Aug 21 2011 10:30am

Hugo Nominees: 1997

The 1997 Hugo Awards were presented at LoneStarCon II, in San Antonio, Texas. The best novel winner was Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars, which I have not read because of issues with Red Mars, as previously mentioned. It’s the conclusion to Robinson’s trilogy about terraforming Mars. It’s in print and it’s in the Grande Bibliotheque (hereafter “the library”) in French and English.

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

Bruce Sterling’s Holy Fire is a near-future extrapolation about rejuvenation. I liked it but I had issues with it — having the hormones and body of a young person wouldn’t inherently give an old person the same fashion tastes as a young person. It was a book that got a lot of buzz at the time, but I haven’t heard much about it since — I think it has been eclipsed by Sterling’s later work. I have a soft spot for it because it was the first long thing of his I really liked. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in French and English.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Memory (post) is planetary SF about growing up and facing responsibilities. It’s very much not a standalone book, it really needs the rest of the series to support it, and I think it may have suffered in the voting because of that. I think it’s an excellent nominee and I would have voted for it. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in French and English.

Elizabeth Moon’s Remnant Population is about a colony moved off their planet and one grandmother who decides to stay alone. I liked the idea of it, and the elderly female protagonist, more than I actually enjoyed the experience of reading it, but I’m glad it got a Hugo nomination — a very unusual book. It’s in print and in the library in English only.

I haven’t read Robert J. Sawyer’s Starplex because I didn’t enjoy The Terminal Experiment enough to want to seek out more of his work. This sounds much more my kind of thing though — the discovery of a series of wormholes opens up time and space to an Earth that might not be ready for it. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English and French.

So, two women and three men, one Canadian and four Americans, all science fiction, two planetary SF, one space opera, one near future Earth and one medium future Mars. What else might they have chosen?

SFWA’s Nebula Awards were not covering calendar years at this point — it was won by Griffith’s excellent Slow River, which is a 1995 book. The only eligible non-overlapping nominee was Patricia McKillip’s Winter Rose.

The World Fantasy Awards were won by Rachel Pollack’s astonishingly weird Godmother Night. Other nominees: The 37th Mandala, Marc Laidlaw, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, William Kotzwinkle, Devil’s Tower, Mark Sumner, A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, The Golden Key, Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson & Kate Elliott, Shadow of Ashland, Terence M. Green.

The Campbell Memorial Award was given to Paul McAuley’s Fairyland, with Blue Mars second and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow third.

The Philip K. Dick Award went to The Time Ships, Stephen Baxter, though as it was a 1996 Hugo nominee I don’t understand how it was eligible. The special citation was At the City Limits of Fate, Michael Bishop. Other nominees: Reclamation, Sarah Zettel, The Shift, George Foy, The Transmigration of Souls, William Barton.

The Tiptree Award was given to The Sparrow — I demand a recount! At least it was a tie with Le Guin’s excellent short “Mountain Ways.” The long works on the short list were: A History Maker, Alasdair Gray, Leaning Towards Infinity, Sue Woolfe, Nadya: The Wolf Chronicles, Pat Murphy, The Pillow Friend, Lisa Tuttle.

The Locus SF Award was won by Blue Mars. Other nominees not mentioned already: Endymion, Dan Simmons, Cetaganda, Lois McMaster Bujold (post), Idoru, William Gibson, Inheritor, C. J. Cherryh (post), Night Lamp, Jack Vance, Exodus from the Long Sun, Gene Wolfe, Voyage, Stephen Baxter, Beggars Ride, Nancy Kress, Excession, Iain M. Banks, The Ringworld Throne, Larry Niven, Children of the Mind, Orson Scott Card, Otherland: City of Golden Shadow, Tad Williams, Dreamfall, Joan D. Vinge, Distress, Greg Egan, Pirates of the Universe, Terry Bisson, River of Dust, Alexander Jablokov, Night Sky Mine, Melissa Scott, The Other End of Time, Frederik Pohl, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, Sheri S. Tepper, The Tranquillity Alternative, Allen Steele, Oaths and Miracles, Nancy Kress, Infinity’s Shore, David Brin.

Well, some good stuff there, but also some things I’m really glad are there and not on the Hugo list — Endymion, Ringworld Throne, Children of the Mind — this is a year when people sensibly didn’t nominate things in series where only the first one was great.

The Locus Fantasy Award was won by A Game of Thrones, which doesn’t surprise me one bit. Other nominees not yet mentioned: Lunatics, Bradley Denton, Blameless in Abaddon, James Morrow, Royal Assassin, Robin Hobb, A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan, Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchett, The Wood Wife, Terri Windling (Tor), One for the Morning Glory, John Barnes, Walking the Labyrinth, Lisa Goldstein, Ancient Echoes, Robert Holdstock, Clouds End, Sean Stewart, The Golden Compass (UK title Northern Lights), Philip Pullman, Mother of Winter, Barbara Hambly, Fair Peril, Nancy Springer, Blood of the Fold, Terry Goodkind, Firebird, Mercedes Lackey, The Dragon and the Unicorn, A. A. Attanasio. Sea Without a Shore, Sean Russell.

The Wood Wife won the Mythopoeic Award.

So, was there anything they all missed?

There was Raphael Carter’s The Fortunate Fall (post) which really was one of the most exciting books of the year, or any year, and which should have made the Hugo ballot. And there was Candas Jane Dorsey’s beautiful Black Wine (post), which should have made the World Fantasy or Mythopoeic lists at least. There’s Jane Emerson’s City of Diamond (post). There’s Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and Ian McDonald’s Sacrifice of Fools, one of his very best books.

