The 2010 Hugo Awards: The Winners
The results are already available from many different sources, for those of you who weren't following Cheryl Morgan and Mur Lafferty's live coverage from Melbourne, which did an excellent job of building up excitement and anticipation for the results. Some thoughts:
- It's almost inevitable for any results to feel like a letdown at first, especially if, like myself, your taste diverges more than a little from that of the Hugo voters, so that even the best results feel like compromise choices. Nevertheless, once that kneejerk reaction of disappointment wears off, this year's fiction winners are really quite heartening. The only real disappointment is Doctor Who's win for "The Waters of Mars"--the worst of the three Who specials, none of which were particularly good--in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category, but that's more than made up for by Moon's triumph in Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. I haven't read most of the nominated novellas, but I can think of worse winners than Charles Stross in that category. And though I would have chosen different winners in the novelette and short story categories, both Peter Watts's "The Island" and Will McIntosh's "Bridesicle" are good stories and worthy winners. Finally, I'm immensely pleased by the unprecedented and entirely unexpected tie between China Miéville's The City and The City and Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl for the best novel Hugo. Between them, these two ambitious, interesting, flawed but fascinating novels have split the genre award scene--Bacigalupi won the Nebula Award, Miéville won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and both won Locus Awards in different categories--and I was at a loss to choose between them or to imagine how the Hugo voters would do so. To give them both the award is, I think, a perfect way of acknowledging what a remarkable achievement each represents, and how remarkable 2009 was for seeing the publication of both.
- Patrick Nielsen Hayden, winner of the award for Best Editor, Long Form, has asked Hugo voters not to nominate him in this category for the next two years. In this, he follows in the footsteps of former winners John Scalzi (Best Fan Writer, 2008), Cheryl Morgan (Best Fan Writer, 2009), and David G. Hartwell (Best Editor, Long Form, 2009) who have made similar appeals, some from the winner's podium. I understand and applaud their motivations, and indeed when Scalzi first announced that he would decline any further nominations for best fan writer I thought that this was entirely the way to go, but now I'm having second thoughts. I share the distaste that many Hugo voters have developed for perennial winners. While one's first Hugo in the fan or editor categories might be thought of as a lifetime achievement award, in subsequent years I think that voters should take a "what have you done for me lately?" approach, and vote according to the nominee's activities in the award year. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to happen. Instead, one gets the sense that the awards are given for personality, popularity, overall career achievement, and sometimes just inertia. That said, I think that this is a change that should come from the voters, not as a gift, however well-intentioned, from the winners. At this point, with a consensus building against perennial winners, it might be time to consider a change to the Hugo rules, making winners ineligible in their categories for two or three years after their victory.
- The Aussiecon 4 website reports 1094 voting ballots. During the ceremony, awards administrator Vince Docherty revealed that 40% of the convention's membership had voted in the awards, but given that Australian Worldcons tend to be more sparsely attended than North American ones (~1,500 attendees in the last two conventions) and that Aussiecon's attendance numbers were reported to be in line with this, I assumed he meant that 600-700 ballots had been received. The large number of voting ballots (in line with the number of ballots received last year in Anticipation, a much larger convention) suggests that many came from associate memberships, presumably purchased for the express purpose of voting. For this, I suspect, we can thank the Hugo voter packet, a great project that has proven itself a real boon for the award, but I think it also helped that this year's nominees captured fandom's interest--that the best novel category included some of the most talked-about novels of the year, and that 2009 was such a banner year for SF film.
- Aussiecon has also posted the voting and nomination statistics (PDF) so let the Monday morning calculations and obsessing begin! Last year I noted that nearly all the Hugo winners took their categories outright in the first round of counting. This year is the reverse. In best novel, The Windup Girl and The City and The City started out neck and neck, but the latter quickly took the lead and held it until the final round. The best novella nominees played pass the Hugo, with John Scalzi holding it for the first three rounds and passing it on to Kage Baker, before it settled with Charles Stross. In contrast, Stross was the lead in the best novelette category right until the final round of vote distribution. Only Will McIntosh won his award for short story right from the get-go.
Other interesting revelations include Avatar coming last in the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form race, cementing my feeling that this was a film more beloved by non-geeks than geeks. Also, the Doctor Who block vote triumphed once again: Dollhouse's "Epitaph One" held the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo all the way to the last round, but when the votes for "The Next Doctor" were redistributed, they went predominantly to "The Waters of Mars."
- In the nominating statistics, what's notable is that in nearly every category there is a wide gap between the works that made it onto the final ballot and the next most-nominated work. Helen Keeble's "A Journal of Certain Events of Scientific Interest from the First Survey Voyage of the Southern Waters by HMS Ocelot, As Observed by Professor Thaddeus Boswell, DPhil, MSc; or, A Lullaby," which I had been championing for a best novelette nomination, got twelve votes--less than a third of what it would have needed to make it onto the ballot, but still nice to see. The series finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was just below the cutoff point for a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form nomination, which is saddening. On the other hand, it scored two more votes than the Battlestar Galactica finale. On a personal note, I received 19 votes for best fan writer, ten short of a nomination and, which is more important to me, the first time that I can't name each of the people who nominated me. Congrats also to Niall Harrison for his 22 best fan writer votes, and for the ten votes for Torque Control in the best fanzine category.