PW: When did Locus begin the annual award polls?
The magazine started in 1968 and the polls in 1971, 34 years ago.
How would you compare the Locus poll with the Hugo and the Nebula Awards?
The Locus poll gets more people voting. It used to be we had more nominations than both of them put together but that's not true anymore.
How has Locus changed over 30-some years?
It's always been the same. It started out with more news of fandom than of professional people. I discovered that the professional field was much more interesting. All those free books helped a lot too.
Did you dream a mimeographed fanzine of news would become today's Locus?
I wanted to do some writing and editing. The Boston Committee for World Con financed it; but eventually I took it over myself. Today the magazine is split into different areas—literature, publishing and the social interaction between the two, pictures of authors, conventions and things like that.
Did you ever score a big scoop in the field?
Oh yes, several, but one that bothered me a lot involved James Tiptree Jr.'s identity. She called me after that. She said that when she saw it she thought about suicide. Eventually, she actually did commit suicide. I discovered after that I didn't really want to be an investigative reporter.
How did you fashion The Locus Awards?
We made a list of stories including recommendations from all the reviewers and ended up with about 50 stories from which we started cutting, like choosing which story to use by well-known authors who had won four or five times. Then we had to balance story lengths and themes. It could have been five times the size.
Tastes change, and one of the strengths of The Locus Awards is introducing people to writers.
That is what we hoped. We had to eliminate a lot of older stories because they seemed too dated now, although they were fine then. Most were based on what was happening in the world at that time. The best stories are those that discuss some sort of philosophical impression of the future and where we are going as human beings, which is a major change in the field.
Harlan Ellison seems to bridge the years. The voters picked him the best short story writer ever. He might have some competition from some mainstream writers.
He doesn't think he does. (laughs)
Are the younger readers interested in yesterday's Golden Age writers?
Probably not, and they're right. The field has changed. The reasons we read literature have changed. The younger readers seem to feel the field began in 1984 with Bill Gibson writing Neuromancer. This is what is of more concern to them. One of the wonderful things about science fiction is that it does change. The audience changes too.
Ray Bradbury was not been voted in. Is he still important?
Ray does not get nominations here at Locus any more, but he is still a very important writer, for his effect on the young writers, his writing about human beings instead of about outer space. Writers write from the background of their own lives, and they don't change much. If Heinlein were writing today, he'd still be writing the same sort of stuff. You need a new writer to change things all the time. I think we need both. Some ties to the past, to show us where we've been and looking forward to the future. Science fiction is so successful at this that sometimes it is not even considered as such, as with Thomas Berger's new novel about an artificial woman.