The Class of ’90 (and of ’06)

The New York Times has a very interesting long-form list on what happened to each of the first round picks of the 1990 NFL draft; unsurprisingly the stories are varied. Some have gone on to success in their post-NFL career; some have not; and some are in jail or have died. A lot of the success of future years is based in what happens in the early years of a career — but it’s also worth noting that so much is also based on things the players themselves couldn’t directly control (injuries, etc).

As I was reading the list I found myself thinking of the 2006 Campbell Award class, which I suspect in many ways is as close to a “first round draft pick” as the science fiction and fantasy genre gets. The class in my year was me, Brandon Sanderson, Sarah Monette, Chris Roberson, KJ Bishop and Steph Swainston.

And as with the 1990 NFL draft picks, where we are now is all over the board. I and Brandon have been fortunate enough to have consistent, continued success in the genre. Sarah had some struggles commercially, but is now riding a wave of success as Katherine Addison with her terrific novel The Goblin Emperor, which was (without a slate) nominated for the Best Novel Hugo. Chris largely left SF/F but has had a very successful career in comics, with one of his co-creations, iZombie, turned into a successful TV series. KJ appears to have stopped publishing books for a while but returned a couple of years ago with a short story collection. Steph abandoned writing as a career to become a teacher, although there are rumors she may still write more in the future. We’ll see.

Which is the thing that is the difference between the NFL class of ’90 and the Campbell class of ’06: The Class of ’90 is done with football, but the class of ’06 isn’t done with writing, nor is likely to be for the rest of our lives. Where we are now isn’t where we will be a decade from now, or a decade after that (or a decade after that!). Provided we stay this side of the grave, there is lots of time for new successes, new failures, new disappointments and new triumphs, and new adventures. Writing careers can be long, and can take place in and around many other aspects of life.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the Campbell ’06 class goes from here, and what we’ll each do next.

27 Comments on “The Class of ’90 (and of ’06)”

  1. Any chance we can see a novel-length collaboration between the Dark and Mighty Scalzi (long may he reign!) and his evil* nemesis, Lord Sanderson? Sort of like, I dunno, Surgebinding space soldiers?

    …actually, I’d pay good money to see that in a movie.

    *Not really. He’s apparently a generally great dude IRL.

  2. I realize that you have an obvious emotional connection to the Campbell class of ’06, but wouldn’t it make more sense to compare the football class of ’90 to the Campbell class of ’90?

    Just going by Wikipedia articles, it looks like Rausch, Steele, and Collins are all still actively writing, while Cramer and Neville have generally moved on to other things. Cramer is doing physics; Neville is probably swimming in the Scrooge-McDuck-sized pool of money she earned from The Eight.

  3. I took a class on writing SF&F from Sanderson at BYU in ’07 or ’08. OLD MAN’S WAR was one of the assigned texts, but Sanderson was not yet over his Campbell loss; he frequently raised his fist to the sky and growled, “Curse you, Scalzi!”

  4. What is the difference? I’d say that the fields of pro sports and pro writing overlap very little, so that there are a lot of differences. Pro athletes have greater earning potential while also potentially incurring long term physical ailments related to abuse of their body. But with their greater early-on financial success, the athletes are better positioned for a transition to a secondary career whereas authors have less flexibility. There is an interesting quote in the article on Swinson where she says, “I wanted to spend time on my novels, but that isn’t economically viable.” She is talking about spending more than a year on a novel, but if that is what it takes to produce greatness (GRRM, Rothfuss,etc.) and the compensation doesn’t make it possible a career switch is in order. Pro athletes have the potential financial cushion to make those realities less stark.

    All that said, I found both the NFL draft article and your response thought provoking. Thank you for sharing. You are in good company and it says to me that despite the Hugo drama that the awards can still provide value to a naive reader. I really need to go check out Goblin Emperor.

  5. It also occurs to me that means three of six of the Campbell class have been at least nominated for a Hugo in fiction, with both you and Sanderson winning.

  6. Micah, I wouldn’t compare groups from the same year because football players have relatively short careers regardless. Someone could probably figure out football-player-years vs. writer-years (vs. dog-years), but I’m not sure that level of precision is needed.

  7. I took a class on writing SF&F from Sanderson at BYU in ’07 or ’08. OLD MAN’S WAR was one of the assigned texts, but Sanderson was not yet over his Campbell loss; he frequently raised his fist to the sky and growled, “Curse you, Scalzi!”

    Rumor substantiated by OGH says that both OGH and Sanderson play up this rivalry. But it’s damn funny to see the pictures of Sanderson shaking his fist and cursing OGH’s name.

    And man, I almost wish I went to BYU just so I could take that class…

  8. I somehow didn’t realize you and Swainston were in the same Campbell class. I was (well, am) a huge fan of hers. Hers is probably the only series where I re-read the entire thing before each new book was released–not because I thought I was forgetting anything, but just for the sheer enjoyment of re-experience.

