Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1993

The 1993 Hugo Awards were given in ConFrancisco in San Francisco. The novel award was a tie, Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep (post), and Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book (post). A Fire Upon the Deep is galactic science fiction, a book sizzling with ideas and alien names and characters and adventures. Doomsday Book is about time travel and disease — a quieter book altogether, and one focused on character and history. I really like both of them.

There have only been three ties in Hugo novel history — Zelazny and Herbert, Vinge and Willis, and last year’s Bacigalupi and Mieville. One of the reasons I started to write this series is because Mike Glyer on File 770 said “history has broken the tie between Willis’ and Vinge’s novels.” This astonished me, and made me decide to revisit the Hugos in the light of history, starting right in the beginning when they really are history. Because for me, the tie between Vinge and Willis definitely hasn’t been broken, and certainly not in Willis’s favour as Glyer believes. These are two genuinely great books, and they have remained poised neck and neck through time in their very different excellences. I’m sure there are people who don’t like one or other of them, and even people who don’t like either of them, but I feel that the two of them between them display the best the genre has to offer in its depth and diversity. People are always saying to me “What one book should I read?” and I am always growling ungraciously that no one book can do it, you need a cross section. Two isn’t enough either. But if you read both A Fire Upon the Deep and Doomsday Book and consider that science fiction readers gave them both our highest accolade in the same year, you might get the idea.

They’re both in print. The Vinge is in the library in English only, and the Willis is in the library in French and English. (“The library” for this week is played by the Grande Bibliotheque as usual.)

And it was a brilliant year even apart from them.

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

Maureen McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang (post) was a first novel and a paperback original. It’s a mosaic novel set in a Chinese-dominated near future communist USA. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’m delighted to see nominated. I picked it up because of the nomination. I wasn’t voting that year, but I saw the nominees in Locus and wondered about this and picked it up to see, liked the beginning and bought it. And it’s wonderful. It won the Tiptree award and the Lambda. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars is a huge book about people who live for a very long time terraforming Mars. I didn’t like it, but I recently realised that the reason I didn’t like it was because I liked Icehenge so much that I prefered that vision and couldn’t really focus on this story. I need to read it again and be fair to it. But even not liking it, it’s a good nominee — it’s an ambitious SF book that’s using up to date science and telling a story that couldn’t be told any other way. It’s in print and in the library in French and English.

John Varley’s Steel Beach is perhaps the weakest of the nominees. It’s set in a retconned version of his Eight Worlds stories (post), and it’s about a journalist on the moon. It has an excellent and much quoted first line. I wanted to like it, but I found it unsatisfying and overlong. It’s not in print and it’s in the library in French only.

So, three men and two women, all Americans. One far future space opera, one time travel, one near future Earth, two middle distance solar systems. What else might they have picked?

SFWA’s Nebula Award went to the Willis. Non-overlapping nominees were Jane Yolen’s chilling Briar Rose, John Barnes’s masterpiece A Million Open Doors (post) and Karen Joy Fowler’s Sarah Canary. Any of these would have been a good Hugo addition, and I really think the Barnes should have made it.

The World Fantasy Award was given to Tim Powers Last Call. Other nominees not previously mentioned were Anno Dracula, Kim Newman, Photographing Fairies, Steve Szilagyi, Was, Geoff Ryman.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award was awarded to Charles Sheffield’s Brother to Dragons. Second place was Sherri Tepper’s Sideshow, with Vinge third.

The Philip K. Dick Award was given to Through the Heart, Richard Grant with a special citation for In the Mothers’ Land, Élisabeth Vonarburg. Other nominees were Æstival Tide, Elizabeth Hand, Iron Tears, R. A. Lafferty, Take Back Plenty, Colin Greenland. This is a consistently interesting award that often turns up things where nobody else is looking.

The Tiptree went to McHugh. Other nominees not mentioned so far were Correspondence, Sue Thomas, Lost Futures, Lisa Tuttle, Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream, Judith Moffett, Venus Rising, Carol Emshwiller.

