Visions of Paradise

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Some observations on the Hugo nominations

The Best Novel list seems considerably weaker than last year’s list. On the 2010 ballot, three of the books (Windup Girl, The City & The City, Boneshaker) easily had the most mentions on best-of-the-year lists, and two other nominations (Julian Comstock, Palimpsest) ranked high as well. But this year only three of the nominees showed up on the composite best-of-the-year ranking at all (The Dervish House, Blackout/All Clear, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms), while other books which appeared on many such lists were left off the ballot, including the most recommended book of the year, How To Live Safely in a Sfnal Universe, as well as acclaimed books by very popular writers (China Miéville’s Kraken and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven).

And, as several other people have commented, I find it very unfair that because Connie Willis is incredibly popular with Hugo voters, she rates having two books’ votes combined to win her one spot on the Hugo ballot. The argument that the two books really comprise a single novel is not really satisfactory, since many books have been split over several volumes in the past, but were never combined for award purposes. I believe this is blatant favoritism for the popular Connie Willis.

I have never heard of Feed, by Mira Grant, and even finding a review of it in the popular sf websites was not that easy. While it did get a glowing review at SF Site, which described it as a fast-paced zombie novel, the book did not show up on either their editors’ or readers’ best-of-the-year list. So who actually liked it enough to earn it a Hugo nomination? And is this the direction the Hugo Awards are headed–two zombie novels in two years (Boneshaker last year)? Can romantic vampires, urban detectives, and other worn-out tropes be far behind?

I had fully expected both Charles Stross to received a nomination for Best Novel, considering his recent history. He has earned 13 Hugo nominations since 2001, including 6 for Best Novel (2004 Singularity Sky, 2005 Iron Sunrise, 2006 Accelerando, 2007 Glasshouse, 2008 Halting State, 2009 Saturn’s Children) and 2 victories. He had eligible novels this year in both his Merchant Princes and Laundry Files series, so I expected at least one of them to make the final ballot.

While there are some familiar names on the short fiction lists (Ted Chiang, Alastair Reynolds, Geoffrey A. Landis, James Patrick Kelly, Mary Robinette Kowal and Allen M. Steele have all been on the list previously), there were a lot of lesser-known and even unknown names as well this year: Aliette de Bodard, Sean McMullen, Eric James Stone and Carrie Vaughn.

However, the tradition that being on the ballot one year gives a writer a distinct advantage the next year continues with many writers this year:

• Kij Johnson (‘‘Ponies’’in 2011 and “Spar” in 2010);
• Peter Watts (“The Things” in 2011 and winner “The Island” in 2010);
• Rachel Swirsky (‘The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window’’ in 2011 and “Eros, Philia, Agape” in 2010).

Two writers who have been Hugo’s best friends, along with Connie Willis, are Michael Swanwick and Mike Resnick, the latter who appears on this year’s Best Related Book category, while Swanwick’s 15 minutes of fame have seemingly ended. Other big names in the Best Related Book category include Barry Malzberg (a former nominee there) and Robert A. Heinlein (as the subject of a biography).

As usual, several categories do not seem to have much suspense: Girl Genius owns the Best Graphic Novel category; Doctor Who dominates the Best Dramatic Presentation-Short category, as usual (and what is the cute video Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury doing here? The voters could not find 5 episodes of tv shows better than that?),

Some categories actually have a bit of suspense this year. There are no overwhelming favorites in Best Editor, either Long Form or Short Form with the absence of Ellen Datlow and David Hartwell (at least one of whom likely declined a nomination), nor in Best Fan Writer, so some deserved nominees who have been shut out in the past will finally win the award.

I cringe at the thought of StarshipSofa winning another Best Fanzine Award, since while it might be a valuable service, it is definitely not a fanzine by any definition I can think of. The Best Semi-Prozines are split between online zines (Lightspeed, Clarksworld) and paper zines (Locus–which has won so many times that I would prefer any other nominee over yet another award for it–Weird Tales, Interzone), which I assume gives the advantage to online zines.

In general, while the Hugo nominees do not represent the absolute “best” in any category, that has likely only been true for an occasional category once or twice in the history of the awards, so it does not bear complaining about. But there are enough worthy nominees that the possibility exists of having all deserving winners this year. What odds do you think Las Vegas would give on that happening though?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home