Hugo Thoughts, 2010

Do I have thoughts on this year’s Hugo nomination slate? Boy, do I!

* First, of course, hugely thrilled that The God Engines made the ballot in the novella category. This is the first fiction nomination for me outside of the novel category, and it is really very gratifying. The fact of the matter is that writing shorter work is in many ways harder for me than writing a novel, and TGE is so different than most of my other work that it was bound to provoke some “wtf?” reactions. To be blunt, I was expecting lots of people to flat-out hate it. So for it to get a nod really really really makes my day. Any Hugo nomination is special, but this one is, shall we say, especially special. If you nominated me, thank you.

Also, inasmuch as I believe that one is known by the company one keeps, I’m delighted to see that the novella category is packed with extraordinary talent this year: Charlie Stross, who continues his impressive streak of sequential Hugo slate appearances (he’s nominated in the Novelette category as well); James Morrow, who is as delightful a person as he is impressive a writer; Ian McDonald and Nancy Kress, both short fiction Hugo winners (Nancy most recently last year, in fact); and the late and lamented Kage Baker. This is as strong a category as I’ve been in; I suspect voters are going to have trouble trying to make up their minds which novella to vote for. This is as it should be.

* The short fiction nominations this year are interesting as much as where they come from as for their content. Consider that last year, nine of the nominees in the short fiction came from the “Big Three” SF magazines (with Asimov’s alone responsible for seven of those), while only one nomination came from an electronic publication (Jim Baen’s Universe). The year before that, there were 11 short fiction nominees from the “Big Three” and none electronic; the year before that, 11 “Big Three” short fiction nominations, and two electronic media nominations.

This year, Asimov’s is the only member of the “Big Three” represented in short fiction, with three nominations, while and Clarkesworld, two online publications, are responsible for two each, and the rest of  the nominees are spread out among anthologies, collections, stand-alone book editions and smaller print markets; it’s the most diverse group of nominees, in terms of publisher, that the short fiction categories have seen, in their recent history at least.

What does it mean? Maybe nothing; it could be a blip, since one year does not constitute a trend. However, I would like to think it means something positive for short fiction; namely, that SF/F readers are getting used to looking in a variety of places for short fiction and finding quality work when they go looking. In other words, it’s not that there’s something wrong with the “Big Three,” it’s that there’s something right about the rest of the short fiction field. That’s pretty encouraging, both in terms of the future of short fiction in the genre, and the overall quality of short SF/F at this point in time.

* In the headlining novel category, I think it’s an excellent year, and I think the six nominees are not only fine nominees in themselves but act as a genuine sample of the range of science fiction and fantasy at the moment. From WWW:Wake to Palimpsest to Boneshaker, The City & The City, The Windup Girl and Julian Comstock, it’s difficult to say you don’t get variety, or that there’s not something for everybody there. To be sure, someone will find something to complain about — it wouldn’t be a Hugo slate if someone wasn’t kvetching somewhere about it — but those people are high, and not on the fun kind of drugs. Out here in the real world, this is a fine slate.

* Indeed, overall, it’s hard not to consider this an excellent year in nearly all categories. The weakest category for me is the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form because while, yes, I get that lots of fans really like their Doctor Who, I think having it constitute 60% of the slate might suggest nominators aren’t looking at the whole range of sf/f entertainment options available to them. LIKE STARGATE: UNIVERSE, PEOPLE. Sorry, that just slipped out. But aside from that, this year’s nods are pretty damn good: Good work, good range of work, and good diversity of publishers and writers, however you wish to slice the term “diversity.” Again, someone is sure to complain about something, but remember: They’re high, in a distinctly un-fun way. And I’m stoked that so many of my friends are on the ballot. Hey, I know interesting, creative people. It was bound to happen, you know.

* Incidentally, the nomination I think is the best? Frederik Pohl, for Best Fan Writer (for his genuinely excellent blog). What I also think is excellent? That none of the last three winners of the Fan Writer Hugo are nominated this year, which means we’ll have four different Best Fan Writers in four years, which is something that hasn’t happened in 35 years. I think that’s a very positive thing. Don’t feel bad for those three previous winners, incidentally, as each of them is elsewhere on the ballot. See. Being a fan writer pays off.