The Locus SF Award went to Willis. Other nominees not mentioned yet were: The Hollow Man, Dan Simmons, Anvil of Stars, Greg Bear, Chanur’s Legacy, C. J. Cherryh (post), Mars, Ben Bova, The Memory of Earth, Orson Scott Card Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson, Worlds Enough and Time, Joe Haldeman,  Crystal Line, Anne McCaffrey, Count Geiger’s Blues, Michael Bishop, Hellburner, C. J. Cherryh (post), Aristoi, Walter Jon Williams (post), Labyrinth of Night, Allen Steele, Mining the Oort, Frederik Pohl, Lord Kelvin’s Machine, James P. Blaylock, Hearts, Hands and Voices (The Broken Land), Ian McDonald, Jaran, Kate Elliott (post), Glass Houses, Laura J. Mixon, A Deeper Sea, Alexander Jablokov, Alien Earth, Megan Lindholm.

And here we see the difference between “books I really like” and “books I think are good.” I adore Jaran and Hellburner, and I don’t really like Snow Crash, but I actually gasped when I saw that it was here and hadn’t been nominated for a Hugo or a Nebula, because like it or not, I do think it was one of the most significant books of the year.

The Locus Fantasy Award was won by Last Call. Other nominees not previously mentioned were The Spirit Ring, Lois McMaster Bujold, A Song For Arbonne, Guy Gavriel Kay (post), Winds of Change, Mercedes Lackey, The Magicians of Night (UK title Magicians of the Night), Barbara Hambly, The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan, Domes of Fire, David Eddings, Small Gods, Terry Pratchett, Last Refuge, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, The Cutting Edge, Dave Duncan, A Sudden Wild Magic, Diana Wynne Jones, The Gypsy, Steven Brust & Megan Lindholm, Forest of the Night, S. P. Somtow, Flying in Place, Susan Palwick.

The Mythopoeic Award was won by Briar Rose. Nominees not yet mentioned were Susan Schwarz’s Grail of Hearts and James Blaylock’s The Paper Grail.

So with all these awards was there anything that was overlooked? Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite, Greg Egan’s Quarantine, Terry Pratchett’s Only You Can Save Mankind (post) (we give Hugos to YA now, even if we wouldn’t have thought of it then), Harry Turtledove’s Guns of the South (post) and Debra Doyle and James Macdonald’s The Price of the Stars.

This is a year where I remember thinking at the time how exciting the nominees were, and yet now I can’t understand how Snow Crash isn’t on the ballot. I’m sure I read Snow Crash because everybody was talking about it. But maybe it was one of those books where word of mouth took time to build, because I read Snow Crash because everybody was talking about it in 1994. I’m also sorry A Million Open Doors didn’t make it, not just because it’s a terrific book but also because I’d then have discovered Barnes with a good book instead of Mother of Storms. I think it’s also possible to argue that Briar Rose and Last Call could well have made the list. So on the whole I am slightly less happy with this list than I was in 1993, but I still think it’s pretty good — a good view of where the field was, with some omissions. Great winners. And China Mountain Zhang.

Other Categories


  • “Barnacle Bill the Spacer”, Lucius Shepard (Asimov’s Jul 1992)
  • “Protection”, Maureen F. McHugh (Asimov’s Apr 1992) 
  • Stopping at Slowyear, Frederik Pohl (Pulphouse/Axolotl; Bantam Spectra) 
  • “The Territory”, Bradley Denton (F&SF Jul 1992) 
  • “Uh-Oh City”, Jonathan Carroll (F&SF Jun 1992)

I’d have voted for the McHugh, which still gives me chills thinking about it. But the Shepard is also very good.


  • “The Nutcracker Coup”, Janet Kagan (Asimov’s Dec 1992) 
  • “Danny Goes to Mars”, Pamela Sargent (Asimov’s Oct 1992) 
  • “In the Stone House”, Barry N. Malzberg (Alternate Kennedys) 
  • “Suppose They Gave a Peace…”, Susan Shwartz (Alternate Presidents) 
  • “True Faces”, Pat Cadigan (F&SF Apr 1992)


  • “Even the Queen”, Connie Willis (Asimov’s Apr 1992) 
  • “The Arbitrary Placement of Walls”, Martha Soukup (Asimov’s Apr 1992) 
  • “The Lotus and the Spear”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Aug 1992) 
  • “The Mountain to Mohammed”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Apr 1992) 
  • “The Winterberry”, Nicholas A. DiChario (Alternate Kennedys)

I’ve never been all that excited by “Even the Queen.”


