By:Chris Wyatt
Date: Saturday, February 23, 2002

The influential Philadelphia Science Fiction Society recently announced this year's nominees for one of SF biggest honors, the Philip K Dick awards.

Philip K Dick's mind-blowingly revolutionary science fiction has been adapted to the screen many times. Films based on his works include BLADE RUNNER, TOTAL RECALL, SCREAMERS, the recent IMPOSTER, and the upcoming Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise summer release THE MINORITY REPORT.

But as important as his contributions are to the silver screen, the author's literary legacy is even more enduring. Writing during the tumultuous socio-political climate of the sixties, Dick turned out works that resonated with the revolutionary undercurrent that defined his era. Nothing was sacred for the writer; he described both ray guns and gods with the same feverish excitement. Above all Dick explored definitions of reality by questioning the nature of memory its relationship to self-identity.

Dick's agnostically religious ponderings, and over-crowded future sprawls, directly influenced the works of later greats-- from the dark William Gibson to the optimistic Michael F Flynn. In fact, it isn't a stretch to say that most SF writers to come after Dick are compelled, in one way or another, to cope with the issues that his fiction raised.

Thus it was only appropriate when the author passed away, that fellow SF giant Thomas Disch founded the Philip K Dick Awards (PDKs). Each year the awards honor the best original science fiction novel to be first published in paperback form. Because the award is for paperback originals, it cuts out established and best-selling authors, whose works are initially published in hardback. This allows the PDKs to concentrate on new and experimental authors.

Cinescape hopes that you haven't put your money down on this year's race yet, because we're here to help you handicap the nominees:

COMPASS REACH by Mark W Tiedemann

PLOT: A revisionist space opera that balances adventure with character development.
PROS: This new writer concentrates on believability, which may appeal to hard SF minded PDK voters.
CONS: This novel is labeled as "Book One of the Secantis Sequence" may turn off PDK voters, who disfavor long series.

SHIP OF FOOLS by Richard Paul Russo

PLOT: A variation on the "generation ship" sub-genre, hundreds of years pass as travelers grow up, reproduce and die on a giant inner-stellar ship. So many decades go by that soon no one even has a record of where the ship is headed.
PROS: As a previous PDK recipient, Richard Paul Russo has the edge since PDK voters sometimes favor repeat winners. Also, the novel is published by ACE books, a company tends to have success on PDK night.
CONS: The unoriginal plot may disinterest PDK voters, who always hunger after the unexplored.

THE GHOST SISTER by Liz Williams
PLOT: Primitive humans who live on a world genetically engineered to be environmentally sound, mistake a visiting alien missionary for a spiritual manifestation.
PROS: This books probably represents the best plotted novel on this years list.
CONS: PDK voters are great about nominating female SF writers, but they have a horrible record for awarding them the prize.


PLOT: A human settlement on a distant planet prepares to receive a fresh ship of colonists from Earth, but the population's mayor will do anything, including murder, to keep the newcomers away.
PROS: The ironic wit of the novel has the settlement's mother ship as THE WALT DISNEY SPACESHIP, and the colonist's religion as an interesting mix of theology and science. This kind of sarcastic cynicism might remind PDK voters of Dick's own work. Also, the book, like SHIP OF FOOLS, is published by ACE.
CONS: The cons of this novel are we sniff a winner?


PLOT: Not actually a novel, but a series of literary SF short stories.
PROS: Vukcevich experiments with characters and language in a way that might appeal to the PDK-ers.
CONS: PDKs concentrate on novels, which will likely work against this anthology. However, PDK voters might consider awarding Vukcevich's book with a special citation as they did to Paul De Fillipo's excellent anthology LOST PAGES in 1998.


PLOT: Humans, who are expanding across the galaxy, begin to loose whole colonies to mysterious, unidentified aliens known as the Quill.
PROS: Czerneda creates a strong concept for an alien race, which may be of special interest to PDK voters.
CONS: Czerneda, like Liz Williams, may fall victim to PDK voters' tendency toward the male. Also, the first hundred pages or so of Czerneda's five hundred and seventy-five page novel, start slowly, which may turn off voters.

Good luck to all the nominees. The winners will be announced on the evening of March 30th at the Norwescon gala dinner in Seattle, Washington.