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 Novella

The Best Novella ballot looks somewhat familiar as four out of six finalists are sequels to  finalists from previous years.

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells has already won the Locus Award and was a finalist for the Nebula.  It’s a sequel to last year’s winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards and Philip K. Dick Award finalist, All Systems Red.  The two subsequent novellas from the Murderbot Diaries series were also award finalists: Rogue Protocol for the Locus Award and Exit Strategy for the BSFA Award.  Last year Wells was a Hugo finalist in Best Series for The Books of the Raksura as well.  Her previous nominations for the Nebula and Locus awards were back in the 1990’s.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire is also a finalist for the World Fantasy Award.  It’s a sequel to 2017’s winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, Every Heart a Doorway, and last year’s finalist for the Hugo and Locus awards, Down Among the Sticks and Bones.  McGuire’s October Daye series, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Series in 2017, makes a return appearance this year.  Her InCryptid series was one of the finalists last year.  She also has two Hugo nominations for Best Novelette and one for Best Related Work.  Under her Mira Grant pseudonym, she has four Hugo nominations for Best Novel and two more for Best Novella.  She’s won two Hugos for Best Fancast as a co-host of SF Squeecast and received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2010.

Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor is also a finalist for the British Fantasy Award.  It’s a sequel to 2016’s winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, Binti, and last year’s finalist for the Hugo and Locus awards, Binti: Home.  As a writer for the graphic novel Black Panther: Long Live the King, Okorafor is a finalist in Best Graphic Story this year as well.  Last year the second novel in her Akata Witch series, Akata Warrior, was the winner of both the Locus and WSFS (now Lodestar) awards for Best Young Adult Book.  She has also won the World Fantasy Award, and her other nominations include the Andre Norton, Clarke, British Fantasy, BSFA, Tiptree, Campbell Memorial, and Sturgeon awards.

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark is also a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and was a finalist for the Nebula and Locus awards.  His short story, “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” is a Hugo finalist, has already won the Nebula and Locus awards, and was a finalist for the Sturgeon Award.

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson was also a finalist for the Nebula, Locus, and Sturgeon awards.  Robson was previously nominated for the World Fantasy Award and was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2017.

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard is also currently a finalist for the World Fantasy and British Fantasy awards, has already won the Nebula Award, and was a finalist for the Locus Award.  It is part of the Universe of Xuya series which is a Hugo finalist for Best Series as well.  She has one additional Hugo nomination for Best Novella, three for Best Novelette, and one for Best Short Story.  She has received one other Nebula Award, four BSFA Awards, and a Locus Award.  Her other nominations include the Tiptree and Sturgeon awards.  She was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2009.

Three of the finalists were my own nominees.  Beneath the Sugar Skies was another delightful entry in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, and Cora might be my favorite wayward child yet.  Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach enthralled me enough with its world building and characterization that I forgave its abrupt ending.  Aliette de Bodard did an excellent job combining Holmesian mystery with the space opera of her Xuya Universe in The Tea Master and the Detective.

I had already read two of the remaining three finalists before nominations closed.  Since Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Night Masquerade picks up mid-story where Binti: Home left off, I didn’t feel that it stood on its own well enough to consider as a separate novella.  The Black God’s Drums very nearly made my ballot, and I hope we see more of the alternate history setting P. Djèlí Clark gave us a glimpse of here.  If I had managed to get to Artificial Condition before the deadline, it definitely would have been on my ballot.  But I’m not surprised that at least one of Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries made it without needing any help from me.

Here’s how I decided to rank them on my final ballot:

  1. Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
  2. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
  3. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
  4. The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
  5. The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
  6. Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Will Binti, Murderbot, or the Wayward Children take home another Hugo?  Will the Xuya Universe add a rocket to its award collection?  Or will one of the first-time Hugo finalists win instead?  What would you like to see?

2018 Hugo Finalists: Best Novella

Today I’m looking at the Best Novella finalists.  All six of them were also nominees for the Locus Award, and three of them were Nebula Award finalists.

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey was one of the Nebula Award nominees.  Gailey is a Best Fan Writer finalist this year as well.  Last year they were a finalist for Best Related Work and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire is the prequel to the 2017 Best Novella, Every Heart a Doorway.  McGuire’s InCryptid series is also a finalist this year.  She has a previous nomination for Best Series, two for Best Novelette, and one in Best Related Work.  She’s won two Best Fancast Hugos and was the 2010 winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  Under her Mira Grant pseudonym, she has four nominations for Best Novel and two more for Best Novella.

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor is the sequel to the 2016 Best Novella, Binti.  Okorafor’s Akata Warrior is a finalist for the WSFS Award for Best Young Adult Book.

“And Then There Were (N-One)” by Sarah Pinsker was also a nominee for the Nebula and the Sturgeon Award.  Pinsker’s “Wind Will Rove” is a finalist for Best Novelette.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells was the winner of the Locus and Nebula awards and a nominee for the Philip K. Dick Award.  Wells’ The Books of the Raskura series is a Hugo finalist this year too.

The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang was a finalist for the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award. It also made the James Tiptree, Jr. Award Honor List.

I nominated the novellas from McGuire, Pinsker, and Wells myself.  I read Binti: Home as well, but it didn’t feel complete enough on its own to nominate.  I enjoyed Down Among the Sticks and Bones even more than its Hugo-winning predecessor.  “And Then There Were (N-One)” was clever and fun.  All Systems Red had excellent characterization and a very exciting plot.

The novellas from Gailey and Yang were both on my TBR list.  River of Teeth had a fun concept but didn’t live up to my expectations.  Yet The Black Tides of Heaven surprised me by exceeded them.

We have two past Best Novella winners, three first-time finalists, and one new to this category.  Here’s how I ranked them on my final ballot:

  1. Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
  2. The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
  3. All Systems Red by Martha Wells
  4. “And Then There Were (N-One)” by Sarah Pinsker
  5. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
  6. Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor

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

2018 Hugo Awards: Best Novella

The second category on the Hugo ballot is Best Novella:

A science fiction or fantasy story between 17,500 and 40,000 words that appeared for the first time in 2017.

If the committee formed at last year’s WSFS Business Meeting proposes any changes to this category, I imagine it might be to raise the upper word count limit to correspond with any suggested changes to the Best Novel category.

 

So far I have two choices penciled into my ballot:

 

And here are some others I’d like to get to before nominations close on March 16:

  • The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch
  • In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle [added to my ballot 2/22/18]
  • Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broaddus
  • The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford
  • River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
  • The Ghost Line by Andrew Neil Gray and J. S. Herbison
  • Acadie by Dave Hutchinson
  • Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
  • The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire [added to my ballot 2/19/18]
  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire
  • Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman
  • Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor [read 2/21/18]
  • Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells [added to my ballot 2/18/18]
  • Killing Gravity by Corey J. White
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by J. Y. Yang
  • Mandelbrot the Magnificent by Liz Ziemska

Any of those I should make sure to read?  Anything else I should look for?

 

In addition to the general recommendation sites I mentioned at the bottom of yesterday’s post, there’s JJ’s 2017 Novellapalooza post over at File 770.