I almost forgot that the Hugos were today, because a) I normally don’t expect Worldcon or the Hugos to happen at the same time as the Frankfurt Book Fair, b) the Hugo ceremony normally doesn’t happen around lunchtime for me and c) I’ve been too busy with other things to focus on Worldcon this year, though trust me, I’d rather have attended a Worldcon than my Dad’s memorial service and funeral.
That said, this is the first Hugo ceremony since 2014 or 2015 I haven’t watched live, either streaming or in person in the auditorium and the first Worldcon since 2018 where I haven’t on programming. So there will be no commentary on the ceremony or the Chengdu Worldcon in general this year, though the photos I’ve seen of Chengdu’s new science fiction museum look gorgeous.
Around noon my time, I checked Twitter (not calling it X) to see if the Hugo ceremony had started yet, but it hadn’t. Then I went to make lunch and afterwards I opened Twitter and the first tweet I saw was someone congratulating a winner. So I checked and they were already up to Novelette with only two categories to do. As Hugo ceremonies go, this one seems to have been quite swift.
Before I delve into the Hugo winners, I’d like to take a moment to point out that the winners of the 2023 Ignyte Awards were also announced today. I don’t cover the Ignytes in detail, because there are only so many awards commentary posts I can write, but they usually have interesting winners and finalists.
And now, let’s get the the 2023 Hugos, starting with…
The winner of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Novel is Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher a.k.a. Ursula Vernon. Her acceptance speech, including a delightful metaphor about the backsides of frogs, may be found here.
ETA: Ars Technica latched on to Ursula Vernon’s metaphor of the beetle who just walks out the backdoor, when swallowed by a frog, and not just digs up the original study, but also some video evidence.
This was not my first choice, but I’m perfectly happy for Nettle and Bone to win. Besides, this year’s Best Novel ballot was extremely strong and any of the six finalists would have been a most worthy winner.
The 2023 Hugo Award for Best Novella goes to Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire.
Once again, this wasn’t my first choice. I like Seanan McGuire’s work, but I’m not as enamored with the Wayward Children series as many others obviously are. That said, I enjoyed Where the Drowned Girls Go more than some of the other entries in that series.
The winner of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Novelette is “The Space-Time Painter” by Hai Ya.
This was one winner which made me go “Huh, which story was this again?”, because I have barely no memory of it. This usually happens for me with at least one Hugo finalist every year, that there is a story I forget almost as soon as I read it. In this case, the reason I couldn’t recall the story was that it wasn’t available in English in the Hugo voter packet, only in Chinese, though machine translations popped up later with all the expected flaws.
Therefore, it’s a huge surprise that “The Space-Time Painter” won, even though it was hampered by a bad translation. This is clearly one case where the Chinese Hugo voters pushed this story over the winning line. And you know what? That’s great. Because I’m glad that we are seeing not just Chinese finalists but also Chinese winners at the first Worldcon held in China. This is a far cry from the 2007 Worldcon in Yokohama, Japan, where there was not a single Japanese finalist, let alone winner.
On Twitter, Sichuan Daily also posted a clip of Hai Ya’s heartfelt acceptance speech (no embed, because Twitter no longer does embeds). He wrote the story on his daily commute.
Best Short Story
The 2023 Hugo Award for Best Short Story goes to “Rabbit Test” by Samantha Mills.
This story was the clear forerunner and already won the Nebula Award in the same category. What is more, it’s a great, hard-hitting story, too.
It’s also very much a story of the moment, inspired by the repeal of Roe versus Wade in the US and the resulting abortion restrictions in many US states. Being a story of the moment, inspired by the political situation in the US, might well hurt the story with non-US voters, but reproductive rights aren’t only at risk in the US (Germany has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in western Europe) , so people, particularly women, everywhere can relate.
The winner of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Series is Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.
This is one win, which makes me very happy, because Adrian Tchaikovsky has been doing stellar work for years now and yet was consistently overlooked by Hugo nominators until very recently, because his books came out in the UK well before the US. So this recognition was well overdue. Besides, Children of Time is a great series.
