Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Award Winners and the Ceremony in general

The latest Star Trek Discovery and Hawkeye reviews is coming, but for now, let’s talk about the 2021 Hugo Award winners. I’d hoped to get this post up a few days ago, but I was busy, so it’s a few days late.

This is not quite the post I hoped to write. The post that I hoped to write was, “Hey, I won a Hugo. Go me!” However, Elsa Sjunneson won and a most deserving winner she is, too. I came in second. But then, the whole Fan Writer category was full of awesome people, everyone of whom would have been a highly deserving winner.  And in fact, the speech I never got to hold would have specifically said that as far as I am concerned, everybody in the Fan Writer category is a winner.

The full list of winners is here and the voting and nominations break-down is here. Also check out the Hugo commentary by Nicholas Whyte, Font Folly, Doris V. Sutherland as well as multiple posts by Camestros Felapton. There’s also an article by David Barnett about the Hugos in The Guardian, which focusses only on the winners in the fiction categories.  I’m happy that mainstream newspapers like The Guardian report about the Hugos, but would it kill them to print the full list of winners.?

As you probably know, I was a Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer this year. However, due to the continuing covid pandemic and the generally terrible timing of having a Worldcon on the fourth advent weekend, I couldn’t attend in person. Luckily, DisCon III was a hybrid event and while the virtual components didn’t always work as well as they should have (a full DisCon III report is coming, though likely after the holidays), DisCon III did a really good job taking care of the Hugo finalists both virtually on on site.

Due to the six hour time difference between Washington DC and Germany, the ceremony was supposed to start at 2 AM my time. An added complication was that I had a German class in the morning, so no sleeping in, and a Worldcon panel in the afternoon, so no afternoon nap either. I did manage to take a nap from 8 to 9 PM, but I was still pretty tired.

In the late afternoon, I did dress up in my full Hugo outfit – evening gown, tiara, jewellery, etc… – so my Dad could take a few photos. Unfortunately, he’s not nearly as good a photographer as Olav Rokne and Amanda Wakaruk of the Best Fanzine finalist Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog who did the official photos this year, which you can see here.

Meanwhile, here are the pics my Dad took of me in my parents’ living room:

Cora in Hugo gown

Behold my Hugo gown and tiara. I think I look like I just stepped out of the cover of a late 1920s issue of Weird Tales.

Cora in Hugo gown

And here is another photo, where you can see the necklace and tiara better.

Hugo tiara/circlet

Here’s a close-up look at my Hugo tiara/circlet. It’s flexible, so it fits around the head, though I had to fasten it with hairpins.

Once my Dad had taken the photos, I changed to regular house clothes again, because the ceremony was still several hours away and while the gown is not uncomfortable, it’s also for those wide sleeves to get caught on something. Plus, the tiara tends to slip after a while.

The Hugo ceremony was supposed to start at 2 AM. Sometime during Saturday evening, I got an e-mail that it would be delayed and start an hour later, i.e. 3 AM my time, due to a technical issue, which later turned out to be a small electrical fire in the ballroom where the Hugo ceremony was due to be held.

The pre-Hugo reception was still supposed to start two hours before the ceremony and there was a virtual version via Zoom. So I dialled into Zoom at a little after midnight and hung out with Best Novelette finalist (and eventual winner) Sarah Pinsker, who tested positive for covid (thankfully asymptomatic) on the day before the con and couldn’t attend in person, Best Editor finalists Navah Wolfe and Sheila E. Gilbert, Best Pro Artist finalist and friend Alyssa Winans, Best Short Story finalist John Wiswell and Brandon O’Brien, poetry editor of the Best Semiprozine finalist (and eventual winner) FIYAH as well as Alyshondra Meacham, who played hostess for the virtual finalists. We admired each other’s outfits, Alyssa’s freshly baked crab bread and the antics of Sarah’s dog.

