Some Reflections on Recent Awards and Nominations

The past week has been a good one for awards and nominations, because the shortlists and winners for several more or less prestigious awards have been announced.

First of all, the nominations for the 2013 Hugo Awards have been announced. This is another good year for genre diversity, for there are several women writers and writers of colour among the nominees in the various fiction categories. There even is a women among the nominees in the best pro-artist category, which is a first as far as I know. The best fan writer category remains mainly male dominated, but at least we have one female nominee in Tansy Rayner Roberts.

The best novel category looks like a good selection. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold is my personal favourite of the bunch (But oh, that cover! Not just awful, but whitewashed, too). I haven’t read Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed yet, but I’ve heard many good things about it. Besides, here we have a muslim writer getting a Hugo nomination for an Arabian based fantasy novel, which is reason enough in itself to rejoice. John Scalzi is immensely popular, not least because of his massively popular blog, plus Redshirts is funny and plays on geek tropes. Come to think of it, both Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and Redshirts are definitely on the lighter side of the genre spectrum, which is interesting given the current grimdark debate. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson strikes me as exactly the kind of book Hugo voters will like, though Robinson has never personally done it for me. For me, the only baffling choice is the Mira Grant novel. Now I like Seanan McGuire’s urban fantasy quite a bit, but her Mira Grant books strike me as exactly the sort of run-of-the-mill zombies/biohazard/killer virus technothriller I avoid in any incarnation.

I can’t really comment on the merit of the individual works in the three short fiction categories, since I haven’t read any of them. However, I’m pleased to see Jay Lake and Aliette de Bodard nominated. Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant is represented with another three stories, too. And while Catherynne Valente’s work is not my cup of tea at all, I know she’s popular. It’s also interesting that several of the nominated stories (Aliette de Bodard’s On a Red Station, Drifting and Immersion as well as Ken Liu’s Mono No Aware, maybe others as well) feature non-western settings and characters. Finally, we only have three nominated short stories, because no others managed to capture more than five percent of total nominations, which might indicate either a very weak year for short fiction or an extremely wide and varied field of nominations.

The short fiction categories also show how the publishing landscape is changing, because only one of the nominated works in the three short fiction categories was published in one of the established big three print SF magazines. Clarkesworld and Tachyon Publications have produced several nominees, a couple come from anthologies, while most of the nominees in the novella category are standalone publications, something that was extremely rare before e-books made standalone novellas feasible. Plus – drumroll – we finally have the first self-published Hugo nominee in Seanan McGuire’s In Sea-Salt Tears. Come to think of it, On a Red Station, Drifting might be indie published as well, even though there is a publisher imprint listed. Given the rules, it was always obvious that the Hugos would probably be the first major award to open towards indie published works, since indies have never been explicitly excluded, unlike with other major genre awards. Though I actually expected someone like Hugh Howey to kick open the doors of the Hugos for indiedom, it probably makes more sense that a hybrid author would be the first.

The related works category looks pretty good. My favourite would be The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, but then I’m biassed towards academic reflections on the genre. The Chicks Dig series is pretty popular and garners two nominations this year. I can’t comment on the Martin Greenberg book and the nomination of the Writing Excuses podcast in this category just baffles me, because shouldn’t it go in the podcast category.

The long form dramatic presentation category includes the usual blockbusters – Cabin in the Woods is the only surprise here. The domination of Doctor Who in the short form dramatic presentation category continues with three nominated Doctor Who episodes. There’s also one Game of Thrones episode and one Fringe episode nominated. I’ve hoped for years that something other than Doctor Who would finally be nominated in this category, especially since Doctor Who has declined pretty severely IMO. And I can’t argue with Game of Thrones, but Fringe? Honestly? Fringe is the best genre TV you could come up with? Though to be fair, there is very little good genre TV around these days. Being Human has shot past annoyance into “This crap is still on?” territory, Misfits is no longer as good as it used to be and Supernatural mainly seems to survive due to fanfic people. True Blood is still on, but no one is watching, ditto for Vampire Diaries. What is more, the UK – which in recent years has been the most reliable source of innovative genre TV – seems to be mainly focussing on nostalgia dripping period dramas designed to appeal to the Downton Abbey fan of late. So really, what is there to nominate aside from Doctor Who and Game of Thrones?

I can’t comment in the other categories, since I’m not familiar enough with them. The Campbell award shortlist just continues to baffle me, ditto for most of the best fan writer nominees.

The shortlist for another major genre award was announced this week as well, for the nominations for the 2013 Rita and Golden Heart awards have been announced. I have read only three of the nominated books, namely Lothaire by Kresley Cole, Rogue Rider by Larissa Ione as well as the annual J.D. Robb. Though it’s interesting to see several e-book first/only imprints like Carina Press or Loveswept represented as well as Amazon’s Montlake Romance imprint. No self-published nominees, but then the Ritas aren’t open to self-published works yet. And talking of which, it’s probably time to revamp the Golden Heart contest for the best unpublished books, because in the current publishing climate they’ll probably run out of nominees soon, because the sort of books that would once have been submitted for the Golden Heart are now increasingly being self-published.

More awards: The winners of the 2013 BSFA awards have been announced this weekend as well. The shortlist as well as the winners here are heavily male dominated. I can’t comment on the winning novel, Jack Glass by Adam Roberts, though the cover (also a winner) is great. The awards nod for the World SF Blog is well deserved, though.

Yet more awards: The winner(s) of the 2013 Philip K. Dick award was announced this weekend as well. I really can’t comment, since I have never even heard of either book.

Finally, the winners of the 2013 Adolf-Grimme Awards, supposedly the most renown German TV award, have been announced as well with predictably horrible results (The Grimme awards are mainly renown for rewarding bloody depressing TV). In the fiction category, the winners are a TV movie about a mother who commits suicide, another TV movie about a marital rape (or was it?), yet another TV movie about a real life kidnapping case that is mainly remembered because the police investigators in charge decided to ignore the inconvenient fact that Germany has a constitution and threatened to torture the suspect (didn’t help, the kidnapped child was dead anyway and very few people even dared to say that what the police did was wrong), a TV series on a tiny pay-TV cable channel that no one watches and a TV mini-series about annoying bourgeois people in Communist East Germany based on an equally annoying family saga which won the German book award (renown for rewarding family sagas with historical background) a few years ago. The non-fiction winners include documentaries about children dying of leukaemia, a black German boxer facing racism, a Stasi informer, the end of Communism and young people from an immigrant background in Germany. In the entertainment category, “entertainment” meaning “not bloody depressing” in this context, the winners are an episode of series about crime scene cleaners and a parody of the popular German game show Wetten Dass? (Wanna bet?). If I ever needed confirmation about the sorry state of German TV, the Grimme awards provide it in spades.

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5 Responses to Some Reflections on Recent Awards and Nominations

  1. Jay Lake says:

    I will point out that the protagonist and most of the characters of my nominated novella are non-white, but in a role-reversed world where the power dynamic obscures this unless you’re paying attention. (It’s clear enough in the text, though not emphasized much except as a point of discrimination.)

    • Cora says:

      That’s why I said “probably others as well”, since I don’t know all the nominated stories and The Stars Do Not Lie is among those I haven’t yet read (but I will, now Asimov’s has made it available online). Still, this ups the count of non-white, non-western based stories to at least four in the short fiction categories, so hurray for more genre diversity.

      Also again many congrats on the nomination, though I think I already said that on your blog.

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