The curious case of the Masonic sounding award

Alice Mary Norton was an ambitious young writer who went off to college to become a teacher.  Then the Depression set in, and she had to drop out to go work for the local library.  She was told it would be easier to sell her books under a male name and so she legally changed her name to Andre.  Her first book was published when she was 22, and for seventy years afterward she would be the honored and popular author of more than 130 novels and almost as many short stories in different genres.

According to her SWFA biography, “She surrounded herself with books and cats, ending each evening reading in bed with a favorite cat curled next to her.”  And she never married.  As Anne Shirley would say, we are definitely kindred spirits.  Although the changing-to-a-guy’s name is something I’m not real excited about, either in 1934 or in the modern age.  (Or to initials.  We’re not fooled.)

Among many honors, Andre Norton was the first woman to win the Grand Master Award from SFWA.  Grand Master sounds a lot like something out of the Freemasons, but it’s a very nice thing to be recognized for a lifetime of work.  The president of SFWA picks the award recipient, which is then voted on by SFWA officers and past presidents.  There’s something curious about it, though.  Let’s look:

Since 1975, 22 men have won this award.  And 3 women.  22 men.  3 women.

In 2002, the award was renamed to be the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award. Damon Knight was a hugely important figure in the field of science fiction as a writer, editor, teacher and much more.  But really, now.  Knight Grand Master? If this doesn’t sound like something Robert Langdon would run across in a cryptic puzzle in the Louvre, I don’t know what does.

The next award will be given at the Nebula banquet this month.  To Joe Haldeman.

The award can only be given to living writers: Kit Reed is 78 and Kate Wilhelm is 82.  Anytime would be nice, guys.

(p.s. did you catch the two references to pop culture?)


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