Tag Archives: Chicon 7

Hugo Awards: Fan and Semiprozine Categories

Fanzines and Semiprozines

The Best Fanzine award was first presented in 1955. Science fiction fandom is largely based on the amateur fan magazines that have been published since 1930. Fanzines predate the first science fiction conventions. Fanzines are forums for fans to write on all kinds of topics of interest to each other. Fanzines are labors of love, with editors typically not accepting any kind of paid subscriptions, instead trading letters of comment or postage with other fans. The earliest fanzines were generally mimeographed, then xerographed, and in the past few years websites and blogs have dominated. The podcast StarShipSofa won in 2010.

During the 1970s, Locus ruled the Best Fanzine award. Locus had clearly moved to a more professional level than typical fanzines, with paid subscriptions and providing its editors with a nontrivial income. At about the same time, other “semiprofessional” magazines, such as Interzone and Science Fiction Chronicle, were gaining popularity. As a result, the Best Semiprozine category was established in 1984 so that traditional fanzines could more fairly compete against each other. Locus has been nominated as a semiprozine every year since then, winning 22 times, including this year.

Because of the domination by Locus, an ad hoc committee was appointed by the Worldcon Business Meeting in 2009 to look at the rules governing semiprozines. Many people felt that Locus had become a wholly professional magazine and should no longer be qualified to compete in the semiprozine category, but that the rules as written weren’t specific enough to move Locus out of contention. A few fans just wanted to eliminate the category altogether.

Semiprozines Redefined

The committee presented its findings and recommendations at the Business Meeting last year at Renovation. With some slight changes in wording, the Business Meeting approved the committee’s proposal and it was finalized with a few minor changes at Chicon 7. The proposal redefines several publications as professional magazines. Interzone, Lightspeed, Locus, and Weird Tales will no longer be considered semiprozines based on their employee’s income or their publisher’s owner/employee’s income. Clarkesworld will likely move out of the semiprozine category within a year or two (its editor withdrew it from the semiprozine final Hugo ballot this year).

What’s the Problem?

In my mind this does not solve the problem, it just moves it elsewhere. There is no Best Professional Magazine category for these publications to move to. Best Editor is not the same thing as Best Magazine. An editor has a large part to play in defining a magazine, but by no means the only one. To maintain parity, there needs to be a Best Professional Magazine category—well actually, a Best Collection award might be a better definition so as to include original anthologies.

Moreover, semiprofessional is a wishy-washy definition at best. Publishers of semiprozines want to have their cake and eat it, too. If they are publishing professional articles and stories, it’s irrelevant to me as a reader whether they are making or losing money. If a publication sells subscriptions, is available for sale at newsstands, collects donations, or pays any of its staff or contributors, it is a professional publication. The semiprozine publishers claim they want to create a level playing field, but that is an idealistic dream. The awards don’t differentiate in other categories regarding financial support. Two years ago, the small film Moon won over behemoth Avatar. In fact, independent films have gone head to head with major studio productions many times. In the 1980s and 1990s digest magazines successfully competed with the well-financed magazine Omni. Lightspeed and Clarkesworld have had short stories nominated. In addition, Lightspeed’s editor, John Joseph Adams, and Clarkesworld’s editor, Neil Clarke, were nominated as Best Editor, Short Form. So to say that semiprozines need a separate category is disingenuous. Good science fiction is good science fiction, no matter where it is published.

Another problem I have with the semiprozine definition is that it requires the semiprozine publishers to confirm that they are eligible before receiving the nominations (Yes/No answer). No other category is required to provide this kind of self-reported proof of eligibility. Do we trust the publishers to tell the truth about their finances without doing an audit? Would the Hugo Award Administrator be required to examine the publishers’ tax returns? I don’t think so. What if a publication is found to be fudging the truth after the nominations come out? After the final results are announced?

Fancasts

This year’s Business Meeting ratified a proposal to create a Best Fancast category, removing podcasts from Best Fanzine consideration, rightfully realizing that the printed word is significantly different from audio and video broadcasts. Unfortunately, a parallel change to remove audio and video from the semiprozine category was not made. Additionally, they didn’t define what constitutes a fancast, leaving open the possibility that a mixed media publication could find itself in limbo. With the rise of Kindle and iPad apps, this is a definite possibility.

In anticipation of the permanent Best Fancast category, Chicon 7 included a special Best Fancast Hugo category this year. SF Squeecast, a collaboration between Hugo-nominated authors Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente, along with Lynne M. Thomas, won this award. Frankly, I was underwhelmed by all of the nominees, but there were twelve podcasts that made the 5% eligibility cutoff, so there are obviously a number of well-regarded podcasts available.

Professional Fans

This brings up an interesting point. The winners of the Best Fancast Hugo are professional writers. The winner of the Best Fan Writer was Jim C. Hines, a professional writer. The leader in the first five rounds of voting for Best Fan Artist was Randall Munroe, a professional artist. I don’t know what this means, exactly, but it’s clear that name recognition goes a long way, and, at least for this year, the lines between fan, semiprofessional, and professional were extremely blurry.

Note: this is an updated version of an article that appeared in Axolotlburg News in September 2011.

