Aug 14 2011 10:30am

Hugo Nominees: 1996

The 1996 Hugo Awards were presented at LACon III in Anaheim California. The Best Novel Hugo was won by Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, which has always struck me as two-thirds of a really brilliant book. It’s a scintillating nanotech future with huge social changes consequent to the changes in technology, and there’s a book and a girl shaped by the book, and an actress, and neo-Victorians, and everything is going along swimmingly... and then a miracle occurs and the end falls down in flinders. Nevertheless, even as a book where the end doesn’t work for me I think this is a good Hugo winner, because it’s relentlessly inventive and exciting and doing science fictional things that hadn’t been done before. It’s a groundbreaking book. It’s in print, and it’s in the library (the Grande Bibliotheque) in English and French.

There are four other nominees and I’ve read two of them.

Connie Willis’s Remake is a short novel about new technology and classic movies. It’s funny and clever and has some lovely images — who can forget the job of removing all the drink and cigarettes from Rick’s... cafe in Casablanca? Having said that, I found it rather thin compared to most of Willis’s work, even in her screwball comedy mode. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in French only.

Robert Sawyer’s The Terminal Experiment is a near-future thriller about scientific proof of the existence of souls. It’s classic SF in the tradition of Clarke and Benford. It won the Nebula, which is why I read it; I hadn’t heard of Sawyer before this. It’s in print and it’s in the library in French and English.

I haven’t read David Brin’s Brightness Reef. I was waiting for all three of the second Uplift series to be out and then I just never picked them up. It’s in print and it’s in the library in French and English.

I also haven’t read Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships. I haven’t read it because it’s a Wells sequel, and I’d been playing the Forgotten Futures RPG and a little bit of mock-Victorian SF goes a long way. It sounds really clever, but also an example of SF turning back in on itself rather than reaching out to new futures. It won the Campbell Memorial Award. It’s in print and in the library in French and English.

So, one woman and four men, one British, three American and one Canadian — that’s the widest spread of nationalities for a while. They’re all SF — one near future thriller, one near future screwball comedy, one medium future technodream, one time travel, one planetary SF. This year’s list doesn’t excite me, and it didn’t excite me in 1996. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but only Diamond Age has any lustre.

What else might they have chosen?

SFWA gave the Nebula to Sawyer. Other eligible non-overlapping nominees were Paul Park’s Celestis and Walter Jon Williams’s wonderful Metropolitan, which would have been an excellent Hugo nominee.

The World Fantasy Award was won by The Prestige, Christopher Priest. Other nominees were All the Bells on Earth, James P. Blaylock, Expiration Date, Tim Powers, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Vikram Chandra, Requiem, Graham Joyce. The Silent Strength of Stones, Nina Kiriki Hoffmann (post).

The Campbell Memorial Award was given to Baxter, with Stephenson second and Ian McDonald’s Chaga third.

The Philip K. Dick Award was won by Bruce Bethke’s Headcrash, with a special citation to Carlucci’s Edge, Richard Paul Russo. Other finalists were The Color of Distance, Amy Thomson, Permutation City, Greg Egan (post), Reluctant Voyagers, Élisabeth Vonarburg, Virtual Death, Shale Aaron.

Permutation City wasn’t Hugo eligible because of prior UK publication (gnash). The Color of Distance and Reluctant Voyagers would both have made excellent Hugo nominees.

The Tiptree Award was a tie, shared between The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Theodore Roszak and Waking the Moon, Elizabeth Hand. Also on the short list: Little Sisters of the Apocalypse, Kit Reed and Melissa Scott’s Shadow Man.

The Locus SF Award was won by the Stephenson. Other nominees not previously mentioned were: Invader, C. J. Cherryh (post), Legacy, Greg Bear, Sailing Bright Eternity, Gregory Benford, Worldwar: Tilting the Balance, Harry Turtledove, Slow River, Nicola Griffith, Amnesia Moon, Jonathan Lethem, Kaleidoscope Century, John Barnes (post), Fairyland, Paul J. McAuley, The Ganymede Club, Charles Sheffield, The Killing Star, Charles Pellegrino & George Zebrowski, Gaia’s Toys, Rebecca Ore,  The Stone Garden, Mary Rosenblum, Testament, Valerie J. Freireich, The Golden Nineties, Lisa Mason, An Exaltation of Larks, Robert Reed (post).

I think Kaleidoscope Century absolutely was one of the most significant books of the year, if also one of the nastiest.

The Locus Fantasy Award went to Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Journeyman. Other nominees not previously mentioned: Fortress in the Eye of Time, C. J. Cherryh, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay, Resurrection Man, Sean Stewart, The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Patricia A. McKillip, Blood, Michael Moorcock, Storm Rising, Mercedes Lackey, City of Bones, Martha Wells, Crown of Shadows, C. S. Friedman, Maskerade, Terry Pratchett, Zod Wallop, William Browning Spence, Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb, Stone of Tears, Terry Goodkind, The Tower of Beowulf, Parke Godwin, A Sorcerer and a Gentleman, Elizabeth Willey, World Without End, Sean Russell, Harp of Winds, Maggie Furey.

Some really great stuff there.

The Mythopoeic Award was won by Waking the Moon. Only one nominee not previously mentioned: Kenneth Morris The Dragon Path.

The Prometheus Award (Libertarian) was won by Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, a book which practically by itself justifies the existence of a separate UK publishing industry. It’s a book that makes me excited about what SF can do. And it didn’t get US publication for years, because it’s a book about the near future of Britain. This should have been on the Hugo ballot.

Was there anything all of these missed?

Greg Egan’s Distress, Alison Sinclair’s Legacies, C.J. Cherryh’s Rider at the Gate (post).

So I’d say 1996 is a year where the Hugo nominees didn’t do their job for me. Apart from the Stephenson they’re fairly unexciting books, while more exciting books didn’t make the ballot.

Other Categories


  • “The Death of Captain Future”, Allen Steele (Asimov’s Oct 1995)
  • “Bibi”, Mike Resnick & Susan Shwartz (Asimov’s mid-Dec 1995)
  • “Fault Lines”, Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Aug 1995)
  • “A Man of the People”, Ursula K. Le Guin (Asimov’s Apr 1995)
  • “A Woman’s Liberation”, Ursula K. Le Guin (Asimov’s Jul 1995)


  • “Think Like a Dinosaur”, James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Jun 1995)
  • “The Good Rat”, Allen Steele (Analog mid-Dec 1995)
  • “Luminous”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Sep 1995)
  • “Must and Shall”, Harry Turtledove (Asimov’s Nov 1995)
  • “TAP”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s Nov 1995)
  • “When the Old Gods Die”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Apr 1995)

I think I’d have voted for the Kelly above the Egan or the Turtledove, but it would have been a close thing. Terrific year for novelettes.


  • “The Lincoln Train”, Maureen F. McHugh (F&SF Apr 1995)
  • “A Birthday”, Esther M. Friesner (F&SF Aug 1995)
  • “Life on the Moon”, Tony Daniel (Asimov’s Apr 1995)
  • “TeleAbsence”, Michael A. Burstein (Analog Jul 1995) 
  • “Walking Out”, Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 1995)

The McHugh and the Freisner are both absolutely chilling.


  • Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia, John Clute (Dorling Kindersley)
  • Alien Horizons: The Fantastic Art of Bob Eggleton, Bob Eggleton (Paper Tiger)
  • Spectrum 2: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Burnett & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood Books)
  • To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction, Joanna Russ (Indiana University Press)
  • Yours, Isaac Asimov, Isaac Asimov, edited by Stanley Asimov (Doubleday)


  • Babylon 5: “The Coming of Shadows” (Warner Bros.; J. Michael Straczynski, Douglas Netter, John Copeland, producers; J. Michael Straczynski, screenplay; Janet Greek, director)
  • 12 Monkeys (Universal; Charles Roven, producer; Terry Gilliam, director; David and Janet Peoples, screenplay)
  • Apollo 13 (Universal; Brian Grazer, producer; Ron Howard, director; William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert, screenplay)
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “The Visitor” (Paramount Television; Rick Berman and Ira Steven Behr, executive producers; Michael Taylor, screenplay; David Livingston, director)
  • Toy Story (Buena Vista; Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold, producers; John Lasseter, director; Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen, and Alec Sokolow, screenplay)


  • Gardner Dozois
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Scott Edelman
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Stanley Schmidt


  • Bob Eggleton
  • Jim Burns 
  • Thomas Canty
  • Don Maitz
  • Michael Whelan


  • Dinotopia: The World Beneath, James Gurney (Turner)
  • Bob Eggleton, Cover of F&SF Oct/Nov 1995 (illustrating “Dankden” by Marc Laidlaw)
  • George H. Krauter, Cover of Analog Mar 1995 (illustrating “Renascance” by Poul Anderson)
  • Gary Lippincott, Cover of F&SF Jan 1995 (illustrating “Tea and Hamsters” by Michael Coney)
  • Bob Eggleton, Cover of Analog Jan 1995 (illustrating “Tide of Stars” by Julia Ecklar)


  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • Crank!, Bryan Cholfin
  • Interzone, David Pringle
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction, David G. Hartwell, Ariel Haméon & Tad Dembinski
  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew Porter


  • Ansible, Dave Langford
  • Apparatchik, Andrew Hooper & Victor Gonzalez
  • Attitude, Michael Abbott, John Dallman & Pam Wells
  • FOSFAX, Timothy Lane & Elizabeth Garrott
  • Lan’s Lantern, George “Lan” Laskowski
  • Mimosa, Richard & Nicki Lynch


  • Dave Langford
  • Sharon Farber
  • Andy Hooper
  • Evelyn C. Leeper
  • Joseph T. Major


  • William Rotsler
  • Ian Gunn
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Joe Mayhew
  • Peggy Ranson


  • David Feintuch
  • Michael A. Burstein
  • Felicity Savage
  • Sharon Shinn
  • Tricia Sullivan

David Feintuch (1944-2006) was a very nice guy, and he really believed in his Midshipman’s Hope series. I believe he’s the oldest Campbell winner. He had published three volumes of the series by the end of 1995, and he went on to write another four volumes and two fantasy novels. He was a pretty good winner, and the rest of the nominees were also very good — a much better year for the Campbell than 1995.

Michael A. Burstein won in 1997, so let’s leave him for next time. And we talked about Felicity Savage last week.

Sharon Shinn had published one excellent first novel, The Shape Shifter’s Wife, she has gone on to have a significant career and is a major writer, she’d have been an excellent winner.

Tricia Sullivan was also an excellent nominee and would have been a great winner — she’d just published a first novel Lethe and has gone on to become an important writer.

So a pretty good Campbell year. Other possibly eligible people not nominated: Alison Sinclair, Linda Nagata, Richard Calder.

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.

Nick Smale
1. Nick Smale
I found The Time Ships enormously enjoyable. It builds on Wells, but Wells could never have written it himself - the scientific ideas it uses are bang-up-to-date to the mid-90s.
John Adams
2. JohnArkansawyer
I have just put The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein on hold, having read yesterday Flicker, a really remarkable book that came to my attention via Theodore Roszak's obituary and which I am surprised no one mentioned during the 1992 thread.
Nick Smale
3. manglar
I also enjoyed "The Time Ships". Other good novels are Nicola Griffith's "Slow River" and McDonald's "Chaga", an interesting twist on the contact-with-aliens theme with a complex but flawed protagonist.
"Distress" is arguably Egan's best novel, with its balance between characterization and scientific speculation.
Kristen Templet
4. SF_Fangirl
I have to agree with your assessment. I've only read The Terminal Experiment from the nominees. It was interesting and philosphical but didn't strike me as award-caliber. The Diamond Age is in my to read pile and has been for years now. Neo-Victorians are not really to my taste, but I am still hanging on to it and your assessment makes me think it still might be worth a read. Still the nominees and even the might have been nominated don't seem to have really impacted the genre and stuck around in the collective unconscious.

BTW Jo, have you decided where you will stop this revisit? Presumably we're approaching a point where we aren't far enough away from the award to really look back with hindsight. 10 years out? Five years out? I have very much enjoyed this topic and would love for you to take another series of posts that look back at the genre.
Michal Jakuszewski
5. Lfex
The novel list is quite mixed bag. I really loved Diamond Age, even if it has the famous Stephenson ending problem, annd I think it is an absolutely worthy winner. I also liked Brightness Reef a lot. It was often criticized for slow pacing (and also it really wasn't the kind of sequel Uplift fans wanted to read back then), but meticulous world building and a lot of interesting ideas make it a good nominee. I also think The Time Ships was very good and it remains my favorite Baxter novel.

Remake, OTOH, is really a novella and really doesn't belong in this category, and The Terminal Experiment which I thought was really weak, was only a beginning of a Sawyer phenomenon which I totally fail to understand (and I am evidently not alone). Come on, once is an accident, twice is a happenstance, but eight times? I truly can't comprehend what Hugo voters are seeing in this quite lackluster writer.

What else should be there? Was Waking the Moon really eligible? I had it pegged as 1994 novel for some reason. If so, I would definitely nominate it. Metropolitan by Walter Jon Williams also was very good, and Resurrection Man. The Lions of Al-Rassan and Chaga would make perfectly good nominees as well.

I agree with Jo on novelette list. Three excellent novelettes with Kelly winning just barely. Once again I don't remember reading any novellas. I am sure I must have read both Le Guins, but I don' recall anything about them.
John Adams
6. JohnArkansawyer
Jo, you know that throwaway line in Friday where Baldwin describes to Friday how a rival organization stopped a Prusso-Russian war by targeted assassination of a dozen people? Kaleidoscope Century is the book that shows just how such an organization would actually operate.

If nothing else (and he is more than this), Barnes is an invaluable and necessary corrective to Heinlein. I say this as a great Heinlein fan.
Nick Smale
7. CarlosSkullsplitter
The Time Ships was thoughtful Wells pastiche, rather more thoughtful than Baxter's independent work, in fact. Odd that.

The Diamond Age continues Stephenson's growth as a writer. A running theme through the body of his work is historical cataclysm -- where the structures of earlier periods are washed away -- and you can see him visibly groping towards the right way to express his thoughts on the subject in an adventure fiction format. Soon he will settle on Thomas Pynchon as a role model, as Heinlein had chosen Barth, and Wolfe did Proust. But not quite yet.

You can also see Stephenson avoid Campbellian crankery through his generational sense of irony. At several different points in the novel, you can tell Stephenson senses the pothole in the road, and watch as he swerves around it. (He's lost some of his ironic distance lately -- even as he has improved as a writer -- which might be a step on the path towards the Nicoll-ian Brain Eater.)

Remake: I just don't watch old movies in the same way Connie Willis does. Flicker, on the other hand, good call.

Robert Sawyer: it's not that he's bad, precisely (although he can be), it's that he's so relentlessly mediocre. Character, plot, extrapolation, gimmick, melodrama. He is the replacement player in VORP; he is the replacement scriptwriter they call in when the normal staff is wiped out from salmonella and/or cocaine. His run over the next few years is enough to make one believe in an enormous cult-like Canadian conspiracy, perhaps run out of the Banff Springs Hotel, to win the Hugo Award for Sawyer, whom I picture sunning himself on his yacht in Hudson Bay surrounded by his minions in the CanCon Org. (This would also explain Robert Charles Wilson.)

Sadly, I think it has more to do with the terribly bland taste of fan voters than anything else.

Metropolitan would have been a fine nominee, although I suspect it made more traditionally minded voters uncomfortable with its blurring of subgenre boundaries. Perhaps Williams should have called it A Magus at the Power Company to attract those fans who have a complete run of Unknown in their basement.

Paul Park's Celestis, oh I could go on about this strange and fascinating book, but I am under time pressure today. Maybe Henry Farrell will show up. It's the great decolonization novel of science fiction.

Did LeGuin split her own vote, allowing the Steele to win? I wish I could believe in the premise of "The Lincoln Train" more. It's tooth-grinding in the same way that giving the United States the Chinese path of political development in China Mountain Zhang was. Some historical cut-and-paste jobs work less well than others (e.g. John Barnes).
Nick Smale
8. James Davis Nicoll
He's lost some of his ironic distance lately -- even as he has improved as a writer -- which might be a step on the path towards the Nicoll-ian Brain Eater.

Yeah, how wonderful that phrase, that English language quotation and the Nicoll-Dyson Laser are going to be the sum total of my contributions to human society.

Would it alarm you to know Reamde has an actual plot?

