adjective "enlightened" tends to disappear.
For example. Say you're an over-the-hill SF writer or politician, like
Anastasio Somoza. You're going to do anything you can to keep your power --
beg, plead, humiliate yourself, take help from anybody, even the U.S., just
to get those votes. If you're an up-and-coming politician, you're going to
curry favor as widely as you can (one reviewer recommended over 125 stories
in one category alone, bloating the ballot like a drowned corpse).
But enough generalities. Climb into our Mi-24 Hind gunship and let's have a
look at the countryside.
First stop: Costa Rica. Here is a fairly stable democracy -- conservitive,
predictable, with a comparatively high standard of living that's the result
of guilt -- American guilt over the country's former banana republic status.
How like this year's novels: Greg Bear's BLOOD MUSIC, which expands
predictably his earlier brilliant (and award winning) short story. DINNER AT
DEVIANT'S PALACE by Tim Powers, on the ballot for everyone who really liked
his ANUBIS GATES and forgot to vote for it before Powers joined SFWA. ENDER'S
GAME by Orson Scott Card. (How many people voted for this because it has all
the ritual trappings of military SF, complete with cadet school and blowing
up alien ships real good?) David Brin's two-dimensional POSTMAN. Malzberg's
REMAKING OF SIGMUND FREUD. (Surely we should give him a Nebula for something.
He's always telling us what an unsung genius he is.)
Even the good stuff here in Costa Rica is tainted with guilt and
predictability. Bruce Sterling's SCHISMATRIX is first-class futurism. But in
many ways it's the book he was expected to write, the logical culmination of
his popular "Shaper/Mechanist" stories. Brian Aldiss's HELLICONIA WINTER is
by no means the strongest element of the trilogy (and why the hell isn't the
trilogy on here as a single item, HELLICONIA?), but it's too late now to
recognise the first two books.
A few hundred miles north is El Salvador, Costa Rica gone wrong. Here
democracy is enforced at gunpoint, and inspiration is in jail. It is the
dictatorship of the novella. Here Generalissimo Silverberg rakes in the big
bucks with his predictable "Sailing to Byzantium." On his right hand sits the
former firebrand James Tiptree, Jr., now apparently suffering from a
Heilein-ish senility and turning out gushing '40's space opera like "The Only
Neat Thing To Do." Kate Wilhelm turns in a limp nod to Castaneda with "The
Gorgon Field" (it's too hot to work hard here in El Salvador). Kim Stanley
Robinson, the American attache', is eager and earnest in his walking shorts
and knapsack, but his "Green Mars" is marooned in the '70's. There is some
nice landscape -- Roger Zelazny presides over a scenic province called "24
Views of Mount Fuji" -- but it has no life or heart.
Then there are the "desaparecidos," like Norman Spinrad's "World War Last,"
which you won't see on the ballot. They have simply ceased to exist, for
being too noisy, too unorthodox, asking too many hard questions.
But wait! What's that up in the hills? It's Bruce Sterling's "Green Days in
Brunei," the single most visionary and exciting piece of fiction on the
ballot, armed to the teeth and about to blow this fatuous and complacent
government off the map! We'd better head back to the gunship and be on our
Welcome to Nicaragua, home of the dream gone sour. Liberals around the world
feel compelled to continue to praise the Sandinista revolution, even though
its armies have regressed to the same terror tactics as the Guardia they
replaced. Just as the "younger writers" (all of them at least in their
thirties) continue to admire the bloodless, self-conscious work of Michael
Bishop ("Gift from the Graylanders"), Lucius Shepard ("The Jaguar Hunter") or
Harlan Ellison ("Paladin of the Lost Hour"). William Gibson and Michael
Swanwick, like the Sandanistas' Commander Zero, seem terribly uncomfortable
in this regime, managing only a heartless, pro-forma video-game exercise,
"Dogfight." The chameleon-like Scott Card here offers "The Fringe," a
competent and very politically correct tale of a handicapped schoolteacher.
George Martin's "Portraits of His Children" is an insufferable bit of
pretended self-criticism that looks like it was written to please a State
Committee of Mandatory Literary Values. (Your tour guide is unable, at press
time, to comment on S.C. Sykes' "Rockabye Baby" due to her inability to read
ANALOG in recent years.)
