August 1st, 2020


2020 Hugos in detail

1584 votes cast at nominations phase, 2221 on the final ballot. Lower than any year since 2013, higher than any year up to 2013. As expected for a smaller worldcon in difficult times. Full stats here.

The closest result was for Best Fanzine, where the winner had a margin of 4 votes on the final count. Best Graphic Story or Comic was decided by 11 votes.
The following also received enough nominating votes to reach the final ballot:

  • Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie (Best Novel – declined nomination)

  • Watchmen (Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form – two episodes, with more nominating votes, had also qualified for the Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category)

  • Good Omens: “Hard Times” (Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form – the entire series, with more nominating votes, had also qualified for the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category)

  • Navah Wolfe (Best Professional Editor, Short Form – not eligible)

  • Tamsyn Muir (Astounding Award for Best New Writer – not eligible)

The winners of Best Graphic Story or Comic and of Best Professional Editor, Short Form were the last to qualify for the final ballot in their categories.

Best Novel

A Memory Called Empire surged from second place, starting 57 votes behind Middlegame but eventually beating it by 88, 880 to 792, on transfers (getting more from eliminated candidates in every single round). Middlegame came a convincing second over Gideon the Ninth, which came an even more convincing third over The City in the Middle of the Night. But fourth place was taken by The Light Brigade in a close contest with The Ten Thousand Doors of January, and The City in the Middle of the Night took fifth place by only 1 vote over The Ten Thousand Doors of January, which came sixth.

At nominations stage, Ann Leckie declined nomination for The Raven Tower which had come third. A Memory called Empire and Gideon the Ninth topped the poll on votes and points respectively. The City in the Middle of the Night qualified thanks to The Raven Tower's removal. Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S.A. Corey, would have needed 27 more votes or in excess of 12.65 more points to qualify for the final ballot. It was actually ahead of The City in the Middle of the Night on points, but way behind on votes - seven other nominees had an equal or larger number of nominations (but did less well on points).

Best Novella

This is How You Lose the Time War was ahead at all stages but needed to go to the sixth count to win over In An Absent Dream, by 994 to 634. In An Absent Dream started 62 votes ahead for second place, but scraped in by only two votes over To Be Taught if Fortunate. To Be Taught if Fortunate beat "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom" handily for third place, and although "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom" started with the most votes for fourth place, it was beaten by The Haunting of Tram Car 015 on transfers from The Deep. However, "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom" secured a solid enough fifth place against The Deep, which got a convincing sixth.

At nominations stage, This is How You Lose the Time War was far ahead of the field, and "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom" the last to qualify. Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh, needed another 11 votes worth 8.25 points to qualify for the final ballot.

Best Novelette

Emergency Skin was ahead at all stages and beat "Omphalos" by 776 to 550 on the sixth count. "Omphalos" beat "Away with the Wolves" similarly convincingly for second place, and "Away with the Wolves" came from behind to beat "For He Can Creep" for third. "For He Can Creep" beat "The Blur in the Corner of your Eye" by only 17 votes for fourth place, but "The Blur in the Corner of your Eye" beat "The Archronology of Love" convincingly for fifth place and "The Archronology of Love" took sixth even more convincingly.

Emergency Skin was only fourth at nomination stage, with "Omphalos" first, "For He Can Creep" second and "Away with the Wolves" third. "The Archronology of Love" was the last to qualify; "Nice Things" by Ellen Klages needed only 2 more votes to get on the ballot.

Best Short Story

"As the Last I May Know" was ahead at all stages but needed the sixth round to beat "Do Not Look Back My Lion" by 720 to 513. The other places went convincingly to "Do Not Look Back My Lion", "And Now His Lordship Is Laughing", "A Catalog of Storms", "Blood Is Another Word for Hunger" and "Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island" which came sixth despite having the third highest number of first preferences. I guess some people didn't like its format; myself I thought it was inventive and interesting.

At nominations stage, "Do Not Look Back My Lion" topped the poll and the eventual winner, "As the Last I May Know", was in fourth place. "And Now His Lordship is Laughing" was the last to qualify; "Give the Family My Love", by A. T. Greenblatt, would have qualified with another two votes or 0.83 points, and "Articulated Restraint", by Mary Robinette Kowal, was also close behind.

