Some Thoughts on the 2022 Hugo Finalists

So at last, here is my Hugo finalist reaction post. I know it took a bit, but since I’m a Hugo finalist myself this year, I took some time off to celebrate, congratulate fellow finalists and update everything that needed updating.

So let’s take a look at the finalists for the 2022 Hugo Award. You can also read the reactions of fellow finalists Camestros Felapton and Paul Weimer and listen to a lengthy video of a panel of Booktubers discussing the finalists. Also read this lovely piece by Chris M. Barkley detailing his reactions upon learning he was a Hugo finalist for Best Fan Writer.

And now, let’s delve right into the categories under the cut:

Best Novel

The 2022 Hugo finalists for Best Novel are a mix of new writers and returning favourites.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine and The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers are both sequels to previous winners (Arkady Martine won Best Novel in 2020 and Becky Chambers won Best Series in 2019). They are also very good books and I am not at all surprised to see them here.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark is a sequel to the 2020 Best Novella finalist The Haunting of Tram Car 015 and also a very enjoyable SFF murder mystery that was also on my ballot.

I have read neither She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan nor Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, though both got a lot of positive buzz, when they came out, so I’m not surprised to see them on the ballot. And I’m definitely looking forward to reading both of them.

The sixth finalist in this category is Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, which surprised me a little, for though popular, Andy Weir is more of a Dragon Award than a Hugo or Nebula type author. And indeed, Project Hail Mary did win the 2021 Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Now I have to admit that I did not care for The Martian and was baffled by its popularity even among people who don’t usually read SF, because to me it read like something that might have appeared in Analog in the 1960s or 1970s. Hence, I did not read Andy Weir’s next two books. However, now Project Hail Mary is a Hugo finalist, I will be reading it and maybe it will work better for me than The Martian.

Besides, the fact that there are two male authors nominated for Best Novel, including a white cis man writing hard science fiction, should pacify those folks who worry that men are being shut out of the Hugos.

Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 3 writers of colour, 1 international author*.

Best Novella

Here we have a a category full of familiar and popular names.

Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series is a perennial favourite in this category (and also nominated for Best Series), so it’s no surprise to see Across the Green Grass Fields here.

Becky Chambers is another favourite of the Hugo voters and is represented in this category with A Psalm for the Wild-Built, the first of a new novella series. I haven’t read it yet, though I suspect I will like it, since I usually like Becky Chambers’ work.

Aliette de Bodard is another author whom we frequently see on the Hugo and Nebula ballot. Fireheart Tiger is also a very good story and was on my ballot as well.

Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky is something of a surprise for me, though a very pleasant one, because I enjoyed the novella and its “science in a fantasy world” approach a whole lot. But while Adrian Tchaikovsky is a very good and very popular author and has won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and frequently appears on the BSFA and Clarke ballot, Hugo voters ususally tend to overlook him, so I’m glad that he finally got a long overdue Hugo nomination.

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente completely passed me by, I’m afraid. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel set in a place called Garbagetown, which does sound interesting.

I haven’t read A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow and as regular readers will know, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of fairy tale retellings. However, I’ve usually liked everything I’ve read by Alix E. Harrow, so I suspect I will enjoy this one, too.

Notable by its absence is Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells, but then I suspect that she may have withdrawn, just like she did for the Nebulas.

There’s some wailing and gnashing of teeth that all six finalists in this category were published by Tor.com. Unlike the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth from certain quarters, there is some merit to this, because if a single publisher completely dominates one category it is a problem.

That said, Tor is the biggest SFF publisher in the English speaking world and the Tor.com imprint did a lot to revitalise the novella form, which was limited to small presses, magazines and self-publishers before that. However, while small presses like Subterranean, Prime Books, Meerkat Press, Telos, Crystal Lake or Neon Hemlock do good work and publish some very fine novellas, they can’t compete with Tor.com’s marketing clout. Ditto for indies and magazines.

So rather than complain about Tor.com’s dominance, maybe we should support and talk up the smaller publishers of novellas more. For example, there were three novellas not published by Tor.com on my ballot, The Return of the Sorceress by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, published by Subterranean, “A Manslaughter of Crows” by Chris Willrich, which appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and “The Unlikely Heroines of Callisto Station” by Marie Vibbert, which appeared in Analog.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 man, 1 writer of colour, 2 international writers

Best Novelette

“Bots of the Lost Ark” by Suzanne Palmer is a great story and was also on my ballot.

