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May 23, 2007

Sagan, Monette and Scalzi on SF Master Godfrey Winton


Subterranean Online has released the first chunk of content from its Summer 2007 edition -- the special Elizabeth Bear issue, don't you know -- and in addition to the Bear audio highlighted yesterday, a Bear column and a Joe Lansdale story, the issue also features a transcription of a panel at this year's Penguicon convention on underappreciated Golden Age science fiction master Godfrey Winton, featuring me, Sarah Monette and Nick Sagan discussing the life and times of this obscure genius.

For those of you who aren't aware of Winton's life and work, this will be a treat for you: Nick, Sarah and I hit all the highlights of his career, including his novels and his film work in Italy, the controversies surrounding his many genre awards, his feuds with such science fiction luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Alfred Bester and Philip K. Dick, and a glimpse into his unconventional romantic life -- unconventional even for science fiction. Very few people know the details of Winton's career and life better than Nick, Sarah and I, so this is the next best thing to talking to Winton himself. If you're a fan of SF history and authors, you don't want to miss this transcript. Here's the link again. Enjoy.

Posted by john at May 23, 2007 10:26 AM

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strugglingwriter | May 23, 2007 10:39 AM

That's great news! I have really been enjoying all the content from the Spring issue and was wondering when the summer issue would be released. One question: how long (time-wise) does your Godfrey Winton thing run? I'd like to burn this to CD to listen to in the car and was wondering if I should pair it with anything else.

strugglingwriter | May 23, 2007 10:42 AM

Crap! I need to read before I hit the post button. They posted a transcription rather than an audio of the Godfrey Winton thing. Sorry about that. Ignore my question.

KevinQ | May 23, 2007 11:17 AM

As a kid growing up on the 80s, my parents had a lot of 60s science-fiction lying around on the shelves, including a couple of Winton's novels. I didn't know much about Winton at the time, but as I did the Heinlein and Asimov books next to them, I read a few of those Winton novels, and let me just say that

And this was one of the problems, which was that science fiction in that era was enabling for, well, let’s face it, completely undersocialized men running around, grabbing breasts and asking questions about their religious background

explains a lot.


Jason | May 23, 2007 11:38 AM

For me, it Gene Wolfe's name on the cover is going to have me ordering a copy right away. Winton is also a rare treat to read about. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

Captain Button | May 23, 2007 11:40 AM

While I realize that it was off-topic at a science fiction convention, I really must protest your failure to even mention Godfrey Winton's non-fiction, especially his seminal analysis of the complete works of Jane Austin, which has yet to be equalled, much less surpassed.

Or is it that all three of you subscribe to the crackpot theory that the non-fiction works were not actually by Godfrey Winton, but by another Greek of the same name?

cathy | May 23, 2007 11:47 AM

JS: : One thing we can say about Ten Toes and Others is that apparently the Post Office has filed a suit to stop its publication on the grounds that it’s just too damn heavy to deliver. But again, we’re out of time.

I would just like to point out that since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, it's been the Postal Service, not the Post Office. The individual buildings are still Post Offices, but the agency itself is not longer the Post Office Department, it's the Postal Service, an independant establishment of the executive branch (and aren't you glad it's no longer a full-fledged department with the Postmaster General in the line of succession to be President).

The views expressed here are my own and not those of the U.S. Postal Service.

chang, realer than evar! | May 23, 2007 11:56 AM

Just how unconventional? I want to know before I read.

Monkey, pigs and chicekns unconventional?

Midgets holding pictures of Don Knotts unconventional?

Unable to climax if someone is whistling "Yellow Rose of Texas"?

Or just "Tuesday-Night-with-Nathan" kind of unconventional?

Vardibidian | May 23, 2007 12:03 PM

When I was a kid, in addition to old paperbacks like End of Eternity and Enemy of my Enemy that my mother had on the shelf, we had a couple of Winton’s books lying around, holding up the short legs of tables and like that. And I think there was part of one over by the fireplace for a while, half of one of those Face Doubles. Anyway, like you do as a kid, I recognized the covers as being sci-fi, and read through them.
And that’s how I took up huffing glue.
But it’s cool, now. Really.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

Anonymous | May 23, 2007 12:29 PM

Quoth Chang: "Unable to climax if someone is whistling "Yellow Rose of Texas"?

You call that unconventional? So you mean you CAN?

See, that tune makes me think of Emily Dickinson poetry (all of which scans to it, as is well known). Death, death, death. Not conducive.

