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?

2019 Hugo Finalists: Best Novel

Hugo voting closed on Aug 1st, and we’ll find out the winners at the Hugo Award Ceremony on August 18th.  Let’s take a look at the contenders for Best Novel.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal has already won the Nebula and the Locus Award for Best SF Novel and was also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.  “Lady Astronaut of Mars,” a novelette in the same setting, won a Hugo in 2014.  Kowal has three additional Hugo nominations for short fiction with one more win.  In Best Related Work, she’s been a three-time finalist with one win as a co-host of the Writing Excuses podcast.  She was the winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2008.

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers is the third novel in the Wayfarers series, which is also a finalist this year.  The first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Society’s Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer.  The second, A Closed and Common Orbit, was a finalist for the Hugo, British Science Fiction Association, and Clarke awards.  This one was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best SF Novel as well.

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee is the third novel in the Machineries of Empire series.  The previous two novels were also Hugo finalists, and the series itself is a finalist this year as well.  The first book, Ninefox Gambit, won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the Nebula and Clarke awards.  The second, Raven Stratagem, was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best SF Novel.  This one was also a finalist for the Locus, BSFA, and Clarke awards.  Lee has had short fiction nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, Locus, and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial awards as well.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente was also a finalist for the Locus and the Campbell Memorial awards.  Valente has four previous Hugo nominations in the fiction categories, one nomination for Best Semiprozine as editor of Apex Magazine, and two wins in Best Fancast as a co-host of SF Squeecast.  She’s previously won five Locus Awards as well as the Andre Norton, James Tiptree, and Theodore Sturgeon awards.  Her other nominations include the Nebula, World Fantasy, and British Fantasy awards.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik has already won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and the Mythopoeic Award.  It was also a finalist for the Nebula Award.  Novik has two previous Hugo nominations for Best Novel and one for Best Series.  She’s also received two additional Locus Awards, won the Nebula and British Fantasy awards, and been nominated for the World Fantasy Award.  She was the winner of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2007.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse has already won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, was a finalist for the Nebula Award, and is also currently a finalist for the World Fantasy Award.  Last year her short story, “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM,” won the Hugo and Nebula awards and was nominated for the World Fantasy, Locus, and Sturgeon awards.  She was also the winner of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Four out of the six were my own nominees.  Spinning Silver improved on everything I loved about Naomi Novik’s Uprooted.  Revenant Gun brought Yoon Ha Lee’s trilogy to a very satisfying conclusion.  The Calculating Stars was the first novel-length work I had read by Mary Robinette Kowal.  I was impressed by the characterization and surprised by how well she made a 1950’s setting seem current and relevant.  Rebecca Roanhorse delivered on the promise of her Best New Writer Campbell win with the fascinating and original world building in Trail of Lightning.

The remaining two were both books I had wanted to read but simply hadn’t gotten to yet.  I liked Record of a Spaceborn Few slightly less than Becky Chamber’s first two Wayfarer books, but it was still very good.  Space Opera was entertaining, but Catherynne M. Valente’s dense writing style made it a slower read than expected.  I adore her short fiction, but at novel-length it became overwhelming.

Here’s how it shook out on my final ballot:

  1. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  2. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  3. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
  4. Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
  5. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
  6. Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Will Kowal complete the Triple Crown of science fiction awards?  Will the Big One go to one of the previous Best Novel finalists instead?  Or does the debut novelist take home her second rocket?  What do you think?

2018 Hugo Finalists: Best Novel

Hugo voting closed on July 31st, and we’ll find out the winners at the Hugo Award Ceremony on August 19.  Today let’s look at the finalists for Best Novel.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin is the third book in The Broken Earth trilogy.  It has already won the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.  Each of the previous books won Best Novel over the past two years.  Jemisin has received four total nominations in Best Novel and two for Best Short Story.  I’ll be curious to see if the trilogy appears on the Best Series longlist.  Jemisin asked people not to nominate the series, but they may have done so regardless.  Of course, she might have declined a nomination for that category.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is the author’s first nomination for Best Novel.  It was also a finalist for the Nebula and the Philip K. Dick Award.  Lafferty is a finalist in Best Semiprozine for Escape Pod and in Best Fancast for Ditch Diggers as well.  She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2013.