Best Series

More drama here as The Expanse, starting 72 votes behind InCryptid, pulled ahead on transfers to win by 22 votes, 683 to 661. InCryptid not surprisingly crushed the opposition to come second, Planetfall beat The Wormwood Trilogy convincingly for third place, and the Winternight Trilogy scraped into fourth place by four votes, again over The Wormwood Trilogy, which however convincingly beat Luna for fifth place, and Luna then came a solid sixth.

InCryptid was well in the lead at nominations, with The Wormwood Trilogy (just) second on votes but fourth on points, and The Expanse second on points but third on votes. The Winternight Trilogy had the fewest votes among the finalists, but Luna was the last to qualify, and the Alliance-Union series by C.J. Cherryh needed another 2 votes or in excess of 0.25 more points to get on the ballot.

Best Related Work

Jeannette Ng's Campbell Award acceptance speech was well ahead at all stages, eventually beating Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin by 606 to 540. Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin came second; The Lady from the Black Lagoon came third narrowly, 14 votes ahead of Becoming Superman; Becoming Superman came a strong fourth, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein beat Joanna Russ by 20 points for fifth place, and Joanna Russ came sixth.

Jeannette Ng's speech had the fewest nomination votes of any of the finalists, but was not the last to qualify - the last place on the ballot was taken by Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, whose eligibility had been specifically extended by the 2019 Business Meeting. The last nominee eliminated was Monster, She Wrote, by Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson, which would have needed another 13 votes worth at least 6.33 points, or 6.42 points from fewer than 13 votes, to qualify for the ballot

Best Graphic Story or Comic

Laguardia started 22 votes in the lead and ended winning by 11, 410 to 399 for Monstress v4. Monstress v4 took second place, Mooncakes third, Paper Girls fourth, The Wicked + The Divine won fifth by 7 votes from Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker, which came sixth.

At nominations stage, Monstress v4 topped the poll and The Wicked + The Divine came a strong second, with the winner, Laguardia, the last to qualify (though Mooncakes had fewer votes). Invisible Kingdom, Vol. 1, by G. Willow Wilson would have needed 9 more votes worth 3.34 points, or fewer votes worth 5.59 more points, to qualify.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Good Omens was far ahead from the beginning, and won with 946 votes to 413 for Captain Marvel and 392 for Russian Doll. The other places were all pretty clear, Captain Marvel second, Russian Doll third, Avengers: Endgame fourth, Us fifth and Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker sixth.

At nominations stage, Watchmen gained enough votes to qualify in this category, but two individual episodes also qualified for the Short Form category, with more votes collectively. The Administrators therefore removed Watchmen from this category. Captain Marvel topped the poll, with Good Omens second. The removal of Watchmen allowed Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to take the last place on the ballot; Spider-man: Far from Home would have taken that place with 1 more vote.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The Good Place: The Answer was well ahead from the start, winning by 720 votes to 520 for Watchmen: A God Walks Into Abar, which then tied for second place with The Mandalorian: Redemption. Cibola Burn, which started the run for second place in a tie for the lead, took fourth place easily, with Watchmen: This Extraordinary Being in fifth and Doctor Who: Resolution in sixth.

At nominations stage, Good Omens: Hard Times gained enough votes to qualify in this category - in fact, it topped the poll - but the entire series of Good Omens also qualified for the Long Form category, with more votes. The Administrators therefore removed Good Omens: Hard Times from this category. Doctor Who: Resolution therefore took the last place on the ballot. The last nominee eliminated was another episode of The Good Place, Pandemonium, which needed another 6 votes to qualify.

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

Ellen Datlow was in the lead from the beginning, winning by 453 to 265 for Lynne M Thomas and Michael Damien Thomas. The Thomases started in the lead for second place, but transfers pulled Jonathan Strahan to finish 18 votes ahead. The Thomases also started in the lead for third place, but transfers pulled Sheila Williams to finish 12 votes ahead. The Thomases also started in the lead for fourth place, but transfers pulled Neil Clarke to finish level with them in another tie. C.C. Finlay took sixth place.