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

The Best Dramatic Presentation category was added in 1958. It was split into Long Form (over 90 minutes) and Short Form (under 90 minutes) beginning in 2003. Although some traditionalists decry the addition of media-based works (and to be sure, some questionable movies and TV shows have been nominated and even won), this is usually one of the top vote-getting categories, showing it is popular with the Hugo voters.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Nominations (603 ballots cast [compared to 510 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

171 Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (28.35%)
148 Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (24.54%)
113 Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (18.74%)
112 Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (18.57%)
105 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (17.41%)
———————————————————-
94 X-Men: First Class (15.59%)
78 Attack the Block (12.94%)
78 Super 8 (12.94%)
78 Thor (12.94%)
78 Misfits Series 1 (12.77%)
77 Kick-Ass (12.10%)
73 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12.10%)
48 The Adjustment Bureau (7.96%)
36 Contagion (5.97%)
27 Cowboys and Aliens (4.48%)
24 Paul (3.98%)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Final Ballot Results (1613 ballots [compared to 1755 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking Title Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
2 Game of Thrones (Season 1) (WINNER) 710 711 756 808
6 Hugo 293 295 326 392
4 Captain America: The First Avenger 198 199 247 297
1 Source Code 192 192 208
3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 175 176
5 No Award 45

No Award Tests:
• 1181 ballots ranked Game of Thrones (Season 1) higher than No Award; 115 ballots ranked No Award higher than Game of Thrones (Season 1) – PASS
• ((1613-45)/1922)*100 = 82% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – Hugo
3rd Place – Captain America: The First Avenger
4th Place – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
5th Place – Source Code

Analysis

Fourteen items passed the 5% cutoff in what I thought was a lackluster year for movies. Unsurprisingly, the juggernaut Game of Thrones completely dominated the voting. I suspect this trend will continue for as long as the series is in production. Attack the Block and Misfits were not widely distributed in the U.S., or else they probably would have done better. My biggest surprise was that Rise of the Planet of the Apes wasn’t higher in the nominations, although I’m not surprised it didn’t make the top five. Contagion should also have ranked higher than it did—did people not think it was science fiction?

Mini-Reviews

Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)

In a year loaded with super hero movies, Captain America stood out as one of the best, both in terms of the emotional arc of the title character and in the use of set design and special effects to convey a sense of reality lacking in many super-hero movies. It’s hard to convert the intrinsically unbelievability of comic books into something that looks good on screen. Although I liked X-Men: First Class more, I can’t argue that Captain America didn’t deserve recognition. See my full review here.

Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)

This faithful and lavish production of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy was the clear favorite in a relatively weak field. It’s hard to compete with a 10-hour production that can include character and plot details that 2-hour movies cannot. My only knock against Game of Thrones is the same one I have about the books: it’s an unresolved chapter in a longer narrative. Nevertheless, as long as HBO can keep the quality at this level, Game of Thrones will be a favorite to win for several years to come.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)

Despite being the second half of the adaptation of the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was pretty well self-contained, and was certainly a monumental conclusion to the film series. Unlike some of the entries that felt more like Cliff’s Notes versions of the books, this installment managed to retain most of the content from the book. The three primary actors, especially Daniel Radcliff, have grown into accomplished thespians who can carry off a story of this magnitude.

Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)

Hugo was my favorite film of 2011. Period. But it is neither science fiction nor fantasy, despite having a brief plot point about a mechanical automaton. Hugo also boasted the best use of 3-D since Avatar. Nevertheless, it never should have been on the final ballot. See my full review here.

Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

Although not quite as good as his Hugo-winning film Moon, Jones was able to use his higher budget to craft an entertaining story with big ideas. This tale of time travel and identity manipulation was very much in the tradition of Philip K. Dick. It’s hard to produce a time travel story without paradoxes, and this was no exception. The ending was satisfying on an emotional level, but didn’t hold up to careful scrutiny. Jones has become a top director, and I look forward to whatever he makes next, science fiction or otherwise.

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

The Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category was begun in 2003. Even though many TV shows and other media had been nominated and even won a number of times before the split into long-form and short-form categories, the feeling was that just as novels are different from short stories, movies are different from TV episodes. A Doctor Who episode has won every year since 2006, with the exception of 2009’s Internet sensation, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) Nominations (524 ballots cast [compared to 394 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

162 “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (30.92%)
76 “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (14.50%)
73 “Baelor” (Game of Thrones), written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; Directed by Alan Taylor (13.93%) [Ineligible – Nominated in Long Form]
60 “The Pointy End” (Game of Thrones), written by George R.R. Martin; Directed by Daniel Minahan (11.45%) [Ineligible – Nominated in Long Form]
53 “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (10.14%)
49 “Fire and Blood” (Game of Thrones), written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; Directed by Alan Taylor (9.35%) [Ineligible – Nominated in Long Form]
38 “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (7.25%)
36 “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (6.87%)
———————————————————————-
35 The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (6.68%)
31 “Winter is Coming” (Game of Thrones) (5.92%)
32 “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide” (Fringe) (5.53%)
28 “A Golden Crown” (Game of Thrones) (5.34%)
28 “The Wedding of River Song” (Doctor Who) (5.34%)
20 “The Day We Died” (Fringe) (3.82%)
18 “The Wolf Shaped Bullet” (Being Human – UK) (3.44%)
15 “The French Mistake” (Supernatural)(2.86%)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) Final Ballot Results (1395 ballots [compared to 1466 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking Title Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
2 “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) (WINNER) 585 586 645 671
1 “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community) 299 301 314 365
4 “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who) 156 156 201 211
6 “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech” 142 145 152
3 “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who) 136 136
5 No Award 77