* Getting back to me, there are two things I know people are going to ask me about, so let me address them quickly:

Am I Doing a Hugo Reader’s Packet This Year? No, I am not — but that’s not to say one isn’t being planned. I don’t know how much more I can say about it at this point, so I won’t. However, I can say that I do intend to make The God Engines available to Hugo voters for their consideration, one way or another, in the reasonably near future. Update: Aussiecon 4 just put up the following note: “Aussiecon 4 is producing the 2010 Hugo Voter Packet: an online collection of nominee works for the members of Aussiecon 4.  More information about the 2010 Packet will be available here soon.” I’ll be putting The God Engines in that packet for voters to consider.

Am I Attending AussieCon4? I don’t know yet; as many of you may remember I just put down new floors and carpet in my house, and hey, that’s not cheap. That said, if I can manage it, I would very much like to go; I think this will be a fun Worldcon, and I’m keen on finally getting my butt down to Australia.

So: Want to go, have to see if I can. When I know, I’ll tell all y’all.

62 Comments on “Hugo Thoughts, 2010”

  1. “None of the last three winners of the Fan Writer Hugo are nominated this year, which means we’ll have four different Best Fan Writers in four years, which is something that hasn’t happened in 35 years. “

    Really good point.

  2. Heh, I’m not terribly excited about the novel slate – Wake was like Chinese food, good going down, but strangely unsatisfying in the end to me, and I don’t care for steampunk, so that leaves out a couple of the others. I am however looking forward to The City and the City whenever it gets a sanely-priced e-edition. I’m perfectly willing to wait until the paperback release for that though. Palimpsest I read the kindle sample for it, and it just didn’t grab me.

    I did however read a few of the shorter fiction pieces along the way, so it should be worth tracking down some of the others.

  3. Thanks for your list. I went to use your picks as a shopping list on the Kindle as I need some new fiction, and have found that most are missing on the Australian Kindle. Upsetting!
    Sadly, none of your books are available on the Oz kindle either – any chance you know when they might make it down under?
    (in time for Aussiecon perhaps?)
    Thanks, Joanna

  4. If you get to Melbourne, remember that I owe you a drink. It may be two decades before you can claim, if you don’t get to Melbourne…

  5. Joanna@5, The Windup Girl is available in a non-DRM-infected version from Baen that will work on any device, go to if eco-morality tales are your thing. It’s actually a Nightshade book, but they have a deal with them. As for the rest? Dunno, I have a US Kindle, everything else but the Robert Charles Wilson book is available on US Kindle.

  6. C’mon, people, buy the paper versions of the books. Those trees aren’t going to kill themselves, you know, the dirty blighters!

  7. John, may I assume that you will point us to wherever the Hugo Reader’s Packet pops up when it becomes available?

  8. Regarding the Hugo Reader’s Packet – I hope our esteemed host doesn’t mind if I point out this link to AussieCon4, where the following statement can be found: Aussiecon 4 is producing the 2010 Hugo Voter Packet: an online collection of nominee works for the members of Aussiecon 4. More information about the 2010 Packet will be available here soon.

    While I’m here, I agree that BDP:SF is one of the weakest slates. No Torchwood? No Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles? There ain’t no justice! Especially in the case of Torchwood, which was the best thing RTD actually did all year. That the lesser Doctor Who specials should edge it out… aw, man.

  9. John, If you can’t get to Worldcon this year, will you be going to World Fantasy Con in Columbus, Ohio this October? It would be worth buying a membership to see you!

  10. John, if you come to Melbourne you’ll get to sign my copies of your books. On its own, that would make the trip worthwhile.

  11. So thrilled at the nominations, particularly for Cherie Priest and Boneshaker (which I picked up at my local indie bookstore after the Big Idea piece here). But Ian McDonald and Paolo Bacigalupi had some awesome work, too.

    Guess I should finally go get and read TGE…

  12. Related but not related…something I’ve been meaning to ask. Did The God Engines go through a shorter editing process than normal?

  13. The weakest category for me is the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form because while, yes, I get that lots of fans really like their Doctor Who, I think having it constitute 60% of the slate might suggest nominators aren’t looking at the whole range of sf/f entertainment options available to them.

    Boy, do I feel you. I am a Who-nerd First Class (I not only go to conventions, I go to Doctor Who conventions, dressed as the Doctor), but honestly–three nominations? One of which (“Planet of the Dead”) is a giant pile of poo, and another of which (“The Next Doctor”) is at best mediocre? The only outstanding Who last year was “The Waters of Mars”, which does deserve its nod. Now, what about Ashes To Ashes, whose Season 2 was chock full o’ awesome? What about my beloved Pushing Daisies, for Cthulhu’s sake?

