Hugo Nominees for 2021

Bick

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2021 Hugo Awards Finalists

BEST NOVEL

  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com)
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com)
  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
  • The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)
BEST NOVELLA
  • Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)
  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tor.com)
  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tor.com)
  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com)
  • Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)
BEST NOVELETTE
  • “Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine,May/June 2020)
  • “Helicopter Story”, Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
  • “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2020)
  • “Monster”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
  • “The Pill”, Meg Elison (from Big Girl, (PM Press))
  • Two Truths and a Lie, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com)
BEST SHORT STORY
  • “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020)
  • “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan (Solaris))
  • “Little Free Library,” Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com)
  • “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020)
  • “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. David Steffen)
BEST SERIES
  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor Books)
  • The Lady Astronaut Universe, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books/Audible/Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tor.com)
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)
BEST RELATED WORK
  • CoNZealand Fringe, Claire Rousseau, C, Cassie Hart, Adri Joy, Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan, Alasdair Stuart.
  • FIYAHCON, L.D. Lewis–Director, Brent Lambert–Senior Programming Coordinator, Iori Kusano–FIYAHCON Fringe Co-Director, Vida Cruz–FIYAHCON Fringe Co-Director, and the Incredible FIYAHCON team
  • “George R.R. Martin Can f*ck Off Into the Sun, Or: The 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)”, Natalie Luhrs (Pretty Terrible, August 2020)
  • A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, Lynell George (Angel City Press)
  • The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny Nicholson (YouTube)
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The Hugo's really seem like a broken award, to me. I don't think I'll bother to vote, despite being a member. If the award win for 'Best Related Work' goes to a blog piece that hurls profanity at GRRM (and it surely will), it will be particularly disappointing. If you vote, who will you vote for?
 

dask

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Except for Martin and Butler in the last category (as part of a title only) the only author whose name is familiar (though I haven’t read anything by him) is John Scalzi.
 

Bick

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No, indeed.
My chagrin is based on several things:
  • The rude and obnoxious beat-up of GRRM, seemingly condoned and endorsed by the Worldcon organisers;
  • The complete lack of anything from the best short-story publishers we all know and enjoy, i.e. nothing from any of Asimov's, Analog, or F&SF. My own recent reading of both the new e-zines and the old print magazines tells me the established print mags publish, on average, the better work. So, where is it?
  • Every single author here in the main 4 categories is female or ticks a 'diversity' box. Perhaps white men have become poor at writing SFF? This seems unlikely, given this demographic manages to get quality SFF stories published in all the top magazines every single month - I guess Sheila Williams and co. haven't a clue what they're doing?
Now, on an individual basis, I have nothing against any of the authors nominated this year, and good luck to them. I expect they're all happy to be on the ballot. Maybe their stories or books were great, too, though I don't know as I've not read them. But I can't help feeling the list reflects a clear bias against of anyone who doesn't fit the diversity zeitgeist (which culls white male authors, basically) and it doesn't sit well.

Now, I know some will come on here and say one of two things: (a) if you don't like what's nominated you should have voted for something else, and (b) given this derives from a popular vote how can it be 'rigged'?

Well, to answer those thoughts:

(a) I did vote, though none of my nominations are here. There are thousands of short stories, hundreds of novellas, etc., published each year. The chance of any particular story I happen to nominate being selected by enough other people to place it in the top 5 of the list is tiny. Which brings us to:

(b) It's not 'rigged' exactly, but it is also not representative. This has occurred through the way it's set up. Only by some organisation (through e-zine forums, particular author suggestions to their fans, and social media posts of 'those who shout loudest') does anything get enough votes in the initial ballot to get on the short list. There's a certain subset of agitated Worldcon members who are very keen to have stories (and a message) they like, dominate the awards. A further factor also has considerable influence: free e-zines are read by many, as they're free (funnily enough). These e-zines are generally very PC, liberal and champion diversity (I'm not suggestion these are bad things per se). And these are read by many, being free, and so stories from these zines get on the lists. The old print magazines are not free, and they publish just the best SFF that is submitted to them. They are less diverse I would say, but they are higher quality, though subscriptions are falling. Given you have to pay to subscribe they get less exposure to the public and fewer stories get votes in initial nominations. Hence the skewed list.

Incidentally, did you notice that every story in the novella category is from Tor.com? Hmm. You do wonder what Williams and Quachri must think. I feel rather sorry for them.
 

Ursa major

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I am not familiar with almost anything on the list, but I did like "The Mermaid Astronaut."
Unusually for me, I've already** read two of the nominated series -- Scalzi's The Interdependency and Wells's The Murderbot Diaries (which is due to expand this month with the addition of a new novella) -- the latter meaning that I've read the novel, Network Effect, as well as another Hugo nominee in that category, Piranesi.

Note that I have no vote, but with WorldCon being held in December, I might have a chance of reading a few more of the nominated novels. (Series are a different matter....)
 

