07 September 2018

The 2018 Hugo Awards: Results and Final Thoughts

Unlike last year, I was able to watch the livestream of the Hugo ceremony on YouTube as it went out. The ceremony was 8 to 10pm on a Sunday night... California time! Which meant I was watching it from 11pm to 1am. Thankfully I had a week to go before the semester started. I really enjoyed getting to watch the livestream. The ceremony isn't super-elaborate (at least this year, most of the finalists were read out by the MC himself), but it is really charming to watch the people come up and accept these awards. It's so obvious that most of them are but fellow fans, and receiving a Hugo is a mind-blowing experience for them... even if they've done it before! Lynne M. Thomas was bawling as she came up to receive the Hugo Award for Best Editor (Short Form), even though she had already received the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine earlier that night with composure.

Also it was pretty awesome that they got Felicia Day in to present the first-ever Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book. I also really enjoyed Professor Palmer's speech about the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

I guess because of how excited some people are to win, it does make me a little grumpy when finalists not only don't show up, but don't even send a proxy to accept the award for them. Like, I guess it doesn't surprise me that Major Hollywood Directors don't show up, but the lack of turnout in some less A-list categories is grumble inducing.

So what did I think of the results? Just some brief thoughts here:

Category What Won Where I Ranked It What I Ranked #1 Where It Placed
Best Related Work No Time to Spare
2nd Iain M. Banks 4th
This marks Ursula Le Guin's second year in a row winning Best Related Work, and it is obviously as bittersweet as reading the book itself was. I'm glad to see it win, and I'm not surprised that the very academic Iain M. Banks landed down in fourth. I also predicted Le Guin would win, so I'm smug that I'm right. I am pretty surprised that Zoë Quinn's Gamergate book, Crash Override, placed in second (she actually got more first-place votes than Le Guin, but Le Guin won thanks to the instant run-off voting), though; I just didn't see it as being that relevant to sf or that good.

I did see the Worldcon 75 restaurant guide in the longlist, down in 10th. Thank God it didn't make the ballot. Do try to be serious, people.

Best Graphic Story Monstress: The Blood 7th Black Bolt: Hard Time 4th
This seems to be a category, judging by last year and this, where I and the typical Hugo voter are not much in accord. I placed Monstress at the bottom of my ballot, below No Award, but it won first place, and according to the vote breakdown, had a pretty strong lead throughout all rounds of voting. I did, however, predict this, claiming either Monstress or Saga (which placed second) would win, and I knew that I would be in a minority for ranking Black Bolt first.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Wonder Woman 5th Get Out 2nd
Again, very much not my choice, but also not a very surprising win; I said this category would be won by Wonder Woman or The Shape of Water. The latter placed fifth, though, which perhaps shows how much I actually know!

In this category, I'm more interested in the longlist; The Expanse Season Two, which I nominated, came in twelfth in nominations, so it was pretty far from landing on the ballot. Other items of interest to me on the longlist include Logan (7th),  Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (9th), The Good Place Season One (10th), The Handmaid's Tale (11th), and Spider-Man: Homecoming (15th). I am pretty baffled that Blade Runner 2049 beat all of them onto the ballot, to be honest, but it was not beloved by voters, and landed pretty decisively in last place.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) The Good Place: "The Trolley Problem"
4th Star Trek: Discovery: "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad"
Wow, I did not see this coming! Who knew The Good Place had so many fans among Hugo voters? I knew Discovery wouldn't fare well (too divisive), but I also said, "This category will definitely be won by 'USS Callister,' but I couldn't even begin to guess how the ranking will break down after that." It turns out I should have said "before that," because "USS Callister" ended up in second, not first.

