I came home today to the news this year's Hugo Award nominations had been announced.
And you know what, it's mainly good news.
Getting the inside baseball point out of the way first, the first reason to be cheerful is that it's not a re-run of the problems the awards experienced in 2015 and 2016. After changes to the nomination process were agreed last year, the power of block voting has been much reduced.
Granted, former block voters the Rabid Puppies are still around, having adapted their approach to the new rules. Their picks have secured at least one nomination (out of six candidates) in around half of the categories. But even the bare fact it's a much more open field than the last two years is cause for celebration; it will be interesting to see if it translates for this reader into an improvement in overall quality.
Let's take a look at the contenders and see what leaps out.
I've read precisely one of the nominees - Charlie Jane Anders' All The Birds In The Sky - which I thought was a solid four-star effort and voted for its inclusion on this list. Previous 2015 and 2016 winners Cixin Liu and N K Jemisin are back with a trilogy-closer and a sequel respectively, so are presumably the early favourites.
And it's interesting to see Becky Chambers up for A Close And Common Orbit; having enjoyed A Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet a great deal but not necessarily seen it as award-worthy, let's see what this loose sequel does for me. Yoon Ha Lee and Ada Palmer, on the other hand, are entirely unknown territory.
In short, an intriguing mix of the known and unknown, and just the sort of line-up to see me paying up for my Worldcon membership to become a Hugo voter so I have an excuse to read my way through them. :)
Short fiction categories
Essentially the Hugo's are my opportunity to read what I hope is some of the best short SF and fantasy fiction of the year, as they don't normally form part of my literary consumption patterns. So I'm excited to see Lois McMaster Bujold, N K Jemisin (again) China Mieville and Alyssa Wong among the nominees, especially the last-named, as her entries last year were excellent. And those are just the authors with which I'm already familar...
I'm also looking forward to the Semiprozine category for much the same reason.
As you can probably tell, the big-ticket fiction categories are mainly what interest me, but here's what's grabbed me from the others.
- Any Best Related Work category that manages to include Kameron Hurley, Carrie Fisher,
Robert Silverberg, Neil Gaiman and Ursula Le Guin is alright with me.
- I thought Arrival was great and would probably award it first place in Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form without hesitation.
- [prays silently for anything in Best Professional Artist or Best Fan Artist to be truly great]
- A little sad to see File 770 decline its nomination for Best Fanzine as it's continued to play a vital role in reporting fandom over the past year. But it has won seven times in the past, so I'm sure the hat-tip of a nomination plus another for proprietor Mike Glyer in Best Fan Writer will suffice.
- I remain to be convinced by the need for a Best Series category, here for now as a one-off, but it's fab to see Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers Of London series up there with the other nominees. Simultaneously very British in its approach and very contemporary in its execution, this is actually a good example of a serial work where the whole exceeds the sum of their parts, fun though all of them are.
Can you tell I nominated it? :)
- Am unable to decide if I'm more surprised by a nomination for Chuck Tingle in Best Fan Writer or Laurie Penny in Best New Writer, but a hearty welcome to both.
Voting will open shortly - in the meantime let the reading commence!