Visions of Paradise

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Award Season

I finally received the April issue of Locus in the mail, and I was comparing the nomination lists for the upcoming Nebula Awards and Hugo Awards. It is amazing how few nominees they have in common, a situation which is undoubtedly caused by several factors. One of them is the different constituencies of the two awards, and another is the fact that the Nebula Awards have a two-year eligibility system. But for comparison purposes, it is easy enough to compare this year’s Nebula nominees with the combined this year and last year’s Hugo nominees.

Of the six Nebula nominees for Best Novel, only a single novel made either Hugo ballot, Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which won last year’s Hugo. Other than that, the two lists are dominated, as usual, by perennial nominees (Joe Haldeman’s Camouflage and Jack McDevitt’s Polaris on the Nebula ballot and George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows on the Hugo), and highly-acclaimed works (Geoff Ryman’s Air, John C. Wright’s Orphans of Chaos, Ken MacLeod’s Learning the World, Charles Stross’ Accelerando, and Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin). But there are the usual group of surprising choices, such as Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal (since humor rarely makes award ballots) and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War (which, if reviews are good predictors, was the choice of the diehard Heinlein fans).

Only two of the Nebula novella nominees made this year's Hugo list, Kelly Link’s “Magic for Beginners” (which was easily the most acclaimed story of any length last year and must be considered the favorite for both awards) and perennial nominee Robert Sawyer for “Identity Theft” (which, in my opinion, was not one of the best stories in the novella collection Down These Dark Spaceways). Link does not seem to face a lot of heavy competition for the Nebula Award, her competition being relative-unknowns Albert Cowdrey (“The Tribes of Bela”), Bud Sparhawk (“Clay’s Pride”) and Paul Witcover (“Left of the Dial”). However, the Hugo ballot contains multiple award-winners James Patrick Kelly (“Burn”), and Connie Willis (“Inside Job”), as well as another critical favorite, Ian MacDonald’s “The Little Goddess”, so Link’s chances are somewhat slimmer there.

In the novelette category, two of the Nebula nominees made last year’s Hugo ballot, including the winner, Kelly Link’s “The Faery Handbag,” which I guess makes her the favorite in two Nebula categories. Newcomer Paolo Bacigalupi is on both ballots for different stories, “The People of Sand and Slag” for the Nebula, and “The Calorie Man” for the Hugo. Considering that Bacigalupi has made various best-of-the-year anthologies the past few years, he is obviously a very talented newcomer (and I personally loved his story “The Fluted Girl” a few years ago), but he has certainly not generated any of the buzz that some new authors have garnered in recent years. Remember the buzz surrounding Charles Stross when he first started appearing in Asimov’s with his “Accelerando” stories?

In any case, both the Nebulas and Hugos contain several multiple award-winners to challenge Bacigalupi’s twin entries. The Nebulas have Eileen Gunn & Leslie What’s “Nirvana High” and James Patrick Kelly’s “Men are Trouble,” in addition to Link’s story, and the Hugos offer Peter S. Beagle’s “Two Hearts,” Cory Doctorow’s “I, Robot” and Howard Waldrop’s “The King of Where-I-Go”.

In the short story category, both the Nebula and Hugo ballots share a single story, Margo Lanagan’s “Singing My Sister Down,” which was one of the most acclaimed stories of 2004, but because its first U.S. publication was in 2005 it retained Hugo eligibility for another year. Based on its critical acclaim, it must be considered the favorite for both. The biggest name authors challenging it for the Nebula are Carol Emshwiller for “I Live With You,” Nancy Kress for “My Mother, Dancing,” and for the Hugo fan favorite Mike Resnick for “Down Memory Lane.”

Dare I predict the winners, based entirely on critical reviews and name recognition, which is always a major factor in awards? Why not? Keep in mind that I have a poor history of success in predicting Nebula and Hugo Awards, so please refrain from laughing if I miss every single winner.

Category / Nebula prediction / Hugo prediction

Novel / Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell / Spin
Novella / Magic for Beginners / Burn
Novelette / The Faery Handbag / The King of Where-I-Go
Short Story / Singing My Sister Down / Down Memory Lane


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