Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1990

The 1990 Hugo Awards were presented in ConFiction in the Hague, Netherlands, and I would have been there—I had a supporting membership—but I was extremely pregnant at the time and couldn’t make it. However, I did vote for the first time. And in the novel category, I voted for the winner, which was Dan Simmons’s Hyperion (post). Hyperion is the kind of book the Hugos were made for, the kind of book that needs to be celebrated. It’s a mosaic novel, some pilgrims traveling to the planet Hyperion tell their stories, and in the process of telling the universe is revealed. The stories are in different SFnal styles, and although the book has no resolution it’s all the better for that. There are sequels, which do explain things, and which I don’t like. Hyperion, considered alone, is a whole thing and a masterpiece. It’s in print, and in the Grande Bibliotheque of Montreal (hereafter “the library”) in English and French.

There were four other nominees and I’ve read them all.

George Alec Effinger’s A Fire in the Sun is the first sequel to 1989’s nominee When Gravity Fails. It’s another terrific book, but it’s definitely a sequel and I’m not sure how well it would stand alone. It’s in print and in the library in English and French.

Orson Scott Card’s Prentice Alvin is the third of his Alvin Maker books, and the third of them to be nominated for a Hugo, over three successive years. I liked it less than the first two. It’s in print and in the library in English and French.

Poul Anderson’s The Boat of a Million Years is about immortals living through all of history in the hope of eventually voyaging to the stars. There’s a lot of cool history in the book, and interesting speculation about what it would be like to keep on living while everyone around you ages and dies. I really liked it, and voted it second after Hyperion. It’s in print, and in the library in English only.

Sherri Tepper’s Grass is a book I wanted to like, but couldn’t. I had generally enjoyed Tepper up to this point, and I enjoyed several of her later books, but I found Grass impossible to engage with and now I’m finding it hard to remember. There was an unusual planet and aliens who were right and a “Dark they were and Golden Eyed” vibe, or was that the sequel, Raising the Stones? And a plague I think, spreading between the stars? I’d read it again but I do remember having trouble getting into it, and that’s the kiss of death for me. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English only.

So, four men and one woman, all American although the con was in Europe. Two novels of multi-planet civilizations, one noir Islamic future Earth, one historical science fiction and one historical fantasy.

All right then—what else might they have chosen?

I wrote about 1990 once before, from a slightly different angle—looking some panel reports from the Hague about contemporary feelings about the nominees, and other books of the day. That post from two years ago is in some ways the beginning of this series, but it’s also quite different.

SFWA’s Nebula Award went to Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s The Healer’s War, which as a 1988 book wouldn’t have been eligible for the Hugo—SFWA’s rules on this were completely incomprehensible to ordinary mortals until they were rationalised by John Scalzi a couple of years ago. The only other non-overlapping eligible nominee is John Kessel’s Good News From Outer Space.

The World Fantasy Award was won by Lyonesse: Madouc by Jack Vance. Other nominees were Carrion Comfort, Dan Simmons (wasn’t he having a good year!) A Child Across the Sky, Jonathan Carroll, In a Dark Dream, Charles L. Grant, Soldier of Arete, Gene Wolfe, The Stress of Her Regard, Tim Powers.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award went to Geoff Ryman’s The Child Garden, a totally wonderful book that expands the boundaries of SF. It should have been a Hugo nominee. I don’t understand why Ryman is so underrated when he’s so brilliant. Second place is K.W. Jeter’s Farewell Horizontal, and third is the Kessel.

The Philip K. Dick Award was given to Richard Paul Russo’s Subterranean Gallery. Special commendation was Dave Wolverton’s On My Way to Paradise. Other nominees: Being Alien, Rebecca Ore, A Fearful Symmetry, James Luceno, Heritage of Flight, Susan M. Shwartz, Infinity Hold, Barry B. Longyear.

