Category: John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Slate: Rabid Puppies
I think there’s still time to tackle a few Hugo nominees — or maybe not, because, as you know, Bob, John W. Campbell Award is not a Hugo. Still, I finally read The Martian, so let’s discuss Andy Weir for a minute.
As I have written earlier, Weir has ended up as a weird political football in the Hugo culture wars. Last year, various Sad/Rabid Puppy activists (such as this one) considered the fact that Weir hasn’t won a Hugo as proof of the literary feminist-communist social justice bias among the Worldcon fans. However, when the final numbers were released, it became clear that without the Puppy campaigns to mess things up, Andy Weir would have been a Campbell Award finalist (and The Martian would have almost made it into the ballot as well — even though it’s possible that it would have been judged ineligible). Instead, four Puppy authors of relatively unknown works were nominated alongside the eventual Campbell winner Wesley Chu and Weir was left on the sixth place (and out of the ballot).
This year, Weir is up there and he got the kennel votes as well.
Original The Martian is better than the Ridley Scott adaptation everybody’s probably seen. In it, the astronaut protagonist gets into more different kinds of trouble and sciences his way out of it, explaining what he does in his log entries. For me, reading the text that supposedly makes up those entries is a more engaging experience than watching Matt Damon do it.
The usual complaint against hard science fiction writing is that it’s technically bad, especially with characters, but Weir manages to write an entertaining superhuman. Come to think of it, that’s what astro/cosmo/taikonauts practically are.
While watching The Martian, I remember enjoying the cosmic visuals, but the reader of the book doesn’t have that and she has to be kept in awe of the science. It was quite impressive, considering that the natural sciences interest me very little. Still, Weir was able to force me into the aspiration porn mindset — ISN’T IT GREAT THAT THE HUMAN RACE HAS DONE SUCH A WONDERFUL THING AS GOING TO SPACE (AND MOSTLY ALSO MAKING IT BACK ALIVE??!!). Yeah, it is. Little less bable about making water and oxygen wouldn’t have hurt, but I guess that really paying attention to these technical details was what Weir’s project was about.
Andy Weir’s own story as a writer is another tale of aspirational pornography: he took some years off to write novels that nobody would buy, started to post his fiction online for free when that didn’t work out and slowly accumulated a readership of likeminded people. The Martian becoming a professionally published novel, a huge bestseller hit and later on a blockbuster movie was just a coincidence. Isn’t it great that a space nerd, who just does what he loves, manages to do such an awesome thing? Yeah!
So, nevermind Donald Trump and Vox Day and all the other party poopers, the human race can pull off pretty great stuff. Like in this video.
The Martian isn’t the best novel I’ve read lately, but I enjoyed it.
Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Score: 8.5/10 (and as a Hugo finalist in the Best Dramatic Presentation: Long category, I’ll give The Martian 7/10).