Hugo Awards 2012: Best Novelette

The Best Novelette category is one of the oldest Hugo Award categories, being around since 1955. Novelettes are defined as stories of between 7,500 and 17,500 words. The novelette is good length for science fiction and fantasy stories. An author can explore a single idea without a lot of clutter.

Best Novelette Nominations (506 ballots cast [compared to 382 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

61 “Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (12.05%)
56 “The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (11.07%)
43 “Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (8.50%)
37 “What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (6.81%)
37 “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (7.31%)
—————————————————————————-
36 “A Long Walk Home” by Jay Lake (7.11%)
30 “White Lines on a Green Field” by Catherynne M. Valente (5.93%)
29 “Ghostweight” by Yoon Ha Lee (5.73%%)
23 “The Old Man and the Martian Sea” by Alastair Reynolds (4.55%)
21 “The Book of Phoenix (Excerpted From the Great Book)” by Nnedi Okorafor (4.15%)
21 “Laika`s Ghost” by Karl Schroeder (4.15%)
19 “Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz (3.75%)
19 “A Small Price To Pay for Birdsong” by K.J. Parker (3.75%)
18 “The Choice” by Paul McAuley (3.56)
17 “Citizen-Astronaut” by David D. Levine (3.36%)
17 “The Summer People” by Kelly Link (3.36%)
17 “The Migratory Pattern of Dancers” by Katherine Sparrow (3.36%)

Best Novelette Final Ballot Results (1418 ballots [compared to 1469 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking

Title

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

2

“Six Months, Three Days” (WINNER)

369

369

419

494

637

1

“Ray of Light”

340

343

363

410

521

3

“The Copenhagen Interpretation”

271

273

301

384

4

“What We Found”

230

231

256

5

“Fields of Gold”

149

151

No Award

59

No Award Tests:
• 976 ballots rank “Six Months, Three Days” higher than No Award; 120 ballots rank No Award higher than “Six Months, Three Days” – PASS
• ((1418-59)/1922 )*100 = 71% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – “Ray of Light”
3rd Place – “The Copenhagen Interpretation”
4th Place – “What We Found”
5th Place – “Fields of Gold”

Analysis

Only eight novelettes made the 5% cutoff. It appears that there was strong support for a small number of candidates, with shallow support for a very large pool of contenders. The Nebula Award winner was “What We Found”.

Mini-Reviews

“The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s, July 2011)

This is an alternate history, the third in a series about a spy named Jonathan Hamilton. It is self-contained, but there are definite hints that it would be more enjoyable if one were familiar with the earlier works. The conceit is that in this world quantum mechanical devices exist which perform tasks that seem almost magical. I enjoyed this story, but felt like I was reading an excerpt from a novel.

“Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)

This is a largely unmemorable story about the afterlife. New arrival Dennis meets various dead celebrities such as Cleopatra, Napoleon, Shakespeare, Jesus, and Alexander the Great, while lamenting his unfulfilled bucket list. As a character study this story is well done, but there is not much plot to hang it on.

“Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog, December 2011)

This is a post-apocalyptic story where humanity is forced to live beneath the ocean to survive the complete glaciation of the surface after aliens block the sun. The plot focuses on a former astronaut searching for his runaway daughter and the serendipitous discovery they make in the process. Torgersen was the runner-up for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer this year, and I expect we will see much more from this promising writer.

“Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)

What happens when a man who can see a single, locked-in future goes on a date with a woman who can see every possible future, branching out like infinite trees? They can’t both be right, or can they? This is a powerful meditation on the philosophical debate between predestination and free will. Some very nice dialog fuels this engaging character study about romantic relationships, showing that even knowing the future doesn’t necessarily help bridge the gender gap.

“What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (F&SF, Sept.-Oct. 2011)

In a near-future Nigeria, a boy grows up to be a scientist. The story’s science fictional element is tenuous at best, concentrating mostly on the Nigerian’s family life. I really would expect to find something like this in a literary magazine. It’s not a bad story, but it’s not terribly remarkable, either.

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