Aug 28 2011 10:30am

Hugo Nominees: 1998

The 1998 Hugo Awards were voted on by the members at BucConeer in Baltimore, and presented at that convention. The best novel award was won by Joe Haldeman’s Forever Peace, a book about the horrors of near future war solved by telepathic niceness. It’s a thematic sequel to The Forever War, not a direct sequel. This is by far my least favourite of Haldeman’s works. I’ve only read it once. Forever Peace is in print, and it’s in the library (the Grande Bibliotheque) in French and English.

There are four other nominees, I’ve read three of them, and I like one of them. (Why did I ever start doing this?)

Let’s start with the one I like, Walter Jon Williams City on Fire, a wonderful innovative book, sequel to Metropolitan. They’re smart science fiction books about a world where magic is real and powers technology. I’m planning to do a proper post about them soon — they’re not like anything else, and they’re on a really interesting border between SF and fantasy. City on Fire is about an election. This would have had my vote, had I been at Baltimore, but I expect it suffered in the voting from not being a standalone. It’s not in print, and it’s in the library in French only, thus reinforcing my perception that Walter Jon Williams is massively under-rated.

Next Robert Sawyer’s Frameshift, which again I haven’t read, again because I didn’t care for The Terminal Experiment. It sounds like a near future technothriller with genetic experiments and Nazi war criminals. I expect it’s great. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in French and English.

Michael Swanwick’s Jack Faust is a fantasy where Faust starts the Industrial Revolution early and everything goes to hell. It’s beautifully written, as with all Swanwick, but it’s negative about technology and the possibility of progress in a way that makes it hard for me to like. It’s a good book, and probably deserved nomination. (But really, 1998 nominators? My least favourite Haldeman and my least favourite Swanwick? What were you thinking?) It’s in print, and its in the library in English and French.

Then there’s Dan Simmons The Rise of Endymion. After two books I don’t like much, here’s a book I really hate. I really don’t like sequels that spoil the books that come before them, so this is a book I try not to think about. This is the book that gives all the answers left open by Hyperion, and they’re awful answers. I know there are people who really like this book — there must be, it was Hugo nominated and won the Locus SF Award — but it’s beyond me. It has beautiful prose, but what it’s saying, ugh. It’s in print and it’s in the library in English only.

So, five men, four American and one Canadian, one near future technothriller, one medium future horrors-of-war novel, one messianic space opera, and two things that could be described as hard fantasy, very different from each other.

Wasn’t there anything else they could have chosen? Or was I just really out of tune with what was being published that year?

SFWA gave their Nebula Award to Vonda McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun, a historical fantasy about a mermaid at the court of the Sun King. I didn’t like that either. The only other eligible non-overlapping nominee is Kate Elliott’s excellent King’s Dragon, first in the Crown of Stars series.

The World Fantasy Award was given to The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford. Other nominees were: American Goliath, Harvey Jacobs, Dry Water, Eric S. Nylund, The Gift, Patrick O’Leary, Trader, Charles de Lint.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award was given to Haldeman, with Greg Bear’s /Slant in second place and Paul Preuss’s Secret Passages third. /Slant would have made a fine Hugo nominee.

The Philip K. Dick Award went to The Troika, Stepan Chapman. The Special Citation was Acts of Conscience, William Barton. Other nominees were: Carlucci’s Heart, Richard Paul Russo, An Exchange of Hostages, Susan R. Matthews, Mother Grimm, Catherine Wells, Opalite Moon, Denise Vitola.

The Tiptree Award was won by Candas Jane Dorsey’s Black Wine, a book that would have been a terrific and thought provoking Hugo nominee, and Kelly Link’s short “Travels with the Snow Queen.” Eligible works on short list were: Cereus Blooms at Night, Shani Mootoo, The Dazzle of Day, Molly Gloss (post), Sacrifice of Fools, Ian McDonald, Signs of Life, M. John Harrison, Waking Beauty, Paul Witcover.

The Dazzle of Day is marvellous, how I wish it had been a Hugo nominee! I talked about Sacrifice of Fools last week, and again it would have been a really good nominee, if eligible.

The Locus Award for SF novel was won by Rise of Endymion. Other nominees not previously mentioned were: Antarctica, Kim Stanley Robinson, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, Walter M. Miller, Jr., with Terry Bisson, Finity’s End, C. J. Cherryh (post), Diaspora, Greg Egan, Fool’s War, Sarah Zettel, Titan, Stephen Baxter, 3001: The Final Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, The Reality Dysfunction, Peter F. Hamilton, God’s Fires, Patricia Anthony, Corrupting Dr. Nice, John Kessel (post), Destiny’s Road, Larry Niven, Eternity Road, Jack McDevitt, The Black Sun, Jack Williamson, The Family Tree, Sheri S. Tepper, Glimmering, Elizabeth Hand, The Fleet of Stars, Poul Anderson, Mississippi Blues, Kathleen Ann Goonan, The Calcutta Chromosome, Amitav Ghosh, Dreaming Metal, Melissa Scott, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Charles Sheffield, Once a Hero, Elizabeth Moon, Einstein’s Bridge, John Cramer, Deception Well, Linda Nagata.

There are a lot of books here I like better than the actual nominees, and would have preferred to see nominated — in addition to the ones I’ve reviewed there’s the Goonan, the Hand, the Scott — but the one it seems a real injustice to ignore is Egan’s Diaspora, a really major work about the nature of consciousness and virtual life and space exploration.

The Locus Fantasy Award was won by Tim Powers Earthquake Weather, another book that would have made a fine Hugo nominee. Other nominees not yet mentioned: The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass, Stephen King, Assassin’s Quest, Robin Hobb, Freedom & Necessity, Steven Brust & Emma Bull, Winter Tides, James P. Blaylock, The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman, Rose Daughter, Robin McKinley (post), Dogland, Will Shetterly, Lord of the Isles, David Drake, Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn, Robert Holdstock, Running with the Demon, Terry Brooks , The Mines of Behemoth, Michael Shea, My Soul to Keep, Tananarive Due, The Night Watch, Sean Stewart, The Stars Dispose, Michaela Roessner, The Blackgod, J. Gregory Keyes.

The Mythopoeic Award was given to A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.

The Prometheus Award was won by Ken MacLeod’s The Stone Canal, which strikes me as exactly the sort of book that should be Hugo nominated.

And was there anything they all missed? George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings (post) and J.R. Dunn’s chilling Days of Cain, but not a whole lot.

So, to sum up, 1998’s nominees don’t look anything like the best five books of the year to me, but this could just be my idiosyncratic reaction. How do they seem to you? I don’t remember spending all of 1998 gnashing my teeth.

