The Hugo Awards - a conversation

I do love Twitter- its a great place to meet and chat with other bibliophiles and a few weeks ago I got talking with C from The Middleshelf ( about the recent Hugo awards and so in a first for the blog here is a joint collaboration looking at the nominations.  I shall try to post some related reviews on bits and bobs over the coming months

C - My relationship with the Hugo has always been fraught. It's nothing but a popularity contest, something which I'm not interested in for two reasons: 1) I'm happy to admit that my tastes don't always run with what's popular 2) I like an award to make me discover something which I've never heard of or barely glanced at. It's something that rarely happens in a popularity contest. 

And if I look at the past winners of the Hugos, there are, since its inception, only 15 novels that I agree with as Award winners (and an awful lot are McMaster Bujold's!)

So when I say I looked at this year's list with a sigh, I'm being pretty literal. I'm quite resigned to the fact that the Hugo isn't the best award for my tastes.


M - So for me my general knowledge of the Hugos was an award that seemed a bit remote and far away in the US.  Prestige but wasn't really aware how it worked and then the Puppies decided an SF book award if the perfect place to cheat and extol some pretty poor stories.  

So over the last last three years I have tried to get involved.  The Hugos are not perfect they have been prone to white US men for a long time but it's changing.  This year I think we have an almost puppy free list and that finally allows a debate on the quality of the books!

Best Novel

  • All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)

C - I went as far as page 150. It was a chore. It felt to me like a YA romance with fantasy and scifi in it. I found the concepts childish and déjà-vu, the romance uninteresting (on the other hand, I rarely find romance interesting!) and the characters completely failed to grab me. But maybe I liked the writing? Sadly I didn't find anything in it that was enough to compensate the pile of clichés. Basically: I wasn't the right reader for it. (And that's me being restrained and polite.)

M - Usually I don't enjoy romance or stories set in schools but I found this fascinating.  A mash up of SF and Fantasy that for me did something new and fitted our time.  I found how the characters survived some awful schools and worked out how to grow and survive down very well. A reminder that bullying carries consequences for even the victims.  For me that's a first novel that felt quite fresh

  • A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)

C - I haven't read it. Why? Because after having read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet last year, I wasn't about to live that again. Most of the dialogues and characters seemed to be lifted straight off a Joss Whedon script. Don't get me wrong: I love Firefly, I know it by heart. But if I wanted to read fanfic, I'd head to a fanfic website. There wasn't enough originality (not to mention the pacing problems) in it to make me want to read the sequel.

M - I think a lot of people were surprised to read this book and realise that it wasn't a direct sequel to the tale of Orbit's crew.  Instead this story features the story of an AI now limited to one human body and the clone engineer who rescues her.  Two very different and often much darker stories than in Orbit are run in parallel and then reside in a conclusion both tense and making full use of the characters.  It questions what makes us human and I think I was glad that this time rather than short bursts of looking at each crew member this story focuses far more on two characters and the plot and how the two intertwine is done excellently.  This time firefly is dialled down!!

C - If Firefly is dialled down, then I may give it a try.

  • Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus) of mystery club

C - I liked it and it had great scifi concepts. But, honestly, if the story had ended at the end of the second volume, however bleak it would have been, I would have found it more striking. I must admit that I also had issues with the main character, which didn't really helped.

M - Not yet read - enjoyed Three Body but heard a lot about book 2 that out me off.  Have dusted both down for reading shortly.

  • Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)

C - I liked it. But military scifi isn't my thing and the usual issues I can have with the genre I had with Ninefox Gambit. So I liked it, but I won't rave about it.

M - I'm not a military SF fan but this won me over because you are given a huge learning curve to work out what is going on.  The fight to prevent Calendrical Rot (still not sure!) has some lovely yet violent set pieces as a world is put to siege.  But the most fascinating battle/relationship is between an insane military genius who is dead and the new upcoming officer who now now has him in her head.  Unreliable narrators, politics and sheer scale made this one stand out last year!

