Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Breakfast with Barry Campaign is a great idea

Jeremy Lassen posted the following missive on a Nightshade Books blog March 24th. I totally agree with these sentiments and urge you to take them to heart:

In 1982 Barry Malzberg’s stunningly, bitterly insightful autobiographical and critical collection of essays, Engines of the Night was published. It was nominated for (but did not win) the Hugo Award. Engines of the Night was controversial… too bitter… too uncomfortable… too true….

Last year Baen Books repackaged Engines… along with almost 30 new pieces written subsequent to Engines…. This new book, Breakfast in the Ruins, is awe-inspiring. Barry’s bitterness may have mellowed some with time, but his deep and abiding love for a field (whose shortcomings inspired that bitterness) has not. This affection comes shining through, in every word… every detail… every anecdote… every fond (and furious) memory… every pointed and dead-on criticism….

Barry’s fingers have been leaving a bloody trail across typewriter and keyboard for over forty years… a bloody trail, of fiction and non-, that charts the trajectory of the 20th century’s most marginalized yet exciting body of literature. That bloody trail has earned him the right to be bitter, angry, critical, and unflinching. What Barry’s bloody trail has not earned him is a Hugo Award.

One can love or hate his commentaries (or fiction), but one should never underestimate the importance of Barry Malzberg to the Science Fiction genre. And Breakfast…, an intimate, insider’s first-person account of the history of the genre, is one of the most important gifts Barry has bequeathed to us.

This year, Breakfast… has been nominated for a Hugo Award in the “related book” category. With respect to the other nominees in the category, I submit that Breakfast… is the kind of book that only comes around once or twice in a lifetime.

The voters for this year’s Hugo Award have a chance to recognize Barry’s work… to recognize him, and his lifetime of care and attention to a genre that has mostly ignored (and sometimes actively despised) him. And most importantly, the voters have a chance to recognize and honor the (sometimes ugly) history of the field, as recounted by one who was a part of it. I humbly urge the Hugo voters to vote for Breakfast….

If you are not a voter, please pass on, post or forward this missive, along with any notes or thoughts you yourself might have, concerning Barry Malzberg and/or Breakfast in the Ruins. Every campaign needs a catchy slogan, and I suggest this one be dubbed the “Breakfast for Barry” campaign.

Hopefully, on a sunny morning in Denver, after the Hugo Awards ceremony the night before, the entire genre can symbolically wake up and buy Barry breakfast - thanking him for his years of passionate contribution.

And most importantly, I exhort all of you who have not yet had the pleasure, to go out and read Barry Malzberg’s Breakfast in the Ruins.

(The photo of Mr. Malzberg courtesy of Baen Books.)

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