Visions of Paradise

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Observations on the Hugo nominees

The list of Hugo Award nominations is often more interesting than the actual winners. This year there are 6 nominees in three of the four fiction categories; I wonder why that is. Was it an arbitrary decision of the con committee, or were there actually ties for the 5th slot in each category? It seems unlikely to have three such ties unless the nominations were so spread out that a relatively few numbers of nominations were needed to make the ballot.

The Best Novel category is probably most notable for the absence of both Charles Stross and John Scalzi on it. Stross had been nominated in this category six consecutive years, while Scalzi three of the last four years. However, neither writer was ignored by their considerable number of fans, since both were nominated in the Best Novella category, and Stross in Best Novelette as well. Robert Sawyer continued his string of nominations for Best Novel, with his 9th nomination in that category since 1995, including a win in 2003 for Hominids.

Of the most critically-acclaimed novels of 2009, China Mieville’s The City and the City appeared on nearly every best-of-the-year list I saw, followed at a distance by fellow nominees Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest and The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi. Among the most acclaimed novels of 2009, only The Devil’s Alphabet, by Daryl Gregory, did not earn a Hugo nomination. That’s not a bad correlation between general acclaim and Hugo nominations.

Several perennial Hugo favorites received nominations, including Nancy Kress’ “Act One” and Ian McDonald’s "Vishnu at the Cat Circus” for Best Novella, and Mike Resnick’s “The Bride of Frankenstein” for Best Short Story.

I would assume that Jack Vance’s autobiographical This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”) is the favorite in the Best Related Book category, although he is pitted against two other Hugo favorites in 5-time winner Michael Swanwick (for Hope-In-The-Mist: The Extraordinary Career and Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees) and 3-time winner John Clute (Canary Fever: Reviews).

Many people have assumed that the Best Editor, Long Form category was created to reward David Hartwell for his excellence (and popularity), but he was not even nominated this year after winning it the past two years. 2007 winner Patrick Nielsen Hayden is presumably the favorite this year.

Only Gordon Van Gelder and Ellen Datlow have won the Best Editor, Short Form category since its inception in 2007, so presumably they are the co-favorites again this year.

The fan categories always lend themselves to evaluation. Last year’s Best Fanzine winner Electric Velocipede was not nominated this year, although perennial nominees File 770 and Challenger were. Three of the six nominees (File 770, Challenger and Argentus) are basically annuals, while Banana Wings and The Drink Tank are more regular, but I suspect the latter two have little chance of actually winning the award. The sixth nominee StarShipSofa is a podcast website, which should be an interesting vote considering last year’s winner was a webzine.

The biggest shock in the nominations is that Dave Langford is not on the Best Fan Writer list. He has not won the award the past two years (losing to John Scalzi and Cheryl Morgan), after having won it 21 of the previous 23 years. Interestingly, his early losses were to Mike Glyer who won the award three times, but he is not on the ballot either this year in spite of his fanzine File 770 being nominated for Best Fanzine. So there will definitely be a first-time winner in the category this year. Although Steven Silver has 11 total career nominations in this category and Best Fanzine and Chris Garcia has 6, I would guess that first-time nominee Fred Pohl, who earned a nomination for his popular blog, is the favorite to win.

Best Fan Artist has regular nominees Brad Foster, Sue Mason, Taral Wayne and Steve Stiles, although Foster and Mason have won it 8 times between them while neither Stiles nor Wayne have ever won it in spite of 8 nominations each. Inertia is often a factor in Hugo voting, so presumably Foster and Mason are the favorites here.


  • Some observations on your observations:

    1) Yes, there were ties in each of the six-nominee category (according to the administrator announcing them at Eastercon)

    2) I don't think Scalzi had an eligible novel this year, did he? And Stross didn't have an eligible marketed-as-science-fiction novel.

    3) Hartwell noted at last year's ceremony that he'd decline a nomination for editor this year (three is enough, I think he said). We know that two nominees declined this year. If Hartwell was one my guess would be that the other was fanwriter, where both Scalzi and Cheryl Morgan have encouraged people to nominate other fanwriters.

    By Blogger Niall Harrison, At 8:26 AM  

  • This year there are 6 nominees in three of the four fiction categories; I wonder why that is. Was it an arbitrary decision of the con committee, or were there actually ties for the 5th slot in each category?

    Worldcon committees (or rather the Hugo Award Administration Subcommittees appointed by each Worldcon to administer the Hugo Awards) do not have the right to add nominees. Hugo Award Administrator Vincent Docherty called attention to the last-place ties himself, and noted that there was a three-way tie for fourth place in one case. So, odd as it seems, there really were that many last-place ties. Yes, almost anyone who understands how the system actually works is a little puzzled, because as you note one would expect fewer ties as the number of total votes increases.

    Last year’s Best Fanzine winner Electric Velocipede was not nominated this year,...

    It was no longer eligible in that category, having "moved up a weight class" to Semiprozine in 2009.

    By Blogger Kevin Standlee, At 10:11 AM  

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