Neil Clarke topped the poll at nominations. Navah Wolfe got enough votes to qualify for the ballot in this category, but is not eligible (she made up for it elsewhere). The last place on the ballot was taken by Ellen Datlow, who went on to win the award. Lee Harris would have qualified for the ballot with three more votes.

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

Navah Wolfe was in the lead from the beginning, winning with 389 votes to 239 for Sheila Gilbert. Gilbert started in the lead for second place, but transfers pulled Diana M. Pho ahead by 2 in the end. Gilbert won third place clearly, and Devi Pillai likewise solidly won fourth place. Miriam Weinberg beat Brit Hvide by just 7 votes for fifth place, and Hvide won sixth place comfortably.

Navah Wolfe also topped the poll at the nominations stage. Miriam Weinberg was the last finalist to qualify; Gillian Redfearn, with a lot fewer votes, would still have qualified if she had had in excess of 2.37 more points. Others were also close - difficult to be sure, but Nivia Evans would have had a good chance with 3 more votes, and Priyanka Hrishnan with 2.

Best Professional Artist

John Picacio was ahead at all stages, winning by 445 votes to 392 for Yujo Shimizu. Galen Dara, who was fourth in the first round, took second place very narrowly, 9 votes ahead of Shimizu who led at a couple of stages. Shimizu won third place, Rovina Cai fourth, Tommy Arnold fifth and Amyssa Winans sixth.

Tommy Arnold topped the poll at nominations stage, John Picacio coming second. It was very tight at the lower end of the qualification stage; Will Staehle would certainly have qualified with 3 more votes, and Jaime Jones was also not far off.

Best Semiprozine

Uncanny Magazine started 21 votes ahead of FIYAH, and finished 34 votes ahead, winning by 434 to 400. FIYAH took second place 18 votes ahead of Strange Horizons, which came a very comfortable third. Escape Pod took fouth place, Beneath Ceaseless Skies fifth and Fireside Magazine sixth,

Uncanny Magazine also topped the poll at nominations stage. Fireside Magazine was the last to qualify; Interzone, the last to be eliminated, needed 7.15 more points to qualify, and also PodCastle would probably have qualified with 4 more votes worth 2.02 points.

Best Fanzine

In the closest result of the night, The Book Smugglers started 8 votes ahead of nerds of a feather, briefly lost the lead and then regained it to win by 243 to 239, a margin of 4. The other results were much clearer, nerds of a feather coming second, Journey Planet third, Galactic Journey fourth, Quick Sip Reviews fifth and The Rec Center sixth.

nerds of a feather topped the poll at nominations stage. Galactic Journey was the last to qualify; the Hugo Book Club Blog needed another 5 votes.

Best Fancast

Our Opinions Are Correct was ahead from the start and won by 371 votes to 211 for the Coode Street Podcast. The Coode Street Podcast led at all stages but the last in the count for second place, losing to Galactic Suburbia by 14 points. Coode Street won third place handily, The Skiffy and Fanty Show (which got the fewest first preferences in the first round) took fourth place also comfortably, and Be The Serpent beat Claire Rousseau for fifth place by 20 votes; Claire Rousseau came sixth.

Be the Serpent topped the poll at nominations stage, with The Coode Street Podcast second and Our Opinions Are Correct third. The Skiffy and Fanty Show was the last to qualify; Verity! and Kalanadi would each have qualified with another 6 votes.

Best Fan Writer

Bogi Takács was ahead from the start, and won by 284 votes to 263 for Cora Buhlert, who won second place by a good margin. Alasdair Stuart beat James David Nicoll by 11 points for third place, Nicoll came fourth, Paul Weimer fifth and Adam Whitehead sixth.

Alasdair Stuart and Paul Weimer jointly got the most nominating votes, James David Nicoll getting the most points and Bogi Takács not far behind. Cora Buhlert was the last to qualify for the ballot; Charles Payseur would have qualified with 5 more votes.

Best Fan Artist

Elise Matthesen was ahead from the start and won by 371 votes to 339 for Iain Clark, who then lost to Sara Felix for second place by only 14 votes, but comfortably won third place. Meg Frank beat Grace P. Fong by 19 votes for fourth place; Fong took fifth place and Ariela Housman sixth.