No Award Tests:
• 1036 ballots ranked “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) higher than No Award; 163 ballots ranked No Award higher than “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) – PASS
• ((1395-77)/1922 )*100 = 69% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – “The Girl Who Waited”
3rd Place – “A Good Man Goes to War”
4th Place – “Remedial Chaos Theory”
5th Place – “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech”

Analysis

Thirteen short-form dramas made the 5% cutoff. Three episodes of Game of Thrones were ruled ineligible since the series as a whole was nominated in the long-form category. Doctor Who and Game of Thrones will undoubtedly dominate the Hugos for the foreseeable future, because most TV science fiction is fairly mediocre. It was nice to see Fringe getting some recognition—I really must go back and watch it. My biggest disappointment was that the Academy Award winning animated short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was not nominated. Told sans dialog with a Chaplinesque character, this thoroughly charming fantasy is a love letter to reading and the value of books.

Mini-Reviews

“The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)

With more than twice the number of nominations as any other contender and only taking four rounds to be declared the winner, this episode by fan favorite Neil Gaiman had huge support. It was an exciting and entertaining hour that managed to turn almost fifty years of Doctor Who lore on its head. The episode is notable for contriving to have the consciousness of The Doctor’s TARDIS transferred into a sentient being that can converse with him. In doing so, the audience learns some interesting history of The Doctor’s origin.

“The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)

Chris Garcia’s many friends evidently thought it would be funny to nominate his histrionic acceptance speech. The speech was certainly dramatic, and it was a presentation, but this had no place on the final ballot. Thankfully, the voters agreed with this assessment, but its inclusion on so many nominating ballots meant a worthy work such as The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was left off.

“The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)

This episode focuses entirely on The Doctor’s companion, Amy Pond, who is inadvertently left behind on an alien planet for 36 years before The Doctor returns to rescue her. Rife with time travel paradoxes, the episode nevertheless delivers an opportunity for actor Karen Gillan to flex her acting muscles as both young and old Amy (with the help of excellent make-up).

“A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)

This was really the first part of a two-part episode that concluded with “Let’s Kill Hitler,” so I’m not sure why it was not nominated as such. The Doctor’s pacifist philosophy is severely tested when his companion Amy Pond is captured and held at a secret military base. He builds an alliance of confederates to help break Amy out of prison. This episode is notable for revealing the true identity of The Doctor’s sometimes love interest, River Song. This somber episode revealed a dark side to the usually happy-go-lucky Doctor; a side that had repercussions later in the season.

“Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Community is consistently pushing the envelope for a sitcom, and this episode in particular was a tour de force of humorous science fiction, exploring the many-worlds theory of existence in a clever and delightful way. It’s unfortunate that Community is not more widely seen, and I suspect the Hugo voters who didn’t see it instinctively dismissed it as a triviality compared to their beloved Doctor Who (that is often just as jokey and irreverent).

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Graphic Story

In 1988, Nolacon II created a one-time special category, “Other Forms,” as a way to honor the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. In subsequent years fans discussed whether there should be a permanent graphic novel category, but nothing happened until 2008. That year the organizers of Anticipation agreed to include a one-time, special Best Graphic Story category in 2009 in expectation that the 2009 Business Meeting would institute Best Graphic Story as an official category. This did indeed happen, and thus, Best Graphic Story became a new category in 2010. The award was ratified by the 2012 Business Meeting, making it permanent.

Best Graphic Story Nominations (344 ballots cast [compared to 287 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

60 Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (17.4%)
36 Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (10.47%)
33 Digger by Ursula Vernon (9.59%)
28 The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (8.14%)
26 Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (7.55%)
———————————-
21 Finder: Voice by Carla Speed McNeil (6.10%)
20 Doorways by George R.R. Martin, illustrated by Stefano Martino (5.57%)
17 Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham, illustrated by Rafa Lopez; (4.94%)
17 Habibi by Craig Thompson (4.94%)
14 Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 3: Reason by Thomas Siddell (4.07%)
12 Freakangels Volume 5 by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield (3.49%)
11 Anya`s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (3.20%)
10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 by Joss Whedon (2.91%)
10 Knight and Squire by Bill Willingham, illustrated by Joao Ruas (2.91%)
10 Fables Volume 16: Super Team by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (2.91%)

Best Graphic Story Final Ballot Results (1091 ballots [compared to 1263 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking

Title

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

4

Digger (WINNER)

391

394

416

443

499

3

Fables Vol 15: Rose Red

193

194

222

295

361

6

Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication

181

182

189

208

1

Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom

133

133

165

2

The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan

109

109

5

No Award

84

No Award Tests:
• 685 ballots ranked Digger higher than No Award; 109 ballots ranked No Award higher than Digger – PASS
• ((1091-84)/1922 )*100 = 52% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – Fables Vol 15: Rose Red
3rd Place – Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom
4th Place – Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication
5th Place – The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan
 
Analysis

Phil Foglio withdrew Girl Genius, the winner for the past three years, from consideration. Some griped that this simply meant that the second best graphic novel would be selected. My opinion is that Hugo voters are not particularly sophisticated about graphic novels and are sending essentially the same titles up for consideration again and again. Schlock Mercenary and Fables have been nominated every year, and this is the second year in a row for The Unwritten. Digger, a web-based comic with the same fanish sensibilities as Girl Genius, filled the void left by Girl Genius.