    I was extremely sad when I heard she was “retiring,” though I understood her reasoning. I still have her last novel sitting on my shelf, unread; I can’t bear the thought that I’ll get to the end and be stuck in a world where there won’t ever be a Swainston novel I haven’t already read. Here’s hoping she someday picks back up where she left off.

  9. Nice analysis. But there are other differences. For example, I’m fairly confident that fewer Campbell nominees than NFL draft picks are doing jail time.

  10. Professional athletes have a shelf life, between punishment and just plain aging, their bodies will betray them soon enough. Professional writers, not so much, as long as their brains don’t betray them.

  11. My Campbell class included Ted Chiang. (Oh, gee, has he ever accomplished ANYTHING since winning the Campbell?) Greer Gilman, though not a prolific writer, has been prolifically nominated for and/or won awards since then (the Nebula, the Tiptree, the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo, the Crawford, the Mythopoeic. Michaelle Sagara West has released about 30 fantasy novels and who-knows-how-many short stories since then (and apparently has a magic mirror hidden in her attic, she looks pretty much the same despite the passage of years). Nick DiChario has released a couple of novels, many short stories, and has been nominated for a bunch of awards, including the Hugo and the Nebula. Holly Lisle has published a whole bunch of novels. There were two other writers who (based on my googling) look like they may have stopped writing after a while; but I didn’t do a comprehensive search. And then there was me (I won the second time around). I haven’t been nominated for an award in sf/f since then (though I was nominated for a Rita under my romance pseudonym, the last time I had a new romance novel in release), but I’ve published 11 fantasy novels and 50-60 short stories since them.

  12. @stringmonkey give it time. They will catch Scalzi, someday.

    Seriously, though: a writer is never really done the way an athlete is. Dum spiro scribo.

  13. @Laura I’ve been enjoying your books. Started reading you fall 2014 after bumping into you in a number of places online. I need to get caught up so I can nominate you for current writings. ;)

  14. Huh. If memory serves me right (and it usually doesn’t), I didn’t get around to reading any of Scalzi’s work until at least 2008, so I have to agree with Jason regarding Steph Swainston, and I’ll add K. J. Bishop in too; huge fan of both ladies and of The New Weird movement in general at that time. I have to admit hoping that a Campbell would go to one of them in their second year of eligibility but such was not to be.

    Way to go Scalzi! With your high-falootin’, privileged male white american, *uh* privilege – you just walked right in and killed off a whole literary movement! Without you stealing the Campbell like that, I bet there’d be racks and racks and racks of New Weird books at every bookstore! I hope you’re proud of yourself! *mutter, mutter, mutter, swine, mutter*

    Jason, IMHO, you should just go ahead and enjoy ‘Above The Snow Line’, and then relax, lie back and hope for another. As someone married to a musician, I hold to the belief that you can never quite tell what them thar artistic types are likely to do.

    Take K. J. Bishop. When I first became interested in her written work, i.e. ‘The Etched City’ and various short stories first published in Australian journals such as ‘Aurealis’ (most notably “The Art of Dying” (first collected in Jonthan Staham’s ‘Year’s Best Australian SF&F, Volume 2’)), I also found out she was IMHO (again), quite a talented artist, as covers from her own ‘The Etched City’, K. J. Bishop (Prime), ‘The Sword of the Demon’, Richard Lupoff (Wildside), The Alsiso Project, Andrew Hook (Elastic Press), and my personal favorite ‘The Fourth Circle’, Zoran Zivkovic (Night Shade) amply demonstrate.

    Alas and alack, it seems that I can’t insert pictures into the text, so you’ll just have to imagine them. Or Googling them is an even better idea! Yes Google Them – Treat Yourself!
    Blast, and my cute little asides are no longer in italics. Oh well. I’m used to dealing with my own functional incompetence.

    After a swing through comic book art, Kirsten’s been into bronze sculpture lately, has her own Etsy shop and unless I’m seriously missing my guess about what delights OGH, “Living Through You”, the ‘Three Amigos’ Venetian birds, and especially “Under Construction”, will rock his world (without any further leg damage). Not all artists stay in the same medium.

    The moral of this story is there’s more than one way to skin bacon cat.


  15. @ Tasha–glad you’re enjoying the work! But if you nominate me for anything, I MAY BE FORCED TO KILL YOU. This Hugo mess has really turned me off awards altogether.

  16. @Laura would that be killed off IRL or in a book? I guess your happy with royalty money in the bank as well as knowing your worth based on how long you’ve made a living as a full-time writer? So I should buy more books & write more reviews but not nominate got it. LOL

    Are the RITA rewards this crazy? I don’t hear about scandals from my romance writers/publisher friends the way I do about SFF.

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