That Hugo Nod For Kaiju + Other Related Thoughts

John Scalzi

In no particular order:

1. I was — and am! — genuinely surprised by this Hugo nomination. Given that the Worldcon is in China this year, and that the very large majority of attendees will likely be Chinese nationals, I expected that there would be a fair amount of Chinese representation on the final ballot, including in the novel category. Kaiju is also and quite intentionally a light and comedic story — I have consistently referred to it as a “pop song” of a novel — and in general “light comedy” is often at a disadvantage for award consideration. There’s also the fact that this year has been tremendous for science fiction and fantasy, with a crowded field of award-worthy work. Given all those things I was not expecting a Hugo nod at all this year.

Which was fine, by the way. The moment you start expecting a Hugo Award finalist nod is the moment someone needs to come and let the air out of your head a little (or a lot). And aside from that, I was happy with the novel, and how readers had largely responded to it. It did what I hoped it would do, which was, for the time it took to get through the novel, to make its readers happy and forget their worries. It was everything I wanted it to be from the get-go, and I was gratified that readers enjoyed the ride it took them on. I like when people like my stuff. It’s more than enough for me.

So when the Hugo nod came, my reaction was, basically, “huh!” and to be very curious what else was on the ballot with Kaiju. Now we all know, and it’s a pretty great field of work, and of writers. I’m delighted to have my work grouped in with theirs for the voters’ consideration. A surprise! And a really nice one.

2. With that said, I have to admit that Kaiju has been surprising me this whole time. Aside from this Hugo finalist nod, it’s won the Locus Award and the Alex Award (which is given by the ALA for adult books that work well for teen readers), was a finalist for the Dragon Award and is currently a fiction finalist for the Ohioana Award, which is the state book award for Ohio. It’s enough that I was happy with the book and that readers were happy with it, but this affirmation by others that the book is award-caliber is still pretty damn neat, and something, I need to be clear, that I have appreciated more than I can say. Kaiju is very much the little novel that could, which is ironic given its title, but even so. I have been delighted with the journey it’s been on. Wherever it ends up, it’s already overachieved.

3. Regarding the ballot overall, a few thoughts, some personal and some more general. The first personal thought: I am thoroughly delighted to share a category with Mary Robinette Kowal, who is one of my favorite people, and whose novel The Spare Man is a stone cold delight. Second personal thought: Hey, look in the Best Related Work category and you’ll find my pal and frequent collaborator Wil Wheaton in there, for the annotated version of Just a Geek. His first nomination! I’m so thrilled for him.

First general thought: I’m glad to see Chinese representation on the ballot, notably in the short fiction, editor and fanzine/semi-prozine categories. I’m curious why there’s nothing in the Novel or Novella categories that wasn’t originally published in China, and am looking forward to after the awards when we see a full list of nominees to see if any Chinese novels came close to the final cut. Second general thought: Hugo ballots are interesting for what works aren’t on them as much as what are, and without getting into specifics, there are at least a few works I’m surprised not to see. I imagine other seasoned Hugo observers will feel similarly, although the specifics of what’s not on will probably vary considerably. Again, some of this might be sorted out after the awards are given, when we see the full list of nominated people/works, including who may have declined an award. There are always surprises.

4. As with every year there will be speculation and commentary about the awards, the finalists and who and what is worthy and not. For those folks who need it, a primer on how awards work, and also for people who are award finalists, some for the very first time, a handy guide for dealing with everything that comes with that. Because all of this can be stressful, even if it is good news.

5. I’m not going to offer any predictions on who/what will win, because, one, I am an interested and biased party, and two, even if I wasn’t, I just don’t know and am not inclined to speculate. As I understand it the voting on the Hugos will open soon and will run through September, and the award ceremony itself will be in October at the Worldcon. Between now and then, what I intend to do is enjoy the ride, celebrate the other finalists, particularly those in my category, all of whom are fabulous, and encourage people to read more science fiction and fantasy, and who knows, maybe even write some.

6. Let me finish up on a personal note. In 2005, just a few months after my first novel came out, I remember sitting in the balcony during the Hugo Awards and watching the rockets being given out (including one to my pal Charlie Stross) and wondering if I would ever be so fortunate to be up on that stage myself. Eight years later, I was up on that stage, getting the Hugo for a novel that I had written, and being more than a little overwhelmed by that fact. Ten years on from that, I’ve gotten another shot at a rocket with another novel.

This is my 13th time on a Hugo Award finalist list. I assure you that it never gets old to be told that you’re a finalist, to get to see who your peer group is this year, and to, sometimes, take home a little bit of hardware, or to be happy for the person who gets to take it home instead. All of it is a gift given by fans of the genre, not to be taken lightly, for however long they choose to give it. It makes me happy every time. Thank you.

— JS

27 Comments on “That Hugo Nod For Kaiju + Other Related Thoughts”

  1. For those curious about the shirt, when Kaiju won the Locus Award there were some folks on Twitter who were deeply salty about it, particularly of my use of the phrase “did a thing” in one part of the novel. Naturally I leaned into that a bit. People are of course entitled not to like my work (or me!), but I’m okay with having a little fun with particular complaints I find, well, silly.

  2. Congratulations to you and your peers on the nominations. This has to be very exciting no matter how long you’ve been at it.