Sawyer's success is because Sawyer sees marketing Sawyer as part of his job as a writer and is happy to market Sawyer. In fact, I seem to recall part of the path to the Nebula involved sending a copy of his book to every person in SFWA, which takes advantage of the fact that there's a certain percentage of SFWAnians who will vote for anything whose title they recognize. A crueler person than I would link to Red Mike's review of Dan Gallagher's The Pleistocene Redemption, which made it to the Long List on the strength of (as I recall) similar tactics.

Did LeGuin split her own vote, allowing the Steele to win?

That shouldn't be an issue with the way votes work in the Hugos. Maybe at the nomination stage but not once it gets to picking the final winner.
Nick Smale
9. James Davis Nicoll
Either William Browning Spencer's Zod Wallop or his Resume with Monsters was published in a hilarious edition from White Wolf in the middle of their most pretentious, clove-cigarette-smoking, own-back-patting phase . The back of the book has a long screed in eyes-bleed size print about why the book is not returnable in the usual fashion (rather than just ripping the cover off and sending it back, the entire book must be returned for credit). The justification is a Club of Rome-esque scarce resources, kindness to the Earth blah blah blah. This notice appeared on the back of all their trades at this time.

The interior of the book iin question has gigantic print and it's double-spaced, almost as though WW was trying to pad an 80,000 word novel out to over 450 pages. Had the book been in a regular font size and single spaced, it would have been about 200, 250 pages long and fewer trees would have died.

WBS's novels were memorable but unfortunately I am unaware of any from the last decade or so; he had a bloom in the 1990s and then seems to have stuck to the occasional bit of short fiction.

0: Both had WW editions but I think only one had the feature I am going to mention.

1: I think this was around the time they decided to turn White Wolf Magazine, then an ok seller, into Inphobia, a life style magazine for gamers. A spectacularly unsuccessful life style magazine for gamers; it died within months. Note how I don't suggest anyone go watch the rise and fall of Inphobia as documented on*.
Nick Smale
10. James Davis Nicoll
Babylon 5: “The Coming of Shadows”

I've never been able to decide whether the acting was worse than the writing on B5 or if it was the other way round. B5 is interesting for other aspects like the way JMS milked the fans, the impact of the decline in price of CGI, the way in which John Vornholt was too busy when he was writing Voices to see if Mars is hot compared to Earth or cold and guessed "hot" but it was overrated to a degree not seen until the New Who or (gag) Firefly.

Voices is the one where a telepath cannot figure out how to prove to other telepaths that she is innocent of a certain crime and also, if I recall correctly, the one where we learn space ships in B5 have emergency stop brakes that the passengers can use by pulling on an overhead cord.
Nick Smale
11. James Davis Nicoll
The Prometheus Award (Libertarian) was won by Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, a book which practically by itself justifies the existence of a separate UK publishing industry.

The Star Fraction was, I believe, the beginning of a somewhat less doctrinaire period of the Prometheus Award. Before 1996, the award generally went to reliably libertarian American(ish) authors like F. Paul Wilson or L. Neil Smith but starting in 1996 authors who fall well outside the usual boundaries of American-style libertarianism began to win the award.

1: Hogan being an outlier because he was a left-libertarian. Of course, he also wasn't raised in the US but moved there as an adult.
Nick Smale
12. James Davis Nicoll

Apollo 13 (Universal; Brian Grazer, producer; Ron Howard, director; William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert, screenplay)

Fine movie but not science fiction. There really was a time when the Americans could build crewed moon vehicles. Now they must take what feeble comfort they can from the meager handful of accomplishments in space that they have had since then, like putting landers on Mars (and delivering a lander to Titan), putting probes in orbit around Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and Vesta, doing flybys of comets and asteroids and every known planet in our solar system , exploring the limits of the heliopause, violently sampling the surfaces of the Moon and an asteroid, orbiting powerful space telescopes and discovering a couple of thousand extrasolar worlds. Oh, what dark times they live in.

1: Pluto isn't a planet.
Nick Smale
13. seth e.
It was around this time that I started noticing that people who were familiar with the subject of any given Connie Willis book tended to be irritated by it. I was in film school when Remake came out, and by the second chapter I was thinking WHAT so loudly my roommates could hear. I couldn't even finish it.

Meanwhile my parents, both archaeologists, can't stand her time-traveling-historians books ("She has a peculiar understanding of how people study history," said my mother, "peculiar" being her euphemism for "seriously, lady, what the hell"). And I've seen several British people go on about the inaccuracies in the latest books, which I haven't read.

I enjoy Willis' books a lot, when I can take them at all, but I've always had the impression that she does just enough research to support the story she's already decided to write, and then stops.

This period is when my media consumption had switched over entirely to obscure movies; I think the only other books in the entire list I read at the time were Diamond Age, about which I agree with Jo entirely, and Zod Wallop, which more people ought to know about.
Pseu Donym
14. Scotoma
Jo is spot on with the Diamond Age, a book that manages to be brilliant despite one of the weakest endings ever. She's also completely, inversely spot on with Baxter Time Ship's, which actually manages to build upon Well's original and reach out to new futures. One of his best books.

Also spot on for Kaleidoscope Century being the nastiest book in the year (thought also one of the best). The only one that year that came close was William Barton's brilliant When Heaven Fell, which to me always looked like a mad inversion of Heinlein's Starship Troopers.
David Levinson
15. DemetriosX
Another year where I haven't read any of the novels. I've never been able to get into Stephenson and I had the exact same experience as Jo with the Brin trilogy. Remake sounds incredibly familiar, though. Did it have a magazine publication (ISFDB says no) or did she write something else in that universe?

Great year for novellas with probably the right winner, and an even better year for novelettes. "Think Like a Dinosaur" was probably the best choice, but almost any of them would have been a terrific winner.

The dramatic presentation list is almost decent for once. I never particularly liked that DS9 episode and the B5 episode was all right. The movies are all pretty good though. I'd probably have voted for Apollo 13.
Nick Smale
15. James Davis Nicoll
I will give White Wolf major props for one thing: at a time when most game companies apparently thought women should be relegated to being eye candy while serving cookies, WW was actively going after female gamers.

1: I probably shouldn't use the past tense there, given how recently the existence of the 'hot girls in trouble!' minature line was pointed out to me.
Nick Smale
16. Gardner Dozois
A moderately weak year for novels. I've never been able to work up much enthusiasm for either Stephenson or Sawyer. (Maybe I don't like authors whose names start with "S".) REMAKE is by length a novella, and should have been in a different category. I'd have probably given it to McDonald's CHAGA, although McAuley's FAIRYLAND, either Egan's PERMUTATION CITY or DISTRESS, and Macleod's THE STAR FRACTION should have been on the ballot. It says something that none of the novels I liked best that year even made the ballot, let alone won. Maybe it's because they're all by non-Americans.

Novella was strong that year. I liked "The Death of Captain America"--I published it--but the best amongst the novellas that made the ballot are the two Le Guins, perhaps the best of her New Hainish stories which in turn are the best of her short work. "A Woman's Liberation" is particularly strong. But a few of my favorite novellas didn't even make the ballot, among them David Marusek's first major story, "We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy," and what is probably still Brian Stableford's single best story, "Mortimer Gray's HISTORY OF DEATH." Also first-rate are "For White Hill," by Joe Haldeman, and "Genesis," by Poul Anderson, amazingly up-to-date with the Cutting Edge of the field for someone who had been writing since the '50s. Also good are Robert Reed's "Brother Perfect," Pat Cadigan's "Death in the Promised Land," and Mary Roseblum's "The Doryman."

I have no problem with "Think Like a Dinosaur" winning, but both "Luminous" and "TAP," by Greg Egan, are extraordinary stories. Off the ballot, Egan, who was at the height of his prolificness, also had the amazing "Wang's Carpet" and "Silver Fire." I used both "Luminous" and "Wang's Carpets" in my Best that year, and never for a moment doubted that it was justified. Also off-ballot was a very entertaining story by Robert Reed, "A Place with Shade," John Kessel's "Some Like It Cold," and Tom Purdom's "Romance in Lunar G."

In short story, "The Lincoln Train" is very powerful, but I also liked Tony Daniel's underrated "Life on the Moon." Some of the best short stories of the year didn't make the ballot at all, though, including Ian R. MacLeod's "Starship Day," Geoff Ryman's "Home," Paul J. McAuley's "Recording Angel," and Michael Swanwick's "Radio Waves."

