Worlds & Time

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why isn't Connie Willis really famous?

So, one of my four favorite science fiction authors won another Hugo award yesterday. I haven't read her latest duet of novels, Black Out/All Clear, but I own them and they'll be read soon. Nearly everything that I've read by her has been brilliant though, even her book of science fiction Christmas stories (it works surprisingly well).

That Hugo Award win means that Connie Willis joins the tiny club of Robert Heinlein, Lois McMaster Bujold, Vernor Vinge and Isaac Asimov as the winner of more than two Hugo Awards for Best Novel, although Asimov and Heinlein have the slight asterisk of having won a retro Hugo (given for a year prior to the establishment of the Hugos in retrospect) among his honors. Bujold and Asmiov have four, and Vinge and Willis have three.

But that doesn't mean that she's just won three Hugo awards. She's won eleven total in all categories including short stories, novellas, and once for a novelette. All four major fiction categories. And she's won seven Nebula Awards, again in all four categories.

And there's the additional matter of the ten Locus awards, again in all four categories and the additional category of best collection (twice). Granted, she's missing the fantasy novel category at the Locus awards, but she was nominated once for it.

So, she's won all of the major science fiction awards, in all twelve of the categories that they have for them (and a Locus thirteenth).

Asimov was writing before and while the three major categories of awards here were being formed. His Foundation series, which is still brilliant, missed the start of the Nebula and Locus awards by more than ten and twenty years respectively, but did win the previously mentioned retro Hugo award for one of it's sections, and a special Hugo (ish*) award for "Best all-time series." Overall, he still won 6 normal Hugos (missed the novella category), 2 special Hugos, 2 Nebulas (for novel and novelette), and 7 Locus awards (again, no award for novellas but he did win for Nonfiction [twice] and for anthology). Were you to weight those wins the same, that's 17 major wins across his lifetime.

Bujold is next. She's won those four Hugo awards for novels but only one other Hugo category, novella for The Mountains of Mourning. Bujold also has 3 Nebula awards, two novels and a novella (again for The Mountains of Mourning). She also has three Locus award wins, two for science fiction novels and once for fantasy novel (the locus splits those two up). That's eleven total.

Heinlein, similar to Asimov, was writing before the major awards were completely established, and I actually suspect this hurt him more than Asimov. He's got those four Hugo awards for best novel, one retro Hugo, and one retro Novella Hugo for a total of six. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any Nebula awards, but again, they started late and he finished rather early, although he was still nominated for best novel four different times. He does have two Locus awards, once for Job: A Comedy of Justice (fantasy novel) and a nonfiction book. So that's only eight total.

Vernor Vinge, whose work I also love, has five Hugo award in total. Three of his Hugo awards are for best novel, and two are for novella. He also has no Nebula awards (that just amazes me, actually) even though unlike Heinlein he began writing after the start of these awards. He also has two Locus awards, one for novel and one for novella (The Cookie Monster, great story, I highly recommend it). That's only six major wins across the three major science fiction awards that I'm tracking here.

Before I get back around to Connie Willis, I'm going to throw two other names out there that are required on this list: the first is Ursula K. Le Guin. She's won an astonishing number of awards. Like Connie Willis, she's won all four of the major Hugo categories (and she was the first woman to win for best novel), plus a second Hugo award for best novel for a total of five Hugos. She's won six Nebula awards (four novels, one short story, one novelette). And get this, she's won twenty-one Locus Awards in basically everything that you can possibly win, all five of the major categories (sf novel and fantasy novel, novella, novelette, short story) plus nonfiction, plus collections (five of them). And, just to make this complicated, she's also won two World Fantasy Awards, one for best novella and novel, too. That's 32 major wins without the two WFAs, and 34 with.

The second is Neil Gaiman. He's won four Hugos, with two novels and a novella and short story. He's won two Nebulas, one each for novel and novella. And he's won 15 Locus awards, including being the only person on the list to win for the Locus best YA novel category (he's won it twice) although like Asimov he doesn't have one in the Novella category. Gaiman, like Le Guin, has also won a World Fantasy Award, although in his case it's for short story. That's 22 major wins with the WFA, and 21 without.

So let's get around back to Connie Willis. As I pointed out, she's won those eleven Hugos, seven Nebulas, and ten Locus awards. That's 28 major award wins. 28 major award wins including just about every major science fiction category and major novel wins. Doomsday Book won all three major science fiction awards for best novel, incidentally.

So, as far as this little survey goes, Connie Willis is the second most award winning science fiction/fantasy author in English, trailing Ursula K. Le Guin by four or six wins depending on how you count. And she leads Neil Gaiman, Vernor Vinge, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein by sizable margins. And, if this wasn't already clear she's the only person, ever, to dual win both the Hugo and the Nebula award in every single category.

And tonight, the day after she won her 28th major award, we had some friends over for dinner. We talked science fiction for a bit and I recommended Connie Willis. And despite being a consistent reader of science fiction, he'd never heard of her before. We would have loaned him a copy of To Say Nothing of the Dog on the spot, but apparently we've already lent it out. That still staggers me. She's one of the most award winning science fiction writers of all time, and she's still completely unknown, even among many devoted science fiction fans.

Why isn't Connie Willis really famous? I just don't understand.


* Just to be clear, the best all-time series was a special Worldcon award, but since the Hugo rules apparently allows the Worldcon to tack on awards, I'm not exactly sure why it isn't explicitly a Hugo award.

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