(IMO) Hugo Predictions 2017

(IMO) Hugo Predictions  2017

At the Worldcon being hosted by Helsinki, Finland, in August, 2017 the next Hugo awards will be handed out.

I focus on predicting the Hugo winner in the Novels category only. Please note that I am not a member of any Worldcons invited to vote, so this is little more than one reader/writer’s opinion. If you are an author and don’t appreciate my statements, feel free to burn effigies of me. I’m from Arizona and deal with the flames of hell quite well.

However, you should be aware that I have accurately predicted the winner in the last 28 years in a row. Twenty of those times I waited until after they were awarded to predict them (vastly increasing my odds of success), but the last three have been called in advance, as were 2006 and 2007. Considering that the award ceremony is seven months away and the nominees aren’t even decided yet, it’s pretty cheeky to be predicting already.

The Process:

On January 31st, 2017 Locus Magazine published its recommended reading list for 2016, and you can find that here: http://www.locusmag.com/News/2017/01/2016-locus-recommended-reading-list/

Inevitably, all the Hugo nominees will come from this list. Opening nominations began immediately and will continue until 18 March 2017, and so this is the time the eligible voters are sending in their votes for the Hugo in various categories.

The Hugonauts will distill these votes down to the six highest rated names in each category. So, in April the list of Finalists becomes available, and voters will pick from these for the top spot. The process has changed this year, and become a whirlwind of baffling higher mathematics, but you can try to calculate them yourselves at their webpage, here:  http://www.worldcon.fi/wsfs/hugo/

My degree of difficulty in predicting a winner now is huge, as I don’t even know if any of my picks will even be Finalists in April. But, I am resolute in my determination to stare embarrassment in the face and dare it to point its grubbly little piggies at me! Go ahead, shame and indignity, make my day! I eat you for breakfast and crap crow-pie for giggles!

Here are the six novels that I believe should get the most votes, and only one of them is there out of sentimentality:

“Death’s End” by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)

“The Wall of Storms” by Ken Liu

“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders

“The Medusa Chronicles” by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds

“The Obelisk Gate” by N. K. Jemisin

“Infomocracy” by Malki Older

“Central Station” by Lavie Tidhar, and “Everfair” by Nisi Shawl could go on this list without any quibbles from me. The reality is that SF/F has a lot to celebrate this year. The quality of material being written now is staggering! The only reason these aren’t included on my personal list is because only six can usually contend for the actual award (unless there is a tie). That’s not going to stop me making brief comments on them at the end (and no one will like it).

“Certain Dark Things” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia might also show up, but that’s Horror, so I am unqualified to judge its merits. “Cloudbound” by Fran Wilde is getting a lot of attention, and I’ve not read anything by her yet, so that goes on my To-do list. I will not comment on those two at this time, but reserve the right to do so before April.

Be aware that politics and diversity are huge factors this year. Politics because of world shaking events like Brexit and The Trumpalumpa TV Reality Show.

Diversity has been the theme in the last several years due to the obnoxious protestors like Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, who think the genre is inordinately awarding fringe works rather than the run-of-the-mill adventure / military / old white dude science fiction and fantasy simply because it seems chic-artsy to do so.

My response to the Puppy blocs is twofold: First, I formed my own non-voting-impotency-bloc called the Flush Puppies, designed to undermine their cause with a loud shout of boos and hisses from our combined membership total of one: me. If you would like to join, just send me an email. Second, I advise those Other Puppies to remember that excellency in SF/F is — by definition and at its core — fringe work. If you aren’t writing it, you won’t get awarded for it. Run-of-the-mill work will get you nice sales figures from your faithful, and you should accept those receipts humbly as your just due.

Let’s examine my picks one at a time, shall we?

“Death’s End” by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)

Cixin Liu is a genius. This volume has enough jaw-dropping SF ideas crammed into it, all jostling for room helter-skelter, so that — when I opened the covers — SF ideas boinged out and scattered all around my living room, making a royal mess! None of them actually achieve transcendence. Instead, what shines through loud and clear is isolationism, protectionism, and closed door politics. He reasons in harmony with the Fermi Paradox that sentient species should keep quiet about their sentience, or somebody bigger and badder is going to come along and take your planet from you. Think most of China’s history, and you’ll get the idea.

But you don’t have to go to the other side of the planet to find exploration choking mindsets anymore. No, you can go to the UK/USA’s current political conundrums to find that. See how that works out? See why Cixin Liu will not get the Hugo this year? He will fall to reactionary forces in the literati, which are leaning hard to the left.

