April 11, 2020

It's Hugo Time!

Yes, most of us are hunkered down at home, but in varying degrees the world goes on. CoNZealand, the home of this year's Worldcon, just announced the nominees for the 2020 Hugos.

I was surprised to find I've already read and watched a goodly percentage of this ballot. This is a good thing, as my library is closed and I've no idea when it will reopen. As it is, I went on the website and put 15 books on hold, so when it opens--I'm crossing my fingers at the end of this month--I can take my wheelbarrow down there, load up, and get started. I'm guessing the voting deadline will probably be around the first or second week of July, which will give me just enough time to squeeze it all in.

(Yes, I could borrow ebooks of all these. However, I don't have a portable e-reader, and I cannot see myself sitting at my desk and reading 15 books on my desktop. And please no, I'm not about to attempt reading a 600-page behemoth like one of the Expanse novels on my phone.)

At any rate, here are the nominees, with my initial impressions and comments. Asterisks indicate those I've already read/seen.

Best Novel

*The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
*The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (Saga; Angry Robot UK)
*A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (Tor; Tor UK)
Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
*The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)

(Three of these were on my own ballot, albeit I put the Harrow in the Lodestar slot, as I personally thought it felt more like a YA novel. I know the author disagrees. So I've read four out of the six, with the Anders the only one I didn't like.)

Best Novella

*“Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador)
*The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga Press/Gallery)
*The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
*This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Saga Press; Jo Fletcher Books)
To Be Taught, If Fortunate, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager; Hodder & Stoughton)

(Again, I've read four of the six, although the Solomon was the only one on my ballot. I have the McGuire, but I just didn't get around to reading it. The Chiang and Clark I liked but didn't love, and I wasn't overly fond of the El-Mohtar/Gladstone. I haven't been swept away by Chambers' work to date either, so this is one category I'm not too enthused about.)

Best Novelette

“The Archronology of Love”, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed, April 2019)
*“Away With the Wolves”, by Sarah Gailey (Uncanny Magazine: Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue, September/October 2019)
*“The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, July-August 2019)
*"Emergency Skin," by N.K. Jemisin (Forward Collection (Amazon))
“For He Can Creep”, by Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com, 10 July 2019)
*“Omphalos”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador)

(Read four of these, and nominated the Gailey. I remember nothing of the Pinsker, so evidently it didn't impress me. I liked this story of Ted Chiang's better than the novella.)

Best Short Story

*“And Now His Lordship Is Laughing”, by Shiv Ramdas (Strange Horizons, 9 September 2019)
“As the Last I May Know”, by S.L. Huang (Tor.com, 23 October 2019)
“Blood Is Another Word for Hunger”, by Rivers Solomon (Tor.com, 24 July 2019)
“A Catalog of Storms”, by Fran Wilde (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2019)
*“Do Not Look Back, My Lion”, by Alix E. Harrow (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, January 2019)
*“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, by Nibedita Sen (Nightmare Magazine, May 2019)

(Read three of these and nominated two. I didn't care for the Wilde--started to read it and didn't finish. The Sen story, for me, didn't quite measure up to a couple of the others, but I can see why she made the Astounding ballot.)

Best Series

The Expanse, by James S. A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
*InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
Luna, by Ian McDonald (Tor; Gollancz)
*Planetfall series, by Emma Newman (Ace; Gollancz)
*Winternight Trilogy, by Katherine Arden (Del Rey; Del Rey UK)
The Wormwood Trilogy, by Tade Thompson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

(Ooo, here's the doorstoppers. Three of them were on my ballot. I've read the early Expanse novels, but not the latest. And I rather wish it hadn't made the ballot this time around anyway, as the final book will come out--later this year, I believe?--and it won't be eligible for next year.)