Best Graphic Story or Comic
The 2023 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story or Comic goes to Cyberpunk 2077: Big City Dreams by Bartosz Sztybor, Filipe Andrade, Alessio Fioriniello, Roman Titov and Krzysztof Ostrowski.
This is another winner that made me go “Huh?”, because while definitely read the comic, it didn’t wow me and I ranked it fairly low on my ballot. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow, Saga, Monstress and Once and Future were all stronger IMO.
In some way, this win and the nomination for the Dune comic is a throwback to the early years of the Best Graphic Story Hugo and also the comic and graphic novel category of the Dragon Awards, where unremarkable tie-in comics to some kind of media a lot of people like (here it’s the Cyberpunk 2077 videogame) tends to get nominated and even win, because Hugo voters (and Dragon voters, apparently) are not necessarily comic readers. I don’t even exclude myself there – currently my personal Hugo longlist for 2024 includes a Masters of the Universe comic and this year I nominated Marvel’s King Conan comic – for while I will pick up the occasional comic that interests me, often because it’s about something else that interests me, my regular comic reading days are behind me.
That said, Cyberpunk 2022: Big City Dreams may well have given Poland its first ever Hugo winners and that’s great, because I’m always happy about continental Europeans winning Hugos, since the vast majority of European Hugo winners have been Brits.
Best Related Work
The winner of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Related Work is Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins.
This is another case of the clear frontrunner winning. Terry Pratchett is a beloved and much missed icon of our genre and here we have a great biography penned by his former assistant. Besides, Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes, already won the BSFA Award in the non-fiction category.
As someone who has always championed SFF-related non-fiction and would prefer Best Related Work to honour non-fiction books rather than the various “This is cool, but we don’t know where else to put it” finalists we have increasingly seen in this category in recent years. Therefore, I’m of course happy to see exactly the sort of non-fiction book I want to see in this category win.
Best Dramatic Presentation Long
The 2023 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form goes to Everything Everywhere All At Once. This win is not only highly deserved, but also utterly unsurprising, since Everything Everywhere All At Once has already won every award in every universe out there. Still, now the Daniels can add a shiny Hugo rocket to their awards shelf.
I’m surprised to see Avatar: The Way of Water in second place (unless they are just ranking the rest of the finalists alphabetically), because if there was ever a superfluous sequel, it was that one. This was also the only finalist in this category (and one of only four on the entire ballot) that I no awarded. Normally, I don’t publicly share if I no awarded a Hugo finalist, but I doubt that James Cameron gives a damn that I no awarded him and haven’t liked a single movie he made in thirty years. He’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
I’m also a little surprised to see Turning Red finish in last place (again, unless they are ranking alphabetically), because even though it’s an animated film for kids, Turning Red was really cute and also captured the feeling of being a teenaged girl very well. Like Everything Everywhere All At Once, it’s also a story about Chinese expats. But I guess a menstruation analogy may have been a little too much for some Hugo voters.
Best Dramatic Presentation Short
The winner of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form is The Expanse episode “Babylon’s Ashes”.
I have to admit that this win surprised me a bit, because while The Expanse is a good and popular science fiction series, this particular episode, the series finale, which only barely squeezed into eligiblity due to airing very early in January 2022, wasn’t all that remarkable. I suspect it was more a vote for the series as a whole than for this particular episode.
Besides, The Expanse already won in this category twice, in 2017 and 2022 and had nominations in 2019, 2020 and 2021. I would much rather have seen a show that has never won a Hugo honoured. Never mind that both Andor episodes and the fourth wall breaking She-Hulk: Attorney at Law episode were better. Stranger Things would have been a decent winner as well, though I continue to not give a damn about For All Mankind.
In general, it’s a problem with the Best Dramatic Presentation Short category that the same shows tend to be nominated and win over and over again. It has been twenty years since Best Dramatic Presentation was split into short and long form and in those twenty years, Doctor Who has won a whopping six times, The Good Place four times, The Expanse three times and Game of Thrones twice. The remaining winners are one episode each of Buffy, Jessica Jones, Orphan Black, the Battlestar Galactica as well as the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and – bafflingly – Gollum’s Acceptance Speech at the 2003 MTV Movie Awards, which beat episodes of Firefly, Buffy and Smallville.
