Funny Thing About the Hugos

The 59th annual Hugo Awards were presented last week at LoneStarCon in San Antonio Texas. The award for Best Novel went to former SFWA President John Scalzi’s Redshirts and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer went to Mur Lafferty, presumably on the weight of The Shambling Guide to New York City. Now, the Hugos are decided by public vote, so there is a certain shift in the base of judges every year but, nonetheless, these selections are noteworthy.

The 59th annual Hugo Awards were presented last week at LoneStarCon in San Antonio Texas. The award for Best Novel went to former SFWA President John Scalzi’s Redshirts and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer went to Mur Lafferty, presumably on the weight of The Shambling Guide to New York City. Now, the Hugos are decided by public vote, so there is a certain shift in the base of judges every year but, nonetheless, these selections are noteworthy.

Particularly, it’s interesting that the two most prominent awards both went to works of humour. If I’m not mistaken, this marks the first time that the Hugo for best novel has ever gone to an unambiguously comic work.

Humour and science fiction are old bedfellows. Isaac Asimov was a great believer in the comic and, though his more acclaimed works aren’t known for being particularly funny, he also penned a great number of jokes, limericks, and bawdy songs. Later Douglas Adams would embrace absurdist comedy in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which has gone on to become one of the most popular science fiction series ever published. Too often, however, these works have been complimented backhandedly as “fun,” implying that they cannot also be “serious.”

That Redshirts has been selected as the best novel of the year, beating out weighty works like Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 is a strong statement that science fiction fans are either embracing their chosen genre as something fun or, my theory, recognizing that, in a literary tradition founded on equal parts starry-eyed optimism and biting social critique, outwardly playful works of satire can’t be easily disregarded.

Okay, maybe the fun theory has some merit too.

2013 Hugo Best Novel Nominees (Photograph by Philip Peterson, via whatever.scalzi.com)

When Forbes magazine endorses a novel by saying that “You don’t have to be a hardcore sci-fi fan to enjoy Redshirts ,” and The Guardian then quotes them in a wink-nudge fashion to criticize the novel for not being sci-fi enough, the game becomes difficult to untangle. Should we hate it for trying to please, or love it for being approachable? Science fiction has spent a lot of decades struggling with exclusionist tendencies, and it’s easy to feel that if people who aren’t in the club appreciate it, then it doesn’t count.

This is perhaps nowhere more keenly felt than in the Best Dramatic Presentation category of the Hugo Awards. In the last two decades, the film industry has taken a dramatic shift, driven largely, I imagine, from a desire to show off ever-cooler CGI, towards science fiction blockbusters. Major studios put out film after film for mainstream audiences that are set in science fictional worlds. And so, whereas the Best Dramatic Presentation award was once a forum for recognizing difficult films like Sleeper, A Clockwork Orange and Slaughterhouse Five, it now rolls out the carpet for megahit juggernauts like Inception and The Avengers.

Of course, Inception and The Avengers are both excellent films. And Redshirts is an excellent book. Humour and action are making science fiction mainstream, and seeing the walls of the SF ghetto crumbling is of far more value than any notional value from hanging on to a cliquish sense of import.

Below is the full list of 2013 Hugo Award winners and nominees.

Best Novel

  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi (Tor)
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW)
  • Blackout, Mira Grant (Orbit)

Best Novella

  • The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit)

Best Novelette

  • “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
  • “In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
  • “Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
  • “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)

Best Short Story

  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)

Best Related Work

  • Writing Excuses Season Seven, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson
  • Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them, Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who, Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge University Press)
  • I Have an Idea for a Book … The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg, Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)

Best Graphic Story

  • Saga, Volume One, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
  • Grandville Bête Noire, written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
  • Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • The Avengers, Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
  • The Hunger Games, Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
  • Looper, Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”, Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)
  • Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”, Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Fringe, “Letters of Transit”, Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
  • Doctor Who, “Asylum of the Daleks”, Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who, “The Snowmen”, written by Steven Moffat; directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Sheila Williams
  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Jonathan Strahan

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Toni Weisskopf
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Lou Anders
  • Liz Gorinsky

Best Professional Artist

  • John Picacio
  • Dan dos Santos
  • Julie Dillon
  • Chris McGrath
  • Vincent Chong

Best Semiprozine

  • Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker
  • Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams and Stefan Rudnicki
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Jed Hartman, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Abigail Nussbaum, Sonya Taaffe, Dave Nagdeman and Rebecca Cross
  • Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore and Michael Damian Thomas
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews

Best Fanzine

  • SF Signal, edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester
  • The Drink Tank, edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
  • Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
  • Banana Wings, edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
  • Elitist Book Reviews, edited by Steven Diamond

Best Fancast

  • SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
  • SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
  • StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)

Best Fan Writer

  • Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Steven H Silver
  • Christopher J. Garcia
  • Mark Oshiro
  • James Bacon

Best Fan Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Maurine Starkey
  • Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Mur Lafferty
  • Stina Leicht
  • Chuck Wendig
  • Max Gladstone
  • Zen Cho

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