Our first Friday Five for 2013 is a doozy, with two of the interweb's more thoughtful genre reviewers swinging by to chat about the Hugo Awards. As you may have noticed from the recent inundation of "'I'm eligible!" posts, nominations for Science Fiction's Most Biggest Award are open. Anyone attending the 2012, 2013 or 2014 WorldCons can (and should) nominate their favourite works of the year.
Alas, even the Most Biggest Award can't catch everything. We challenged Justin (Staffer's Book Review) and Glen (here, there and everywhere) to come up with the titles that should win a Hugo... but probably won't.
There isn't a better writer in genre fiction right now than Robert Jackson Bennett. He's smart, funny, and meaningful. I put The Troupe first on this list not just because it's the best book I read this year, but because Bennett the obvious choice last year to win the "Not a Hugo" (John W. Campbell Award) and he didn't even make the short list. This leads me to believe that given the same pool of nominators he will be forgotten again in 2013. I'm sure The Troupe will win other awards, namely those that aren't trafficked by genre super fans, but it really deserves to win something of a higher profile. The Troupe, and all of Bennett's novels, deserve a wider readership.
Sharps by KJ Parker
Sharps isn't one of the five best books I've read this year. I put it on this list though to emphasize how bad the Hugo voting pool can be. KJ Parker's books are brilliant. The writing is understated and efficient, with plots that are tragic and heart breaking. But, KJ Parker doesn't really do fantasy. At least not in a traditional sense. A Parker novel is always obviously set in a second world, but like Earth insofar as that there is little to no evidence of the arcane or impossible. Instead, the novels are always grounded and, dare I say, authentic. Parker has never been nominated for a best novel Hugo and I would be stunned if that ever changed. Sharps isn't her best work, but it is a very good one and is certainly better than many novels that have been nominated in recent years.
The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton
Want to guess why this won't be nominated for a Hugo? In short, because it wasn't written like Jim Butcher. Constantine Affliction is the best urban fantasy I've read in a long time, maybe ever. Set in Victorian London, it's a Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, steampunk mash-up. Its big plot device is that a disease has been unleashed on London that reassigns the gender of the infected. The whole thing is just a well-told story with all kinds of great things going on. . . but no one has even read it, much less enough people to vote for it.
I suspect Daniel Abraham will win a Hugo someday. I bet it's much more likely to be for his science fiction work, although I would argue that his fantasy work is much superior. The Dagger and Coin series is the best series being written in fantasy today. Abraham has taken all the trappings of epic fantasy and written them with his own twist. He also happens to write the best damn characters anyway. The King's Blood is the best thing he's written so far, and I really consider his work to be the successor to George R.R. Martin. Of course, George hasn't won a Hugo either...
Year Zero by Rob Reid
Year Zero is full of LOLs. I don't think funny wins very often. Add in the fact that it's a debut novel and Rob Reid is married to Morgan Webb, and you're left with a novel that no one is taking seriously. They ought to. Year Zero is incredibly current, tapping in to all kinds of cultural nowness. Will it age well? Probably not, but I'd much rather look back on the 2012 Hugo Best Novel and remember how perfectly it represented things then, than just another 'ageless' classic that really isn't even that classic. Or something.
The Hugo: that most phallic of awards. I'm avoiding the Best Novel category, because I choose to. Also, I have no idea what'll win. They sometimes pick fabulous work, and sometimes... not. I've got some ideas, though from some of the lesser-known or followed categories.
People don't write this kind of science fiction any more. Really hard SF. I was recently in the US Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, AL, and I found myself wishing that Ian Sales was with me (warning: may be grumpy). When you read the books in his Apollo Quartet, you learn more than you'd ever want to about the Apollo programme. It's brilliant, hard work, and a lovely short encapsulated story with a vivid imagination running through all those acronyms. It won't win the Hugo because it may use too much of a brain, too many big words, and way too indie (Sales didn't want to self-publish, so he set up a publisher to publish this type of SF. You should go submit to him if you write good hard realistic SF, the type where LaGrange points make a difference in your story.
Best Short Story: "Immersion", by Aliette de Bodard
Despite having big words and spreading confusion to people who thought it was racist (what?) de Bodard's anti-globalisation rant is a gorgeous, lush, lovely didactic read and moral warning. It shows us what's going on outside of Anglos-in-space-land, and lets us hope that in the future, we'll not bother being so horrible. The thing about the story is that even the big evil Anglo in Space is, fundamentally, a nice guy. And the food. It won't win the Hugo because it's got way too much food and women in it. And it's by a woman. Clarkesworld has pushed it, a bit, and it's a worthy contender, but it'll be out there.
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
Comic-Con is Mecca for geekdom. It's where geeks have to face the truth about themselves: that there are hardcore and lesscore geeks out there. It's the sort of place that encourages some of the ugliest bits of fandom – particularly the "you're not geeky enough to be a geek" fandom, which is inexplicably anti-woman. At the same time – and I'm sure I'm going to be mass-unfollowed by loads of people – SF films in 2012 were at best a disappointment and at worst sucked. Prometheus? Yawn. Dark Knight Rises in some other direction? Plot? Avengers? OK, I'm not a Whedon-squee. I like, but usually don't love, his stuff, but Avengers took what flesh the characters had and flattened them out. Plus not bothering to explain how suddenly Thor can get back from the ever-closed door (and where's love-of-immortal-life Natalie Portman got to?). The least least intelligent SFF film of the year is Comic-Con Episode IV. They could have addressed rampant sexism and fanboi-horror more, but still, a thoughtful look. And better than the rest.
So, first of all, is there a more awkward name than "Semiprozine"? Ridiculous. Why not pro and small circulation or something? Anyway, Something Wicked has had a bit of a rough run, but they always manage to sniff out and dig up fascinating, brilliant writers. They ran a kickstarter this year to publish their best-of, which is a fabulous collection which you won't read. You probably haven't heard of this magazine because they do all of their work in South Africa. Past contributors include Lauren Beukes, the people making up SL Grey, Vincent Sammy and Joey Hi-fi. This magazine is important to stay in circulation. Give it the most phallic of SFF awards to make it so, won't you?
Best Fan Artist: My grandmother.
I don't really understand why this category exists. I never have. There's a very short list of people who seem to always be nominated and/or win. In my mind, there are about 12* people who even bother voting on this category. My grandmother's handwriting is brilliant, and at least as good as most fan art. Also, she's a lovely person, who can still cook grits at 93 years of age. That's got to be worth something. More than most fan art.
And, of course, by nominating my grandmother I suppose that everyone will ignore my previous entries.
This is fine. They'll just prove me right.
*I am assuming that there's a back room, with portly guys smoking cigars in vintage t-shirts, rigging the system. Like Chicago mobsters, but more geeky. I realise there are more than 12 votes, but who really votes on fan art anyway?
So, what do you think? What great works aren't winning science fiction's Most Biggest Award this year? Tell us in the comments!