Unfortunately, I have to admit that I haven’t read any of the other finalists in this category, though I’m looking forwatd to checking them out, because discovering great stories you missed the first time around is one of the best things about being a Hugo voter.

Besides, Caroline M. Yoachim, Catherynne M. Valente, John Wiswell, Fran Wilde and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki are all excellent writers, so I’m sure I’m in for a treat.

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is the only first time finalist in this category. He is also the first black African born Hugo finalist of all time. For while there have been several Hugo finalists from the African diaspora in recent years, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki is the first black finalist who was actually born in Africa and still lives there.

In case you’re wondering who the first Hugo African born Hugo finalist was (and no, I did not know this until a few days ago either), that was Manly Wade Wellman who was born in what is now Angola in 1903, when his father worked as a doctor there. He was a Hugo finalist in 1959 and a Retro Hugo winner in 2020. Furthermore, Dave Freer, who was a Hugo finalist in 2015, was born in South Africa, though he lived in Australia, when nominated. Also, both Wellman and Freer are white.

ETA: I can’t believe that I forgot J.R.R. Tolkien who was born in South Africa and who was nominated for the one-of Best Series of All Time Hugo for Lord of the Rings in 1966, only to promptly lose to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. Not that this changes anything, for Tolkien was also white.

We have another almost first here, for “O2 Arena” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki was published in Galaxy’s Edge magazine, which – probably due to being a print magazine – does not get a whole lot of awards love.  I actually thought this was the first nomination for Galaxy’s Edge, but they also published the 2015 Short Story finalist “Totaled” by Kary English. The other finalists in this category were published in Uncanny, Clarkesworld and Tor.com.

Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 2 writers of colour, 1 international writer

Best Short Story

“Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow is a wonderful story that will make you misty-eyed and was also on my ballot.

“Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker is a fascinating story in the form of a Wikipedia article plus the discussion page about a (fictional) folk ballad.

I have read neither “Proof by Induction” by José Pablo Iriarte nor “The Sins of America” by Catherynne M. Valente, though I look forward to reading them. I also note that this is a very good year for Caterynne M. Valente with one nomination each in Novella, Novelette and Short Story. And while José Pablo Iriarte has been a Nebula finalist before, this is their first Hugo nomination.

“Tangles” by Seanan McGuire is another story I haven’t read. What’s notable about it is that it was published not in one of the print or online magazines, but on the Magic the Gathering website. Tie-in fiction rarely gets Hugo nominations, which is why the Scribe Awards exist and the Dragon Awards have a tie-in category. Though tie-ins are absolutely eligible for the Hugos. Nor is this is the first media tie-in story nominated for a Hugo, that would be “The Butcher of Khardov” by Dan Wells, a Best Novella finalist in 2014.

Finally, we have “Unknown Number” by Blue Neustifter, which is another first, because it’s a story that was originally published on Twitter. You can read it here (and you should because it’s a really good story). There have been some grumblings that a Twitter thread was nominated for a Hugo. But first of all, “Unknown Number” is not a Twitter thread per se, but a story that happened to be published on Twitter. And yes, it is a story which plays with form, but then there have been several other stories that play with form on the Hugo ballot, including one (“Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather”), which is nominated in this very category this year. “Unknown Number” could have been published just as well in Uncanny or Apex or Clarkesworld and no one would have batted eyelash.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 non-binary, 1 writer of colour, 1 international writer

Best Series

Now comes my annual gripe that the Best Series Hugo does not quite do what it was initially designed for, namely rewarding popular long-running series, which rarely get Hugo love, because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For example, it is striking that Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, a hugely popular SFF series which not only begot a whole subgenre (time travel romance) but also spawned a successful TV series, does not show up on the Hugo ballot, even though it would have been eligible for the publication of Tell the Bees I’m Gone in 2021.

That said, the Best Series Hugo is getting better at what it was supposed to do, because this year, we have only two series on the ballot where individual works were nominated in the respective fiction categories. Two of the finalists in this category are even first time finalists, i.e. they have never been nominated in any category before. Plus, the series are mostly actual series rather than “If you squint really hard, these books are all set in the same universe and make up a series”. Finally, this is also a really good selection of finalists, so let’s dive in:

I was very impressed with the Terra Ignota quartet by Ada Palmer and am very happy to see it recognised here. It was also on my ballot.

