Sunday, August 18, 2019

Hugo 2019 Results: My Ballot versus Reality

Today I watched the 2019 Hugo Award Ceremony, which was streaming on the Hugo Awards website.  (I watched from home in Chattanooga. The ceremony took place in Dublin.)

Last month I wrote some posts about my Hugo ballot (here, here, and here).  So, how did I do picking winners?

Not too great.  You can see the full list of winners here or, if you want the full math nerd version, see here.  Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!

My votes for the #1 spot only matched the actual winners in two cases: Best Novel for The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal and Best Art Book for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin.

I tend not to pick a lot of Hugo winners, which is fine.  The real winner is fandom itself.  (Okay, that's kind of cheesy, but not all together inaccurate).

Rather than comment on each category, here's a list of observations.

  • I picked the winner for Best Novel, which I thought seemed most like a Hugo winner.  Apparently so did most of my fellow Hugo voters.  I half-expected Becky Chambers's Record of a Spaceborn Few to win for Best Novel, since she has a lot of fans, but it came in third (Chambers won for Best Series, though, so she can't be too disappointed).  Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver was second.  I feel like I missed a memo about that one.  Or maybe it just wasn't my thing.  I'm a bit disappointed that Space Opera came in sixth, but in retrospect that was probably a novel I wanted everybody to love more than they were going to.  Oh, well.
  • My top pick for Best Novella (Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor) came in fifth, which was a bit of a surprise.  Maybe this wasn't the best of the Binti novellas, or maybe people just don't like Binti as much as I do.  I'm also a bit puzzled that P. Djèlí Clark didn't do better both here and in the short story category (although he was in second place there). I'm not really surprised that Martha Wells won for Best Novella. Those Murderbot novellas are pretty damned entertaining.  It's nice to see Aliette de Bodard come in second.  I'm looking forward to checking out more of her stuff.
  • I was really impressed with almost everything in the Novelette and Short Story categories this year.  I put “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho at my #4 spot, but I'm not at all upset it won.  I'm a bit surprised my #1 pick ("When We Were Starless" by Simone Heller) came in at #6.  I found that story quite moving listening to the audio version.  Even the novelette I didn't personally care for ("The Only Harmless Great Thing" by Brooke Bolander) was something I could appreciate as good work.  Honestly, I think Novelette was my favorite overall category this year.  Great stuff.
  • I'm not surprised that “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow won for Best Short Story.  It has a lot going for it, but there was an issue that rubbed me the wrong way about it (a bit of a white savior complex).  I don't know if this issue is enough to make me mad about the results, especially because I otherwise really liked the story.  I'm surprised Sarah Gailey's "STET" only got third place.  I thought that was a pretty brilliant way to tell a story.  I was glad that Clark's “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" was in second place, although I put it in first.
  • I've never personally been a fan of or really understood the appeal of fan fiction.  But am I surprised that the massive fan fiction site Archive of our Own won for Best Related Work by a pretty large margin?  Not at all. I'll be honest.  Fan fiction is one of those elements of fandom where I have had to train myself not to be a dismissive asshole.  It's not my thing.  I'm usually content to let characters sit where their creators leave them.  But I do really appreciate the communal nature of the enterprise and the ways it gets fellow fans involved.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll dip into it one of these days.  So while I'm a little bummed that Archive of our Own beat out my top two picks, Ursula Le Guin and Jo Walton, overall I think this may be a good thing for broadening fandom and making it more welcoming.
  • I was pretty late to the party on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. I just saw it last month, and I enjoyed it despite this universe's over-abundance of Spider-Man movies.  But I'm a little surprised it beat out Black Panther, Annihilation, and (my #1 pick) Sorry to Bother You in the Best Long Form Dramatic Presentation category.  Okay, I never really thought Sorry to Bother You would win, but I love its bold weirdness.  Apparently most Hugo voters felt otherwise.  Also, what's up with Annihilation coming in at #4? I would've thought one of the most interesting science fiction movies of recent years could at least beat out another Avengers movie.  But most Hugo voters apparently looked for other things in this category.
  • I didn't really think Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer would win for Best Short Form Dramatic Presentation, but I thought it would be fun to give the award to something a little different by a robotic musical genius.  Alas, most Hugo voters felt differently.  I do love The Good Place and "Janet(s)" is one of my favorite episodes (a student did a presentation on it in one of my classes!).  If we can't give the award to Janelle Monáe, then I'm pretty happy with this result.  Also, The Expanse at #2 ... good job there.
  • I don't have much to say about the remaining categories.  Although I put it at #3, I'm pleased that Uncanny won for Best Semiprozine.  There's a lot of great stuff happening in that category.  I'm particularly excited to see more from Fireside and FIYAH: Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction.

Bonus content!  Some highlights from the live stream of the ceremony!
  • Jeannette Ng, upon winning the Campbell Award, called out Campbell himself for setting a fascist tone for SF and explained her excitement in being part of making the genre "wilder and stranger than his mind could imagine or allow" (see her tweet version here; I'm sure a video will be floating around soon).  
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, upon winning as the guest editor for Uncanny's "Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction," spoke about making a place for disabled people in the genre. 
  • Co-host of the ceremony, Afua Richardson, gave a musical performance in honor of the great Nichelle Nichols as well as her grandfather.  
  • Mary Robinette Kowal's award for the first Lady Astronaut novel was presented by real life astronaut Dr. Jeanette Epps.

So there you have it!  Now let's get started on reading for the 2020 Hugo Awards!

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