Hugo Nominees: 1989 |

Revisiting the Hugos

Hugo Nominees: 1989

The 1989 Hugo Awards were presented at Noreascon III in Boston. The Best Novel award was won by C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen (post) one of my favourite books of all time. It’s about cloning and personality—physical cloning is taken for granted, building artificial personalities is all in a day’s work, replicating a famous dead scientist and politician. Making the cloned “son” of another scientist a “custom job” and different from his progenitor is slightly harder, and when it comes to replicating a whole society from the genes on up to the memes, nobody knows if it will work a few generations down the line. It’s a huge brilliant ambitious book with a wide vision; it blew me away when I first read it and would be in my personal top five books of all time. It’s in print and in the Montreal library system (hereafter “the library,” the Grande Bibliotheque web page is down tonight) in English and French. I think this is exactly the kind of book that should be winning the Hugo.

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

We’ll do them in order of votes—the NESFA Hugo listing has them that way.

Orson Scott Card’s Red Prophet was the sequel to 1988’s nominee Seventh Son—another fantasy of the American frontier with folk magic. I liked it a lot less—in fact I liked every book in this series less than the one before. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English and French. I don’t think it’s a terrible Hugo nominee, but I think it’s an unimaginative one.

Lois McMaster Bujold got her first Hugo nomination this year with the Nebula winning Falling Free (post). I think of this as minor Bujold, but minor Bujold would be a major book from most writers. This is another book about using cloning to solve problems—in this case, solving engineering problems by genetically engineering quaddies, people with four arms and no legs, who can work well in zero gravity, until they’re suddenly made technologically obsolete when gravity control is invented. It’s in print and in the library in English and French. I think it has been eclipsed somewhat by Bujold’s later work.

Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net was one of those books everybody was talking about at the time. I didn’t read it for ages because I felt generally negative about cyberpunk. By the time Sterling had won me over by writing great short stories and I gave in and read this in the mid-90s, it was already laughably technologically obsolete. It’s a problem when writing about the near future, and especially writing about the near future of computers in 1988. Cyteen and Falling Free could still be in the future. Islands in the Net not so much. However, it’s a well written book in a popular subgenre, and one of the best cyberpunk books out there. I think it was good nominee. It’s not in print, but it’s in the library in English and French.

I haven’t read William Gibson’s Mona Lisa Overdrive, because I don’t have to keep eating to tell if a pot is full of marmelade all the way down. It’s in print, and it’s in the library in English and French.

So, two women and three men, all American, three previous winners, one first time nominee. Two books set in multi-planet futures about cloning, two near-future cyberpunk Earths, and one historical fantasy. What else might they have chosen?

There’s a curious withdrawal—apparently P.J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton’s novel The Guardian, which I have neither read nor previously heard of, had enough votes for a nomination, but the administrators concluded that the votes were bloc votes and disqualified them. Locus says “A group of enthusiastic New York area fans was later discovered to be responsible for the votes, exonerating Beese and Hamilton.” It’s not in print and not in the library, and I’d say it has sunk pretty much without a trace.

SFWA gave the Nebula to Bujold. Non-overlapping eligible nominees: Lewis Shiner’s Deserted Cities of the Heart, George Turner’s Drowning Towers and Gregory Benford’s Great Sky River.

The World Fantasy Award went to Koko, Peter Straub. Other nominees: The Drive-In, Joe R. Lansdale, Fade, Robert Cormier, The Last Coin, James P. Blaylock, The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris, Sleeping In Flame, Jonathan Carroll.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which is for science fiction) went to Islands in the Net. Second place was Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Gold Coast, which would have been a fine Hugo nominee, with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsdawn third. (This is a juried award, and I really do find their decision making completely bizarre. There’s hardly a year I don’t type their stuff without a side order of “Huh?” Ignore Falling Free and Cyteen and commend Dragonsdawn? Oooookay.)

The Philip K. Dick Award, for science fiction paperback originals, had a tie. The two winners were Paul McAuley’s Four Hundred Billion Stars and Rudy Rucker’s Wetware. Other nominees: Becoming Alien, Rebecca Ore, Neon Lotus, Marc Laidlaw,  Orphan of Creation, Roger MacBride Allen, Rendezvous, D. Alexander Smith.

