Half-Baked Opinions on the 2017 Hugo Award Nominees

Hey, guess what? The Hugo nominees are out!

The what, you say? The Hugo Awards are one of the most prestigious awards for science fiction and fantasy authors. They’re voted on yearly by several thousand people–not industry insiders, exactly, but a mix of professionals and fans who have bought memberships to a Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention). That means they can be, and have been, hijacked by small groups acting in bad faith.

There’s lots more background–google “Hugo Awards controversy”–but I won’t dwell on it here.

As an author and fan, what do I think of the nominations? Here’s where I admit that my reading is too far behind for me to have an informed opinion. I usually read one or more of the nominated novels…but not until a year, or several years, later. That won’t stop me from having an uninformed opinion on a couple of the categories, though (and I’d love to hear yours!)…

Of the Best Novel nominees, it’s interesting that 3 out of 6 are later books in series–I wonder how that will affect their chances. I’ve read one of the earlier books in those series (The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu), which blew me away. (I wasn’t the only one: it won the Hugo two years ago.) They’re also a good mix of subgenres: the Liu novel, Death’s End, is hard SF; Anders pits magic and science against each other; Chambers is writing small-band-of-misfits space opera; Lee’s novel is a very different sort of space opera; Jemisin’s series is highly original secondary-world fantasy; and Palmer’s novel is science fiction that’s most interested in society, like Le Guin. This diversity is a sign of a healthy category, I think. And there’s another sort of diversity. Of the six authors, there are four women and two men. Three of the authors are people of colour, two are trans and none are cis white men. Go Hugos!

I can talk a little more knowledgeably about the Dramatic Presentation: Long Form category, having seen four of the six nominees. What’s most interesting here is that Hidden Figures isn’t science fiction, exactly, but fiction about science. (There’s precedent: Apollo 13 was nominated for a Hugo when it came out.) You’ll also notice that the entire first season of Stranger Things has been nominated as a single entity–that’s been done before too, with Heroes and Game of ThronesGhostbusters and Rogue One were capable new installments in existing franchises, both well-done and fan-pleasing, but not award-worthy IMHO (though my money’s on Rogue One to win the category). Stranger Things certainly has nostalgia value, and I’ve heard many good things about Hidden Figures (haven’t seen it yet…I know, I know). But my vote would go to Arrival, for being a true science fiction film–a rarity these days. It’s a well-scripted and beautifully-filmed adaptation of a very good novella, Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

Finally, there’s a new category: Best Series. Before you get up in arms about your favourite series missing out, you should know that a series must have a new installment published in 2016 to be eligible. Again, there’s a good mix of subgenres and flavours, though it’s a little urban fantasy-heavy. I’ve read parts of 3 out of the 6 series. Much as I love Novik’s Temeraire, my vote would have to go to Bujold’s Vorkosigan series for sheer breadth.

 

If you want to read some more informed responses on this year’s list of nominees, the blogosphere will oblige you soon enough, but since the nominees were just announced today, there’s not a lot out there yet. However, File 770 is the place to start.

Your turn! Thoughts? Opinions? Any favorite books/movies/etc. from 2016 that didn’t make it on the shortlist?

 

3 Comments:

  1. “Capable.” Wow. What can I say, when I loved those movies so much?

    Except, PFFFFLLLBBTTT.

  2. Hey, I loved them too–I also said “well-done and fan-pleasing!” I think each of them did an excellent job revitalizing their respective franchises for diverse, modern audiences, telling good stories, and hitting all the sweet spots for their fans. But my preference for awards will nearly always go to works that are ground-breaking, fresh, and original.

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