The Zoom party was beamed into the main party via a tablet or laptop, so we could see our fellow finalists in Washington DC and could talk to them. Plenty of people came over to say hello and good luck. Outfits were admired – and honestly, the Hugos have the best range of outfits. It’s like the Oscars, only crazier. After all, we had two of Santa’s elves there, otherwise known as John and Krissy Scalzi. And best of all, you have a lot of people with realistic bodies at the Hugos. The masks made it a bit difficult to recognise people, even if I knew them, though thankfully Sarah was really good at recognising people under their masks. The noise level in the ballroom also made it difficult to talk, so we made signs to hold up saying things like “Good luck!”, “Great dress/suit/outfit” and – this was John Wiswell’s – “I’m rooting for you and only you, I promise.” I enjoyed the whole set-up a lot and hope that future Worldcons adopt this idea, so even finalists who cannot be present in person get a taste of the ceremony.

About 45 minutes before the ceremony was due to start, we were transferred to the finalist Zoom green room. I did a mike and light check, redonned my gown and tiara and waited for the show to start. There was a brief announcement that the Hugo Awards were sponsored by Google and another company whose name I did not catch, though my Dad did and remarked, “Raytheon Technologies: They make radar systems.” And this was literally all I noticed about what would turn out to be the night’s biggest scandal until I woke up the next day around noon and saw people deeply upset about a sponsor. Though I did find it a little weird that sponsors were named before the start of the Hugo ceremony, because I had never experienced this before.

If you were on the ground in Washington DC, the Raytheon sponsorship would have been a bit more visible, since there logo appears in the Hugo ceremony program and was also plastered all over a red carpet photo area. Though most finalists failed to notice this, because if you’re a Hugo finalist, you’re nervous and the sponsor name and logo are the least of your concerns. Even if you notice the logo and sponsor name, you’re unlikely to google them in the middle of the ceremony, simply because you have other concerns at the time. And indeed, the sponsor never even came up in conversation during the virtual after-party (more on that later), most likely because no one had registered what sort of company was sponsoring the event at the time.

Considering how little the Raytheon sponsorship pinged on my radar and anybody else’s at the time, it’s ironic that now that’s the only topic everybody is talking about, overshadowing the actual winners, which is a pity. You can read a not very good article about the Raytheon sponsorship controversy at io9 and a much better one at Andrew Liptak’s newsletter. Camestros Felapton also goes into DisCon III’s very frustrating lack of explanation regarding how the fuck this sponsorship came to be, even after several finalists had been harrassed about their supposed association with a weapons manufacturer and for not distancing themselves from Raytheon quickly enough.

I don’t really want to talk about the sponsors of the Hugo ceremony here, but about the wonderful winners. However, since we’re apparently obliged to offer our two cents on the Raytheon controversy, here are mine: Having a company like Raytheon Technologies, even their Space and Intelligence division, sponsor a Worldcon and the Hugo ceremony was a spectacularly bad and tone-deaf decision. Worldcon is an international convention and its membership includes people from countries, whose inhabitants have found themselves on the wrong side of a Raytheon made missile. Honestly, how could anybody ever think that this decision was remotely acceptable. It was also apparently illegal, because an individual Worldcon can’t sell sponsorships for the Hugos, only the WSFS can and they had no idea about the sponsorship until the ceremony.

Also, none of the finalists were informed about the sponsors in any of the umpteen e-mails we got from DisCon III. Pretty much all finalists are angry to utterly furious about this decision. There are finalists whose religious beliefs are violated by being associated with a weapons manufacturer, finalists who are getting massive pushback from their fans, finalists who worry about professional consequences, because they work for peace and human rights organisations in their day job. If the Raytheon thing had been known beforehand, there would have been massive pushback, and part of me suspects that this is precisely the reason why no one knew until the night of the ceremony. Yet, now the finalists and winners are being harrassed about the whole thing and suddenly associated with a company none of us want anything to do with. See this open letter by Worldcon member Jake Casella Brookins who wonders how complicit the Hugo finalists are in the Raytheon thing.

