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Hugo Night in the Hotel California

I will confess at this point to feeling slightly nervous about tonight. It is now 7:20pm over here; in about eight hours the Hugo ceremony will be under way. The "best novel" Hugo is handed out last, so I won't hear the result until after 4am, win or lose.

As for the Hugos, here's my subjective assessment of the novel category (now it's too late to influence anyone):

I'm not going to win. Period. "Accelerando" is a little too bitty, episodic -- and has the bad luck to be on the shortlist the same year that Robert Charles Wilson has coughed up the best novel of his career, namely "Spin". He bloody deserves a Hugo for it, if you examine the book in isolation, i.e. without reference to the fact that this is basically a beauty show and the winner's quality is defined in terms relative, not absolute. (Personally, my big disappointment is that "Lobsters" didn't win in 2003 ... but it had the bad luck to come out the same year that Ted Chiang published "Hell is the Absence of God". So it goes.)

The other novels ... well, I haven't read the GRRM series, so I can't comment on his current book; but there's a huge bandwagon behind it. Then there's Ken's "Learning the World". It's a cracking good novel, stimulating in all the right places, and only a few whiskers behind "Spin". Finally, there's "Old Man's War". I confess: it's a light, easy read -- precisely the gateway drug John set out ot write -- and I think he'll win a Hugo eventually, but I'm somewhat surprised it's on the ballot. However, Scalzi, too, has a bandwagon rolling behind him.

Who would I vote for? Well, I'm not a member so I don't get a vote this year, but if I was voting, then (after drawing a polite veil over whether I'd vote for myself) I'd rank "Spin", "Learning the World", and "Old Man's War" in that order. (Although I suspect I'd have made more of an effort to re-start "A Game of Thrones" so I could honestly rate the other nominee.)

As for why I'm not in LA right now ...

Late in June, before I headed off to Australia, I tied myself down with an Edinburgh Book Festival event (last night) precisely to stop myself dashing off to LA at the last minute.

I've been home from Australia for only about 2 weeks, I -- predictably -- brought a chest bug home with me (and a nastier one than usual, it seems), and I'd be stressing myself out with thoughts of stuff I ought to be working on if I was there instead of here. (The to-do list for next week includes: working on a novel, getting my accounts done, visiting relatives, and talking to a surveyor and a lawyer. All the while lazing languidly on my lounger while scantily clad beauties drop peeled grapes in my mouth.)

While the con itself is only five days long, which doesn't sound so bad, the flight over would take another day, the flight home and immediate jet-lag would take two days, and the temptation to spend a few extra days on the ground (I've never visited LA, and I have some friends who live there) would ultimately bloat such a last-minute trip up to a two week junket. On top of the Oz trip, I'd end up spending less than two weeks at home out of a two month stretch of wall clock time. And unlike some, I don't work effectively when on the move. All of which went to make a trip to LACon IV look like a really bad idea to me at the time when I was juggling my schedule.

But I'm still missing the worldcon, dammit. And it feels wrong. The urge to be sitting in the front row at that awards ceremony -- even though I know I'm not going to win one this time round -- is to me much as the eternal search for brains must feel to a zombie.

I suspect I may be in the pub later tonight. If you catch me shambling from table to table with arms outstretched and a glassy-eyed expression, muttering "hugo ... must have hugo ..." please put a pint of beer in my hands.

22 Comments

1:

I take it they don't actually have a lice satellite link up to the pub with Gardner Dozois hiding in the bogs to come out and present the award "to Mr Stross who unfortunately couldn't be here tonight....but."

Seriously though, take it easy, a good going chest infection is a nasty piece of work, straining all sorts of bodily systems. Some live yeast ought just to do the trick.

2:

If they try to hook me up via a lice satellite link, I'm going to scratch uncontrollably ...

3:

I tied myself down with an Edinburgh Book Festival event (last night)

Rats, missed it. Suppose if I wanted to know, though, it would have been in the Festival guides.

I'll be out at the pub tonight myself, if it happens to be the same one, I'll stand you a pint. Otherwise I'll have an extra myself. Despite your pessimism, I've still got my fingers crossed for Accelerando.

4:

To tell the truth, I think Accelerando is the best of the bunch. It's the episodic, fitful pace and style of the books that sets it apart from the others.

