WI:AHC: Science Fiction Authors winning the Nobel Prize of Literature

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Richter10, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. Richter10 Well-Known Member

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    In 2007, Doris Lessing was the first author with major works in the genre of Science Fiction to win the Nobel Prize of Literature.

    But would be possible for a Science Fiction author win such prize before 2007? If so, which ones?

    My bets: Clifford Simak, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Ursula K. Le Guin.

    Yours?

    EDIT: Preference for authors that admit that their work is Science Fiction. Lessing did admit it and defended the genre.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012
  2. Alien and Sedition Bat Well-Known Member

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    An article in the NY Times Sunday magazine a couple of years ago suggested that Jack Vance might have won the Nobel Prize if he'd been a writer in Latin America (the land of magical realism). There really is something unique about his work that transcends genre boundaries and it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the Nobel Prize Committee will recognize him before he dies. But he needs to be nominated....
     
  3. Lord High Executioner Is also the very model of a modern Major-General

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    In 1974, a poem written in 1956 about a space ship thrown off course and
    drifting through space is said to be one of the reasons for Harry
    Martinson's prize.

    Of course, lots of people insist that it is Literature, not science fiction.

    Sorry, couldn't find a better link.
     
  4. freivolk Well-Known Member

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    Herman Hesses http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Bead_Game plays in the future (Hesse said it plays in the 25. century). Okay, it contains no fancy tech stuff, but it describe a utopian (but a bit stagnat) High Civilisation, which looks down on the 20-century as a time of troubles.
     
  5. RPW@Cy Well-Known Member

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    Rudyard Kipling who won in 1907 should probably count. He wrote masses of stuff that count as fantasy ("The Jungle Book", "Puck of Pook's Hill", etc.) and "With the Night Mail" should certainly count as SciFi. Getting Kipling known as a genre author rather than a mainstream author who wrote a few genre pieces is probably a bigger challenge frankly.

    But to answer the original question, H G Wells (who lived until 1946) must surely be a very strong candidate for first SF author to win the prize in any fair ATL.
     
  6. Lord High Executioner Is also the very model of a modern Major-General

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    True, and I wouldn't get hung up on "known as a genre author rather than
    a mainstream author who wrote a few genre pieces".
    That line of thinking does not lead to a happy place.
     
  7. Alien and Sedition Bat Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely correct; The Glass Bead Game IS science fiction, although one might subclassify it as science fantasy.
     
  8. Astrodragon Coffee-seeking Dragon

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    There are two (so far insoluble) problems.

    First, no writer of Literature is going to contemplate for a moment giving the prize to a genre writer (of any genre). It would pollute the pristine purity that is Literature.:mad:

    Second, genre fiction tends to revolve around good characters or good plots (or both). Literature tends to revolve around picking fluff out of your navel.:mad:

    Bitter? Moi?:mad::mad:
     
  9. Alien and Sedition Bat Well-Known Member

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    Much of Margaret Atwood's work is science fiction. Earlier in her career, she denied that her work included science-fiction, but later conceded that she writes "social science fiction." I believe that The Handmaid's Tale is influenced by Robert Heinlein's eerily prescient Nehemiah Scudder novelette ("If This Goes On--", 1940), which also is social science fiction targeting an earlier incarnation of the Religious Right that Atwood targets. The Blind Assassin, although not science fiction, contains within it the text of a work of science fantasy which the heroine's lover supposedly wrote for the pulp s-f market in the 1930s. Then there's Atwood's Oryx and Crake trilogy of which two volumes have already been published, and the quasi-fantasy The Robber Bride (whether to include this fine novel depends on how you define the relationship between fantasy and science fiction).

    I think it is highly likely that either Atwood or her fellow Canadian Alice Munro will win the Nobel Prize within the next few years. I'd place my bet on Atwood because of the greater thematic range and versatility of her work as poet, novelist, short story writer and critic.

    Indeed, it would be easy to construct a scenario in which the Nobel Prize was given to Atwood several years ago.
     
  10. Killer300 Well-Known Member

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    I think the key is to force the people who came up with the award to admit that science fiction can be deep, as well as fantasy. If they do, there are plenty of sci-fi titles that probably could've won it by now.