Best Related Work

*Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood, by J. Michael Straczynski (Harper Voyager US)
Joanna Russ, by Gwyneth Jones (University of Illinois Press (Modern Masters of Science Fiction))
*The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, by Mallory O’Meara (Hanover Square)
The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, by Farah Mendlesohn (Unbound)
*“2019 John W. Campbell Award Acceptance Speech”, by Jeannette Ng
*Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, produced and directed by Arwen Curry

(Three of these were on my ballot. I hope the Worldcon committee can get some good excerpts of the other two books, as they're nowhere to be found in my library. I watched Jeannette Ng's acceptance speech, of course, and while it brought about some much-needed change, it's a pretty odd duck to wind up on the ballot. I mean, I'm not going to argue with the will of the nominators, but I don't think it really belongs here.)

Best Graphic Story or Comic

Die, Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker, by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image)
LaGuardia, written by Nnedi Okorafor, art by Tana Ford, colours by James Devlin (Berger Books; Dark Horse)
*Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image)
Mooncakes, by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker, letters by Joamette Gil (Oni Press; Lion Forge)
*Paper Girls, Volume 6, written by Brian K. Vaughan, drawn by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image)
The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 9: “Okay”, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image)

(Two of these were on my ballot. Some of the rest I've never heard of, although I did manage to score "Mooncakes" from my library. Somewhat of a surprise that nothing from DC or Marvel made it.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

*Avengers: Endgame, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Studios)
*Captain Marvel, screenplay by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck and Geneva Robertson-Dworet, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Walt Disney Pictures/Marvel Studios/Animal Logic (Australia))
*Good Omens, written by Neil Gaiman, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Amazon Studios/BBC Studios/Narrativia/The Blank Corporation)
Russian Doll (Season One), created by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler, directed by Leslye Headland, Jamie Babbit and Natasha Lyonne (3 Arts Entertainment/Jax Media/Netflix/Paper Kite Productions/Universal Television)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, screenplay by Chris Terrio and J.J. Abrams, directed by J.J. Abrams (Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm/Bad Robot)
*Us, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Monkeypaw Productions/Universal Pictures)

(Three of these were on my ballot, although I only nominated an episode of Good Omens as opposed to the whole thing. I skipped seeing The Rise of Skywalker because I read how much JJ Abrams walked back/undermined what Rian Johnson did in The Last Jedi, which I really liked. I suppose I'll have to watch it now. I already know I'm not going to rank Endgame highly; it had its moments, but it was mainly an overstuffed mess, and I hated what they did to Natasha. I've heard various things about Russian Doll, but I somehow missed watching any of it.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The Good Place: “The Answer”, written by Daniel Schofield, directed by Valeria Migliassi Collins (Fremulon/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal Television)
*The Expanse: “Cibola Burn”, written by Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Breck Eisner (Amazon Prime Video)
*Watchmen: “A God Walks into Abar”, written by Jeff Jensen and Damon Lindelof, directed by Nicole Kassell (HBO)
*The Mandalorian: “Redemption”, written by Jon Favreau, directed by Taika Waititi (Disney+)
Doctor Who: “Resolution”, written by Chris Chibnall, directed by Wayne Yip (BBC)
*Watchmen: “This Extraordinary Being”, written by Damon Lindelof and Cord Jefferson, directed by Stephen Williams (HBO)

(Two and a half of these were on my ballot: I nominated episode 9 of The Expanse, "Saeculum," which I thought was a stronger episode than the finale. And ugh, I guess I'm going to have to force myself to sit through another episode of The Good Place. I'm sorry, but I cannot understand my fellow nominators' endless fascination with that mess.)