Other Categories


  • “…Where Angels Fear to Tread”, Allen Steele (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 1997)
  • “Ecopoiesis”, Geoffrey A. Landis (Science Fiction Age May 1997)
  • “The Funeral March of the Marionettes”, Adam-Troy Castro (F&SF Jul 1997)
  • “Loose Ends”, Paul Levinson (Analog May 1997)
  • “Marrow”, Robert Reed (Science Fiction Age Jul 1997)


  • “We Will Drink a Fish Together...”, Bill Johnson (Asimov’s May 1997)
  • “Broken Symmetry”, Michael A. Burstein (Analog Feb 1997)
  • “Moon Six”, Stephen Baxter (Science Fiction Age Mar 1997)
  • “Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream”, James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s Feb 1997)
  • “The Undiscovered”, William Sanders (Asimov’s Mar 1997)


  • “The 43 Antarean Dynasties”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Dec 1997)
  • “Beluthahatchie”, Andy Duncan (Asimov’s Mar 1997)
  • “The Hand You’re Dealt”, Robert J. Sawyer (Free Space)
  • “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Jun 1997)
  • “No Planets Strike”, Gene Wolfe (F&SF Jan 1997)
  • “Standing Room Only”, Karen Joy Fowler (Asimov’s Aug 1997)


  • The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, John Clute & John Grant, eds. (Orbit; St. Martin’s)
  • Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art, Vincent Di Fate (Penguin Studio)
  • Reflections and Refractions: Thoughts on Science-Fiction, Science, and Other Matters, Robert Silverberg (Underwood Books)
  • Space Travel, Ben Bova with Anthony R. Lewis (Writer’s Digest Books)
  • Spectrum 4: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Fenner & Arnie Fenner eds., with Jim Loehr (Underwood Books)


  • Contact (Warner Bros./South Side Amusement Company; Directed by Robert Zemeckis; Story by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan; screenplay by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg; Produced by Steve Starkey and Robert Zemeckis)
  • The Fifth Element (Columbia Pictures/Gaumont; Directed by Luc Besson; Story by Luc Besson; Screenplay by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen; Produced by Patrice Ledoux)
  • Gattaca (Columbia Pictures Corporation/Jersey Films; Directed by Andrew M. Niccol, Written by Andrew M. Niccol, Produced by Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, & Stacey Sher)
  • Men in Black (MacDonald-Parkes/Columbia Pictures Corporation/Amblin Entertainment; Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld; Screenplay by Ed Solomon, Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes; Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg)
  • Starship Troopers (TriStar Pictures/Big Bug Pictures/Touchstone Pictures; Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Screenplay by Ed Neumeier; Produced by Jon Davison and Alan Marshall)

So, they had Gattaca on the list and they gave it to Contact?


  • Gardner Dozois (Asimov’s)
  • Scott Edelman (SF Age)
  • David G. Hartwell (Tor; Year’s Best SF)
  • Stanley Schmidt (Analog)
  • Gordon Van Gelder (F&SF)

If they’re going to list things edited, I think Gardner should have his Year’s Best listed too.


  • Bob Eggleton
  • Jim Burns
  • 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, Ariel Haméon, David G. Hartwell & Kevin Maroney
  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew I. Porter
  • Speculations, Kent Brewster & Denise Lee


  • Mimosa, Nicki & Richard Lynch
  • Ansible, Dave Langford
  • Attitude, Michael Abbott, John Dallman & Pam Wells
  • File 770, Mike Glyer
  • Tangent, David Truesdale


  • David Langford
  • Bob Devney
  • Mike Glyer
  • Andy Hooper
  • Evelyn C. Leeper
  • Joseph T. Major


  • Joe Mayhew
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Ian Gunn
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Peggy Ranson


  • Mary Doria Russell
  • Raphael Carter
  • Andy Duncan
  • Richard Garfinkle
  • Susan R. Matthews

Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, another book I can’t stand because the great revelation requires huge numbers of people to act completely unrealistically, had come out the previous year to much acclaim.

I talked about Carter and Garfinkle last week, both terrific nominees.

Andy Duncan was nominated on the basis of some excellent short work, and he has continued to produce excellent short work ever since, winning the World Fantasy Award and the Sturgeon Award. Great nominee.

Susan R. Matthews had a controversial and much discussed novel An Exchange of Hostages. She published another few novels but I haven’t seen anything from her recently.

On the whole a pretty good Campbell year. Other people who might have been eligible: Julie Czerneda, Stephen Dedman, David B. Coe, Ian MacLeod, James Alan Gardner, Candas Jane Dorsey.

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.

1. CarlosSkullsplitter
No, it's a bad list from a not very good year. The Swanwick had a large artistic misstep (or two, depending on how you want to parse it). The Haldeman was thematically in line with his earlier work, but very weak. Sawyer and Simmons, the less said, the better. I don't understand the Hugo shortlist, and I don't understand the Campbell winner, and I really don't understand the Nebula winner. Once again the best and the most interesting books are deep in the long lists.
Ty Margheim
2. alSeen
It probably went to Contact because of the Sagan factor.
3. seth e.
I remember liking The Moon and The Sun, but it felt very light to me, a time-passer. I'm surprised it won an award. I'd probably have liked it less if I'd thought I was supposed to take it that seriously.

I read The Physiognomy just a couple of years ago, and it was essentially the ideas for three or four great fantasy stories awkwardly welded together. The underlying fantastical conceit kept shifting around, as if Ford kept getting bored, and the characters were, well, very broad. It didn't hang together as a book. I'm a little surprised it won too, though I enjoyed its individual parts.

And I continue to have been mostly out of touch during this period, though I do remember looking at some of these books on the shelves (three of the nominees) and thinking, "nah." I guess I wasn't missing much.
Michael Green
4. greenazoth
Wow. Four writers I consistently bounce off of (and I so badly want to like Swanwick!) and the only Haldeman I could never finish.

Apparently there is a 1998 shaped hole in my SF knowledge, to boot. I've read maybe three books in the whole post. Ah, well. Now I have a new library list, at least.
David Levinson
5. DemetriosX
Once again, I haven't read any of the novels and I don't even recall being even mildly interested in trying any of them. In fact, looking ahead through 200, the only nominated novel I've read is Azkaban and I don't think it should have been nominated for a Hugo. But that's for a couple weeks from now. Of other books from the year, I didn't much care for Earthquake Weather (for some odd reason Powers just doesn't work for me when he writes about California) or The Subtle Knife. And I've only just started reading ASoIaF and I'm not quite halfway through A Clash of Kings. I can't see voting for much of anything.

Of the short fiction, I must have read just about all of it. I was subscribed to all the magazines that had nominees. The only story I remember at all is the Resnick and I likely would have voted for it.

I'm with Jo on Contact beating out Gattaca, but alseen @2 is probably right. On the whole, though, not a bad list, even if the other 3 films are fairly light stuff (and I can only tolerate Starship Troopers by pretending it has nothing to do with the novel). Call it 2 good films, 2 fun films (MiB and 5th Element) and 1 SFX filler. It's still a slightly better list than the previous year and significantly better than many.
Neville Park
6. nevillepark
Wheeeee! This marks the first year I actually read any of the books as they came out*—just one, Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife. Youthful nostalgia ahead!

