The 2011 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on the Nominations
The list of nominations was announced two hours ago and is by now all over the internet--for example. Some comments.
- The pleasure of seeing four women on the best novel ballot (to match the female-dominated, yet hardly overlapping, Nebula ballot) is undercut by how thoroughly unappetizing I find the actual ballot. I was looking forward to reading Ian McDonald's The Dervish House (which just yesterday won the BSFA award, and is strongly tipped to win the Clarke award later this week) and N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but even fans of Lois McMaster Bujold and Connie Willis seem to consider Cryoburn and Blackout/All Clear lesser works (and in the latter case I've already expressed my objection on principle to the two volumes being nominated as a single work) and nothing I've heard about Feed excites me particularly. In light of this, I'm not planning to become an associate member of Renovation, but I will be resuming my short fiction Hugo blogging.
- Speaking of short fiction, I've deliberately kept away from genre short stories in the last year so I don't have much to say yet about the actual nominees, but my first reaction after looking at the ballots is: no Mike Resnick! I don't dare imagine that this is a sign of genuine change--probably Resnick simply didn't publish an eligible story in 2010--and the fact is that Resnick is still on the Hugo ballot, in the Best Related Work category, for his book, with Barry N. Malzberg, The Business of Science Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing. But just the thought of facing a Hugo read-through without the dreaded prospect of a Resnick story puts a bounce in my step.
- Staying with the short fiction ballots, I see that Analog has two nominated novelettes, the first time that magazine has received a nomination since 2006 (in that year, Michael A. Burstein received a best short story nomination for "Seventy Five Years," still the very worst piece of fiction I've read in all my Hugo shortlist reviews; it would be nice to think that Analog's dry spell was some sort of cosmic punishment). Magazines continue to be pushed out of the Best Novella category in favor of standalone volumes and anthologies--or, which is more likely, to push themselves out by publishing fewer novellas. On the other hand, after several years of strong showings from online venues and anthologies, print magazines dominate the novelette categories, and except for Elizabeth Hand's novella nomination from Neil Gaiman and Al Sarantonio's Stories, there are no anthology stories on the ballot.
- Can the best graphic story category die now? It was a nice idea but this is clearly not the fandom to make it work.
- Were it not for the parlous state of genre TV nowadays, I'd start agitating for a change in the Hugo rules saying that there can only be one nomination per show in the Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form category. There's just no fun to the category any more--we all know that multiple nominations for Doctor Who will translate into a Who voting block that'll defeat all other comers, and the result is foregone. But there's so little worth watching in genre these days that I even though I was underwhelmed by Stephen Moffat's debut season (and would have traded "A Christmas Carol"'s slot for one for "The Lodger") I can't think of too many other nominees that truly deserve to be on the ballot. (I would have liked to see Caprica nominated, but that was never going to happen, though I am surprised that Futurama's "The Late Philip J. Fry" didn't make it on to the ballot.) Though Shaun Tan's Oscar-winning short The Lost Thing and the perplexing fan video "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" are amusing entries on the ballot, I wish there was more worthwhile TV out there so I could get worked up over the inevitability of it being trounced by Doctor Who.
- The Short Form category looks to get even more unexciting in 2012. Neil Gaiman has written a Doctor Who episode. Short of Doctor Horrible 2 happening within the next eight months, I think we might as well hand Gaiman his Hugo now and get the hassle out of the way.
- I have nothing of interest to say about the Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form category except to note that there are three children's films on it. It is mildly amusing to wonder whose fen are more powerful, Inception or Scott Pilgrim, but as I didn't care for the former and found the latter entertaining but problematic, I can't work up much enthusiasm.
- An interesting comment on the live feed reporting the nominations got me thinking: as nice as it is to see a new face in the Best Fan Artist category, does Randall Munroe truly belong there? XKCD is, after all, a business. Does the fact that the strips are offered free of charge while the money is made selling merchandise really make Munroe a fan, rather than professional, artist?