On the whole, 1997’s nominees work. They’re a good set of books, they’re representative of where the field was, though I’d have really liked to see The Fortunate Fall and Sacrifice of Fools up there.

Other Categories


  • “Blood of the Dragon”, George R. R. Martin (Asimov’s Jul 1996)
  • “Abandon in Place”, Jerry Oltion (F&SF Dec 1996)
  • “The Cost to Be Wise”, Maureen F. McHugh (Starlight 1)
  • “Gas Fish”, Mary Rosenblum (Asimov’s Feb 1996)
  • “Immersion”, Gregory Benford (Science Fiction Age Mar 1996)
  • “Time Travelers Never Die”, Jack McDevitt (Asimov’s May 1996)

My two favourites here, the Martin and the McHugh, are both sections of novels. I didn’t make it to Worldcon that year, but I remember being at a Unicon the weekend before and talking about how great these nominees were, which was probably the first time I noticed how much I liked novellas. And Starlight, what a great anthology!


  • “Bicycle Repairman”, Bruce Sterling (Intersections: The Sycamore Hill Anthology; Asimov’s Oct/Nov 1996)
  • “Age of Aquarius”, William Barton (Asimov’s May 1996)
  • “Beauty and the Opéra or The Phantom Beast”, Suzy McKee Charnas (Asimov’s Mar 1996)
  • “The Land of Nod”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Jun 1996)
  • “Mountain Ways”, Ursula K. Le Guin (Asimov’s Aug 1996)


  • “The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson’s Poems: A Wellsian Perspective”, Connie Willis (Asimov’s Apr 1996; War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches)
  • “The Dead”, Michael Swanwick (Starlight 1)
  • “Decency”, Robert Reed (Asimov’s Jun 1996)
  • “Gone”, John Crowley (F&SF Sep 1996)
  • “Un-Birthday Boy”, James White (Analog Feb 1996)


  • Time & Chance: An Autobiography, L. Sprague de Camp (Donald M. Grant)
  • The Faces of Fantasy, Patti Perret (Tor)
  • Look at the Evidence, John Clute (Serconia Press)
  • The Silence of the Langford, David Langford (NESFA Press)
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones (Vista)

Here, another helping of comparing kumquats to parakeets! I’m amazed the DWJ didn’t win.


  • Babylon 5: “Severed Dreams” (Warner Bros.; directed by David J. Eagle, written by J. Michael Straczynski, produced by John Copeland)
  • Independence Day (Centropolis Film Productions/20th Century Fox Film; directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, produced by Dean Devlin)
  • Mars Attacks! (Warner Bros.; directed by Tim Burton, written by Jonathan Gems, produced by Tim Burton and Larry Franco)
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: “Trials and Tribble-ations” (Paramount; directed by Jonathan West, written by Ronald D. Moore & Rene Echevarria, story by Ira Steven Behr & Hans Beimler & Robert Hewitt Wolfe, executive producers Ira Steven Behr & Rick Berman)
  • Star Trek: First Contact (Paramount Pictures; directed by Jonathan Frakes, story by Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga & Rick Berman, screenplay by Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga, produced by Rick Berman)


  • Gardner Dozois
  • Scott Edelman
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Stanley Schmidt


  • Bob Eggleton
  • Thomas Canty
  • David A. Cherry
  • Don Maitz
  • Michael Whelan


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

For those interested in SemiProzine as a category, the committee have just released their report on it, ahead of this year’s Worldcon.


  • Mimosa, Dick & Nicki Lynch
  • Ansible, Dave Langford
  • File 770, Mike Glyer
  • Nova Express, Lawrence Person
  • Tangent, Dave Truesdale


  • Dave Langford
  • Sharon Farber
  • Mike Glyer
  • Andy Hooper
  • Evelyn C. Leeper


  • William Rotsler
  • Ian Gunn
  • Joe Mayhew
  • Peggy Ranson
  • Sherlock


  • Michael A. Burstein
  • Raphael Carter
  • Richard Garfinkle
  • Katya Reimann
  • Sharon Shinn

Burstein is a terrific winner — he was nominated on the strength of awesome short work, and he has continued to produce awesome short work ever since.

Raphael Carter’s first novel The Fortunate Fall had just come out to great acclaim, a great nominee. Carter hasn’t produced much since, unfortunately

Richard Garfinkle had also just written a first novel, the unusual Celestial Matters in which there are real crystal spheres and you can crash through them on your way to the moon. Another good nominee.

Katya Reimann is another first novelist, her Wind From a Foreign Sky had just come out. She has completed that trilogy but I haven’t seen anything recently.

Sharon Shinn is of course a major writer, as I said last week, and would have been another terrific winner.

So a pretty good Campbell slate. Other possible eligible candidates: Candas Jane Dorsey, Ian McDowell, Sarah Zettel, J. Gregory Keyes.

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.

John Adams
1. JohnArkansawyer
Remnant Population was a good book, probably not great, but worth reading and a fine idea. The three of Elizabeth Moon's novels I've read were not very much like each other, and that's an admirable quality in a writer.
Kate Nepveu
2. katenepveu
_Tough Guide_ was nominated as nonfiction?