Jemaleddin | May 23, 2007 12:45 PM

I have a real hard time with Godfrey being considered an unappreciated genius. I mean, for a whole generation of readers, he wasn't just appreciated but adored. I just know that I got more out of his answer book "Triple Star" than I ever did from Heinlein's original. The way that he tackled the themes of universal suffrage through sloths and bondage gear was just breathtaking.

I'd give that book 11 Nebulas on its own.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden | May 23, 2007 02:24 PM

Is there a brain virus going around that causes otherwise skilled English speakers to be unable to correctly choose between "I" and "me" in a sentence?

I think Winton was onto this with his novella "Cloud of Unknowing," but of course then H. L. Gold did one of his famously excessive line-edits, so we'll never know for sure.

Adam Rakunas | May 23, 2007 02:28 PM

One day, I hope to win a Nebular, just like Godfrey Winton.

John H | May 23, 2007 04:21 PM

Me don't know what you're talking about, Patrick...

Chang, for rizzle. | May 23, 2007 04:35 PM

Wait, this had to be one big joke! A google search turns up nothing. I feel a leg being pulled. And unless it's by someone whistling Yellow Rose of Texas, I ain't going with the tugging.

(Chang, who hates not being in on a joke)

John Scalzi | May 23, 2007 04:51 PM

Not everything is on Google, Chang.

Captain Button | May 23, 2007 04:56 PM

He isn't on Amazon.com or The Internet Speculative Fiction Database either.


John Scalzi | May 23, 2007 04:59 PM

He's obscure, all right.

Chang, for rizzle. | May 23, 2007 05:10 PM

Lord Scalzi, though I'd hang my hat, shoes, pants and cleanest of drawers on the veracity of your every word, I must disagree.

Everything is on Google.

All the signs point back to you and one Nick Sagan.

I spent too much time on this post.

Chang, for rizzle. | May 23, 2007 05:14 PM

Damn, my rebuttal was full of URL's. Sugar.

Winton Godfrey has mysterious ways of keeping himself off the web. No doubt to prevent divorce lawyers from getting him.

Rachel Heslin | May 23, 2007 05:23 PM

Didn't Godfrey Winton borrow heavily from the collected works of William Ashbless?

Captain Button | May 23, 2007 05:31 PM

There is a persistent but unverifiable rumor that he ghost wrote Thunder Beyond Venus.

Chang, for rizzle. | May 23, 2007 05:40 PM

I believe he also wrote something called "Underwearbound Venus" in order to make quick cash from BVD.

Anonymous | May 23, 2007 06:25 PM

It has been rumored that Winton had a hand in "editing" Ashbless' The Complete Twelve Hours of the Night. I do have what purports to be an original ms of the poetry epic, and it does differ markedly from the final published version. But, then, as Ashbless' most recent US publisher, I can tell you that he could sometimes be economical with the facts, and it wouldn't be beyond him to fabricate an entire original ms to put Winton in a bad light simply because he wasn't invited to DeathCon.

And Patrick, I have an original of the ms prior to Gold's meddling, and it's a model of restraint, nearly unknown for Winton during that period. I'll get a photocopy off to you later this week.

Bill Schafer

Zork | May 23, 2007 10:11 PM

"Not everything is on Google, Chang."


Allen Monette | May 23, 2007 10:18 PM

Re: Winton and the Internet

There is a persistent rumor (and perhaps John would be willing to address whether it's true or not, although I understand Nick Sagan is the real expert in this area) that all of Winton's ARPANET writing was collected on a gopher server by a professor at Edison Community College. The rumor says that the server was hacked and all the Winton files destroyed. The hacker left a letter threatening the professor with legal action and signed it 'GW.'

There is also rumor of an early virus that targeted Usenet servers. It tried locate any mention of 'Asimov' in posts and replace it with 'Assimov.'

Matt Arnold | May 23, 2007 11:03 PM

I have the audio, and unless Scalzi, Sagan and Bear object, I plan to put it in the upcoming Penguicon podcast.

John Scalzi | May 23, 2007 11:24 PM


As long as it's Penguicon's recording and not The Time Traveler's (I know he recorded it for his podcast), I personally have no objection. If it's TT's recording I'd suggest you clear it with him before using it.

Matt Arnold | May 23, 2007 11:48 PM

It's our recording, not his. This is the one from the little digital recorder duct-taped to the table.

(Oh, and by the way, of course I meant Mole, not Bear... oops!)

Bilky | May 25, 2007 05:57 AM

Is it just me or does the spaceship in that shot look like a tennis shoe?

Jemaleddin | May 25, 2007 09:42 AM

Bilky, you're right - it must be an early prototype for the Heart of Gold.

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