  • A Wealth of Fable: An Informal History of Science Fiction Fandom in the 1950s, Harry Warner, Jr. (SCIFI Press) 
  • The Costumemaker’s Art, Thom Boswell, ed. (Lark) 
  • Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth, Camille Bacon-Smith (University of Pennsylvania Press) 
  • Let’s Hear It for the Deaf Man, Dave Langford (NESFA Press) 
  • Monad: Essays on Science Fiction #2, Damon Knight, ed. (Pulphouse) 
  • Virgil Finlay’s Women of the Ages, Virgil Finlay (Underwood-Miller)


  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: “The Inner Light” 
  • Aladdin 
  • Alien 3
  • Batman Returns
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bah, humbug.


  • Gardner Dozois 
  • Ellen Datlow 
  • Beth Meacham 
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch 
  • Stanley Schmidt


  • Don Maitz 
  • Thomas Canty 
  • David A. Cherry
  • Bob Eggleton 
  • James Gurney


  • Dinotopia, James Gurney (Turner) 
  • Ron Walotsky, Cover of F&SF Oct/Nov 1992 
  • Michael Whelan, Cover of Asimov’s Nov 1992 
  • Jim Burns, Cover of Aristoi (by Walter Jon Williams; Tor) 
  • Michael Whelan, Cover of Illusion (by Paula Volsky; Bantam Spectra)


  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew Porter
  • Interzone, David Pringle 
  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction, David G. Hartwell, Donald G. Keller, Robert K. J. Killheffer & Gordon Van Gelder
  • Pulphouse, Dean Wesley Smith

Not Locus. Odd.


  • Mimosa, Dick & Nicki Lynch 
  • File 770, Mike Glyer 
  • FOSFAX, Timothy Lane & Janice Moore
  • Lan’s Lantern, George “Lan” Laskowski 
  • STET, Leah Zeldes Smith & Dick Smith


  • Dave Langford 
  • Mike Glyer 
  • Andy Hooper 
  • Evelyn C. Leeper 
  • Harry Warner, Jr.


  • Peggy Ranson
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Merle Insinga 
  • Linda Michaels 
  • Stu Shiffman 
  • Diana Harlan Stein


  •  Laura Resnick
  • Barbara Delaplace 
  • Nicholas A. DiChario 
  • Holly Lisle
  • Carrie Richerson 
  • Michelle Sagara

Laura Resnick was nominated on the basis of some excellent short work. She has since gone on to write a large number of well-received fantasy and paranormal romance novels, with more books due out this year.

Barbara Delaplace and Michelle Sagara were discussed last week in their first year of eligibility.

Nicholas DiChario had also published short work only at the time of his nomination. He has gone on to have a quiet career publishing SF novels and short stories, he has been a finalist for the Campbell Memorial Award twice.

Holly Lisle’s first novel Fire in the Mist had just come out at the time of her nomination. She has gone on to have a successful career publishing fantasy and paranormal romance novels, alone and with co-authors ranging from Marion Zimmer Bradley to S.M. Stirling.

Carrie Richerson had published some well received short stories, and has gone on publishing short work but has not had a very visible career.

Other people who might have been eligible for the Campbell this year include Susan Palwick, Stephen Gould, Maureen McHugh, Poppy Z. Brite and Maya Kaathryn Bornhoff.

If we had a Hugo for best first novel instead, it would be much easier to compare like with like and to know what was eligible. But on the other hand, it might blight the prospects of astonishingly brilliant first novels that would otherwise make the main Hugo ballot — like this year’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, last year’s The Windup Girl, or indeed China Mountain Zhang and Neuromancer, if people nominated them only as best first novel and not for the novel Hugo.

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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