That's . . . I really don't know what I think about that. I mean, I guess it makes sense, but I don't shelve it as such.
James Davis Nicoll
3. James Davis Nicoll
Devil’s Tower, Mark Sumner

One of a pair of amusing dark fantasy horror novels. As far as I can tell we've lost Sumner to non-fiction.

I haven’t read Robert J. Sawyer’s Starplex because I didn’t enjoy The Terminal Experiment enough to want to seek out more of his work.

Lucky you. He's establishing his formula here: the bits of pop science that will fail to pan out (reports that there were stars older than the universe), some Afterschool Special subplot (infidelity, I think) and some howlers (a green star, someone spotting an incoming laser in time to dodge it). Later on he'll start avoiding future settings for Next Week AD settings, the reasoning being, if I recall online discussions correctly, that familiarity alienates fewer readers. The fact that Next Week AD books are overtaken by events very quickly (1) is balanced by the fact that most sales for a book for its entire life occur in the first year after publication.

A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan

Both series still chugging along.

Elizabeth Moon’s Remnant Population

Economic set-up probably doesn't bear close examination but then, how much of SF does? Don't get me started on Cherryh's Union. Liked the book right up to the point where the cardboard standees posing as scientists show up.

Dreamfall, Joan D. Vinge

The one non-tie in Vinge I don't own. Saw a copy, didn't pick it up, have not seen one since.

River of Dust, Alexander Jablokov

One of a number of books set on Mars, this one Chinese dominated and with a politically driven ecological crisis.

Voyage, Stephen Baxter

Probably Baxter's best book. Space program fans can amuse themselves spotting where he's lifting various events from. He will follow this up with Titan, which I did not care for as much as I did Voyage.

Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchett

That was this early?

One for the Morning Glory, John Barnes

A very atypical Barnes, in which he commits deliberately heinous acts on the English language for the amusement of his audience.

The Ringworld Throne, Larry Niven

Probably the worst of the Ringworld sequels.

Children of the Mind, Orson Scott Card

And this is even worse. Even the Enders' Risk Game novels, with their "Chinese people: a naturally orderly race" and the bit where invading Moscow turns out to be a total doddle of the sort you could knock off in a weekend aren't as bad.
Rich Horton
4. ecbatan
Briefly at first, because I haven't had time to look through the long list of 1996's stories and novels ...

Of the nominated novels, I'd have voted for (and probably did vote for) Holy Fire, though I agree it doesn't seem well remembered. I also loved The Fortunate Fall. Blue Mars is a worthwhile book, finishing a worthwhile trilogy -- its award is not a shame, by any means.

I think a nomination list that comprised Holy Fire, The Fortunate Fall, Blue Mars, Celestial Matters, and perhaps Memory would have been about right.

In the Campbell, I strongly disagree about Burstein, by all accounts a very nice guy but just not that strong a writer. His first story did have some interesting ideas, and got a fair amount of notice. I voted for Raphael Carter, no doubt. It's a shame Carter has done so little since -- just one more story that I can think of, and that very good, I should add. Really, I should add, the entire nominee list is very strong, and the other candidates you mention are also strong. A good year for the Campbell, even if the winner is in my opinion a weak choice.

But you missed one eligible writer, who in retrospect is in my opinion overwhelmingly the best and most important new writer to appear in the field in 1995/1996: Kelly Link.

Around this time I had started to write for the print Tangent (which, I see, was a Hugo nominee, though not by any means due to my contributions), and to post my thoughts on as well, so I actually have records of what I thought the best stories of 1996 were. In novella, I liked:

Bellwether, by Connie Willis
"Immersion", by Gregory Benford
"Abandon in Place", by Jerry Oltion
"Chrysalis", by Robert Reed
"The Cost to Be Wise", by Maureen McHugh
"Primrose and Thorn", by Bud Sparhawk
"Human History", by Lucius Shepard

Back then I probably would have voted for Willis, and I might still, but I also might vote for McHugh. I had problems with "Blood of the Dragon", partly because it seemed too much "part of a novel", and partly because the economics seemed absurd.

In novelette, I had a long list, with three absolutely outstanding stories that did not make the Hugo nomination list. These are:

"The Spade of Reason", by Jim Cowan

"Erase, Record, Play", by John M. Ford

"Seven Guesses of the Heart", by M. John Harrison

All of those should have been nominated, a win by any of them would have been fine -- I'd have voted for the Cowan, a great and sadly underknown story, in first.

As for other possibilities -- well, here's what I wrote back then (still saved on my home page):

Other notable novelettes, in no particular order: "The Copyright Notice Case" by Paul Levinson, "Galley Slave" by Jean Lamb, "Martian Valkyrie" by G. David Nordley, "Beauty and the Opera or the Phantom Beast" by Suzy McKee Charnas, "Bicycle Repairman" by Bruce Sterling, "Pyros" by George Ewing, "Bettina's Bet" by L. Timmel Duchamp, "The Miracle of Ivar Avenue" by John Kessel, "The Flowers of Aulit Prison" by Nancy Kress, "Generation Zero" by Michael Cassutt, "Flying Lessons" by Kelly Link, "Yesterdays" by Mary Rosenblum, "The Crear" by Barrington J. Bayley, "The Weighing of Ayre" by Gregory Feeley, and "Tea" by Esther Friesner. Of those listed, I'd point special attention to the Kelly Link story, mainly because I think she is a new writer of considerable interest, based on the grand total of two stories of her's that I've read.