The World of the White Rat books by T. Kingfisher a.k.a. Ursula Vernon are a delight and once again, I’m thrilled to see them here. And while Ursula Vernon is a favourite of Hugo voters, none of the White Rat books have ever been nominated before. This series was also on my ballot BTW.

The World of the White Rat books are also unabashedly fantasy romance, a subgenre that normally does not do well at the Hugos. Now if we could only persuade Hugo voters to nominate other romancey SFF series like J.D. Robb’s In Death series or Patricia Briggs’ or Ilona Andrews’ various series or yes, Outlander.

Seanan McGuire has been present on the Best Series ballot with different series since its inception in 2017, but then she is both prolific and popular. This year, she is nominated for her Wayward Children series. I have to admit that I prefer her October Daye and Incryptid books to the Wayward Children series, but that series is clearly popular, considering several of the individual installments have been nominated in Best Novella over the years.

I have read never the Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee nor the Kingston Cycle by C.L. Polk, but I have heard good things about both series and look forward to reading them. This is the first Hugo nomination for both Fonda Lee and C.L. Polk BTW.

Charles Stross is an author whose books just don’t work for me, I’m afraid. I bounced hard off Singularity Sky and its sequel some eighteen years ago (how time flies). And whenever I tried reading one of his books afterwards, usually because it was on the Hugo ballot, I had the same reaction. However, not everything has to be for me and that’s okay. Besides, maybe Merchant Princes, the series he is nominated for this year, will be the exception.

Diversity count: 4 women, 1 man, 1 non-binary, 2 writers of colour, 3 international writers

Best Graphic Story

We have a nice mix of returning favourite and new finalists here.

Monstress, Once & Future and DIE are all series we have been in this category before. They’re also very good comics.

Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell is part of the Green Lantern subuniverse of the Greater DC Universe. I haven’t read it, but I have heard good things.

DC, which so far has lagged behind Image, Boom and Marvel in Hugo nominations, is also represented by Strange Adventures by Tom King, Mitch Gerards and Even “Doc” Shaner. This series represents a new take on the classic Silver Age DC character Adam Strange. Once again, I haven’t read it (not a big DC reader), but Tom King is one of the best comic writers working right now. It’s also notable that both superhero comics on the Hugo ballot are also space opera comics.

Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe, finally, is a retelling of the Greek legend of Persephone, which started life as a webcomic and was later collected and nominated for an Eisner Award. I’m not familiar with this one at all, but it certainly sounds like something I should enjoy.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make comics.

Best Related

Best Related Work is a category I usually gripe about, because the edge case finalists like virtual cons, fanfiction archives, angry rants, documentaries, etc… tend to crowd out that non-fiction books that the category was originally designed for.

However this year, I not only have nothing to gripe about, but the finalists for the Best Related Work Hugo actually make me very happy. Because we have five non-fiction books nominated as well as one article, which is meatier than several of the other single articles we have seen in this category over the years.

And yes, there are some people who are annoyed that Best Related contains mainly non-fiction books this year, rather than the weird grab bag that it has become and are talking about a backlash. But taking the category back to what it was designed for is a course correction, not a backlash. And personally, I would be in favour of splitting Best Related into Best Non-Fiction and Best Miscellany to catch all the weird stuff people apparently want to nominate and still have a dedicated non-fiction category.

As you may remember, I started the non-fiction spotlight project in order to highlight SFF-related non-fiction books eligible for the Hugo Awards and interviewed the authors and editors of several excellent Hugo-eligible non-fiction. Therefore, I’m thrilled that three non-fiction books I featured, The Complete Debarkle: Saga of a Culture War by Camestros Felapton, Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985, edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre and True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee by Abraham Riesman, made the ballot. So the non-fiction spotlight project did make an impact (and I will be very interested to see, if any of the other books I featured made the longlist). I will also continue with the non-fiction spotlights and already have some excellent 2022 non-fiction books and authors lined up.