One of the troubles with this category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines often extending over several years. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes don’t often represent entire, self-contained stories. How can one justify recognizing an incomplete story?

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven titles made the 5% cutoff (interestingly, during the Business Meeting discussion about whether to ratify Graphic Story as a permanent category, the Hugo administrator stated that nine titles had made the cutoff—I guess they consider 4.94 to be close enough to 5 to count). It was great to see Carla Speed McNeil’s Eisner and L.A. Times Book Prize winner Finder getting attention (however, the storyline Voice was completed in 2008, so it’s unclear whether the printed volume in 2011 would have been eligible), but where were Atomic Robo, Battlepug, Chew, Daredevil, 20th Century Boys, American Vampire, Joe the Barbarian, The Walking Dead, and Irredeemable? Why weren’t Habibi and Anya’s Ghost ranked higher?

There were noticeably more nominating ballots cast this year than last year, but there was a sharp drop in the number of final ballots cast. Only a little more than half the total voters voted in this category. So, it seems this is not a hugely popular category.

Mini-Reviews

Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)

I have to admit that I only got through about 100 pages of this 700+ page opus. What I did read was pretty good, but somewhat similar to things like Cerebus the Aardvark and Howard the Duck, pitting an anthropomorphic animal (in this case, a wombat) against human antagonists. Even though I am a big comic book fan, I had not heard of Digger before it was nominated. Looking back at Eisner Award records, I saw she was nominated in 2006 in the category Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition, but I am not a connoisseur of web-based comics, so it didn’t register in my memory. Digger certainly had the overwhelming support of the Hugo voters. It has the cute animal/fantasy vibe that Hugo voters seem to gravitate to. In her acceptance speech Ursula Vernon hinted that there was a huge twist ending, so I will make it a point to finish this massive story.

Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)

Fables is one of the few cross-over favorites of the SF and comic book worlds. The first half of this trade edition was very good, chronicling the struggles of Snow White’s sister, Rose Red. The second half of the book was much less effective. It was not clear whether the intent of the voters was to honor just the Rose Red portion, or the entire volume. Nevertheless, the best of Fables is in its early years, and it seems momentum is keeping it on the ballot when perhaps other works are more deserving.

Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

Locke & Key is a marvelous horror story, about a single mother and her children coping with life in a haunted house. The story is chilling without being too graphic. It’s hard to justify voting for a single, open-ended volume, but for me, Locke & Key is too good not to vote for, and I’m not even a big horror fan.

Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)

I just don’t get Schlock Mercenary, a space opera gag strip that’s a clear parody of Star Trek. Its fans are certainly motivated: it garnered significantly more nominations than anything else. It has the cutesy artwork that Hugo voters like, but I think it’s just occasionally amusing and without much substance. What am I missing?

The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

I don’t understand why The Unwritten doesn’t get more Hugo love. It’s all about great literature, with lots of magic and adventure. Perhaps casual readers think it’s too much of a Harry Potter pastiche, but it is far from that. This particular volume did suffer from being a middle chapter in a longer work, with no clear resolution.  I thought the previous volume, Dead Man’s Knock, was a better representation of the series and was more self-contained.

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Short Story

The Best Short Story category is one of the original Hugo Award categories. Short stories are defined as stories of less than 7,500 words. Good short stories are hard to find, as there is not a lot of room to develop big ideas. But when a good short story clicks, it can take the reader on an intense, powerful journey.

Best Short Story Nominations (611 ballots cast [compared to 515 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

72 “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (12.27%)
68 “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (11.13%)
43 “Movement” by Nancy Fulda (5.63%)
36 “The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (5.63%)
36 “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (5.63%)
——————————————
25 “Her Husband’s Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro (4.09%)
24 “Unlimited Delta” by Robin Walton (3.93%)
23 “Tidal Forces” by Caitlin Kiernan (3.76%)
23 “The Bread We Eat in Dreams” by Catherynne M. Valente (3.76%)
22 “Younger Women” by Karen Joy Fowler (3.60%)
18 “After the Apocalypse” by Maureen McHugh (2.95%)
18 “Shipbirth” by Aliette de Bodard (2.95%)
17 “Mama, We Are Zhenya, Your Son” by Tom Crosshill (2.78%)
17 “Goodnight Moons” by Ellen Klages (2.78%)
17 “Tying Knots” by Ken Liu (2.78%)
17 “The Server and the Dragon” by Hannu Rajaniemi (2.78%)
16 “The Invasion of Venus” by Stephen Baxter (2.62%)
16 “The Drowner” by Paedar O’Guilin (2.62%)

Best Short Story Final Ballot Results (1615 ballots [compared to 1597 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking

Title

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

2

“The Paper Menagerie” (WINNER)

454

454

515

569

789

4

“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”

352

354

403

472

579

1

“The Homecoming”

310

311

359

439

6

“Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue”

266

266

281

3

“Movement”

185

187

5

No Award

48

No Award Tests:
• 1209 ballots rank “The Paper Menagerie” higher than No Award; 84 ballots rank No Award higher than “The Paper Menagerie”- PASS
• ((1615-48)/1922)*100 = 82% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”
3rd Place – “The Homecoming”
4th Place – “Movement”
5th Place – “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue”

Analysis

Only five short stories made the 5% cutoff. Does this mean the category of short story is stagnant (only four short stories made the cutoff last year)? Or does it mean that there are a large number of quality short stories that split the votes? I’m not sure what the answer is, but the category seems to be weaker than it used to. The Nebula Award winner was “The Paper Menagerie”.

Mini-Reviews

“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld, April 2011)

This year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer went to Yu, very deserving based on this story. Yu uses the metaphor of a wasp colony enslaving a bee hive in a thought-provoking, original way to discuss colonialism and rebellion.

“The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s, Apr.-May 2011)

This is a moving story of an estranged father and son who find reconciliation while caring for their wife/mother who is hospitalized with dementia. The SF twist is that the son has undergone radical surgical modification that the father disapproves of.

“Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s, March 2011)

This is a beautifully written story about an autistic girl, the proposed treatment her parents are offered to cure her, and their mutual decision about it. One of the messages is that autistic people are not ill in a traditional sense, and that they do not necessarily need to be “cured” to have meaningful lives. It’s a story with food for thought from someone who obviously has had experience with an autistic person.

“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (F&SF, Mar.-Apr. 2011)

This is an emotionally charged story of a young American-born Chinese man who mistreats his native Chinese mother, illustrating the struggle between language and culture that many first- and second-generation immigrants encounter. After she dies, he finds a letter from her hidden in a magical origami animal she made. From that he learns a heartbreaking, poignant lesson. Be prepared to shed a tear when reading this story.

“Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (Tor.com)

It was only after I read this story that I learned it had been written as an April Fool’s joke. That clarified so much about why I disliked it. This is an incoherent story that apparently was supposed to be humorous, but fell far, far flat. Only the power of Scalzi’s popularity with fandom, and the overall weakness of the short story category, explains how fluff like this gets nominated.

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.

Hugo Awards 2012: 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; often not long enough to publish on its own, but too long to easily fit into some magazines or anthologies.

Best Novella Nominations (473 ballots cast [compared to 407 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

120 Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente (24.84%)
111 “The Man Who Bridged The Mist” by Kij Johnson (22.98%)
98 “Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (20.29%)
76 “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (15.73%)
47 “The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (9.73%)
47 Countdown by Mira Grant (9.73%)
———————————————————————————-
39 “The Adakian Eagle” by Bradley Denton (8.07%)
38 “The Ants of Flanders” by Robert Reed (7.87%)
27 “With Unclean Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro (5.59%)
22 Gravity Dreams by Stephen Baxter (4.55%)
18 “Martian Chronicles” by Cory Doctorow (3.73%)
18 “The Rat Race” by Cherie Priest (3.73%)
17 “The Alchemist” by Paolo Bacigalupi (3.52%)
16 “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” by Diana Gabaldon (3.31%)
15 “Angel of Europa” by Allen Steele (3.11%)

Best Novella Final Ballot Results (1493 ballots [compared to 1467 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking

Title

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6

1

“The Man Who Bridged the Mist” (WINNER)

331

331

377

453

492

628

2

“Kiss Me Twice”

315

315

330

370

462

593

7

Countdown

252

252

264

300

372

5

Silently and Very Fast

249

249

255

283

4

“The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary”

199

200

208

3

“The Ice Owl”

107

108

6

No Award

40

No Award Tests:
• 1037 ballots rank “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” higher than No Award; 82 ballots rank No Award higher than “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” – PASS
• ((1493-40)/1922 )*100 = 76% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – “Kiss Me Twice”
3rd Place – Silently and Very Fast
4th Place – “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary”
5th Place – Countdown
6th Place – “The Ice Owl”

Analysis

Only eight novellas met the 5% cutoff. I think the reason was that there were a handful of strong contenders that dominated the best-of lists. Final voting was very close between the two frontrunners, both published in Asimov’s. Once again, we see that Mira Grant has a passionate following that nominates and votes for her without broad support from the mainstream voters. The Nebula Award went to “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”.

Mini-Reviews

Countdown by Mira Grant (Orbit)

This is a prequel to Grant’s zombie series (Feed, Deadline), recounting the details of how the zombie virus was created. For readers who are familiar with this world, there’s a lot of repetition from the novels. This novella mainly gives Grant an excuse to do a data dump of her detailed biological research. The characters and plot of the story are not very engaging.

