Thoughts on the Hugo Awards

The 2010 Hugo and Campbell Awards have been awarded.

No real surprises, though I’m kind of disappointed that Blackout/All Clear took the Hugo for best novel, because I found it the least interesting book on the shortlist (though I wasn’t wild about Feed either). But then I’m obviously not the target audience for that one.

I can’t really comment on the short fiction categories, because I haven’t read any of the stories in question. Though a lot of people will be relieved that That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made didn’t win in the novelette category, because there was some uproar when that story won the Nebula Award. Because of the outrage, I made an effort to read the story (it was free at the author’s site for a while, though it seems to be gone now). I didn’t find it as bad as many people apparently did. It was a perfectly acceptable story, though a bit old-fashioned, like a 1960s Star Trek episode. Besides, it’s a space whale story and space whale stories have been passé for ages. Though the hate mainly seems to be directed at the author’s religious beliefs which are reflected in the story. Now I prefer my SF free of religion, but showering hate upon a story and its author just because one dislikes the religious content is not okay, especially as the author isn’t known for sprouting problematic stuff, unlike his multiple Hugo and Nebula-winning coreligionist.

Though considering that a space whale story got nominated for two major genre awards, I may finish my anti space whale story (inspired by my general dislike for the sappy sentimentality of space whale stories) after all.

The Campbell Award went to Lev Grossman which seems a good choice to me. Though it’s interesting that work published in other genres apparently doesn’t count, because Grossman published a non-SFF novel before The Magicians that would have put him outside the eligibility zone.

The Hugo award for best related work went to Chicks Dig Time Lords, the all-women Doctor Who appreciation anthology. This surprised me a bit, because I was pretty sure that the Heinlein biography would take it. But then, there are a lot of Doctor Who fans among the Hugo voter base, as evidenced by the fact that Doctor Who keeps winning in the “Best dramatic presentation, short form” category, even if the actual stories are lackluster. But then I find Doctor Who completely lackluster these days.

Now I haven’t read Chicks Dig Time Lords, because this chick no longer does. However, I have some general issues with the sort of pop culture related essay collections that are increasingly common these days. I ordered a few of those collections as research for my PhD thesis (they were from a different publisher than the Doctor Who collection though), because in some cases these popular essay collections are the only critical works available about certain books and franchises. I knew from the start that those weren’t academic books, but I had still hoped that the content would be a bit more scholarly. Besides, in the collections I read, the quality of essays was highly variable ranging from very good and quotable via “This reads like a squee post on livejournal” to “Why was this accepted at all, considering the author is obviously disturbed and views a TV show as a message from God?”

Again, I know that I’m not really the target audience, as those essay collections are aimed at fans of the book or TV series in question and not at academics. But there’s a lot of intelligent discussion going on in fan fora and intelligent fans deserve intelligent books.

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2 Responses to Thoughts on the Hugo Awards

  1. Clay Bonnyman Evans says:

    I have met Connie Willis many times. An incredibly nice, funny, warm person – with a razor wit.

    And while I see the virtues of her writing, I am truly floored that Hugo/Nebula/Locus voters saw fit to anoint “Blackout/All Clear,” a 1,000+ page tome that’s 40% too long and (albeit cleverly) rehashes her usual formula. Nobody says she can’t write or create characters, but all that running around, the zany antics, the cute lil ‘orrible kids, the dire consequences, then endlessly loving descriptions of one of her favorite historical venues … Really?

    Really? This book is nowhere near as good as “Doomsday Book,” “To Say Nothing of the Dog,” or even “Passage” (which I liked a lot, though it was too long) or “Lincoln’s Dreams.”

    One has to conclude that a) Nebula voters award Connie for her personality (remember when the Nebulas were given for daring?) and b) standard SF voters have fallen back into the doldrums of, oh, 1979 or ’80, pre cyber-punk, and lapping up the same, comfortable stuff.

    Let’s hope that means something revolutionary is on the way. Otherwise we’ll be handing out Hugos for Connie’s laundry list by 2015.

    • Cora says:

      I also suspect that the awards for Blackout/All Clear were given more out of appreciation for Connie Willis, because the books are underwhelming. Either that or the Hugo and Nebula voters really like WWII time travel stories – after all, it’s not the first “Let’s go visit the plucky kids of bombed out London” time travel story to win the Hugo in recent years.

      Ditto for Cryoburn. Lois McMaster Bujold is by all accounts a lovely lady who has written many great books, but Cryoburn is only middling. Though it’s not as if either Connie Willis or Lois McMaster Bujold are in desperate need of awards recognition.

      Hugo predictions for 2015: Connie’s laundry list versus Lois McMaster Bujold’s shopping list versus John Scalzi’s car repair bill.

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