That Hugo Nod For Kaiju + Other Related Thoughts
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.