I love MacLeod and Wilson, but I don't think they're the best books those authors have written. I'd say in Wilson's case that "The Cronoliths" was better, and Darwinia was a close #3. For Macleod I still like "The Star Fraction" the best. "Learning the World" was very good but it felt too much like Vinge's "A Deepness in the Sky", which is the better book.

5:

I have been commuting ~55 miles each way to the Worldcon in Anaheim. I've voted for the Stross work every chance I've had. There was the 1994 Worldcon in Winnipeg, where Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson [HarperCollins UK, 1993; Bantam Spectra, 1993] beat out stiff competition for Best Novel. Final tallies rank: (2) Moving Mars by Greg Bear [Tor, 1993]
(3) Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress [Morrow AvoNova, 1993]
(4) Glory Season by David Brin [Bantam Spectra, 1993]
(5) Virtual Light by William Gibson [Bantam Spectra, 1993]
Withdrawn - Official Publication in a Previous Year:
(6) Hard Landing by Algis Budrys [F&SF Oct/Nov 1992].
Kim Stanley Robinson phoned the con committee, saying that he'd pay out of pocket to fly there within 24 hours to be at the Hugo Awards ceremony IF they could tell him, confidentially, that he was the winner. They refused to spill their "secret" (as they told him specifically). So he didn't go. And he won. So, there is a precedent for your concerns. I could say more about the con, the writers in related subgenres to Mr. Stross (Doctorow, Vinge, etc.) but not unless requested. Trying to stay on topic. So little sleep, so many parties (Tor was good, SFWA suite, Eric S. Raymond ensconced in Gaming)...

6:

I also think that Accelerandois the best novel of those up there which I've read. I didn't read the GRRM because I wasn't up for going in and reading the entire series for backstory; I didn't read the Scalzi just cause I didn't get to it, and you know, more military SF. Faw.

It's stiff competition; Spin and Learning the World are both excellent.

However, I think that compared to Spin and Learning the World, Accelerando is a clear winner. It's the pace, it's the frenetic inventiveness, and it's the vision in seeing these changes as something which could be this close to us. Just one geek's opinion.

7:

Accelerando is like a new drug for experienced SF addicts - mind blowing, exciting, laugh-out-loud funny and just the thing to make them realise (again) how really different the future may be from the past and present. You couldn't, surely wouldn't, give that stuff to an SF virgin though - it'd kill them, break their noses, they'd never get it and would never read anything you ever slipped them ever again.

Spin is a book you can safely give an SF virgin to get them interested, suspend their disbelief with beautiful writing and well-rounded characters driven by fairly conventional desires and show them how literate SF can be while getting them used to the big weird universe out there. They might not end up addicts after reading it but they'd surely realise there's more to SF than Star Trek and Star Wars.

I'm glad I don't have to choose between them (not having read Learning the World I can't comment on it and as much as I enjoyed Old Man's War it seems a bit out of it's league given the others this year).

Good luck mate, and try not to die of consumption before finishing the Eschaton series...

8:

You know, your description of the aftermath of a singularity gone bad was brilliant and, as far as I know, completely original, at least in terms of a published novel. And speaking as a fellow geek, it was also chillingly believable. Even Ken MacLeod's singularities seem to always turn out nicely in the long run, even if they are scary in the short run.

So don't sell yourself short. I guess you probably know by now how it all turned out, but I wasn't able to find any info on the Hugos yet, so I'm still in suspense. Not having read Spin or Learning the World yet (we really don't have shelf space for more hardcover books, and RCW's books tend to really depress me), I'm rooting for Accelerando. :')

9:

Over the last ten years, how many of the books you felt deserved the Hugo actually GOT it?

I think folks get it right more or less as far as the nominees go. After that it's a crap shoot. I'm just satisfied that Accelerando made the cut.

10:

While Spin may be a well written book, I believe Accelerando is an Important book and should win.

Speaking of which, who are the actual winners this year?

11:

Hugo and Campbell Awards Winners
[as reported by locusmag.com]

Winners of the 2006 Hugo Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer were announced at a ceremony this evening at L.A. Con IV, the 64th World Science Fiction Convention in Anaheim, California.