The Golden Compass ends on a fantastic cliffhanger and—having read that when it came out, too—I had been waiting years for the sequel. I was in elementary school , and we could order paperback books through a little monthly catalogue. I was so eager to find out What Happened Next that I spent the whole day covertly reading The Subtle Knife under my desk. Well, not so covertly…one of my teachers noticed and I had to write lines for a punishment (me! The most diligent, well-behaved kid in class!), although I argued that I already knew the material and so there wasn't much point paying attention to the lesson, so why not let me edify myself with literature?

…In retrospect, I see why they didn't buy it.

* It's been kind of funny reading this series, noting the years (That's when my mother was born! That's when I was born! That's when I learned to read!) and waiting around for when I could look back at what I thought of the books at the time. This has been your whippersnapper moment of the day.
7. James Davis Nicoll
Acts of Conscience, William Barton

Man acquires FTL ship, visits the Colonies, hilarity results. As upbeat and happy as Barton books ever are (although definitely more cheerful than the "Imagine an Alien Invasion of Earth as the Belgian Congo Writ Large, told from the POV of a collaborator" one).

When was his furry romance novel? Next year?

Rise of Endymion

Disappointing sequel.

Antarctica, Kim Stanley Robinson

Manages the difficult task of making a book set in Antartica tedious.

Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, Walter M. Miller, Jr., with Terry Bisson

Disappointing sequel with overtones of sadness because Miller killed himself before finishing.

Diaspora, Greg Egan

Uh, machine-based intelligences get to watch the deserved death of stinky stupid biologoicals and then they explore the universe. Not without its points of interest.

Fool’s War, Sarah Zettel

I have a hard time getting through her novels and yet there's nothing wrong with them that I can see.

Titan, Stephen Baxter

This is an awful, awful, awful book about a trip to Titan, set in a world where e.g. a major nation might think it reasonable to try to get breathing space by eliminating life on Earth. I think this was when I noticed set on Titan written post, oh, 1970, tended to have lesbians in them (and the one major exception has a pair who would be a gay couple if their relationship wasn't so toxic).

3001: The Final Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke

Diappointing sequel: the horse was a minor discoloration on the road by this point.

The Reality Dysfunction, Peter F. Hamilton

TL,DR. There are very few SF stories that justify more than 120,000 words.

God’s Fires, Patricia Anthony

What ever happened to her? Her books were gloomy and depressing; she'd fit right in with today's SF.

Corrupting Dr. Nice, John Kessel

Amusing time travel story and one of the few Kessels that clicked with em (again, as with Zettel I don't know what they don't).

Destiny’s Road, Larry Niven

Didn't suck as much as Ringworld Throne. The science is sadly crocked.

Eternity Road, Jack McDevitt

Is this the post-apocalypse one?

Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Charles Sheffield

Starts off as an expansion of a short stories he wrote in the 1970 (?), which was a retelling of the Orpheus myth, then heads in a different direction.

Once a Hero, Elizabeth Moon

Uh, one of the Scary Aunts books? Moon is interesting in that she seems to have gone from fantasy to SF, more or less, which is the exact opposite of the usual pattern. F outsells SF two to one and mystery outsells F about five to one, so usually authors go SF > F or SF > F > Mystery or SF > mystery and we never see them again.

Einstein’s Bridge, John Cramer

His second and I think to date final novel, about the SSC (?).

Deception Well, Linda Nagata

The one Nagata I wasn't keen on: humans colonize interstellar space, only to find it seeded with some very unpleasant relics of an ancient war.

It seems like kind of an off-year for F&SF.

Trader, Charles de Lint

After Svaha, I only read his stuff if someone pays me and given some of the more recent Pagany Wagony Treehugging crap by him I've been paid to read, I am reconsidering even that. Ever time I read DeLint, I feel more like Trantorforming the Earth and making PZ Myers Supreme Terran Ultra-Pontiff of Religions, Cults and Crap that Shows Up in Bad Fantasy Novels. And (not a reference to this novel because I didn't read it) I never ever want to read about another musician protagonist in fantasy.
8. James Davis Nicoll
George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings

Waiting for the series to be finished before I read this (although I did read the first one and I read and the one in 2005; did something bad happen at the Red Wedding?) as I already have a designed series whose ending I am still waiting for: the Anthony Villiers books*.

* BTW, if one posts an alternate history review of the 1987 BBC TV series, and you claim Richard E. Grant played Villiers, REG's fans will notice and show up to ask about it in a surprisingly short time.
9. Scotoma
The only one I actually read from the novel list was Simmons The Rise of Endymion, which I liked (the only one from the entire tetralogy I'm lukewarm about is the first). The only flaw in the novel is Simmons need to infuse the ending with an entirely unnecessary moment of tragic and sacrifice (melodrama writ large), that could have easily avoided and seems only there because Simmons can't conceive of great fiction without the right amount of tragedy. Which is all fine and well in fantasy or other genres, but seems anti-thetical to science fiction IMHO.

Sadly, the best novel of the year (for me the best of the entire decade) is Greg Egan's Diaspora, his magnus opus. This books just didn't blew me away, it utterly rewrote my sense of where the future was going.
jon meltzer
10. jmeltzer
How did "No Award" do in the novel voting?
11. Scotoma
When was his furry romance novel? Next year?

This came out 1999, White Light was in 1998.

Besides Acts of Conscience (my favourite Barton), 1997 also saw Alpha Centauri, which is pretty slow, but also quite good overall.
12. ClintACK
Wow. These posts have gone from chronicling the great classic SF to really, really depressing. It's not just that there weren't any great books -- there were lousy books from great authors!

For the 1998 books, I really loved Reality Dysfunction, especially at the time. I love books with an epic scope and cast-of-thousands with multiple viewpoints -- the kind of thing I'd seen in a Michener novel, or in epic fantasy, but never in science fiction. It seems like a natural in a genre where world building is so important. There are lots of things to criticize about the series -- too much going on; lots of great ideas, but we've seen most of them before; deus ex machina; essentially a space opera -- but I loved it. I don't think it deserved a win (though I'm not sure anything did -- perhaps the Hugos needs a "no award" option -- I see @10 beat me to that observation), but I think it's a plausible nominee, given the competition.

(@7, re: Reality Dysfunction -- sure, but it's not an SF story, it's epic fantasy with space and "science" in place of magic.)

I also liked, but didn't love, Deception Well and Exchange of Hostages. And I really liked Robin Hobb's whole Assassin trilogy.
13. James Davis Nicoll
I liked and sometimes reread Alpha Centauri (1) but I have to say I could do a better job of selecting a crew by throwing darts into a crowd. At least then, fewer of them would be (rot 13ed for spoilers) zbyrf. As I recall, Barton and Capobianco's earlier Iris has an even lousier crew.

1: Co-written by Michael Capobianco, whose later SFWA presidency was made particularly memorable thanks to the initative demonstrated by his VP, Andrew Burt; aside from one stand-alone, Capobianco's novels were generally collaborations with Barton.
14. Scotoma
I'm not sure Barton has ever written a character that is all that stable.