In retrospect, I'm really really proud that I singled out Kelly Link -- I think it's fair to say I was right about her potential!

Of those novelettes listed above, besides the Link, I am most impressed in memory by Kress's "Flowers of Aulit Prison" (though as noted by someone else, this was a good story that led to a mediocre trilogy), Duchamp's "Bettina's Bet" (she might have been a good Campbell nominee!), and the two Hugo nominees, "Bicycle Repairman" (which is good, and a good winner, just not as good as the three I mentioned at first) and "Beauty and the Opera".

In short story, my clear choice as the best of the year was "Gone", by John Crowley. (Crowley really is an utterly amazing writer.)

My other top favorites:

"The Spear of the Sun", by David Langford

"Counting Cats in Zanzibar", by Gene Wolfe

"Cider", by Tom Purdom

"Breakaway, Backdown", by James Patrick Kelly (reminded me of "Scanners Live in Vain")

"A Crab Must Try", by Barrington Bayley (a very weird late story by this often very weird writer -- I think this one won the BSFA short fiction award)

"The Drowning Cell", by Gregory Feeley

Rich Horton
James Davis Nicoll
5. Michael Habif
What novel is McHugh's "Cost to be Wise" a part of?
James Davis Nicoll
6. CarlosSkullsplitter
Not too much to say about this year that hasn't been said already.

Two Texans on the final award ballot for a convention held in San Antonio... and neither won! I'm sure Doug M. will have things to say about Sterling, but it fascinates me how he manages to be near the beginning of new subcultures so often. As I've become older I think I see how it's done, but Sterling sort of intuited it. Wish he'd spend more time diving into the American crazy, but I can't blame him for leaving it.

The Carter I thought was solid B-list material. Perhaps it's a form of cyberpunk for people who don't like cyberpunk?

Starplex, if memory serves, has a superintelligent descendant of whooping cough among its cardboard crew.

Moon is diverse. I like that she perplexes me, even if there's no novel of hers I would straightaway recommend. I am a sucker for the old style of hobby SF -- where the plot centers around the author's unusual enthusiasms -- and I will put up with a fair amount of mustache-twirling to read someone who has thought a lot about their interests.
Rich Horton
7. ecbatan
"The Cost to be Wise" is a version of the opening section of Mission Child, an excellent novel.

It's a damned shame that McHugh has only published one novel since then.

As for Starplex, silly as the science mistakes were, the real problem with the book, and it's a fatal problem, is the absurdly cardboard characters, plus the now standard Sawyer Lifetime Movie of the Week "problem" for his main character to unconvincingly face.

It's an awful novel, and I came to it with modest expectations, as I had mildly enjoyed the Sawyer I had read prior to it. Its Hugo nomination was a terrible mistake.
john mullen
9. johntheirishmongol
I do think that I have a lot of catching up to do. Maybe in a few years when I retire I will hit the library and try some of these. The funny thing is that I have read some of the writers, but didn't care for the ones I read enough to read anything else by them. The except is Lois McMaster Bujold in this category, who I continue to read. I suppose the nice thing about having a series is that, if it's popular, you have a guaranteed market for your work. The bad thing is that it can make it hard to really judge how good a work is without context.

For Fantasy, I would have gone with A Game of Thrones. As many issues as I have with GRRM for being interminably slow with completing the series, the first book is astonishingly good.

In film, the winning episode from B5 was where the series really found its voice and took off. Before it was all buildup and forshadowing, but now the confrontations are up front. Good winner.

ID4 was fun nonsense , with lots of good battle scenes, some great blowups and the resurrection of Judd Hirsh's career. In the theaters everyone cheered when the aliens started blowing up everything, particularly the White House.

The Star Trek movie was one of the good ones. My only complaint was that James Cromwell looks nothing like an older Glenn Corbitt, and the characters were nothing alike. So it seemed to ignore ST:TOS ep completely except for the name.

The DS9 ep was wonderful, and smart and funny and great editing. It is why in many ways, DS9 was as good as ST could be.
Michal Jakuszewski
10. Lfex
Not very good list of nominated novels, IMHO. I probably wouldn't nominate any of them. I didn't like Robinson's Mars trilogy. Blue Mars was probably the best of the three books, but still not what I would call award level. I would probably put Memory first, since it was pretty good, Miles novel. As for the rest Holy Fire was well received, but I don't think it has aged well, The Remnant Population was enojoyable, but minor, and Sawyer was predictably awful.

What should be there? A Game of Thrones was for me clearly the best novel of the year, predictably enough, I also liked a lot Firestar by Michael Flynn (inferior sequels notwithstanding), The Reality Dysfunction, first volume of Peter Hamilton's doorstopper space opera series, and Sean Stewart's Clouds End. It is one of only two secondary world fantasies he wrote. I loved it, but it appears I am in minority, since I don't see it mentioned anywhere.

I haven't read The Fortunate Fall and Celestial Matters which bot look like books I would like. I agree The Ringworld Throne and Children of the Mind were awful. Endymion and Infinity's Shore weren't necessarily so, but I despise the next installments (respectively The Rise of Endymion and Heaven's Reach), since I really, really hate massive retrofitting in a style "everything you thought you knew was wrong", and because of that I wouldn't want to see them on the ballot.

