Visions of Paradise

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Some comments on the Hugo Awards...

I’ve never been the type of blogger who fears putting my foot in my mouth, so here are my thoughts on the recent Hugo Awards:

Best Novel: The City and the City and The Windup Girl were easily the two most acclaimed novels of 2009, so it is nice to see them tie for the award. Of course, while I have both novels on my computer, compliments of Aussiecon, I have not yet read either one, so whether I feel they actually represent the best of the year is an opinion which must be delayed awhile.

Best Novella: I had expected that Kage Baker’s popularity, combined with her recent death, would have been enough to push “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s” over the top in this category. I was not too surprised that, with Baker not winning, the always-popular Charles Stross won the award. I have had a problem getting into Stross’ fiction though, finding it so packed with ideas that the story and characters seemed to get lost beneath the sturm und drang. Of course, much of my opinion comes from a few stories, mostly in the Accelerando sequence, so perhaps I should try some of his less-frantic fiction sometime.

Best Novella: Peter Watts’ “The Island” might have been the best novelette of 2009, but would it have been if Watts had not been mistreated and arrested by the U.S. custom police? While I can appreciate much of the anti-American fervor sweeping the world, I wonder if it is at least partly responsible for Watts’ win in this category.

Best Short Story: I had expected Kij Johnson’s “Spar” to win this category, so I was surprised that relative unknown Will McIntosh’s “Bridesicle” beat her out. An unknown generally only wins a major category when it really is the best story at its length that year. I wonder if McIntosh would have beaten out Mike Resnick though had the worldcon been held on Resnick’s home turf of America? When the worldcon is held on foreign turf, the winners tend to be less “same ol’ same ol’” and more truly representative of the best of the year. My feeling is that this is due to the huge size of American-held worldcons, many of the attendees being either fringe-fans or media fans who vote as much on name recognition of the nominees as they do on quality.

There were several winners which, at least in my opinion, were overwhelming favorites in their categories: This Is Me, Jack Vance! (Best Related Book), Girl Genius (Best Graphic Story), Doctor Who (Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form), Ellen Datlow (Best Editor, Short Form), Shaun Tan (Best Artist), and Brad Foster (Best Fan Artist). All of them were deserving winners and should not elicit too much hand-wringing in fandom.

Frederik Pohl winning Best Fan Writer is guaranteed to cause controversy though. The main contention here seems to be that a major professional should not be eligible in a fan category, but there is precedent. Jack Gaughan won Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist the same year in 1967! Of course, he was drawing both for prozines and for fanzines, so who could argue his eligibility for both awards (although I do not necessarily agree with his deserving the Best Professional Artist that year). Assuming one accepts Fred Pohl as a fan writer, his blog is one of the better ones, although not necessarily better than the body of work by the other nominees in this category. So I guess the main question here is did Pohl win due to the quality of his blog, or the quality of his professional writing?

I was very disappointed that StarshipSofa won Best Fanzine, since I do not see anything resembling a “zine” about it. I have no problem with it being online exclusively, especially since that is the direction fanzines are headed anyway. But audio presentations are a different breed altogether from fanzines. However, I was pleased that Clarkesworld won Best Semi-Prozine, since it is a very good outlet for original science fiction and deserves to be read by more fans.


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