I tried to read the stand-alone Capobianco, but managed only up to page 100 or so. It was pretty awful.
15. James Davis Nicoll
perhaps the Hugos needs a "no award" option

It has one. I may have been beaten by Claire Brialey by 24 votes and Christopher J Garcia by 31 votes (1) and Steven H Silver by 37 votes and James Bacon by just 3, curse his tasty surname, but I can always take pride in the fact that I edged out No Award by a whopping 190 votes in the final round.

1: I was happy to see Brialey win but am curious in a theoretical way what would have happened had Garcia won two Hugos in the same evening.

For those who missed the Garcia Moment:
16. James Davis Nicoll
Comment more frequently, people! I went off and wrote an entire review (draft one) in the time since the last comment!

I liked and sometimes reread Alpha Centauri

Remember the "Stars Move" gripe from a previous Hugos Revisited post? Well, this deals with something related; it matters to the plot that Stars Age and if I recall correctly, it matters to the plot that Alpha Centauri A is 1.29x more massive than B, because more massive stars evolve more quickly than low mass stars (1) and so its habitable worlds are less likely to still be habitable than B's.

1: Proxima, the third member of the system, masses as much as a sneeze and will keep merrily chugging along the main sequence for a trillion years).
john mullen
17. johntheirishmongol
I don't know that its that bad a year, but I haven't read any of the novels. I don't think I ever stopped buying books, so they must just not have appealed to me. Since this has been true, with occasional exceptions, for the past 3 postings, I will probably drop out here unless I see something that I feel a need to post.

I will still make a comment or two about the movies, since I seem to be more up to date on them. I thought Contact was fairly overblown, for not much of a payoff. Gattaca was a bomb, didn't come close to making its costs and was not very accessable. MIB was the most fun, and the best put together film. It was nonsense, but consistent and well acted. It would have gotten my vote. The 5th element was a bit too odd, needed to reign it in a little but at least entertaining. Starship Troopers was basically high class schlock, which is ok but disappointing.
18. Scotoma
Alpha Centauri had a pretty moving scene somewhere near the end, that dealt with the question why we should explore at all, why we should care about the rest of the universe at all, since everything dies in the end anyway. I thought it neatly encapsulated why why some people are drawn to a certain form of science fiction, and some not.
James Goetsch
19. Jedikalos
The Hugos are so depressing if you think of them as somehow giving us the best in science fiction. That also then makes your column horribly depressing to read! Why not think of the Hugos as the quirky cultural phenomenon it is? A strange survey of the majority likes and dislikes of a small group of people with enough interest and extra cash to vote--and no other qualifications? Thus no need to wail and gnash one's teeth--simply reflect on the curiosity of it if one wants. Or wail if you wish, but it's all in fun, then. And then, of course, sometimes I really like the things you and the other regular commenters on this thread dislike so much, and that is fun too. But clearly this Hugo thing is only a bit of fluffy fun. Or that's what your column has convinced me of, anyway!
Kristen Templet
20. SF_Fangirl
I really like The Forever Peace, but I keep forgetting the disappointing ending. I recall now that it felt very tacked on to a good, realistic portrayal of what near future warfare might be. The Forever War is not my favorite because it is so obviously the American Vietnam experience in space and I can not relate to the draftee.

I think Gattaca would have been a very worthy BDP winner. Contact not as much. Gattaca was a thinking, traditional SF novel-type movie.
21. James Davis Nicoll
I keep forgetting the disappointing ending.

John Brunner's atypically upbeat prog-rock era The Stone That Never Came Down has a grand social change driven by a chemical that enhances memory, making it impossible for almost everyone to ignore those niggling little details that undermine our usual flawed but self-serving models. With cognitive errors made impossible to ignore, humanity is set on the path of less mistakery. Huzzah!

Except if you were exposed to that chemical, you would remember every detail of every Pel Toro novel and Uwe Boll movie you ever had the misfortune to see. The ability to forget is often a blessing.
22. CarlosSkullsplitter
7: Diaspora, Greg Egan Uh, machine-based intelligences get to watch the deserved death of stinky stupid biologoicals and then they explore the universe. Not without its points of interest.

Egan's body-denying schtick was getting old by this point, although his confrontational atheism -- culturally a species of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, apart from its tenets -- had yet to reach its obnoxious peak. In the near future we will see Egan vigorously replying to that theologian-manqué, C.S. Lewis, who had died nearly forty years before. WTF? I will say he seems to have settled down since. (I gather he had a stint of wholly admirable activism in Australia which reduced his literary output, but engaged him with the real world.)

The big problem I have with his recent fiction is that he's lost the knack of writing like his premises have natural consequences: his exposition has become more labored as he's introduced more rigor into his explanations. He was much more interesting to read when he merged cutting-edge physics or mathematics seamlessly (but non-rigorously) with a concept from horror or religion -- probably not much difference in Egan's worldview -- but his recent attempts are dry even by the standards of hard science fiction, as much as I respect the attempt. Hopefully Egan will find that knack again.
23. Raskolnikov
Someone upthread asked what happened to Patricia Anthony, her output fell off a lot recently. The last novel published was Flanders, in the late '90s, it was also not really speculative fiction in any meaningful form. Very good work, though, I'd be psyched if she wrote more. God's Fires was one of the better books that year, my ideal shortlist would probably have had that with Disapora, Stone Canaal, the Dazzle of Day and possibly Finity's End.

I'm a huge Baxter fan, but I'll agree that Titan was horrible. It was screechingly political and really illogical, almost like Baxter decided to satirize his own style and make an over-the-top grimdark book that was just awful.

Weak shortlist. For Frameshift, I'll opinion it's even less coherent and effective than it sounds--the mix of telepethy, clone-Neanderthal baby and Nazis does not make the tight thematic mix that Sawyer seemed to believe it does, and the result has a lot of very visible flaws. The Hugo voters for that particular nomination must have been pretty addled, or woefully under-read for the year.

Forever Peace as the worst Haldeman ever, really? Worse than Starbound or Worlds Enough and Time? It's been awhile but I remember the novel as having some creative points in its setting with the tech. The glaring flaw I recalled was putting in the omnicidal cult with connections up to the vice presidency, it made everything morally flat and absurd.

Rise of Endymion suffered from the explaining bug, but I found it having some decent ideas and plot movement. The 'missing time' aspect with Aenea was the only real groan-worthy element for me, and I found it decent in overall quality, if not worthy of Hugo nomination. Certainly Simmons has done vastly worse in most of his more recent books.
Michal Jakuszewski
24. Lfex
I agree it is quite weak list. I wholly agree with Jo on The Rise of Endymion and I didn't like The Forever Peace as well. I didn't read Frameshift, having given up on Sawyer at this point (but I did return to him and read Hominids, to my regret). Jack Faust was ambitious and interesting novel, perhaps not wholly sucessful, but still a worthy nominee, but I would give first place to City on Fire.

What else should be there? I think A Clash of Kings should be eligible in the next year, so I would give first place to Diaspora, certainly the most impressive of all Egan's radical hard SF novels. I also liked Alpha Centauri, Einstein's Bridge and Finity's End which would probably make my ballot, if I voted back then.