Martin didn't win for A Game of Thrones, but at least he got a novella Hugo for a fragment of it. All things considering, I find it impossible to quarrel with this verdict. I remember loving "The Flowers of Aulit Prison" - another example of brilliant Kress' story leading to a so-so trilogy, but it didn't get nominated. Considering nominated stories, I would probably vote for Le Guin and Crowley in their categories.
Chad Orzel
11. orzelc
One for the Morning Glory is a weird and fun little book. It's really difficult to believe that the same John Barnes who wrote it also wrote the remarkably unpleasant Mother of Storms.

Memory is the only one of the novel nominees that I've read (I bogged down early in Green Mars and never finished it, and the others are not my thing). I was less impressed with it than many others-- it was screamingly obvious to me how it would end, which robbed it of the emotional impact others find in it. It's almost certainly the best in the series, though.

I agree that The Fortunate Fall would've been a terrific choice. "Erase, Record, Play" was also fantastic, and would've been a good novella nominee, though I don't think I've read the actual nominees, so it's possible they were better. That's a high bar to clear, though.
Bjorn Bjornsson
12. Bjorn
Incidentally, 'Memory' was the first Bujold I read and I loved it and have been an avid Bujold fan ever since, so for me it stood well on its own, even if reading the previous books filled out the story. It's probably still my favourite Miles book.
That said, I also love the Mars series, and am very happy Blue Mars won.
David Levinson
13. DemetriosX
Of the novels, the only one I've read is Blue Mars and I don't think I'd have voted for it. It just meanders along to a sort of ending that is vaguely Joycean, but it's probably the least of the three.

As has been noted, the Martin novella was excerpted from Game of Thrones. I was excited when I saw it in the ToC for that issue of Asimov's, but found myself very disappointed with it. In fact it was a major contributor to my not reading the series until very recently (like the last week, literally). I now understand my problem with it. It is essentially all of the Daenerys chapters, but there is actually a fair amount of world-building that goes on in the other chapters that helps the reader understand what's going on. I would probably have voted for the Oltion, which was really good.

The dramatic presentation category is a little weak, but not so bad as to make me throw up my hands and want to abolish the category as in other years. I'm largely in agreement with john @9, though I think there were other episodes of DS9 that were better. I think this is another case of the production being very sfnal having an influence.
James Davis Nicoll
14. Kai in NYC
Nadya: The Wolf Chronicles! Thanks for mentioning that novel. For years I've been racking my brains trying to remember the title of that haunting novel about a werewolf in the old west I once read. Just went over to amazon to order a copy ...
James Davis Nicoll
15. Raskolnikov
Burstein is a terrific winner — he was nominated on the strength of awesome short work, and he has continued to produce awesome short work ever since.

Have to disagree with this statement. Based on what I've seen, from his recent material, Burstein is a jaw-droppingly terrible author, who leaves no cliche unused, and demonstrates a level of prose construction so poor it's embarassing he was able to publish. Take "Seventy Five Years", for an intance--ridiculously non-happening plot, and such brilliant writing as: 'She walked quickly past the Alexander Calder sculpture "Mountains and Clouds" that filled the cavernous atrium. The black aluminum sheets of the suspended "clouds" and the standing "mountains" contrasted with the white marble of the floor and walls....A calendar on the wall displayed today's date: Thursday, February 27, 2098'

There have probably been worse Campbell winners, but none I've read. What's the value you see in his writing, if I might ask?

For the novels, a decent ballot, despite the stench of Sawyer's offerings drapped on the list. Starplex was definitely an undeserving nominee, although I'd maintain better than what Sawyer produced after this point. Holy Fire is a work I've never seen the value in--it's decent but far from great, and seems to bank too much on its optimistic cyberpunk angle being a draw. Memory was alright, if a bit too introverted as a late installment in the series. Blue Mars was great, a deserving winner, one of the few attempts to take the construction of utopia seriously, rather than collapsing or undermining it. Even Banks generally provided a more dystopian element to his settings, and here Robinson brought his series to a strong finish. Slow River, the Fortunate Fall and Fairyland also would have been good winners, and should have been nominated.
Pretty weak Dramatic Presentation this year--not a fan of the Babylon Five at all, and Deep Space Nine's nominee was fun but lacked real substance. Not a terribly promising slate for that year, what else was produced that might have been better?
Rich Horton
16. ecbatan
It would be fair to translate my weaselly "Burstein just not that strong a writer" to mean exactly what Raskolnikov says. And that example of his prose is fair and quite accurate -- what is worse is that his ideas, the only rationale for his stories, are increasingly as lame as his prose.
Bob Blough
17. Bob
I have to say the Fairyland by McAuley is one of the best SF novels of the 90's. That said, I liked Blue Mars and at the time I liked Starplex. In fact Starplex and The Terminal Experiment are still my favorite books by Sawyer - but I have never re-read them because I really do not like his novels since then that I am afraid to see the same writing I now dislike! Ah well...

I think Winter Rose by McKillip is beautifully written. Since reading this novel I have gotten all her novels to read and they are a joy each year.

Rounding out my "perfect" ballot (at least until I read The Fortunate Fall and Sacrifice of Fools - both on my to be read shelves) would be Holy Fire, Game of Thrones and The Sparrow - even though many really hate this one!

Not as much of a fan of Bujold as you are, Jo. I enjoy them but don't think they deserve all the praise and hugos they have received. I do read each of them as they come out - but it seems more of a comfortable old sweater than mindblowing SF. (Of course, nothing wrong with an old comfortable sweater - but should we be awarding the same type of thing so much?)

