I’m bittersweet about the Campbell Award. I like applauding new writers, and I was very happy when Andy Weir’s award was accepted by an actual astronaut last year. Thus annihilating my worries that the Campbell Award was a participation trophy for high strung millennial thoroughbreds.
Even so, as a humble craftsmith of purple-prosed pulp, it’s easy for me to sneer at the debutantes. And although what I’d really like to do is tag their pristine white dresses with catapulted meatballs, and what I should do is work on my PR so I have actual reviews and networkability like these shining folks, what I shall do is investigate their backgrounds. Cora Buehlert’s recap tracks diversity, in case anyone’s wondering about the finalists’ demographics, so I’m not going to go there. I just want to judge them as people.
I’ll start with Sarah Gailey. Her debut novella will be out in a few months, on Tor, and she’s written lots of short stories and some non-fiction. Much of the non-fiction concerns the women of Harry Potter. She lives in Oakland and she hangs out with best novel nominee Anders. Seems like she has kind of a neopagan slant, with spotlights on Minerva and witches and villainesses, also wrote a neurodiversity piece on mentally ill women. Has a dog named Pepper Jack.
Next is J. Mulrooney, the Rabid Puppies candidate. He is a Goodreads author and there’s nothing quite like a book collection for gauging someone’s personality. Sure enough, right there on page one is a 5-star review of his own book. I’ll confess I reviewed my own book on Goodreads, but only to get it listed, I didn’t actually give it stars. He also digs Tolkein, Narnia, Lewis, Wodehouse; and he seems to be a Christian that reads myths from other cultures. He 2-stars Ayn Rand and 3-stars Ralph Ellison. He’s got room for Blake and Tolstoy … arrrgh, and there’s another 5-star self-review. And a nearly-redeeming 4-stars for Watership Down.
Malka Older wrote Infomocracy and has an interesting international background in risk reduction . A very splendid and jewel-encrusted debutante, she seems to have plenty of mainstream buzz but not a lot of sci fi cred (yet).
Ada Palmer is a role model for us all. Historian! Composer! Optimist! Tezuka fan! I haven’t even read her books yet but somehow I think I will like them.
Laurie Penny describes herself as a small shy British weirdo. She’s into gonzo journalism, and has written many articles on things like millennials, gender queer feminism, robots, Game of Thrones, etc.
Kelly Robson is a predebutante whose debut novella comes out next year. She does Soviet-gothic, Lit-Noir, Historical Fantasy. Guillermo del Toro fan.
Which debutante would I most like to serenade? Totally Ada Palmer, with Malka Older in second place. I do know I would have a hard time voting a Campbell Award for any of the finalists who haven’t published any novels yet, thus putting them on the same footing with Andy Weir; that would be downright preposterous.