However, what makes this whole Raytheon thing even more infuriating – beyond the fact that it happened in the first place – is that it’s sucking all the air out of the room. Instead of celebrating the many great works that won a Hugo, we’re arguing about Raytheon and giving them free publicity. Yes, it’s mostly bad publicity, but even that is giving them attention. Plus, much of the harassment of Hugo finalists is coming from a clique surrounding what is essentially a troll with an agenda that I’m pretty sure goes far beyond outrage about a weapons manufacturer sponsoring the Hugos. Especially since the same clique was involved in another harassment incident less then a month ago. Personally, I think that we should no more feed trolls than feed Raytheon.

Now I’ve wasted way too many words on DisCon’s bad decisions and a terrible company, let’s get to the actual ceremony, which was very good indeed, especially after last year’s complete and utter disaster. Hosts Sheree Renee Thomas and Andrea Hairston did a great job and made the ceremony move along at a snappy pace. And after last year, we all appreciated a snappy pace.

So let’s finally get to the actual Hugo winners:

Best Novel

The 2021 Hugo Award for Best Novel goes to Network Effect by Martha Wells, which wasn’t exactly a surprise, considering how beloved the Murderbot series is by pretty much everybody. A look at the voting breakdown shows Network Effect leading by a large margin from the start, but then everybody loves Murderbot. I’m a bit surprised that Harrow the Ninth finished in last place, but then it was not only a sequel, but also something of a Marmite book.

If you look at the nominations, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia barely missed the ballot, which is a pity, since I enjoyed it more than some of the books that actually made the ballot.

The usual suspects who worry about the lack of men on the Best Novel ballot will be pleased to note the presence of Kim Stanley Robinson, John Scalzi and T.J. Klune on the longlist. The longlist also offers something of a surprise, because at No. 14 there is a novel called The Rude Eye of Rebellion by one J.R.H. Lawless. I had never heard of either the novel or the author, which is extremely unusual for the Hugo longlist. A look at the EPH distribution also shows that there was little overlap with other novels nominated in the same category. I guess this is a case of enthusiastic fans of one author buying Worldcon memberships to nominate them, especially since J.R.H. Lawless also shows up on the longlist for the Astounding Award.

Best Novella

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Novella is The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. I have to admit this win surprised me, because while I have read the novella, I remember barely anything about it only a few months later. There usually is one Hugo finalist like this for me – a book or story I read and promptly forget, so that come voting time I have to remind myself what that one was about. It’s usually not a story I dislike, because I do remember the ones I didn’t like.

There are no real surprises on the longlist except maybe for The Stone Weta by New Zealand author Octavia Cade, which wasn’t on my radar at all. But then, Worldcon was theoretically in New Zealand last year.

Best Novelette

The 2021 Hugo Award for Best Novelette goes to Sarah Pinsker for “Two Truths and a Lie” and a most deserved win it is, too. But then, the novelette category was very strong this year with only one story I didn’t like.

The voting breakdown shows that the infamous “Helicopter Story” by Isabel Fall was leading after the first three rounds, but was then overtaken by “Two Truths and a Lie” and two other stories to finish in fifth place. I guess this is due to the fact that it’s very much a Marmite story. Those who enjoyed it love it very much indeed, but it generated little support (and even intense dislike) outside its fanbase. I’m one of those who disliked the story, though I’m glad it was not no awarded, because Isabel Fall doesn’t deserve that. Especially since she was also dragged into the Raytheon controversy due to the theme of her story.

The longlist doesn’t offer a lot of surprised, though a story from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction made the longlist, something which is rare for the formerly Big Three print zines these days.

Best Short Story

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Short Story is “Metal Like Blood in the Dark” by T. Kingfisher a.k.a. Ursula Vernon, who also regaled the audience with fascinating facts about slime mold in lieu of an acceptance speech.