Sara Felix got the most votes and Elise Matthesen the most points at nominations stage. The last finalist to qualify was Meg Frank, with the late Steve Stiles the last eliminated nominee; he would have needed at least another 10 votes of 6.59 points to qualify. Anna Steinbauer, however, would have qualified with just 1 more vote.

Lodestar Award

Catfishing on Catnet was ahead from the start, beating Minor Mage by 435 to 403. The other places were clear, Minor Mage winning second, Dragon Pearl third, Riverland fourth, Deeplight fifth and The Wicked King sixth.

Catfishing on Catnet was also well ahead at nominations stage, with Dragon Pearl and then Minor Mage in second and third place and the other three very close to each other. Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth nneded 3 more votes to qualify. The Ten thousand Doors of January was the second last to be eliminated, but of course also qualified in Best Novel.

Astounding Award

R.F. Kuang was far in the lead and won the first Astounding Award by 421 votes to 213 for Nibedita Sen and 194 for Tasha Suri. Sen won second place and Suri third. Emily Tesh beat Sam Hawke by 19 votes for fourth place, and Kawke then beat Jenn Lyons by five points for fifth place; Lyons came sixth.

R.F. Kuang was also far ahead at nominations stage. Tamsyn Muir got enough votes to qualify but is not eligible, with several pre-2018 professional publication. The last place on the ballot was then taken by Sam Hawke. The last nominee eliminated was Arkady Martine, who would have mathematically qualified with 2.20 more points, but was also ineligible due to pre-2018 professional publications. Alexandra Rowland would have qualified with 7 more votes worth 3.93 more points (her first novel came out in 2012, but was self-published and so does not count for Astounding eligibility). At least one of the other "long-listed" nominees was also ineligible.

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Houston, Houston, Do You Read? and The Bicentennial Man

It seems kind of timely to go back to 1977 and review the two works of written fiction that won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards that year, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”, by James Tiptree, Jr. and “The Bicentennial Man”, by Isaac Asimov. Somehow I'm in the mood for looking at moments when there was a clash of visions of what science fiction should be about.

Interestingly, Best Dramatic Presentation also had the same winner for both Hugo and Nebula that year, which was No Award, beating Logan's Run and The Man Who Fell to Earth in both cases. (Harlan! Harlan Ellison Reads Harlan Ellison, an LP, was also on the Nebula final ballot, while Hugo voters also rejected Carrie and Futureworld.) I guess in the year of Star Wars, the previous year's works paled into insignificance.

The Hugo for Best Novel that year went to Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, by Kate Wilhelm, and the Nebula to Man Plus, by Fredrik Pohl, which is interesting as I would rate the former as the more literary, and certainly the more feminist. Both novels were on both final ballots, as was Shadrach in the Furnace by Robert Silverberg. Hugo voters also had the choice of Children of Dune, by Frank Herbert, and Mindbridge, by Joe Haldeman; the Nebula list also included Inferno, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, Islands, by Marta Randall (Pyramid) and Triton, by Samuel R. Delany. I haven't read the last three; of the others, I'm unfashionably fond of Mindbridge.

In the Short Story category, the Hugo went to "Tricentennial", by Joe Haldeman, and the Nebula to “A Crowd of Shadows”, by Charles L. Grant; both were on both ballots, but there were no other shared nomniations. I'm pretty sure I have read the former but not the latter, though I have no clear memory of doing so.

OK. I can't put this off any longer. “The Bicentennial Man” is an awful piece of writing. Here's the second paragraph of the third section:
Andrew did not understand any of this at the time. But in later years, with greater learning, he could review that early scene and understand it in its proper light.
It is about an Asimovian Three Laws robot who wants to become human, and gradually acquired the legal rights of a human and the body of a human so that he can die as a human. I hate cute robot stories anyway, I hate the Three Laws as a concept and I hate Asimov's writing style. Collodi did "wanting to be a real boy" better in Pinocchio, and indeed Anderson did "wanting to be a real girl" better in "The Little Mermaid". (See TV Tropes on Pinocchio Syndrome as to why this plot is so unoriginal.) I wrote about its flaws at greater length here.

