2012 Philip K. Dick Award Finalists Weigh in on PKD and the Competition

Jeff VanderMeer on March 29, 2013

The nominees for the 2012 Philip K. Dick Award were announced recently. The award is presented annually to a distinguished work of science fiction published in paperback original format.

  • Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot (Black Cat)
  • Harmony by Keith Brooke (Solaris)
  • Helix Wars by Eric Brown (Solaris)
  • The Not Yet by Moira Crone (UNO)
  • Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress (Small Beer)
  • LoveStar by Andri Snær Magnason (Seven Stories; translated by Victoria Cribb)
  • Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery (Tor)

    The winner will be revealed tonight -- Friday, March 29 -- at Norwescon in Seattle. But before that happens, while the finalists are all in that space between, we thought we’d check in with them and get their thoughts on the award's namesake as well as their knowledge of the other nominees...

    Amazon.com: Do you like Philip K. Dick's work, and can you share what's personal about being nominated for this particular award?

    Ryan Boudinot: I have enjoyed Philip K Dick's work, yes. I read a bunch of his short stories in college, then in recent years discovered his excellent novel VALIS. I admire his imagination a great deal and have found the work of his I've read to be incredibly daring.

    Keith Brooke: Yes, I'm a big admirer of his work. I have particularly fond memories of reading his novels in my teens. Books like a A Scanner, Darkly and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch made a huge impression: relentlessly readable but also a lot going on behind the scenes—I liked that I was reading something that stretched my mind as well as entertaining it. My YA novel Erased (published under the pen-name Nick Gifford) was a deliberate attempt to do a very Dickian thing: establish the reader's trust in a
    world and then peel that away a layer at a time with repeated
    rug-pull moments where the reader must reassess everything they thought they knew.

    Eric Brown: I love Dick's work. (I wrote the Penguin Classic edition's Introduction to his fantastic The Man in the High Castle). I like the way he writes about real people; how his heroes aren't super-heroes but people like you and me, with problems, weaknesses, hopes and desires. He's an amazing writer even if you consider merely his characterization. 

    On top of that there is what his novels are about: perceptions of reality and what it is to be human—and the fact that he was writing, particularly early in his career, when sci-fi wasn't about these things. He's a hero. The PKD award is nice in that it celebrates where he came from—the paperback original, the grunge end of the market. I like that.

    Moira Crone: I do like Philip K Dick's work. I think he is one of the writers who will be read the most in the future, because explores the shifting understanding we have about reality now, in the Quantum era. He is before his time, he got it. The observer influences what he observes. We are catching up now with the questions he was asking. I would say the same about Ursula K. Le Guin, whose Left Hand of Darkness predicted the entire challenge of the fluidity of gender roles, fifty years before it was in the mainstream consciousness.

    What is personal about this for me is that I have never written in this genre before and I had a lot of questions in the beginning about being accepted -- and many potential publishers were wary of this switch for me because they did not know how to market a sci-fi book. But I have found that sci-fi readers have embraced the book, and are incredibly enthusiastic and excited to talk to me about what I created and the worlds that other writers have engendered. 

    I am a total "newbie" in this world, and yet I got this far. Another thing that is personal is that I am being read by an entirely new generation than before, and I really love the energy of my new readers; they make me want to write in the genre more, to go for the sequel. Writing this sort of book in this age is very enjoyable, because you can have so much interchange with your readers.

    Nancy Kress: I first read Dick's The Man in the High Castle when it came out in 1962. I was fourteen, had just discovered sci-fi, and was baffled. This was such a strange book! I lacked sufficient knowledge of history to fully understand the changes that he was creating, but I was intrigued. And that is still the effect his work has on me: intrigue, occasional bafflement, and an enduring sense of the strange.

    Andri Magnason: I would say that his early influence on me was mainly through films and ideas floating around and discussed by friends. My early influence was by reading too much folklore, poetry and mythology while reading science and trying med school. Other writers include Karel Capek, Bulgakov, Calvino, Borges, Vonnegut and Orwell, and Icelandic writers and poets. Brautigan had quite an influence on LoveStar. I was kind of imagining a world before [his novel] In Watermelon Sugar when I started writing, but that changed so much that I would not call it a prequel.

    The nomination is very important, almost like an Olympic gold to me. I was a bit worried, looking over the endless pile of sci-fi, wondering what the real geeks would say about my book. I was not quite following the formula and genre rules that seemed to be dominating the scene. I wondered if my book lacked vampires or zombies or six volumes. I was also wondering if someone had already written my book without my knowledge. 

    Most importantly is that now I know that you can write some kind of sci-fi in a 1,000-year-old Viking language only spoken by 300,000 people and still be taken seriously and manage to connect to an audience in the large world (with the help of Vicky, my great translator of course).

    Amazon.com: If you don't win, who do you hope does win?

    Ryan Boudinot: I feel it's important to make the distinction that "I" have not been nominated for the award. My novel, Blueprints of the Afterlife has. I'll be genuinely happy for the author of whatever book is granted this award.

    Keith Brooke: Oh, Eric Brown, without a doubt. We've been friends for years, and we've written a bunch of stories together (a new edition of our collaborative collection, Parallax View, is just out in paperback and e-book formats). Beyond the friendship, though, he's a superb writer and really deserves the attention.

    Eric Brown: I hope Keith Brooke wins, period. His novel alt.human [as it's titled in the U.K.] -- Harmony in the States -- is better than my Helix Wars, and Keith deserves the award. He's a good friend and I was privileged to be among the first readers of the manuscript. If neither of us wins, then I hope Nancy Kress does. I haven't actually read her book, but I've read quite a bit of her work and admire it tremendously.

    Moira Crone: Of course I would want to win. I won't say who I like the best—I have only read about half the other nominees. I think that LoveStar and Lost Everything have very fine writing in them and I have found them wonderful. But I have not read Blueprints, yet, and some of the others. The range is exciting and all of them seem completely accessible to someone like me, who has read in sci fi but certainly not the whole genre. 

    Nancy Kress: I won't say who I think should win the award because I haven't read all the nominees, so it wouldn't be fair.

    Andri Magnason: I have been reading Blueprints of the Afterlife the recent weeks and it is a very inspiring great book, kind of the type of books I tend to seek and find very rarely. It seems like the jury is open to experimental things and I appreciate that. So, I am quite honored to be nominated along with that book. I am currently catching up on the other books, as I have just finished a deadline for my next book.

    Amazon.com: Can you give us a favorite teaser of a sentence from your nominated novel?

    Ryan Boudinot: "The world was full of precious garbage."

    Keith Brooke: "I opened my mouth to speak, to ask him what was going on, for I was suddenly sure that he understood far more than me, but then Pennysway began to unhappen."

    Eric Brown: "After the row with Maria, which left him feeling sick and wishing he could retroactively edit his words, Ellis strapped himself into the shuttle’s couch and prepared to take off from Carrelliville spaceport."

    Moira Crone: "Now dear boy, so far, you have been very brave."

    Nancy Kress: My nominated work is a collection of stories. This opening paragraph is from the eponymous story: "I had her in a ring. In those days you carried around pieces of a person. Not like today."

    Andri Magnason: From the manifesto of LoveStar, the CEO of the LoveStar corporation..."To be content with having had an idea is like being content with having once had an orgasm, being content with having once eaten or drunk."

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