August 21st, 2011


2011 Hugos - some (not much) analysis

Full stats are here.

Best Novel: Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis (beating Feed, which got the most first preferences, by 24 votes on last count; The Dervish House came fifth, though the honours were fairly evenly divided, third place going to Cryoburn by a six-vote margin over The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Best Novella: The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang (a pretty clear result: the others, in order, ranked 2) "Troika", 3) "The Lady...", 4) "The Sultan...", 5) "The Maiden Flight...")

Best Novelette: “The Emperor of Mars”, Allen M. Steele (again a clear result with clear rankings for the others: 2) "Eight Miles", 3) "Plus or Minus", 4) "That Leviathan...", 5) "The Jaguar House...")

Best Short Story: “For Want of a Nail”, Mary Robinette Kowal (a clear result, with fans of Kowal's story also liking "Amaryllis" which came second; "The Things" third and "Ponies" fourth.)

Best Related Work: Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea (followed by Heinlein biography, then The Business of Science Fiction gets third place by three votes from Writing Excuses and Bearings - the only nominee not available electronically - a lon way behind.)

Best Professional Artist: Shaun Tan (by 14 votes from Dos Santos; Martiniere is second, Dos Santos and Picacio joint third - the only tie of the night - Eggleton fifth.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Inception (by a massive margin; the others ranked How To Train Your DragonHarry Potter 7.1Toy Story 3Scott Pilgrim.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who: “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” (followed by Vincent and the Doctor and A Christmas CarolFuck Me Ray Bradbury actually got the most first preferences but was overtaken by Whovian transfers, and eventually takes fourth place by ten votes from The Lost Thing.)

Best Editor, Long Form: Lou Anders (by 23 votes from Buchanan; others rank Meacham, Gorisky, Feder, Mamatas, Ulman.)

Best Editor, Short Form: Sheila Williams (Schmidt top on first prefs but loses by a wide margin on transfers; Adams takes third place by six votes from van Gelder, who ends behind Strahan in fifth.)

Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse (followed by Fables: WitchesSchlock MercenaryGrandville Mon Amour and The Unwritten in that order; I find this incomprehensible.)

Best Semiprozine: Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Cheryl Morgan, Sean Wallace; podcast directed by Kate Baker (Locus top in first preferences but must settle for second place; Interzone takes third from Lightspeed by five votes; Lightspeed nine ahead of Weird Tales for fourth place.)

Best Fanzine: The Drink Tank, edited by Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (followed by File 770 and then StarShipSofa which was top in first preferences, Challenger beats Banana Wings for fourth place by seven votes.)

Best Fan Writer: Claire Brialey (by six votes, over Steven H Silver who has to settle for third place behind Chris Garcia; James Bacon also six votes ahead of James Nicoll for fourth place.)

Best Fan Artist: Brad W. Foster (by one vote over Randall Munroe who was way ahead on first preferences; others rank 3) Starkey, 4) Stile, 5) Wayne)

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Lev Grossman (by fifteen votes over Lauren Beukes; 3) Saladin Ahmed, 4) Dan Wells, 5) Larry Correia.)

Congratulations to all winners! Eleventh Hugo (and fifth Hugo/Nebula double) for Connie Willis (born 1945); fourth for Ted Chiang (born 1967); third for Allen Steele (born 1958); first for Mary Robinette Kowal (born 1969).

Well, I guess I can't complain too much; I voted for the winners in Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form, and I'm not too disappointed by the winners of Best Novelette, Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form and the John W. Campbell Award. Still shaking my head over the appeal of Blackout/All Clear and Girl Genius though.

Nominees that weren't: 

"Elegy for a Young Elk" by Hannu Rajaniemi missed the Best Short Story list by 0.75 of a vote, if I have my maths right. 

Ellen Datlow missed Best Editor, Short Form, by a single vote. Notes from Coode Street was one vote away from the Best Fanzine list. 

"A Jar of Goodwill" by Tobias Buckell and "The Naturalist" by Maureen McHugh both missed the Best Novelette list by two votes. Guy Lillian III missed the Best Fan Writer list by two votes. Spring Schoenhuth missed the Best Fan Artist list by two votes.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor missed the Best Novel shortlist by four votes (China Mieville's Kraken missed it by six). I see last year's winner still got ten nominators for Best Graphic Story, where Hereville by Barry Deutsch missed the list by four votes. 

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach missed Best Related Work by five votes.

Both David Hartwell and Patrick Nielsen Hayden decliend nomination for Best Editor, Long Form, resulting in the multiple tie for fifth place which gave us seven nominees. (Toni Weisskopf was two votes adrift.)

August Books 19) Timescape, by Gregory Benford

Written in 1980, with storylines set in 1962-63 and 1998, this is a scientists' sf novel, the future 1998 world facing ecological and social catastrophe and its physicists trying to communicate with their predecessors to prevent it from happening.

As a Cambridge NatSci graduate I loved the visceral detail of the decaying 1998 setting, though Benford failed to predict one element of real life decay, the extinction of independent bookshops - he still has Bowes and Bowes open and staffed by attractive young women, when in real life I think it closed in the early 90s.

But it's a bit less satisfactory as a novel than I remembered it from my first reading. Both ends of the time line feature almost entirely male working environments, with the odd distant woman scientist collaborating but the protagonists enduring varyingly problematic sex lives with their various female partners. I was not completely convinced, though I can see that it's written from the heart.

And the sending-messages-through-time plot, the core of the book, actually doesn't work very well. Rather than the messages from 1998 inspiring scientific research to get the world out of the mess it is in, they accidentally prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and that seems to be the crucial point of departure which kicks the 1963 world out of our timeline and into a better one. Why Kennedy's survival should make the difference is not really explained. (And the elaborate system developed by the 1998 scientists to check that their message is getting through is unnecessary given that their telephone system still works.)

Though I do like the nod to Silverberg's Dying Inside, whose protagonist makes a brief appearance on page 273.

Timescape won the Nebula in 1980; of the other nominees, I have definitely read the Hugo-winning The Snow Queen and The Shadow of the Torturer and I may have read Beyond the Blue Event Horizon but am not sure. I have not read, or even heard of, Walter Tevis' Mockingbird or Robert Stallman's The Orphan. I think it's one of those years when the Nebula went to the kind of novel that would normally have a better chance of winning the Hugo, and vice versa.

August Books 20) Granuaile: Grace O'Malley - Ireland's Pirate Queen, by Anne Chambers

A fascinating account of a shadowy historical figure of varying spellings, an exact contemporary of Elizabeth I, who appears to have used her own resources to prey on shipping along the Atlantic seaboard of Ireland; it's difficult to be sure what is fact and what is fiction - did she really give birth on board one of her own ships, and then a few hours later struggle to the deck to take pot-shots at Algerian raiders? did she really kidnap the son of the Earl of Howth in retribution for a failure of hospitality? - but it adds up to some interesting material, and Chambers is frank about the gaps in her knowledge, as well as giving us some of the primary documents in an appendix.

The first edition of the book was published in 1979, a very different time for stories of Irish feminist heroes who threaten to divorce their husbands and then take handsome young lovers. For me, though, the most interesting point was the ability of Granuaile to appeal over the head of the local English administrators to the royal court, and her straight-faced ability to portray herself as a loyal subject beset by venal officials (and the paranoid and counterproductive reaction of those officials to her approaches). Chambers writes Granuaile into a traditional English v Irish political paradigm, but there is more going on here. I wish I knew more about the access of male Irish chieftains to the court; I feel I don't have enough information to know how unusual Granuaile's treatment was.

Anyway, an interesting read.