Can't imagine "Flowers of Aulit Prison" by Kress not being nominated or winning. It is a superior story that was enigmatic and truly alien. True, it was ruined by the trilogy based on it because it became prosaic and normal. But the novelette is still exceptional. Loved "Bicycle Repaiman" though. Another that I would have enjoyed winning is Tony Daniel's "A Dry Quiet War".

"Counting Cats in Zanzibar" is still one of my favorite stories by Wolfe and I definately would have voted for it. "Gone" would have been a great chioce, too. With "The Dead" a distant third. Also, " Death Do Us Part" by Robert Silverberg and "Community" by Gardner Dozois

My novella choice was "Human History" by Lucious Shepard but it could have been "Cost to be Wise". I enjoy the novel even more, though. And, as a Connie Willis admirerer I think "Bellweather" is great. It has the feel of a novella but is actually a novel in word count, I believe, so would have placed it in the Novel category with my other favorites.
James Davis Nicoll
18. Raskolnikov
Fairyland did at leave have the benefit of winning the Clarke Award, 1996.
Also on the shortlist was Star Fraction, Happy Policeman, The Time Ships, The Prestige and the Diamond Age, so it tracks mostly to the previous year, but on the criteria of publication for the first time in the U.K., so it's going to be an imperfect match with the Hugo dates. Good work in any case, I came to McAuley through his recent The Quiet War and was unimpressed, but Fairyland was really vivid and creative.
James Davis Nicoll
19. Rob T.
This was the first year I voted for the Hugos, and at the time I was struck by the way all the novel nominees dealt with issues of aging, with Memory and Remnant Population putting the late-20th century form of elderhood in sf-nal contexts while Holy Fire and Blue Mars took on the possible future of aging in the form of radical life-extension techniques, with Starplex having a foot in both camps.

My novel voting went 1) Holy Fire, 2) Blue Mars, 3) Remnant Population, 4) Starplex, and 5) Memory. At the time I downgraded Memory for leaning so heavily on previous Miles Vorkosigan books, but I think it's the only novel nominee I've re-read since 1997. Other eligible titles I've re-read since then are Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay, George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones and Connie Willis's Bellwether.

At the time there was some controversy as to whether Willis's book counted as a novel or a novella, and I remember hearing several fans saying they'd have voted for Bellwether if it had been nominated as a novel. It's one of my favorites among her purely comic stories.
James Davis Nicoll
20. Doug M.
Something to say about the Sterling... well, there's plenty to say. This was his golden decade, yeah? Holy Fire is a fine book and would have been a worthy winner, and it's not even my favorite of his from this period.

For those who've missed it, the book is set in a late 21st century where life-extension technology has roughly doubled the human lifespan; pretty much everyone can reasonably expect to reach 150 or so. Catch #1 is that it's fairly expensive, so that medical and life-extension technologies eat up a fair chunk of world GDP. (1) Catch #2 is that it's extending, not youth, but middle and (especially) old age. At 100, you're something like an incredibly healthy 70 year old -- and then you stay that way for 50 years. (2) This is an obvious and plausible idea that hardly anyone else has used.

The thing is, it may be the single "most likely to come true" future of any Hugo nominee for the last 20 years. It's a future run by and for the old folks. It's safe, clean, and technologically advanced. The drawbacks are exactly what you'd expect: economic inequality, cultural stagnation. Sterling plays very fair; it's an interesting world with the pros and cons played straight.

Oh, and it's also a delightful update of all those turn-of-the-last-century William James-ish "naive young American comes to wise/decadent Europe" books that we read in sophomore English. You don't have to have read The Ambassadors to appreciate this book -- but Sterling has, and he has some fun taking the tropes out for a dance.

(1) Sterling never comes out and explicitly says this. But it's a key part of the worldbuilding, and influences everything. (2) See note #1. I think Sterling had a lot of fun doing the worldbuilding and then resisting the temptation to overexplain it.

Seriously, this is an excellent book, and highly recommended.

Doug M.
James Davis Nicoll
21. CarlosSkullsplitter
20: nitpick, Henry James, not his philosopher brother William. (apparently they were considered clever Irish types at the time. did people expect William Dean Howells to wear a leek too?)

Sterling will use a literary model and mention it by name, in the text, right there, and still have his readers miss it, e.g. Zeitgeist. Sometimes you'll see a kid on the playground trying to get the other children interested in a new game, and fail miserably because they have no good context for it. Then the kid starts a and comes back to the class reunion in a sports car bought from the game proceeds... and finds them still playing marbles in the corner. I think I know why Sterling's novels have declined.
Rich Horton
22. ecbatan
Bob, thanks for reminding me of Winter Rose. Yes, it should have been a nominee, and it may be the single best written novel, on the sheer "beauty of prose" level but also on "beauty of prose enhances story" levels, from the field in, well, close to forever.

Rich Horton
S Cooper
23. SPC
Could someone remind me what everyone seems to hate so much about The Sparrow?
Marcus W
24. toryx
I love Bellwether and I would have voted for it over Blood of the Dragon, even though I'd have voted for Game of Thrones for Best Novel if it had made the nomination.

This is the second WorldCon I could have gone to if I hadn't been busy doing other things. I rather wish my priorities had been different back in those days.
James Davis Nicoll
25. seth e.
SPC @23 - It's discussed in this thread, by Jo Walton and others (including me, briefly). The short form, I believe, is that Russell stacks the narrative deck in order to manipulate audience reaction in a way that (Jo said), renders the characters unbelievable, and to me, undermines the religious point Russell's trying to make.
James Davis Nicoll
26. James Davis Nicoll
There's also the terrible, terrible rocket science in The Sparrow.

