Hugo Thoughts, 2013
Now that I’m home, had a good sleep and have generally calmed myself down, some thoughts on Redshirts winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel.
* Maybe some people can be cool about winning the Best Novel Hugo, but those people are so not me. When Paul Cornell announced Redshirts as the winner, I pumped my fist like a total dork, kissed my wife, got hugged by what seemed like every person between me and the stage, and then honestly I don’t remember all that much until I was suddenly at the lectern, holding the heaviest Hugo ever (seriously, it is twelve pounds), and then setting it down and trying to remember that now I had to give an acceptance speech. Which I had not written out because I figured if I won I would remember who to thank and what I wanted to say. In retrospect, this was not my smartest idea.
Nevertheless, I remembered to thank the right people: My fellow nominees, my publisher, editor, art director and cover designer, my audio publisher and narrator, my wife and family and friends. At least that’s how I remember it; I assume the video will be up at some point for me to check. Then I went backstage, quickly tweeted and blogged about it (because I am a dork, remember), and then — because that was the last award of the night — went back out into the dispersing audience to find my wife so I could kiss on her some more. Then it was photos and parties and lots of congratulations and being happy and not being able to get to sleep because in the immortal words of Neil Gaiman, fuck I won a Hugo. And the Best Novel Hugo at that.
So, yeah. Totally failed at being all cool about winning this award. But I am strangely okay with that. It’s a hell of a thing. I don’t mind losing my mind a little bit over it.
(Also, let me take a moment to say, holy crap, what a gorgeous creature this year’s Hugo award is. Its base, all bronze, was made by Vincent Villafranca, who also made the Bradbury Award for SFWA. Yes, it’s heavy, and it is also amazing. I can’t believe I get to have something this cool in my house.)
* When I won this Hugo, I was happy, excited, grateful and dazed — all of which are emotions that I’m pretty sure most people would expect in this sort of situation — and I also felt relieved, which I don’t think most people would expect. Trust me, it was there. Going into this Hugo Award ceremony, I was 0-for-6 in Hugo fiction category nominations. I’ve lost Best Novel three times, and Short Story, Novella and Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form one time each. Which is a whole lot of not quite grabbing the brass ring.
Make no mistake that I was (and am!) delighted to have won the Fan Writer and Best Related Book Hugos. Both are important to me for a whole number of reasons. At the end of the day, however, I make my living writing fiction. Winning a Hugo for fiction is significant for me. After hitting my head on that ceiling six times previously, finally breaking through is a relief.
* I’m also delighted that this particular book of mine won the Hugo. One, I’m proud of it on the level of craft — there’s a lot of layering going on there, storywise, and the structure of the work, with the narratively separate but thematically cohesive codas counterpointing the main story in the novel, is not the usual thing. It’s fun to fiddle with the form of the novel and see how it responds, and how readers respond to it. Plus, it’s a comedy, in both the classic and contemporary senses of the term, and not a lot of comedies have won a Best Novel Hugo. It’s Redshirts and To Say Nothing of the Dog as far as I can see. So yes, very pleased.
* A couple bits of trivia for you: One, earlier in the ceremony, I was given the physical award for the Seiun, the Japanese award I won earlier in the year (for The Android’s Dream). This may make me the first person to be given two Best Novel trophies in a single Hugo ceremony. Two, I am the second person to have won both the Novel and Fan Writer Hugos. The first: Frederik Pohl. This is, for obvious reasons, now a bittersweet thing.
* Part of the “fun” of winning the Hugo for Best Novel is that after your book wins, people try to explain why it won, because for some reason the answer of “this is the book that largest number of people who voted for the Hugo Awards thought should win the award” is existentially unsatisfying.
To make it easy on people, I will tell you why the book won. It is because one or more of the following, in what I expect is decreasing order of likelihood:
1. Of the books nominated, it’s the one the people voting liked the most — or, more accurately, because it’s a preferential ballot, it’s the one the voters liked well enough, all things considered, to allow it to survive several elimination rounds to come out the overall winner.
2. It’s a career award, i.e., the voters liked my stuff overall and thought I should have a Hugo as a sign of appreciation, even if this is not their favorite of my works. This is the “Al Pacino” gambit — he won his Oscar for Scent of a Woman, which no one in their right mind considers his best work.
3. The voters like me as a person and thought that I might like a Hugo, so here, they said, have one.
4. The voters accidentally voted for me rather than another nominee and didn’t check the ballot before submitting it.
5. The voters are hate-voting against another nominee and I am the almost-incidental benefactor.
6. A cabal of convention runners, publishers, booksellers and the Rand Corporation met in an underground lair outside of San Antonio and decided that for their mutual interests, Redshirts should win the Hugo, and then fixed the results to reflect that choice.
Mix and match!
* Likewise, as is also tradition whenever a new winner of a Best Novel Hugo is announced, there are people who are heralding Redshirts as evidence that the Hugo voting process is corrupt/confused/irrelevant/a sign of the impending apocalypse. I don’t take this personally because a) I am well aware that not everyone is going to like everything I write, and that this goes double for Redshirts, which seems to have the greatest range of responses to it of any book I’ve written, b) someone would complain no matter what and who won, because the Internet is vasty and noisy, and for some people, something they don’t like winning an award is clearly evidence of systematic problems and/or conspiracy, rather than simply a popular vote of a particular group of voters not reflecting their own personal preferences.
My response to this is, as always: That’s fine. And in a larger sense, a vote no one complains about correlates very highly with a vote no one cares about. I’m happy to see people care about the Hugos, even if it’s to be annoyed with my book as a winner. With that said, the fact is this year I won the award, now it’s mine, and I’m not giving it back. So they’ll just have to deal.
(Now, there are people who are angry I won because they don’t like me personally. To them I say: Ha! Ha! Ha! Sucks to be you, dude.)
* I don’t pretend that Redshirts is a better book than 2312, Blackout, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance or Throne of the Crescent Moon, or that I am a better writer than Kim Stanley Robinson, Seanan McGuire, Lois McMaster Bujold or Saladin Ahmed. I am instead honored to be considered a peer of these writers and to have my work considered along theirs. I am also profoundly appreciative that this time, and for their own reasons, my book was selected by Hugo voters to represent 2012 in science fiction and fantasy. It means a lot to me, more than, ironically, I can express in words. “Thank you,” is closest, and not enough.