The Locus Award for Best SF novel went to Cyteen. Other nominees not already mentioned: Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov, Eternity, Greg Bear, Araminta Station, Jack Vance, Alternities, Michael P. Kube-McDowell, Adulthood Rites, Octavia E. Butler, Catspaw, Joan D. Vinge, At Winter’s End, Robert Silverberg,  Brothers in Arms, Lois McMaster Bujold, Ivory, Mike Resnick, Crazy Time, Kate Wilhelm, Venus of Shadows, Pamela Sargent, The Gate to Women’s Country, Sheri S. Tepper, The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks, Hellspark, Janet Kagan (post), Chronosequence, Hilbert Schenck, Children of the Thunder, John Brunner, Fire on the Mountain, Terry Bisson (post), Terraplane, Jack Womack, Starfire, Paul Preuss, An Alien Light, Nancy Kress, The Company Man, Joe Clifford Faust.

Of the ones I’ve read, I’d love to have seen Hellspark or Fire on the Mountain get more recognition, and either of them would have made a really good Hugo nominee. Adulthood Rites is excellent, but doesn’t stand alone—I wonder if we have sufficient series completed every year to have a “best series” award?

Locus Fantasy Award went to Red Prophet, other nominees not previously mentioned: The Paladin, C. J. Cherryh (post—and wasn’t she having a good year!), There Are Doors, Gene Wolfe, Unicorn Mountain, Michael Bishop, King of the Murgos, David Eddings, The Story of the Stone, Barry Hughart, Greenmantle, Charles de Lint, Lavondyss, Robert Holdstock, The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams, Wyvern, A. A. Attanasio, The Healer’s War, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Druid’s Blood, Esther M. Friesner, The White Serpent, Tanith Lee, Sister Light, Sister Dark, Jane Yolen, Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett, Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?, Tom Holt, The Changeling Sea, Patricia A. McKillip, The Reindeer People, Megan Lindholm, The White Raven, Diana L. Paxson, Walkabout Woman, Michaela Roessner, Silk Roads and Shadows, Susan Shwartz, The Nightingale, Kara Dalkey, Death in the Spirit House, Craig Strete.

You can practically see modern fantasy becoming a commercial genre before your very eyes!

Locus First Novel was won by Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road (post), which I think would have been a splendid Hugo nominee. I also notice David Zindell’s Neverness on the list—I’m surprised that didn’t get more attention.

The Mythopoeic Award went to Michael Bishop’s Unicorn Mountain.

And anything all the awards missed? Helen Wright’s A Matter of Oaths (post), Steve Miller and Sharon Lee’s Agent of Change, first of the Liaden series, Peter Dickinson’s Eva (post) which is YA and therefore got no attention from the SF community, S.M. Stirling’s controversial Marching Through Georgia, first of the Draka books, Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecelia (post), Salman Rishdie’s The Satanic Verses, Elisabeth Vonarburg’s The Silent City, Rachel Pollack’s Unquenchable Fire, Parke Godwin’s Waiting for the Galactic Bus, (post) and Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac.

So, while this was a good year overall with a lot of great books I’d have liked to have seen recognised, I don’t see any howling omissions from the Hugo ballot, and I think the five we have are pretty representative. So thumbs up for 1989’s list.

Other Categories


  • “The Last of the Winnebagos” by Connie Willis [Asimov’s Jul 1988]
  • “The Scalehunter’s Beautiful Daughter” by Lucius Shepard [Ziesing, 1988; Asimov’s Sep 1988]
  • “Journals of the Plague Years” by Norman Spinrad [Full Spectrum (Doubleday), 1988]
  • “The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians” by Bradley Denton [F&SF Jun 1988]
  • “Surfacing” by Walter Jon Williams [Asimov’s Apr 1988]

Again, terrific novellas. All five of them are memorable and excellent. I think this is consistently the category with the highest quality nominees.


  • “Schrödinger’s Kitten” by George Alec Effinger [Omni Sep 1988]
  • “Peaches for Mad Molly” by Steven Gould [Analog Feb 1988]
  • “Do Ya, Do Ya, Wanna Dance” by Howard Waldrop [Asimov’s Aug 1988]
  • “The Function of Dream Sleep” by Harlan Ellison [Midnight Graffiti Jun 1988; Asimov’s mid-Dec 1988]
  • “Ginny Sweethips’ Flying Circus” by Neal Barrett, Jr. [Asimov’s Feb 1988]

I’d have voted for the Waldrop. No, the Gould.


