Oct 24 2010 11:00am
Hugo Nominees: Introduction

Hugo Award logoThe Hugo Awards are awarded annually by the World Science Fiction Society, which is to say the members of the annual Worldcon. The members of the previous and current Worldcons can nominate, but only members of the current Worldcon can vote. The nominations are made up into shortlists of the five top selections in each category, which are then voted on and the winner announced. The longlists of all nominations with more than a certain number of votes are usually released at the same time.

I think it’s very hard to say what the best book of the year is, for any year. It’s much easier to say what the top five are. I thought it might be interesting to look at the individual years and consider what was nominated and what won, to look at what else could have been nominated and wasn’t, and how well the selected books have stood the test of time.

The Hugo is undoubtedly science fiction’s premier award, and it’s entirely fan-administered and fan-voted. It was first awarded in 1953, and has been awarded annually without a break since 1955. I’ve been told that it’s the only award that actually affects sales of a book. The winner gets a rocketship statuette and the inscribed bases are different every year.

I’m going to be talking about books, and sometimes stories, and only occasionally looking at the other categories. I’ll mention when new categories were introduced. I may mention fanzines and fan writers from time to time. I shall look at the Campbell nominees. I am a reader. I’m really not qualified to say anything about the visual categories. (In 1958, “No Award” won for Dramatic Presentation, and I think this excellent precedent could have been followed much more often since.) I shall be using the lists at Locus online, an invaluable resource, and at the official Hugo Awards site.

I haven’t, of course, read every single book nominated for the Hugos since 1953. (What have I been doing with my time?) If I haven’t read it, I shall say so, and I shall say why. Otherwise I shall talk briefly about the books and their place in the field. If I’m inspired to re-read a book and talk about it in detail, I’ll do that separately. I’ll be very interested to hear other opinions and especially suggestions for other things of the year that should have been nominated. My views are, of course, my views, but I’ll be interested to see if there is a consensus—my feeling is that for most years there is, and also that the Hugo nominators are often right, but there are occasionally some startling omissions and some live controversies out there.

I’m going to start with 1953 and stop with 2000, because I don’t think it’s possible to have a proper historical perspective on anything closer than that.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. 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.

Goetz Kruppa
1. goetznl
Wow - what a project! Cool! It is a pleasure to read your posts and I think this might be even more interesting then your A is for... series. And with 48 pieces it is more to read. Thanks!
2. bunnycarch3r
Brilliant idea ~so looking forward to this!
3. KaranR
Will be a great parallal read with bloggingthehugos
Bob Blough
4. Bob
This is right up my alley. I started reading SF with the Asimov collections of the short fiction hugo winners and immediately wanted to read the other nominees - as I really liked most of the winners. I soon found a book ( I think the only book of it's kind before the internet) Franson and DeVore's book - "The History of the Hugo, Nebula and International Fantasy Awards" and have since that time read every Hugo and Nebula nominated fiction (except for two short fiction peices) up to the present day. These awards were my opening to this wonderfful genre and while I disagree a lot about the winners and/or one of my favorites not being being nominated, but it has given me many hours of wonderful reading (as well as some horrible stuff to digest!) and given me a great handle of the recent history of the field. (Recent meaning from the 50's on!)

This will be great to follow - and bring back a lot of delicious reading memories. Thanks.

5. RobB625
I'll be following this series of articles very closely. All too often fans get caught up in reading THE LATEST RELEASE from THE HOTTEST AUTHOR or THE DEBUT by THE BEST THING SINCE SLICED BREAD and don't go back to the roots enough.
Peter D. Tillman
6. PeteTillman
Hi, Jo:

Didn't James Nicoll do this AWB at rasf (Usenet)?

Might be worth a xref.

Sounds like a fun project. Look forward to it -- as, really, I do to all your Tor stuff.

Pete Tillman
"She could and had faced an armed laser in the hands of a mad mutant mercenary with less fear than she faced such unswerving emotion..." -- JD Robb, Immortal in Death, 1996
Cathy Mullican
7. nolly
I've been working on reading the winners for a while now -- I'm reading other things, too, of course. Look forward to seeing what you have to say about some of them, especially the ones that I can't stand.
8. Nat DiDonato
This is a great trip down memory lane for me and a great job at bringing back the great classics and relative unknowns. Thank you for doing it. I started reading SF in the early 60s and have been trying to remember the book that got me started. Its an earth based future with a quest looking for the great towers left behind by some ancient civilization. Turns out the great towers are the George Washington Bridge and the ancient prize is a long, ruined version of NYC. Anyone who has an idea about this book could make my day by telling me the name.

Thanks to Jo Walton and Tor
Pamela Adams
9. Pam Adams
I just re-read Farmer's To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the 1972 Hugo winner for Best Novel. I thought 'Hmmm- what else was available that year?' and came back to these posts. They're a wonderful resource- thanks again!

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