Werthead

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  • The rude and obnoxious beat-up of GRRM, seemingly condoned and endorsed by the Worldcon organisers;

It has been noted that the blog post and its title actually violate WorldCon's Code of Conduct (which prevent the insulting of convention attendees or WSFS members, including specifically telling them to F-off or not come to a convention), and this has been raised with the convention organisers.

  • The complete lack of anything from the best short-story publishers we all know and enjoy, i.e. nothing from any of Asimov's, Analog, or F&SF. My own recent reading of both the new e-zines and the old print magazines tells me the established print mags publish, on average, the better work. So, where is it?

All of the work came from Tor.com, and is very easily available in a variety of ways. The older methodology, of focusing on magazines aimed at older readers principally solely based in the United States, is seen as old-fashioned by the younger and up-and-coming generation of SFF fans. I don't think there's much more to it than that.

  • Every single author here in the main 4 categories is female or ticks a 'diversity' box. Perhaps white men have become poor at writing SFF? This seems unlikely, given this demographic manages to get quality SFF stories published in all the top magazines every single month - I guess Sheila Williams and co. haven't a clue what they're doing?

I hope similar criticism was forthcoming in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2009 (this century alone) when male-only shortlists were presented, despite high-quality work by female authors being clearly available for those years.

The simple fact is that in 2020, the highest-quality books most frequently mentioned, discussed and debated were by female authors. There wasn't a complete dearth of quality books by men - Mike Carey's Koli trilogy (published in a single year) and Kim Stanley Robinson's Ministry for the Future among them - but when you looked across the places where SFF books are discussed in significant numbers - Goodreads, Reddit and so forth - the most heavily-discussed novels were pretty much those on the shortlist, plus several more by female authors: Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia in particular.

If there was a major work of SFF by a male author that didn't make the shortlist despite clearly being worthy, that would be one thing, but that does not appear to be the case this year.
 

Bick

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It has been noted that the blog post and its title actually violate WorldCon's Code of Conduct (which prevent the insulting of convention attendees or WSFS members, including specifically telling them to F-off or not come to a convention), and this has been raised with the convention organisers.
That's good to hear. Shame the WorldCon organisers didn't check their CoC before publishing the list. Hopefully it will get chucked off.

I hope similar criticism was forthcoming in 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2009 (this century alone) when male-only shortlists were presented, despite high-quality work by female authors being clearly available for those years.
I have a couple of difficulties with this argument you propose supporting the lists. Firstly, it seems to be saying "It might be biased or unrepresentative, but that's okay, because it was biased and unrepresentative in the past in a different way". Secondly, there were women deservedly on the ballots in all of those years. Indeed, Connie Willis won Best Novella in 2006, three of the five Best Novella nominees were women in 2008, and in 2009, Nancy Kress won Best Novella, and Elizabeth Bear won Best Novelette. So I'm not sure the point stands up does it? Or were you only referring to novels? I wasn't - my comments were directed at the overall complexion of the nominees across the major categories. 2020 may have been a stellar year for women in novels. My concern over the lists is less the presence of nominated novels by current female talent (I'm quite a fan of Martha Wells, for example), its more about the complete absence of anything across the major categories by authors who don't seem to meet some sort of diversity tick-box.
 

pogopossum

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I've read three of the five series mentioned (Wells, Scalzi & Koval). Liked all, although I did have to stagger through the last volume of Koval. Would have liked to see Taylor's Bobiverse, although it's hard to argue the superiority of something over books that you haven't read. Wish that Stross, Laundry qualified, but after losing a couple of years ago and I think insufficient new stuff since, he does not qualify as I understand the rules. (And if I misunderstand, his latest is also his weakest)

The argument re constituencies is difficult. I used to subscribe to or see three hard copy mags on a regular basis. In my dotage I no longer do so.
I wonder how generally this is true hence the access, particularly to TOR and Clarkesword, leading to online dominance. Old line fans used to read lotsa mags. New ones do much less so. But all voters (after you pays yer dues) are equal. So this is similar to King Canute trying to hold back the waves. Sad, but them's the rules.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
in my understanding the convention can’t remove anything that has received enough votes to be nominated - the constitution would need to be changed to do so. as to the female only: Werthead has nailed it. Why is there an assumption that it cant be on merit when it was never questioned when men gain all the nominations.
 
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Bick

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when it was never questioned when men gain all the nominations.
Several things to unpack here:
  • When exactly did men get all the nominations? I can't think of any year in modern times when this happened.
  • It was questioned that men got more than their fair share of nominations (if you go back at least a decade) and lots of people did complain about it (quite rightly perhaps) and things changed. If that was worthy of comment and complaint then (and most of us would reasonably say it was), why it is inappropriate or untenable to question what is seen by many as bias now? Is bias only recognised in relation to some demographics and not others?
  • I have not made any assumptions regarding the quality of the pieces nominated. And I've made it pretty clear my lack of comfort with the lists and the mechanics behind nominations resides predominantly with the shorter fiction.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Are you certain that is the case if the piece in question clearly breaks Hugo rules regarding Code of Conduct?
Nope. That’s why I said in my understanding - it’s being unpicked at the moment as far as I can tell. We’ll see what happens.

as to the other Werthead has already given years as examples.
 

