Your 2021 Hugo Award Finalists

Another year, another slate of Hugo Finalists. We won’t find out who has won until December, but let’s make a start on checking out the field.

I have read work by four of the Astounding Finalists: Johnson, Larkwood, Lyons and Tesh. Of those I’d give the award to Lyons, but if the Jimenez novel is as good as people keep telling me then he’ll be a runaway winner. More on this next month.

In contrast I have only read one of the Lodestar Finalists. I do love Legendborn, but I am very disappointed that Anna-Marie McLemore did not make the ballot. Come on, queer family, get your act together. Given the squee I have seen on social media, I expect Kingfisher to win.

I know nothing about the video games, save that I’ve seen people raving about several of them on social media. I’m glad that DisCon II was able to make the category work.

I’m mostly out of touch with the fan categories, but I’m pleased to note that Fanzine has dragged itself back to being a slightly more competitive category. You only needed 10 votes to be a Finalist in Fan Artist, and 28 in Fancast. Fanzine needed 38. I shall refrain from asking why 38 of you did not nominate Salon Futura, though you should all promise to do better next year.

Semiprozine is always a bit of a troublesome category. I note that Uncanny has won for five years on the trot now. It is a great magazine, but the voters should share the love a little, I think. One magazine that clearly deserves the award at last is Strange Horizons, but instead this year it has attracted the ire of the retired colonels of fandom with a very long list of contributors. Questions have been asked. Is this is political statement related to Colette Fozard’s ill-judged and disastrous attempt to limit the number of names on the ballot? Are these people all Hugo Finalists? Will they need an extra-large base for all those names? Will they expecting 90+ trophies if they win? Well, no.

I had a long chat to Ness a couple of weeks back, and it seems to me that Strange Horizons has a consistent and potentially useful position on this. Firstly this is not new. They’ve been listing large numbers of people for some time now; and have wanted bigger lists. Discon III has given them that list, but sadly without explanation. Their reason for asking for so many names is a) to make clear just how many hard-working volunteers it requires to keep a magazine of that quality going on volunteer labour; and b) because they are a non-hierarchical organisation and do not want particular individuals separated out as more important than the others. That seems a very fannish attitude to me.

As far as they are concerned, the Hugo Finalist is Strange Horizons magazine. The name on the base, should they win, will be Strange Horizons. They have asked for two trophies, which is a lot less than many other finalists. I’m disappointed that DisCon III did not makes this clear, and instead allowed people to jump to incorrect conclusions.

People have been moaning about trophy inflation for a long time now, and with some cause. What Strange Horizons is doing here may show a possible way forward. Its not as if we haven’t been de facto doing something similar with the Dramatic Presentation categories for some time now. There are many categories where the winner very clearly is a work that may have large numbers of people involved in its creation. Having the Finalists be the works, with a limited number of trophies (possibly with extras if people are prepared to pay for them, which movie people often do), and crediting a large group of people, is an option that we should consider.

If nothing else, Strange Horizons has done wonders for the international recognition and diversity of people involved in the Hugo Award process. Their team is scattered about the globe, and encompasses wide variety of identities. That, in my view, is a good thing, and I’d like to see more of it.

I am absolutely delighted that my Italian friend, Maurizio Manzieri, has made it onto ballot, presumably on the strength of the covers he has been doing for Aliette de Bodard. I gather that he got a big write-up in La Republica as a result. More international recognition.

I’m a bit out of the loop with editors these days, but as I recall at least two of the Long Form finalists lost their jobs last year, which probably says something about the state of the publishing industry.

Obviously She-Ra deserves to win Dramatic Presentation: Short. The finale of The Mandalorian will probably win, even though it was pretty terrible, because the one thing it did well was provide fan service.

I had not seen any of the Long Form Finalists when the ballot came out. I have now seen one, and will be watching the others in the coming months. There may be a lot of muttering about hyenas.

I’m also way out of the loop on graphic stories, but I know Kireon Gillen is very good and I’m a sucker for Arthuriana so I do have an idea for a favourite.

Ah, related work. I think I know which one I’m going to vote for. Certain other people would kill me if I didn’t. But I don’t expect us to win, despite our being on Mike Glyer’s Enemies of Fandom list. FIYAHCON was amazing. Beowulf is a brilliant book. And Natalie Luhrs has the advantage of being even more hated by the dwellers in File 770 than we are. It is a very tough category.

Series has some pretty heavyweight competition. Scalzi, Kowal and McGuire are all hugely popular. Murderbot can do no wrong. Personally I am very pleased to see a couple of fantasy series based in non-Western cultures on the ballot, but I suspect they’ll be overwhelmed.

I will pass on Novelette and Short Story until I have had time to read the Finalists.

Three of the Novella Finalists were on my ballot, and the other three all look very strong. I think that The Empress of Salt and Fortune was one of the best books of last year of any length and type, but I have no idea who will win this one.

I had a long list for Novel. Five of them have made the ballot. If I had to pick a winner I would say Jemisin because Nora has such a great track record, but it is a fabulous field. And all the Finalists are by women. Gosh, I wonder how that happened?

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