2020 Hugos: Written Fiction Works

CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, has announced the finalists for the 2020 Hugo Awards, the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.  You can watch a video of the announcement on CoNZealand’s YouTube channel or view the complete list on the Hugo Awards website.  JJ at File 770 has put together a post on Where To Find The 2020 Hugo Award Finalists For Free Online.

This will be the first of four posts with my initial thoughts.  I’m dividing the nineteen award categories into written fiction works (novel, novella, novelette, short story, young adult book), other individual works (related work, graphic story, long form dramatic presentation, short form dramatic presentation), people categories (short form editor, long form editor, professional artist, fan writer, fan artist, new writer), and serial categories (series, semiprozine, fanzine, fancast).

Best Novel

  • The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
  • Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (Saga; Angry Robot UK)
  • A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (Tor; Tor UK)
  • Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)

Four of these were on my nomination ballot, and I only have one left to read.  The one I’ve read but didn’t nominate was The City in the Middle of the Night.  I went in with high hopes since I loved All the Birds in the Sky.  There’s some interesting worldbuilding, but the main character frustrated the heck out of me.

The one I still need to read is Gideon the Ninth.  I’ve seen a lot of buzz, but it didn’t really sound like my sort of thing.  Although I liked her story “The Deepwater Bride” enough to nominate it a few years ago, and I wouldn’t have thought that was my sort of thing either.  I decide to wait and see if it made the ballot and here it is!

Of the four I nominated, my favorite is The Ten Thousand Doors of January.  I also went into this with high hopes from “A Witch’s Guide to Escape,”  and my expectations were exceeded.  The other three are going to be really tough to rank.  I remember thinking I was glad I didn’t need to for nominations.  Now I’ll have to decide.

Best Novella

  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador))
  • The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga Press/Gallery)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Saga Press; Jo Fletcher Books)
  • To Be Taught, If Fortunate, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager; Hodder & Stoughton)

Of these, I’ve read five and nominated two.  McGuire’s Wayward Children novellas continue to delight me, and this one probably stands on its own the best so far.  I loved To Be Taught, If Fortunate as much as her Wayfarers books, although it’s unconnected to that series.  I’m leaning toward the later, but I may have to flip a coin to decide between them.

The Deep very nearly made my nomination ballot.  I feel like I wanted to like it a little more than I did, but it’s definitely thought-provoking.  The Haunting of Tram Car 015 was good but didn’t stand out from the other novellas I read.  I would love to see more in that setting though.  This Is How You Lose the Time War seemed like it was probably a ton of fun for the authors to write, but it just didn’t do it for me.  I know I’m in the extreme minority here.

The only one I haven’t read is “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom.”  Right now I’m number 123 on the waitlist for the six digital copies of Exhalation at my library!  Here’s hoping that this and the Best Novelette finalist from Chiang’s collection are included in the Hugo Voters Packet because I doubt I’ll get it in time.  I also put a hold on the physical copy, but that will depend on when the library is able to reopen.

Best Novelette

  • “The Archronology of Love”, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed, April 2019)
  • “Away With the Wolves”, by Sarah Gailey (Uncanny Magazine: Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue, September/October 2019)
  • “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, July-August 2019)
  • Emergency Skin, by N.K. Jemisin (Forward Collection (Amazon))
  • “For He Can Creep”, by Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com, 10 July 2019)
  • “Omphalos”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador))

Here I have two more nominees and two more to read.  It’s dogs vs. cats between my nominees “Away With the Wolves” and “For He Can Creep.”  Sorry cat lovers, I’ve always been more of a dog person.  Really great characterization in both though.

“The Archronology of Love” was on my longlist.  It was moving and has an interesting premise.  “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye” was fun, wacky, and horrifying!  But didn’t stand out as much for me as Pinsker’s stories have in previous years.

I still need to read “Omphalos” if I can get my hands on Exhalation.  Fortunately I’ll be able to access Emergency Skin through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Best Short Story

  • “And Now His Lordship Is Laughing”, by Shiv Ramdas (Strange Horizons, 9 September 2019)
  • “As the Last I May Know”, by S.L. Huang (Tor.com, 23 October 2019)
  • “Blood Is Another Word for Hunger”, by Rivers Solomon (Tor.com, 24 July 2019)
  • “A Catalog of Storms”, by Fran Wilde (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2019)
  • “Do Not Look Back, My Lion”, by Alix E. Harrow (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, January 2019)
  • “Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, by Nibedita Sen (Nightmare Magazine, May 2019)

I’ve read all of these except the one from Nightmare, but none were on my nomination ballot.  Of the five I’ve read, my favorite is “Do Not Look Back, My Lion” with some fascinating worldbuilding.  They’re all good, but rather brutal.  I look forward to reading the story by Nibedita Sen since she is also a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • Catfishing on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen)
  • Deeplight, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
  • Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee (Disney/Hyperion)
  • Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
  • Riverland, by Fran Wilde (Amulet)
  • The Wicked King, by Holly Black (Little, Brown; Hot Key)

I nominated four of these, and I have two left to read.  It looks like Deeplight won’t be available here in the US until next week.  I really liked T. Kingfisher’s previous Best YA Book finalist in the first year of the award, so I imagine I’ll enjoy Minor Mage too.  It will be hard enough to rank the ones I nominated here, and I don’t think adding these two will make it any easier.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?

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