  • The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)

C - Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. And I simply can't wait to read the next volume!

M - I loved Fifth Season but this is on Mount TBR - hopefully to be read soon!

  • Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

C - That's one I haven't read yet. It's a four volume saga, only two have been published yet and I'm a binge reader. So I'm quite busy navigating safely the internet to avoid spoilers as much as possible and I'll start on it as soon as all volumes are published. But it definitely looks like my cup of tea and I'm looking forward to reading it!

M - I've not read it or to be honest heard of it! So for me this homework to track down and report back on!

C - Jo Walton raves about it and I usually like what she recommends.

Our winner?

C - So, let's face it: both of some of the most popular novels on the list aren't novels that, to me, bring something new to the genre. They are certainly crowd pleasers but I really wonder at their future legacy. Even though American Gods or Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - both past winners - are far from being favourites of mine, I nonetheless recognise that both brought something to the genre whether with their unique style or unique take on myths. All the Birds in the Sky and A Closed and Common Orbit? I'm doubtful.

(Right, now that I've bad mouthed two of the fans favourites, I'm expecting the mob with assorted torches, pitchforks and scythes any minute!)

Basically, apart from Too Like the Lightening (which, from what I've heard of it, will probably win because it's outstanding), there's only The Obelisk Gate that I'd vote for (I don't) on this list. 

M - Excuse me while I light my torch and sharpen my scythe

For me it's a strong list and three of them were on my ballot.  I think it's a list that looks very much like where SF is going - mash ups of fantasy and SF like birds and arguably the Fifth season book.  Even Ninefox does something new for military SF looking far more at the characters than the shiny toys of destruction.

I think I'd had put The Power by Naomi Alderman but not sure if that's eligible for the year but also Sudden Appearence of Hope by Claire North which I though was a fantasy thriller with a lot to say about identity bin the modern world 

Early winner? I'm tempted Ninefox may win being more SF and I think may work for many 

C - Yes, it's such a pity The Power isn't there, isn't it? I hope it'll make it to the Clarke Award shortlist to gain some visibility. I wish Rosewater by Tade Thompson had been on it too. I think it really deserves the attention.

Best Novella

  • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle ( publishing)

C - On my to-be-read list but haven't found the time yet to read it.

M - Loved this!! A lot at one of Lovecraft's most racist stories through the eyes of a black man in 1920's America.  Challenging not just that author's racism as placing black People as villains but drawing a strong parallel with the racists attitudes of the police and society back then with that of now.  Some things sadly have yet to change as much as we would like.  It's haunting and stays with you.

C - That has now just moved up on my to-be-read list!

  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson ( publishing)


M- Still to read this one but sounds very interesting

C- Didn't heard of it, but go ahead and tell me about it afterwards!

  • Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire ( publishing)


C - On my to-be-read list but haven't found the time yet to read it.

M - Another great story.  What happens to the kids from portal stories when they get back? Are they accepted? Do they want to be? McGuire imagines a school just for those kids who are completely changed by their experiences.  It's a tale of acceptance with a very diverse cast and a reminder that this genre is one where many feel comfortable being themselves.

  • Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)

C - I'm a huge fan of Lois McMaster Bujold. I've liked The Curse of Chalion a lot, I've raved about Paladin of Souls and the Penric novellas are charming, funny, touching and gripping... In short, they are McMaster Bujold through and through, so obviously I love them.

M - Still to read any but I do love many Bujold novels so am intrigued 

  • A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson


  • C - I've read Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps a few months ago. I liked the style, I liked the story, but this one was advertised as mostly a romance, so not my cup of tea which is why I haven't read it. If it wins the Hugo, I may give it a try though.

M -Not yet read though I loved Wildeeps for that strange beautiful word it created musings SF, fantasy and our own world together

  • This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

C - It took me a few days after having read it to realise how interesting this novella was and I reviewed it. Funny thing is that it was so bleak that I needed something light hearted after that so I read the Penric novellas again and caught up on the ones I hadn't! 