I'll allow myself the indulgence of bragging that ALL of the novellas that year, and all but one of the novelettes, were from ASIMOV'S. In all, twelve ASIMOV'S stories made the ballot that year, which may be the record for the most finalists in one year from a single source.

(The Federal Express people were nervous about shipping the Hugo home that year, by the way, since, with all the wires and batteries--the spotlights swiveled and actually lit up--combined with the Hugo rocket, it looked too much like a bomb. I had to partially disensemble it before they'd take it.)

I've never understood the cult around BABYLON FIVE, which for me combined bad writing AND bad acting. Especially bad acting. I've heard more natural reading of dialog in high-school plays.

David Feintuch WAS a nice guy, and a reasonable choice at the time. In retrospect, I think perhaps it should have gone to David Marusek.
Nick Smale
17. James Davis Nicoll
I'd probably have voted for Apollo 13.

Nick Smale
18. James Davis Nicoll
Maybe I don't like authors whose names start with "S".

Everyone likes Simak, surely? Hating Clifford Simak would be like hating a fuzzy kitten.

S is the largest section of my MMPK library, I think. Partly that's because of the Smith effect (Alexander, Doc, Thorne, Evelyn, George, L., Leah and so on and so forth) and also because I have a lot of books by Robert Silverberg but I think there are just a lot of authors whose surnames begin with S.
Pseu Donym
19. Scotoma
Chaga feels like a great set-up that stopped right before anything interesting happened. There's a sequel that I didn't read and so I have no idea how those two read together, but read on it's own it felt lacking.

The Star Fraction was also pretty disappointing, stopped me from reading MacLeod's other work for years. And his argument near the end that killing conscious software is justified, as to humans only humans matter, rubbed me entirely the wrong way.

Distress by Egan was great thought. Probably his third best book overall, after Diaspora and Permuation City.
Nick Smale
20. Gardner Dozois
I like Simak. I also like Silverberg, Stableford, and Swanwick, so I guess there are some exceptions.
David Levinson
21. DemetriosX
@17 James:

No, it isn't, but it is related material. We had this discussion back when The Right Stuff was on the list. Movies that have a connection to SFF through things like the space program or being about science ("Cosmos" for instance) also qualify. I still say Toy Story isn't really fantasy. Just because the toys talk and move isn't enough, or are we willing to count anything with talking animals, too? But I'll let it stand.

As for the plethora of S names, it may be connected to the fact that the letter S starts more English words than any other. (Take a look at a dictionary with tabs.) Of course, that doesn't account for non-English names (Silverberg, Simak, etc.), but it's probably at least a factor.
Nick Smale
22. James Davis Nicoll
"Mortimer Gray's HISTORY OF DEATH."

Which was expanded into Fountains of Youth, (Tor May 2000). That was part of his Emortality series, which was loosely based on the history sketched out in 1985's The Third Millennium: A History of the World AD 2000-3000.

The original future history went obsolete very quickly (Stableford and Landford failed to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union, which a lot of people failed to see coming, and the rise of computers, which is kind of amazing for a book published in 1985) and the revised version was itself festooned with zeerust when I tried to reread it last year.
Nick Smale
23. James Davis Nicoll
"Genesis," by Poul Anderson, amazingly up-to-date with the Cutting Edge of the field for someone who had been writing since the '50s.

1940s, actually. First short story published was in March, 1947, I believe, a gloomy story of post-Atom War recovery, in particular dealing with the issue that the next generation was going to be mostly Atomic Mutants; to his credit he does not have his characters simply introduce a vicious eugenics program.
Nick Smale
24. James Davis Nicoll
I still say Toy Story isn't really fantasy.

It isn't. It's horror about intelligent beings enslaved by cruel and heartless gods, to be discarded thoughtlessly after a lifetime of service.

(how do I embed urls here?)

When the Revolution comes, Emily and Andy will the first up against the wall.
Sydo Zandstra
25. Fiddler
@James Davis Nicoll:

Would you mind putting all of your comments in one post after now, if you are minded at machine-gun-posting?

A lot of readers check 'latest posts' on a regular basis and what you did there is plainly irritating.

Also, register an account if you want to stay here. It has benefits. And it is free. And with benefits.

Pseu Donym
26. Scotoma
Yeah, the real implications of the Toy Story movies taken at face value are pretty harsh.
Nick Smale
27. Matthew Austern
Maybe Apollo 13 isn't science fiction, but it's a perfect Analog story. A little implausible that a solution just happened to be possible given the situation at hand, but of course that's one of the constraints of a puzzle story like that: there needs to be some unlikely solution, even if it seems impossible to see it at first.
Nick Smale
28. wingracer
Got to go with Gardner on the Marusek, it would have been a brilliant choice.

None of the novels did anything for me, and I am a HUGE Stephenson fan but Diamond Age for me is his one stinker.

B5. Well, all the criticism this show gets is justified. The writing could be pretty bad and the acting even worse but what makes it work is its overall running storyline which is brilliant. If you can accept a little sloppiness in your TV, there is a diamond in the rough burried deep down there somewhere.
Rob Munnelly
29. RobMRobM
I really like Hobbs' Assassin's Apprentice. I saw from above it was nominted for a Locus fantasy award. Did it get any serious consideration for Hugo - or it it one of those books that people didn't get much chance to read in its eligibility year? Kind of an odd one, since it appeared to be from a new and unknown author but was actually written by a frequent award nominee under a different name.

John Adams
30. JohnArkansawyer
seth e @ 13: So I'm curious: What did you think of Flicker (assuming you read it)?
Soon Lee
31. SoonLee
Re:Robert Sawyer

The main reason I don't rate him is because he over-explains. It's like he's writing for a more mainstream reader not a SF reader. It feels like he's being condescending to me. I can't get past that.
Nick Smale
32. CarlosSkullsplitter
8 et seq: that Kona coffee sure is good stuff, isn't it? and better "imperishable fame" through quotes and concepts rather than through some final, all-too-memorable Nicoll Event.

I am not wedded to the idea that there is an inverse relationship between Stephenson's possible nuttiness and his writing skill -- as someone once said, a novel is a piece of prose with something wrong with it -- so I welcome Reamde's plot. If it starts talking about how gold-farming is part of the conspiracy to introduce the Amero, though, I might reconsider.
Sherri Nichols
33. snichols
@Carlos: VORP?! After last week's baseball discussion, you're going to toss VORP out there? Though I do agree about Sawyer; I picked up FlashForward last year because of the TV series and because I saw that Sawyer had been nominated for the Hugo a lot. I was left with no desire to read any more Sawyer, and mystified as to why he was nominated so often.
Nick Smale
34. James Davis Nicoll
8 et seq: that Kona coffee sure is good stuff, isn't it?

Oh, I didn't keep any for myself. The idea is to hook my exgf on high quality coffee of a sort not easily purchased in acceptable form here in the boonies.

She started it with the whole teaching me about good chocolate: I can never eat crappy mass-produced chocolate again!

and better "imperishable fame" through quotes and concepts rather than through some final, all-too-memorable Nicoll Event.

I have my epitaph prepared and ready but I am hoping to game the Everett interpretation.
Nick Smale
35. CarlosSkullsplitter
33: I came across the term at a political blog, believe it or not. (My own passion is the gridiron; I'm a Koufax 1.) In one of my day jobs, I've been trying to seed the idea of "value over replacement executive" to show how little value upper management usually adds to a firm.

It's a fascinating concept, and very SFnal, I think.
Nick Smale
36. James Davis Nicoll
Also, I thought I was timing my comments the way I always do and that it was everyone else who was posting less frequently than usual. Notice how I waited this time until Carlos posted something before commenting again (and also because I just thought to say this).
Nick Smale
37. seth e.
JohnArkansawyer @30 - I haven't read Flicker, but Googling it now, it sounds familiar. I think it was recommended to me at a time when "Hey, you know what you should totally read?" was a turn-off.