“The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (F&SF, Oct.-Nov. 2011)

In the universe of this story humans have invented light-speed transport and primitive instantaneous communication. Rebellious teenager Thorn befriends a mysterious teacher, Master Pregaldin, to fill in some of the gaps in her knowledge and experience left by being dragged from planet to planet by her somewhat immature mother. Meanwhile, an immanent political revolution on the planet threatens to expose Pregaldin’s secret and tear Thorn’s life apart. I found the situations and characters to be interesting, but felt that the ending was a bit out of tune with Thorn’s personality that had been established.

“Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, June 2011)

This is a police procedural that features two partners: human detective Scott Huang and his artificial intelligence partner, Metta, whose default persona is Mae West. When Metta’s chassis is stolen, Metta is restored from backup to a new chassis and the duo soon connects the crime to a larger conspiracy. I liked this novella a lot. The characters were well-rounded, with clear personalities. The mystery was satisfactorily resolved, although there was a bit of luck involved. The world was consistent and easily pictured. I could see this expanded into a novel; I definitely hope Kowal writes more about this future society.

“The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, Oct.-Nov. 2011)

This story is a wonderful piece of world building, concerning an architect who is tasked with building a long bridge across a mysterious valley connecting two isolated villages. The mist that fills the valley has strange properties and is home to large, deadly creatures. One of the beauties of the novella is that Johnson’s descriptions of the mist and the creatures are from the viewpoint of the characters who are so familiar with them that no further descriptions are necessary, letting the readers’ imaginations fill in the gaps. In lesser hands this would have been disastrous, but Johnson deftly weaves the mysteries into her story, letting them take a back seat to the human relationships between the architect and the natives. I hope that there will be more stories set in this fascinating setting.

“The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse 3)

This is an emotionally charged story of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria during World War II, a brutal time that is ignored in most history lessons, and actually denied by many contemporary government officials. Liu posits a unique time travel technique whereby past events can be witnessed once, and then they are irrevocably erased. The time travelers in the story pick this particular period to study because they don’t want the world to forget a horrible chapter of inhumanity. But by watching history, they obliterate the very memories they are trying to preserve. This presents a terrific dilemma, because now the only records of the atrocities are unverifiable accounts from biased observers. Liu’s writing is very powerful, and although there are some minor flaws in the documentary-style execution and logic of the story, he succeeds in his goal of using science fiction as a tool to bring neglected history to life.

Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, WSFA)

Valente is a stylist who uses poetic imagery to evoke mood. It’s the kind of writing you either love or hate. I’m leaning towards the hate end of the spectrum. The story tells of the relationships between the evolving artificial intelligence called Elefsis and the generations of the human family that owns and operates it. This is very much a character study, told as a fairy tale wrapped with a science fictional covering. This is a metaphor for the chaos that is life and learning, and as such doesn’t provide tidy resolutions.

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Novel

Novels are defined as stories of 40,000 words or more. The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.

2012 Best Novel Nominations (958 ballots cast [compared to 833 ballots cast in 2011])

175 Among Others by Jo Walton (18.27%)
163 Embassytown by China Miéville (17.01%)
130 A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin (13.57%)
81 Deadline by Mira Grant (8.45%)
71 Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (7.41%)
——————————————————————–
70 The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (7.30%)
69 Rule 34 by Charles Stross (7.20%)
66 Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (6.89%)
62 The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison (6.47%)
61 Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge (6.37%)
60 Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (6.26%)
58 Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine (5.74%)
52 Deathless by Catherynne Valente (5.42%)
49 11/22/63 by Stephen King (5.11%)
49 The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (5.11%)
48 Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (5.01%)

Best Novel Final Ballot Results (1664 ballots [compared to 1813 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking

Title

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

3

Among Others (WINNER)

421

424

493

585

769

2

Embassytown

324

324

392

492

608

6

Deadline

311

312

367

418

4

A Dance With Dragons

316

317

360

1

Leviathan Wakes

260

261

5

No Award

32

No Award Tests
• 1164 ballots rank Among Others higher than No Award, 107 ballots rank No Award higher than Among Others – PASS
• ((1664-32)/1922)*100 = 85% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – Embassytown
3rd Place – Leviathan Wakes
4th Place – Deadline
5th Place – A Dance With Dragons

Analysis

The Best Novel category is very strong, with 16 books making the 5% cutoff (Hugo rules stipulate that nominees must have at least 5% of the nominating votes to help indicate widespread support). Two books came within 2 votes of making the final ballot. I tend to nominate well-reviewed books that are nevertheless underdogs—why waste nominations on sure things like A Dance With Dragons? Although the number of nominating ballots went up considerably from last year, the number of final ballots dropped significantly.

Among Others, by a widely respected author and blogger, won the Nebula Award and had appeared on a lot of best-of lists, so there was little surprise that it won. Embassytown garnered a lot of critical praise, but was not an easy read. Leviathan Wakes is the first in a new space opera series, written under a pen name by a duo of George R.R. Martin’s protégées. It managed to climb from fifth to third in the final results, which demonstrated weak support for Deadline, the second book of a series, and A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book of a series. Hugo voters wisely rejected these two books as being incomplete stories.

