The 2014 Hugo Awards

Back in April when the final ballot nominees for the Hugo Awards were announced, I talked a bit about them an encouraged anyone who might be interested to get a Worldcon membership, download the voter’s package, read as many of the nominated works as possible, and vote for your favorites. I also said that I would be reading and critiquing and commenting. In reality, all I did was some reading, and then I voted. (Not quite my most epic fail, but it does give me something to improve on next year.)

Yesterday the Hugo Awards winners were announced at Loncon3 in London. You can find a list of the winners here. In general, I was very pleased with the winners and the ceremony, which I watched online. (You can watch it here — getting an account is free.)

A few comments, if I may, more or less off the top of my head:

First, it was wonderful to see so many women being recognized for their work in the field. Women won eight of the fourteen non-dramatic-presentation categories, plus Sofia Samatar won the John W. Campbell Award For Best New Writer (not a Hugo Award) (*). Best Fan Artist (Sarah Webb), Best Profession Artist (Julie Dillon), Best Fan Writer (Kameron Hurley), Best Editor Long Form (Ginjer Buchanan), Best Editor Short Form (Ellen Datlow), Best Related Work (Kameron Hurley), Best Novelette (Mary Robinette Kowal), and Best Novel (Ann Leckie).

Isn’t it great to see that better than half of the awards went to the gender that makes up over half of the population? Not that there ever should be any kind of requirement for a strict 1:1 ratio or quota, of course. The best work should always win, regardless of whether it was written by a man or a woman. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, and if anyone brought it up they would be looked at funny, as in, “Why could that possibly matter?”

But it’s not a perfect world, and women have been fighting an uphill battle in science fiction and fantasy literature forever, just as they have in all other fields of literature, and in all other fields of employment, and in just about every other aspect of society. Especially with some of the terrible misogynistic bullshit that’s gone down this year in both fandom and in the professional ranks (**) it’s good to see some pushback and some positive recognition of the contributions women are making to the genre.

Secondly, it was fantastic to see Randall Munroe win the Best Graphic Story award for his XKCD comic, “Time.” XKCD is consistently intelligent, wonderful, amazing, clever, delightful, and sometimes able to bring me to tears at the drop of a hat. For me, this category was a slam dunk, and the voting results (here) confirm that XKCD was a runaway winner in the category.

Thirdly, I was very happy to see the two winners in the Best Dramatic Presentation categories. For the Long Form, “Gravity” won, as I had hoped it would. I could have seen “Frozen” taking it on a big vote from that demographic (my daughters are still gushing over it), or “Pacific Rim” taking it on a big vote from that demographic (people like Grant Imahara and Adam Savage from “Mythbusters” and Wil Wheaton gushing over it). To me, not only was “Gravity” a better film than the other nominees, but it was a better science fiction film, despite some of the factual quibbles from NASA astronauts. It’s incredible that 1950’s science fiction has become today’s reality, and now today’s reality feeds back to be the basis of today’s science fiction. This movie was the closest the general public has come to actually being in space and I think it deserves every award it can get.

In the Short Form, as always, the category was dominated by Doctor Who episodes and specials. Three of the five nominees were Doctor Who related, along with an “Orphan Black” episode (I hear the show is wonderful, but haven’t seen it yet) and a “Game Of Thrones” episode. Surprisingly, to me at least, especially with the convention in London and a heavily British membership and vote, the “Game Of Thrones” episode won. The episode in question is both one of the best and one of the most gut wrenching in the series, which is saying quite a bit given some of the brutality in the plot and the incredible body count of primary characters. I was worried that the very disturbing events of that particular episode might turn the voters off, but not so.

Fourth, I was thrilled to see Mary Robinette Kowal win the Best Novelette award for “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.” She’s wonderful, the story’s wonderful, and it was a well-deserved win, especially after the story was nominated last year and then pulled from the ballot on a technicality. I’m glad that they found a way to get around that issue and get the story qualified for this year. Once it was on the ballot, it was another instance where I figured it was the story to beat in the category.

Fifth, Ann Leckie’s win for “Ancillary Justice” as Best Novel was what I considered to be a Very Good Thing. “Parasite” by Mira Grant is great and I love Mira’s (Seanan McGuire’s) work. The fact that the entire “Wheel Of Time” set of seventeen humongous novels got nominated was a huge surprise, and the series has a bajillion fans, so I thought it had a chance to win. Charles Stoss has won in the past (this year’s Best Novella and 2005’s) and has had novels nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, so it wouldn’t have been a huge surprise if he won. But having said all of that, everyone and their cousin had been gushing over how great “Ancillary Justice” was. I’m glad it won.

Sixth, there was a fair amount of controversy (***) about a couple of this year’s nominees, how they got on the ballot (legally, but perhaps unconventionally), why they got on the ballot, and who the nominated writers were. One nominee might have been collateral damage in the other group’s “mission from god,” but I haven’t read his novels (nor do I intend to) so can’t offer an informed opinion. The main character in all of this brouhaha is a really unpleasant individual who doesn’t write very well at all, but most importantly, has some truly vile and disgusting points of view. It was with a great deal of pleasure that I saw that not only did his nominated work not win, but it finished so far down in the voting that it actually lost to the “No Award” option. I think that’s the only the second time that’s ever happened. It couldn’t have happened to a more worthy story or author.

Finally, the webcast of the ceremony was very well done. The last two years have had problems, primarily when the Best Dramatic Presentation nominees were read. The names of the nominees are usually accompanied by a clip from the TV show or movie, and this has repeatedly caused copyright “bots” on the internet to shut down the webcast for presumed copyright violations, despite the fact that the clips have been obtained with full rights to use them at the awards ceremony and on the broadcast. Whether it was as a result of that or not, this year there were no clips and the webcast was clear, solid, stable, with good audio. As for the show itself, it seemed to move right along and for the most part do a very good job. In particular, the segment which displayed a video scroll with the names of deceased fans and people related to fandom (for example, astronaut Scott Carpenter, author Tom Clancy, and actor Robin Williams) was very moving and well executed.

All in all, it was a great show and a wonderful slate of winners. I enjoyed watching it. Now it’s time to start reading and getting ready for next year’s nominations and awards in Spokane. (Remember, rates go up September 1st!)

Maybe we’ll see you there?

(*) – For those who don’t know, this award has been given out for over forty years, is nominated and voted on along with the Hugo Awards, is presented along with the Hugo Awards, but it’s always mentioned about a hundred times throughout the process and at the awards ceremony that it is “not a Hugo Award.” This is now sort of like the thing they read in the middle of every baseball broadcast about, “The pictures and accounts of this game are the property of [insert team here] and any rebroadcast, reproduction, dissemination, or other use  without the express, written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly prohibited” — only SF&F fans are a bit more snarky about it.

(**) – If you don’t know what I’m talking about and are curious, ask and I’ll be more than happy to jump into the fray and tell you where to look for the grisly details. It’s something I’m pretty passionate about.

(***) – Again, if you don’t know and are curious, I can point you in the right direction. I would caution against actually reading anything by this guy or any of his minions. Every time I do, I feel the strong need for a shower, a stiff drink, and something to restore my faith in humanity.

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