Friday, May 9, 2014

Hugos and Nebulas and Locuses (Oh, my!) has begun flogging it's Hugo Award nominees on Twitter, which has reminded me that award season has come again to the Fantasy and Science Fiction community.

Merit, or course, goes a long way toward determining the nominees and eventual winners. However, as with any awards process where money is on the line, politics and promotion come into play. A work with well-organized backers and/or publishers advocating for it has a marginal edge over those that do not.  This doesn't mean that PR trumps quality. However, shaping expectations and keeping the spotlight on a particular work can cause it to stand out in the minds of the electors. 

Then there is the matter of the collective literary taste of the pool of electors.  The electors of the Hugo, for example, are the membership of the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) tend to nominate works that appeal to the popular readership.  The Nebula, in the other hand, is awarded by the Science Fiction Writers of America, who tend to reward works that appeal to its smaller community of writers.

Consequently, while there is some degree of overlap in the award nominees, there is less continuity across award sites than one might expect.  However, I've found that continuity, when it does occurs, is often an indicator of stand-out quality and broad appeal across the F&SF community.  As a result, one of my favorite pass times when the nominees are announces is to look for commonality among the nominee lists.  My primary awards for this purpose are the Hugo and the Nebula, awarded respectively by the WSFS and SFWA membership. To that I add the Locus (almost as venerable as I am), awarded by that magazines readership.  

This year is interesting in that not a single novel appears on all three nomination lists.  Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK) is up for both the Locus and Hugo, Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Morrow; Headline Review) was nominated for the Locus and Nebula, and Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice (Orbit US/Orbit UK) is in play for both the Hugo and Nebula.

None of the Short Story nominees for the Locus appear on the nomination list for either the Hugo or the Nebula. However two stories in the category, Selkie Stories Are for Losers, by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons 1/7/13) and  If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love, by Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13) appear on both the Hugo and Nebula lists.

Things get interesting, however, when we turn to the Best Novella and Best Novelette categories.  Among the novellas, Wakulla Springs, by Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages ( 10/2/13) and Six-Gun Snow White, by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean) appear as nominees for all three awards.  Likewise, Aliette de Bodard's novelette, The Waiting Stars (from The Other Half of the Sky) is up for all three awards under Best Novelette.  

I've noted in the last few years that these two shorter forms have been showing quite well. I'm also seeing a number of names in those categories that seem to specialize in middle-length forms. It seems that the digital shift to avenues for publishing and content distribution are making these forms more viable for authors and available to readers resulting in a higher profile for this form. It's interesting watching how the various publishing houses are responding to these changes. Tor, in particular, seems to be at the front of the pack when it comes to showcasing Novellas and Novelettes as stand-alone works.  

There are a number of works here I haven't read yet, so I'm pleased to have some new adds to my reading list. Enjoy the awards season.  Save me some champagne, and I'll see you at the after-parties.

-John Popham

1 comment:

  1. Ancillary Justice won the Clarke award here in the UK. I've read it. It's worth it. Pure sci-fi with a heavy dose of thought. Then again, the Clarke award was in a little trouble after last years showing....