Friday, January 08, 2010

No good deed goes unpunished, Iain M. Banks edition

One of my favorite writers is a Scottish science fiction writer, Iain M. Banks. He is arguably the best living SF writer who has never won a major award in the field (e.g., Hugo or Nebula).

Doing my small bit to redress this injustice, I nominated his novel "Matter," for the Prometheus Award, and my fellow judges voted to put it on the final ballot last year, where it duly lost to Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother."

A few months ago, as I read his great new novel, "Transition," I got more and more excited. It's a really fine work of science fiction, and politically it's all about the dangers of abuse of power, why it's important to guard against the loss of civil liberties, etc. Sounded like a strong candidate for another Prometheus nomination.

Then I ran across this passage, in which the novel's heroine, a Mrs. Mulverhill (a freedom fighter, apparently great in bed, too) is talking to an assassin about one of the hired killer's victims:

"No, he really was a shit. He wasn't really a genocidal racist as such but whenever he's not stopped he ends up causing such havoc he might as well as been. Wanted to buy up a state in the U.S. midwest and build an inpregnable Nirvana for the super-rich; Xanadu, Shangri-La.
Fantasy made real. A Libertarian." From his expression she must have thought he wasn't entirely familiar with the term. She sighed. "Libertarianism. A simple-minded right-wing ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to see past their own sociopathic
self-regard." (Chapter 13, page 326 of the American edition.)

It's a gratuitous passage, unrelated to the rest of the book as far as I could tell. Banks apparently just wanted to give a poke in the eye to any libertarian who might be reading his book.

You can see my dilemma. I wanted to nominate it, anyway — if Banks didn't want the nomination, well tough. It's not his decision. He's not a libertarian, but neither are other recent winners such as Charles Stross, Jo Walton, either. But I didn't want to subject my group to ridicule. If "Transition" showed up on the final ballot, inevitably someone would ask if members of the Libertarian Futurist Society can actually read. So I didn't nominate it, and nobody else has so far, either.

Well, maybe "Transition" will get a Hugo nomination. It certainly deserves one.

Let's hope she gets the android vote

Tessa Dick, ex-wife of Philip K. Dick, is running for Congress. Campaign blog here.

I've had a smile on my face ever since I heard about this. (Via Marty Halpern. Thanks for the informative Tweet!)