Hugo Award Voting

One of the things I have to do today or tomorrow is vote on who
should get the Hugo Awards.

I signed up as a supporting member of Anticipation so that I could get the
packet of nominated works as ebooks.

I’m going to discuss the novel category, since it’s the one I
most care about. I expect to read enough of some of the shorter
works to vote in some of those categories, but it’s having good
novels to read that I care most about.

Voting options

The way the voting is set up,
you rank your choices, and “No Award” is one of the
choices. So the first thing to decide about everything you read
isn’t “Should this get the award?” but rather “Would I rather
there were no award than that this should get it?”

Did you enjoy it?

This year’s field of nominees is quite strong, and they’re all
well-written, but there was one (Saturn’s Children)
that I disliked. If I were looking for a good book to read, and
picked that one up because it had won an award, I would be
annoyed at the people who gave it the award. So I’m going to
rank that one behind “No Award”.

Do you want to read another one?

The others are all books I really enjoyed reading, and I
wouldn’t feel that the voters had done me a disservice in voting
for any of them. So I have to look for some other criterion to
decide how to rank them.

I’ve decided that the next factor to consider about the effect
of an award is how it might influence the writers. So the
question here is not so much, “Did you like this book better
than the others?”, but “Do you wish other writers would write
more books like this one?”

Now obviously to some extent, each book in this genre is unique
— nobody else is going to write a book exactly like The
Graveyard Book
about a child growing up
in a graveyard raised by the ghosts. But lots of people will be
writing “coming of age” narratives about a child who struggles
to overcome an unusual background and join the “normal world”.
And I will read many of them and enjoy them.

Little
Brother
(Free
download
) was the first of the books to occur to me as in
the category of something I was glad had been written but I
didn’t want to read again, but now I’m not so sure. Certainly I
don’t want another coming-of-age narrative where Linux and
Social Networking save the world, but another coming-of-age
narrative where the intrepid hero realizes that the world he’s
being educated for is wrong in important ways and fights to
change it could certainly be enjoyable.

Similarly, Zoe’s
Tale
seems like a rewrite of all the Heinlein juveniles
where the intrepid heroine saves the world and learns martial arts, but
if you think about it, it’s been updated quite a bit. Both of
Zoe’s parents do a lot of nurturing, the discovery of the
opposite sex is a lot less embarrassing, and the characters’
dealings with aliens are interesting. I don’t mind at all that
Heinlein wrote one juvenile a year (timed to appear at
Christmas) for over a decade, and if John Scalzi wants to start
doing that too, it sounds like it should make a few people’s
Christmas buying easier. Whether they
should all win Hugo awards is another question, of course.

Old adult versus Young Adult

You may have noticed that the last three books I mentioned are
all Young Adult(YA) fiction. I don’t believe in being prejudiced
about this — many of my favorite books of all time (Little
Women
to name one) would be Young Adult Fiction if they were
published today.

Anathem
is definitely not Young Adult fiction, although in a way it’s
the same kind of coming-of-age and saving the world narrative
that the YA books have. To some extent this is a disadvantage
— there really isn’t enough character and plot for a 900 page
book, and there are a number of places where this reader wished
that it had gotten the kind of editing that the YA books
did.

The acknowledgements page credits a philosophical lineage
that can be traced from Thales through Plato, Leibniz, Kant,
Gödel, and Husserl.
Most of those writers couldn’t have
survived YA editing, either, so I suppose if you enjoy this book
(and I did), you have to be glad there are editors who will
allow the kind of digressions that turn this from a 350 page
novel to a 900 page tome. I do hope someone finds a middle
ground some day, though.

So how am I going to vote?

I don’t know. Part of why I wrote this was to see if I could
figure it out. Here’s what I’m leaning to right now; I may
change my mind before I actually vote.

  • Anathem
  • Little Brother
  • Zoe’s Tale
  • The Graveyard Book
  • No Award
  • Saturn’s Children


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