Here’s a question guaranteed to spark robust discussions (if not outright arguments) in the bar at your next convention: who is the best science fiction writer in the world?
Tough one, isn’t it? Not least because before you even think about defining ‘best’, you have to define ‘science fiction’ – a task that has been thankless for years and has now been rendered almost impossible thanks to the proliferation of opinion on social media. Nah, best to leave it alone and move on. Except. Except . . .
For about half a dozen years, as the world ran breathless through political assassinations, generational upheavals and a Space Race in full cry, that most volatile of all fannish questions actually had an answer – or as close to an answer as we’re ever likely to get. Between 1967 and 1973, the best science fiction writer in the world was (almost certainly) Robert Silverberg. Naturally, you’re not going to let us get away with that without any supporting evidence, are you? So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we give you Exhibit A:
The Masks of Time – shortlisted for the 1969 Nebula Award for best novel
‘Nightwings’ – winner of the 1969 Hugo Award for best novella; shortlisted for the 1969 Nebula Award for best novella
‘Passengers’ – shortlisted for the 1970 Hugo Award for best short story; winner of the 1970 Nebula Award for best short story
A Time of Changes – shortlisted for the 1972 Hugo Award for best novel; winner of the 1972 Nebula Award for best novel
The World Inside – shortlisted for the 1972 Hugo Award for best novel but subsequently withdrawn
‘Good News from the Vatican’ – winner of the 1972 Nebula Award for best short story
The Book of Skulls – shortlisted for the 1973 Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel
Dying Inside – shortlisted for the 1973 Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel
‘When We Went to See the End of the World – shortlisted for the 1973 Hugo and Nebula Awards for best short story
That’s half a dozen years in which Robert Silverberg accrued thirteen nominations for each of the two major SF awards, yielding four wins – and that’s without taking into account the wins and nominations for awards outside his native USA (three Ditmars, two Seiuns, a Prix Apollo and a Geffen) and the places in the Locus Awards (25).
Ladies and gentlemen, the defence rests.