Hugo Thoughts, 2008
Some thoughts on this year’s Hugo nominations:
* First, I think it’s a pretty good year for the Best Novel nominees, but then I don’t suppose that’s entirely surprising, is it. You can do far, far worse than Charles Stross, Robert J Sawyer, Ian McDonald, Michael Chabon and whoever that other guy is. That said, I have to say I was surprised not to see Richard Morgan’s Thirteen (aka Black Man) on the final slate, and rather substantially surprised not to see Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind there, since in the latter case I think it’s one of the best fantasy debuts of recent years. If it doesn’t make the final slate for the World Fantasy Award, I think we can start muttering darkly about conspiracies.
As for Thirteen/Black Man, well, I just thought it was cool as hell is all. I remember that at the 2005 Worldcon in Edinburgh, I was briefly introduced to Morgan and someone suggested to me that I wrote a bit like him. I took it as a compliment then and continue to do so.
* I do find it interesting that the Best Novel category is entirely fantasy free; the closest to fantasy this year I suppose would be Chabon’s book, and it’s really alternate history, which is not quite the same thing. I would be wary of suggesting that it’s indicative of anything in particular; I think it’s just part and parcel with the vagaries of the Hugo nominators from year to year, and the fact it was a strong year in SF. But I’ll bet other folks, possibly more knowledgeable in Hugo lore than I, will read something else in these particular tea leaves.
* To go back to Charlie Stross, congratulations are in order for him, as he has bested Robert Silverberg with a record fifth year of consecutive nominations in the category of Best Novel. I’m really getting tired of noting that he’s the poster boy of science fiction for this decade, but what can I do? It’s true.
* I think the Hugo folks made an interesting choice to allow the entire first season of Heroes to be nominated in the long form category; I wonder what the reaction will be to it. I do know that if it wins, Denvention is going to have to shell out for a hell of a lot of trophies, since it lists eleven writers and thirteen directors on the ballot. I do suspect Stardust has the inside track in the category this year, however.
* I have a lot of friends on the ballot this year and I am happy for them all, but I am especially pleased for Elizabeth Bear, who makes the Hugo ballot for the first time the year with her short story “Tideline.” Likewise David Moles is a first-timer on the ballot as well with his novelette “Finisterra”; looks like he’s bounced back from that SFWA censure just fine. Finally, Jonathan Strahan also makes his first appearance on the ballot in the Best Editor, Short Form category; this pleases me because I’m currently writing a story for him, which is not quite late yet. Give it time, though. But special congratulations to them all.
* Also, let’s drag Lou Anders out here for a bow. Aside from getting his second Hugo nod for Best Editor (long form), I believe this is the first year a Pyr book appears on the Best Novel ballot (Brasyl). Pyr published McDonald’s River of Gods, which was also Hugo nominated, here in the US, but I believe it was published here after it had gotten then nod. So this is the one that counts. Not bad for a science fiction imprint that’s still in its toddler years. As you can guess I’m a big fan of Pyr, and of Lou, and I’m happy both are getting this sort of recognition.
* Campbell nominations: I think it’s a very strong year indeed, and I’m pleased to see my friends Dave Edelman, David Anthony Durham and Mary Robinette Kowal on the ballot. I think this year the ballot is harder to read than it was the previous two years (let’s face it, when someone on the Campbell ballot is also nominated for Best Novel, it does tend to make them a prohibitive favorite). I think Scott Lynch in particular is in good stead, but I wouldn’t call him a runaway favorite, given the high quality of this field. I think this is arguably the most interesting category on the ballot this year.
* But enough about everyone else, I hear you say. Let’s talk about your nominations. Well, all right. If we must.
First, I’m really pleased that The Last Colony made the ballot. I certainly didn’t think it was a given, considering it’s the third book of a series, it was a very strong year for science fiction, and also the fact that if you’re the sort of person who goes around thinking oh, yeah, my book is definitely on the ballot this year you’d sort of be an arrogant prick, now, wouldn’t you.
I think The Last Colony stands on its own merits as a novel (which validates my policy of writing all the books in the OMW series as books that can be read without having read the others), but I do also suspect it’s on the ballot because of affection for the whole OMW series to date, which if true is genuinely humbling. As I’ve noted before, The Last Colony completes the story arc of John Perry and Jane Sagan as the main characters in this universe, and when you’re writing characters people have come to care about, you want to send them off right. What this nomination says to me is that people think I’ve stuck the dismount. To which I can only say: Thank you, with all my heart.
Second, fan writer: Well, in a word: neat. I really really really wasn’t expecting ever to get another nod in this category, given how much dust got kicked up about my presence in it last year. And to be entirely honest I think it was entirely reasonable to see last year’s nomination as a bit of a fluke — basically a bit of a fan burp, or something. So to get nominated in the category for a second time is an affirmation: Yes, people really do think of me as a fan of science fiction, and they really do see what I do here on Whatever as fan writing.
And you know, I’m extremely happy about that. I like being a fan. I like talking about science fiction, and evangelizing for it, and generally making a nuisance of myself cheerleading for the genre and for the writers and other folks in our little corner of the cultural world. I really do believe these are great times for written science fiction and fantasy: We have so many excellent writers working today that it’s almost an embarrassment of riches, and I want to tell as many people as I can about them. I really don’t understand how you could not be a fan, basically.
Third, Best Novel and Best Fan Writer in the same year: Honestly? I think that’s totally WTF FTW awesome. The last time someone was nominated for Best Novel and Best Fan Writer, the book and the fan writing had been produced the same year I was. Which is to say that it’s been nearly 40 years since the last time it happened. One does like to feel special, and this certainly does the trick. I’ve been pretty much giggling incessantly since I found out. Also, you know. I think it makes a salient point about the science fiction community, which is that one can quite easily be a fan and a pro, simultaneously and without any division between the two.
Given that last year a number of folks pooped out some very large bricks at the idea of me being nominated for fan writer, I suppose me being nominated for fan writer and best novel at the same time may cause certain duodenums to spontaneously explode. If it does, well, that’s their karma. I’m happy to have been nominated in both categories, because I think both apply to me equally.
To everyone who nominated me in either category (or both!) all I can say is thank you, and I’m humbled by your appreciation.