    Also, while I am a huge freaking Whovian (see above), Doctor Who has won Best Dramatic Short Form for what, four years running? Time for someone else to win, I think.

    Damn it, if only I weren’t quite so strapped for discretionary cash, I wish I could have voted.

    OTOH, I’m delighted to see Paul Cornell on the slate, because he’s hugely talented and super-cool.

    And Scalzi, obviously, but that sort of goes without saying.

  14. NickH@10: Agreed that Torchwood: Children of Earth pwned all the Doctor Who specials, but it was 5 hours long, so probably not eligible for Short Form.

  15. John @11: You’re welcome.

    Nightsky@17: You are correct; I meant to say that I was disppointed not to see it on BDP:LF, so to say the Doctor Who specials edged it out was clearly wrong of me. I put the blame doing to being up late at Eastercon last night, lack of sleep makes me less intelligent like that sometimes.


    I’ll agree with you here, John. I haven’t watched a lot of Doctor Who (although “Waters of Mars” was fantastic) but I think SG:U probably deserved a nod. The episode “Time” was absolutely fantastic. Give my complements to the team that put that one together.

  17. I think Stargate Universe will have to wait until next year. Its been interesting but there hasn’t been an episode yet in which we really cared about the people or looked at the human condition (I’m excluding the episodes in which they went back to Earth as I’m not convinced yet that they have really looked at the ramifications of switching bodies. People took it way too easily that their loved ones were in other bodies).

    I reckon it will improve, and we’ll see something unique and compelling soon.

    I’d like to create my own award, for best throwing up scene, as it appears to be a major requirement for all actors nowadays.

  18. I couldn’t afford to attend the first Australian WorldCon, back in ’75 — but I did go, and spent about a month lollygagging about in a small part of the country. Never have regretted it for even a moment. YMMV.

  19. Regarding Who, possibly nominations are partly for the meta-achievement, what with it being the end of the RTD era and all*. Even as a big notfan, I’d support that kind of recognition. Kind of like Return of the King getting the Oscar even though it’s not necessarily the strongest one. Shame for my thesis that Who isn’t exactly unrecognised over the past few years.

    Also, as a kind of Carthago delenda est, I’d like to declare my loathing of the existence of the novella/novel divide.

    *It’s a sign of the times that eras are now defined as you live them, and not a good few years later once we’ve sat down and had a good think about what the heck happened.

  20. John, You should try a moon pie with a R.C. (Royal Crown) cola!! There is nothing better!! Only 24 days till Jazzfest!!!

  21. Echoes on the smile-brought-to-face by seeing Fred Pohl’s name on the fan writer list, a richly deserved nomination.

    If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time a SFWA Grand Master and multiple “pro” Hugo & Nebula Winner has subsequently gone on to a Best Fan Writer nomination.

  22. Well, AussieCon4 is a bit of stretch financially for a lot fo folks. (me included)

    See you in Reno?

    Ohh, and Seanan’s nominated for a Campbell. I’ll bet she’s still bouncing off the walls at that news (in a good way)

  23. I’ve read four of the 6 best novel nods. and am personally torn between The City & The City and The Windup Girl as being the best. Just my opinion.

    Tough call all the way around in the novella group, I like them all.
    I don’t have a vote and there is no way I could go to Aussiecon anyway. I’m not destitute but I do have two daughters in college.

  24. I was surprised by Frederik Pohl’s nomination for fan writing till I saw your mention of his blog. Took a look at it and it’s really interesting, but — no full feed?? I don’t have time to visit individual blogs regularly, partial/truncated feeds are useless to me.

  25. I’ve read three of the Best Novel nominees to date- loved some, disliked others, but could recognize the quality in all of them.

  26. @Gwen, #31,
    “I don’t have time to visit individual blogs regularly, partial/truncated feeds are useless to me.”

    Wait, so the .5 seconds it takes to click on a bookmark is a dealbreaker for you? For reading one of the most interesting blogs on the web?


  27. Hey if you do come down to Melbourne don’t – no matter what people say – let yourself be talked into going into the “Bush” to “see the real Australia”; yes it’s beautiful, exotic, and full of unique wildlife – most of which will kill you!
    -and no our VERY large crocodiles are not safe to play with – they will also kill you – unless you’re a German backpacker – in which case they will still kill you but no-one will care.

