SFWA Grand Master: CJ Cherryh

So pleased to see that SFWA has named CJ Cherryh as the 32nd Grand Master, for lifetime achievement in science fiction and fantasy. The title could not be bestowed on a more deserving author.

Annoyingly, SFWA does not provide an obvious link from that announcement to a list of previous Grand Masters. In case you, like me, can’t rattle the entire list off at the drop of a hat, here’s a link to Wikipedia’s list. Well, that is an impressive list. I’ve read *something* by most of these authors, but in general not a lot by any of them — except, let me see. Okay, Heinlein and Niven, and before that Andre Norton and Ann McCaffrey. Those four, and at this point I think I have no more than half a dozen books by any of them still on my shelves.

In contrast, I have practically Cherryh’s whole backlist. In paper. Lots in hardcover.

When anyone comments to me that they couldn’t find any books by female authors when they were growing up, or any SFF books by female authors, I can only look at them blankly. Because CJ Cherryh was there for me through practically my whole reading life, looming above virtually all other SFF authors in my personal reading universe.

So, okay, how does Cherryh actually stack up against all these other Grand Masters? Let’s just pull out a few names:

Poul Anderson published a zillion titles, looks like roughly eighty or so (wow). The ones that I read more than once and that stuck with me are The High Crusade and Firetime.

Asimov wrote, what, twenty or thirty novels and a whooooole bunch of short stories and nonfiction articles and things. I like his nonfiction a lot better than his fiction, personally.

Arthur C Clark wrote about thirty novels and a lot of short stories. I read a few of his novels, but he really didn’t do it for me as a writer. Of course, that was long ago, but I don’t suppose it’s likely I’ll ever go back and try his books again, not when my TBR pile is so huge already.

Heinlein published 32 novels in his career, of which I really enjoyed many (particularly the juveniles, what would now be called YA), disliked some (particularly the later titles and especially Job), and still own maybe half a dozen.

Ursula K LeGuin published about 40 novels, counting lots of children’s books, apparently, which I hadn’t realized. I admire her writing, but only a few of these became favorites — I’ve re-read Tombs of Atuin quite a few times.

Okay, according to my quick count via Wikipedia, Cherryh has published 71 books, not counting the Morovingen Nights and Kings in Hell anthologies.

And she’s still going. And her next Foreigner novel is one my Most Anticipated list for 2016 forthcoming titles.

So, heartfelt congratulations to CJ Cherryh!

Does anybody leap out for any of you: authors who totally ought to be next year’s choice for Grand Master? Because for me Cherryh was definitely the one author who ought to have the title, and now that she’s got it, I’m out of suggestions.

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13 thoughts on “SFWA Grand Master: CJ Cherryh”

  1. Orson Scott Card? Probably Kim Stanley Robinson. The other important names I can think of are still young enough that I don’t think the career-culmination grandmastership makes sense.

    Both OSC and KSR were born in the early 50s, actually, so they’re arguably a wee bit young yet themselves, but I do get the impression they’re clearly past their career peak. (C.J. was born in 1942; I’m not sure how old the youngest Grand Master ever was at the time he/she was named.)

  2. I have sometimes thought Card was past his peak, and then he comes out with something like Enchantment and I change my mind. But I do think the quality of Card’s novels is wildly variable. I’m not as familiar with the body of KSR’s work, but I know he’s written a lot and I could definitely see him making Grand Master at some point. Let’s see: Wikipedia indicates he has only 20 novels out, but then they are mostly such big, ambitious novels. And he’s apparently got some short work out, too.

    For some reason, mentioning KSR makes me jump to Daniel Abraham, including James S A Corey’s work in Abraham’s bibliography, of course. I could see Abraham making Grand Master in a decade or two given his big epic fantasy series and his big epic SF series (with Ty Franck, true, but I don’t think Franck has written nearly as much as Abraham).

  3. Now I kind of want to find out the ages of all the Grand Masters. Cherryh is 74; the other Grand Master who’s most like her is probably Poul Anderson, who made it at 71.

    But Gene Wolfe, whom you’d expect the literary-conscious SFWA to get to earlier, wasn’t named Grand Master until he was 81.

  4. Well, there’s Philip K Dick, and John Brunner (though the latter is not an author I would expect you to like much.) And there’s Vernor Vinge, though he is anything but prolific. Now that I think of it, there’s David Drake (though he hates awards and would probably refuse it), LM Bujold, David Brin, Barbara Hambly, John Hines (aka KJ Parker).

    Actually, I can’t believe PK Dick isn’t already on the list. I was able to guess about 50% of the list; he was one of my “sure bets.”

  5. I’m very happy C.J. Cherryh is getting it this year, it’s very much deserved, and I love a lot of her books.
    For next year my vote would go to Lois McMaster Bujold.

    Maybe those people who couldn’t find female SFF writers ‘way back when’ didn’t realise C.J. was a woman because she uses her initials?
    Or they were stuck in something like the military space-opera action with cardboard characters subgenre…

  6. Pete, in order to be named Grand Master you have to be alive. Dick died in 1982, only a few years after the award had been created and when there were only 5 Grand Masters — and even Clarke and Asimov had yet to be named.

    John Brunner died in 1995, so it’s more surprising he didn’t make it, but it’s too late now.

  7. I didn’t know that about having to be alive. Is there a similar award for lifetime accomplishment that can be awarded posthumously, do you know? Because if there’s not, obviously there should be.

  8. Closest thing seems to be the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, and I don’t think it has much prestige. (I’d barely heard of it.)

    Neglecting birthdays for a straight year subtraction, it looks like the youngest Grand Master was Isaac Asimov, a mere 67 when he was named. So David Drake (70) or Vernor Vinge (71! distinctly older than I thought) would fit but I think all the other suggestions — including mine — should probably wait a bit.

  9. Maybe David Brin? Or Greg Bear? I read more fantasy than SF, though, so I don’t have as many suggestions. Everyone else I can think of is too young.

  10. Rachel–I know right? Some of those Golden Age authors weren’t writing same-old-same-old Golden Age stuff. They belong on the list.

  11. Pete,
    Well, sure. I mean, any list of all-time great SF writers has to have H.G. Wells and probably Jules Verne on it, or it’s hardly worth discussing.
    Have you heard of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award handed out every year since 2001? It’s a solid list of authors who should be remembered and aren’t (I think they’re *all* deceased).

    Greg Bear is an excellent choice, but the same age as OSC and KSR. David Brin (whom I personally like better) is more marginal: after a very strong start his output fell off probably in quality and certainly in quantity.

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