The Hugos, Blah Blah Blah

Here on the eve of Anticipation, SFSignal is asking folks a few questions about the Hugo Best Novel category in general and this year’s slate in particular, so if you’re interested in seeing what some folks have to say about it, here you go. I don’t find the conclusions particularly controversial, up to and including which book is the panel’s favorite to win (hint: it’s not mine, but that’s fine, as I don’t expect mine to win either. But, you know, I’d take it).

What’s more interesting to me are the books that people list as “should be on the list but aren’t” among which are at least a couple I was personally surprised were not on the slate this year. I won’t suggest that any of the books on the short list don’t deserve to be there (because they all do, in my opinion, because as I’ve noted before I think it’s a generally strong year for the category), but I will say that if the Gods of the Hugo came down and told me that I had to decline this year’s nomination and put something else in its place, I’d probably let Matter (Iain Banks) and The Gone-Away World (Nick Harkaway) mud wrestle for it, and I have a whole list of other books to offer up if they were to splatter themselves to a tie. But that’s the nice and terrible thing about having a good year for SF/F novels, and so few nomination slots.

36 thoughts on “The Hugos, Blah Blah Blah

  1. All this Hugo blather this year (and I’m not referring to your commentary thus far, Scalzi old bean, but just the general volume overall) has made me realize something:

    Excepting Scalzi and some Halo tie-in books, I haven’t read a full-on SF novel in several years. And I don’t really feel a compelling need to do so. And I’m not sure if I should be bothered by that or not…and THAT does kind of bother me, since I used to read a LOT of SF. Did I move away from SF, did SF move away from me or have I just lapsed and await a return? I don’t know.

    I HAVE been reading, you understand…but non-fiction has dominated my reading tastes as of late. Media tie-ins, too. On the other hand, I haven’t been reading much Fantasy, either. It’s kind of disconcerting when I hear all these names bandied about as ‘big names’ in SF when I don’t know ANY of them…and then when a time comes when I DO know all of the authors on the Hugos for the first time in a while, the Internets starts coughing up how unqualified and mainstream and jejune the choices are.

    Weird.

  2. Some of those people seem very very cranky to me. I’d like to get them some ice cream or something.

    My favorite was the one who talked about how horribly flawed and hateful the novels he WOULD put on the list were (since they were only less flawed and hateful than the ones that ARE on there).

  3. WizardDru:

    “then when a time comes when I DO know all of the authors on the Hugos for the first time in a while, the Internets starts coughing up how unqualified and mainstream and jejune the choices are.”

    Be aware that when you say “the Internets” here, what you’re really saying is “three or four people, who have a bug up their ass about this year’s slate,” which is not exactly the same thing.

    Diana Peterfreund:

    Yes, lots of people there who need hugs, although not from me.

  4. It’s been a great year for SF/F novels, and my quest to read/review all five Best Novel nominees before the awards has been an exhilarating rush of wonderful words. Just one more to go (not yours – I admit I foolishly waited for Saturn’s Children to come out in paperback), and then I have to tackle your two recommendations above, thanks!

  5. I like the cranky replies, because it usually means that people out there are reading all types of sci-fi, and people do go investigate those titles that just aren’t on the end caps from those rants. The grumps that need a cookie or a hug might have a point that a novel here or there was over looked, but if it only gets one vote, sorry, it only got ONE vote. The “rants” lead me to this site ( I think from wheaton), to the Old Man series, from there to other series, to Joe mallozzi, to even more books, I’ve done more sci-fi reading in a the last few years that I still have a growing pile I won’t get to till my retirement.

    Matter was great!

    “old bean” I love it…John “old bean” Scalzi..now we need bumper stickers.

  6. Matter is the only one that I think of as “overlooked”, though Banks is always overlooked at Hugo time. Unfortunately, I don’t read extensively enough to have read most of the other suggestions in that article, partly because of lack of time and partly because I tend to wait for paperbacks.

    I certainly appreciate the tone of that article…much preferable to Adam Robert’s “You suck because you don’t have my taste.” Or maybe it’s because she picked my first and second place votes. :-P (Sorry…you should avoid competing with Stephenson and Gaiman.)