M - Reading this very very soon - I'm way behind in Mieville so a novella may be a good way to ease back into what I recall is an author that required some thinking! 

C - It can be hard to keep up with him, isn't it? I have The Last Days of New Paris on my to-be-read too and the title intrigues me, but as this one was on the Clarke submission list, I went for it first.

M - Ok I have now read this and found it a very impressive bit of writing - dark and oppressive but just with a tiny glimpse of hope.

Our Winners?

C - So, basically, if I had to choose between Penric and This Census-Taker, I'd choose Penric, even though I bow down to Miéville's literary prowess.

M - Tough decision but I go with Every Heart as it's a very mature piece of writing that doesn't preach but very subtly gets its point across and the cast is fascinating.

Best Novelette

  • Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
  • “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan ( , July 2016)
  • “The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, by Fran Wilde ( publishing, May 2016)
  • “The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
  • “Touring with the Alien”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)


C&M - I've not read any of these yet!

Best Short Story

  • “The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (, September 2016)
  • “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (, March 2016)
  • “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
  • “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
  • “That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn (, March 2016)
  • “An Unimaginable Light”, by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

M - Only the Jemisin so far which impressed me for doing in a short story so poetically what many urban fantasy series need three books to deliver.  Homework to find the others!

C - I have to read it!

Best Related Work

  • The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)
  • The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)
  • Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)
  • The View From the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow / Harper Collins)
  • The Women of Harry Potter posts, by Sarah Gailey (
  • Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

M - The Geek Feminist Revolution was a stunning set of personal and professional essays reviewing life and the genre.  A reminder that SF is often political and also has shortcomings it needs to address.  But again some reading for the others needed.

Best Graphic Story

  • Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)

M - this was a new experience - a whole impressive magical steampunk world with a very diverse casts and magical cats.  Dark, intriguing and beautifully drawn.  I just hope the rest of the series keeps up the quality. 

  • Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)

M - I enjoyed this run but it just didn't quite hit the highs of the earlier volumes.  Still by far one of the most freshest takes on superheroes and humour that can make me laugh out loud.

  • Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)

M - a facinating mash up of an 80's kid movie with SF, fantasy and time travel.  It's doing something new.  Some lovely art and I really hope they know what they're doing but that first volume was quite refreshing!

  • Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)

M - Saga is a juggernaut but volume 6 is a slight reset of the longer story as our narrator is no longer a baby.  It's very good but I felt more a prologue for events to come rather than stand on its own feet.

  • The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

M - if you had told me The Vision would be a thoughtful, scary and intriguing look at what it is to be human I'd had laughed.  But this is stunning and unsettling

Our winners?

M - I'm tempted by The Vision as that one haunted me long after I read it

C - I'm not a graphic novel reader anymore so I have nothing to add!

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)

C - The book was better. (Actually, I didn't see it, but based on my long experience to how I react to adaptations of novels/short stories I love, I really didn't want to spend any money on it.)

M - yet to read the book! Heretic! But this was a film I went into knowing nothing and being emotionally hit by my favourite film of the year and one of the best SF in recent years.  A beautiful story about communication and choices with Amy Adams being particularly impressive 

  • Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)

M- usually you don't expect the best parody of superheroes to come from a studio producing them but this one pulls no punches and surprises me for actually being FUN!

  • Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)

M - this was a joy to watch and easily beats the first film for me.  Hotzmann and Patty are two great additions to SF icons 

  • Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)

M - annoyingly missed this at the cinema 

C - Me too. I hope I can catch up with it soon.

  • Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)

M - a Star Wars prequel I can enjoy and goes into some more interesting places than I expected.  Nice set pieces and performances but possibly nothing new 

C - I think we all needed the comfort blankets that The Force Awakens and Rogue One were after what Lucas did to us with Episodes 1, 2 and 3!

  • Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre) 

M - I have still not got around to this!!

