2011 Hugo Awards: My Thoughts


(I’ve added an addendum to this post in order to pull my foot out of my mouth.  Feel free to read it after you read everything below.)

I stayed up nice and late in order to watch the event live, which may or may not have been a mistake.  Now that I’m wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, I feel up to giving my thoughts about the Hugo Awards Ceremony and the winners in the various categories.  Hopefully my attempt at organizing these thoughts won’t deter you from reading them.  (Some of these are probably going to get me in trouble…)

Hosting Matters

I don’t think I’ve ever seen these awards before, so I assume having hosts in Academy Awards fashion has been a staple of the Hugos for a while.  For 2011, Jay Lake and Ken Scholes hosted the events, following a scripted set of jokes and jibes in order to keep the audience amused between awards.  It’s hard for me to fault them for what turned out to be a not-very-funny event; Lake, after all, has been battling cancer for so long now I can’t remember when it all began — as a cancer survivor, I sympathize and feel it’s fair to indulge him in whatever he is interested in doing, even if he’s not terribly good at it.

But mostly the jokes and constant references to singing and self-deprecating humor were forced and excessive.  The ceremony is exceedingly long anyway, and it seems to me they could have cut down on the jokes to save a good 45 minutes.  Or instead of following a script, they might have provided more natural discussion points, with some humorous anecdotes from actual interactions they’ve had (at the Hugos or elsewhere).  Folks seemed to enjoy them, though, so I suppose I’m out of place on this.

Now on to the individual awards:

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Winner — Lev Grossmam
Who I Thought Would Take It — Lauren Beukes

I haven’t read Grossman’s novel, so I can’t say whether his book is any good.  A lot of folks seem to love Grossman for The Magicians, but I personally thought Lauren Beukes should have taken the award for Moxyland and Zoo City.  She’s bloody brilliant and I think it’s a shame that she isn’t being acknowledged as such through such an important award.

Best Fan Artist

Winner — Brad W. Foster
Who I Thought Would Take It — No idea

I don’t know who any of the people on the nomination list are, so I have no connection to either of them.  This is one of those categories that I just don’t care about, which may make me a jackass.

Best Fanzine

Winner — The Drink Tank, edited by Christopher J. Garcia and James Bacon
Who I Thought Would Take It — StarshipSofa, edited by Tony C. Smith

StarshipSofa is the only one of the nominees that I even know about.  I don’t think Smith should have won the award, though.  His podcast is not a fanzine.  It hardly produces anything of a fan-ish nature and is more accurately described as a micro-press and audio fiction joint than anything else.  But the other options on the list seem utterly irrelevant to me.  I don’t read them.  Most of them I didn’t know existed until they showed up on ballots in the last year.  Most of them are old format.  And to be honest, I think websites like SF Signal should be on this list.  But whatever.

The amusing thing about this award was Garcia’s emotional response, which could be described as a uber-freak-out.  It was fascinating and amusing in a kind of “good for you, mate” way.

(Edit:  You really should see Garcia’s response.  It was honest and, well, clearly winning the award meant a hell of a lot to him.  And you have to appreciate that for someone who has dedicated themselves to a fan pursuit and suddenly gets recognition for it by people who, largely speaking, are the objects of that venture.)

Best Fan Writer

Winner — Claire Brialey
Who I Thought Would Take It — No idea

This is another category I care nothing about.  I’ve never heard of any of the people on the list and am sure I never will beyond seeing them on this list.

Best Semiprozine

Winner — Clarkesworld
Who I Thought Would Take It — Clarkesworld

The real question is who I thought should take the award.  And that answer is easy:  Interzone, edited by Andy Cox.  I think Interzone is long overdue for some damned recognition.  It’s one of the few print magazines with excellent production values, both in terms of its look and its fiction.  They publish amazing stuff.  I don’t get why they haven’t won this damned award yet.  Not to mention that Clarkesworld, which is a great magazine (in general), has published some real stinkers in the last year.  It’s a good magazine, but this is not a banner year, you know?


Best Professional Artist

Winner — Shaun Tan
Who I Thought Would Take It — Stephan Martiniere

To be honest, I thought Tan would get an award for “The Lost Things” instead of this particular award.  I think he’s deserving of an award somewhere on the ballot, though, so saying that I think Martiniere would have and should have taken the award isn’t anything against Tan.  It’s more my confusion about his placement.  But good on Tan.  He damn well deserves an Hugo!

Best Editor, Short Form

Winner — Sheila Williams
Who I Thought Would Take It — John Joseph Adams

In all honesty, all of the names on the list are names that we’ve all seen before, which leads me not to care all that much who wins.  Oh, JJA took it?  That’s nice.  He’ll be there next year.  Oh, it’s Williams this time?  Nifty.  Then again, Strahan and Schmidt haven’t taken it yet, have they?  Hmm…

(Edit:  Again, this is nothing against Williams.  In fact, she deserves the award just as much as anyone else for all her hard editing work.)

Best Editor, Long Form

Winner — Lou Anders
Who I Thought Would Take It — Lou Anders

I think Nick Mamatas is due for a Hugo as editor in the next year or so.  His work on Japanese genre fiction is crucial to the the publishing world.  But I don’t think it’s his time yet.

Anders has published some amazing books in the last few years, so it’s difficult to say he doesn’t deserve the award.  And hearing him accept the award with modesty by thanking readers and all the other people involved in the publishing process (including authors) earned him some serious Shaun points.  Plus:  he was dressed like a champ.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Winner — Doctor Who (“The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang”)
Who I Thought Would Take It — “The Lost Thing” (Shaun Tan)

Honestly, if you’re going to give an award to Doctor Who, it should go to the best of the lot, which is hands down “A Christmas Carol.”  “The Pandorica Opens” was good (and I think “Vincent and the Doctor” is overrated), but nothing from Doctor Who has thus far met up to the quality of “A Christmas Carol.”