It's time to get away from these poetic revolutionaries who are taking
themselves all so seriously. Let's copter off to polluted, overcrowded,
corrupt, and exciting Mexico City for a night on the town.
Did somebody say crowded? Eight nominees. But anything goes in Mexico City.
Howard Waldrop, rather that gamble on actually winning a Nebula, got greedy
and decided to leave both his stories, "Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" and
"Heirs of the Perisphere," on the ballot. They're two of his best, full of
fun and pathos and great characters, and after all, greed is the name of the
game here in Mexico.
You see all kinds here. There's "Paper Dragons," the year's single best short
story, a delicate construction of paranoia, innuendo, and crisp language.
There's Nancy Kress' populist fantasy, "Out of All Them Bright Stars,"
organizing among the peasants. There are the local favorite sons like Dozois,
Dann, and Swanwick, who can make the ballot with "Gods of Mars" no matter how
poor a story it is, or William F. Wu, whose mundane "Hong's Bluff" is swept
up in the popular imagination after the brutal editorial murder of his
earlier story, "Wild Garlic." There's Haldeman's perfunctory "More Than the
Sum of His Parts" and John Crowley's willfully obscure "Snow." So many of
them! And what's that rumbling from the membership? The hotel is starting to
What's the answer to this glut of egos? More rules? Should Reagan send ground
troops to Nicaragua? Obviously not. Power will come from the people,
eventually. There will be a backlash from this year's Nebulas, mark my words.
Innocents will doubtless suffer, empires will crumble. In the end, the dust
will settle and the Nebula will either be restored to its former value or it
will become a joke award, like the Hugo. In the meantime, as we stumble,
sweaty and exhausted, back into the helicopter, let's dwell on the many new
friends we made on our journey.
AND NOW for that popular feature, "Ask Sue":
Dear Sue: You're not going to do another of your bitter, tastless,
near-libelous, irrelevantly political Nebula diatribes this year, are you?
Dear Hopeful: Sorry.
Dear Sue: Why is the Hugo a joke award? (Signed) H. Gernsback.
Dear Mr. Gernsback: A couple of hundred people (at best) do the
nominating for an award which thousands vote, with no give-and-take or
feedback among the nominators. At least the Nebula process allows a means to
regularly display the titles of recommended works (the Nebula Awards Report)
and includes a jury which often compensates for oversights.
Dear Sue: So what's your answer (Signed) Wise Guy.
Dear Guy: Fewer rules instead of more. Hands off diplomacy. One short
fiction category (say 30,000 words and under), one long. We've got enough
awards already. Maybe even a public service campaign to remind both authors
and publishers that it's only an award, not life and death.
Dear Sue: So what did you think was missing on the Nebula ballot?
(Signed) Stupid Question.
Dear Stupid: NOVEL: TIMESERVERS by Russell M. Griffin (reviewed in CT
11, a Phil Dick Award nominee); THE GLASS HAMMER by K. W. Jeter; EON by Greg
Bear (just to show that I'm not prejudiced against hard SF and that I still
know how to have a good time).
NOVELLA: "World War Last" by Norman Spinrad.
NOVELET: "Tensor of Desire" by Wayne Wightman (a dizzy, headlong
rush of a story, with teeth and genitals); "Storming the Cosmos" by Rucker
and Sterling; "Solstice" by James Patrick Kelly (a known BOFFO proves he can
wear mirrorshades with the best of them); "Dead Run" by Greg Bear (Bear has
an amazing ability to think like a computer nerd but write like a guy on the
street when he has to); "All My Darling Daughters" by Connie Willis (yes, you
heard me, CONNIE WILLIS. How come all her so-called friends drop her when she
gets really nasty, like in this story?).
SHORT STORY: "Klein's Machine" by Andrew Weiner (weird and literary
at the same time); "You Never Asked My Name" by Brian Aldiss (in this
category because the Nebulas don't have one for polemics).
Keep those post cards and letters coming in.
Hugs and Kisses -- Sue.
CHEAP TRUTH 809-C West 12th Street Austin,
Texas 78701. NOT COPYRIGHTED. Todd Refinery, editing. Sheri LaPuerta,
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