  • “Kirinyaga” by Mike Resnick [F&SF Nov 1988]
  • “The Giving Plague” by David Brin [Interzone #23 Spr 1988; Full Spectrum #2 (Doubleday), 1988]
  • “Ripples in the Dirac Sea” by Geoffrey A. Landis [Asimov’s Oct 1988]
  • “Our Neural Chernobyl” by Bruce Sterling [F&SF Jun 1988]
  • “Stable Strategies for Middle Management” by Eileen Gunn [Asimov’s Jun 1988]
  • “The Fort Moxie Branch” by Jack McDevitt [Full Spectrum (Doubleday), 1988]


  • The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1957–1965 by Samuel R. Delany [Morrow/Arbor House, 1988]  (post)
  • First Maitz by Don Maitz [Ursus, 1988]
  • The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by James E. Gunn [Viking Press, 1988]
  • A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists by Robert Weinberg [Greenwood, 1988]
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror: 1987 by Charles N. Brown and William G. Contento [Locus Press, 1988]


  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  • Beetlejuice
  • Big 
  • Willow 
  • Alien Nation

Pretty good winner, but really? Willow? Big?


  • Gardner Dozois
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Edward L. Ferman
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Charles C. Ryan


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


  • Locus ed. by Charles N. Brown
  • Science Fiction Chronicle ed. by Andrew I. Porter
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction ed. by David G. Hartwell, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Susan Palwick and Kathryn Cramer
  • Interzone ed. by David Pringle
  • Thrust ed. by D. Douglas Fratz

I remember buying the first issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction in Forbidden Planet. It was so exciting! It had an article by Delany. The whole thing was marvellous. It was twenty years before I saw another copy.


  • File 770 ed. by Mike Glyer
  • Lan’s Lantern ed. by George “Lan” Laskowski
  • Niekas ed. by Edmund R. Meskys
  • FOSFAX ed. by Timothy Lane
  • Other Realms ed. by Chuq Von Rospach


  • Dave Langford
  • Mike Glyer
  • Arthur D. Hlavaty
  • Avedon Carol
  • Chuq Von Rospach
  • No Award
  • Guy H. Lillian III


  • Brad W. Foster
  • Diana Gallagher Wu
  • Stu Shiffman
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Taral Wayne
  • Merle Insinga


Saul Jaffe—SF-Lovers Digest

Alex Schomburg—Noreascon III Special Art Award

SF-Lovers Digest was the first online anything to get an award. It was a mailing list that later evolved into the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written. I’m only here today because of that newsgroup, for whatever values of “here” you like. Without it I’d never have met Emmet, I’d never have moved to Montreal, I wouldn’t be writing for and I might never have taken my writing seriously. So go Saul Jaffe and the Noreascon III administrators.


  • Michaela Roessner
  • Delia Sherman
  • Christopher Hinz
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Melanie Rawn
  • P. J. Beese and Todd Cameron Hamilton
  • William Sanders

Interestingly long list.

Michaela Roessner’s first novel, Walkabout Woman, had been nominated for the Mythopoeic Award and won the Crawford Award for best first novel. It was followed by three more novels in the nineties, but I haven’t seen anything from her in the last decade. I don’t think she’s one of the more spectacular successes of the Campbells.

Delia Sherman has also just published a well received first novel, Through a Brazen Mirror. Sherman has gone on to have a solid career, writing with her partner Ellen Kushner and alone, and is publishing these days mostly fantasy YA. Her work has been nominated for the Nebula, the World Fantasy, the Mythopoeic and the Tiptree.

Christopher Hinz’s first novel Liege Killer won the Crook Award for best first novel. He has since written a couple of sequels and some comic books.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch won in 1990, so let’s leave her for next year.

Melanie Rawn had also just published her first novel. She went on to have a strong career writing fat fantasies; she has published ten and has a couple more forthcoming.

I know nothing about Beese and Hamilton beyond what I’ve quoted above.

Unlike all the other nominees, William Sanders had published only short work. He went on to have a career writing mostly short work and editing.

Writers who published first novels in 1988 and who did not get a Campbell nomination include Ian McDonald, Elizabeth Moon, Daniel Keyes Moran, Matt Ruff, Paul McAuley and Storm Constantine. They may not have been eligible because of earlier short work—this is why the Campbell is a weird award. It’s for “the best new writer who becomes visible fast” and I’m not sure how useful that is.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.


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