  7. YOU LEAVE NOW STEVE BURNAP.

    Or, more to the point, as I think I’ve mentioned before, the prize here for me in the Best Novel category is that Zoe’s Tale was nominated, period. I didn’t think that was a likely event and was immensely gratified when it happened, because I’m really proud of the work that went into creating the character. Winning would be nice but as far as I’m concerned I’ve already got what I wanted out of it.

  8. I visited the link and got bored quickly. Seems to be a bit of a life-waster to treat this topic as a serious discussion. Are this year’s Hugo Nominees tepid tea? Who’s missing from the list? Who cares?

    In the words of a five year-old cliche, it is what it is.

    This phrase, though, from one of the contributors, brought a smile to my face:

    “I could give you half a dozen reasons for absolutely hating this book and I would agree with every single one of them …”

    (I had a witty punchline here but I felt it detracted from the quote.)

  9. Hey, we’re cult members! Robert Sabella says so.

    Shouldn’t we be more willing to do your bidding without needing cake, then?

  10. Hugo politics are funny (funny odd, not funny amusing)

    I’m predicting Gaiman for the win (Best Novel) not because it’s the “best” as I generally don’t like Gaiman’s style, but because he is a) popular, and b) the GoH. Obviously I’m in the minority as lots of folks like Gaiman.

    The hugo voters don’t like to snub the GoH. Also, there is at least a segment of attendies that will go to a con specifically due to the GoH, so the GoH has a built in fanbase advantage.

    The shot fiction categories are much harder to predict, since lots of Hugo voters just skip the category on their ballots, which is fair enough, as trying to keep up with the short fiction is a bit of a task. It wouldn’t surprise me if “True Names” wins best Novella simply because it has Doctorow’s name on it. (yeah I’m cynical)

    Related book, even harder to say. Our gracous host has a good shot at it, but considering how huge a following the Vorkosigan saga thing has, The Vorkosigan Companion is probably a shoe-in. (sorry John)

    Graphic Story? (I’m not even sure this should be a Hugo category). Coin flip between Phil Foglio and Howard Taylor. Smart money is on Foglio.

    Dramatic Long: Wall-E. Personally hated it and it’s pro eco-facist message, but folks like cartoons.

    Dramatic Short: Dr. Horible FTW. Brilliant, simply Briliant. Also Wheden has the sort of fan base that will actually bother to vote. Besides Steve Moffet already has 3 Hugos. (at least 2 he deserved, and they should have made a supersized 2-meter tall one for Blink) BSG is over, though Revelations was a very strong episode.

  11. I just picked up Matter this morning and it did cross my mind that it must have been eligible for the Hugos this year and it is therefore surprising it’s not on there, Banks being Banks (by which I mean ‘awesome) and all.

    But that’s always going to be the case, unless the genre starts sucking so badly that we only have five good novels a year.

  12. I thought that _Matter_ was a little disappointing. It had the usual neat ideas, but the base story just didn’t seem as rich as Banks’ previous stuff. That said, it’s probably a good introduction to Banks because it’s very readable, but I got to the end and wondered if that was really all there was to it (as opposed to, say, _Use of Weapons_, where I got to the end and twitched for about 45 minutes).

    Then again, Banks is one of those writers who I really, really want to like more than I do (if that makes any sense).

  13. AlanM @ 17,

    Concur with you on Banks’ Use of Weapons. Amazing powerful stuff.

    Discussion of Matter should be a topic all to itself. I’m afraid I’ll be accused of threadjacking if I type everything I want to say about the daunting writing challenge Banks set for himself — and largely succeeded in mastering.

    For me, the story of the female character (the sister) was the more engaging, and it was only when the brother and sister were reunited that the story became a page-turner. Standing alone, the story of the prince (the brother) didn’t really hold my interest. The Epilogue explained a bit (at least to me) why that was so.

    The contrast between the apparent protagonists and their motivations in both Use of Weapons and Matter strikes me as one worthy of a very long post, one that I shall not make here. (Yay me!)