  3. Second general thought: Hugo ballots are interesting for what works aren’t on them as much as what are, and without getting into specifics, there are at least a few works I’m surprised not to see.

    Can someone comment on the “missing” nominations? I’m not hip enough on the scene to know what’s going on. But, I’m dying to hear about it.

  4. Tor must be quite happy, too, having published four of the five finalists for Best Novel. Congratulations to you and to the fine workers of all kinds at Tor.

  5. Congrats on once again doing the thing, John! :)

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book, have referred several other people to it, and I’m very much looking forward to the release of Starter Villain this fall!

  6. You’re surprised… did you forget that you had [SPOILER DELETED – JS] before they started doing it in real life? Your kaiju are the orcas of fiction, dude.

  7. (Recovers post from rescinded earlier posting)


    Your novels, from the start, have aligned with my humor and general need for escape.

    Looking forward to whatever your mind devises.

    P.s. listened to the audio version of Slow Time Between The Stars. Simply a perfect choice for voice actor. So kudos to you and your production teams.

  8. Congratulations. I loved both yours and MRK’s books and am secretly glad not to have a membership this year which would force me to decide which I like better.

    That said, I think this has been yet another year which has been so traumatic that we readers will gladly seize on well-written lighter stuff. The Spare Man also has a great sense of whimsy in its homage to The Thin Man and all the cocktail recipes.

  9. All three of us in my house (Hubby, Dad, and I) loved KPS. I’m not surprised it’s nominated for and winning awards.

  10. I was happy for you… but I’m really freaking happy for Wheaton. That guy is underappreciated and that book spoke to a lot of people I know.

  11. You go, boy! You’re probably too modest to agree but I’m telling you you’re going to be remembered alongside other greats like Heinlein, Bradbury, Dick, Clarke and Herbert to name a few. The thing you you have over these writers though is the snark and comedic component of your books, which I think makes them popular beyond the pure science fiction writers. Good luck! 🤞

  12. @Nathan, as a Hugo voter who pays a lot of attention, the biggest surprises to me in the Novel category were 1) no Babel by RF Kuang, which won both the Nebula award and the Locus award for best fantasy novel; and 2) no Mountain in the Sea by Ray Naylor, which was nominated for the Locus award and won the Nebula for best first novel. Babel’s omission was especially surprising, I can’t remember the last time that a book won both the Nebula and Locus and wasn’t even nominated for a Hugo. (That doesn’t mean that I don’t think the current nominees are worthy; it’s just. . .surprising since there’s a degree of overlap in the voter pool between these awards.) I’m super glad Kaiju made it in!

  13. Loved both Kaiju and The Spare Man. So . . . which should I cheer for? Or cheer for a tie? It’s happened at the Oscars.

  14. Congratulations on the nomination. I took you at your word that this novel was only to be regarded as light entertainment but you seem to have captured lightning in a bottle.

    The hot question will be was “Babel” simply a place holder on the premature post, or did Ms. Kuang take a hard look at the matter, and simply decided: “Nope, not worth it.”

  15. Shrike58:

    I don’t remember it being on the accidentally leaked early list; as far as I can remember the Novel slate was the same.

  16. Congratulations on the award! I’m shocked by how many of the Hugos I’ve read this year; as someone whose reading list is eclectic at best, I’ve usually read 2 of the novels and 2-3 of the other works. This year, I’ve read all the novels with the exception of Nona the Ninth (currently on hold at my library but I’ve been waiting for quite some time) and several of the smaller fictions. I’m delighted to see not only yourself and MRK on the list, but T. Kingfisher whom I love and who writes the only fantasy/horror fiction I can truly appreciate. I know a lot of people are surprised to not see Babel, but it was a DNF for me so I wasn’t as nonplussed as others. Seems like a list that leans heavily towards escapist writing which makes me go hmmm…..about trends in speculative fiction in general.

  17. Wonderful news, John Scalzi! Congratulations. The list looks very solid so, though I will be rooting for special favorites, voting would be tough. Good luck!

  18. What strikes me in the finalists is that Legends and Lattes and The Spare Man both made the short list. I’m not familiar with the others, but all of them have that comedic thread. It was something we needed once the pandemic set in.

  19. John Scalzi: “I don’t remember it [Babel] being on the accidentally leaked early list; as far as I can remember the Novel slate was the same.”

    Thanks for correcting that point.

  20. Re. lack of Chinese works in some categories: there’s a possible explanation by commenter Peter Wilkinson on File 770…hmm, can’t seem to make a link. Here:

    “My own guess, looking at the categories in which we have Chinese-language finalists, would be that the proportion of nominating ballots cast by Chinese fans was probably closer to 10%, but that those were serious enough about it to nominate across all (or at least most) categories.With EPH, that would be quite enough to get them a couple of nominations in categories where only about 30% of Western fans habitually nominate (the Editor categories, for instance) – or where nomination rates are usually rather higher, but the nominations tend to be so fragmented that even the most popular nominees only appear on a minority of nomination forms (Short Story, for instance). But in, say, Novel, this would only get them some fairly low places on the longlist.”

    John, congratulations, and thank you for not being part of the swelled-head community. I was appalled when I heard [person] refer to themselves as part of the “finalist community”, meaning the people who expect to be finalists annually and therefore feel entitled to have some say in how things are run.

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