This was another extremely strong category and indeed, any one of the six finalists would have been a most worthy winner.

If you look at the longlist, you see at No. 12, nestled inbetween C.L. Polk and Martha Wells, my story “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign”, which makes me very happy. Thank you to everybody who nominated it.

Also on the longlist, we have “The Eight-Thousanders” by Jason Sanford, a story from Asimov’s, which proves that the so-called Big Three print mags can still make the longlist. Further downward, there is a story called “This is New Gehesran Calling” by Rebecca Fraimow, which was published on AO3, which is a first I think. Judging by the EPH data, this seems to be another case of a story was a fervent, but limited fanbase.

ETA: Several people pointed out that the story “This is New Gehesran Calling” by Rebecca Fraimow was actually published in the anthology Consolation Songs, edited by Iona Datt Sharma. The story generated some fanfiction, so when I googled the title, the AO3 link came up first, hence my mistake.

Best Series

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Series is… Murderbot! But then, as I said, everybody loves Murderbot, who has won four Hugos by now, making Martha Wells one of the comparatively few people to win two Hugos in the same year.

I have said several times that IMO the Best Series Hugo (which was voted a permanent Hugo at the DisCon III business meeting) isn’t working the way it was originally intended, namely to award popular long-running series, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We do have one such series – October Daye – on the shortlist and several more – The Dresden Files, Peter Grant/Rivers of London, Foreigner or the Liaden Universe – on the longlist. But all too often, the finalists are trilogies, often ones where one or several volumes were nominated for Best Novel, or cases of “If you squint really hard, these novels set in the same universe form a series.”

But even though I’m not always happy with the finalists for Best Series, the winners so far have all been beloved and most worthy series.

Best Related

The 2021 Hugo Award for Best Related Work goes to Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley. This wasn’t my favourite in this category – that would be A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky by Lynell George – but it’s a win I’m very happy with.

It is my fervent belief that the Best Related Work category should be more non-fiction books as well as the occasional essay or documentary. In practice, however, it is increasingly turning into a grab bag category for Best Fannish Thing.  Therefore, I’m happy that an actual book – even if it was not a non-fiction book per se, but something which would not have fit any other category – won this year.

This year, there were two edge case finalists – the virtual conventions FIYAHCon and CoNZealand Fringe – on the ballot (three, if you count The Last Bronycon documentary) as well as one highly controversial finalist, Natalie Luhrs’ sweary essay about last year’s never-ending Hugo ceremony from hell. As a result, Best Related has an extremely high No Award count this year, particularly Natalie Luhrs’ essay and CoNZealand Fringe.

Meanwhile, a look at the longlist reveals just what a mess the Best Related Work category is. There are five actual non-fiction books on the longlist, several of whom would have been highly worthy finalists, as well as three articles/essays (I would be okay with those, though I prefer meatier books to articles) and two more finalists – the Concellation 2020 Facebook Group and the Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom – which, though worthy projects, don’t really belong here.

A lot of great SFF related non-fiction books have been published in 2021 and I do hope that we see some of those on the Hugo ballot next year rather than yet more Best Fannish Thing finalists.

Best Graphic Story

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story is Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrated by John Jennings. This is not particularly surprising, considering Parable of the Sower is a beloved (and timely) work by a beloved author.

Best Dramatic Presentation Long

The 2021 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form goes to The Old Guard, which made me very happy, since this was hands down my favourite in this category. But then, I was quite underwhelmed by the other finalists in this category.

A look at the nomination data reveals that season 2 of The Mandalorian would have made the ballot , but was disqualified due to gaining more nominations in short form. Further down the ballot, we have several TV show seasons – often better TV shows than what made the ballot in Best Related Short, including the German made Netflix show Dark. The movies that missed the ballot – the delightful Wolfwalkers, scrappy indie flick The Vast of Night and a feminist take on The Invisible Man – are better than what was actually nominated, too. I’m a bit surprised that Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t even make the longlist, because I actually enjoyed it more than the first one. But then a lot of people really seemed to dislike it.