The issue isn’t new, in 1968 the Best Dramatic Presentation ballot consisted of five episodes of the original Star Trek. However, it’s no longer 1968 and there is a huge variety of SFF TV-series both animated and live action out there, not to mention short films, music videos, audio dramas (all of which can and have been nominated in the Best Dramatic Presentation category) and it would be great if more shows got honoured than Doctor Who, The Good Place and The Expanse. Never mind that Doctor Who kept getting nominated and winning long after it stopped being good. And The Good Place was never good in the first place.
Best Editor Short
The 2023 Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form goes to Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, who also won in this category last year. Neil is a most deserving winner and the fact that he has published more Chinese SFF in translation (and SFF in translation in general) than pretty much any other editor in the English speaking world probably helped as well.
Best Editor Long
The winner of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Editor Long Form is Lindsey Hall of Tor/Forge. She is a first time finalist and winner, which is always great to see, especially since the editor categories can get a little stale with the same people nominated over and over again.
Best Professional Artist
The 2023 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist goes to Enzhe Zhao, creator of stunning science fiction and fantasy artwork. Enzhe Zhao is the second Chinese Hugo winner this year, there will be one more further down the ballot.
I always find the art categories difficult to judge, because the finalists are usually all great and often very different from each other. This year, every single finalist would have been a most worthy winner, yet there can be only one.
The winner of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine is Uncanny Magazine.
I could probably just copy what I wrote last year or in 2020 or 2019 here, because Uncanny has been nominated eight times in this category and won seven times. Which is still way behind Locus, which won this category a whopping twenty-two times (amd they won Best Fanzine several times, too).
Now don’t get me wrong. Uncanny is a great magazine and they do great work and deserve every single one of those seven Hugos. And considering that the Thomas family has been going through a very hard time, I thrilled that they, their team and particularly Caitlin Thomas (and Hugo the Cat, of course) got to celebrate another Hugo win.
However, there are other SFF semiprozines out there which are excellent as well. Strange Horizons has never won in spite of multiple nominations and neither have Escape Pod, Podcastle or Beneath Ceaseless Skies, who recused themselves. FIYAH did at least win once.
Semiprozine is also another category which has the tendency to go stale with the same handful of magazines getting nominated over and over again (see Locus and their twenty-two wins). This year at least we had a new finalist in this category in the form of khoréo (sorry for butchering the title, but WordPress’ well-known issues with diacritics strike again), which is an encouraging sign.
Another long-standing issue is the definition of this category, which means that relative juggernauts like Uncanny or Escape Pod or Strange Horizons compete in the same category as small magazines that pay one or two cents per word or five or ten US-dollars per story. This means that the small magazines get crowded out. There have been debates about reforming the semiprozine category or turning it into just Best Magazine for years now. But even if Best Semiprozine is reformed into Best Magazine, this still doesn’t resolve the issue of the small token payment markets, which would probably fit better into Best Fanzine.
Which brings us to…
The 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine goes to Zero Gravity Newspaper, edited by RiverFlow and Ling Shizhen.
Here we have the third Chinese winner and a most worthy winner they are, too. Unfortunately, co-editor and Best Fan Writer finalist RiverFlow collapsed shortly after the Hugo ceremony and was hospitalised, as explained in this comment at File 770.
Finally, Zero Gravity Newspaper is a print zine winning in a category that is dominated by blogs and online zines. This is the first time since 2009 that a print zine has won in the Best Fanzine category. File 770, The Drink Tank and Journey Planet have all won since, but they are both mostly online these days.
ETA: In the comments, John a.k.a. ErsatzCulture points out that Zero Gravity Newspaper seems to be mostly a PDF zine, too, and that the printed issues seen in photos were apparently special issues.
ETA 2: Again via John a.k.a. ErsatzCulture and File 770, RiverFlow has posted an extensive con report with many photos, including his medical odyssey. RiverFlow has also posted the text of his Best Fanzine acceptance speech. All in Chinese, but Google Translate should at least give you a rough idea.
The winner of the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fancast is Hugo, Girl!
I’m very happy about this win, because not only is Hugo, Girl! a great podcast, they’re also friends. Though the fancast category was full of friends or at least acquaintances this year.
