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[Tuesday, July 29, 2003]


F---in' 'ell, I voted for the Hugos!

In thirteen-odd years of fandom, my first Worldcon, and hence my first time voting for the Hugos. One of my personal favourites, Karl Schroeder's Permanence, didn't make the list, but I slogged through and at least read all the Best Novel nominations -- having already been to see all of the best Long Form Dramatic Presentations.

My life is an open book. These are my rankings for Best Novel:

  1. Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson. Not the life-changing, drop-you-on-your-ass greatness of the Mars trilogy, which I am currently re-reading and which continues to motivate me to do all sorts of fun things, like run and do thermodynamics problems in my spare time; but still a great, great slab of alternate history and history of science, and more Islamic feminism than pretty much any SF novel, ever. (Though it is implicit in Sarah Zettel's Fool's War.)

  2. The Scar, China Miéville. More involving, more vivid, and better paced than the nonetheless superb Perdido Street Station; especially impressive when you consider Station had scruffily likeable protagonists, whereas Bellis Coldwine is a big pain in the ass. (Though, of course, Liveman Uther Doul rules.) Not only that, but despite being in the same world is about different things: loyalty and its uses and mis-uses, and the political ends of storytelling, to name just a couple of things China manages to think deeply about without stopping the action for a Message.

  3. Bones of the Earth, Michael Swanwick. The last one I read, and though it didn't unseat Scar and Years from my Top Two, it squeaked in just underneath. Like Years, it is in part about science, and why people do it, which I am a sucker for; and it played in a clever way with genre conventions. "Travel in time to look at dinosaurs" is a classic motif, and he uses the conventions of the "paradox creation" subgenre of time travel, and of the "high-tech humans thrown on own devices in primitive setting" subgenre, and of the "mysterious technology on loan from aliens/other sentients with possibly ulterior motives" trope, to keep nondeterminism, and hence surprises, in the plot, without so much nodding-and-winking intertextuality that you stop believing in the narrative.

  4. Hominids, Robert J. Sawyer. Local Boy Makes Good! This was a pretty solid book, although for its heft it felt as though not much happened and the characters, interesting as initial sketches, didn't develop very much. Still, fine journeyman work, and left me wanting to read the continuation, but, you know, not necessarily deserving a Hugo.

  5. Kiln People, David Brin. Whose name makes me snicker, recalling how he got Coke thrown over him by Jo Walton. Anyway, that has nothing to do with this book, again a decent outing but not really striking me as Hugo material. If you want your mind stretched by the possibilities of copying personalities into other media, read Hofstadter and Dennett's The Mind's I; if you want a lot of in-jokes about clay and puns on the word 'ditto', mixed with forgettable attempts to seem Chandleresque (a pet peeve of mine in SF), then read Kiln People. A decent airplane read, but for a Hugo? This strikes me as just more "author got one before, so I'll nominate this" nomination.

And, just for full disclosure, I am Canadian. 8-)

So, Best (Long) Dramatic Presentation. Looking at this "exit poll", I'm pleased to see my Top Two in the general Top Two, though distressed by the poor showing of Bones and high ranking of Kiln. But I'm appalled by the overwhelming number of votes for The Two Towers, and the paltry number for Spirited Away. Now, I suspect a certain amount of this is people voting despite not having viewed every nominee. TTT got very wide release, and Spirited Away not so wide. But, Jesus Christ! Yes, we all waited for LOTR for years and years, and it is tremendously good and they got so many things right. Yay, Peter Jackson and Co. But really, Spirited Away is a jaw-dropping achievement, and features its own world-building as well. Not to mention that FOTR won last year, when it richly deserved to.

Ah, well. Fans will be fans. Now I just have to take care, after the awards ceremony, not to read Slashdot, where the posting of the final results will invariably lead to long, long threads about how the Hugos are "really" an award for hard science fiction, especially if China wins.

posted 5:55 PM |