As usual, I don't recall much about short stories. I remember liking Castro and Kelly, but the rest doesn't ring a bell.
25. Richard Horton
Not posting as ecbatan today because I just got a new computer and I forgot my password ... and an attempt to reset it has proved unsuccessful so far -- it's been four hours plus, and no email from Tor. Oh well.

Anyway, this is a year I read none of the nominated novels, and I still haven't read any of them. Forever Peace just looks tedious, though I normally like Haldeman. I should read City of Light, just haven't gotten around to it. Same with Jack Faust, though it always looked depressing to me. Not that that's a good excuse. Life's too short to read Sawyer novels any more. And I never bothered with the Endymion books.

I remember having a nomination list of 5 books, of which obviously none made the ballot. My favorite was Corrupting Dr. Nice, which I still think would have been a good winner. I also quite liked M. John Harrison's Signs of Life, which is sort of UK Magic Realism. And dour, but what do you expect?

I think I nominated Promised Land, by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice, even though I don't really think it Hugo-worthy: it's straight romance, really, with a thin SF veneer; and the gender politics at the center are a bit strange. But I still gobbled it up, it was lots of fun. (And mention on rasfw and you'll get an earful from Dorothy Heydt!)

Greg Bear's /, or Slant, would have been a good nominee. I also like Ford's very strange The Physiognomy.

My favorite YA novel of the year, by far, was Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, a lovely romantic fantasy about war, manners, and intelligent trees. The sequel was Court Duel -- together they are really one novel, and since 2002 have been available in a single novel called just Crown Duel.

This was the year John M. Ford's Star Trek novel The Final Reflection was published. You can get a nasty reaction from Star Trek fans by praising the book, but non-ST fans tend to regard it as one of the very best Star Trek novels.

Once a Hero, by Moon, was not strictly speaking a "Scary Aunt" novel, as I see it. It was the fourth novel in a sequence that began with the three "Aunts in Space" books, which are about Heris Serrano. This book changes directions a bit -- it's about Esmay Suiza, who starts out, as I recall, a minor character in the third Heris Serrano novel, and becomes the lead character for the rest of the series. I liked it quite a bit, though as with lots of Moon there is a plot about absurdly EVULL villains that kind of distracts from the best parts of the book.

From the mainstream, there was Ronald Wright's A Scientific Romance (a sequel of sorts to Wells' The Time Machine). Wright, I note, is another Canadian writer. Also, Kirsten Bakis's Lives of the Monster Dogs, a pretty decent book about intelligent dogs.

And finally, from a writer quickly transitioning to the mainstream, there was As She Climbed Across the Table, by Jonathan Lethem, a pretty good novel about an intelligent black hole. (I understand that it is being adapted as a movie by David Cronenberg.)

Rich Horton
26. James Davis Nicoll
I think this was the year James Alan Gardner's second novel, Commitment Hour, came out. It's set in (Tobermory? Notkitchener, Ontario, anyway) after aliens crashed civilization by giving a good chunk of the population a ticket off-world and after the Sparklords (high-tech aristos) took over. The people in town in question spend their childhood switching back and forth between male and female but when they reach 21 they have to choose to be male, female or neuter. Good enough to make the Tiptree Long List for that year.
27. Richard Horton
I should have remarked upon Diaspora. It's an impressive novel, but not one I could quite love. Egan takes his premise as far as he possibly can, which is admirable, but by the end it was just too distant to involve me.

It incorporated the great novelette "Wang's Carpets", but that story really reads better on its own. I don't think Egan has collected it (presumably because it's in Diaspora) -- I think he should include it in a short story collection.
28. Scotoma
Jack Faust isn't just depressing, it reads like concentrated Peter Watts without the interesting techno-geekery.
29. Richard Horton
In the shortfiction, then.

For novella, my clear favorite was Geoff Landis's "Ecopoiesis", an original an realistic look at a terraforming attempt. Of the nominees, I also liked "Marrow" by Robert Reed. Not nominated was a good odd vampire story by Brian Stableford, "The Black Blood of the Dead".

As usual there is a long list of worthy novelettes. Of the nominees, the best was William Sanders's "The Undiscovered" (Shakespeare in the Americas) -- and I think its latter day reputation has only gotten stronger. I understand that the novelette voting was very close, and any of three stories could plausibly be said to have deserved the win. The winner, "We Will Drink a Fish Together", is pretty nice work, and so is Gardner's "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Bloodstream". I can't remember the third story that almost tied -- it may have been "The Undiscovered".

"Broken Symmetry" is good for Burstein but not at all a worthy Hugo nominee. "Moon Six" is strong work, though.

My favorite novelette of the whole year was "The Pipes of Pan", by Brian Stableford, which wasn't nominated though it made a couple of Bests.

Other strong novelettes:
"Reasons to Be Cheerful", by Greg Egan
"After Kerry", by Ian McDonald
"Second Skin", by Paul McAuley (an early Quiet War story)
"Glass Earth, Inc." by Stephen Baxter (a rather Eganesque story by him, uncharacteristically so, and very good but almost ignored at the time)
"Alice, Alfie, Ted, and the Aliens", by Paul di Filippo (about Tiptree, Bester, and Sturgeon, of course, and riffing on a Tiptree title)
"Collected Ogoense", by Rebecca Ore
"On the Ice Islands", by Gregory Feeley
"The Dragons of Springplace", by Michael Swanwick
"The Mendelian Lamp Case", by Paul Levinson
"London Bone", by Michael Moorcock
"Great Western", by Kim Newman

Also, there were lots of fine short stories. I wasn't happy with the choice of a winner -- I voted for "Itsy Bitsy Spider", and "No Planets Strike" was also good.

The best story of the year was nominated: Paul Park's "Get a Grip".

Also very strong was Terry Bisson's "An Office Romance".

Other top stories:
"Heart of Whiteness", by Howard Waldrop
"Beluthahatchie", by Andy Duncan
"The Fubar Suit", by Stephen Baxter (who had a great year despited publishing a truly awful novel)
"The Jackdaw's Last Case", by Paul di Filippo
"The Nostalginauts", by "S. N. Dyer" (that is, the late Sharon Farber)
"Pages out of Order", by Ben Jeapes
"Scarey Rose in Deep History", by Rebecca Ore
"Echoes", by Alan Brennert

Rich Horton
Soon Lee
30. SoonLee
James @21:

There are people with "autobiographical memory" including actress Marilu Henner.

Link to 60 minutes article on Youtube:
31. Raskolnikov
Carlos--how much are you covering with 'recent Egan'? I'd agree that there has been some dodgy stuff around the margins (the diatribe against post-modernism in Terranesia and the unintentionally amusing parts of "Oracle"'s slam against C. S. Lewis) but overall I've been quite impressed by his recent work. Incandescence and the short stories in the Amalgram sequence have shown a strong commitment to using SF to work out the actual process of science. And his latest, Zendegi, managed a powerful bit of near-future extrapolation while also effectively satirizing some ofthe more fanatical hard SF tendencies, particularly transhumanists. Egan has never since captured quite the raw gusto of Diaspora but I think he's still a major writer that has proved to have a lot of substance to say.
32. lampwick
God's Fires was about a spaceship landing in Portugal during the Inquisition. I'd been reading Anthony and liking her, and I thought that book was her best so far. Unfortunately she pretty much disappeared after that.
33. Bruce A.
I'll add another recommendation for Anthony's God's Fires.

