The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award is intended to showcase once important but largely forgotten science fiction/fantasy writers, who’ve often slipped out of print. Since its inception in 2001 it has shown an excellent taste, building up a list of great writers, but there’s something different about this year’s winner. Let’s see, shall we? Since 2001 the following writers have won the award:
- Olaf Stapledon, 2001: writing outside genre science fiction as a worthy heir to H. G. Wells, novels like Last and First MEn and especially Starmaker were truly cosmic in scale showing how science fiction could escape the petty concerns of everyday life and show how insignificant we really are in the universe, creating an almost religious sense of wonder.
- R.A. Lafferty, 2002: cynical, sarcastic, the sharpest wit in science fiction, fond of wordplay but never turning it into punishment, his stories always had a strong moral centre even if it was not always easy to find out exactly which moral centre. Nobody wrote like him before him, nobody writes like him now.
- Edgar Pangborn, 2003: one of the most humane science fiction writers, showing how science fiction could hold up a mirror to observers, that it could focus on people as well as on gadgets.
- Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, 2004: both were great writers on their own, but together they were also one of the great writing partnerships, in which even they themselves could often not tell who had written which story. C. L. Moore was almost as good a writer of planetary adventures as Leigh Brackett, as well as the creator of one of the great fantasy heroes, Jirel of Joiry, a redheaded warrior popular decades before Roy Thomas would resurrect an obscure Robert E. Howard character as Red Sonja. Kuttner specialised in humourous fantasy and science fiction stories, helping create a truly American fantasy tradition in the spirit of the old European fairy tales.
- Leigh Brackett, 2005: the best of the heirs of Edgar Rice Burroughs, better even than the man himself, unsurpassed when it comes ot proper planetary romance and science fantasy, as well as the writer for the best Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back
- William Hope Hodgson, 2006: Edwardian writer of horror, ghost stories and fantasy, still very readable today, his best works The House on the Borderland and The Night Land still impressing modern writers like China Miéville.
- Daniel F. Galouye, 2007: who wrote a handful of novels, one of which formed the basis of both a seventies German television series directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the 1999 movie The Thirteenth Floor
- Stanley G. Weinbaum, 2008: died much too young of a particularly nasty cancer but still managed to be the first writer to create truly alien aliens, back in the 1930ties.
- A. Merritt, 2009: a pulp writer of horror and fantasy, massively popular before World War II with multiple movie adaptations of his stories, a friend and influence on H. P. Lovecraft.
- Mark Clifton, 2010: co-writer of the worst novel ever to win the Hugo Award.
One of those winners is not like the others… Clifton might not be the worst science fiction writer ever, but does he really need to be rediscovered? Where is the Lionel Fanthorpe Reobscurity Award when you need it?