On top of that, it's particularly nauseating to read the story in the context of Black Lives Matter, and it surely must have been equally clunky with regard to the 1976 Zeitgeist in the immediate wake of the Civil Rights movement. Asimov is clearly invoking Black American experience in the character of Andrew, who starts out as a house servant with an artistic gift that his owners exploit (and kindly allow him to profit from), and then gets his own way through a succession of legal challenges and political initiatives. But the parallel is so offensive that I had better stop making it. I will note, however, that Andrew pulls the ladder up after him.

The story won the Hugo and Nebula not so much on literary merit as on Asimov's reputation and stature within the community (despite his well-known record as a serial harasser of women), and also because of Ursula Le Guin's protest against Cold War politics. For the Hugo, it beat “The Diary of the Rose”, by Ursula K. Le Guin, “Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance”, by John Varley and “The Phantom of Kansas”, also by John Varley. For the Nebula, the losing stories were “Custer's Last Jump”, by Steven Utley & Howard Waldrop, “His Hour Upon the Stage”, by Grant Carrington and “In the Bowl”, John Varley. “The Diary of the Rose” was also originally on the Nebula shortlist, but Le Guin withdrew it in protest at SFWA's expulsion of Stanisław Lem.
The SFWA called me to plead with me not to withdraw it, since it had, in fact, won. I couldn’t do that. So—with the perfect irony that awaits anybody who strikes a noble pose on high moral ground—my award went to the runner-up: Isaac Asimov, the old chieftain of the Cold Warriors.
I have to admit I was startled as I sat down to write this piece and discovered that “The Bicentennial Man” won Best Novelette and “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” won Best Novella. Asimov's prose drags, and Tiptree's engages, and I really thought it was the other way around. But history is clear. “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” is not formally broken up into sections (though there are clear blocks of narrative int he text). The third paragraph is:
Bud Geirr's loud chuckle breaks in on him. Bud is joking with some of them, out of sight around a bulkhead. Dave is visible, though. Major Norman Davis on the far side of the cabin, his bearded profile bent toward a small dark woman Lorimer can't quite focus on. But Dave's head seems oddly tiny and sharp, in fact the whole cabin looks unreal. A cackle bursts out from the ceiling—the bantam hen in her basket.
This is a very different kettle of fish. Once again, we have a very old trope (TV Tropes as ever has a good section on Lady Land) but Tiptree takes it in new directions: three male astronauts from our near future are warped far forward in time to a solar system where men have died out and only women (and non-binary enbies) are left, reproducing by cloning and living an eco-friendly lifestyle (with space travel). The men are interviewed by the women, having been lightly drugged to lose their inhibitions; and it's strongly implied that as the story ends, they are about to be killed off as a danger to humanity. It's chilling but also very subtle, and I wonder how many of those who voted for it in 1977 actually understood the full point. It's also very clearly a story about the future, whereas Asimov, despite the centrality of the robot character, is clearly rewriting the past.

There was possibly also a non-literary factor operating to help “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” win. In the months between its publication, in May 1976, and voting on the awards (the Nebulas were presented on 30 April 1977 and the Hugos on 4 September) Tiptree's identity as Alice Sheldon had become public, a few people having worked it out by November 1976 and Locus breaking the story as the first item of the front page of its January 1977 issue. Both fans and pros were apparently ready to forgive and even reward the deception.

“Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” won the Hugo jointly with Spider Robinson's “By Any Other Name”. The other two stories on the Hugo ballot were also up for the Nebula; they were “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, by Richard Cowper, and “The Samurai and the Willows”, by Michael Bishop. The other story on the Nebula ballot was “The Eyeflash Miracles”, by Gene Wolfe. I can't remember having read any of them.

Both of these stories are available in many many collections. Indeed, it may be worth noting that both were originally published in anthologies rather than magazines - Tiptree in Aurora: Beyond Equality, edited by Vonda N. McIntyre and Susan Janice Anderson, and Asimov in Stellar #2, edited by Judy-Lynn Del Rey. (Hmm, just noticed that all the editors were women.) “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” was the first short fiction by a woman to win both Hugo and Nebula (Ursula Le Guin had already done it for two novels).

Next in this series of posts: three joint winners published in 1977, and awarded in 1978 - Gateway, by Frederik Pohl; “Stardance”, by Spider Robinson and Jeanne Robinson; and “Jeffty Is Five”, by Harlan Ellison.