It's on my to-read list now, though. Thanks for pointing it out!
Nick Smale
38. Petar Belic
Brightness Reef was a turning point for me. It's when I realised it was possible that a SF writer - that I trusted - might end up taking me for a ride. I felt that it was quite ambitious, but perhaps juggling a few too many balls in the air at once. Quantity does not always equal quality, we well know. While I enjoyed it a lot, I looked forward with some trepidation to its sequel. And by the time Heaven's Reach arrived, I was exhausted.
The Time Ships came out of nowhere for me (perhaps the first of Baxter's work I read?) and delighted me, especially with the travelogue of the future and that fantastic ending which, while not quite a deus ex machina, felt like a suitably Victorian ending that it fit the genre perfectly.
I dutifully ignored Connie Willis and Sawyer's work and got on with reading more Greg Egan. Very ocassionally, it would feel like 'work' but then would come the moment of crystal-clear clarity where the journey felt like it was worth it. He certainly has some amazing ideas to put to paper.
I was given John Clute's Illustrated Encyclopaedia... for an Xmas present. What a great gift. Sometimes we forget the amazing images that SF can make as well. Plus it was a great resource to see so many covers of books I'd never seen, but heard about.
p l
39. p-l

Paul Park's Celestis, oh I could go on about this strange and fascinating book, but I am under time pressure today.
Please do! This is a wonderful novel that does not get enough attention. My #1 fantasy is to make Jo read this book and post her thoughts about it. Still hoping for that...
p l
40. p-l
Rich Horton
41. ecbatan
Sorry -- late to the party again. And again it's because I've been to the wilds of southwestern Missouri -- this time less South, but pretty West, moving my son into his dorm at the University of Central Missouri (which despite its name is decidedly in Western Missouri).

Anyway -- what I want to talk about this year is the novelettes -- this might have been the greatest year for novelettes in SF history. But I'll start in novel. And I admit, this is a post I basically set up last night, so mostly it does not reflect the comments string.

First, I'm happy enough with The Diamond Age as a winner. It may not have a great ending, as Jo says, but what Stephenson does? Still, ideas, ideas, ideas.

I quite liked David Brin's Brightness Reef, a good start to the ultimately disappointing Second Uplift Trilogy.

Egan's Distress is very fine work. The Prestige is excellent work. I quite enjoyed, though didn't quite love, Jonathan Lethem's Amnesia Moon. Catherine Asaro's first novel, Primary Inversion, appeared this year -- it's quite interesting. I don't like where she ended up going with this series, but this book (and one or two more in its continuity) was quite fun

From the mainstream, one quite major SF novel: Richard Powers's Galatea 2.2.

From the world of YA, two significant works: Philip Pullman's Northern Lights aka The Golden Compass (and which title should be preferred? Perhaps uncharacteristically, I prefer the US title (The Golden Compass), but what do others think? Like Pullman??)

Also YA, a great debut: Sabriel, by Garth Nix.

A novel I haven't read, by an author who has done little if anything else, but which Lawrence Watt-Evans has praised highly, is Stuart Hopen's Warp Angel.

ANd finally, the wonderful but insufficiently prolific William Browning Spencer published two first rate novels this year: Zod Wallop, and Resume with Monsters. These are just great stuff.

As for the Campbell -- another uninspiring year. David Feintuch was popular for a while, but not with me. Two majorly good potential nominees were missed, perhaps -- well, undoubtedly! -- because their books weren't published in the US until later. These are Garth Nix (with Sabriel) and Ken MacLeod (with The Star Fraction). They might not technically have been eligible (yet) for the Campbell, but they sure dwarf the actual field of nominees. (Though to be fair Tricia Sullivan and Sharon Shinn have both done pretty significant work.)

David P. Marusek could also have been nominated on the strength of "We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy", and he'd have deserved it.

Catherine Asaro would have been an interesting nominee, but actually her first story appeared in 1993.

Rich Horton
Rich Horton
42. ecbatan
Now to the short fiction. IMO, this was quite a year.

In novella, among the nominees, I'd have gone for either of the Le Guin stories ahead of Steele's enjoyable but not brilliant story. But some better work didn't get nominated:

"Mortimer Gray's 'History of Death'", by Brian Stableford
"De Secretis Mulierum", by L. Timmel Duchamp
"Hypocaust and Bathysphere", by Rebecca Ore
"We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy", by David P. Marusek (who also would have been a good Campbell nominee)
and even Willis's Remake, which I think was actually novella length (though very long -- maybe 38K?) -- and which was nominated in that category for the Nebula.

All of those are good, none obviously better than the two Le Guin stories -- but one story, I think, was the best of the year, by SF's greatest ever writer of novellas: Gene Wolfe. This is "The Ziggurat", a tremendously exciting and quite chilling novella, with a classicly, profoundly unreliable narrator. It can be read entirely differently depending on how much you believe what the narrator says -- I think enough clues are there to suggest he's entirely out there -- but the story certainly doesn't demand any particular reading.

In novelette, I've already said this might arguably be the greatest year ever for novelettes. Consider the winner: "Think Like a Dinosaur" is a great story, clearly one of the best Hugo winners. It's in very fruitful dialogue with not one but two classic SF stories ("The Cold Equations" and "Rogue Moon"), and it's great even if you don't know those stories. A masterwork.

And I don't think it's the best story of 1995.

Consider Egan's two nominees. Both of them ("Luminous" and "TAP") are magnificent, the best work he had done to that date, I think. Either would have been fine Hugo winners, though I'd place them behind the Kelly.

But neither was even the best Egan novelette of the year.

That honor, in my opinion, goes to "Wang's Carpets", which I think one of the best SF stories of all time. A few novelettes might be better ("A Rose for Ecclesiastes"? "Fondly Fahrenheit"? "5,271,009"? "The Stars Below"?) but surely not many -- and at this level picking favorites is pointless. I don't think any SF story ever has pushed my sense of wonder to this level -- and I was a jaded 35 year old when I read it.

The thing is, there were a ton MORE great novelettes in 1995. My other two favorites were:
"Starship Day", by Ian R. MacLeod
"Fragments of a Painted Eggshell", by Alexander Jablokov (an almost ignored story)

But also, these novelettes are first rate:
"For White Hill", by Joe Haldeman (a beautiful SF story based quite rigorously on a Shakespeare sonnet)
"Gone to Glory", by R. Garcia y Robertson
"Coming of Age in Karhide", by Ursula K. LeGuin
"Recording Angel", by Paul McAuley
"Spondulix", by Paul di Filippo
"Downloading Midnight", by William Browning Spencer
"Ether OR", by Le Guin
"Ellen O'Hara", by MacLeod (Ian)
"Tale of the Blue Spruce Dreaming (or, How to Be Flesh)", by Neal Stephenson
"Radio Waves", by Michael Swanwick
"Thorri the Poet's Saga", by S. N. Dyer (Sharon Farber) and Lucy Kemnitzer
"Elvis Bearpaw's Luck", by William Sanders
"The Cement Garden", by Mary Rosenblum
"The Chronology Protection Case", by Paul Levinson

And finally in short story, the nominees include three excellent choices: McHugh's winner, "The Lincoln Train"; Friesner's striking "A Birthday"*, and Tony Daniel's excellent "Life on the Moon". Any of them would have been a worthy winner.

Other good potential nominees:
"Alderley Edge", by Jim Cowan (the first of three stories I've seen by him, every one excellent -- I wish there were more!)
"One", by George Alec Effinger
"Ebb Tide", by Mary Soon Lee
"Excerpt from the Third and Last Volume of 'Tribes of the Pacific Coast'", by Jean Mark Gawron (and those who have seen me express my hatred for his awful novel Algorithm should note that Gawron could actually write, and besides Algorithm his work is generally well worth checking out)
"Noses", by Eliot Fintushel
"Snow, Glass, Apples", by Neil Gaiman
"The Bone Carver's Tale", by Jeff VanderMeer
"The Dream of Houses", by Wil McCarthy
"The Grass Princess", by Gwyneth Jones (which won the World Fantasy Award)
"Water off a Black Dog's Back", by Kelly Link (her first published story)

*(and last year I should have mentioned Friesner's very affecting "Death and the Librarian")

Rich Horton
Rich Horton
43. ecbatan
I was going to say I should have mentioned Paul Park's excellent and very strange Celestis, except, you know, I did!. The novel actually dates to 1993 -- but it didn't appear in the US until 1995.

As I said, my comments were published without looking at the comment thread, so I'm happy to see Gardner give props to "Mortimer Gray's 'History of Death'" and "Starship Day", and of course "Wang's Carpets".

I delight in reading Carlos' comments, but I guess we disgree completely on Robert Charles Wilson. Robert Sawyer is indeed the essence of mediocrity -- indeed, way sub-mediocrity, usually -- but Wilson is very good.

But I think calling Sawyer the "replacement player in VORP" is utterly brilliant -- spot on!

I admit I'm disappointed no one mentioned "The Ziggurat".