The remaining finalists in this category include two more non-fiction books. Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders is a (very good) writing craft book that was originally serialised at Tor.com before appearing in book form. As for why I didn’t feature it as a non-fiction spotlight, I erroneously assumed that Never Say You Can’t Survive was a 2020 book, based on the original Tor.com series (and indeed, it was on my ballot last year), and missed the fact that the book version came out in 2021 and is therefore eligible for the 2022 Hugos. Luckily, plenty of other people noticed and so we have another excellent finalist in this category.

Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism is a memoir by Elsa Sjunneson, last year’s Hugo winner for Best Fan Writer. This is another genre-related non-fiction book I did not feature, because until a few days ago I had no idea that it existed – sorry, Elsa. However, I always find Elsa’s thoughts about ableism in SFF and society very insightful and look forward to reading the book.

The final nominee in this category is the Vox article “How Twitter Can Ruin a Life” by Emily St. James, i.e. the article about the Isabel Fall “Helicopter Story” affair. I have some issues with this article, since it was used as grounds for further harassment of writers deemed responsible for the speculations about and attacks on Isabel Fall – which is neither Emily St. James’ nor Isabel Fall’s fault, but a case of harassers will harass. That said, the article itself is well researched and a lot meatier than some of the shorter essays and articles we have seen nominated in this category, so it’s certainly a worthy finalist.

Diversity count: 4 men, 3 women, 3 international writers (all of whom are Australian)

Best Dramatic Presentation Long

I expected/feared a full Marvel/Pixar/Disney sweep in this category with Dune and maybe a Zack Snyder film thrown in. Luckily, the actual ballot is more interesting and diverse, even if only one of my own nominees made it.

Denis Villeneuve’s take on Dune is of course a finalist (and IMO the favourite to win), as was to be expected. Coincidentally, Dune has now been nominated for a Hugo in five different versions, the serialisation of Dune World in 1965, the novel Dune as we know it today (which combines the serials Dune World and Dune Messiah) in 1966, the David Lynch adaptation in 1985, the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series in 2001 and now the Denis Villeneuve adaptations.

Superhero movies/TV shows in general and Marvel in particular are represented by WandaVision and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings this year. I can’t disagree with either nomination and WandaVision was also on my ballot, since it’s a case where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, so into Best Dramatic Long it went. I do find it interesting that of the four Marvel movies that came out in 2021 Shang-Chi is the one which got the Hugo nod over the massively popular Spider-Man: No Way Home, which Marvel was heavily pushing for the Oscar. But while Spider-Man: No Way Home is a lot of fun and full of fan service, Shang-Chi actually is the better movie and tells a story that is comprehensible without having watched twenty years worth of Spider-Man as well as all other Marvel movies.

The nomination for Encanto was probably inevitable, though I have to admit that the magic of the Disney/Pixar CGI animated movies escapes me, but then I’m not the target audience for those either. Encanto at least has some catchy music courtesy of Lin Manuel Miranda. And this excellent review by Arturo Serrano giving the cultural background has made me more interested in watching it.

Now we come to the two Best Dramatic Presentation Long finalists which make me really, really happy, namely The Green Knight and Space Sweepers. Both are the sort of smaller indie films that I often nominate in this category (though ironically, I nominated three other smallish indie SFF films this year, namely Ich bin dein Mensch/I’m Your Man, The Spine of Night and Last Night in Soho), but which rarely make the ballot, getting crowded out by the Marvel/Star Wars/Disney/Pixar machine on the one hand and the “big budget serious business science fiction film of the year” on the other.

The Green Knight is a visually stunning and utterly beautiful take on the Arthurian legend, which did not get nearly the attention it deserved, when it came out last year, and was completely overlooked by the Oscars as well. Some reviewers also seemed to confused that the story was quieter and somewhat meandering and there were less swordfights than expected, which made me wonder if they were familiar with the original legend at all. So I’m really glad to see The Green Knight on the Hugo ballot.

Space Sweepers is a delightful science fiction movie from South Korea about a rag-tag spaceship crew. In recent years, South Korea has established itself as a powerhouse of SFF film and TV, though so far the Hugo ballot does not really reflect it. Furthermore, films and TV shows in languages other than English still have a very hard time getting nominated for Hugos and there have only been a handful of non-English language films nominated for a Hugo, namely Last Year at Marienbad in 1963 (lost to No Award), Spirited Away in 2003 (lost to Lord of the Rings) and Pan’s Labyrinth in 2007 (won).