    ‘Nuff said on that topic. Should Matter have been nominated? Sure. I would have a standing Worldcon General Order No. 3 that every SF novel Banks publishes should be automatically nominated for a Hugo. But it wasn’t and that, as they say, is that.

    (General Order No. 2 would be for Stross’ short stories, by the way.)

  14. Diana@4:
    Some of those people seem very very cranky to me. I’d like to get them some ice cream or something.

    Heh… The funny thing is that you can take any prize imaginable — the Hugos, the Man Booker, the Pulitzers, The Oscars — and come up with a totally different yet defensible slate of nominees. I’m pretty meh-some about Banks (with or without the SF initial), but get why people whose judgment I respect — like our host — would beg to differ. Just not worth getting ‘The Dark Knight wuz robbed, frak it’ pissy over.

  15. Did Jonathan McCalmont read an alternate reality version of Little Brother? Because I don’t remember the part where Cory Doctorow wanted to lock up Arabs in secret prisons.

  16. Add me to the “Matter was good, but not as good as prior Banks” list. I enjoyed reading it a lot, well written and interesting and flowed well, characters were nice. But it wasn’t as gripping as much of his prior work.

    Certainly worth the hardback price I paid.

    Good enough to be on this Hugo ballot? Good enough to be on a Hugo ballot, at least. Not sure what I’d recommend swapping it in for off this one.

  17. Nick Harkoway’s ‘The Gone Away World’ was an amazing rush! I didn’t even know it was eligible for this year’s awards, but yes, I would think he should have been nominated.

  18. Man, I know you aren’t expecting to win, but these people won’t even give you the time of day!

  19. As far as the Hugo award for best novel, I think the entire nominating process is a marketing sham and should be changed. If the Hugo nominee’s novel hasn’t been released as a mass market paperback for at least three months prior to the awards then the novel shouldn’t be eligible. The Hugos is a fan-based award. These five Hugo-nominated hardcover books cost more than $100.00 US, whereas the mass market paperbacks would be around $40. Did the industry really expect hard-working sf fans to drop a cool hundo on hardcovers before this year’s Anticipation?

    Anathem by Neal Stephenson, Ineligible
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Ineligible
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Ineligible
    Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross, Ineligible
    Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi, Ineligible

    Therefore, by default, the Hugo award for best novel 2009 goes to Iain M. Banks for Matter, the mass market paperback released in late 2008.

  20. Peon Po: Most of us hard-working sf fans are aware ofthe existence of a thing called “public libraries”…

    I find it interesting that nobody at all seems to think that this is an average year for Hugo nominations. It’s either an extremely strong year (which would be my personal opinion here), or an extremely weak year. Very odd.

    Picking “Flood” as the victim of a robbery is odd, even disregarding the self-inflicted (by not being published in the states until 2009) portion.

  21. Peon Po @ 24,

    Damn, I almost bit. I had this lengthy post all drafted, about Hugo Packets and membership versus general fandom, and then I finally realized you were being facetious. Good one!

    Anyway, your post reminds me of wine-tasting in South Africa. The wine farms I visited charged a nominal fee, roughly US $1.25 (at the time) for four wine tastings plus six cheese tastings. (All quite wonderful, by the way.)

    Anyway, I asked the manager why he charged the fee because, for $1.25, why bother? Napa Valley wineries would charge $10 (or more) and give less for the price, unless the entire marketing experience was free. His answer has stayed with me. He said, “to keep the riff-raff out.”

    His answer reminded me that what seems trivial for one person can be a large expense for another–and vice-versa. Depends on circumstances and needs, I guess.

  22. Jardine@20:
    Yeah, I saw that, too. When did *that* happen? He must’ve confused Little Brother with another book. (Not finishing the book probably didn’t help.)

    Scalzi, something that would interest me is how many people who were asked those five questions actually nominated/voted in the Hugos this year. (Because I think it’s been made public knowledge that at least one of them has not.)