Besides, he got the Hugo in 2015 for “The Three-Body Problem,” the first volume in this now concluded trilogy (before the politics became obvious in the second volume, “The Dark Forest”), so they won’t feel it necessary to give him another one. Add to that, there are plot holes big enough to stick the whole Locus Magazine List through, and then he spent six pages pedantically describing fourth dimensional space to us like we are wee cranial midgets, and SF/F people don’t like being talked down to.

What he has going for him is that President Obama has this on his reading list. Do not underestimate the power of a presidential reading list. In a previous election, George W. Bush stated to MTV that he was going to read “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown next, which was circulating in power circles before its actual release date in 2003. That comment helped to  send “The Da Vinci Code” into the stratosphere as being the break-the-bank-biggest-selling-novel of all time. AND IT’S CRAP! That shouldn’t really surprise us, though. After all, what could Dubya possibly know about good books? Seriously.

But, I truthfully don’t see this idea-exploding tome getting the Hugo, though it will get lots of votes.

“The Wall of Storms” by Ken Liu

CONFESSION: I haven’t read it. It’s the second volume in a trilogy. The first volume is “The Grace of Kings,” and I’m a third of the way through it this very moment as my current project. (Hard to type with this big guy occupying my palms.) TGoK got huge press, but placed 13th in nominations last year, so never made the final ballot.

However, since Ken Liu’s body of work is undeniably brilliant, and won’t get included in Cixin Liu’s gurgling drain swirl, the Hugonauts might find it appropriate to reward him for his hard and excellent work by checking his name here this year.

I’m looking forward to completing them both as soon as . . . you know. If this prediction needs to be revised, it will be before April.

“The Medusa Chronicles” by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds

Here is my heartbeat all aflutter. This is my sentimental pick. I am Alastair Reynolds’ bastard child, but even though he abandoned me as a wee squirt many years ago to be raised by carny folk, I still adore anything dear old pa writes. He was nominated for the Hugo last year for his novella “Slow Bullets,” and congrats to him for that. (My only complaint is that it should have been a novel, and he would have gotten the Hugo then for Best Novel, except there is that Jemisin revelation, so maybe not.) He lost to the excellent “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor, and no one can fault that selection.

He’s been cheated out of some accolades from this side of the pond. “House of Suns” is still a smashing, crackling, thunderous good cheddar read, as are almost any of his Revelation Space stuff, and HoS should get a Hugo just for existing.

As for Stephen Baxter, well . .  (yawn) I’m sorry, where was I?

These two pull off the fantasmagorical feat of sequelizing Arthur C. Clarke’s Hugo winning novella from 1972, “A Meeting With Medusa.” In that work, Sir Arthur posited several things about the near future, and none of them have actually come about. But, Baxter and Reynolds have the moxy to stay in that alternate universe! WOOT! WOOT!

Many authors with wee-er cranial midget inner workings would have suggested the protagonist goes to the theoretical liquefied metal heart of Jupiter, but would have recoiled from actually describing the voyage. Not these two! NO! They go there! And a lot farther!

Think inter-system wars with machines intelligences running amok; casual atrocity of the destruction of sentient life forms in the lower layers of Jupiter’s clouds (which should inflame the PETA people to go EVA naked in space); a cyborg that can essentially live forever if he doesn’t get bored; then open up the galaxy for him to make sure he never gets bored!

Hard SF geeks should wee themselves over this! I did. Will it win?

Meh. Probably not. You see, it’s two white dudes in a year of political diversity. Ho-hum. My heart is with this one, and I really want it to win, but I know it would be a long shot.

“The Obelisk Gate” by N. K. Jemisin

This is also the second in a trilogy. The first, “The Fifth Season,” won the Hugo last year, and it richly deserved it. In that volume, the author pulls off a surprise twist that sent dominoes falling everywhere and captivated any reader fortunate enough to experience it.

She does not recreate that in this volume. Actually, this volume is BETTER than the first one. No devices needed to make this one cook up a frightening brew of delicious portions of awesomeness! May I have another bowl, please? (Yes, the third one is on its way sometime later this year, or perhaps early next. I actually have no facts to support that statement, and can’t be bothered to confirm. Merely wishful thinking. If it’s available early, can I have a snack? Please?)

This follows the oregenes as the destruction of their planet looms nearer, and begins revealing the obelisks, the rock-eaters, and other crazy stuff going on in Ms. Jemisin’s huge cranial inner workings. It is so hard to describe how good this series is without starting to gush spoilers all over the nice clean carpet, but I can’t be expected to gather spoilers and Cixin Liu’s boingers at the same time.