Of course, I hoped that the fourth non-English language film to make the Hugo ballot would be the German film Ich bin dein Mensch/I’m Your Man and I’m disappointed that one did not make it, but I’m still very happy for Space Sweepers.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make movies.

Best Dramatic Presentation Short

There are several surprises in this category. It’s also one of the most diverse Best Dramatic Presentation Short ballots we’ve seen in a long time, with episodes from six different TV series nominated and only one of them a repeat nominee. Finally, this is the first Best Dramatic Presentation Short ballot in sixteen years without a single Doctor Who episode, even though there were several eligible.

The Expanse is the only returning finalist in this category (and this will be its last year, since the series ended), represented by the episode “Nemesis Games”. I’m woefully behind with The Expanse, so I haven’t watched it yet, though I usually enjoy the show.

ETA: Juan Sanmiguel points out that 2022 is not in fact the last year that The Expanse will be eligible for a Hugo Award, because the last two episodes aired in January 2022 and will therefore be eligible next year.

Along with WandaVision, Loki was the most interesting and innovative of the Marvel Disney+ series and I’m happy to see it recognised here for the episode “The Nexus Event”. This is also the only one of my nominations which sort of made it, since I did nominate Loki, albeit a different episode.

For All Mankind is a show I just cannot connect with. A lot of people I respect like the show, but I simply have zero interest in it. US space program alternate histories seem to be popular at the moment, but one thing that annoys me about them is that a lot of them try to downplay or erase the contributions of the German rocket scientists to the US space porgram. Not sure if this show does it, but I recall seeing an early review along those lines, which set me against it. Also, if one Apple+ streaming show should have made the ballot, I think Foundation would have been a much better choice and it’s absence is baffling. Or even that post-apocalyptic show with Jason Momoa.

The Wheel of Time is a show I am a little surprised to see here, because the fanbase of the books did not seem to like the TV series all that much, plus it came out during the glut of SFF series that were released by the streaming services around Thanksgiving last year. That’s also why I haven’t watched the series yet, because it came out around a time when there were a whole lot of other SFF series that I wanted to watch more. Besides, I don’t care for the Wheel of Time books, so the series is low on the list of things I’m interesting in watching.

Finally, we have two animated series on the ballot. Now we have seen animated series on the Hugo ballot in this category before, e.g. a She-Ra episode was nominated last year and a My Little Pony episode a few years ago, and several animated films have been nominated in longform over the years, but we have never seen two animated series on the ballot in the same year. Though the animated series I was really rooting for, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, sadly did not make it.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is the one Star Trek series I don’t watch, because there simply is more Star Trek out there than I have time to watch. Plus, with animated series the animation style is very important to me and if the style puts me off – as happened with the new She-Ra – I’ll have a hard time with a series, even if I like the actual stories. And I’m not a fan of Lower Decks‘ animation style. Coincidentally, this is also the first time any Star Trek episode has been on the ballot since 2018, in spite of the fact that there is a lot of Star Trek right now.

Arcane came out during the end of the year content glut and largely passed me by. It does look interesting, though, and stylistically more up my alley than Lower Decks and I look forward to trying it.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make TV shows.

Best Editor Short

This category is a nice mix of the established and new names, all of whom do good work.

Neil Clarke, Jonathan Strahan and Sheila Williams are all names we have seen in this category several times before.

Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya are on their second nomination in this category. Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki and Sheree Renée Thomas are first time finalists in this category and coincidentally also the first black finalists in Best Editor Short ever.

Diversity count: 4 women, 3 men, 3 editors of colour, 2 international editors

Best Editor Long

Ruoxi Chen is the only new editor nominated in this category. Sarah Guan and Nivia Evans are on their second nomination, Brit Hvide on her third. Navah Wolfe (six nominations) and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (I lost count, sorry) are the relative veterans in this category.

Interestingly, this is the first time since 2013 that Patrick Nielsen has been on the Hugo ballot for Best Editor Long and the first time since 2018 that a male editor is a finalist in this category, since longform editing is heavily female nominated.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 man, 3 editors of colour.

Best Pro Artist

This used to be a category with few changes and the same few people nominated over and over again, but that has changed in recent years and so we have a nice mix of new and returning finalists in this category.

