The 2017 Hugo Awards were announced on Friday, so it’s time for the requisite whining/celebration that peppers the steak of our blogging diet (that’s how food works, right?) Um, anyway, despite my formal participation in the awards process roughly coinciding with the Sad/Rabid Puppy era/debacle, this marks the fourth year wherein I’ve contributed to the results. This year’s awards were less directly impacted by those meddlesome puppies, but I feel like we’re still suffering through an indirect backlash and overcorrection. This isn’t exactly new, so let’s just get on with it. (For those who really want to geek out and see how instant-runoff voting works, the detailed final and nominating ballots are available.)
- The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin takes the rocket for Best Novel, making Jemisin just the third author to have back-to-back wins in this category (joining the ranks of Orson Scott Card and Lois McMaster Bujold). She’s a good author, but damn, these books are not for me. Both were at the bottom of my ballot and while I can see why her novel won last year, this one is a little more baffling. It appears to have been a close race though, with All the Birds in the Sky only narrowly missing the win. I regret not putting it higher on my ballot, as it’s the only non-series finalist, and that’s something that’s becoming more and more of an issue… My preferred Ninefox Gambit came in third in the voting, which wound up being a theme for my first ranked works this year.
- “The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon wins Best Novelette. I had it at #2 on my ballot and it was very close to the top, so no complaints here. “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar wins Best Short Story, which I also had at #2 on my ballot (though I was less in love with this). In both cases, my preferred story wound up in third place. (I didn’t vote for Novella, so I’ll just note that the ever-popular Seanan McGuire took home the award.)
- Arrival wins Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form in a landslide, meaning that some things are right in this world. If there’s been a movie more destined to win this award, I can’t think of one. Also of interest, Ghostbusters (2016) came in dead last, which I think befits its profound mediocrity. In the nominating ballots, it appears my campaign for The Witch fell on deaf ears, as it didn’t even make the longlist (for comparison’s sake, Arrival received over a thousand nominations, while the bottom of the ballot got 240 and the longlist ends with 10 Cloverfield Lane, which only snagged 72. I know I nominated The Witch but I suspect I may be the only one.) I suppose its on the outskirts of what typically gets nominated (historical period piece horror), but it’d be a much better choice than Ghostbusters or Deadpool. Next year, I’ll be curious to see if the likes of Get Out or Colossal will make the cut (if history is any indication, that’s a negative – we’ll have a couple of super hero movies and the now permanent fixture of Star Wars that will push out all the more idiosyncratic and interesting offerings. Nothing against that blockbuster fare, but it would be great if some of the recent boom in small, independent SF films were represented in these awards…)
- “The Expanse” Leviathan Wakes wins Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. I didn’t vote for this category, but this is one of the episodes I saw, and I like the win because it’s not Doctor Who or Game of Thrones (both of which have perhaps won too many of these awards).
- The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold wins the inaugural Best Series Award, which is again, as it should be. This was an experimental category this year, but I believe it’s be ratified to continue on. It’s an interesting concept, but as I’ve noted before, it has some major logistical challenges (namely, how on earth could any reasonable voter read all of the nominated works in time for voting?). Still, as a huge fan of Bujold and the Vorkosigan Saga, this award makes me happy.
- There are, of course, tons of other awards, but I mostly didn’t vote on them due to time and, well, motivation. The puppy angle no longer warrants any particular analysis (not that I ever did much anyway). None of the winners are particularly surprising, but of course ,congratulations are due to all the winners!
- As mentioned above, this is the fourth year I’ve participated. Every year, I debate whether or not it will be my last. I suspect this year’s focus on series (in the Novel ballot,
not the separate award) will continue, and that’s something I’m not particularly sanguine about. There’s a couple of shoe-ins that I probably won’t want to read as well. In general, I’m glad that I’ve participated these last few years and I’ve read a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise… but then, every year, when I finish Hugo reading, I go back and read some older stuff that I almost always enjoy a lot more. These things go in cycles, and it seems like the types of books I really enjoy are not in fashion these days. I do wonder how much of that is due to the Puppy overreach. For all their rhetoric, political bluster, and hypocrisy, the primacy of storytelling that they ostensibly preached is something I can appreciate. Their execution was… let’s say flawed. The “slate” approach was terrible and quite frankly, many of their preferred nominees didn’t capture that emphasis on fun storytelling (quite the opposite in some cases). Much of it was against the spirit of the awards and rightly faced stiff opposition. But now we’re drowning in literary fiction tropes and inchoate characterization rather than sense of wonder and fun ideas. Even my favorites this year tended to lack a bit of spark. Hopefully things will continue to settle down in the coming years. This, by the way, is one reason in favor of my continued participation. Criticism might be better taken from someone actually participating, you know?
- The notion that a current year’s membership allows you to nominate for next year’s awards is clever and will keep me participating at least until then. There are a handful of exciting books this year that I’ll gladly throw a nomination towards, and who knows, I could be surprised by the finalists. Stranger things have happened. I’m not holding my breath though.
This marks a close of this year’s Hugo festivities. Up next, we’ve got some reviews (of new and older works) and, of course, we’re only a little over a month from my most favoritest time of the year, The Six Weeks of Halloween horror marathon (I should probably start planning now, hmmm)…