The nominations for the 2012 Hugo Awards have been announced just in time for Easter with lots of “What the fuck?” nominations mixed in with the good choices.
First of all, the good thing is that there are women nominees in all writing categories, even though the men are slightly overrepresented. The writer of colour quota does not look so good this year, though I did spot a couple (and of course, there are writers whose race and ethnicity I simply don’t know).
The best novel category looks pretty solid to me. Among Others by Jo Walton is my favourite among the bunch (and why isn’t this on the Clarke Awards shortlist?). George R.R. Martin’s latest was pretty much a no-brainer, considering that it was the most eagerly awaited book of the last year. Christopher Priest notwithstanding, plenty of people seem to have liked Embassytown, considering how many awards nominations it’s picking up. Mira Grant sure gets a lot of Hugo love (she’s also nominated in the novella category and was nominated in the best novel category last year), but my reaction was something like “Huh?”, though I do like the urban fantasy she writes as Seanan McGuire. But then the Mira Grant novels are zombie books and I don’t read zombie books. As for Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, my first reaction was “Who the hell is James S.A. Corey?” Turns out that James S.A. Corey is a pen name for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, both of whom are solid writers. The book sounds fun as well, a bit of good old fashioned space opera.
In the short fiction categories, there are plenty of familiar names and a few unfamiliar ones. I don’t think I’ve read any of the novellas, novelettes and short stories nominated, so I can’t really comment. Though I recall that Ray of Light by Brad Torgersen and Movement by Nancy Fulda picked up Nebula nominations as well and I’ve also heard praise for Ray of Light in other places.
The only real WTF? nomination in the short fiction categories is Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue by John Scalzi, a story which was basically an April Fool’s Day joke at Tor.com last year. Which just goes to show that John Scalzi could probably get a Hugo nomination for his shopping list by now.
The best related work category is a mess, but then it mostly is. Now the Steampunk Bible is definitely a deserving nominee and the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction belongs on the bookshelf of every serious SF fan. I’m not sure if it needs another nomination, though, unless this latest edition has been significantly revised. I haven’t heard of the film book and cannot comment. The remaining two nominations, the Writing Excuses podcast and a music album by Seanan McGuire are very much WTF? choices. With Writing Excuses the question is: What is this doing in the best related work category at all, considering that there is a separate podcast category this year? As for Wicked Girls, it may well be a lovely record, but again it doesn’t really belong into this category IMO. Though I’m not sure where else to put something like this either. One of the “Best dramatic presentation” categories would probably be the most fitting (and there have been audio dramas and music videos nominated in the past).
As for the “Best Dramatic Presentation” categories, in the long form category Game of Thrones, Hugo and Harry Potter are all no-brainers. The nomination for Source Code is a bit out of the left field, but not a bad choice. The only underwhelming choice is the Captain America movie, but then I can’t stand Captain America in any form or medium. Not that it matters, since Game of Thrones will very likely win this.
“Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form” should just be renamed best Doctor Who episode of the year already, since once again three of the nominated works are Doctor Who episodes. I haven’t been a regular Doctor Who watcher for years now and the latest Moffat season struck me as hugely problematic for any reasons repeatedly discussed herein. That said, Neil Gaiman’s episode The Doctor’s Wife, which is one of two season 6 episodes I actually watched, was very good and is a deserving nominee. Not sure about The Girl Who Waited and A Good Man Goes to War, which I haven’t seen. The remaining two nominees are an episode of an American sitcom called Community, a show I’ve never heard of (but then I don’t like sitcoms, particularly American sitcoms) and – probably the biggest WTF? nomination of all – last year’s Hugo acceptance speech from the best fanzine winners. Now I did see a video of the acceptance speech – a freakout which makes Halle Berry’s and Gwynneth Paltrow’s Oscar win reactions look measured by comparison – and it made me smile. But I still don’t think this really fits here, because acceptance speeches are not dramatic presentations. Besides, nominating an acceptance speech for the same award from the previous year is very meta indeed.
Finally, it’s not as if Doctor Who is the only deserving SFF show on TV at the moment. In the US, there’s also True Blood, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Terra Nova, Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Touch and probably others as well. Now I don’t watch any of those shows at the moment, cause I gave up on True Blood, Supernatural and Vampire Diaries, never cared for Fringe and found Terra Nova incredibly bad. There’s also the Americanized Torchwood, for that matter – not that I ever want to see anything called Torchwood nominated for anything ever again. But none of these shows has an episode deemed good enough to go up against a not very good Doctor Who season? What is more, Britain also offered up Misfits, The Fades and Being Human (Eternal Law might have slipped into the nomination period as well). And while the third season of Being Human pissed me off and I never bothered with season 4, Misfits and The Fades are better than anything the US is offering at the moment and better than what I’ve seen of Doctor Who as well.
The editing, semi-prozine and professional artist categories seem to be the usual suspects and solid nominations all. I really can’t comment on podcasts (though I’m glad they have their own category now), fan artists and fanzines. In the best fan writer category, the name that sticks out is Jim Hines, since he’s a professional writer in addition to being a fan. Indeed, the fan writer category should probably be renamed into something like “best genre critic” to circumvent the potential issues of professional writers and professional journalists being nominated as best fan writers. As for the comic/graphic novel category, it again confirms how long I’ve been away from the comic medium, since very few of the nominees mean anything to me.
As for the Campbell Award nominations, I’m happy to see Karen Lord recognized and Brad Torgersen has definitely been noticeable this past year. I mainly know Mur Lafferty via her blog and have never heard of E. Lily Yu (though she is nominated in one of the short fiction categories). Stina Leicht is the choice that makes me go “huh?” here.