The Locus SF Award went to Hyperion. Other nominees not yet mentioned: # Rimrunners, C. J. Cherryh (post), Tides of Light, Gregory Benford, Rama II, Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee, Falcon, Emma Bull, Phases of Gravity, Dan Simmons, The City, Not Long After, Pat Murphy, Imago, Octavia E. Butler, A Talent for War, Jack McDevitt, The Third Eagle, R. A. MacAvoy, Buying Time (UK title The Long Habit of Living), Joe Haldeman, Homegoing, Frederik Pohl, Out on Blue Six, Ian McDonald, Orbital Decay, Allen Steele, Sugar Rain, Paul Park, Eden, Stanislaw Lem, Dawn’s Uncertain Light, Neal Barrett, Jr., Black Milk, Robert Reed, On My Way to Paradise, Dave Wolverton, The Renegades of Pern, Anne McCaffrey, The Queen of Springtime (US title The New Springtime), Robert Silverberg.

I like Rimrunners, and I like Falcon and Imago and A Talent for War but it’s not a howling injustice that they’re not Hugo nominees.

The Locus Fantasy Award went to Prentice Alvin. Other nominees not already mentioned: Rusalka, C. J. Cherryh (look, I love Cherryh but this is a very depressing book) Dream Baby, Bruce McAllister, White Jenna, Jane Yolen, Sorceress of Darshiva, David Eddings, Tourists, Lisa Goldstein, The Fortress of the Pearl, Michael Moorcock, The Stone Giant, James P. Blaylock, Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett,  Snow White and Rose Red, Patricia C. Wrede, A Heroine of the World, Tanith Lee, Marianne, the Matchbox, and the Malachite Mouse, Sheri S. Tepper, Ars Magica, Judith Tarr, Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light, Tanya Huff, Apocalypse, Nancy Springer, Queen’s Gambit Declined, Melinda Snodgrass, Arthur, Stephen R. Lawhead, The Coachman Rat, David Henry Wilson, Tours of the Black Clock, Steve Erickson,  The Cockroaches of Stay More, Donald Harington.

Looking at their First Novel listing I see Rosemary Kirstein’s The Steerswoman (post), Doris Egan’s Gate of Ivory (post).

The Mythopoeic Award was given to Tim Powers The Stress of Her Regard. Other nominees not yet mentioned were Patricia McKillip’s The Changeling Sea and Matt Ruff’s Fool on the Hill.

Anything they all missed? The ISFDB gives me Walter Jon Williams’s Angel Station (post), Daniel Keys Moran’s The Long Run.

So I think this is another year where the Hugo nominees are looking pretty good for the best five books of the year.

Other Categories


  • “The Mountains of Mourning”, Lois McMaster Bujold (Analog May 1989)
  • The Father of Stones, Lucius Shepard (WSFA Press; Asimov’s Sep 1989)
  • “Time-Out”, Connie Willis (Asimov’s Jul 1989)
  • “Tiny Tango”, Judith Moffett (Asimov’s Feb 1989)
  • “A Touch of Lavender”, Megan Lindholm (Asimov’s Nov 1989)

Again, a terrific bunch of novellas. I voted for the Lindholm, the Willis and the Moffett in that order. I hadn’t seen the Shepard or the Bujold yet. Novellas, where SF really shines.


  • “Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another”, Robert Silverberg (Asimov’s Jun 1989; Time Gate)
  • “At the Rialto”, Connie Willis (The Microverse; Omni Oct 1989)
  • “Dogwalker”, Orson Scott Card (Asimov’s Nov 1989)
  • “Everything But Honor”, George Alec Effinger (Asimov’s Feb 1989; What Might Have Been? Vol. 1: Alternate Empires)
  • “For I Have Touched the Sky”, Mike Resnick (F&SF Dec 1989)
  • “The Price of Oranges”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Apr 1989)

My votes were Silverberg, Kress, Willis and I remember agonising over that order.