That said, I seriously thought Tan would take this award.  He got an Oscar for it.  I thought he was a shoe-in…

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Winner — Inception
Who I Thought Would Take It — Inception

The competition in this category was intense.  Aside from HP7 Part One and Scott Pilgrim, the other contenders (Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon) were amazing movies.  But it’s hard to ignore Inception, right?  It’s a film that got the whole community talking.  Toy Story didn’t do that.  How To Train Your Dragon didn’t either.

Best Graphic Story

Winner — Girl Genius, Volume 10
Who I Thought Would take It — No idea

I don’t read graphic novels and what not.  I’ve at least heard of most of the things on the list, which is nice, but I’ve never read them and kind of don’t care.

The hosts were semi-amusing, but again it was overly scripted and not terribly funny overall.

Best Related Book

Winner — Chicks Dig Time Lords
Who I Thought Would Take It — Robert A. Heinlein:  In Dialogue with His Century, Vol. 1

Some book about people who love Doctor Who?  Yippee.  I honestly thought the award could have gone to almost any other item and end up better placed (and I don’t think Writing Excuses belongs in this category).  It’s a fan book, contributing information we’ve seen on the Internet and in fanzines of all shapes and sizes for decades.  As a little book of fun, it’s nice, but as a book worthy of a Hugo?  Not on your life.  Best Related Work should go to something that contributes knowledge to the genre.

But what do I know?  I haven’t read any of the books on the list and I don’t know the rules for half these categories anyway.  Honesty and all that.

Best Short Story

Winner — “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal
Who I Thought Would Take It — “The Things” by Peter Watts

Well, at least “Ponies” by Kij Johnson didn’t win.  That’s all I have to say about that…

Best Novelette

Winner — “The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele
Who I Thought Would Take It — No idea

People said no to whale rape.  This is good.

Best Novella

Winner — “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” by Ted Chiang
Who I Thought Would Take It — No idea

I have no connection to any of the novellas, to be honest.  Maybe “Troika” by Alastair Reynolds?  Sure.  We’ll go with that.

Silverberg presented this award, though, and he was hilarious.  He should present every award.

Best Novel

Winner — Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
Who I Thought Would Take It — Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

Again, I have no connection to the novels.  I would have preferred to see other books on the list.  That said, I really do like Jemisin and hope her name will appear on the ballot in the future.


And there you go.  Overall, I think the awards were a success.  I wasn’t terribly disappointed by the majority of the selections.  Some categories fell flat, while others got it very right.  I think my initial dislike of the hosting has a lot more to do with the late hour.  I don’t know why they hold the events so late in the day on the west coast.  It seems like the better thing to do is to have it in the early evening, followed by a kind of mixer or something.  But what do I know?  I’ve never been to the awards.  There’s probably a very different feeling on the ground, one which you can’t experience without being an attendee and what not.


About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy.

6 thoughts on “2011 Hugo Awards: My Thoughts

  1. You may be interested to know, given your comments about StarShipSofa being a podcast instead of a fanzine, that the Worldcon Business Meeting passed an amendment to create a Podcast category and move podcasts out of fanzine. It will need to be ratified at next year's Worldcon to take effect.

    -Steven H Silver (one of those Fan Writers you'll never hear of outside the Hugo Nomination List).

  2. I suppose it's nice that we get a podcast category, but it seems to me that that doesn't really solve the problem of representation so much as shift it. Many podcasts should have been included in the fanzine lists to begin with, but never were (StarShipSofa ceased to be a fanzine when it stopped producing fan content).

    But alright, I guess.

  3. A question for you. In the fanzine category, you wrote, "But the other options on the list seem utterly irrelevant to me. I don't read them. Most of them I didn't know existed until they showed up on ballots in the last year."

    Which tells me that you didn't look at the category in previous years since Banana Wings, Challenger, The Drink Tank, and File 770 all have been on the ballot before (and File 770 has multiple wins). And all four were on the ballot against StarShipSofa last year.

    So my question is…what changed in the last year to make you aware/care about the category?

  4. Actually, if we're being honest: I started actually watching the Hugos and blogging about the results in the last year or so (not just the writing categories, but all of them). This year was particularly illuminating since I actually got to see the awards in action.

    But even when I saw them on the ballot last year, I was thinking some of the same things I'm thinking now. I've never heard anyone talk about The Drink Tank. I've heard File 770 before, but most of them have never so much as appeared in a single conversation I've ever had, whether at The Eaton Conference in California, on Twitter, via this blog, via interviews, in podcasts I've listened to, etc. etc. etc.

    And that's the problem for me. What conversations am I missing? Where are people talking about these fanzines? Because they keep appearing, but aside from the ballot, the segment of the world I participate in, which is embedded deep in the genre community, isn't talking about them…

  5. I think you kind of have to be there to get the full effect. This was my 2nd one being there live. It's kind of like this whole celebration of the genre. Chris Garcia's extreme reaction deserved mention, it was hysterically amusing, I don't think I've ever seen anyone get that over the top about winning anything.
    Robert Silverberg's highly amusing speech also deserves a mention. He had the entire room in tears and he has such a great voice.
    It's possibly worth noting that Connie Willis was one of the most popular people at the Con before she won the award, most of her panels were standing room only if you got there at all late.

  6. I'm sure you have to be there, but I'm unlikely to ever attend because I simply can't afford it.

    As for Willis: I understand that she's popular, but that doesn't seem to me to be a good reason to award someone something for best novel. The real question is whether the book is good. I haven't heard a lot of good about it…and it's two novels anyway, so…


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