The Hugo, Girl! team shared their delightful acceptance speech on Twitter. I’m even mentioned in that speech along with a lot of other fine folks. Of course, I have given a Hugo acceptance speech and written several of them, but this is the first time I was actually mentioned in one.
Which brings us to…
Best Fan Writer
This is of course the category I won last year, so I was particularly interested in who would win this year.
Turns out that the 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer goes to Chris M. Barkley who was one of my fellow finalists last year. You can read his acceptance speech at File 770.
Chris is a most worthy winner. Not only is he known for his insightful columns at File 770, he also has been tirelessly supporting Worldcon and the Hugos for more than forty years now and IMO should have been recognised long ago. Finally, Chris is the first ever winner of colour in what is still a very white category.
Best Fan Artist
The 2023 Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist goes to Richard Man, who is not just a first time finalist in this category, but also – as far as I can tell – the first photographer to win a Hugo in an art category. Richard Man is a great portrait photographer and most worthy winner.
The Fan Artist category usually has a wide range of different types of art. In addition to traditional artists, we have also seen jewellery designers, sculptors, cartoonists and calligraphers nominated in this category. There have been almost no photographers nominated with the exception of a Finnish toy photographer (a field which has a lot of really great fan artists deserving of recognition), even though we have a lot of photographers in our community.
The winner of the 2023 Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book is Akata Woman by Nnedi Okorafor. Akata Woman is a sequel to the 2018 and inaugural Lodestar winner Akata Witch, making Nnedi Okorafor the first double Lodestar winner. Once again, it’s a very good choice.
Last but not least, the 2023 Astounding Award for Best New Writer goes to Travis Baldree. This is one win which made me very happy, not just because I enjoyed Legends and Lattes a whole lot, but also because the success of Legends and Lattes showed that cozy fantasy, which had been bubbling under the surface in indie and small press fiction for a while, is a commercially viable subgenre.
And that’s it for the 2023 Hugo winners. Those who are concerned that too many women are winning Hugos these days will hopefully be happy that two of the five fiction categories as well as Best Related Work and the Astounding Award (plus Fan Writer and Fan Artist) went to male writers. Though I’m sure they’ll find some reason why those male winners don’t count (too foreign, too cozy, not white enough).
I couldn’t delve into the longlist and the detailed voting statistics this time around, because they aren’t available yet. I may do so in a separate post.
ETA: At Women Write About Comics. Doris V. Sutherland reports about the 2023 Hugo winners and also about the Chengdu Worldcon and the various controversies surrounding it in general. At the same site, Doris also has a piece about the 2023 Igtnyte Awards.
This article from China Daily has some background on the Chinese winners, including the inspiration for “The Space-Time Painter”.
ETA: Here is an article from Xinhua with lots of photos of the ceremony and the con.
ETA: Nicholas Whyte reports about his adventures at the 2023 Worldcon with plenty of photos. The first post focusses on Chinese Doctor Who fandom and a Doctor Who panel, the second post focusses on visiting Chengdu’s famous pandas and the third post focusses on various other panels as well as the opening ceremony and the Hugo reception, ceremony and afterparty. I have to admit when I saw photos of the Hugo reception and the tiny nuggets of pastries and sweets, I thought, “That doesn’t look very substantial.” Nicholas’ report confirms this initial impression. Finally, Nicholas Whyte shares some general Worldcon experiences as well as photos of the famous Sichuan hotpot, which looks utterly delicious.
Writer and translator S. Qiouyi Lu shares their disappointment that there haven’t been more Chinese winners in this Twitter thread.
Otherwise, I haven’t seen a lot of reactions yet. Those people who have made it their life’s mission to hate every modern Hugo winner and let the world know why every single one of them is unworthy are oddly silent as well. Either they’ve moved on to hating something else (Anti-Semitism seems to be sadly popular right now) or I don’t see their comments, because I have a lot of these people blocked or muted on Twitter and BlueSky, ever since some of those haters decided to send a harassment mob my way last month.
I’ll update the post as more reactions come in. And since it apparently needs to be said, I don’t necessarily agree with everything I link to, particularly not with comments from the usual and unusual arseholes, should any come in.