Mini-Reviews

Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)

This coming-of-age story of a teenage girl reminded me in tone of To Kill a Mockingbird, except with fairies. The book is an episodic semi-autobiography of Walton’s struggles with an abusive mother, the death of her twin sister, and discovery of science fiction fandom. As a love letter to fandom, it’s not hard to understand the reciprocal love the book received. The prose is beautifully written and evocative, just don’t expect a highly plot-driven adventure. The fantasy elements, to me, were secondary, especially since the protagonist was the only one who could see the fairies. Was she an unreliable narrator? That’s left for the reader to decide.

A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)

The fifth chapter of Martin’s epic fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire, the first half of A Dance With Dragons recounts the adventures of the characters that Martin cut from A Feast for Crows seven years ago. Everyone eventually gets back in sync, just in time for another cliffhanger ending. Let’s hope that it won’t be seven years until Volume 6! When Martin finally finishes this story, I hope he wins every award imaginable, but in the meantime it’s hard to justify voting for a story that is far from complete.

Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)

This second volume of Grant’s zombie trilogy was underwhelming. It begins in the middle of the story and ends with not one, but two major cliffhangers. The writing is serviceable, but nothing special. The book is full of plot holes, too. For example, on a cross-country drive the protagonists stop at a service station for gas. Even though the station is closed tight, they have no trouble pumping their gas and going on their way. In another instance, they infiltrate a well-guarded government installation, making their escape only because it has the exact same floor plan as another facility on the other side of the country. Plus, the “surprise” ending is flashed in neon early in the book with the ham-handed revelation that cloning exists in this world. Grant (pen name of prolific podcaster and filker Seanan McGuire) obviously spent a lot of time researching how viruses could produce zombies, but she needed to think a little harder about a plausible plot and more realistic characters.

Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)

Miéville is one of my favorite authors, with his boundless imagination and magnificent use of language. Embassytown’s central theme is how language shapes our perceptions. On a distant planet, aliens and humans try to find commonality, despite fundamental differences in communication styles. When some of the humans interfere with the aliens’ societal customs, conflict is inevitable (where is the Prime Directive when you need it!). Miéville is never one to shy away from an eloquent and rich vocabulary, often inventing words to suit his needs, but Embassytown goes even further in testing the reader’s tolerance for made-up language. This isn’t a quick and easy read, but the astute reader will undoubtedly reap much from this well-crafted parable.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Orbit)

Corey is the pen name of Daniel Abraham, a long-time collaborator of George R.R. Martin on the Wild Cards books and adaptor of Martin’s works for comics (as well as a respected solo author), and Ty Frank, one of Martin’s personal assistants. Leviathan Wakes is the first in a new space opera series. The story wraps up nicely, but there are definite plot threads that will lead to interesting complications in future volumes. The authors paint a detailed and action-packed universe, with protagonists that are well-developed. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to more in this series.

Chicon 7

Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in the Chicago Hyatt Regency from August 30 through September 3, 2012. The convention was the best attended Worldcon since L.A. Con IV in 2006, with almost 5000 warm bodies present.

Overall, I enjoyed Chicon 7 a lot, and didn’t have much to complain about regarding the Hugo winners (the nominees are a different story!). The number of nominations was generally higher than last year for Renovation, perhaps due to a rule change that allowed members of three years’ worth of Worldcons to nominate. However, the number of final ballots was generally lower, sometimes significantly, than last year. I don’t know if this was due to apathy about the quality of nominees, or whether Renovation did a better job of nagging members to vote.

Hyatt Regency – Chicago

The Hyatt Regency is a very large hotel with ample meeting space for a convention of this size. The problem is that the hotel is split into two towers with events in each tower. The way the escalators and elevators were laid out made for difficult navigating within and between the towers and their multiple, arbitrarily color-coded levels. There were a number of complaints from mobility-challenged fans about the inadequacy of handicap access. To confound attendees further, the con organizers somehow thought it was a good idea to include a nonexistent meeting room on the schedule. Apparently, this hoax room is a tradition with Chicago conventions, but the humor was lost on those not in on the joke.

2012 Hugo Trophy

Programming ran continuously from noon on Thursday to mid-afternoon on Monday. While there were plenty of panels worth seeing, and many time slots with multiple items of interest, there were very few “must see” panels. There were a handful of special events, such as the Masquerade and Hugo Award Ceremony, that were highlights. The opening night event at the Adler Planetarium was especially fun and interesting.

The Dealers’ Room was in a nice, large space. It took me a little over an hour to go through it the first time, and I dropped in a couple more times during the weekend. There were a few interesting vendors, but I didn’t end up buying anything. The Art Show was in a large ballroom and had plenty of space. There was the usual mix of professional and amateur 2-D and 3-D works ranging from the awful to the sublime.

George R.R. Martin, Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, Robert Silverberg

Panels were varied and well run, heavily weighted towards literature and space exploration, reflecting the strengths of the convention’s guests. There were a handful of panels related to TV and movies, as well as things like costuming and filking that I am not interested in.