    This would probably take an earlier POD however.
     
  11. unclepatrick Well-Known Member

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    Vonnegut was the first writer that came to mind. I like Simak but he barely known in the Sci Fi fandom any more. The odds of Stockholm knowing him is nill. Ursula K Le Guin, would not appeal to the mainstream taste. Most Non fan are exposed to her only if there college literature teacher assigns as the look at Science Fictions.

    Vonnegut is the only one who IMHO is a real contender. I was lucky enough to have here him speak twice and I got a opportunity once after were to meet him for a few minutes and talk to him while he sign my books.
    I could just image him giving his charting of Literature speech to Stockholm. Some how I don't think they would realize that he was Joking.
     
  12. Alien and Sedition Bat Well-Known Member

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    Things are changing. Science fiction and other genres are taught and seriously studied at many universities. "Mainstream" writers have been attracted to s-f and have done good work, with relatively tight plotting, although not marketing their work as genre s-f (e.g., Atwood, Marge Piercy, Phillip Roth, others). The prestigious Library of America has embraced noir and hard-boiled mystery writers as well as HP Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick. Genre writers keep getting rediscovered, most recently William Gresham.

    The genre label may be stronger than ever as a marketing device, but this is because it sells more books and because writers deliberately write for fans who expect a high level of suspense (e.g., military science fiction) or that certain genre conventions be followed (as in the mysteries of P.D. James, whose work fits--within these conventions--every standard of serious "mainstream" fiction but nevertheless is labeled as genre).

    If a scenario were constructed around the Nobel Prize taking s-f seriously it would have to include the prior development of a strong pro-genre movement in the universities to challenge the domination of the cult of Henry James, Melville and Joyce. The best time for that to begin would have been during the anti-Vietnam war years, when so many orthodoxies were being challenged, but alas, such a movement would probably have spent much of its time ranting against Heinlein as a "fascist" (he wasn't) and Lovecraft as a racist (he was, although it wasn't a major feature of his fantasy writings). Also, it would clash and probably be obscured for awhile by the urgent need to give acknowledgement to long neglected black writers and women writers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2012
  13. mattep74 Well-Known Member

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    Well, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and nominate him
     
  14. wietze Figment of my own Imagination

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    Jules Verne (died 05) could have been a contender, and getting a prize something this early of the history of the prize would open the future prizes for a lot more writers. Maybe even one for Arthur Conan Doyle.
     
  15. Astrodragon Coffee-seeking Dragon

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    More like mass assasinations in the Lit'rary world...:mad::mad:
     
  16. Judah Benjamin Banned

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    I can think of several of Heinlein's books that would have fit the bill.
     
  17. jamsodonnell Well-Known Member

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    I've read that Karel Capek was considered for the Nobel prize in the 30s. RUR and certainly War With the Newts could be considered as science fiction. Apparently he was rejected by the Nobel committee for being too anti fascist and they didn't want to ofend Herr Hiter.....

    Widen to fantasy and you could include Gabriel Garcia Marquez who won the Nobel prize in the early 80s.Magical realism is fntasy under a "nicer" name

    If only Yevgeni Zamyatin won for We
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2012
  18. jamsodonnell Well-Known Member

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    Going forward I would not be surprised if Salman Rushdie does not win the Nobel prize. His first work Grimus (not that I cared for it) was a work of fantasy. Midnight's Children and several other of his works could be considered fantasy of the magical realist sort.

    Maybe Isabel Allende might win in due course. Very much a magical realist.
     
  19. von hitchofen Banned

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    I don't think the Nobel judges would have touched Heinlein [too pulpy], or Lovecraft [too weird] with a sterilised flagpole

    HPL was more popular after his death than during his lifetime - it'd be like Robert Johnson getting a Platinum disc in return for his soul ;)

    the only real runners would be HG Wells and Aldous Huxley [neither of them a genre SF writer, but as good as its likely to get]

    JRR Tolkein might be in with a chance, but I doubt it

    I think William Gibson ought to be the first SF Nobel prize - you may not like his books [I don't much], but they are influential

    Neal Stephenson perhaps, too
     
  20. Killer300 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, Neuromancer certainly could have, if perhaps not when it was first released, considering all it predicted with things like computers.