Best Dramatic Presentation Short

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation is once again an episode of The Good Place.

This is the one Hugo win this year I’m really unhappy with. Yes, I know a lot of people really, really love The Good Place (though a lot of people, including me, also really hate it), but did it really need to win four years in a row? Especially considering that we’re in an unprecedented age of excellent SFF TV.

And indeed, a look at the longlist gives us several episodes of Star Trek Discovery and Star Trek Picard, one episode each of Lovecraft Country, What We Do in the Shadows and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as additional episodes of The Mandalorian, She-Ra and Doctor Who.

Best Editor Short

The 2021 Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form goes to Ellen Datlow. Now Ellen Datlow is undoubtedly a most accomplished editor and worthy winner. However, she has also won in this category seven times already, so I would have been happy to see someone else win.

I’m also surprised that C.C. Finlay finished in last place, since he did a great job on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, plus this was the last chance to honour him.

Best Editor Long

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Editor Long Form is Diana M. Pho and a most deserving winner she is, too.

A look at the nominations reveals that due to the magic of EPH Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books would have made the ballot, but declined the nomination. Now Toni Weisskopf was originally announced to be one of the Guests of Honour of DisCon III, but after Best Fan Writer finalist Jason Sanford reported that the Baen Books‘ forum Baen’s Bar hosted hate speech and incitement to terrorism on a subforum, something which got Sanford inundated with harassment and which Toni Weisskopf defended as free speech, Weisskopf withdrew from her Guest of Honour spot.

The people who nominated her for Best Editor were either infuriated by this – since Worldcon Guest of Honours withdrawing or being uninvited almost never happens – or they are die-hard Baen Books fans or both. The EPH data also shows that there was very little overlap with other finalists in this category, confirming that Baen Books has an almost cult-like following in its niche, but increasingly less relevance in the wider genre.  Personally, I also think Toni Weisskopf was probably wise to withdraw, because the chance that she would have been no awarded again is pretty high, especially after her response to the Baen’s Bar incident.

Best Professional Artist

The 2021 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist goes to Rovina Cai.

This was probably the most difficult category for me to rank, because all of the finalists did amazing work. And indeed, the artist I placed last only ended up there, because he had won in this category before, while the others hadn’t.

Best Semiprozine

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine is FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.

I was in the bathroom, getting into more comfortable clothes, when this category was announced and my cheers were so loud that the neighbours probably woke up, because this win made me so happy. FIYAH has been doing stellar work for several years now. They’re also lovely people and I’m so happy for them that they finally won. Besides, much as I like Uncanny, there are other semiprozines doing great work out there.

Looking at the longlist, the Escape Artists podcast empire did really way with Escape Pod and Podcastle making the ballot and PseudoPod and Cast of Wonders making the longlist. Two of the magazines on the longlist, Lightspeed and Clarkesworld, are pro mags and therefore ineligible. It’s great to see Anathema recognised.

Finally, I’m very happy to see Space Cowboy Books presents Simultaneous Times on the longlist and not just because they produced several of my stories, but also because it’s a very good fiction podcast.

Best Fanzine

The 2021 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine goes to nerds of a feather. This is a highly deserved win for a fanzine that has been nominated several times, but never won so far. Plus, they’re friends.

On the longlist, we see that my other blogging home Galactic Journey just missed the ballot. There are a lot of other good fanzines on the longlist as well such as SF in Translation, Salon Futura, Women Write About Comics and The Drink Tank.

Best Fancast

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Fancast is The Coode Street Podcast. This is another win that is not only highly deserved, but has also been a long time coming, because The Coode Street Podcast has been nominated many times, but never won so far.

