Congratulations to all of the Hugo Award winners. You all saved science fiction for me. I had been slowly drifting away from the genre, in part because of new writing opportunities in other directions, but in part because I was frustrated by the lack of inclusion I saw, and the voices arguing for status quo. Those voices are not new in the genre, but the accumulated weight of their historical grinding was finally getting to me.
I served as Nebula Awards Commissioner this last year, and while I was pleased with the results of the awards, some of the campaigning I saw turned me off to the notion of awards in general. It wasn’t rampant, but it was there. I know that campaigning happens, but for me, it makes the awards seem more like baseball’s All-Star game. I guess I was in the unenviable position of seeing how the sausage was made, and didn’t like what I saw.
The Hugo Awards, with their associated controversies this year, had the potential to do a lot of harm to the genre. But these awards are voted on by fans, and the fans voices were loud and clear this year. The result was an incredible slate of winners that not only represent the best the genre has to offer, but that restored my faith in the fans, writers, and the genre itself.
Sometimes when I watch a movie or TV show, I’ll sit there and think, “Wow! I wish I was a [doctor | lawyer | baseball player | Superman].” The drama draws me in and I want to be just like the person I see on the big screen. Yesterday, as award after award was announced, I kept thinking to myself, “Gosh, I want to be a science fiction writer just like them!” That was when I knew that this year’s Hugo Awards saved science fiction for me.
A few notes on some of the specific awards and winners:
Ann Leckie for Ancillary Justice
In Chicago in 2012, I sat at the hotel bar one evening with a bunch of people coming and going, including a quite a few SFWA board members. Ann was one of them, and she and I were among the last people at the table that evening. I’ve grown pretty disciplined about talking about the stories that I’m working on, while I’m working on them, but I lose that discipline around other writers, sometimes, and Ann is particularly easy to talk to. I think I remember her telling me that she was working on her first novel–the novel that turned out to be Ancillary Justice.
Ancillary Justice has gone on to do something no other science fiction novel has, to my knowledge, done before: it has won the Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, BSFA, and Locus Award for best novel all in the same year. Originally, I likened this to a baseball player hitting for the cycle, but I realize more and more, that an achievement like this is much more like a pitcher throwing a perfect game. I think there is a spot in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame waiting for Ann to fill it.
Charles Stross for “Equoid”
I met Charles Stross at Boskone in 2008. We spoke only briefly, but I learned we had a few things in common: he was pharmacist for a time, and I worked in a pharmacy. He also did some system administration, and so had I. We also had similar thoughts on DRM, or the lack thereof.
Stross has been one of those writers that challenges me. He writes far above my head on topics that I barely have a grasp upon, but I think that is a good thing. He sets the bar very high for other writers. I also admire his work ethic, which, at least from what he exposes on his blog, demonstrates that even for the best writers out there, writing is hard work. None of us phone it in. Few of us could get away with that. Stross’s writing reflects his work ethic, and it is no surprise that so many people like it.
Mary Robinette Kowal for “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”
I first worked with Mary when she was SFWA’s secretary, helping out with various technical work as a volunteer. The most time I spent with her was when I gave her a ride from Boston’s Logan airport to Readercon’s hotel several years back. Mary is one of the nicest people in science fiction. Up-and-coming writers would be hard pressed to find a better model to emulated on panels. And, of course, she is a brilliant writer, and her win for “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” is greatly deserved.
John Chu for “The Water That Falls on You From Nowhere”
I don’t think I’ve ever met John Chu in person, but his story, which completed TOR.com’s sweep of the short fiction awards, is fantastic, and his “little story that could” speech last night was a highlight of the acceptance speeches.
Kameron Hurley for “We Have Always Fought…”
Looking over the nearly 60 year history of the Hugo Awards, it’s pretty cool to see how much it has evolved over time. Seeing Kameron Hurley’s guest blog post, “We Have Always Fought” win the Hugo for best related work was the epitome of evolutionary coolness. People might say that Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.) would have been proud; Joanna Russ would have been proud. But that blog post won the freakin’ Hugo Award, the award voted on by the fans. I think is safe to say that we were all proud when it won the last night.
Randall Munroe for “Time”
xkcd won a Hugo! xkcd won a freakin’ Hugo award! And for one of the most brilliant cartoons he’s done.
Ellen Datlow for Best Editor, Short Form
Ellen (who took this picture of me wearing my Yankees shirt in Boston) is one of my high watermark’s in science fiction. To be able to sell a story to Ellen would be, you know, like, playing for the New York Yankees and making the playoffs in the same season. I’ve always enjoyed the magazines she’d edited (Omni, and later SCIFICTION), and I’m delighted to see that she won for best editor, short form.
Lightspeed Magazine for Best Semiprozine
Lightspeed Magazine is to science fiction today what Galaxy was to science fiction in the 1950s. The 1940s were dominated by Campbell’s Astounding. Beginning in 1950, Galaxy challenged that domination and published some of the most remarkable stories, especially novelettes and novellas, that science fiction had seen up to that point. I think it is fair to say that Lightspeed has done something similar, challenging dominance of the Big Three, and producing some of the short fiction the genre has to offer. It was wonderful to see it win the Hugo for Best Semiprozine.
Patrick Hester for the SF Signal Podcast
The thing you need to know about Patrick is that he is not a fan of buffet breakfasts. And yet, the SF Signal Podcast is like a buffet in many ways, giving you a variety of voices and interesting topics to listen to week after week.
The SF Signal Podcast was the first podcast on which I was a guest. I think I may have been on half a dozen times over the years. Patrick continues to invite me, but generally manages to have people far smarter and more entertaining than I am on the show, and so it is no wonder that it won the Hugo Award.
I don’t know Julie Dillon or Sarah Webb, but I know of their art, and I greatly admire it. I’m not big on TV shows and movies. I didn’t see Gravity but I’ve heard many good things about it. And while I haven’t read A Stranger in Olandria by Sofia Samatar, I’ve also heard a lot of good things about it, and Sofia’s writing. I once had a brief chat with Ginjer Buchanan, and I’ve admired many of the writers she’d edited, particularly Rob Sawyer, and Jack McDevitt.
Thank you. You saved science fiction for me
To all of the Hugo Award winners, congratulations! But I also want to say thank you. You saved science fiction for me. Seeing the results come in, I found myself being drawn back. I found myself thinking, “I want to be a science fiction writer when I grow up.” I found myself delighted and impressed by how your writing and art is gradually changing the shape of science fiction and fantasy. I was out with my family, following the results on Twitter, but when it was all said and done, I couldn’t wait to get back home, plop down in front of my keyboard and start writing.
I know it sounds like hyperbole, but it isn’t. You really saved science fiction for me. Congratulations. And thank you.