Hugo Awards 2011: Best Novella

The Best Novella category was added in 1968. Novellas are defined as stories of between 17,500 and 40,000 words. Many people consider the novella to be a perfect length—long enough to develop a detailed world and interesting characters, but short enough to avoid unnecessary padding. It’s a hard length to get published, though; usually not long enough to publish on it’s own, but too long to easily fit into some magazines or anthologies.

Best Novella Nominations (407 ballots cast)
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

143 The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (35.14%)
69 The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky (16.95%)
56 “Troika” by Alastair Reynolds (13.76%)
46 The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis (11.3%)
43 The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand (10.57%)
——————————————————————————–
33 “Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance” by Paul Park (8.11%)
31 “The Mystery Knight” by George RR Martin (7.62%)
30 Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear (7.37%)
26 “A History of Terraforming” by Robert Reed (6.39%)
24 “Dead Man’s Run” by Robert Reed (5.9%)
23 “Six Blind Men and an Alien” by Mike Resnick (5.65%)
22 “Chicken Little” by Cory Doctorow (5.41%)
22 “Several Items of Interest” by Rick Wilber (5.41%)
20 “A Glimpse of the Marvellous Structure (and the Threat It Entails)” by Sean Williams (4.91%)
20 “Orfy” by Richard Chwedyk (4.91%)
20 “The Alchemist” by Paolo Bacigalupi (4.91%)
20 “The Rift” by John G. Hemry (4.91%)
17 The Taborin Scale by Lucius Shepard (4.18%)
16 “Iron Shoes” by J. Kathleen Cheney (3.93%)
15 Seven Cities of Gold by David Moles (3.69%)
13 “Earth III” by Stephen Baxter (3.19%)
13 “Jackie’s Boy” by Steven Popkes (3.19%)

Best Novella Final Ballot Results
(1467 ballots)
(Final ballots are counted using the instant-runoff method.)

My Ranking Title Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5
3 The Lifecycle of Software Objects (WINNER) 464 464 519 588 761
4 “Troika” 311 313 339 422 517
2 “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” 223 231 280 331
1 “The Sultan of the Clouds” 233 234 263
5 “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” 179 180
No Award 57

No Award Tests
• 1119 ballots ranked The Lifecycle of Software Objects greater than No Award; 100 ballots ranked No Award higher than The Lifecycle of Software Objects – PASS
• ((1467 – 57) / 2100) * 100 = 67% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – “Troika”
3rd Place – “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window”
4th Place – “The Sultan of the Clouds”
5th Place – “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon”

Analysis

All of the nominees were quite good, but The Lifecycle of Software Objects was the overwhelming leader in both nominations and final votes. Ted Chiang is a consistently excellent writer. The Lifecycle of Software Objects executes a big idea well, which the Hugo voters love. The variety of publishing sources for the nominees was quite diverse, showing that good stories can be found almost anywhere. The Nebula Award went to “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window.”

Mini-Reviews

“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2010)
A powerful magician from a female dominated society is enchanted to be resurrected over the millennia, encountering a variety of societies and people who would exploit her magic. An effective tale of love, betrayal, and redemption.


The Lifecycle of Software Objects
 by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
A chronicle of the evolution of AI “digients” that simulate human emotional growth. Well thought out extrapolation of where current software and networking could go. The characters are a bit flat with a somewhat unsatisfying resolution.


“The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon
 by Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All New Tales, William Morrow)
A trio of friends set out to recreate a piece of film for their dying colleague. The film purported to be of a human-powered flight predating the Wright Brothers. A nice character study, but ended with lots of unanswered questions.

“The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s, September 2010)
The preteen heir to a vast fortune recruits a renowned terraforming expert for a secret project in his floating Venusian city. This hard SF tale is brimming with interesting characters, political intrigue, and grand ideas.

“Troika” by Alastair Reynolds (Godlike Machines, Science Fiction Book Club)
In the mid 21st Century, an enormous alien spaceship arrives in the solar system. A Soviet expedition rendezvoused with it, but only years later does one of the cosmonauts reveal what happened. A tense and moving story of redemption.

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