NOVEL
# Spin, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)

NOVELLA
# "Inside Job", Connie Willis (Asimov's Jan 2005)

NOVELETTE
# "Two Hearts", Peter S. Beagle (F&SF Oct/Nov 2005)

SHORT STORY
# "Tk'tk'tk", David D. Levine (Asimov's Mar 2005)

RELATED BOOK
# Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers' Workshop, Kate Wilhelm (Small Beer Press)

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION: LONG FORM
# Serenity (Universal Pictures/Mutant Enemy, Inc.; Written & Directed by Joss Whedon)

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION: SHORT FORM
# Doctor Who: "The Empty Child" & "The Doctor Dances" (BBC Wales/BBC1; Directed by James Hawes; Written by Steven Moffat)

PROFESSIONAL EDITOR
# David G. Hartwell

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
# Donato Giancola

SEMIPROZINE
# Locus, Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong & Liza Groen Trombi, eds.

FANZINE
# Plokta, Alison Scott, Steve Davies & Mike Scott, eds.

FAN WRITER
# Dave Langford

FAN ARTIST
# Frank Wu

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer [Not a Hugo]

# John Scalzi

In addition to the awards listed above, Special Committee Awards were presented to Betty Ballantine and to Harlan Ellison. The Big Heart Award was presented to Forrest J Ackerman, and will heretofore be renamed the Forrest J Ackerman Big Heart Award. The First Fandom Hall of Fame Award was given to Joe Hensley. Takayuki Tatsumi presented the previously announced winners of the Japanese Seiun Awards, Greg Egan's novel Diaspora and Ken MacLeod's story "The Human Front".

12:

Serenity and Doctor Who: what a surprise.

13:

Note that Accelerando came in a close #2:

Best Novel
--- 567 ballots counted

first place:
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson 165 165 179 231 271
Accelerando by Charles Stross 116 116 140 158 192
A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin 110 112 119 136
Old Man's War by John Scalzi 86 86 107
Learning the World by Ken MacLeod 73 73
No Award 17
Apply the No Award test:
418 ballots rank Spin by Robert Charles Wilson higher than No Award
31 ballots rank No Award higher than Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Spin by Robert Charles Wilson is confirmed as winner...

second place:
Accelerando by Charles Stross 159 159 202 240
Old Man's War by John Scalzi 129 129 161 203
A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin 128 131 149
Learning the World by Ken MacLeod 107 107
No Award 21

For full voting breakdowns on the other finalists for the award, see:

http://cluebytwelve.net/Hugos2006/01_Novel.htm

14:

"You know, your description of the aftermath of a singularity gone bad"

Fascinating. You think of Accelerando as a Dystopia ? ALl I could think of was "please Gods, let me live long enough to see it".

Alan

15:

It's all up to where you are. Medieval times were much more 'fun' if you were male aristocracy, not so if you were a female peasant.

16:

Commiserations. I reckoned Accelerando had a better outlook: it's about humans evolving themselves, rather than being controlled by Mighty Beings Of Which We Know Nothing.

John

17:

John, I would have thought [spoiler] counted as a MBOWWKN by the end of the novel.

18:

...but we do in fact know a bit about [spoiler]. I have [spoiler]'s evil twin living in my house.

19:

I agree that "Spin" is a very fine piece of work, and deserved the award.

20:

I agree that "Spin" is a very fine piece of work, and deserved the award.

Yeah, it's good to see him win after three earlier nominations. I don't think he's written a book that isn't top notch.

21:

I really, really liked Learning the World, personally. I liked the comedy of errors that resulted from the interactions between the humans and aliens--particularly how the humans were effectively portrayed AS Aliens--and the way it deftly handled the issue of human hubris. I preferred it to Spin, as my favorite Wilson book remains Blind Lake, and Spin seemed to have the same over-focus on the main character's emotional and relationship problems that somewhat diminished Chronoliths for me.

(Others almost certainly disagree, but I do like a slightly wider lens on my SF.)

That said, Spin featured a compelling premise, the ending was an enjoyable kick to the temple, and the way Wilson handled the Martians was first-rate. It is a more than worthy choice. While Old Man's War didn't really deserve the Hugo, it was also barrels of fun, and Feast for Crows had too many pacing issues to really qualify.

(I feel uncomfortable chattering about a book's strengths and weaknesses on an author's own site, so I'll leave Accelerando out of it. Besides, considering I've retained the pleasant-yet-unlikely illusion that I managed to get a "shoutout" in Iron Sunrise, I have no wish to inadvertantly poison the well in case it should happen again.)

22:

Working up some bibliometry on Accelerando. There's a pic of the homunculus (the bibliohomunculus of the novel) here: http://www.woodyevans.com/projects/research/bibliometrics.html
toward the bottom of the page. Anyway, great story.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 26, 2006 7:44 PM.

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