Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Hugo Awards 2006

The Hugo Award is Science Fiction's version of the Oscar. It is the pinnacle of awards, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a work of speculative fiction (Fantasy works are now eligible for the award). Named for Hugo Gernsback, the man who coined the term 'Science Fiction,' founder of the first Science Fiction magazine, and an influential writer in his own right. His novel Ralph 124C 41+ (1911) first envisioned radar, a technology we take for granted today. Gernsback is often referred to as the father of Science Fiction, though there were many fine practioners before him. First presented at the 11th World Science Fiction convention in 1953, The Hugo has been the pre-eminent award in genre fiction ever since.

Past Hugo Awards have been given to some of the most important SF novels of all time, such as The Left Hand of Darkness, Starship Troopers, The Forever War, Ender's Game, and A Canticle For Leibowitz, and at other times it has been awarded to questionable works. (Which I will not name) (Harry Potter)

This years Hugo Awards proves to be a tough batch to call, at least in the novel category. The nominees for Best Novel are:

  • Learning The World by Ken MacLeod
  • A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin
  • Old Man's War by John Scalzi
  • Accelerando by Charles Stross
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

A tough choice, and I have to admit I've been waffling on a decision. I make no secret of being a huge fan of Martin and Stross, and Spin by Wilson blew my mind. Scalzi's book was very fun, if a bit flawed, and should certainly be considered one of the best debuts of last year in the U.S., if not quite deserving of the Hugo. I'm not a fan of Ken MacLeod's work, yet I dutifully trudged through Learning The World after it was nominated.

Charles Stross deserves a best novel Hugo at some point, but I don't feel that Accelerando is his best work. A Feast For Crows is undoubtedly the weakest of Martin's series thus far. Spin had amazing ideas and that old-fashioned sensawundah that makes SF so special, but I felt it lacked in the character department. Like I said -- tough choice.

My award ballot looks like this:

1. A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin
2. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
3. Accelerando by Charles Stross
4. No Award
5. No Award

I'd like to note the books that did not garner a nomination but should have:
  • The Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker
  • Vellum by Hal Duncan
  • The Hidden Family by Charles Stross
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • London Revenant by Conrad Williams
  • The Carpet-Makers by Andreas Eschbach

Of course, not all deserving books can be nominated, but these all deserve at least as much recognition as the nominees.

The nominees for Best Novella are:

Another tough category, another difficult choice. As good as Kelly and McDonald's stories were, I have to give the edge to Kelly Link. Magic For Beginners, the story and indeed the entire collection was transcendant, the best collection I read last year, in a year of sublime collections.

My award ballot reads:

1. Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link
2. Burn by James Patrick Kelly
3. The Little Goddess by Ian McDonald
4. No Award
5. No Award

The Nominees for Best Novellette are:

I really enjoyed The Calorie Man, and Two Hearts was a very good story, by The King of Where-I-Go was both suitably strange and conjured the American South so vividly, I felt I was back there.

So goes the ballot:

1. The King of Where-I-Go by Howard Waldrop
2. Two Hearts by Peter S. Beagle
3. The Calorie Man by Paolo Bacigalupi
4. I, Robot by Cory Doctorow
5. No Award

The Nominees for Best Short Story are:

The short story category is really the only no-brainer category. Margo Lanagan is bloody incredible, and Singing My Sister Down is the best of her superior output.

My ballot shall read:

1. Singing My Sister Down by Margo Lanagan
2. No Award
3. No Award
4. No Award
5. No Award

I don't bother with most of the other related categories. For instance, what fan can judge who the best editor is? It becomes a choice of who picks the best stories for their magazine or collection -- and to be perfectly honest, the magazines do not matter anymore. If a short story is good enough, the story will end in a collection or anthology. This will probably sound like blaspheme to the old guard, but times change.

One of the other categories I do care about is The Best Artist award. The art gracing the covers of our books is oftentimes what lures fans to a new author. And sometimes, like this year, an artist stands the speculative fiction world on their heads.

The nominees for Best Artist are:

I'm a longtime fan of Whelan for his covers on the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. They were favorites of mine as a child. Donato Giancola is inarguably a master in the field. However, this year than can be no choice but John Picacio. Have you seen his new cover for A Canticle For Leibowitz? For the new paperback of Gateway? No contest.

The ballot looks like this:

1. John Picacio
2. Donato Giancola
3. No Award
4. No Award
5. No Award

The Campbell Award is named for legendary editor John W. Campbell, and is given for the best new author. The nominees are:

Just one question people, where the bloody hell is R. Scott Bakker? Incredibly disappointing.

