I am and probably always have been something of a book awards geek. When it comes to SFF, I have a particular soft spot for the Hugo Awards. Although they’re not the only SFF awards out there, they definitely have a prominent place in the field. The 2019 finalists have now been announced and I have thoughts!
Of the Best Novel category, I have only read Spinning Silver, which I loved. I have a bunch of complicated thoughts about the genre of story it’s a part of, but the actual book itself was absolutely one of my favorites from last year. I have read and loved the first two books in Yoon Ha Lee’s series but didn’t actually finish Revenant Gun. Space Opera I tried and bounced off pretty hard, but I know it has a loving fanbase. I’ll be really curious to see what the winner is in this category!
Interestingly, I’ve read more of the Best Novella finalists. The Binti trilogy is astounding and lovely, so of course I’d be really pleased if Okorafor won. And you all probably know how I feel about Murderbot (I love it in a way that would really displease the actual, you know, Murderbot.) The Black God’s Drums is a fine novella, but I felt it was a bit hampered by lack of space in the format. Of the other nominees, I’ve read the earlier novellas in the Wayward Children series but not Beneath the Sugar Sky; I’ve heard really great things about The Tea Master but have not picked it up yet; Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach somehow passed completely under my radar. Interesting to note that Tor.com’s novella line has once again almost completely dominated this category!
I have only read The Only Harmless Great Thing out of the Best Novelette category. It’s a dark, beautiful, radiant gut punch of a story and I’d be pleased if it did win. However, I do also love Zen Cho’s writing, and need to check out the other finalists asap.
I haven’t read any of the Best Short Story nominees (maybe I will manage to get myself in gear with regards to short story reading soon??).
Of the Best Series finalists, I am by far most invested in the Machineries of Empire, since I’m a longtime Yoon Ha Lee fangirl and am very pleased that the trilogy has been a hit. I know October Daye is a staple of the urban fantasy genre, although I bounced off of it. And I’m aware that Aliette de Bodard and Becky Chambers are both writing some interesting SFF, although I haven’t read enough of their series to feel really on board with them at this moment.
But then we come to Best Related Work, and oh, beloveds! What an interesting set of finalists we have this year. First, there is AO3, whose inclusion here I totally support and which I would love to see win! I’ve already broken down my thoughts about its importance and place in SFF in a Twitter thread here, so I won’t repeat myself at length. But suffice it to say that AO3 absolutely has a place as both platform and work itself. There’s also The Hobbit Duology, which I haven’t seen in its entirety but which is a great examination of The Hobbit movies and what went wrong with them from a female fan (which imo feels really important when it comes to Tolkien Discourse). I’m not super familiar with The Mexicanx Initiative, but from what I know it is a really fascinating way to document a fan experience from voices that are often marginalized. Then, of course, you have Jo Walton writing about the Hugos and Ursula K Le Guin writing about writing, which seem like they have a nostalgic nerd cachet. I would love for AO3, The Mexicanx Initiative, or The Hobbit Duology to win; while I love both Jo Walton and UKL, I would also like to see some newer voices recognized here.
Sometimes the Hugos are fun as a way to demonstrate just how far behind I am in certain categories. This definitely includes Best Graphic Story! I have to say that if you’re not a Brian K Vaughan fan (I’m not, sorry everyone), it can feel a bit like he’s dominating the SFF graphic novel lineup. But I’m pleased to see a nod for Tillie Walden, and the other finalists seem like solid picks.
I’ve seen a lot more of the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form finalists than I sometimes do. I’m really curious about the winner here; although I love Black Panther and Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse, like, a whole lot, I’d also be pleased if Annihilation won.
I’m going to skip over a couple of awards here, because I don’t have much to say about them and/or they’re for personal professional excellence. The Best Art Book (a 2019 only award) seems like a super cool idea and I’ll be curious to see what the results are. I do love Julie Dillon’s work a lot.
So now we have arrived at the Lodestar, which is the newish YA award. The slate of nominees generally seems pretty solid: The Belles, Children of Blood and Bone, The Cruel Prince, Dread Nation, Tess of the Road. Then there’s The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin, who looks like a local Irish author. I have never heard of the book, which is the second in a series, and I’m…well, let’s just say that I suspect that the local angle + possibly a small voting pool for the Lodestars is the reason it’s on the finalist list. It’s probably a fine book! But also! I’ll be very curious to see the data on nominations when it comes out. Of these, I’ve read all but The Invasion and would be happy to see any of those I’ve read win, although the book of my heart is absolutely Tess of the Road and I will happy-cry-scream if it does get the award. Anyway, I am still fascinated/defensive/nervous about the longterm history and effect of this award and how it will play out in the future.
I’m skipping the Campbell Award, because it’s also for a specific person. So that concludes my thoughts on the 2019 Hugo Finalists. Of course because it’s the Hugos, it tends towards broadly popular names with some recognition behind them already. I understand why this frustrates people sometimes, but that is quite literally the nature of a popular fan-based award like this one! I have a few strong opinions about specific categories, but generally feel pleased with the finalists as a whole.
Do you have thoughts? Let me know!