The longlist has a lot of great podcasts like Octothorpe, Hugo Girl!, Hugos There and Our Opinions Are Correct. However, there are also many podcasts I’ve never heard of, even though I interviewed a whole lot of podcasters for the Fancast Spotlight project. It seems we really are in the golden age of SFF podcasting.

Best Fan Writer

As mentioned above, Elsa Sjunneson won and she is a highly deserving winner and also delivered a great acceptance speech. I finished in second place and actually led in the first round.

There are 57 Hugo voters out there who hate all of us so much – probably because we don’t write for traditional paper fanzines – that they no award the entire category. You can’t help these people and I don’t worry about them. Meanwhile, I’m happy that not a lot more people hated me personally so much that they no awarded me than no awarded the whole category.

The longlist reveals a lot of worthy candidates, including Athena Scalzi in what would be one of the very few cases (the only other one I can think of are Mike and Laura Resnick) of two generations of the same family earning Hugo nominations.

Best Fan Artist

The winner of the 2021 Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist is Sara Felix. This is the other Hugo winner that made me cheer out loud – not just because Sara does excellent work, though she does and I love her tiaras, but she is someone who has been nominated many times and even designed several Hugo bases as well as the Lodestar Award and pin and has yet never won.

The nomination data reveals that the excellent Thai artist Tithi Luadthong, whose amazing work graces the cover of my In Love and War series and several Kurval stories, actually had sufficient votes to make the ballot, but had no eligible work produced in 2021. I suspect this is due to the labyrinthine (and in dire need of an overhaul) rules for the Best Fan Artist Hugo, because I personally saw new Tithi Luadthong artwork in 2021.

Best Videogame

The 2021 Hugo Award for Best Videogame goes to Hades.

This was a one-of special Hugo awarded by DisCon III, probably as a trial to see if there is sufficient interest in a permanent videogame category.

I’m not a gamer, so I was initially sceptical about this category. Besides, there already are plenty of awards for videogames, so do they really need a Hugo, too?

However, I chanced to chat with Hades developer Greg Kasavin at the virtual Hugo after-party for a while and he was lovely and also absolutely over the moon to have won, which made me a lot more positively inclined towards that category. For even though I don’t particularly care about videogames, the Hugo Award really made someone’s day and that’s great.

Lodestar

The winner of the 2021 Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book is A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher a.k.a. Ursula Vernon, making her the second double winner of the night after Martha Wells.

I loved A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking – after all, it has magical sourdough – so I’m thrilled to see it recognised here.

The Lodestar was also reratified at the DisCon III business meeting and is now a permanent not-a-Hugo.

Astounding

The 2021 Astounding Award for Best New Writer goes to Emily Tesh.

I have to admit that this win astounded me. Not because Emily Tesh doesn’t do good work – she does – but because this category was extremely strong this year.

The runner-up on the longlist is Caitlin Starling, who would be highly deserving, only that I’m not sure she is actually eligible, since she has an active horror career.

Our friend J.R.H. Lawless shows up further down the longlist again with seventeen of his fans nominating him.

All in all, there are some excellent Hugo winners this year with only one winner (The Good Place) I’m not happy with. Even though I lost, I finished in second place again, which is great as well.

***

After the ceremony, I went for a quick walk and then attended the virtual after-party (the name Hugo Losers Party has thankfully been retired). The set-up was similar to the set-up of the reception with the virtual finalists being beamed into the main ballroom.

And so I had a great time with Sarah Pinsker and her sister Amira, Navah Wolfe, Alyssa Winans, my fellow Best Fan Writer finalist Charles Payseur, Hades developer Greg Kasavin and Brandon O’Brien with whom I have hung out at three Hugo after-parties (Dublin, CoNZealand and DisCon III) in a row now.

Around a quarter past six, the virtual party broke up and I went to bed, only to awake to the Raytheon controversy.