Best Editor, Short Form

Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
C.C. Finlay
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form

Sheila E. Gilbert
Brit Hvide
Diana M. Pho
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

Tommy Arnold
Rovina Cai
Galen Dara
John Picacio
Yuko Shimizu
Alyssa Winans

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor Scott H. Andrews
Escape Pod, editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney, audio producers Adam Pracht and Summer Brooks, hosts Tina Connolly and Alasdair Stuart
*Fireside Magazine, editor Julia Rios, managing editor Elsa Sjunneson, copyeditor Chelle Parker, social coordinator Meg Frank, publisher & art director Pablo Defendini, founding editor Brian White
FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, executive editor Troy L. Wiggins, editors Eboni Dunbar, Brent Lambert, L.D. Lewis, Danny Lore, Brandon O’Brien and Kaleb Russell
*Strange Horizons, Vanessa Rose Phin, Catherine Krahe, AJ Odasso, Dan Hartland, Joyce Chng, Dante Luiz and the Strange Horizons staff
*Uncanny Magazine, editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, nonfiction/managing editor Michi Trota, managing editor Chimedum Ohaegbu, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky

(I subscribe to three of these magazines, and two of them were on my ballot. I didn't nominate the obvious juggernaut in the category, because I wanted to honor some smaller, less heralded semiprozines. Y'know, occasionally when people have won a lot, they recuse themselves from nominations for a year or two? Just sayin'.)

Best Fanzine

*The Book Smugglers, editors Ana Grilo and Thea James
Galactic Journey, founder Gideon Marcus, editor Janice Marcus, senior writers Rosemary Benton, Lorelei Marcus and Victoria Silverwolf
Journey Planet, editors James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Ann Gry, Chuck Serface, John Coxon and Steven H Silver
*nerds of a feather, flock together, editors Adri Joy, Joe Sherry, Vance Kotrla, and The G
Quick Sip Reviews, editor Charles Payseur
The Rec Center, editors Elizabeth Minkel and Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

(One of these was on my ballot. The Rec Center is a completely new name to me. It's nice to see a bit of a break from the usual suspects.)

Best Fancast

Be The Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel, produced & presented by Claire Rousseau
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, producer Andrew Finch
Our Opinions Are Correct, presented by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
The Skiffy and Fanty Show, presented by Jen Zink and Shaun Duke

(Not much into podcasts, unfortunately, although I will check the YouTube channel out.)

Best Fan Writer

*Cora Buhlert
*James Davis Nicoll
Alasdair Stuart
Bogi Takács
*Paul Weimer
Adam Whitehead

(In this list, I'm really happy for Cora and Paul. I'd never heard of Adam Whitehead, but now I've subscribed to his blog.)

Best Fan Artist

Iain Clark
Sara Felix
Grace P. Fong
Meg Frank
Ariela Housman
Elise Matthesen

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (not a Hugo)

*Catfishing on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen)
Deeplight, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
*Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee (Disney/Hyperion)
Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
Riverland, by Fran Wilde (Amulet)
The Wicked King, by Holly Black (Little, Brown; Hot Key)

(I flat made a mistake with this category, as I forgot to include the Lee until it was too late. Fortunately, it showed up anyway.)

Astounding Award for Best New Writer, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo)

Sam Hawke (2nd year of eligibility)
*R.F. Kuang (2nd year of eligibility)
Jenn Lyons (1st year of eligibility)
*Nibedita Sen (2nd year of eligibility)
Tasha Suri (2nd year of eligibility)
Emily Tesh (1st year of eligibility)

(R.F. Kuang's second novel, The Dragon Republic, made my Best Novel list, and I also nominated her here. To me, she stands head and shoulders above the rest.)

So since I can't get to my library holds just yet, I plan to start reading and ranking the shorter stuff. I'm wondering if the voters' packet might be late this year, understandably, with the con committee dealing with both the New Zealand lockdown and the fact that they're going to hold a virtual con instead of a physical one. I'm sure they will do their best, and I think when they announce their virtual attending fees, I will upgrade. They're taking on a monumental task, and they deserve our help.

At any rate, this will give me plenty to write about, with the side effect of thinking about something other than what's going on in the world. (I'm actually still working my regular job--VA personnel are considered "essential," and I'm fortunate enough to be in an isolated building where only the relatively small number of regular employees/supervisors are allowed in. We all disinfect our desks and wash our hands constantly. So far, cross my fingers, I'm not sick. I'm very aware of how privileged I am, and how much other people and places are hurting.) We will get through this, folks, and good books and better people are one way everyone will stay sane.

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