This August will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the initial publication of The Magic of Recluce. It was not nominated for any awards in the field when it was initially published or thereafter.

The World Fantasy Award for books published in 1991 had six finalists for best novel. Of those six titles, one is no longer available in any form, except possibly through rare book dealers. The other five are available in Kindle, but not from their original publishers. Of those five, the only new print format is trade paperback or print on demand form. Only one of them is selling at even a mid-list level currently.

There were five Hugo finalists for books published in 1991. Again, from what I can tell, all five are available in kindle format. Only one of the five is listed as having a current in-print paperback edition. Three have modest mid-list sales.

The Magic of Recluce is obviously available in Kindle, audio, and mass market paperback, and has been continuously in print for thirty years, unlike most of the award winners initially published in the same year.

Now, I’m far from the only author who can make such a claim. Perhaps the most notable example is Robert Jordan. None of the books in The Wheel of Time were even nominated while Jordan was alive, and the one Hugo nomination The Wheel of Time received was in 2014, seven years after he died.

Betty Ballantine, the co-founder of Bantam and Ballantine Books, once observed that there were other more important honors for a book than immediate awards. Awards are often fleeting, but sales over the years are more likely to indicate, at the least a lasting appeal, and, at times, true excellence unrecognized by awards too often based on “standards du jour.”

7 thoughts on “Awards”

  1. By and large, I’ve found the novels that win the Nebula Award to be fine books, often very fine books. But there are many books that I love that receive little award recognition. I’ve given Nebula recommendations to quite a few books by you and also by other authors (e.g. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) that haven’t gained many, if any, other recommendations. I’m glad your books have found readers, which is the best acclaim.

    Just checked my records. Last year I gave Nebula recommendations to four novels. Two received no other recommendations (Ben Aaronovitch’s False Value + Megan Whalen Turner’s The Return of the Thief). One of the four — Martha Well’s Network Effect — won the Nebula.

    1. Postagoras says:

      I’m a huge fan of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers Of London series. I’m befuddled as to why they aren’t better known.

      I think they’d make a fantastic series for one of the streaming services. I wonder why that hasn’t happened? Aaronovitch has TV experience, having written for Doctor Who. Curious!

  2. Sam says:

    I have a question. Were the finalists from 1991 from authors who are still producing new books that are being published today? Alternatively or additionally were they books in an ongoing series?

    Regardless of the quality of the finalists both of these things are factors that could contribute a books continuing marketability. After all new Recluce books are still being published today.

    1. Four of the five 1991 Hugo nominees are still alive, and at least three are still actively writing, but only one of the books nominated in 1991 was part of an ongoing series [and to support your point, that writer is still selling well and getting nominations]. Of the six World Fantasy nominees, all are still alive, but only one appears to be producing much in the way of new work.

      That series book in 1991 is one of the very few nominees and perhaps the only series book, at least that I can recall, to win a Hugo. Certainly, there haven’t been many.

  3. Lourain says:

    Of the six World Fantasy Award nominees, I recognize several of the authors, know that I read several of the books, but do not remember any details of the novels.
    I remember your books, and reread them!

    I certainly remember the Hugo winner. One of my favorite authors. The others? No.

    I guess that ‘fame’ is fleeting.

  4. Postagoras says:

    It seems to me that the community didn’t quite know what to make of you when The Magic Of Recluce was published, and this left you in a twilight-zone of uncertainty with regard to awards.

    Part of this is style- I’m no literary critic, but you have a much more developed authorial voice than you did in 1991. You even took the time to rewrite The Fires of Paratime.

    But it’s not just style.

    To me, your stories ask the classic question “What if?” and answer it in a different way than most other authors. You show how the ability to channel order or chaos affects personalities, relationships, employment, trade, and politics.

    Plus, your characters are relentlessly complete people, with abilities and flaws. None of them are heroes in the usual sense.

    I very much like this kind of storytelling, and obviously I’m not alone in that. (It’s a pet peeve of mine when a writer uses technology as a shortcut, like gravity control on a starship. Gravity control would have enormous effects on a society, but that’s ignored- the writer just doesn’t want to deal with weightlessness.)

    I think it may be that while you have folks who like your books and seek them out, you also have folks who very much don’t like your approach and style. This could’ve affected the momentum that carries a book through the awards machinery.

  5. Darcherd says:

    In books, as in films, my experience is that if a work receives awards or critical recommendations, it is almost certainly very good. However, the inverse is not at all true, i.e. lack of an award or recommendation does not mean the work is bad.

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