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A collaborative blog by Locus editors, contributors, and other invited guests. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine or Locus Online.

(Earlier posts end here in April 2010)




Alvaro Zinos-Amaro


Alan Beatts
Terry Bisson
Marie Brennan
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F. Brett Cox
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Brian Evenson
Jeffrey Ford
Karen Joy Fowler
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Rich Horton
Guy Gavriel Kay
James Patrick Kelly
Mark R. Kelly
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Tim Pratt
Cat Rambo
Paul Graham Raven
Graham Sleight
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Peter Straub
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Paul Witcover
Gary K. Wolfe
E. Lily Yu

The Winningest First Novel in Science Fiction History…

Is, arguably, now Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl.

I got an email query on this topic a few days ago, and today spent the time to update the Locus Index to SF Awards with the Hugo and Campbell results.

The key tally for this question is presented in FAQ #7: What novels have won the most awards overall?. Just scan down the rankings for first novels…

You’ll notice that Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell ranks very high, with 6 different awards — but it’s a fantasy novel. The question was about first SF novel.

Well but — William Gibson’s Neuromancer also won 6 awards. It won the Hugo, the Nebula, the Philip K. Dick… and a Ditmar, a Science Fiction Chronicle poll, and a Seiun. If you, ahem, consider only the first three to be ‘major’ awards, Neuromancer won three major SF awards.

Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl has now won 5 awards — Hugo, Nebula, Campbell Memorial, Locus (first novel), and Crook. Arguably, these five slightly outweigh the six that Neuromancer won…. Campbell trumping PKD in scope; Locus, if not necessarily as ‘major’ as a Hugo or Nebula, nevertheless trumping, I think we can agree, the long-discontinued Chronicle poll. Grant Locus the status of half-major, then, and Windup Girl has three and half majors. (With the potential for additional less-than-major honors to come… potentially even a chance for a Clarke, once it’s published in Britain.) However you count it, an impressive achievement.


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Time September 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jason Sanford, Joshua Johnson, 山岸真(P.N), a nanny mouse, Locus Magazine and others. Locus Magazine said: Roundtable: The Winningest First Novel in Science Fiction History… […]

Comment from Rick Riffel
Time September 10, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I’d count the Philip K. Dick award as a full major, and the Ditmar a half-major that would have been full major if Neuromancer had been published in Australia first. The Locus would be a full major, but since it’s for a first novel it’s a half. The Compton Crook award is a half major as it’s also for a first novel. Of the 6 awards for Clarke’s fantasy novel, there’s a Hugo and a World Fantasy, 2 majors, then a Locus for first novel, and a Mythopoeic award, 2 half-majors. That adds up to 3 majors for Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, so it’s outweighed by both Neuromancer with 3 1/2, and The Windup Girl with 4 even.

Comment from Mark R. Kelly
Time September 10, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Very astute analysis.

Pingback from The Windup Girl & Neuromancer: Two Great Books No Matter The Score []
Time September 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm

[…] Magazine groveled through their database and found Neuromancer ahead by 6 to 5, although they also tried to take the relative weight of the awards into account. The merits of determining an exchange rate between Ditmars and Campbells aside, they also came down […]

Comment from Mark R. Kelly
Time September 11, 2010 at 10:30 am

Groveled? Anyway don’t blame the Magazine – it’s only me here at the website, and awards index, who responded to the query and offered the analysis.

Comment from John leavitt
Time September 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

Sorry about the wording… I meant “go through” and have no idea why the word “grovel” popped into my head. It was late (my time) so perhaps that is to blame. I’ll fix the phrases and be sure to correctly attribute the article to you.

In any case, I wasn’t trying to “blame” anybody so much as to (a) offer a different take on scorekeeping and (b) point out that scorekeeping isn’t the important thing here.

Comment from Rick Riffel
Time September 12, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I did the nit-mincing. No serious intent to downplay Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. A well-honored first novel, not hard-SF at least, but no less different from The Windup Girl and Neuromancer than they are to eachother. You can’t fully compare each one, still all three are a must-read.

Comment from Kenny Cross
Time September 13, 2010 at 8:32 am

I like this post. I have a question for future purposes: let’s say 25 years from now will THE WINDUP GIRL have as much of an impact on the science fiction community as NEUROMANCER has had over the last 25 years? Or do novels lack the impact they once had considering the various media science fiction fans input themselves to nowadays compared to say 25 years ago when NEUROMANCER was spawned upon the world.

I am a huge fan of NEUROMANCER and THE WINDUP GIRL. After I read THE WINDUP GIRL I put it down and thought this was exactly the kind of science fiction novel that would win awards. Of course THE CITY & THE CITY is too (which I also thought was amazing – kind of PK DICK & KAFKA tripping on salvia). Anyway just a few musings.

Comment from Mark R. Kelly
Time September 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Reply to Kenny Cross — I would say that the current awards record is no guarantee that THE WINDUP GIRL will have the same impact in the long run as NEUROMANCER, or any other highly awarded novel. I think novels will always have their place; that’s not the issue. But awards have so many factors that influence them — among them, the relative competition in any given year, and the popularity of the authors themselves on the convention scene, which influences voters — awards, per se, are not the best guides to enduring quality. Only time will tell. That’s why despite the nitpicky tallying of major and minor wins that launched this post, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. True literary quality is not assessed by numbers of awards. (As my favorite example, see if you think the best new SF/fantasy writers of the past 30 years are accurately reflected by the winners of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Many first-rate writers won, but many others didn’t. And a fair number of, in retrospect, relatively minor writers won.)

Comment from Mihailo
Time September 14, 2010 at 2:51 am

Baćigalupijev roman u pravodu na srpski “Mehanička devojka” izlazi iz štampe u oktobru.
Biće hit Sajma knjiga u Beogradu.

Comment from Mihailo
Time September 14, 2010 at 2:52 am

Link ka knjizi na srpskom:

Pozdrav Baćigalupiju.

Comment from Brainshades
Time September 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I think it’s reasonably safe to say that “THE WINDUP GIRL” will stand out as an important work in the field many, many years from now. What I’m curious to see is if it will end up being viewed as the precursor to a “GenePunk” movement. Certainly there’s been plenty of genetics based SF written in the past 20+ years or so, but it hasn’t been the dominant theme… Bacigalupi may very well inspire hoards of young authors to use third-world settings and genetics based science to tell their tales.

Pingback from Night Shade Books | Lovecraft's Worlds
Time March 26, 2012 at 10:16 am

[…] Kelly, Mark R. (10 September 2010). “The Winningest First Novel in Science Fiction History…”. Locus […]

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