Will Staehle and Ashley McKenzie are the two new names in this category. Maurizio Manzieri, Rovina Cai, Tommy Arnold and Alyssa Winans have been nominated before in the past few years. They all do excellent work and I’m happy to see them on the ballot, particularly Alyssa Winans who is not only a great SFF artist, but also a friend.

Diversity count: 3 women, 3 men, at least 2 artists of colour, 3 international artists.

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Escape Pod, FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, PodCastle, Strange Horizons and Uncanny are all very good magazines, all of whom we’ve seen nominated in this category before.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to publish magazines.

Best Fanzine

I’m really, really happy to see Galactic Journey back on the ballot after a years of absence and not just because I write for them, but also because they do really great work.

Journey Planet is the veteran in this category, but they continue to do good work. Plus, I even had an article in issue 59 of Journey Planet.

Quick Sip Reviews has been nominated several times in this category and Charles Payseur has been steadily doing good work reviewing short fiction. Quick Sip wound down at the end of 2021, so maybe this will be their year.

The Full Lid and An Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog are both back on the ballot and I’m very happy to see them here, since they both do great work.

The one new finalist in this category and also the only one I was unfamiliar with is Small Gods. There have been some grumblings about this nomination, because while the other fanzine finalists publish reviews, essays, news pieces and discussion, Small Gods is a combination of art and microfiction.

Of course, there have been fiction fanzines nominated in Best Fanzine before, though not in the last twenty years or so, since fanfiction has moved largely onto the internet into places like AO3. And the definition of Best Fanzine does not exclude fiction.

There have also been some grumblings that Seanan McGuire is a professional writer, but then we have seen several professional writers nominated in the fan categories before. Honestly, I thought that we settled that particular issue back when John Scalzi won in 2008.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make fanzines

Best Fancast

This category tends to get a little stale with the same podcasts nominated over and over again, which is part of why I started the Fancast Spotlights. However, we have two first time finalists this year – both of whom I featured – which is nice.

Last year’s winner The Coode Street Podcast (whom I still haven’t featured) is back, as is Be the Serpent and – after a year of absence – Our Opinions Are Correct.

Worldbuilding for Masochists (featured here) was one of my favourite ballot discoveries last year and so I’m glad to see them on the ballot again.

Which brings me to the two first-time finalists in this category, Hugo, Girl! (featured here) and Octothorpe (featured here). They’re both very different podcasts – Hugo, Girl! discusses past Hugo finalists from a female POV, while Octothorpe is a traditional fanzine in podcast form and discusses primarily fandom issues – but they both do excellent work and I’m happy to see them on the ballot.

There have been some grumblings that there are no Booktube channels on the ballot this year. However, the nice thing about audio podcasts is that you can listen to them while doing something else. Also, I really haven’t been enamoured with most of the Booktube channels I’ve tried.

No diversity count, too many people are needed to make podcasts.

Best Fan Writer

Yeah, at last I’ve reached the category I’m nominated in and in most excellent company, too.

Paul Weimer and Jason Sanford were also nominated in this category last year (and Paul in 2020 as well). They both continue to do excellent work and I’m thrilled to be nominated alongside them again.

Chris M. Barkley has been active in fandom for forty-five years or so. This is his first nomination and I’m really glad to finally see him recognised.

Alex Brown has been reviewing primarily YA SFF for Tor.com, Locus and NPR for several years now and they also wrote this really nice article about Our Flag Means Death. This is their first nomination.

Chris M. Barkley and Alex Brown are also both black and – unless I’m mistaken – the first black finalists in what has traditionally been a very white category

Bitter Karella is a name that was unfamiliar to me. A bit of googling revealed that they are the person behind The Midnight Society Twitter account which many of us have been enjoying. Together with the short story nomination for “Unknown Caller” by Blue Neustifter, this is certainly a good year for Twitter fiction.

Diversity count: 1 woman, 2 men, 2 non-binary, 2 writers of colour, 1 international writer

Best Fan Artist

We have a nice mix of returning and new finalists in this category as well as a mix of different art styles and media, ranging from illustration via comics and jewellery to calligraphy.

Sara Felix, Ariela Housman and Iain J. Clark are all returning finalists in this category and continue to do excellent work.

