So after being cheered by Ian. R Macleod’s Sidewise Award for the wonderful The Summer Isles, and wryly amused that Ken Macleod picked up a third Prometheus Award with Learning the World, I woke up this morning (absurdly early, considering what time I got home last night) anticipating the main event: the Hugo Award results.
It’s not as satisfyingly rightheaded a slate of winners as we got last year. The short fiction categories are a bit of a mess—the idea that Connie Willis’ “Inside Job” and David Levine’s “Tk’tk’tk” are better than, respectively, Kelly Link’s “Magic for Beginners” and Margo Lanagan’s “Singing My Sister Down” is, without wishing to offend, ludicrous; Peter S. Beagle’s novellette win is defensible, but it wouldn’t have been my pick—but other than that it’s not too bad. Serenity‘s win in Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form is well-deserved, and Steven Moffatt’s Doctor Who two-parter was the best thing on its ballot. Kate Wilhelm’s Storyteller wasn’t (I was rooting for Gary K. Wolfe’s Soundings), but it is a good book—and perhaps more impressively, it beat a book by The Mighty Langford.
Actually, it seems to have been a year for results that go against the common complaint that Hugo voters are swayed by name recognition, at least in some categories. Sure, Locus and Langford picked up their annual awards, but David Hartwell, editor of everyone from James Tiptree Jnr to David Marusek, finally converted a nomination to a win, and in doing so became the
first second non-dead book editor to win a Hugo (somewhat ironically, given that his omission from the winners’ list was one of the reasons behind the motion to split Best Editor into two categories).
More refreshingly still, the Best Novel winner is impossible to snidely dismiss as having gone to the author with the biggest publicity campaign, or the most vocal fanbase, or the most popular blog, as has become somewhat de rigueur when discussing recent winners, or when trying to predict this year’s (I was not immune to this). The award has gone to a book that I haven’t read, but which I have heard almost exclusively good things about from people I trust who have; which is to say that it seems to have gone to a book that (get this) can only have won because a population of informed voters liked it best. Whether or not I end up agreeing that Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin was the most deserving book on the shortlist, it strikes me as, at the very least, a good result for the health of the Hugos as an institution.
EDIT: the nomination and voting stats. Headlines: Neil Gaiman declined a nomination for Anansi Boys; World of Warcraft and Lego Star Wars were the top nominees in the ‘Interactive Video Game’ category that was dropped due to lack of interest; in the final vote, “Magic for Beginners” ran “Inside Job” pretty darn close, but Spin had a comfortable lead from the start and John Scalzi wasn’t far off winning the Campbell Award outright; and Andrew M. Butler’s last year on Vector got six nominations for Best Fanzine, which is nice to see. Further commentary here and here.