What? Some of us care about that stuff too.
James Davis Nicoll
27. seth e.
James David Nicoll @26 - But any incomprehensibly advanced technology like this "rocket science" you speak of is practically fantasy anyway, right? So there's no reason to expect writers to take it seriously.

I've been having tone problems recently, so just to be clear: .
James Davis Nicoll
28. James Davis Nicoll
But any incomprehensibly advanced technology like this "rocket science"
you speak of is practically fantasy anyway, right? So there's no reason
to expect writers to take it seriously.


Actually, I should really restrict this reaction to writers who having winged it try to claim awesome depths of research and verisimilitude, just to keep my eye-twitch muscle from cramping up.
James Davis Nicoll
29. Petar Belic
The fact is, a lot of 'science fiction' writers lack the training of basic research skills to make the the 'science' component of their work be taken seriously.
Instead of reading Nature, or brushing up on their math and physics, they are attending workshop after writing workshop or reading other SF writers for inspiration.
I think science fiction is a very difficult genre to write convincingly for, and the reason for this is that you not only have to be a good writer, but you have to have a certain scientific mindset as well. I find it interesting that most of the old 'giants' were often involved in science before writing, whereas today this doesn't seem to be such an important thing. I did aerospace engineering at university, and let me tell you, that really beat the poetry out of my soul, so I put my hands together and clap for anyone who can pull off this precarious balancing act.
Jamie Todd Rubin
31. JamieToddRubin
I really like Michael Burstein's stories and I think he was deserving of the award based on what he'd done up to that point and the promise he showed. His style and themes are similar to what Asimov wrote. Of course, if you don't like Asimov you might not like Burstein's stories, but I always looked forward to them and I wish he had time to write more.

This award is for best new writer. New writers are not fully developed. I wouldn't expect a new writer to be writing at the same level as his or her more experienced peers. (Prodigees are always exceptions, of course.) To me the award is given to people who show the most promise. We can debate as to how one goes about measuring that promise, but I will point out that Michael's stories were nominated for at least 10 Hugo awards and 4 Nebula awards. He was nominated for a Sturgeon award and he won the Analog AnLab award twice. To me, at least, this shows that the promise suggested by his receipt of the John W. Campbell award for best new writer was justified.

That aside, I really like his stories. I've seen his writing mature over the years and reach a pinacle with his 2005 novella "Sanctuary" which was, in my opinion, the best story Analog published that year and one of the best science fiction stories I'd read in a very long time.
James Davis Nicoll
32. Gardner Dozois
My vote probably went to HOLY FIRE, which I still think is very strong, although A GAME OF THRONES, FAIRYLAND, and maybe the McDonald and the Jablokov belonged on the ballot too. No doubt now in retrospect that A GAME OF THRONES is enormously better-remembered than HOLY FIRE, almost certainly the best-remembered book of the year, but HOLY FIRE was SF and GAME OF THRONES wasn't, and that still gets some points from an unreconstructed old SF fan like me.

The novel on the list that in some ways I liked even better than the others hasn't even been mentioned by anyone: Jack Vance's NIGHT LAMP, the best by a good strong margin of his late novels, and the only one that deserves to be ranked along with the best of his earlier work. The lushness and complexity of invention here is almost unimaginable, and it's a wonderful job of world-building, evocatively written (although the main characters are pretty standard Vance characters). If you've liked Vance in the past, and you haven't read this one, Vance's last major book (there were a couple of much weaker ones to follow), it's definitely worth picking up.

If you elimate "Blood of the Dragon" and McHugh's wonderful "The Cost to be Wise" because they're parts of novels, then the best novella of the year didn't even make the ballot, Tony Daniel's "The Robot's Twilight Companion." Reed's "Chrysalis" was good too, as was Greg Benford's "Immersion," Peter S. Beagle's fantasy "The Last Song of Sirit Byar," and Gregory Feeley's near-mainstream "The Weighing of Ayre." One of the weirdest novellas of the period was Eliot Fintushel's "Izzy at the Lucky Three."

Novelette was strong this year too. My own vote would have gone to Nancy Kress's "The Flowers of Aulit Prison," which didn't make the ballot, although "Bicycle Repairman," "Beauty and the Opera," and Le Guin's "Mountain Ways" are very strong too. Other strong stories which didn't make the ballot included John Kessel's "The Miracle of Ivar Avenue," "The Spade of Reason," Steven Utley's "The Wind Over the World," Charles Sheffield's "The Peacock Throne," Jonathan Letham's "How We Got In Town and Out Again," and Phillip C. Jenning's very strange "The Road to Reality."

In short story, of the stuff that made the ballot, Michael Swanwick's "The Dead" and John Crowley's "Gone" are definitely the best, but I also like Tony Daniel's "A Dry, Quiet War," a very strong story that didn't make the ballot, one of the most eccentric time-travel stories ever written, Robert Reed's "Killing the Morrow," and Wolfe's "Counting Cats in Zanzibar." The Willis is quite funny, but not a major work.

Of historical interest is "Invasion," one of the last, if not the last, Joanna Russ stories to appear in a mainline SF magazine--a STAR TREK pastische, of all things--" and Alastair Reynolds's first major story, "Spirey and the Queen."