Still, the Raytheon thing aside, I had a great time. Besides, we have a most excellent set of Hugo winners this year and I wish we would talk more about that and less about the weapons company which managed to sponsor the Hugos.

A full con report of DisCon III is coming in a few days, once I’ve gotten past the TV show backlog.

Comments are open, but if anybody wants to troll about Baen, Raytheon or anything else, I shall be moderating with extreme prejudice.

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14 Responses to Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Award Winners and the Ceremony in general

  1. kathodus says:

    Great breakdown of the awards. Sad you didn’t win, but wow, what a great field! I have been reading much less than usual in the past few years, so I didn’t vote this year, but was stoked to see that several things I love made it to the finals and/or won.

    Also, that tiara looks bad-ass, and then a close-up shows that it’s also very nerdy as well as bad-ass. Perfect!

  2. Steve Wright says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you on Best Related Work – there is a lot of good stuff being done by scholars of the genre, or in the general penumbra of SFF, and I’d be happier if Best Fannish Thing was hived off as a separate category. It’s not like fans are ill-served, what with having Writer, Fanzine, Artist and Fancast categories already. (My own first-place vote went to “Beowulf” – I thought the translation, while it was loose in places and sometimes the modernisms were a little jarring, did the fundamental job of capturing the energy and the emotional force of the poem,and did it well.)

    I’m still vaguely uncomfortable about Best Series, if only because it’s covering two different things – open-ended series, and multi-volume (but finite) complete works. I mean, I love Murderbot, who doesn’t? But Martha Wells could carry on turning out Murderbot stories for years (and I wouldn’t mind if she did!), whereas this was the only chance we had to award any of the three completed trilogies. (My first-place vote here went to S.A. Chakraborty’s “Daevabad”, whose knotty magical and intra-familial drama makes for a thundering good read, though I found it very hard to choose between that one and “Poppy War”.)

    On the whole, it was a very good year – and I’m very glad to see the Lodestar’s position firmly secured, as this category has been consistently full of very good books indeed.

    As for the Raytheon thing, I can only say – what on Earth were they thinking? I suppose it’s pointless to insist that Heads Must Roll for that decision, given that WorldCon committees only exist for the one convention, and the DisCon III committee is now vanished into the unalterable past. It was still a lousy thing to do, especially sprung on the finalists out of nowhere as it was.

    • Cora says:

      I’m always sad to see good SFF scholarship being ignored by the Hugos in favour of Best Fannish Thing. Especially since non-fiction writers don’t have a lot of other chances to get awards recognition, unless they write about Tolkien or Robert E. Howard and are eligible for the Tolkien and Howard Society awards.

      I wouldn’t mind a Best Fannish Thing Hugo at all, though there is reluctance to add yet more Hugo categories and if one were to be added, I think Best Videogame would probably come before Best Fannish Thing.

      I liked the Daevabad trilogy a lot and it placed highly on my ballot, though The Poppy War never worked for me, I’m afraid. Regarding Best Series, I think in the long run, popular long-running series will have the edge over trilogies, simply because there are more books/stories to read and they have more time to build up a fanbase. And indeed, all winners to date have been longer series, not trilogies, going back all the way to the very first Best Series Hugo in 1966, where Foundation, i.e. several works of short fiction, beat the accidental trilogy Lord of the Rings, even though the award had specifically been created to honour Lord of the Rings.

      There was one year, where the Lodestar finalists were hugely frustrating, because there were several books which basically had the same plot and the same whiny heroine, but the Lodestar finalists have gotten much more interesting in the past few years and there were a lot of good books to choose from this year.

      The Raytheon thing is just an unmitigated disaster and even though Mary Robinette Kowal did the classy thing and took responsibility (even though I had the impression she was just as surprised as the rest of us were), it still hasn’t died down.

