Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Hugo / Nebula / PKDick overlap — and SF’s true Triple Crown

by Rob - January 13th, 2016.
Filed under: Awards.

On a friend’s wall, there’s a discussion of the lack of overlap between winners of the Philip K. Dick Award and the Hugo and the Nebula. There was also mention of the Hugo, Nebula, and Dick being “science fiction’s Triple Crown.” My comments:

Speaking as (a) a past Philip K. Dick Award judge, and (b) a past best-novel Hugo Award winner, and (c) a past best-novel Nebula Award winner, there are reasons for this. The Hugo is open to science fiction AND fantasy, in ALL book formats; the Nebula is open to science fiction AND fantasy in ALL book formats; the Philip K. Dick is open ONLY to science fiction ONLY first published in paperback. The POINT of the PKD is to spotlight books that have NOT been given prestige publishing (hardcover original) — just as Dick’s own works were not; it’s a way of spotlighting books that did not get hardcover treatment.

So, to find overlap in the winners you have to look at the years the Hugo or the Nebula went to a science fiction novel, not a fantasy novel, then look at years when that science fiction novel wasn’t published in hardcover.

It’s a rare overlap (it COULD have happened in 2014 with Anne Leckie’s ANCILLARY JUSTICE, the first paperback original to win the Hugo in a long time; ANCILLARY was also a PKD finalist). But that’s the ONLY example of a Hugo winner that could also have been a PKD winner form this century/millennium.

It is an honour and a privilege to be a Dick nominee, but the Dick is not, and was never intended to be, what the Hugo and the Nebulas are: an award for the best science fiction or fantasy novel of the year.

It’s only in the marketing of NEUROMANCER that the Dick/Hugo/Nebula is ever referred to as “science fiction’s Triple Crown.” It CAN’T be, because many/most of the SF books published in a given year are ineligible for the Dick (by virtue of not being paperback originals). NEUROMANCER was first published as a mass-market paperback original in the New Ace Specials line edited by Terry Carr.

If you want to make an analogy to the Triple Crown, the third award, after the Hugo and the Nebula, would be the juried John W. Campbell Memorial Award (not to be confused with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer); it’s the most-significant science-fiction award to be open to all science-fiction books (but, unlike the Hugo and the Nebula, it is only open to SF, not fantasy).

There have only been three winners of this actual Triple Crown (years are years of presentation for the Hugo and the Campbell; the Nebula is dated for the year of publication):

  • RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA by Arthur C. Clarke (1974)
  • GATEWAY by Frederik Pohl (1978)
  • THE WINDUP GIRL by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)

More about the John W. Campbell Memorial Award

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