The Voice of Campbell
At the Campbell conference it was great seeing Jim Gunn, and hearing about his intriguing new novel working its way through Tor. I will always remember the first call I received 25 years ago from Jim, a few days after the birth of my son, so I could not then travel to accept the award. Over the years Jim has been leading the Kansas center, he promoted quality and diversity in SF.
Kij Johnson presented awards, and co-ran the conference with Chris McKitterick, the new Campbell director. Chris Priest sent a lovely acceptance speech saying how his work might not have been “approved” by the original Campbell, but how the Campbell jury has expanded its view over the decades. The writers workshop participants asked lots of insightful questions. Sheila Finch, Sheila Williams and I had some great laughs together about our misadventures with agents and other tales of publishing.
We had a most intriguing discussion of “voice” in science fiction. Andy Duncan and I read two very different stories, Andy’s from his new collection, about an aging UFO witness in the Ozarks; mine about “Tuberculosis Joins the UN” from Nature Futures. Each story depends heavily on voice for its effect. The conference had an earnest scholarly discussion of what goes into voice. I do recommend Andy’s collection, The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories, for some fun reading.
What makes for an interesting “voice” in fiction? I always think of those studies of the split-brain person, the one whose right brain draws the smiley face while the left brain makes up the reason why. Most of us don’t realize how much of life we spend doing that, after walling off our own brains. That’s what makes a voice interesting.
Which SF stories do you find memorable for their unique voice?