  28. There are crocs in the Victorian bush the way there are alligators in Wisconsin. It’s drop bears that are really dangerous in the south.

  29. Gillian @ 35

    Now don’t take the fun out of it – it’s our job to confuse the foreigners at all times – oh and take alltheir money of course.

  30. John, I wanted to second the comment someone made in the other thread by saying that I though The God Engines is the best thing you’ve written.

    I agree about short form. What a depressing slate. Three episodes from something I don’t care for and one episode each from shows that I found too boring to keep up with.

    Dramatic Presentation: long form is a whole different story. Every one of them was good. (Even if the one that will almost certainly win is pure schlock.) I am really pulling for Moon.

    I’ve read three of the novels, and can imagine choosing any of them…really hard choice. Harder, given that I love Wilson and hadn’t even realized he had a new book out!

  31. John, is it gratifying for you how many of the nominees had “Big Idea” pieces here? I know that’s a connection I made upon seeing the list.

    I also have to say that I’m pleased by the diversity of the material in some categories; it’s always nice to see some fantasy and steampunk love amidst the “pure” sci-fi. Obviously dramatic short is an exception, as you noted — like others, I agree.

    You don’t mention the John W Campbell award in this post. Any thoughts?

  32. I agree that “Torchwood: Children of Earth” should have been nominated, but it was probably too long for the short for nomination too.

    I really loved “The Waters of Mars.”

  33. If you (or other US readers) do go to Melbourne, remember that all the travel options suck. You’re in the wrong universe for non-sucky travel to Australia (and here I speak as someone with far too much experience).

    There’s a few non-stop flights from SF or LA to Melbourne. Otherwise, changing flights in Auckland is substantially less awful than changing flights in Sydney. The transfer happens at 0-dark-fifty the day after tomorrow, local time, and in Sydney it involves going through customs and immigration, and changing terminals. In Auckland it just involves going through a metal detector. You don’t even have to take off your shoes, which you have just forced on after the flight.

  34. @Gwen, #31,
    “I don’t have time to visit individual blogs regularly, partial/truncated feeds are useless to me.”

    Do let us know the response from the webmasters of Pohl’s site about your concerns regarding the site.

  35. Pohl’s blog is hardly the only feed that only posts summaries. It hardly takes time to click on the link in the reader.

  36. I’ll admit to not being clear exactly what the requirements are for the Beast Dramatic Presentation: Short Form, but you can’t tell me that Dr Who comprised 60%. Waters of Mars was a fine story and worthy of a nomination, but the other two were bad (Planet of the Dead) to passable (Next Doctor). No mention of Fringe, Galactica (which I didn’t like but was better than Planet of the Dead), Clone Wars, Sarah Connor Chronicles or Better off Ted.

  37. #45. Mauther wrote: “I’ll admit to not being clear exactly what the requirements are for the Beast Dramatic Presentation: Short Form”

    Here you go:

    “3.3.8: Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during the previous calendar year.”

  38. With the 90 minute cap, and the inclusion of fantasy themed works, I really can’t see Dr Who getting all the noms. If nothing else, its BBC sibling “Beign Human” (episode 3 or 4) should have been nominated, and you have possible noms in other fantasy works like Reaper, or Supernatural. And the timelimit should make Caprica eligible.

  39. “and the inclusion of fantasy themed works”

    Well … yeah. Trying to define the difference between Sf & fantasy will only lead to madness, hence the lack of any definition in the rules. it’s up to the membership decide.

    Note that fantasy has won in the past, an exampe would be Robert Bloch’s “That Hell Bound Train” winner of a Hugo in 1959.

  40. @Michael Walsh …not just in the past. Fully half of the last ten or so best novels have been straight-up fantasy — and, excepting maybe in 2001, totally deserving.


  41. Ah, 2001. There lots of irate missives published in about that. Oddly enough, none of the letter writes showed up in the 2001 Worldcon’s online membership list.

    I tend to ignore people who decline to be part of the process.

  42. I may be misremembering, but I thought there were 5 nominations in most categories (including best novel) last year. This year there seem to be 6 in most of the fiction awards (although other categories still seem to have just 5). Anyone know the reason for this?

  43. Regarding ties …. for the detail oriented, from the WSFS Constitution:

    Section 3.8: Tallying of Nominations.

    3.8.1: Except as provided below, the final Award ballots shall list in each category the five eligible nominees receiving the most nominations. If there is a tie including fifth place, all the tied eligible nominees shall be listed.