Eric Nylund's Dry Water was interesting, but it seemed a bit frenetic in its plotting at times. Its sales probably weren't helped by the paperback edition having one of the worst covers ever.
Michael Grosberg
34. Michael_GR
Oh, City on Fire. The mere mention of the name still hurts, 14 years later, in that part of the brain in charge of waiting for sequels. I have, of course, lost hope, and I know the circumstances - the publisher that went bust, the impossibility of selling a third book in a series that has not sold well to begin with. But dammit, there are billionaires out there who spend tens of millions of dollars to hitch a ride on a soyuz rocket. Surely at some point some rich person will read City on Fire. And then he or she will have no other option but to bankroll Williams and allow him to write that third book.
35. CarlosSkullsplitter
31: I haven't read Zendegi, which sounds like it has possibilities (although I thought the same thing from the description of Teranesia), but I was thinking in particular of Incandescence and The Clockwork Rocket.

His portrayals of the process of science... well, at least he makes the effort, like Kim Stanley Robinson.
Andrew Love
36. AndyLove
My first Worldcon, and my first year voting for the Hugos (I came to organized fandom late).

The winner, "We Will Drink a Fish Together", is pretty nice work, and so is Gardner's "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Bloodstream". I can't remember the third story that almost tied -- it
may have been "The Undiscovered".

This is the race I remember the best - I enjoyed "Three Hearings" enough to write evolutionary simulations and a study guide (sadly not on the web anymore). says "Note: This was by far the closest category. If "Three Hearings..." had received one more vote, it would have won the Hugo instead of "We Will Drink a Fish...". One more vote for "Moon Six" would have tied it with "...Fish..." for the Hugo, two more would have given it the award outright."

I had objections to Pohl having a Nazi villain in a novel written in the 1980s about a relatively near-future (but at least that fellow had been a Hitler youth) - Sawyer has a Nazi villain in a book set in 2000 or so - a fellow who had been an adult during the war - seriously denting my WSOD. But the worse part was that his book postulated credible genetic evidence that the human genome had been designed - and then completely ignored that fact to tell a story about health insurance reform. I don't remember for sure, but strongly suspect I voted for City on Fire for the Hugo - and I'm dreaming of a sequel too. Had I read The Stone Canal then, I would certainly have nominated it.
37. Petar Belic
The Reality Dysfunction, Peter F. Hamilton was quite enjoyable for me. No one else was writing anything quite like it at the time. It was telling a big bold story with tiny brushstrokes on a wide canvas. Although it certainly could have been trimmed you are propelled along at such a pace that you really don't notice the length. And the 1-2 sucker punch that occurs roughly in the middle of the book is nothing like I saw coming. Highly recommended! Highbrow SF purists should read these to remember the sense of fun that SF once promised. The series was a perfect antidote to the depressing melange that the Hugos offered this year...
John Adams
38. JohnArkansawyer
In a world where Jacqueline Carey and John Ringo (let these two asses be hitched to grind corn) sell sequel after tedious sequel, it is no surprise that Susan R. Matthews doesn't. It's just a crying shame. An Exchange of Hostages was a remarkable book.

I think I'd've picked The Final Reflection out of this year's crop, though.
39. Raskolnikov
Ah, Reality Dysfunction. It's hard to disassociate my views on that from the larger series, and in particular the horribly abrupt ending in Naked God. Taken on its own rights the book (published as duology for length, at least in the form I saw it) is fun enough, and has some neat worldbuilding details. Of course that fun comes with a lot of 'just for the boys' attitude, particularly in the lurid, over the top eroticization of basically every female character or half-character. I had a sense in the volume that Hamilton had designed a comlex, engaging tablieu, which he had no better purpose in find than:
1. bring the damned back to life as a therat
2. have his villains engage in relly fetishized sadistic acts
3. have "pure" but energetic sex focusing around the hero. Who is super-awesome and the only psychic anywhere in the galaxy.

There are good things about the book but I wouldn't say it's better than the items on the shortlist, which given the list in question is pretty damning.
40. Petar Belic
I do not think the Reality Dysfunction series ended well, at all. The end of the Naked God was disappointing, no doubt about it. But the first one was a lot of fun.

I'm not sure that it belonged on the shortlist at all, but it was big, vivid and fun. Sometimes that combination a perfect read for me. Othertimes I definitely want more meat in the sandwich.

At least in Australia, Hamilton is marketed as SF's biggest seller in the UK. I'm not sure if this is true, but if it is, I can easily see why.
41. CarlosSkullsplitter
7: The Reality Dysfunction, Peter F. Hamilton TL,DR. There are very few SF stories that justify more than 120,000 words.

Following these reviews chronologically: did the Mighty Tome of Kitchen Sink Space Opera bubble (now popped in the U.S.) start with Hyperion? The influence of Simmons on Hamilton to me seems obvious, and thinking about it, Stephen King's The Dark Tower on Simmons.
Soon Lee
42. SoonLee
Petar Belic @40:
The deus ex machina ending was a major dissappointment for me, especially having spent all that time reading the three doorstopper volumes. I remember near the end of the third volume, the sinking realisation that he'd painted himself into a corner & that the story wasn't going to end well.
43. Dan Blum
This was the year John M. Ford's Star Trek novel The Final Reflectionwas published.

It was actually first published in 1984.
44. Richard Horton
Thanks Dan -- that's what I get for believing the ISFDB too unthinkingly.

And I really should have checked more closely, because I knew in the back of my mind that it had to be older ...

Rich Horton
45. Doug M.
Here's a thing I've noticed in review threads: if the OP or an early commenter says "Book X was truly dire", then there's likely to be a disproportionate number of commenters popping up to say "gosh, but I really liked Book X!" And this effect is largely independent of the actual direness of the book.

In this case, The Rise of Endymion was just an awful book. It was basically a series of bad retcons that made little or no sense, wrapped around a fairly squicky love story, told from the POV of a bland and dull protagonist. The science is handwaving and bafflegab. The worldbuilding is stuff and nonsense. And it does not just invite the Eight Deadly Words, it lays out place settings for them, with doilies.

Doug M.
46. Doug M.
Jack Faust is about the process of damnation, and it's also a riff on Goethe. Those are large and strange ambitions. Even if Swanwick had succeeded -- and I kinda don't think he did -- the resulting book would not be much fun to read.

I had completely forgotten about An Exchange of Hostages, aka the story of the Best Torturer Ever. Insofar as I remember, it was a book that worked very hard to set up moral conundra. Improbably sympathetic protagonist in an utterly horrible future, yeah? Well-oh. Now I can go back to not thinking about it.

