Only a handful of writers have won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for the same novel, twice. Today we wish a very Happy Birthday to one of those writers: the winner of the 1976 Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Forever War and, two decades later, the 1998 Hugo and the 1999 Nebula Awards with Forever Peace.
It is, of course, the great Joe Haldeman, winner of five Hugo Awards (three for best novel), five Nebulas (three for best novel), a World Fantasy, a James Tiptree Jr Memorial and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, among many others.
Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War (SF Masterwork paperback | SF Gateway eBook) was the book chosen, back in the dim, barely-remembered years of the 20th century, to launch the SF Masterworks series, Gollancz’s collection of the great milestone novels of 20th science fiction, which is a fitting indication of the high regard in which it’s held. It’s a wonderful book – very much the antithesis to the prevailing wind of pro-war, gung-ho military SF that preceded it – and very much informed by the author’s experiences during his tour of duty in Vietnam.
In The Forever War interstellar travel is effected by “collapsar jumps”, which are subjectively instantaneous but which in fact take many years to accomplish (> Relativity), so that they work as a kind of one-way Time Travel; propelled by this cruel device to temporally distant battle theatres on planet after planet, soldiers are doomed to total alienation from the civilization for which they are fighting, and if they make too large a jump face the risk of coming into battle with antiquated Weapons. Their deracination is savage, their camaraderie cynically manipulated. As a portrait of the experience of Vietnam the book is remarkable; as Military SF it is seminal.
But Joe Haldeman is far more than ‘the guy who wrote The Forever War‘ – there’s Mindbridge (Hugo nominated), All My Sins Remembered, The Hemingway Hoax, Camouflage (Nebula and Tiptree winner), The Accidental Time Machine (Nebula nominated), the Carmen Dula sequence (Marsbound, Starbound, Earthbound – handily collected in our Joe Haldeman SF Gateway Omnibus), and a host of short fiction.
Happy Birthday, Joe!