Connie Willis, Robert Silverberg

Unlike many recent Worldcons, the only late night activities were filking and parties. Fun, late night programs such as “Just a Minute” and “Match Game” were absent. There were no anime or movie rooms operating at night, which I found strange. (The only film room showed mostly public domain cartoons, and only during the day, as far as I could tell.) There were no screenings of the Hugo nominated dramatic presentations. Apparently, attendance at convention film screenings is too low to justify the cost of renting films and paying technicians to show them. There was a film festival running during the convention which screened independent films; and while I am sure there were some hidden gems amongst the entries, my less-than-satisfying experiences with similar film festivals kept me from exploring this one.

From Dragon*Con: Toni Weisskopf, T.C. McCarthy, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

One of the innovations that the convention tried was to have a number of joint panels with Dragon*Con in Atlanta. I attended a couple of these panels, and for the most part they worked well. Video conferencing is often fraught with technical difficulties, but the technicians had it working smoothly. As long as these two large conventions share Labor Day weekend, it makes sense to do some cross-programming. I hope this will become a regular part of Worldcons to come.

David Brin and Tad Daley discuss the definition of democracy.

Nothing against younger writers, but the old-time raconteurs make the most entertaining and thought-provoking panelists. Examples were Connie Willis and Robert Silverberg riffing on each other, Guest-of-Honor Mike Resnick reminiscing about his career, gray-beards Gardner Dozois, Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, and George R. R. Martin recounting the silly things they’ve done individually and together, and David Brin ranting on science and politics.

John Scalzi interviews Story Musgrave.

The highlight of the convention was seeing Guest of Honor Story Musgrave. A veteran of six Space Shuttle flights, including a Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, Musgrave is a real-life Buckaroo Banzai. Surgeon, engineer, pilot, farmer, and poet are just a few of Musgrave’s accomplishments. At 77 years old, he could easily pass for 50. Musgrave’s boundless humor, enthusiasm, and optimism fuel his curiosity and drive. At the same time, he is humble and down-to-earth, and was clearly moved and honored to be recognized by the science fiction community. I was inspired, educated, and entertained by this remarkable person.

An all-volunteer-run event of this scale and quality and complexity is simply amazing. The con committee did an excellent job working in the background to ensure our enjoyment, comfort, and safety. I had a wonderful time, as did the people I talked with. This was a superb convention.

Do the Hugos Need a Young Adult Category?

The members attending the Chicon 7 business meeting voted down a proposal to add a Young Adult (YA) category to the Hugo awards. Perhaps the biggest objection was that the proposal didn’t adequately define what a YA book is. But like a lot of Hugo categories, it seems that the members’ votes determine what belongs in a category, whether it is really appropriate to be there or not. Another objection was that YA is a marketing artifact that could change in the future. This argument is silly, as there has been children’s literature forever, and it’s one of, if not the top, growing segments of the publishing industry. Another argument against a new YA category is that if a book is good enough, it can already be nominated in the Best Novel or Novella categories, as evidenced by the works of J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman. While true, this ignores the works by authors who write fabulous stuff but that doesn’t show up on Best Seller lists. About the only argument that I thought held any real weight was that adults who are not familiar with youth-oriented fiction might have a hard time choosing truly representative works. But this does not stop Hugo voters from voting for Best Editor (Long Form), Graphic Story, or other categories they’re not necessarily familiar with.

The underlying motive for adding a YA category is to put a spotlight on a subgenre that is somewhat neglected. As several members at the meeting pointed out, this kind of recognition would tend to pull in new readers and new convention attenders, and add to the overall positive public relations of the Hugos and Worldcons. The truth is that there is a wealth of great YA science fiction being published that deserves recognition.

It seems to me that there is a fairly simple solution. The Golden Duck awards already recognize science fiction in three age categories: picture book, middle-school book, and the Hal Clement Award for “Young Adult” book. The Golden Ducks are announced during a panel at Worldcon each year. My understanding is that a jury of educators and librarians select the nominees and winners. Why not just move the announcement of winners to the Hugo ceremony, and include the winners in the Hugo publicity and historical records? The heightened visibility and endorsement by the Worldcon membership would be beneficial to all involved. It would eliminate most, if not all, of the objections a separate YA Hugo category engenders.

With its three age group categories, the Golden Ducks address the problem of defining what a YA book is. And, if a book is good enough, it could win both a Golden Duck and a Hugo. As a juried award, it would avoid the problem of unsophisticated readers trying to guess what the best YA books are. It is conceivable that the Golden Ducks could be revamped to be similar to the John W. Campbell award for best new writer, i.e., a non-Hugo that is voted on by the Worldcon membership. I think that the Golden Ducks should remain a juried award to maintain its integrity.

Elevating the visibility and stature of the Golden Duck awards would produce a win-win result that I think should be given serious consideration. It would not need a change to the WSFS constitution. It would require the buy-in of the Hugo and Worldcon committees, but it’s hard to imagine them objecting too much. Yes, it would lengthen the Hugo ceremony, but not by much. Some might argue that this plan would open the doors to other awards to petition to be included in the Hugo ceremony. I don’t think this would be a serious problem.

The benefits of acknowledging great science fiction and fantasy aimed at children far outweigh the negatives.