C - I'm currently watching it: it's well done, it has a very strong feel of E.T. for adults. I saw E.T. as a kid and it gives me the same feelings.

Our Winners?

M - so for me it has to be Arrival which I think is a classic

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)

C - Loved it. Did I mention I hate romance? Well even little romance hater me loved it. So there. If someone hasn't seen it, it's to be watched urgently.

M - Yet to watch any of these yet - I'm rubbish at tv catch ups 

C - If you have one thing to catch up, it's this one.

  • Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)

M - as a Who fan I sadly can't recommend this it just seemed very pedestrian  

C - I'll politely refrain from commenting on the Moffat era...

  • The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
  • Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)
  • Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

M - two shows and an album I've yet to watch the Album sounds intriguing! 

Best Editor, Short Form

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams


Best Editor, Long Form

  • V** D**
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Chris McGrath
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by P. Alexander
  • GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
  • The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

M- all power to the smugglers

Best Fanzine

  • Castalia House Blog, edited by Jeffro Johnson
  • Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood
  • Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
  • Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
  • SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

M - Lady business FTW

Best Fancast

  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan

M - two friends debating/arguing over SF - often fun and interesting but could be great to move on from discussions of Heinlein!

  • Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams

M - For me this is a funny, insightful and smart podcast that explores the genre I recognise and has some excellent recommendations

  • Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch

M - this bi monthly podcast is a mixture of reviews, discussions and reading suggestions.  A lot of fun 

  • The Rageaholic, presented by RazörFist
  • Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

M - SF interviews with a difference - mild peril, singing chickens and an evil butler.  It's a relaxing positive joy to listen to

Our winners?

A hard decision it's between Fangirl and Tea for me

Best Fan Writer

  • Mike Glyer
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Natalie Luhrs
  • Foz Meadows
  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Chuck Tingle

M - Ilove Abigail's work even if I disagree with her reviews!

Best Fan Artist

  • Ninni Aalto
  • Alex Garner
  • Vesa Lehtimäki
  • Likhain (M. Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Mansik Yang

Worldcon 75 has elected to exercise its authority under the WSFS Constitution to add an additional category for 2017 only:

Best Series

A multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, appearing in at least three (3) volumes consisting in total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the previous calendar year, at least one volume of which was published in the previous calendar year. If any series and a subset series thereof both receive sufficient nominations to appear on the final ballot, only the version which received more nominations shall appear.

Note that there is a pending amendment to the WSFS Constitution that, if ratified by the 2017 WSFS Business Meeting, will add Best Series as a new permanent category. The definition above is based on the wording of the proposed new category.


  • The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)

M - yet to read as not widely available in the U.K. But picked up the sequence in a One volume ebook

  • The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey (Orbit US / Orbit UK)

C - I'll stand by what I said in my review of it: it ain't much but it's fun. Not sure it deserves an award though.

M - I read the first book and it seemed fun I hear later books are better but not yet got around to them 

C - Later books are definitely better. It remains a bit formulaic, but it's done with great gusto. Also, they definitely improved on the diversity in later books, so it helped me keeping on with reading it.

  • The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)

M - still to read any 

  • The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)

C - I have loved the first two books. From book 3 and onwards, I've felt it didn't exactly knew where it was going. The latest volume has sat on my reading list for months now but I haven't managed to gather enough interest to pick it up. It's a pity as I love the characters.

M - I tend to agree I had a similar experience they're fun but I feel the series has threaded water a while now but the characters are a great bonus

  • The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Harper Voyager UK)

M - I enjoyed the first two but found they quickly tailed off so I've not kept up 

  • The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)


M - oh yes I think a) it's got the consistency in the books b) the series developed as we explored the world and c) it feels nearer the end than most series 

C - I don't know about you, but Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen really felt as a goodbye and as a book end. We started the Vorkosigan saga with Cordelia. It'd seem fitting we end it with her too.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2014 or 2015, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)

  • J. Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility)
  • Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility)
  • Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility)