I definitely think there is a distorting effect to awards on writers’ self-esteem and self-concept. That was part of what I was trying to say in my comment. And the list of great writers and stories that have never received an award is painful to read. That’s why your quote from Spielberg (not a fave of mine) about Citizen Kane, Raging Bull, etc. is so very well taken.
Despite my pleasure in winning, and the sense of community that awards can foster, I do think we have too many of them, and the best stance for a writer to take, ultimately, is Sterling’s: try not to care. It’s unseemly how much emotional energy and more we can invest in these things. I think one reason Tom Disch wrote his bitter little book on SF, in which he trashed Ursula Le Guin and J.G. Ballard, was unhappiness over the fact that he’d been passed over for every sf award he’s been nominated for, and they, his peers, were famous.
I was at the Boston Worldcon where On Wings of Song was nominated for the Hugo, and the award went to Clarke’s The Fountains of Paradise. I thought Disch’s novel was much better, and as I left the auditorium I just happened to be walking beside him. He didn’t know me from Adam; I leaned over to him and said I thought his was much the better book and deserved to win. Disch said, “It’s okay. He’ll die sooner than I.”
I don’t think that was much consolation to Disch. I can’t imagine a writer as fine as he spent a lot of time obsessing about this, but I do think it ate at him at least a little.
Paul has written stories that give me infinitely more pleasure than many that have won awards. And he deserves to have his name spelled right.
As far as I can tell, Ray Bradbury has not won a single award in our field, until his career was at the point where he began to get Lifetime Achievements.
(He got the 1954 Hugo for Fahrenheit 451, but it was awarded in 2004, as one of the Hindsight Hugos…)
Paul Di Filippo
John–your kindly words are all the award I need!
Sorry to devolve the lofty conversation into a love fest!
Paul, if by any chance they accidentally inserted a “z” into your misspelled last name, I’d like to buy that award off of you. I figure it’s the closest any committee will ever come to spelling my last name correctly on an award.
Paul Di Filippo
I think that in this as everything else in art, time will winnow out the wheat from the crap. I’m sure someone out there knows or remembers who won the Hugo for best short story or novel in 1947 (or 1954 or 1970), but I don’t. That doesn’t mean I might not have read & admired them. Novels and stories survive by word of mouth as much as by sales or literary recognition. A hundred years from now, will people read David Foster Wallace as avidly as they now read David Sedaris, or as they read David Copperfield? Literary tastes change, and we’re unfortunately (or fortunately) not in the position to see where that change will leave the works we believe are important. In a global culture where multiliteracy, incorporating myriad forms of post-literate, post-textual narrative, increasingly holds sway, the lifespan of a novel will probably be determined more by its successful transmission to another media (film, app, game, drug) than its literary stature.