Will it win? I don’t think so, though it could easily. This is great stuff. The diversity box is checked, just as it was last year. But, it did win last year, so there will be little impetus to award this series again. Especially because of one of the others on the list that will probably by the Hugo Darling. I think not, but if the third installment keeps up this pace, look for next year to belong to Ms. Jemisin. . . again! And at that time, it will likely get the new “Best Series” Hugo.

(Come to think of it, Cixin Liu might qualify for that Best Series one this year, so he might get an award after all, just not in this category. Those Hugonauts are so sneaky!)

“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders

Ah, yes. Here we go. This novel is the reason why this Hugo prediction is coming so early. Just finished it. It will be the Hugo Darling for a number of reasons.

First, it’s an excellent hash-up of hard SF and wackadoodle fantasy. These two disparate genres make love to each other in this one, and their combined love actually saves the planet from some doofuses that are wrecking it right now in the interests of corporate greed. Yes, this novel has the hubris to say “We SF/F geeks will destroy you, Trumpalumpa and Your Corporate Ilk!” Which, of course, we can’t actually do, but wish we could. (How about that for a band name, though?)

Second, the author is well known in the SF/F world, being the managing editor of the io9 website, a must for any true SF/F fan. It’s almost fan-fic, but not really. Look at the help she gets, though: Patrick Nielsen Hayden as editor, Russ Galen as agent; she won a Hugo for a short in 2012. This woman is on the INside of the Hugonauts.

And she checks the diversity box with a very strong “X-dammit!” I will not explain that, but leave it to your fevered minds to imagine whatever fevered minds tend to imagine.

Finally, this is wild, quirky, zany stuff! It hit all my inane buttons, and kept pounding on them like a 20-ft tall gorilla! King Kong with issues.

Ms. Anders, start preparing your acceptance speech. It turns out you are your own rocket ship, and am about to be handed another shiny, silver one.

“Infomocracy” by Malka Older

CONFESSION: I’ve started this one, but am nowhere near ready to comment in depth. Can’t speak to it completely yet, but will come back to this post and emend it properly, if required.

The deal with this one is that it is touted as being prescient, pretty much foretelling all the political horribleness we’ve started engaging in now. That would make this book a heavy contender. If it is as good as the others on this list, the Worldcon voters will give it the Hugo for sure! Just out of spite, to poke Trumpalumpa in the eyeball!

We’ll see.

That’s the six I’m thinking have the best chance, so now let’s stroll among the also-rans to see how they might fare, shall we?

“Everfair” by Nisi Shawl

This hits all the diversity buttons also, and she has been in the mix for several years. My reason for not punching her ticket on my personal list is that the alternate history she writes of is simply not well known as actual history outside of the nations involved. I had never heard of it, and this could have easily been set on another planet as a fresh plot and I would not have known the difference. I liked the steampunkiness of this book very much, but my own ignorance overshadowed her brilliance. Still, the Hugonauts occasionally like a well written education, so don’t count it out.

“Central Station” by Lavie Tidhar

Here is the remark that will get me death threats: this was very good, but was simply too Jewish.

Yeah. Death threats for that lack of political correctness right there are certainly due. But please don’t cause me unnecessary anxiety by threatening anything. Just do me a favor and surprise me with the actual death later.

This sounds anti-Semitic, but it is NOT meant that way. (My last name, Anton, is very Jewish, so chill!) It’s just that the point of view seemed like a caricature. It’s a fine novel, but once I’ve seen the schtick, I was bored by it. But, given the anti-Semitic biases of the current strangulation of understanding going on in the world, harkening back to that vile, inerasable, we-shall-evermore-be-damned-because-of-it Holocaust, it is unwise to state a simple viewpoint about cliches without getting a piano wire necktie in a dark theater later. I do not want to piss the Mossad off, like, ever.

So, this may be my last Hugo prediction post.

Some of you might be wondering where “Ninefox Gambit” by Yoon Ha Lee is considered. It’s not, at least by me. I found it ridiculously pretentious and thought it tried to glamorize or beautify gory violence, and I have no patience for that. I think well of the author’s potential, and love the short stories, but do not think this exemplified that potential. It might get some nominations from true believers, but I am not one of those.

Please everybody, be nice to each other out there. We humans are the only race that counts clearly as sentient on this planet, and we need to celebrate all the diversity of it and rejoice that we have each other to love and fight for, no matter our petty differences. (Can you hear it? In the background? The Beatles? “All you need is love, ta-ta-da-di-daaa . . . “)

Oh, and if you think of another work you think I’ve treated unfairly, or didn’t treat at all and should have, please leave that in the comments section, and I will thank you for the advice.

Yours,

VA

5 February 2017

 

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