The Hugos: Let’s Get Ready to Nominate!

It’s award season! Currently, the Hugo committee is accepting nominations, from eligible voters, for the finalist list of the 2018 Hugos. I’m an eligible voter.

The Hugos are complicated! Seriously, there is a voting system that employs ranking rather than “one person, one vote.” Nominating has changed this year, too, although not in a way that’s complicated at this end. I can nominate five works in each category. However, the final ballot will hold six finalists. This difference is built it to slow down the kind of ballot-loading that went on in 2015 and 2016.

During the final vote, I don’t just vote for my favorite one each category; I rank them from one to six. “No Award” is a choice. I can say, “Nope, nothing in this category is worth a Hugo this year,” and vote for No Award as number one. No Award can, and has, taken the most votes in a category in the past.

Right now, though, is the nomination phase. There are so many categories, including television shows, movies, “best related work” in the field of science fiction and fantasy, best short story editor, best novel editor, best pro artist, best fan artist, best fanzine (FanLit’s category), and this year Best Series. Whew! And I left off the most obvious ones; best novel, best novella, best novelette and best short story.

I don’t read a lot of shorter works, although I do read some. I have a pretty good idea what my Five Best Novels published in 2017 are going to be, so I’ll start there. (In some cases I’m linking to my reviews at Fantasy Literature because I don’t want to repeat myself.)

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett. I will also nominate this trilogy, The Divine Cities for best series, even though he’s up against N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series.

The Divine Cities is a different take on so-called “second world” fantasy. From the first book, City of Stairs, we were in a newly industrialized world facing issues of racism, colonialism, war, aftermath, and deicide. City of Miracles is, in many ways, the hardest one to read. It’s slower, we share the deep grief of a character who has been a secondary character in the previous two, as he comes to grips with how the trauma of loss in his life has played out. We watch characters treat children like commodities, and we see families crumble, to reassemble based less on blood and more on affinity. And we see miracles. There is no way this is a standalone book, but it is a great book. If you start now you could finished all three before August, when the Hugos will be announced.

The Beautiful Ones, by Silvia Moreno Garcia, is a lovely, sweet romantic fantasy with telekinesis. It has the feel of an early nineteenth century French novel, with a villain we completely understand, even if we dislike her intensely. Moreno Garcia has a gift for tone and she nails it here; the magic is important, but she uses it at the end in a way I did not expect.  This is not my kind of book at all. I picked it up because I like the author. I was delighted by this book and it remains one of my best reads of 2017.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gergory. The biggest stumbling block to recommending Spoonbenders is describing it. It’s a period piece; a comedy about a family of psychics in the late 1990s; it’s about astral projection and telekinesis and psychic powers; it’s a caper book with a coming of age story and a couple of love stories. You see the problem. It’s one of the best books I read in 2017.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle. LaValle created a contemporary dark fairytale horror story that encompasses so much. New parents, the fear and exhilaration of parenthood, racism, social media, trolls, giants, witches, books… I could go on. It’s a no-brainer for a nomination.

Of course I’ll nominate The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin. The final book of her Broken Earth trilogy delivered the backstory we needed, the resolution we craved and, probably broke our hearts (it broke mine a couple of times). Her world-building is wonderful in this series, but it is her characters I remember. There are no easy ways out from the problems created in this civilization; there is going to be pain, but at the end there might be justice and love.

The Broken Earth is also eligible to be nominated in the Best Series category, but Jemisin has asked that people not do that. She points out that the first two books each won a Hugo for best novel; she doesn’t feel that she needs the trilogy to get a second bite at the apple. I see her point; if The Stone Sky wins, it wins on its own merits, so to speak, but if the series wins, then two of those books will have two Hugos for what is, basically, the same story. It’s something the Hugo committee is going to have to work on as Best Series evolves.

As much as I loved Nnedi Okorafor’s “Binti: Home,” I probably won’t be nominating it for Best Novella. Binti: Home is the middle novella of three linked stories. Binti: “The Night Masquerade” which came out in 2018 is brilliant. I liked “Binti: Home” a lot; I just didn’t think it was as good. I haven’t read many other 2017 novellas this year, so I’ll wait and see what the final ballot brings us. I’m making a private bet with myself that “River of Teeth” by Sarah Gailey will be on there, and a strong favorite.

The October 2017 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction had a melancholy short story I loved. It was called “On Highway 18” by Rebecca Campbell. There is a supernatural element to the story, but it isn’t cutting edge SF. Instead, it is a thoughtful character study about being a teenager, about freedom and fear, and nostalgia. I will be nominating it. It’s kind of a “manifesto” gesture, but it’s also true that I loved the story.

I will comb through the stories we reviewed to see if anything stands out. I read a lot of shot fiction this year, more than previous years. Almost none of them stay with me.

So much more! “Best show, short form,” means a single episode of a series. “Long form” means a movie, but I will have to see The Shape of Water before I nominate it. As for editors… I simply don’t know.

If you know of any great artists, pro or fan, please let me know. I will probably nominate Brian Fies for “A Fire Story.” (Artists don’t have to be connected with a work to be nominated). Other than that… send me your recommendations.

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