Lee Moyer is the artist half of the duo behind the fanzine finalist Small Gods and does some striking work. Nilah Magruder mainly seems to be a comics artist and animator, though she also does covers for Uncanny.

Lorelei Esther finally does illustrations, caricatures and comics. She’s also the daughter of Gideon and Janice Marcus of Galactic Journey and also writes for the site and I’m really happy to see her work recognised.

At age 18, Lorelei is also the youngest Hugo finalist of all time, beating Robert Silverberg and 1950s fan writer Ron Smith (both aged 20 at the time of their first nomination) and fellow fan artist Sarah Webb (nominated a few weeks before her twentieth birthday).

Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, at least 1 artist of colour, 1 international artist

Lodestar

I’m not a YA reader, so Chaos on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer is the only book in this category that I’ve read and enjoyed. It’s also the sequel to the 2020 Lodestar winner Catfishing on CatNet.

Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko and The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik are both sequels to books which were nominated in this category last year. I liked Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko quite a bit and look forward to the sequel. I did not care as much about A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, because I’m very much over school or university stories, but then I’m also really not the target audience for any of these books. There is apparently some question whether A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate are really YA, but the university setting feels YA-ish, which is probably why they are up for a Lodestar.

I haven’t read A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger, but I enjoyed her 2021 Lodestar finalist Elatsoe a whole lot and am looking forward to reading it.

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders got a lot of buzz last year and I’m not at all surprised to see it nominated. Ditto for Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao, which got a lot of buzz, though I have to admit that I did not know it was YA until it made the Lodestar ballot.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 non-binary, 3 authors of colour, 1 international author

Astounding

Micaiah Johnson and A.K. Larkwood were both also nominated in this category last year and I’m happy to see them on the ballot again, because I enjoyed their work very much.

I initially assumed Tracey Deonn was a repeat finalist as well, but while her novel Legendborn was a Lodestar finalist last year, she was not an Astounding finalist, so this is her first nomination in this category.

Everina Maxwell, Shelley Parker-Chan and Xiran Jay Zhao are all first time Astounding finalists in their first year of eligibility. I enjoyed Everina Maxwell’s Winter’s Orbit a whole lot and nominated her. As mentioned above, I haven’t read Shelley Parker-Chan or Xiran Jay Zhao, but look forward to trying their work.

Diversity count: 5 women, 1 non-binary, 4 authors of colour, 3 international authors

***

And that’s it for the 2022 Hugo finalists. Personally, I think it’s a very good and diverse ballot with a mix of new names and returning favourites (though you inevitably become “the same people who are always nominated” upon your second nomination).

It’s also a ballot with several firsts. First African born black finalist, first black finalists in Editor Short and Fan Writer, youngest finalist ever. And it’s a ballot which includes finalists from five continents: Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. I don’t think there is a finalist from South America, though I haven’t googled everybody in the semiprozine, fanzine and fancast categories. I strongly suspect that there is no finalist from Antarctica on the ballot, but otherwise this is as global as the Hugos have ever been.

Once again, I don’t see a lot of strong themes on this ballot. We do have a couple of retellings on the ballot, but they’re not as prominent as they were a few years ago.

Who’ll win? We’ll see in early September.

I’ll keep the comments open for now, but if things get rude or people start fighting each other, I reserve the right to close them.

*I define “international” as a writer/creator living outside the US. If we include writers who are first or second generation immigrants, there would be several more. I’ve also stopped counting LGBTQ+ finalists for the diversity count, because it’s very difficult to tell, since not everybody is out.

Finally, apologies if I have accidentally misgendered or otherwise misidentified someone.

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3 Responses to Some Thoughts on the 2022 Hugo Finalists

  1. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 4/14/22 The Golden Age Of Pixel Scroll Is Fifth | File 770

  2. Msb says:

    Thanks for this roundup, Cora, and hearty congratulations on your well deserved nomination. Voting this year looks like a tough job.
    I’m so grateful for people like you, who read, watch and listen to enough SFF to nominate works for the Hugo ballot. I read mainly novels, in a variety of genres, so I rely on the Hugo noms to highlight things that I might enjoy but haven’t got to yet. (The stellar examples of that being Ancillary Justice and The Goblin Emperor.) Thanks so much for enabling me to learn from your labors, particularly by highlighting Related Works. (And good luck!)

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