Rich Horton
Nick Smale
44. Doug M.
"The Ziggurat" is where something clicked for me about Wolfe, and not in a good way. It's a well-written story and a well-crafted puzzle but, you know? There's a lot of weirdness about and towards women in Wolfe.

Speaking of Wolfe, his "Long Sun" tetralogy hasn't generated much discussion here. To be fair, none of the books were Hugo nominees -- but two picked up Nebula nominations. And the last book, Exodus of the Long Sun, came out in 1996. You'd think it would have been mentioned already at least once. Nope.

Long Sun was a pretty major work, but it seems to have vanished almost without a trace. His earlier New Sun series still has a devoted following. This one, not so much. Go figure.

Doug M.
Nick Smale
45. Doug M.
I'm also wondering how much longer Jo will keep this up. On one hand, there's no reason not to go to 2011. On the other, I think the nature of the discussion will change quite a bit as we approach the present.

Doug M.
Nick Smale
46. Doug M.
Nobody's mentioned "Twelve Monkeys". That's a pity, because it was a fine SF-horror movie, with creepy Terry Gilliam sets and cinematography, an excellent musical score, and unusually good performances from Bruce Willis (traumatized, subdued) and a very young Brad Pitt (manic, demented).

Pitt won a Golden Globe for it, and just missed picking up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar -- he lost to Kevin Spacey in "The Usual Suspects". Meanwhile, the movie made a pile of money, is still in regular rotation at Netflix, and enjoys a 85% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes.

"Toy Story" is a hugely important film. First, it was Pixar's first feature film. We're used to thinking, oh yes, Pixar, greatest mass-market animation company in history. But in 1996 they were a quirky little group that produced silly little shorts about lamps. "Toy Story" is what turned Pixar into a juggernaut and a household name.

Second, it was the first feature-length studio release film to use entirely CGI from beginning to end. Up to then, the studios had viewed CGI as something you did to put a spaceship in the background, or at most as a way to make Jim Carrey look even weirder. "Toy Story" opened the door, for good or bad, to the CGI world we live in today.

And third, "Toy Story" was just a frickin' great film. Story, animation, voice acting, score -- everything about it is top notch. It got nominated for three Oscars and two Golden Globes. It inspired two sequels that not only didn't suck, but were as good or better than the original. And it's still a classic today -- every kid in America under the age of 12 knows Buzz and Woody.

As for "Apollo 13", if you can get past the 'gee it's not SF' thing, it's another /great damn movie/. Nominated for nine Oscars, for God's sake, and won two. 97% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, still being downloaded and watched every day.

So this year had one solid SF-horror film and two titanic classics, films that are both great and widely beloved. Between them they garnered 13 Oscar nominations and two wins, plus a pile of other awards. "Twelve Monkeys" alone would justify the award for this year, while the other two would justify it for several years in either direction.

The only thing not to like is, of course, that they all lost to an episode of Babylon 5.

Doug M.
Soon Lee
47. SoonLee
Q: How far is Jo going to take this series?
A: 2000

Jo mentioned in the 1962 article, comment 24 ( ): "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but this series is going to stop with the Hugo winners of 2000. I don't think we can have any perspective yet on anything closer to that."
Nick Smale
48. wingracer
"First, I'm happy enough with The Diamond Age as a winner. It may not have a great ending, as Jo says, but what Stephenson does?"

Nick Smale
49. Doug M.
"First, I'm happy enough with The Diamond Age as a winner. It may not have a great ending, as Jo says, but what Stephenson does?"

Wingracer names Anathem. I'd add The Cobweb and Zodiac. (IMS the ending of the latter is a bit abrupt, but it's definitely an ending.)

The "Stephenson ending" thing gets overstated. He's perfectly capable of writing endings. He just doesn't always bother.

Doug M.
Rich Horton
50. ecbatan
I could swear I mentioned the first Long Sun volume a couple weeks ago, but maybe not. I do think it is another series best treated as a whole, which may be one problem with it in these discussions. Yes, though, it's a major work that seems undernoticed at times.

I remember being absolutely gobsmacked one year when Locus' Recommended Reading list omitted one of the Long Sun books -- probably the first -- and yet included Anne McCaffrey's dire Rescue Run.

Rich Horton
Nick Smale
51. Gardner Dozois
I agree with you about TOY STORY, which also had the benefit of a good script by Josh Whedon. I can't understand the argument that it's not fantasy--a movie about walking, talking, sentient toys who exist in a world of living toys with complex rules of behavior for interaction with the human world isn't fantasy? Christ, change "toys" for "robots," and you'd have a science fiction movie! Also think, whether they like it or not, that talking-animal stories are fantasy--among the oldest of all fantasy motiffs, in fact.

I respect TWELVE MONKEYS, but I never really LIKED it somehow, in spite of all the good aspects. If it came on TV, I'd probably switch to watching something else; I'd probably watch at least a few minutes of TOY STORY, though. It's warm and engaging in a way that TWELVE MONKEYS definitely is not.

And yes, a travesty that either of these lost to BABYLON FIVE, which in spite of all the apologists, still strikes me as badly written and even more poorly acted.
Nick Smale
52. Gardner Dozois
In spite of being a big Wolfe fan, I never liked "The Ziggurat," for reasons similar to Doug's. I was lukewarm to the "Long Sun" series too, which never really seems to have generated much heat, certainly nowhere near as much as the "New Sun" books did.
Nick Smale
53. CarlosSkullsplitter
43: Wilson is a much better writer than Sawyer at a technical level. But his appeal completely defeats me. He's like a Canadian bourgeois boomer Ballard -- and that would not be a bad thing -- except where Ballard is clinical, Wilson is soapy: both unctuous and melodramatic.

39: of course the centerpiece of Celestis is the dissolution of Katharine's human consciousness and the resurgence of the alien, but the small things are beautifully done: the society of Shreveport (the perfect name), the portrayal of Katharine's father, the sense of being in the ass-end of space, the final message from Earth.
Nick Smale
54. James Davis Nicoll
He's like a Canadian bourgeois boomer Ballard

Although like most sensible people with a choice he has lived in Canada for much of his life he only became a citizen in 2007, so please cast at least some blame in the direction of the US. For example, a Canadian should be aware enough of e.g. hydro-electric power (which accounted for 58% of all electric generation in Canada in 2007) to wonder how that would impact scenarios with a decline in supply of natural petroleum; happily, the origins of Julian Comstock are in a 2006 story so not Canada's fault at all. Or at least not entirely, although I will admit every Canadian who encounters Wilson has a responsibility to give him remedial education in Canadian energy production until such time as his fiction shows it has stuck.

Yes, I see the "like a" but he's a lot like an American bourgeois boomer Ballard as well.

1: Wintering in Alberta and summering in (iirc) Texas would be DOING IT WRONG but that individual did not have a choice.

2: Did we ever get an explanation as to why in Dan Simmons' new book Peak Oil meant windmills stopped working?
Nick Smale
55. CarlosSkullsplitter
54: Wilson might not have been legally Canadian until 2007, but he was so taken with the Matter of Canada that he included a bilingual Gnostic Dark Mirror Canada in 1994's Mysterium, where the French speakers controlled the Inquisition-analog: subtle!

Yes, there's a possible in-story explanation. But you don't see William Gibson obsessing over, say, the Meech Lake Accord in his fiction.
Nick Smale
56. James Davis Nicoll
Someone steeped in Canadian culture wouldn't have done it that way . The French (Canadians) Will Eat Our Babies is an American thing. See, for example, that wretched Willis/Felice novel where Anglo-America is in an endless warm war with Perfidious Quebec despite the fact that the Anglos should outnumber the French by at least forty to one (or more, if the difference in US TFRs and Quebec TFRs continues).

1: I'll will admit I have not read Rohmer's Separation and Separation II but iirc even there it's not just the French; Alberta is in on it too.
Pamela Adams
57. PamAdams
The Prometheus Award (Libertarian) was won by Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, a book which practically by itself justifies the existence of a separate UK publishing industry.

And..... I just ordered it.

Paul Park's Celestis, oh I could go on about this strange and fascinating book, but I am under time pressure today

And this one too.
Nick Smale
58. James Davis Nicoll
Slow River, Nicola Griffith

This is one of the very few SF novels about waste management (and if you toss the ones where the subject is treated as a joke, like Sheffield's Sewer Series, the set is even smaller). I remember it as being pretty good.

