The 2018 Hugo Awards: Initial Thoughts

The 2018 Hugo Award Finalists were announced yesterday, so it’s time for moaning and whinging about the nominees. Assorted thoughts below:

  • The novel ballot looks interesting enough. Only half are part of a series! Arguably. One of the series entries is the first (and reasonably self-contained), but one of the non-series is set in a universe the author had already established. So I guess it evens out.

    John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire is that reasonably self-contained first entry in a series, and it’s a lot of fun, my favorite Scalzi since The Human Division. I don’t expect it to win. New York 2140 seems like a pretty standard Kim Stanley Robinson offering, an extension of many of his usual themes. Again, I don’t expect it to win. Provenance, by Ann Leckie is the aforementioned standalone novel set in Leckie’s Imperial Radch universe. It seems like a heist story, but the writeups emphasize that it’s about “power, theft, privilege and birthright” which is pretty well tread ground for the past few years of nominees (and for which Leckie has already been recognized), but then, this seems to be what current voters like. I don’t see it winning, but what do I know. I really enjoyed Raven Stratagem but Yoon Ha Lee’s second Machineries of Empire novel suffers from middle-novel-in-a-trilogy syndrome, so it did not make my nominating ballot (Yoon Ha Lee has been a mainstay of my nominating ballots for years, and as we’ll see, there’s another option for him that I think works better in an awards context). Then again, Jemison’s Obelisk Gate also suffered from middle novel syndrome and managed to win last year, so once again, I know nothing. Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty represents the only new-to-me author nominated (she won the Campbell a few years back, so not a completely new name), and the novel sounds like a neat closed room mystery… in space! I never managed to catch up with it before the nominating period ended, but it was something I wanted to read. Who knows if it has any chance? The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin is the conclusion to her trilogy, of which the first two entries have already won Hugos. For any other series or author, I’d say that means this one has less of a chance of winning, but despite my hesitations with the previous two books, people seem to really love these novels, so there’s a fair chance it’ll win again this year. Not sure what that augurs for the health of the awards, but I guess nothing is decided yet.

    I’ve only read two of these novels, definitely want to read one more, was curious about another two, and am not particularly looking forward to The Stone Sky (but at this point, I feel like I should probably finish out the trilogy). That’s a reasonable batting average, I guess. Pour one out for The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. though. I suspect that will remain my favorite novel of the year, even after catching up with these other four nominees.

  • I’m a little surprised that Lois McMaster Bujold didn’t get a nod in the novella category, but I’m guessing that releasing three Penric novellas in one year managed to split the vote. I was happy to see All Systems Red by Martha Wells get the nod (it was on my ballot and one my favorite reads of last year). A few other recognizable names on the ballot, but nothing that really grabs me. I skipped the category last year, not sure if I’ll manage this year.
  • Novelette has another Yoon Ha Lee story, “Extracurricular Activities”, that was what I nominated instead of Raven Strategem. It takes place in the same universe and features a character from his novels, but is entirely standalone (and more accessible than the novels as well).

    My other nominee didn’t make it, and nothing is jumping out at me for the other nominees.

  • I haven’t read any of the nominated Short Stories, but in my experience with these awards, this category is almost always the biggest disaster. I almost never enjoy any of the short stories, for whatever reason.
  • I remain skeptical of the Best Series category on pragmatic, logistical grounds, but think it funny that Lois McMaster Bujold could win the award again this year (and I judge a fair chance of that).
  • The Dramatic Presentation awards look decent enough, considering the venue. Still wish that Colossal and Your Name would have gotten some love, but hey, you can still watch them (go give them a shot – they’re both great). In other news, I’ve actually already seen half the Short Form nominees, which is a rarity.
  • The 1943 Retro Hugo finalists were also announced. I actually nominated a couple of things, and they both made it. Rooting for Hal Clement’s short story, “Proof” (a fantastic story, well worth checking out if you can find it – are these included in Hugo Voters Packets? Be on the lookout.) And Asimov’s “Foundation” got a nod too (though it’s only the Novelette, a subset of what most of us read). The only real surprise is that The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis didn’t get a nod. Or maybe not. Current Hugo voters aren’t into Lewis’ religiousity, I guess.

And that covers it. I’ll most likely be reading and reviewing over the next few months (might take a bit to get going, as I just started a large book that will take a bit to finish)…

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