The Hugo Award nominees for 2020 and the Retro Hugo Award nominees for 1945 have been announced
today a while ago, and I’d like to talk briefly about them.
Of the six novels nominated for the Hugo Award, I’ve read three. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine I have reviewed previously in my 2019 Book Bingo card. Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth was probably one of my favourite books from last year, yet I haven’t reviewed it. Likewise, I have read but don’t seem to have reviewed The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. I really thought I had talked about it before but it seems not.
Of the other three Best Novel Nominees, Alix Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January has been on my To Read list for a while, so that’ll probably be my next stop. Middlegame I was vaguely aware of but not interested in. However, I have enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s fiction in the past and am sure I’ll have a good time with this book. Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade was completely unknown to me. It is a military science fiction story about soldiers being turned into light to be shot out to interplanetary battlefronts, and what this process does to mess up soldiers. It sounds right up my alley.
No idea which Pokemon I will use for any of these books for my annual theme team though.
Novella-wise it looks like Tor.com has lost its monopoly on the category, with only two novellas (In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire and The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djѐlí Clark) in this year’s list, as opposed to five last year. Both of these I have read and reviewed, and I have also read Becky Chamber’s excellent To Be Taught, If Fortunate. I loved that story, I loved the characters, the worldbuilding was amazing (with four different worlds too!) and I’ll make sure to talk about it very soon. The Deep and This is How You Lose the Time War have both been on my radar for a while.
I’m also excited to see Ted Chiang’s Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom as a nominee, as well as Omphalos in the novelette category. I enjoyed the movie adaptation of Arrival, which is based on another of Chiang’s stories, and I have heard a lot of good things about Exhalation, the short story collection both of these stories are from. Also, Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom sounds really thought provoking. The premise is that the ability to see alternate universes screws up all our nice little ideas about the concepts of choice and free will. Sounds pretty trippy. Despite all this, I held off on getting the collection because I am terrible with short story collections. I have so many that I just never get around to, and yet I keep getting more. I said no more, but with two stories from Exhalation on the ballot, I feel justified in getting it.
The Novelettes and Short Stories are less familiar to me. A couple I’ve read and enjoyed a lot, such as For He Can Creep and The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye. Blur is also a reminder to read more Sarah Pinsker, I like a lot of her stuff, and still remember her 2017 novella And Then There Were (N-One) quite fondly. Rivers Solomon’s Blood is Another Word for Hunger is also on the ballot. I thought that one was okay.
In the graphic novel/comic category I was happy to see Monstress Vol. 4 on the ballot. It was one of my picks and probably my favourite entry in the series so far. I’ve also started Paper Girls recently, and am really loving how crazy that series gets. Mechs, dinosaurs, time travel, and a nice coming-of-age and teenage friendship story all rolled up into one wild ride. I have just finished Vol. 4, and it’ll be good to catch up before voting. I’ve recently started getting into graphic novels and comics a lot lately. It’s been like discovering a whole new world. All the nominees this year look interesting and I want to check them out. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get through nine volumes of The Wicked and the Divine, but Die and LaGuardia are both the the start of the series, and Mooncakes is a standalone, so they should be doable.
In the Best Related Work Category, Jeanette Ng’s acceptance speech for her Campbell Award last year was nominated. The one where she called John Campbell a fascist and expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong protestors. I remember some of the controversy that stirred up, and imagine it’ll be reignited again. Personally, after a bit of confusion as to why an acceptance speech would count as a related work and about whether Ng’s speech was as good as some others that I’ve heard over the years, I kinda stood back and thought about the impact that speech has had over the last year, and how hard it is for the science fiction community today to escape Campbell’s legacy; both the good and the bad. For Ng to say what she said was brave, and it was also a speech that had an emotional impact, so all in all, I’m glad it’s being recognised. I don’t usually read and vote in this category though, and haven’t read any of the other nominees, so I don’t think there’s much more I can say about Ng’s inclusion on this list.
Now let’s look at the Retro Hugos. Briefly, since this post is taking forever to write.
Haven’t heard of any of the novels before. Well, I know of the tale of the Golden Fleece, but am unaware of Robert Grave’s retelling. I have read novels by Olaf Stapledon and A. E. van Vogt before, so I am looking forward to reading Sirius: A Fantasy of Love and Discord, and The Winged Man.
That said, Sirius is a smart dog story, and I’m worried it might turn into a sad dog story too. Stories with pets dying or getting hurt really mess me up. Hypocritical I know, since I have just written a story with pets dying, but writing Nine Lives, Two Billion Deaths was hard for me, and was based off a nightmare of bad things happening to my own cat. Point is, I’m not sure if I’m ready right now for a story where the dog dies.On the other hand, this sounds like a really good story that does a good job of exploring a dog’s mind. Might just look up whether the dog dies and then brace myself.
In the Novella department I’ve only read Theodore Sturgeon’s Killdozer! before. I remember liking it, but I don’t remember a lot of the details. The basic premise is that some workers on a remote island disturb a tomb-like ancient building, and the entity living inside possesses their giant bulldozer and starts killing them all. Kinda like Alien, except set on a tropical island and the stealthy xenomorph is replaced by a giant bulldozer. So, maybe not like Alien at all. Still, I remember it being fun, and will see about re-reading it.
Henry Kuttner’s novella A God Named Kroo is also on the ballot. There are also two novelettes on the ballot that he wrote with his wife C.L. Moore under their Lawrence O’Donnell pen name (The Children’s Hour and When the Bough Breaks) as well as C.L. Moore’s No Woman Born. I’ve been meaning to read more of the duo’s work ever since last year, when I read Earth’s Last Citadel and Clash by Night. Glad I’m getting this push to read more.
Isaac Asimov also appears on the ballot with two entries from the Foundation series; The Wedge and The Big and the Little, later republished as The Traders and The Merchant Princes respectively. I’ve read the Foundation series many times, and am very familiar with these two stories. The basic premise of the Foundation series is that the Galactic Empire is falling, and psychohistorian Hari Seldon set up a Foundation on the isolated planet Terminus to preserve the knowledge of the Empire, thus shortening a 10,000 year dark age to just a 1000 year interim between the Empire and the Galactic civilisation to follow. During the 1000 dark age, the Foundation on Terminus faces a number of threats to its existence. It soon becomes apparent that these threats were foreseen by Seldon using his psychohistory; a science he developed that uses psychology and statistics to predict the future. It’s an interesting premise, because in most stories, the characters are aware that the crisis they face has been predicted, and therefore must have a simple solution. It’s a formula that could get very boring if mishandled, but Asimov was always able to keep the stories interesting.
Foundation was not nominated for the Best Series Hugo though. I don’t know if this was just a reflection on how people voted, or if the series didn’t meet the criteria for the award. Foundation did however win a similar award, back in 1966 when a one-off Hugo Award was given for “Best All-Time Series.” In that year, Asimov’s Foundation series went up against Doc Smith’s Lensmen, Robert Heinlein’s Future History, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and was declared the best series of all-time. Of course, there’s been a lot more time since then, so I’d be curious what choice people would make nowadays, and which other series would be on that list. Maybe that’ll be our homework today; write in the comments what series you’d nominate if there was a Hugo for “Best All-Time Series” today.
Oh, before I go and leave you with that though, The Cthulhu Mythos is nominated for the 1945 Best Series category. I haven’t read any of the other nominees, but I think that for the huge impact and notoriety Cthulhu has up to this day, it deserves my vote.
Alright, that’s it for now. Time to get reading. I’ve actually got a week off, so that’ll give me plenty of time for reading and reviewing. Or for playing Animal Crossing. One or the other.