Bick

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I can’t see what the problem is, tbh. There are other awards for those who don’t like the Hugos.
Sure. I listed and explained what my main beefs were, and you don't agree, and that's completely fine - we're here to discuss SFF which is a common interest. Perhaps you're fine with the egregious attack on George Martin and the complete lack of representation from the three top magazines in the genre? Does the existence of other awards mean I shouldn't engage in discussion of Hugo's? My bad. They were the pre-eminent award in the genre, so I'm interested in discussion of them.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Sure. I listed and explained what my main beefs were, and you don't agree, and that's completely fine - we're here to discuss SFF which is a common interest. Perhaps you're fine with the egregious attack on George Martin and the complete lack of representation from the three top magazines in the genre? Does the existence of other awards mean I shouldn't engage in discussion of Hugo's? My bad. They were the pre-eminent award in the genre, so I'm interested in discussion of them.
You’re reading an awful lot into things I haven’t said.
 

Bick

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You’re reading an awful lot into things I haven’t said.
Not really - you just said you had no problem with the Hugo's in the prior post, so I questioned if you were really ok with those two things. Let's drop it, eh? I acknowledge your right to whatever opinion you want, its not less valid than mine, but we're clearly coming at this from different perspectives and each trying to discuss different things.

Anyone else have any thoughts on the list?
 

tachyon

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I've never been a con person or an awards person and don't really know how nebulas and hugos and other things work so I can't comment on whatever is or isn't right with how they're running this.

Also I don't read much short fiction anymore, I generally stick with novels at the moment though I used to pick up Asimov's and F&SF at shops when I saw them.

Of this list I've read or started reading a goodly few of the novels.

Best Novel:
  • I've started Black Sun but I'm more interested in SF currently so put it down for the time being - I have a feeling I'll enjoy it when I get back into the fantasy mood.
  • I liked The City We Became but not as much as the Broken Earth books by Jemisin, I haven't read her Inheritance books.
  • I loooved Gideon the Ninth, primarily for the voice and the character of Gideon. Harrow the Ninth was a slog for me and I've put it down for now. Not a DNF yet - I'll have another go at it but I'm not sure I'm the audience for it.
  • Haven't read Network Effect yet but I love Murderbot. I've read the first 2 novellas and want to finish the rest of them before I read the novel.
  • Piranesi is on my TBR, I am a huge fan of Strange & Norrell, so I am looking forward to this despite what I hear about it being a Very Different book.
  • The Lady Astronaut books never really appealed because the first book seemed like alt history which I generally don't care for, though it seems The Relentless Moon is more SF space opera. I might have to have another look at the series.
Of these I'd vote for Network Effect probably because Murderbot is such a gem despite not having read the thing yet.

Novellas:

Haven't read any of these.

I find McGuire's work hit-or-miss. I've liked several and DNF'd a couple of her books. Empress of Salt and Fortune is on my TBR. I'm a fan of Onyebuchi and Clark but haven't read these novellas. I've never really liked any of Gailey's work that I've read. Haven't heard of Cipri before.

Novellete & Shorts:

I haven't read any, outside my general interest, no comment.

Series:
  • I read the first Daevabad book and liked it well enough but didn't feel compelled to finish the series.
  • I've read the Interdependency series in full twice, (it was better the first time through...) A fun romp of a space opera.
  • See above re the Lady Astronaut books.
  • See above re the Murderbot books (love u Murderbot love u).
  • See above re McGuire, I haven't read this particular series.
  • I read the first Poppy War book and the sequels are on my TBR but I've been more interested in other things and haven't gotten around to them.
Of these MURDERBOT. (Interdependency 2nd choice.)

Overall I don't find anything objectionable about these, I've read many of them and read the author if not the particular work listed of the majority (of the long form at least.)

2 books that deserve more recognition that I read last year are both I think ineligible because they were first published in 2019, however both have sequels that were eligible (both on my TBR) and perhaps will be eligible for next year as completed series.

RJ Barker's The Bone Ships was a standout fantasy in every way I can think of, worldbuilding, characterization, plot, writing, pacing, dialogue, etc. I can't say enough good things about this book. I will get to the sequel once I'm back in a fantasy mood.

I re-read Evan Winter's The Rage of Dragons to get ready for the sequel The Fires of Vengance and will get to that probably next month. This was another of my favorite reads in the last year.

Would have liked to see one or both of these authors on the ballot.

ETA: Another for best series, Karmeron Hurley's Worldbreaker Saga. Epic in scope, brutal and sincere, highly original. Final book The Broken Heavens was 2020 so I assume would make this eligible.
 
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tachyon

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Feeling like I should figure out how the awards things work so I can help get the books I like properly recognized but it feels like work! I have responsibilities! I want to read in my free time not work a campaign.
 

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