There are a few good “related” books out there this year, but I want to make the case why I think one in particular is most deserving of a Hugo award: and that one is Mike Resnick’s and Barry N. Malzberg’s The Business of Science Fiction (McFarland). The book is a collection of 26 of the more than 50 Dialogue columns that these guys have collaborated on over the last dozen or so years and their importance to science fiction cannot be understated.
The Hugo award is voted on by science fiction fans: members of the World Science Fiction convention. “Fan” is a very inclusive term. It includes those people who read and enjoy science fiction for pleasure. It also includes probably close to everyone who has written or attempted to write science fiction. While I call myself a science fiction writer, my motto has and always will be “fan first, writer second.”
There are three reasons why I think this book is important enough to deserve not only nomination, but to garner enough votes to win the Hugo:
- Many of the essays in the book are attempts to save science fiction–our history, and our roots–from obscurity. The columns within the book are written as “Dialogues” and are, in their way, a kind of oral history preserving the memory of aspects of science fiction’s history that might otherwise be doomed to obscurity. Twenty-six of these Dialogues are collected in The Business of Science Fiction and strewn throughout them are gems that give us insight into the evolution and history of the field. They ensure that they audience reading won’t forget writers otherwise doomed to obscurity, good or bad. It is our history and it is a part of us.
- The Dialogs in the book are a frank and realistic picture of the life of a science fiction writer. I’ve said in other places that reading this book is like having two seasoned agents, masters of the field, standing over your shoulders, telling it like it is. They don’t pull any punches, but new professionals (among whose ranks I currently count myself) can only benefit from the words of wisdom on a range of topics near and dear to the hearts of writers.
- The book is a fascinating roadmap through the careers of two of the most experienced, respected and admired professionals in the field. Mike and Barry are both writer’s writers and though I am relative newcomer in the field, when I mention their names to other professionals as being among those writers I take as role models, I am told time and again that I have chosen wisely. The anecdotes they provide in their Dialogues show a beginner how another one-time beginning managed to blossom into a successful science fiction writer.
There are other important books that will certainly get nods in this category, most notably the Heinlein biography by William H. Patterson and the Kornbluth biography by Mark Rich. And both books certainly deserve nomination. But Heinlein is in no danger of being forgotten. And Rich’s book has already done much to resurrect Kornbluth. In each case, however, we are talking about one writer. The Business of Science Fiction and the columns on which they are based is an attempt to preserve all of science fiction. The book is half of the result of a more than decades long collaboration, demonstrating a deep fondness for a genre whose most distant past is already being lost to obscurity. There is a nobility in this book, attacking the problem on two fronts: education fandom of the history of the genre and preserving it for future generations; and teaching the new generation of writers the tricks of the trade so that there will be a future generation.
I’m nominating The Business of Science Fiction for the Best Related Book Hugo and it’s the book that is getting my vote, as well. I’d encourage you to pick up a copy and read it. If nothing else, you’ll learn something about the genre you never knew. And if you are anything like me, once you’ve read the book, you will agree that it is the book that deserves the Hugo this year.