Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1999

The 1999 Hugo Awards were presented at Aussiecon Three, in Melbourne, Australia. The best novel winner was Connie Willis’s time travel romp To Say Nothing of the Dog (post) a book I like a great deal and an excellent winner. Willis is a master of the screwball comedy, and here she’s working with wonderful material like Victorian England, cats and dogs living together, jumble sales, and the significance of art and love on history. It’s in print, and it’s in the library (the Grande Bibliotheque as usual) in English and French.

There were four other nominees, and I’ve only read two of them.

I haven’t read Mary Doria Russell’s Children of God because I hated The Sparrow, to which it is a direct sequel. I should have no opinion on whether it was a good Hugo nominee, as I haven’t read it, but one spoiler I heard for it made me feel really glad it didn’t win. It’s theological SF. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English and French.

I haven’t read Robert J. Sawyer’s Factoring Humanity because I wasn’t very excited by The Terminal Experiment. (I’d have read it if I’d been going to vote in 1999, which is not true of the Russell.) It appears to be a near future technothriller about SETI. It’s in print and in the library in English and French.

Robert Charles Wilson’s Darwinia is not the book I was looking for. It has an absolutely fantastic premise — in 1910, Europe suddenly disappears and is replaced by a weird jungle continent, and the rest of the world goes on, baffled. It’s beautifully written, as is the case for all Wilson. But where he goes with Darwinia struck me as much less interesting than a straightforward exploration of the premise would have been. My reaction to Darwinia was to immediately seek out all Wilson’s previous novels and to buy all his subsequent books on sight, but I’ve not read it again. The very fact of its Hugo nomination means that for lots of other people it was the book they were looking for, so I think on balance it was a good nominee. It’s well written and thought provoking SF in any case. It’s in print and it’s in the library in English and French.

Bruce Sterling’s Distraction is another excellent nominee. It’s a brilliant near-future political thriller, funny, clever and fast moving, one of Sterling’s best. I’d have voted for it above the Willis. But it’s a book that’s all about American politics. I wonder if it would have done better at a US Worldcon? It’s in print and in the library in English only.

So, three men and two women, three Americans and two Canadians, all SF: one time travel, one theological space opera, one near future technothriller, one near future political SF novel and something that looks like an alternate history that turns out to be much weirder. What else might they have chosen?

SFWA’s Nebula Award was won by last year’s Hugo winner, Haldeman’s The Forever Peace. Other eligible nominees were Martha Wells’s Death of a Necromancer and Jack McDevitt’s Moonfall.

The World Fantasy Award was won by The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich. Other nominees were The Martyring, Thomas Sullivan, Mockingbird, Sean Stewart (post) which would have been an excellent Hugo nominee, Sailing to Sarantium, Guy Gavriel Kay (post) and Someplace to Be Flying, Charles de Lint.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award went to George Zebrowski’s Brute Orbits, with Poul Anderson’s Starfarers second, and Distraction third.

The Philip K. Dick Award was given to by Geoff Ryman’s 253 (post). The special citation was Paul di Filippo’s Lost Pages. Other nominees were Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, Paul J. McAuley’s The Invisible Country, and Steve Aylett’s Slaughtermatic. The Dick Award never fails to turn up interesting things from where nobody else is paying attention.

The Locus SF award was won by the Willis. Other nominees not previously mentioned: The Alien Years, Robert Silverberg, The Golden Globe, John Varley, Cosm, Gregory Benford, Parable of the Talents, Octavia E. Butler, Ports of Call, Jack Vance, Dinosaur Summer, Greg Bear, Six Moon Dance, Sheri S. Tepper, Maximum Light, Nancy Kress, Moonseed, Stephen Baxter, Komarr, Lois McMaster Bujold (post), Mission Child, Maureen F. McHugh (post), Vast, Linda Nagata, Child of the River, Paul J. McAuley, Deepdrive, Alexander Jablokov, Girl in Landscape, Jonathan Lethem, Otherland: River of Blue Fire, Tad Williams, Earth Made of Glass, John Barnes, The Children Star, Joan Slonczewski, Bloom, Wil McCarthy, Noir, K. W. Jeter, Prisoner of Conscience, Susan R. Matthews, Kirinya, Ian McDonald, The Cassini Division, Ken MacLeod, The Shapes of Their Hearts, Melissa Scott.