Provenance by Ann Leckie takes place in the same universe as her Imperial Radch trilogy.  It was also a finalist for the BSFA Award and the Locus Award for Best SF Novel.  All three books in the related trilogy were Best Novel finalists with the first winning in 2014.  An appearance on the Best Series longlist wouldn’t surprise me here either.

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee is the sequel to last year’s Best Novel finalist, Ninefox Gambit.  Lee’s “Extracurricular Activities” is also one of this year’s Best Novelette finalists.  Both were finalists for the Locus Awards as well.  The Machineries of Empire trilogy could be a contender for Best Series next year.

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson is the author’s sixth nomination for Best Novel.  It was also a finalist for the Campbell Memorial Award and the Locus Award for Best SF Novel.  Robinson has won two Best Novel Hugos out of fifteen total Hugo nominations.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi is the first book in The Interdependency series.  It has already won the Locus Award for Best SF Novel.  This is Scalzi’s fifth nomination for Best Novel which he won in 2013.  He’s had one nomination for Best Novella and another for Best Short Story as well.  He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2006.  Writing from his blog has also earned him Hugos for Best Related Work and Best Fan Writer.

The first three above were my own nominees.  The Stone Sky brought a stellar trilogy to an incredible close.  Six Wakes combined thrilling murder mystery with space opera.  Provenance took a fresh view from a more relatable protagonist on a familiar setting.

The later three were already on my TBR list.  Raven Stratagem exceeded expectations without the steep learning curve of the first book.  The interesting premise of New York 2140 got me past its underdeveloped characters.  The Collapsing Empire sets up a fun series, but the humor started to grate on me.

We have four past Best Novel Hugo winners, a previous finalist, and one new to this category.  Here’s how I ranked them for my final ballot:

  1. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
  2. Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
  3. Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
  4. Provenance by Ann Leckie
  5. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
  6. New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

How many of these have you read?  How would you rank them?

Hugo Award for Best Novel

In my previous post looking at the 2018 Hugo eligible novels, I mentioned that the only change I could see for this category was a slightly higher word count requirement.  However, looking over the minutes from the 2017 Business Meeting reminded me there was actually a proposal to split the category into Best Science Fiction Novel and Best Fantasy Novel.  It was referred to a committee which will be considering all the categories and making suggestions at this year’s Business Meeting during Worldcon 76.

I’m so not a fan of this.  First, I just don’t want the “Big One” becoming the “Big Two.”  Second, I’ve never liked rigidly defining stories as one or the other.  In fact, I often enjoy works that are best described as science fantasy.  Where would you put All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders?  It’s specifically both.  N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy is marketed as fantasy, but it deals with geology and advanced technology.  Borne by Jeff VanderMeer is labelled science fiction, but it has a giant flying bear and a character called the Magician.  Finally, with the additions of Best Series and Best Young Adult Book, we’ve got more than enough novel length fiction to read already.  I really hope that other refinements and adjustments to the categories take priority.

2018 Hugo Awards: Best Novel

Nominations are now open for the 2018 Hugo Awards.  We have until 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (UTC−7:00) on March 16th to pick out our favorites from 2017.  First up, I’m looking at Best Novel:

A science fiction or fantasy story of 40,000 words or more that appeared for the first time in 2017.

 

So far, I’ve got a couple that will probably be on my ballot:

  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

And I’m currently reading The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin.  At this point, it’s definitely on track to join my short list.  [Update 2/8/18:  Finished it last night and just added it to my ballot!]

 

In a world where I could read all I wanted (or at least read faster than I do), here are some others I’d consider:

  • Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker
  • Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys
  • The Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone
  • Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
  • The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
  • Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher
  • The Changeling by Victor LaValle
  • Provenance by Ann Leckie [added to my ballot 2/13/18]
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
  • The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo
  • Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
  • New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
  • Borne by Jeff VanderMeer [added to my ballot 2/17/18]
  • Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn

Any thoughts on what I should prioritize from that list?

 

Here are some places to find recommendations:

 

At last year’s WSFS Business Meeting, a committee was formed to look into possible changes to the Hugo Award categories.  Obviously Best Novel is here to stay, but I could see the word count requirement being raised.  The average novel length has definitely gotten longer, and books marketed as novellas are pushing into the lower end of this category.