Monday, June 3, 2013

Part 3: The Rocky Road to Westercon 66: Sci Fi is Not for Sissies

Hugo Gernsback

“Angel-touched or not, at bottom the girl was just another wounded child of God with a monster problem.”  Throne of the Crescent Moon

I’m loving this book!  Though what it has to do with science fiction, I have no idea.  When did Hugo nominations start going to sword and sorcery?  Maybe always?  Speaking of 1963, I think I better take a look at the Hugo nominations that year (none of which I’ve read): the winner, The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick, a classic of the sci-fi genre, or so I’m told; A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C Clarke, surely a “real” sci-fi novel if Clarke’s the author, eh?; Little Fuzzy by H Beam Piper (what is it with all the author initials?), evidently sci-fi; Sylva by “Vercours”, some kind of French language (!) sci-fi time travel fantasy; and, ah ha, there is precedence, The Sword of Aldones by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  So I guess fantasy has always had a place on these lists.

Of course, at the time of their nomination, I wasn’t really that serious about tracking down the nominees, not having even really heard about the Hugos in the first place.  There was enough to keep me busy with Famous Monsters of Filmland (RIP Forrest J Ackerman, who I had the pleasure of meeting at his home/museum, but that’s another story), Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, and the other “classics” I started discovering.  Little did I know that Amazing Stories’ creator Hugo Gernsback had some awards named after him, or that those same awards were bestowed at an annual science-fiction convention, or that in a few years I would actually attend a World Science Fiction Convention.

In any case, when I found the hard bound copy of Throne of the Crescent Moon at the used book store, I couldn’t believe the cover art (by Jason Chan); I felt like I was picking up a Young Adult novel (which is not in any way a “knock”), and I was a bit taken aback that THIS (?) was nominated for any kind of award.  The cover depicts an old fat bearded Moses-like man seeming to project some kind of light, and two fierce young male and female “heroes” wielding a two-pronged sword and fierce claws against some kind of vicious group of malevolent zombie-like creatures.  What was this, 1938, this was border-line embarrassing for a high-brow reader such as myself. 

But you know what?  Its combination of Robert Howard, The Grey Mouser, Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone, and, yes, of course, Game of Thrones, is working!  (I say “of course GoT" because nowadays that is the new fantasy gold standard that all current fantasy epics must somehow acknowledge, whether consciously or not, as Lord of the Rings was before it, and of course as LotR still is, too)  I’m only about a hundred pages in, but so far it’s really keeping my attention: it’s actually exciting and charming!  Good lord, what’s happening to me?       

To Be Continued 

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