I was gratified to notice that I have not completely fallen off the planet in terms of my awareness of what’s going on in publishing: the finalists for the 2022 Hugo Awards have been announced, and I’ve actually read a few of them. The awards will be handed out at the 80th World Science Fiction Convention which starts Thursday, September 1, 2022, in Chicago, Illinois, US. (I will not be attending.)
The Nominees for Best Novel are:
- A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Tor)
- The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager/Hodder & Stoughton)
- Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki (Tor)
- A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom/Orbit UK)
- Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (Ballantine/Del Rey)
- She Who Became the Sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan (Tor/Mantle)
For what are they nominated?
I have read and reviewed Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir, and She Who Became the Sun, by Shelly Parker-Chan. I thought that Project Hail Mary was exceedingly clever and well-conceptualized, worthy of an award.
This begs the question of how these books, which are in different genres and sub-genres, can be lumped together into one awards category?
They are all in different Sci-Fi and Fantasy sub-categories; for instance, Weir’s novel is Hard Sci-Fi, while Parker-Chan’s novel falls into the Fantasy, Alternate History, and Historical Fantasy genres. A Master of Djinn is also in the category of Historical Fantasy. On Amazon, Light from Uncommon Stars is in the sub-sub-categories of Space Fleet Science Fiction, and Adventure Science Fiction, and so on.
Apart from having to compare apples with oranges, the problem is the labeling of the books. There are definite discrepancies between what they are marketed as, and what they are identified as. For instance, Light from Uncommon Stars is sold as Space Fleet SF, but is not much about weapons, military forces, space wars, or space fleets. It is described as “…a joyful adventure set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.”
But in the end, the Best Novel award, despite the name, is not about the criteria, the genre, or even the reception of the book, but about the votes of the Hugo members who buy memberships to attend Worldcon. In this category there were 1,151 ballots, for 443 nominees, with the finalist range having received between 111 and 242 votes each. If you are optimistic and think that this year’s Worldcon will have about the same number of members as the last pre-pandemic event in 2019, around 8,430, then these are the votes of a very small percentage, just 13.6%, of the members who cast their ballots. And think of how few people actually voted for the top six books, because of the numerous nominees.
Hokum in heaps
Yes, it is nice to see a couple of books on the list from authors who I think have merit. That being said, yours truly is a confirmed old cynic about book awards, and after having investigated the major book awards, I have come to the conclusion that they’re all hokum, hype and hyperbole.
This brings me back to the basic idea: if you want to support an author whose books you enjoy, buy their books, read them, and recommend them. It’s the bottom line, sales, that matters. That is the real reward for the author – being able to make a living from their writing. “Voting Is Futile”, to misquote the Borg from Star Trek.