Sadly, it's also her most recent SF novel; after this she wrote three Aud Torvingen novels and an autobiography I have not read because I only just now discovered it existed. Mystery's gain is once again SF's loss. Stupid mystery and its market an order of magnitude larger than SF's .

1: Very very very roughly to the point of being totally wrong: Imagine Larsson's Millennium books without a Marty Stu journalist protagonist and if Lisbeth Salander wasn't written as one male's fantasy.

2: Only half-an-order of magnitude larger than fantasy's, though.
john mullen
59. johntheirishmongol
Another year where I only read one of the nominees. I never read the winner. I have read Brightness Reef, but I thought it was draggy and slow. I understand world building and that you have a specific idea in mind but it's often better to leave some things to our imagination.

Reading the reviews here of Diamond Age doesn't really want to make me run out and get a copy. A good story with a weak ending is not that good a story to me.

I have read a half dozen of the fantasy novels. If I was a voter, I would have gone for the Robin Hobb story. I wasn't crazy about the Ship stories, but the Assassin ones are quite good.

On to the film nominees, 13 Monkeys, while decent scifi was strangely uninvolving. If Brad Pitt would have won an Oscar for it, it would have been a joke. Toy Story was great fun but unless its a clear #1, I wouldn't vote for a cartoon. DS9 had a lot of great episodes. Apollo 13 was a great movie, but not really scifi. I don't get all the dissing of B5. If you throw out the last year, which was tacked on, B5 was as good or better as any scifi series ever made. It was true space opera and was a huge factor in multi-episode storylines.
p l
60. p-l
I loved the first two books or so of the Long Sun, but I've come to feel that the latter part of it contains the first symptoms of the Gene Wolfe dialogue disease. Has anyone read The Wizard - book 2 of The Wizard-Knight? That was the first infection site I came across. It felt like a good half of the book was taken up with:

"I have an idea regarding what we should do next, but before I explain it, I want to ask three questions. My first question is..."

"Hmm, I'll answer your first question, but then I'll ask a question of my own before answering your second and third. The answer to your first question is..."

I love Wolfe's attention to detail, but I think the seeds of his being obnoxiously methodical about it are apparent in books 3 and especially 4 of The Long Sun, as Silk gathers his group of super-friends around him. Eventually, at the end of every chapter, when Silk decides he has to go somewhere to do something else, the group gets a half-page to chime in, "I'm with you, Silk!" "Don't save the day without me, Silk!" And that repeats at the end of the next chapter, and then again...

The Long Sun began so beautifully, but by the end I just couldn't take it as seriously as I could the New Sun - nor did it strike me as (successfully) light-hearted.
Nick Smale
61. Gardner Dozois
All I can say is that somehow I just never engaged with the "Long Sun" books, and this was after coming off being a huge (insert fat joke here) "New Sun" fan.
Nick Smale
62. wingracer
"Wingracer names Anathem. I'd add The Cobweb and Zodiac. (IMS the ending of the latter is a bit abrupt, but it's definitely an ending.)"

I'm actually half way through reading Zodiac now. Glad to hear it has one of his better endings.
Evan Langlinais
63. Skwid
I'm with Nicoll...WTF is Apollo 13 on the nominee list for? Unless you're a denialist, that's just baffling!
Nick Smale
64. Petar Belic
"It sounds really clever, but also an example of SF turning back in on itself rather than reaching out to new futures." - Jo

I think it's difficult to justify having an opinion like this without, you know, actually reading the book. As someone pointed out earlier in the thread, a major part of the book (in fact you might say the structure behind it) was informed and created by contemporary cosmology at the time. It's still relevant. The 'futures' (plural intended) presented in The Time Ships felt very, very 'new' at the time to me.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
65. tnh
James Nicoll @12, 17; Skwid @63: You may feel that Apollo 13 isn't SF, but the Hugos have a useful operating principle: unless something truly absurd happens, content-based Hugo eligibility is what the voters say it is.

Voters can't override date- or format-based rules, such as length requirements or publication date cutoffs. However, if they feel that Apollo 13 delivers more skiffy goodness than any other piece of dramatic entertainment that year, and they vote accordingly, then Apollo 13 qualifies.

It's a good rule. If you don't believe me, consider the alternative, and what it would take to administer it.
Ian Gazzotti
66. Atrus
Wow, so much hate for Babylon 5. Who'd have guessed? I actually think seasons 2-4 are one of the best narrative arcs ever written on TV.

And add me to those who can't understand how Sawyer got so many awards. I've only read a book and a half but the only word that comes to mind about his writing is "dull".
Rich Horton
67. ecbatan
I agree completely with TNH on the Hugos, and the principal of "content-based eligibility is what the voters say it is".

That handles the complaints about Fantasy, and about YA, that have cropped up from time to time, as well as the complaints about non-fiction (essentially) like Apollo 13. (It's a good argument to use when Dave Truesdale goes into one of his rants about, say, "What I Didn't See" winning the Nebula.)

It also, seems to me, is a good argument for those who have -- not complained so much as questioned -- the books from the middles of series that win. If enough fans appreciated that book -- even though likely many of them, in the case of say Bujold, appreciated it in part because they had read its predecessors -- then a book is a worthy Hugo winner.

Rich Horton
Marcus W
68. toryx
I quite like Robert Sawyer, but maybe that just means I'm a mediocre reader.

I do wish The Color of Distance had gotten a Hugo nod. That's one of my favorite alien centric novels of all time.
Nick Smale
69. James Davis Nicoll
the Hugos have a useful operating principle: unless something truly absurd happens, content-based Hugo eligibility is what the voters say it is.

I am fairly sure that moaning about the outcome of this process is also a firmly established tradition.
Nick Smale
70. James Davis Nicoll
to his credit does not have his characters simply introduce a vicious eugenics program.

Actually Anderson in both his early liberal and later conservative days would have been a bad bet for featuring state-sanctioned eugenics, at least positively. Populations changing due to natural selection, as in "Star Fog", "The Horn of Time the Hunter" or "The Sharing of Flesh", sure but I cannot recall any of his stories where the State got to tell people who could breed.
Tim May
71. ngogam
That handles the complaints about Fantasy, and about YA, that have cropped up from time to time, as well as the complaints about non-fiction (essentially) like Apollo 13.
Does it? Agreeing that the voters get to decide doesn't require you to think that all their choices have been good ones. Indeed, it provides a rationale for complaints, which if public enough and eloquent enough may sway future voters...
Rich Horton
72. ecbatan
Well of course you can disagree with the voters' choices. That's part of the deal, as James remarked. But you can disagree on all grounds -- I can disagree with voters who choose Sawyer, say, though I don't dispute his eligibility.

But what I think happens is that voters decide, in essence, which story/film/whatever best satisfied their SF jones -- or, a TNH say, delivered more skiffy goodness. As she says, what's the alternative? A tribunal deciding what's SF and what's not? That'll work real well, you bet.
Marcus W
73. toryx
Personally, unless it's an outright documentary, I view anything Hollywood produces to be fiction no matter how closely they hew to the actual events the film is based on. They don't exactly have an exemplary track record for authenticity.
Jo Walton
74. bluejo
I said in the intoduction to this series that I was going to go up to 2000 -- it would be both pointless and slightly unethical to go further. (I was a Campbell nominee in 2001.)

Sorry about the delay in response, I was on a train and am now in Worldcon.
Nick Smale
75. James Davis Nicoll
Only one more month? But these have been what I look forward to on Sundays.
Andrew Love
76. AndyLove
Only one more month? But these have been what I look forward to on Sundays.

Me too. Perhaps a Hugo-nominated fanwriter could take up the job after Jo signs off.
Nick Smale
77. Petar Belic
"-- it would be both pointless and slightly unethical to go further."

I disagree.
I would love to hear everyone's thoughts, including Jo's!
Nick Smale
78. James Davis Nicoll
Perhaps a Hugo-nominated fanwriter could take up the job after Jo signs off.

I like that idea but Pohl seems really busy on his own blog.
Nick Smale
79. James Davis Nicoll
Speaking of Hugo nominees, anyone care to suggest which category Jo's Hugo retrospective would be best suited to?
Nick Smale
80. Raskolnikov
As others have said, I'd quite like for this series to continue past 2000. I've really enjoyed this process across, and only started really tracking Hugos and genre fiction after 2006, there's a gab in there that sounds rather enagaging. Understand the awkwardness of discussing a setup where oneself appears on the ballot, perhaps another tor regular could take us through the final stretch?