  • “Boobs”, Suzy McKee Charnas (Asimov’s Jul 1989)
  • “Computer Friendly”, Eileen Gunn (Asimov’s Jun 1989)
  • “Dori Bangs”, Bruce Sterling (Asimov’s Sep 1989)
  • “The Edge of the World”, Michael Swanwick (Full Spectrum 2)
  • “Lost Boys”, Orson Scott Card (F&SF Oct 1989)
  • “The Return of William Proxmire”, Larry Niven (What Might Have Been? Vol. 1: Alternate Empires)


  • The World Beyond the Hill: Science Fiction and the Quest for Transcendence, Alexei Panshin & Cory Panshin (Jeremy P. Tarcher)
  • Astounding Days, Arthur C. Clarke (Gollancz; Bantam Spectra)
  • Dancing at the Edge of the World, Ursula K. Le Guin (Grove)
  • Grumbles from the Grave, Robert A. Heinlein (Ballantine Del Rey)
  • Harlan Ellison’s Watching, Harlan Ellison (Underwood-Miller)
  • Noreascon Three Souvenir Book, Greg Thokar, ed. (MCFI Press)

I voted for the Le Guin only, as I hadn’t read any of the others.


  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • The Abyss
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen
  • Batman 
  • Field of Dreams

Grump, grump, mutter, mutter. I voted “no award” and I will this year too.


  • Gardner Dozois
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Beth Meacham
  • Charles C. Ryan
  • Stanley Schmidt

I’m sure I voted for Gardner, because not only did I love Asimov’s and buy every issue I could find, but I adored his Year’s Best books. But Beth Meacham is a terrific editor, and she’s never had a Hugo in all this time.


  • Don Maitz
  • Jim Burns
  • Thomas Canty
  • David A. Cherry
  • James Gurney
  • Tom Kidd
  • Michael Whelan


  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • Interzone, David Pringle
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction, Kathryn Cramer, David G. Hartwell & Gordon Van Gelder
  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew Porter
  • Thrust, D. Douglas Fratz

I voted NYRoSF first, trusting that the subsequent issues were all as good as the first one, and Interzone last because it was so irritating living in a country where that one very narrow vision was the only SF magazine.


  • The Mad 3 Party, Leslie Turek
  • File 770, Mike Glyer
  • FOSFAX, Timothy Lane
  • Lan’s Lantern, George “Lan” Laskowski
  • Pirate Jenny, Pat Mueller


  • Dave Langford
  • Mike Glyer
  • Arthur D. Hlavaty
  • Evelyn C. Leeper
  • Leslie Turek

It just occurred to me for the first time that Dave Langford must have been paid for his reviews in White Dwarf and they weren’t fanwriting at all. Oh well.


  • Stu Shiffman
  • Steve Fox
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Merle Insinga
  • Joe Mayhew
  • Taral Wayne


  • Don Maitz, Cover of Rimrunners (by C. J. Cherryh; Warner Questar)
  • Gary Ruddell, Cover of Hyperion (by Dan Simmons; Doubleday Foundation)
  • Michael Whelan, Cover of Paradise (by Mike Resnick; Tor)
  • James Gurney, Cover of Quozl (by Alan Dean Foster; Ace)
  • Michael Whelan, Cover of The Renegades of Pern (by Anne McCaffrey; Ballantine Del Rey)
  • James Gurney, Cover of The Stress of Her Regard (by Tim Powers; Ace)


  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Nancy A. Collins
  • John Cramer
  • Katherine Neville
  • Allen Steele

Rusch is an obviously terrific winner, she has been significant in the field as a writer and an editor, she’s still writing and still being nominated for awards. Definitely a good choice. I voted for her on the basis of her first novel, An Alien Light which had great aliens.

Allen Steele was also a great nominee and would have been a very good winner. His first novel Orbital Decay had just come out, but I’d only read some short things in Asimov’s. He has gone on to have a solid career as a hard SF writer, and he’s still writing and being nominated for awards.

Nancy A. Collins is a horror writer, I don’t know much about her, but she has had a successful career and is still around, so probably a good nominee even if not my thing—I really don’t like horror.

John Cramer and Katherine Neville are completely unknown to me. Locus suggests that Cramer had a couple of novels in 1990 and 1991. Wikipedia tells me that Neville is a mainstream writer of adventure thrillers.

In a year where Rosemary Kirstein, Tanya Huff, Doris Egan, Teresa Edgerton, Josepha Sherman and Matt Ruff all had first novels and were likely eligible, it seems like the Campbell was nodding.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.


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