      • Charles Timpko says:

        As a native Washingtonian, I was not that surprised to see the Raytheon sponsorship. Many of the big military & aerospace contractors advertise in the local media frequently and the ads do turn up in places you would not expect (e.g. subway stations, radio). Not to sell products but to recruit engineers and IT staff.

        In this case, my suspicion is that some local fans who happened to work at Raytheon (and who knew Discon 3 had money issues) convinced the recruiting folks that Worldcon would be a good place to recruit these types of technical folks. Saw a mention elsewhere that Raytheon had a table in the dealer’s room handing out information about the company though I did not personally see it. For a company the size of Raytheon, spending $10-20,000 on a sponsorship would be worth it if even one person was hired.

        They probably should have foreseen the pushback but for whatever reason they did not. Strange that no one seems to know anything how it happened but I could understand if Discon 3 did not want to expose folks who may have acted with the best intentions to threats and abuse on line.

        • Cora says:

          That actually matches my suspicions, namely that someone who works at Raytheon brought them in as sponsors in an attempt to help out and didn’t consider there would be a backlash. And if you’re looking to recruit engineers and IT-specialists, Worldcon is a good place to find them. Several people have mentioned that Raytheon had a table and someone – I think Chris Barkley – took a photo.

  3. Mely says:

    Minor correction: “This Is New Geheseran Calling” was published in Consolation Songs, an anthology edited by Iona Datt Sharma. What you’ve linked to on AO3 is fanfiction for the story, which does indeed ha e a small but fervid fanbase.

  4. Oleksandr ZHOLUD says:

    I nice overview, thank you! About The Stone Weta – it was quite popular in several groups I read on Goodreads, and it was in my ballot.

    On shorter fiction from top-3 pro-zines, in my view they had several very interesting works, which ended up in several anthologies (so it is not only my opinion), including say works of Ray Nayler.

    On non-fic I fully support that longer works, not irate posts should be there

    • Cora says:

      “The Stone Weta” completely passed me by, as happens on occasion, which is why it’s great that the Hugos crowdsource the best works.

      The Big Three print zines publish as good fiction as they ever did, but they are hampered by the fact that their distribution is more limited than the various online znes. Not only do you have to buy them first, they’re also not available everywhere. For example, I’ve never seen an issue of either Asimov’s, Analog or F&SF in Germany, not even at the train station and airport news stands, where you can get all sorts of international magazines. Interzone shows up very rarely, but not the US print magazines.

      • Oleksandr ZHOLUD says:

        re missing “The Stone Weta” – it is amazing how even while trying to get info from outside we are all in our information bubbles – for the last three years I participated in Hugo nomination/voting and not only in small prose but even in novels I cannot reliable guess the lists – usually there are favorites, which are easy, but other favs never made it – e.g. see that Maas got best fantasy on Goodreads two years in a row, but it isn’t even in top-16

        re Big Three – I’ve never seen a printed copy, I use digital subscriptions, they all have it. However, unlike online zines their stories aren’t free and I guess it is an important issue for younger more active readership

        • Cora says:

          Every year, there is at least one Hugo finalist and often more than one that completely flew under my radar. These finalists are often a very pleasant surprise, because here is a great story, comic or other work that’s entirely new to me.

          Regarding Sarah J. Mass, she’s hugely popular, but mainly associated with YA, even though her last two books were adult fantasy. And while she has a huge fanbase, her fanbase doesn’t overlap much with the Hugo voter base. We often see this in the Best Series where extremely popular bestselling authors like Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, Diana Gabaldon or Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb don’t even make the longlist in spite of their huge fanbase.

          Yes, digital subscriptions make the Big Three accessible in places where print copies are not sold. But they still require a financial commitment that the free to read e-zines don’t have, which disadvantages them. Especially since younger Hugo nominators may not have the disposable income to subscribe to these mags. I have nominated great stories from the Big Three on occasion, but a great story in Uncanny or Clarkesworld or Lightspeed simply has so many more readers than a great story in Asimov’s, Analog or F&SF.

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