Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Hugo Award Nominees (Plus Free Stuff!)

Do you like science fiction? How about really good science fiction? If the answer to these questions is "yes," then you'll be happy to know that the nominees for the 2012 Hugo Awards have been announced. For those who don't know what the Hugo Awards are, here's some background. Suffice to say, they're prestigious.

The novel category usually gets the most attention, so here are the nominees:

Best Novel (932 ballots)
Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)
A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Embassytown by China MiƩville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

My money's on Embassytown, which I haven't read but is supposed to be exactly the kind of big-idea fiction the Hugo people go for. Don't expect GRRM's fourth best book in a five-book series to win. Haven't read the others, so I could be wrong about this, but Embassytown has a lot of critical buzz.

Another category people will care about is:

Best Graphic Story (339 ballots)
Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Yikes, that's an uninspiring bunch. Comes down to Digger vs. Schlock Mercenary for me, but no Habibi? No Oil and Water? Not sure I understand the selections here.

Then there's the nominees for best tv/film:

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (592 ballots)
Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

If I were a betting man, I'd put my chips squarely on GoT. No offense to the other nominees, but this is the best fantasy fiction ever made for the small screen, and one of the best novel adaptations--of any kind--that I've ever seen. It's rare to have something like that in the genre, so expect a landslide.

While all that stuff is well and good, my favorite category is for Best Short Story. Science fiction is often derided by mainstream literary types as being big on ideas and short on everything else. The shoe does fit sometimes, but there's also a lot of good writing out there, and I feel this is most evident in the compact, clearly defined parameters of the short story form. I read both of the major "best of" compilations every year, as well as a few of the journals, and never cease to be amazed by the creativity and writing chops on display. If you think science fiction is just Star Wars novels and other cheap drugstore garbage, then you owe it to yourself to take a look.

Let me do the work for you. This year's nominees are:

Best Short Story (593 ballots)
“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld, April 2011)
“The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov's, April/May 2011)
“Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov's, March 2011)
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)
“Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (Tor.com)

While this year's crop isn't quite as good as last year's, they're still worth a looksie: Ken Liu's story is experimental, but clever and has a good chance to win the category; Fulda's and Resnick's are traditional scifi stories; Yu gives us standard Clarkesworld fare, by which I mean non-standard science fiction; and John Scalzi offers up a delicious inside joke that should make lovers of the genre smirk (and maybe even laugh).

Best of all, over at his generally excellent blog Whatever, John Scalzi has compiled links to all these stories for you, so you can read them right now, for free. Get going!

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