Days of Cain was actually an impressive achievement: an SF book about the Holocaust that wasn't bad or stupid. I don't think it quite deserved all the love it got, but OTOH it deserved a fair amount of kudos just for pulling the thing off. (Apparently author JR Dunn is a winger of the frothier sort -- his latest book is called "How Liberalism Kills" or some such -- but you wouldn't know it from reading this.)

Freedom and Necessity created quite a stir at the time, and I'm mildly surprised it didn't get nominated. It seems to have pretty much disappeared since. Personally I file this with Jack Faust under "ambitious failure", though at least Swanwick managed to fail in less than 200 pages. YMMV.

The Mines of Behemoth is one of Michael Shea's insane demonic travelogues. It's a Nifft the Lean book, though written in a very different style. These are not award-winning books, but they're fun. (I mean, if your idea of "fun" includes trips through Hell.)

Destiny's Road was relatively readable late Niven, which is to say that it was better than Ringworld Throne. The characters are cardboard, the narrative is broken-backed, and the science is wrong -- utterly wrong, wrong in an easily-researchable way, wrong in gross and in detail. (Potassium couldn't disappear in the way he describes, and potassium deficiency does not have the effects he describes. People wouldn't suffer from a gradual decline in intelligence, fixed quickly by a change in diet; they'd suffer a whole host of ugly symptoms, including heart arrhythimias, kidney problems, muscle tremors, and permanent brain damage.) Not to dwell, but I have to point out that questions like "are potassium salts generally soluble in water?" could easily be answered with a few moments of research, even in those dark days before Wikipedia.

Doug M.
47. Doug M.
Dramatic Presentation: I'm a bit surprised how little love there is for this year. Okay, "Contact" was kinda dull -- but it wasn't a bad movie, just a somewhat bland one. And it was unquestionably SF, faithful to its source material, and commercially successful.

Meanwhile we also had "Gattaca", "Men in Black", and "The Fifth Element". "Gattaca" I still haven't seen. (Ayuh, there goes my geek cred.) MiB was a fine movie, funny and action-packed and intellectually consistent; if you accept the premise, everything else falls neatly into place. It's got great performances by the leads and a terrific score by Danny Elfman. It was nominated for three Oscars and took one home. I suspect the dire sequel has somewhat damaged our collective memory of it, but at the time it was pure delight.

"Fifth Element" is not a great movie by any stretch -- the script is based on an unpublished story that Luc Besson wrote in high school -- but it's perfectly acceptable light entertainment with some great eye candy (including some set pieces, like the flying cab sequence, that still look pretty awesome today) and solid performances by Bruce Willis and Gary Oldman. It was never in any danger of winning -- has any foreign film ever taken this one home? -- but it was a perfectly cromulent nominee.

You could argue that this was the first year of the modern era for movie SF. Next year will be weak-ish, but from 2000 on this award will go from strength to strength.

Doug M.
Jo Walton
48. bluejo
Jedilalos: If it's of no significance to anything, why bother to think about it at all?

I've covered 1953-1998 from the same perspective, being told to lighten up or change direction now doesn't seem productive. Sorry you find it depressing that 1998 kind of sucked.
49. Gardner Dozois
A weak year for novel. The Haldeman is far from his best book (there'd be better ones coming up), and the Bisson-written sequel to A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ was a disappointment. The Clarke and the Niven were also weak. JACK FAUST was brilliant but bleak. DISPORA probably should have won, although CORRUPTING Dr. NICE and A CLASH OF KINGS should have been on the ballot as well. Never got around to CITY ON FIRE or THE DAZZLE OF THE DAY, although they both sound interesting.

Things looked better in short fiction. The Steele and the Landis novellas were both strong, although I think I might have given it to "Marrow." Ian R. MacLeod's Lovecraftian novella "The Golden Keeper" was very strong. Eliot Fintushel's "Izzy and the Father of Terror" was very strange indeed.

Novelette was even stronger than novella, with a lot of good novelettes published that year. Although I liked Bill Johnson's story, I think in retrospect I might have given it to William Sanders's "The Undiscovered" or, off the ballot, Paul McAuley's "Second Skin," one of McAuley's first major stories. Also excellent were James Alan Gardner's "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream," Ian R. MacLeod's "Nevermore," Walter Jon Williams's "Lethe," Silverberg's "Beauty in the Night," Baxter's "Moon Six," Ian McDonald's "After Kerry," Greg Egan's "Reasons to be Cheerful," Swanwick's "Mother Grasshopper" (perhaps the only SF story ever written about people living on the back of a giant grasshopper), Brian Stableford's "The Pipes of Pan," and Alastair Reynolds's "A Spy in Europa," one of his first sales. A very strong year for novelettes. (Surely "The Dragons of Springplace" was by Robert Reed, not Michael Swanwick.)

In short story, I think I'd go for "Itsy Bitsy Spider," although "Beluthahatchie," a colorful story about the train to Hell by Andy Duncan, and Karen Joy Fowler's "Standing Room Only," one of her rare straight SF stories, were also strong. As were "Yeyka," by Greg Egan, "Balinese Dancer," by Gwyneth Jones, " "Echoes," by Alan Brennert," "Winter Fire," by Geoffrey A. Landis, and "The Wisdom of Old Earth," by Michael Swanwick.

All three short fiction winners were from ASIMOV'S this year.

Didn't think it was such a bad year for movies. Nothing deep or profound, perhaps, but THE FIFTH ELEMENT and MEN IN BLACK were a lot of fun, with THE FIFTH ELEMENT in particular being a hoot, and even CONTACT, although a bit slow, had its points, and all were SF of one sort or another. Never saw GATTACA.

The Campbell should have gone to Ian R. MacLeod, although Andy Duncan wouldn't have been a bad choice either.
Ellen Datlow
50. datlow
Stephen Dedman had at last three stories published in professional markets beginning in 1994 so I believe would have been ineligible for the Campbell in 1998.
Evan Langlinais
51. Skwid
Wow, this is another "WTF" year, for me. The only novel mentioned above that I've read is Clash of Kings. That's it. Nothing else. Not a sausage.

That's just bizarre. What happened this year?!
52. wingracer
Gardner, you have to see Gattaca, it's right up your alley. Definitely a good year for Dramatic Presentation for a change.

I did enjoy Forever Peace, but don't really consider it award worthy.

Pretty much everything else from this year I didn't care for except for the Martin and Kate Elliot which were both amazing.

I really need to start reading Egan. You all like to heap the praise on him and I'm feeling left out.
Pamela Adams
53. PamAdams
Doug M,

I haven't seen Gattaca either, and parts of it were filmed at the building where I had my office for several years.
54. Raskolnikov
Haven't read Jack Faust, but do people have criticism of it, besides it being really pessimistic?

Here's a thing I've noticed in review threads: if the OP or an early
commenter says "Book X was truly dire", then there's likely to be a
disproportionate number of commenters popping up to say "gosh, but I really liked Book X!" And this effect is largely independent of the
actual direness of the book.