My vote will go to:

K.J. Bishop


Now I'm quite certain that all my choices won't win, these are just my opinions. There are a lot of links to wonderful stories here, and I hope you all enjoy them as much as I have. See you at Worldcon in LA.

Comments on "The Hugo Awards 2006"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:00 PM) : 

Great breakdown of the nominees. I'm still fighting with myself over best novel.

I wholeheartedly agree with the "Shoulda Been Nominated" list. There are books on there (Vellum, Warrior-Prophet, Carpet Makers) that are *achingly* superior to some of the books that did make the Final List.

Anyway, I'm starting in the other categories this weekend.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:16 PM) : 

I'm with you and Xray on the "Shoulda Been" list.

Thanks for putting up the links to the nominated shorts! You saved a lazy bastard like me from having to take the time to track them all down.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:08 PM) : 

I would give Robert Charles Wilson's Spin the Best Novel because it's the best book he's ever written. GRRM's Feast For Crows on the other hand is not the best book he has ever written and almost certainly the worst book in the series so far. Spin has been on virtually every best of the year list that I have seen whereas Feast has been very hit and miss. That being said, Stross has been coming on strong lately with a lot of good books, has become fairly popular and could easily win the big one.


Blogger William Lexner said ... (8:54 PM) : 


I totally feel what you're saying, I even agree -- sometimes. Like I said, I've been flip-flopping over the choice for weeks now. People should not spend this much time on decisions like this. My vote probably will not matter in the slightest, and I've struggled with my feelings enough.

I think, when it comes down to it, with all other things being equal, I'll vote for my friend George.


Blogger Lou Anders said ... (9:23 PM) : 

I haven't read Spin, but what Robert Charles Wilson I have read has always blown me away, so I won't be disappointed in the least if he wins, and will feel he most likely richly deserves it. That being said, I think it should go to Accelerando, because that book - or rather the short stories it is comprised of when they first debuted - was such a paradigm shift /conceptual breakthrough /genre influence. The book will be seen like Neuromancer as having defined a particular period in SF ("the Singularity") and not giving it the Hugo, if it doesn't win, will probably look like passing over Pacinio for Godfather.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:06 PM) : 

Just to dregdge it all up: I thought Spin was a badly written book. Yeah, the high concept was there (William mentions this), but it was presented in the prose-equivalent of unadorned, overcooked macaroni. No fire, no spark, no characterization to save Wilson's freakin' life.

As I said elsewhere: props for the concept; boot up the ass for the execution.


Blogger William Lexner said ... (1:59 AM) : 


I can understand your point of view with regards to Accelerando. I guess only time will tell if the impact is as profound as you asert. I'm pretty certain that Accelerando will win, so I don't imagine that you'll have cause for complaint on August 25th.

As an aside, thanks for checking out my site. I'm pretty excited about the things you're doing at PYR. I really enjoyed both The Crown Rose and The Healer last year. Galileo's Children sits on my shelf awaiting a free moment, and I'm looking forward to River of Gods and Paragea. (Paul Di Fillipo is raving about that one)


Blogger Jim Kelly said ... (10:23 PM) : 


Thanks for your second place nod for Burn. I expect to lose to my good friend and fellow Kelly in August, but it's nice to know that I was at least a contendah in your eyes.



Blogger Lou Anders said ... (5:18 PM) : 

I'm not as certain that Accelerando will win as you, though I wouldn't bet against it, but I do think its the defining book of the "Singularity" movement - and it is a movement. In fact, I knew it was a movement nearing its close when I was pitched my third singularity anthology at Pyr! Time to scout for the next wave...

Meanwhile, thanks for the kind words re: Pyr. I will be curious to hear your opinion of River of Gods, and of Genetopia if you check that one out - as its two sentence description is very similar to the Healer - lost sibling, mutant strain of humanity, post-apocalyptic setting - but it's a totally different (though equally briliant, IMHO) book.

As to River, Cheryl Morgan was opinioning that it represents the next wave of SF in that it's global, third world rather than American centric. I think she's on to something, but not sure Americans will embrace global SF as readily as the rest of the world. I hope so, as we've got another near-future India coming out later in the year from Alan Dean Foster.


Blogger Wolfgang "LRH" Ă–ller said ... (2:33 PM) : 

Is it possible for a translated book to get a Hugo? The Carpet Makers was puplished in Germany aeons ago.


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