  23. The Blatherations of Others

    There’s an army of about say . . . 50,000 Americans (military personnel and private contracts, including language instructors) living as expatriates in Japan, South Korea, and China. I know because I’m living amongst them as a freelance language instructor/writer. Many of us purchase/order our books through small new/used bookstores like Whatthebook in Seoul and hang out in surrounding coffee houses. They have everything from Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and Dunkin Donuts. Nothing like a good mass market paperback and a cup of joe. Considering the average sf hardcover in this neck of the woods is like $35 US, I can’t see myself become a book collector anytime soon.
    If only there were . . . libraries. Libraries? As in libraries with hardcover sff books? Here, in Northeast Asia? Like, as in library cards and the option to actually check out books? In a perfect American empire, yes. But sadly, no.
    One of the things you learn if you’ve lived abroad for any length of time is how different the world maps look from country to country. In South Korea, the world maps have . . . South Korea . . . positioned in the middle of the map, with Western Europe to the far left and North America to the far right. A cool this little piece of trivia, I suppose, but what’s the point, right? The world doesn’t revolve around America, like many American rednecks have been led to believe. In fact, all 195 countries in the world, including America, are revolving around something called post-modernity, or the post-modern condition, like planets around the sun. We live in a global village . . . maybe it’s time Hugo joins the throng. If you’re representing sf fandom the world round, then look around. We’re right here . . . a click of the mouse away.

  24. PS Being that I can’t afford any of the Hugo novels, I suppose I’ll have to watch Star.Trek.TOS.S0301.Spocks.Brain.avi, which I just downloaded illegally.

  25. At least this year, cost of books shouldn’t have been an issue at the voting end- nominating is a different story. Anyone out there remember the Hugo Voter’s package- available via download with your membership?

  26. Peon Po: you have Amazon Japan next to you. You could use bookdepository, deepdiscount and so on.

    Little brother is available as a free ebook.
    The Graveyard Book is available as a “audiobook”, read by the author.

    Anathem is out in paperback for a long time.

    Almost everything in the shorter categories was avaible for free download or as a podcast.

    METAtropolis was available as a free audiobook for anyone.

    And of course, there’s the Voter’s package. For the price I would have payed for the Rhetorics of Fantasy (If I could find it with free shipping), I was quiet content with this year’s “expensive” books…

  27. Nick from The O.C@26: Wine tasting in Napa used to be much cheaper, until people started hiring tourist buses to cart them around, not to *taste* wine, but on more of a “let’s get trashed in Napa” mission.

  28. Full Attending membership: A membership that grants all voting, publication and attending rights. 275.00 CAD at the door.

    With airfare and hotel, I would have been looking at over $2000 CAD. That’s a lot of money to vote for my favorite sf novel. Oh, well. There’s always next year. Where is it being held next year anyway, the international space station, a quarter million a head?

  29. Peon Po: From the Anticipation website:
    Supporting membership: A membership that grants publications and voting rights, but not the right to attend the convention. You can upgrade to an attending membership by paying the difference between the rates. 55.00 CAD at the door.
    I think it was 50 CAD in advance.
    Still a bit much just for voting rights if you ask me, but no where near $2k.

  30. Gotta love Paul Grahm Raven’s answers:

    3. Which of this year’s finalists do you predict will receive the Hugo award for Best Novel?

    I think Scalzi probably has this one in the bag…

    4. Which of this year’s finalists do you think should receive the Hugo award for Best Novel?

    I’ve read not a single one of them, so how can I judge?…

    uhhhh…. Maybe he’s a fan of green book covers with orange letters?

    Maybe he should be on the panel for this topic there SFSignal :-)

  31. Thanks, Polychrome. I’m definitely getting involved next year at Aussiecon 4 in Melbourne. It must be a blast receiving one of those Hugo Voters’ Packets in the mail. Man, oh man! I’d always assumed Hugo voters had to be American citizens. I’m Canadian, argh! Worldcon right there in my old stomping ground. Considering that I’m basically in the same time zone at Melbourne up here in Seoul nowadays, it’s looks like I’m jetting down to my first Worldcon next year. Is Scalzi heading down under next year?

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