Hugo Finalists: Thoughts

A few weeks ago, the 2019 Hugo finalists were revealed, and in this post I’m going to talk about what I think of them – at least, of the categories I have some experience with, so novels, novellas, novelettes and short stories.

And to all of those who still say that they refuse to read adult SFF because “it’s all cis white men”: in the novel and novella categories, there isn’t even one.

Note: a draft of this post went up at 4 AM a few days ago because of a scheduling mistake. I took it down, but not immediately (…I was sleeping), so some of you already saw parts of this post. Here’s the complete thing.

Best Novel

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal – not interested
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers – not interested
  • Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee – read, ★★★★★ (review)
  • Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente – read, ★★★★★ (review)
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik – read, ★★★★★ (review)
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse – to read

I like this line-up! More than I liked its Nebula counterpart, in which I only read and liked two of the books in the list and hated one. Here, there’s nothing I hate – even though I’m pretty sure I would dislike the Becky Chambers one for the same reasons I disliked The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet if I read it – and there are three books that were on my “favorites of 2018” list, including my favorite book of the year, Revenant Gun.

I have to say that I would have liked to see C.L. Polk’s Witchmark, one of the Nebula nominees, there, or Nicky Drayden’s Temper (why does she never get nominated for anything major? Her novels are amazingly weird).

I also find it very interesting how this year the fantasy vs. sci-fi ratio is skewed, with only one high fantasy book, and I agree: 2018 was a mostly mediocre year for my adult high fantasy reading too.

Predicted winner: The Calculating Stars
What I want to see win: Revenant Gun

Best Novella

  • Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells – read, ★★★★★ (review)
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire – read, ★★★★ (review)
  • Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor – not interested
  • The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark – read, ★★★★★ (review)
  • Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson – not interested
  • The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard – read, ★★★★★ (review)

I love this one! It has all my 2018 favorites in it. I’m personally rooting for The Tea Master and the Detective and The Black God’s Drums, I thought they were the best ones, but I really liked Artificial Condition (the best in the Murderbot series in my opinion) and Beneath the Sugar Sky too.

I haven’t read the other two, but as I haven’t liked the first two Binti novellas and as I have read three short stories by Kelly Robson and thought they were mediocre at best (I outright hated the Nebula-winning A Human Stain, one of the worst things I’ve ever read), I don’t think I’d like them, so I’m not reading them.

Predicted winner: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
What I want to see win: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Best Novelette

  • If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho – read, ★★★★★
  • The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections, by Tina Connolly – read, ★★★★★
  • Nine Last Days on Planet Earth, by Daryl Gregory – read, ★★
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander – read, ★★★★
  • The Thing About Ghost Stories, by Naomi Kritzer – read, ★★★★
  • When We Were Starless, by Simone Heller – DNF

I like this list too! However, I also see that it’s very white and I don’t feel like that represents the field at all.

Anyway: I read/tried reading all of these, and my favorite one was definitely Zen Cho’s If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again, a cute, funny and somewhat bittersweet f/f story about an imugi and the woman who falls in love with it; but I loved Tina Connolly’s novelette about resistance through magical pastries as well.

I didn’t much care about Daryl Gregory’s, even though “tree apocalypse with gays” sounded interesting; The Only Harmless Great Thing was really well-written but not something I felt strongly about, apart from one quote. This line-up also has the first Naomi Kritzer story I actually felt something about (finally!) and a story I DNFed: fantasy writers usually get this, but I’ve noticed that many adult sci-fi authors don’t understand that it doesn’t make sense to cram a novel’s worth of worldbuilding in so few pages. When We Were Starless was a particularly bad case of that.

Predicted winner: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
What I want to see win: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again by Zen Cho

Complete reviews of some of these novelettes will be in my upcoming “short fiction reviews” post

Best Short Story

  • The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker – read, no rating
  • The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society by T. Kingfisher – read, ★★★
  • The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark – read, ★★★★
  • STET by Sarah Gailey – read, ★
  • The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander –  DNF
  • A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow – read,

The only line-up I don’t like. As you can see, there are no five stars in here, and it’s also very white and repetitive (two of the authors here were also in other categories). There’s even a DNF because I didn’t manage to get into the writing style (in a short story!)

But that’s not what I don’t like about it. What I don’t like about it the most is that I rarely hate short stories, and this list managed to have two short stories I hated in it.

I won’t talk about why I was disgusted by STET in this post, as I have written a whole rant review already in my upcoming post about recently read short fiction, but I will say that I need to remember to never read anything by Sarah Gailey again because she never gets it right for me. The other story I hated, A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies, is one I struggled with for reasons that I don’t really know how to explain. It’s that kind of… tone that I can’t stand. Also, for unrelated reasons, I would like to see a black short fiction reviewers’ opinion on it, since I was unsure about some things but they’re not my lane. (Anyway, Do Not Look Back, My Lion by Alix E. Harrow is a much better story, I recommend that one instead.)

The other short stories were mostly fine, but I don’t really get what about them was Hugo-worthy.

Predicted winner: A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow
What I want to see win: The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by P. Djèlí Clark

Complete reviews of some of these short stories will be in my upcoming “short fiction reviews” post

Also: The Machineries of Empire has been nominated for best series! It’s probably not going to win, but that’s a notable thing anyway.

Have you read any of these? What do you think of them?

8 thoughts on “Hugo Finalists: Thoughts

  1. I’m very excited about the Hugo’s, especially as I’m going to be at World Con this year so I’ll be able to (hopefully) see the awards. I might do my own post on this so I can compile all of my thoughts as well as TBR some of the ones I haven’t yet read. All I know is I am rooting for Aliette to win all the things!

    I would also be interested to read your upcoming post where you talk about STET, I haven’t personally read it yet but I would be interested to understand your thoughts on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m rooting for Aliette de Bodard too, especially since it would be nice to see a novella that isn’t from Tor.com win for once (I love Tor.com, but they’ve won 3 years in a row and have almost no competition.)

      I wanted to give you a short version of why STET made me angry, but I can’t condense those seven paragraphs without losing nuance, and so I won’t – my post with the review will be up tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

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