  44. My fiance and I have decided Aussiecon4 will be our honeymoon, which gives us a reason to visit Australia (my first) and go to Worldcon (my first) at the same time. Don’t suppose Krissy would mind another honeymoon, would she? ^_^

  45. I won’t argue that it’s a time factor that keeps me from reading feeds with truncated entries, ’cause it’s a “boy is that annoying” problem. I have to like a site a LOT to bother (at this time, Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books is the only one). (Also, LJ polls just say that there IS a poll.)

    It’s a matter of interrupting focus–it’s jarring. Doesn’t bother me as much to click through if I want to read the comment trail, because at least it’s additional info, not truncated info.

    Might have something to do with my particular form of ADHD; dunno. But I’m with Gwen–feeds with truncated entries are really irritating.

  46. John, (and commenters) – many thanks for kind words about the nominations. We had a record number of ballots received this year, and I was also pleased at the great strength and diversity of the nominees, particularly the gender diversity of the written and editing categories, and the number of first-time nominees including some SF ‘greats’ with first-time nominations in categories new to them.

    Although you might expect there would be fewer ties for fifth place statistically due to having more ballots, there were in fact six categories with a tie, resulting in a sixth nominee on the ballot; in one case there was even a 4-way tie for third place. That dropped to five categories after a nominee declined.

    Regarding Doctor Who and Torchwood, note that ‘The Next Doctor’ was eligible despite first release in the UK in December 2008 because there is an eligibility extension for works first released outside the US. The DW finale ‘The End of Time’ wasn’t eligible as its final part was in 2010, although it should in principle be eligible for next year’s Hugos. Torchwood: Children of Earth, comprised five one-hour parts of a single story, and was therefore eligible in BDP-Long Form. It was a very strong BDP-L ballot this year and it took a lot of nominations to get into the top five.

    Details of the nomination statistics and declines will be published after the Hugo ceremony at Aussiecon 4.

    I have my own personal opinions on the ballot of course, and will be happy to share them *after* the final results are announced. :-)

    Note that only Aussiecon 4 members (supporting or attending) can take part in the final Hugo voting (and also the 2012 Worldcon Site Selection).

    See for details of the nominations and the voting process. We will link to those nominees that are available online from that page. We also hope to make a Hugo ‘packet’ containing most of the non-BDP works available soon, to Aussiecon 4 members only.


    Vincent Docherty
    2010 Hugo Award Administrator

  47. Strong novel list overall, and one of the few shortlists I’ve already read. Quite pleased to see Mieville, Bacigalupi and Valente get in, and more than a bit surprised with the last. Any of these would be a great win.

    Julian Comstock is solid, but less impressive, and Boneshaker seemed far too buy the numbers for me–well characterized, but the story was ultimately by the numbers steampunk.

    The real weak slot here is Wake–there’s nothing it does particular well and all of the elements are genre cliches at this point, unpacked in an entertaining but basically sterile narrative. In particular the long detours into China’s virus and isolation as a plot setup quickly got irritating.

    A strong selection overall, but it’s more than a bit of a shame that Wake made it in while more substantive pieces like In Great Waters and the Red Tree didn’t. And I’m surprised to see Galileo’s Dream not make it.

  48. Alexander wrote: “A strong selection overall, but it’s more than a bit of a shame that Wake made it in while more substantive pieces like In Great Waters and the Red Tree didn’t. And I’m surprised to see Galileo’s Dream not make it.”

    Once the winners are announced, a breakdown of the nomination votes will be released, as per:

    “3.11.4: The complete numerical vote totals, including all preliminary tallies for first, second, … places, shall be made public by the Worldcon Committee within ninety (90) days after the Worldcon. During the same period the nomination voting totals shall also be published, including in each category the vote counts for at least the fifteen highest vote-getters and any other candidate receiving a number of votes equal to at least five percent (5%) of the nomination ballots cast in that category, but not including any candidate receiving fewer than five votes.”

    As for “Galileo’s Dream” not on the final ballot, probably because the UK edition came first late last year while the US edition came earlier this year.

  49. I would consider myself a huge fan of both Doctor Who and the Hugos, but what exactly draws people to Planet of the Dead? Which at best could be described as “forgettable” (at least I’m hoping to forget it). I’ll join the kvetchers, SG:U’s Time should have gotten a nomination.