Of the nominees for this year, I'd have preferred The Time Ships to win. Baxter has done better stuff, particularly with the Xeelee Sequence and his most recent prehistorical trilogy, but it's a very impressive work. A lot more than a Wells pastiche, particularly with the sense of scale it introduces. The Diamond Age isn't a bad work and does quite well in terms of overall creativity and worldbuilding (although with some disquieting Orientalist stances moved in there, I thought) but it's not a functioning novel. I don't think even making a real ending would fix that, there's plainly a lot of extraneous in-jokes put in, and Stephenson doesn't seem to have managed a welding of his enthusiasm into a better structure that he does with both Cryptonomicon and Anathem.

From all the books published that year, I'd probably endorse Star Fraction. You only need one book that good each decade to justify the continued existence of science fiction.

I have no time or enthusiasm for Connie Willis. I did, five years ago, have a lot of liking for Sawyer, but given the SF I've been exposed to since than I see him as decidedly mediocre. What stings the most is that even Sawyer was more creative than he was when he was getting Hugo nominated left right and center. Starplex was not by any means a great novel, but it was considerably more ambitious and tense than he's done since. Terminal Experiment seems to have started his turn towards trite near-future Canadian-protagonist SF where characters talk about Star Trek a lot and offer nothing of real challenge.
Nick Smale
81. James Davis Nicoll
trite near-future Canadian-protagonist SF

Wasn't the blind girl in the series about how good it would be to have an all-knowing AI poking around in our private lives to make people conform to Sawyer's standards born and raised in Texas and only in Canada because she had been dragged there by her parents?

It seems to me that regular people are almost always sonme kind of Canadian; I've just done an informal poll of people in my neighborhood and all of them without exception are either Landed Immigrants in Canada, or Canadian citizens . It's only sensible that protagonists would tend to be Canadian as well.


2: I never noticed before but I think the number of Mormon missionaries roaming the streets in Kitchener may vary by season. I seem to encounter them mainly in the spring. Those guys seem to be pretty reliably visiting from the US, even though Mormon communities go back in Canada as far as 1887. Maybe the send the Canadian Mormons doing missions off to the US.
Nick Smale
82. Raskolnikov
You're right, WWW does form a partial exception. It still seems to be the dominant trait in Sawyer's fiction, though, having protagonists that are Canadian and using that as a rather smug way of positing moral superiority without having to make characters really be very good. If memory serves, one of the Hominids sequels has a character actually say taht the (by that point utopian) Neanderthals were basically like Canadians, while humans were basically like Americans. There's a nasty streak of essentialism in Sawyer's approach (gender much more disturbing than nationality) which is at best irritating, and goes into some liberal trite standards writ into totalitarian standpoints. In the WWW trilogy, as you mention, it's a nice AI. In Hominids and sequels, the Neanderthal approach to curbing agression through a panoptican and chemical sterilization/castration is identified by the end as an absolute good. In Factoring Humanity, alien literally shift human consciousness patterns to make people act nicer to each other. Somewhat disturbing subtext, amongst the usual bland mediocrity.
Andrew Love
83. AndyLove
If memory serves, one of the Hominids sequels has a character actually say that the (by that point utopian) Neanderthals were basically like Canadians, while humans were basically like Americans.

And yet, the legal system of the Neanderthals was actually worse than the human one, in areas where it was supposed to be better - one of the female Neanderthal characters was covering up the fact that her husband was abusing her because she didn't want her sons to be castrated (I'm well aware that there are many perverse incentives in our system encouraging women to remain with abusive husbands - but the Neanderthal system adds another one, which is apparently essential to their legal system).
Rich Horton
84. ecbatan
The first HOMINIDS book, the only one I read (I'm often stupid, but not THAT stupid) was particularly blatant in portraying the Neanderthal legal system as actively evil while evidently endorsing it as a positive good.
Nick Smale
85. James Davis Nicoll
If memory serves, one of the Hominids sequels has a character actually say taht the (by that point utopian) Neanderthals were basically like Canadians, while humans were basically like Americans.

This seems like an appropriate moment to point out that Sawyer is a dual Canadian/US citizen so technically he's Canadian *and* American.
Nick Smale
86. James Davis Nicoll
having protagonists that are Canadian and using that as a rather smug way of positing moral superiority without having to make characters really be very good.

By definition Canadians *are* the examples the rest of the world turns to for its definition of good (1, 2) so when, for example, Canada helps depose a democratically elected head of state whose policies are inconvenient for us or we back a UN intervention notable mainly for not accomplishing any of its official goals while at the same time having recurring scandals involving child prostitution, those cannot be due to Canadian malevolent but rather pursuit of an exceedingly subtle positive goal.

The whole opposing any concrete attempt to deal with climate change I will admit is mostly driven by the revelation that in a neo-Oligocene climate nobody in Canada would ever have to shovel snow again. Note that one of the traditional ways Canadians die is when sedentary men in their 50s check to see if they have a cardiac condition yet by attempting to move several tonnes of snow by hand after months of inactivity.

1: Also modesty. Have I mentioned today that we are charmingly self-effacing?

2: Alberta exception noted but they don't know any better. And oil always has a corrupting effect.
Andrew Love
87. AndyLove

I happened glance at a copy of "Foundation" today - Hober Mallow mentions that the century and a half since his star maps were produced has resulted in noticable impacts on stellar navigation.
Nick Smale
88. James Davis Nicoll
A century and a half seems a little fast but in a whole galaxy there are probably stellar neighborhoods where the distribution of stars evolves faster than out here in the boonies. Asimov had habitable worlds in the core of the Milky Way, right?

I was thinking of how although Alpha Centauri and Sol have quite different paths through the Milky Way, they are still neighbors billions of years on in one of Sawyer's recent books.
Andrew Mason
89. AnotherAndrew
I was thinking of how although Alpha Centauri and Sol have quite different paths through the Milky Way, they are still neighbors billions of years on in one of Sawyer's recent books.

That happens in Asimov as well (allegedly, though I believe the existence of the book in question is disputed).
Andrew Love
90. AndyLove
A century and a half seems a little fast

As I think about the scene, I think Mallow is using the common knowledge that stars move and the age of his map, as an excuse to ask some questions of the fellow he's talking to.

I was thinking of how although Alpha Centauri and Sol have quite different paths through the Milky Way, they are still neighbors billions of years on in one of Sawyer's recent books.

Oh dear.
Nick Smale
91. James Davis Nicoll
He's not the only SF author to do that, mind. My first STARS MOVE rant was posted to rasfw in response to reading, hrm, maybe Cusp; its plot depended on Sol and Alpha C having been near each other for the last billion years or so. I think James P Hogan also had a very static Local Sphere of Stars in his Giants series.
Nick Smale
92. Jeff R.
Hm. I wonder if there is a canonical chart or list of our priordial and future closest neighbors. And what the appropriate time-distance between snapshots to ensure minimal loss (1 billion years, 100 million, or considerably shorter to the point where it really needs to be an automated lookup thing rather than a single table)
Nick Smale
93. James Davis Nicoll
My suspicion is that the horizon beyond which this becomes impossible is a much much shorter length of time than the age of the galaxy so "primordial" is out.
Nick Smale
94. Alan Heuer
Here is how I voted in 1996:

Best Novel
1. The Diamond Age Neal Stephenson
2. The Terminal Experiment Robert J. Sawyer
3. The Time Ships Stephen Baxter
4. Brightness Reef David Brin
5. Remake Connie Willis

Best Novella
1. "A Woman's Liberation" Ursula K. Le Guin
2. "Fault Lines" Nancy Kress
3. "The Death of Captain Future" Allen Steele
4. "Bibi" Mike Resnick & Susan Shwartz
5. "A Man of the People" Ursula K. Le Guin

Best Novelette
1. "Think Like a Dinosaur" James Patrick Kelly
2. "The Good Rat" Allen Steele
3. "When the Old Gods Die" Mike Resnick
4. "TAP" Greg Egan
5. "Luminous" Greg Egan
6. "Must and Shall" Harry Turtledove

Best Short Story
1. "Life on the Moon" Tony Daniel
2. "A Birthday" Esther M. Friesner
3. "The Lincoln Train" Maureen F. McHugh
4. "Walking Out" Michael Swanwick
5. "TeleAbsence" Michael A. Burstein

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment