By Noah Benjamin-Pollak
The 75th Hugo Awards, the Oscars and Emmys of science fiction and fantasy writing, were handed out on August 11. Here is a (somewhat subjective) list of winners and losers.
WINNER: N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate, taking the main prize for Best Novel and giving Jemisin a rare double win for the same series after 2016 Best Novel The Fifth Season.
LOSER: Alt-right activist Vox Day—aka Theodore Beale—and his followers, who attempted to hijack the Hugo nominations for the fifth straight year by reviving the “Rabid Puppies” block voting slate of suggested nominees. The puppies were founded in 2013 by military Science Fiction author Larry Correia to "poke the establishment in the eye" by nominating a block of "unabashed pulp action that isn’t heavy handed message fic.” Every year a different figure from the conservative side of Science Fiction would release the slate until this past year, when no official slate was released. Thus, the Gamergate figure Vox Day stepped in and released his own slate. Unlike in 2015, the high water mark of the block voting shenanigans—with 64 nominations from the Puppies’ slate—this year only one truly incongruous book, Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex was successfully nominated, along with 12 other works from the Puppies’ slate. Worth noting is that of those 12, at least half—such as Neil Gaiman’s nonfiction collection The View from the Cheap Seats—would likely have been nominated even if they were not on the slate.
WINNERS: Women! This year’s Hugo Awards saw an astounding 15 out of 17 categories won by women, or in the case of a magazine and a podcast, teams involving women. Most notably, the authorial categories, Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Graphic Story were all won by women. To have so many diverse young stars is a blessing for a genre that for years was regarded as largely the preserve of male authors and a young male audience.
LOSER: Lois McMaster Bujold, who was favored for her first Best Novella win for the wonderful Penric and the Shaman (she has five previous wins for Best Novel, and one previous win for Best Series).
WINNER: Stix Hiscock (a nom de plume one must imagine), author behind the hilariously titled Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex, who saw vastly increased sales and media attention due to her nomination.
THE BIGGEST WINNER: The Hugo Awards! Last year I wanted to write a piece about Hugo Awards for Best Novel that were incorrectly awarded, but after some research it became clear that this would be very difficult. Since the first few years, which were admittedly rocky, there have been few truly indefensible Hugo Awards for Best Novel. Some years, I would have chosen a different winner, but few Best Novel winners stand out as being flat-out wrong since the second Hugo for Best Novel went to They’d Rather Be Right – a book so terrible you can’t read it unless you go hunting for a used copy (it is completely out of print and unavailable on Kindle). Compared to the Oscars, which so often get it wrong (think: Forest Gump over Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption?!) the Hugos have managed to avoid egregious pratfalls. Partly, this is because they are voted on by the “public,” specifically, attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention. The Oscar “Academy,” despite its recent steps to diversify, remains an often tone-deaf group. Still, the Hugos have faced challenges, and they should be applauded for adroitly handling the recent block voting controversies springing out of the public nature of the jury. This year, we saw the main dissident group give up, and the other rendered mostly impotent, an obvious victory for those wishing for a more inclusive Hugos. When combined with a charismatic minority Best Novel winner, and a nearly entirely female group of winners, it is pretty easy to declare the forces of good the victor in the fight for the soul of the Hugo Awards.
Noah Benjamin-Pollak is a Detroit-based writer.