Um, yes. What's your point? All the books from a shortlist were here because some group of people at some point liked them. And even people who think it was bad don't necessarily think it was *that* bad. Your statement seems to be a claim of nothing other than that unanimous standards don't exist in the SFF community, or among the subset that are commenting here. Even They'd Rather Be Right isn't really a consensus anti-quality pick, I'd personally put at least a half dozen other books below it (Hi, Hominids! Hi, Blackout/All Clear!) Similarly, stronger statements (This book is completely great/This book is without merit) will draw more opposing reaction (Well, actually I don't thin..).
Bob Blough
55. Bob
I agree that this was the weakest year for SF novels in a long time. Some good enough ones, but none that bowled me over. Still have to read Dazzle of Day and Mississippi Blues, though.

My favorite would have been Earthquake Weather but that is Fantasy.

In Novella, my choice would have been "Giant Bones" by Peter S. Beagle. "Marrow" would have been my second choice with not much after that.

Good crop of Novelettes and Short Stories though.

But, on the whole, I thought it a very ho-hum year.
56. Gerry__Quinn
The Reality Dysfunction and its sequels were big, fun books, even if the deus ex machina ending was a disappointment. I enjoyed Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga as well. I wouldn't place him in the top rank of writers, but he can fill up a space opera doorstopper as well as anyone.

I don't really see much similarity between Hamilton and Simmons, except they both have a sensibility that leans towards horror as much as SF. It has at times occured to me that horror writers may have a knack for writing at length - always one more gruesome incident to throw in the mix!

With regard to Simmons, I'm of the camp that says the Hyperion saga should have stopped at two books. The two Endymions were okay, but nowhere as good as Hyperion and its sequel.

As for others mentioned, I think Diaspora was pretty good. Slant I found okay but for me it was not a patch on Queen of Angels.
57. Gerry__Quinn
Gwyneth Jones's Phoenix Cafe (last novel in the Aleutian trilogy) was published in 1997 - I don't know what year it would have been eligible. This was a pretty notable series but doesn't seem to have registered at all in the Hugos and Nebulas (even the first one, which was probably the best and certainly the most conventional in SF terms).
Kevin Maroney
58. womzilla
Simmons was clearly influenced by King--hard to imagine Carrion Comfort existing without King--but the influence of The Dark Tower on Hyperion seems likely small, since only the first two volumes had been published when Hyperion was. (And probably only the first one has been published when Hyperion was written.)
Rich Horton
59. ecbatan
At last I am able to log in again!

Which presumably means my ability to edit posts and fix my mistakes will return. But not the ones I made in this thread, alas.

So, yes, of course "The Dragons of Springplace" is by Robert Reed, not Michael Swanwick. Apologies to both writers for the misidentification.

Rich Horton
60. CarlosSkullsplitter
58: not the whole blessed series. You only need the first Dark Tower book, in fact, though the second makes it clearer. Episodic genre mashup based around nineteenth-century poetry. It seems like a fairly close fit.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
61. tnh
Good books aren't evenly spaced. Some years you get a stack of great books that could have been Hugo winners in any other lineup. Other years, not so much.

James Nicoll @15: I wouldn't have missed the Chris Garcia moment for the world. It was an outburst of pure joyful id, totally unmodified by higher brain functions. I don't think anyone could do that twice in one night. I'm not sure they could do it twice in one lifetime.

Gardner @49: Fifth Element was entertaining, but there was a moment in the scene in the tiny spaceship compart with the fold-out bed when I realized I was seeing a skiffy version of the formula for a French bedroom farce: one bed, two doors, three people. It was a distractingly mundane thought.

Men in Black had some standard mechanics, but it was fun, very New York, and it opened up a whole new territory of potential stories. I also loved the reframes it imposed on stuff like the Flushing fairgrounds, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel ventilation stack, and the Weekly World News.
Pamela Adams
62. PamAdams

I'm not sure why Earthquake Weather should be left out due to being Fantasy- the Hugo awards are open to either SF or F.
63. James Davis Nicoll
the Hugo awards are open to either SF or F.

You might be surprised to see how many people feel very very strongly that the Hugo is clearly intended for SF alone despite there being nothing in the rules about that. Granted, fantasy didn't win at the novel level until (iirc) 2001 but fantasy and even horror had won at shorter lengths.
Andrew Love
64. AndyLove
the Hugo awards are open to either SF or F. You might be surprised to see how many people feel very very strongly that the Hugo is clearly intended for SF alone despite there being nothing in the rules about that. Granted, fantasy didn't win at the novel level until (iirc) 2001 but fantasy and even horror had won at shorter lengths.

I had assumed that Dreamsnake was fantasy (I haven't read that one), and considered Stranger and High Castle to be fantasy-ish too, so I didn't consider the 2001 event to be a tradition-breaker.
65. Gardner Dozois
DREAMSNAKE is SF, not fantasy, although not hard SF; you might consider it "fantasy-ish" too, for the setting (which, as I recall, was quasi-medieval tribal), but the medical tricks the dreamsnake can do are grounded in the biological sciences, and there's no magic or fantasy creatures.

I too would rather see SF than fantasy win the Hugo, as there are plenty of other fantasy/horror awards, but fantasy definitely IS eligable for the Hugo, so there's no reason why EARTHQUAKE WEATHER would have been barred because it was a fantasy. Christ, a Harry Potter novel won the award a few years later.
66. James Davis Nicoll
Christ, a Harry Potter novel won the award a few years later.

I seem to recall the odd comment about that, along with forcefully presented discussions of the idea that a kid's book, notable merely for selling a brazillian copies and doing more to attract young people to the field than a lot of Hugo winners, should be elible.
Soon Lee
67. SoonLee
"a brazillian"

It had a huge amount of support?
Rich Horton
68. ecbatan
"a brazillian"

Apparently not a huge amount of support but a lot of fans in Rio liked it ...
69. Alan Heuer
Here is how I voted in 1998:

Best Novel
1. City on Fire Walter Jon Williams
2. The Rise of Endymion Dan Simmons
3. Jack Faust Michael Swanwick
4. Frameshift Robert J. Sawyer
5. Forever Peace Joe Haldeman

Best Novella
1. "The Funeral March of the Marionettes" Adam-Troy Castro
2. "Marrow" Robert Reed
3. "Ecopoeisis" Geoffrey A. Landis
4. "...Where Angels Fear to Tread" Allen Steele
5. "Loose Ends" Paul Levinson

Best Novelette
1. "Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream" James Alan Gardner
2. "The Undiscovered" William Sanders
3. "Moon Six" Stephen Baxter
4. "We Will Drink a Fish Together" Bill Johnson
5. "Broken Symmetry" Michael A. Burstein

Best Short Story
1. "Itsy Bitsy Spider" James Patrick Kelly
2. "Standing Room Only" Karen Joy Fowler
3. "No Planets Strike" Gene Wolfe
4. "The Hand You're Dealt" Robert J. Sawyer
5. "The 43 Antarean Dynasties" Mike Resnick
6. "Beluthahatchie" Andy Duncan

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