Of the sixteen short pieces on the ballot this year, ten of them were from ASIMOV'S, including the entire novelette category.

None of the Dramatic Presentations did it for me this year. The best of them may have been the DEEP SPACE NINE episode, which at least had the advantage of being slyly funny.

I have to agree with Rich about Michael Burstein. Nice guy, but I've never seen a story from him that I would have bought for ASIMOV'S.
Rich Horton
33. ecbatan
I'm glad Gardner reminded me of Night Lamp, indeed the last significant novel from Jack Vance. (The final pair, Ports of Call and Lurulu, are minor work, though still not to be missed by Vance aficionads.) Also glad to be reminded of "Spirey and the Queen" and "Invasion" -- the latter an unexpected delight from a great writer so long gone silent, and really quite an enjoyable story.

I wouldn't want to prevent anyone who likes Burstein's work from enjoying it, but I have to say, one of the issues I have with him is that he really hasn't improved. His first story, "TeleAbsence", the reason for his Campbell (his only other story before the nomination was a Probability Zero), is promising enough. Clunky, yes, but just as you would expect from a new writer. (And I suspect Stanley Schmidt worked with him on it.) While not enough to justify a Campbell in the face of the competition he had, it's a nice first sale.

Problem is, it may still be his best story. His prose has never improved, and his ideas are often just silly, as with "The Cosmic Corkscrew".

Who knows the reason, but he's had only one story in Analog (the rest mostly in DAW anthologies) in the past 6 years. Is he running out of steam?

Enough said, I suppose. He's a better writer than I am, on the evidence. But that's not a very high bar.

Rich Horton
James Davis Nicoll
34. Rob T.
Interesting that no one else has pointed this out, but "Immersion" is also a novel excerpt of sorts. In lightly revised form (mostly having to do with the characters' names and backgrounds) it actually forms part of Benford's authorized sequel to Asimov's Foundation trilogy, Foundation's Fear. I voted for "Immersion" for the Hugo, but was fine with "Blood of the Dragon" (my 2nd-place choice) winning instead.

Several very good novelettes nominated this time. I think my ballot went (in descending order) Charnas-LeGuin-Sterling-Resnick-Barton. The Sterling story has some terrific ideas, but I thought it came up a little short on narrative interest. Resnick's piece was the final "Kirinyaga" story.

The short story win was the only one that I didn't care for, and I wonder if some voters were casting a protest vote since they couldn't vote for Bellwether. I'm pretty sure I put the White story at the top of my ballot, but don't remember whether I had Crowley or Swanwick in 2nd place.

I only saw two of the dramatic presentation nominees before the voting--the "Star Trek" movie, which was pretty good, and Mars Attacks!, which I actually saw in the theater twice because I couldn't quite believe I liked it the first time! It's no masterpiece, but I find it both wildly funny and conceptually intriguing, and applaud the way it subverts genre tropes (e.g. not shying from killing characters just because they're played by famous actors). However, I saw "Severed Dreams" the night after the Hugo ceremony (believe it or not, I'd never seen B5 before) and agreed that it deserved the Hugo.
Pamela Adams
35. PamAdams
I believe that the Willis title is longer than the short story- especially if you remove the footnotes.

I voted for Memory for best novel, but no longer remember my other votes. I did enjoy de Camp's autobiography.
James Davis Nicoll
36. Petar Belic
Nightlamp was amazing, for its tone of nostalgia, and inventiveness. There were some character archetypes that Mr Vance had not used before, however Mr Dozois critique is warranted. The planet of Nightlamp itself was scarily plausible, and the rotting civilisation populated by the once-were-slaves oozed atmosphere and adventure. It makes me sad to think there won't be anymore stories like this from Mr Vance, but I am grateful for what we got.
James Davis Nicoll
37. Gardner Dozois
NIGHT LAMP is really the lost Vance novel, and has been pretty much ignored. In reality, it deserves to be ranked among his five or six best books. Let's hope it gets rediscovered some day, and gets the props it deserves.

I enjoyed De Camp's autobiography. I also enjoyed De Camp's long biography of Lovecraft.
Pamela Adams
38. PamAdams
Note to self- start reading Vance immediately.

While this Hugo isn't as gorgeous as Renovation's, it's still pretty nice.
James Davis Nicoll
39. Alan Heuer
This is how I voted in 1997:

Best Novel
1. Holy Fire Bruce Sterling
2. Blue Mars Kim Stanley Robinson
3. Remnant Population Elizabeth Moon
4. Memory Lois McMaster Bujold
5. Starplex Robert J. Sawyer

Best Novella
1. "Immersion" Gregory Benford
2. "The Cost to be Wise" Maureen F. McHugh
3. "Blood of the Dragon" George R.R. Martin
4. "Gas Fish" Mary Rosenblum
5. "Time Travelers Never Die" Jack McDevitt
6. "Abandon in Place" Jerry Oltion

Best Novelette
1. "Beauty and the Opera or the Phantom Beast" Suzy McKee Charnas
2. "Bicycle Repairman" Bruce Sterling
3. "The Land of Nod" Mike Resnick
4. "Age of Aquarius" William Barton
5. "Mountain Ways" Ursula K. Le Guin

Best Short Story
1. "Gone" John Crowley
2. "Decency" Robert Reed
3. "Un-Birthday Boy" James White
4. "The Dead" Michael Swanwick
5. "The Soul Selects Her Own Society..." Connie Willis

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