Some really good books — I think Mission Child would have been a great Hugo nominee, and so would Parable of the Talents or The Cassini Division. Any one of these three in place of the Russell would make me feel much happier about this slate.

The Locus Fantasy Award was won by A Clash of Kings, which wasn’t Hugo eligible because it was published the year before. Other nominees not previously mentioned were: Stardust, Neil Gaiman (post), Heartfire, Orson Scott Card, Fortress of Eagles, C. J. Cherryh, Newton’s Cannon, J. Gregory Keyes, Song for the Basilisk, Patricia A. McKillip, Dragon’s Winter, Elizabeth A. Lynn, Prince of Dogs, Kate Elliott, Dark Lord of Derkholm, Diana Wynne Jones, The One-Armed Queen, Jane Yolen, Changer, Jane Lindskold, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, Pamela Dean, The Gilded Chain, Dave Duncan, The Innamorati, Midori Snyder, Bhagavati, Kara Dalkey, The Book of Knights, Yves Meynard, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (US title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), J. K. Rowling (Bloomsbury; Scholastic/Levine 1998).

It’s funny to see the first Harry Potter book way down there at the end of the list!

The Mythopoeic Award was given to Stardust. Other nominees not yet mentioned were The High House, James Stoddard, The History of Our World Beyond the Wave, R. E. Klein.

With all these awards was there anything that hasn’t been mentioned yet? Every week I think there can’t possibly be, and every week it turns out to be worth dredging through the ISFDB’s unintuitive interface and making my eyes cross. This week there’s Julie Czernada’s terrific alien shapeshifter novel Beholder’s Eye, James Alan Gardner’s Committment Hour (post) and China Mieville’s King Rat.

While this year’s nominees are not my five favourite books of the year, nor the five books I’d have nominated for a Hugo, they are a pretty good representation of where the field was and what people were excited about in 1999. There are good books that didn’t make it, but there are always good books that don’t make it — there’s nothing that really fills me with horror at the injustice of it being skipped over. So a pretty good year on the whole, even if I do wish Children of God wasn’t up there.

Other Categories.

NOVELLA

  • “Oceanic”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Aug 1998)
  • “Aurora in Four Voices”, Catherine Asaro (Analog Dec 1998)
  • “Get Me to the Church on Time”, Terry Bisson (Asimov’s May 1998)
  • “Story of Your Life”, Ted Chiang (Starlight 2)
  • “The Summer Isles”, Ian R. MacLeod (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 1998)

That’s a very odd result. Two of the best novellas of all time — the Chiang and the MacLeod, beaten by what I think of as one of Egan’s lesser works — and I’m a big Egan fan. Maybe it was the home advantage, and goodness knows Egan’s award status has suffered enough for him being Australian, it deserves to work for him for once.

NOVELETTE

  • “Taklamakan”, Bruce Sterling (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 1998)
  • “Divided by Infinity”, Robert Charles Wilson (Starlight 2)
  • “Echea”, Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov’s Jul 1998)
  • “The Planck Dive”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Feb 1998)
  • “Steamship Soldier on the Information Front”, Nancy Kress (future histories 1997; Asimov’s Apr 1998)
  • “Time Gypsy”, Ellen Klages (Bending the Landscape: Science Fiction)
  • “Zwarte Piet’s Tale”, Allen Steele (Analog Dec 1998)

Great novelettes this year. All memorable and absolutely first class. I’d have found that a very difficult vote.

SHORT STORY

  • “The Very Pulse of the Machine”, Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 1998)
  • “Cosmic Corkscrew”, Michael A. Burstein (Analog Jun 1998)
  • “Maneki Neko”, Bruce Sterling (F&SF May 1998)
  • “Radiant Doors”, Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Sep 1998)
  • “Whiptail”, Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 1998)
  • “Wild Minds”, Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s May 1998)

And finally a well deserved win for Swanwick, after a whole lot of nominations. But “Maneki Neko” is my favourite thing Sterling has ever written.

RELATED BOOK

  • The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World, Thomas M. Disch (The Free Press)
  • The Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, Howard DeVore (Advent:Publishers)
  • Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years, Everett F. Bleiler (Kent State University Press)
  • Spectrum 5: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood Books)
  • The Work of Jack Williamson: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide, Richard A. Hauptmann (NESFA Press)

It really is very hard to rank things so different from each other.

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

  • The Truman Show (Paramount)
  • Babylon 5: “Sleeping in Light” (Warner Bros.)
  • Dark City (New Line Cinema)
  • Pleasantville (New Line Cinema)
  • Star Trek: Insurrection (Paramount)

Okay, colour me amazed, the Dramatic Presentation was won by a film that is SF and which I genuinely like, and even own on DVD. Go, Dramatic Presentation! Earn your keep for once! But it doesn’t have the cool “Hugo winner” logo on the DVD box, oddly enough.

PROFESSIONAL EDITOR

  • Gardner Dozois
  • Scott Edelman
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Gordon Van Gelder

They were absolutely right to separate out long form and short form editors, because when I saw this I immediately thought “Right, Patrick is there because Starlight 2 was so great,” even though he was also eligible for all the novel editing he did that year. Starlight 2 was an amazing anthology though. And Gardner was continuing to do a great job with Asimov’s, which was also doing well in the awards.

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

  • Bob Eggleton
  • Jim Burns
  • Donato Giancola
  • Don Maitz
  • Nick Stathopoulos
  • Michael Whelan

SEMIPROZINE

  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • Interzone, David Pringle
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction, Kathryn Cramer, Ariel Haméon, David G. Hartwell & Kevin J. Maroney
  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew I. Porter
  • Speculations, Denise Lee

FANZINE

  • Ansible, Dave Langford
  • File 770, Mike Glyer
  • Mimosa, Richard & Nicki Lynch
  • Plokta, Alison Scott & Steve Davies
  • Tangent, David Truesdale
  • Thyme, Alan Stewart

FAN WRITER

  • Dave Langford
  • Bob Devney
  • Mike Glyer
  • Evelyn C. Leeper
  • Maureen Kincaid Speller

FAN ARTIST

  • Ian Gunn
  • Freddie Baer
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Joe Mayhew
  • D. West

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD (Not a Hugo)

  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Kage Baker
  • Julie E. Czerneda
  • Susan R. Matthews
  • James Van Pelt

Great Campbell year. Nalo Hopkinson’s first novel Brown Girl in the Ring was a much talked about first novel, and her second novel, Midnight Robber, would be a Hugo nominee in 2001. Since then she has gone on to be a successful and respected writer of SF and fantasy with additional mainstream credibility — a terrific winner.

Kage Baker was another writer with a very successful first novel, In the Garden of Iden. She went on to have a successful career, with many books and award nominations before her untimely death last year.

Julie E. Czerneda might be even more successful if she were easier to spell! I love her work — she writes in my favourite aliens and spaceships subgenre. She had two novels out at the time of nomination, beginning two of her series. She has published a book almost every year since then. I should write more about her.

I talked about Susan R. Matthews last week.

James Van Pelt was nominated on the strength of his short work, and he has continued to produce excellent short work in the decade since. A very good nominee. I often think it would be better to replace the Campbell with a straight up “best first novel” Hugo, but then people like Burstein and Van Pelt wouldn’t be honoured, and they’re worth honouring. Much of the finest and most innovative work in SF has always been at shorter lengths.

Other people they could have considered — well, J.K. Rowling, obviously, maybe David B. Coe, maybe Anne Bishop, maybe Carolyn Ives Gilman. But I think the five we have are really a very good set with the benefit of this much hindsight.


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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