Again, the longlist is interesting. I nominated two Expanse episodes myself, one of which was in eighth, the other of which didn't land in the top fifteen, while another Expanse episode was just off the ballot in seventh. Serialized shows lead to diffused nominations when it comes to single episodes. I am still surprised "Twice Upon a Time" was the Doctor Who story to make the ballot (I nominated "Extremis," and also "Thin Ice" was in 13th). Also, a Star Trek fanfilm somehow garnered enough nominations to land in tenth. Bah.

Best Short Story "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™" 1st "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™" 1st
This is the only category this year where my first place choice accorded with that of the Hugo voters. And my last place choice did, too! But I did not see this coming. So obviously I'm happy. Rebecca Roanhorse also took away the Campbell Award for Best New Writer; as she came up to the podium, I predicted that she would do a land acknowledgement before her acceptance speech, and I was correct.

Best Novelette "The Secret Life of Bots" 6th "Extracurricular Activities" 4th
So, I didn't rate this story very much (I briefly considered placing it below No Award!), but I found Suzanne Palmer's acceptance speech utterly charming. She recounted a dream that she would topple off the stage and accidentally impale an sf luminary with her Hugo rocket! So after watching her speech, I was quite pleased she won, as it obviously meant so much to her. This was kind of a weak category in my opinion, so I can't really get worked up over the placement of "Extracurricular Activities."

Best Novella All Systems Red 2nd "And Then There Were (N-One)" 2nd
I know this outcome accords pretty well with my own choices, but it's probably the one I'm the most disappointed about, because I so wanted "(N-One)" to win! At least River of Teeth, which was the worst thing I read this year, ranked last.

Best Young Adult Book Akata Warrior 4th In Other Lands 3rd
This was a strong category, so I was still pleased with this outcome. My main surprise is that La Belle Sauvage placed dead last-- I thought mediocre comebacks by once great authors were the kind of things Hugo voters ate up! Even I ranked La Belle Sauvage above The Art of Starving, but the electorate as a whole did the opposite.

Best Novel The Stone Sky 5th New York 2140 6th
Wow, ouch, I was totally out of sync on this one too. At least Scalzi didn't win it! (He did come in second, though.) Still, the first two Broken Earth books are achievements even if I didn't much like the third, and Jemisin is now the first person to ever win the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row (and one of only three people ever to win it three times). I was glad she made it to the ceremony (I don't think she did when she won the last two years), because she gave an excellent speech about what was at stake for her and for the way people argue over what the genre ought to be.

Like last year, I No Awarded Best Series because I don't believe the category should exist,* and like last year, it was won by Lois McMaster Bujold, this time for her "World of the Five Gods" series. I thought she would win again. But who will win next year now that she's out of the picture? I was surprised by how much File 770 won Best Fanzine; it had the most decisive victory in the entire competition, all this for a site where some guy aggregates news and purposefully incites fan drama. But I guess I do read it pretty regularly, and I don't most of the other finalists, so there you go, I'm part of the problem.

Each year's Hugo competition is organized by a different group, as each one is done by whoever wins the bid to host that year's Worldcon. With that in mind, I did, on a mechanical level, find voting in this year's awards much less better than last year's. Worldcon 75 had a terrific piece of voting software; Worldcon 76's was less user-friendly (I found re-ranking cumbersome). The information on the website was often slow to update, if at all; I'm not sure if the Hugos page was ever updated to reveal the location of the ceremony livestream, for example. The real difference in quality was the "voter's packet"-- Worldcon 75's packet was a thing of beauty, so well-organized and clear and transparent. Jo Van Ekeren, who assembled 75's packet, left behind a list of suggestions for subsequent packets. A huge of number of her innovations were not implemented again this year: file properties were not set properly on the e-copies, files were not named consistently, separate packets were not created for different file types, and so on. I know Nicholas Whyte, who administered the 2017 Hugos, will administer the 2019 ones as well; hopefully he brings Jo back on board, because she was sorely missed.

I again enjoyed the experience of reading to vote in the Hugos, though I wish the quality of the works read had been a bit better, like last year. That Lodestar Award, though! Fatherhood might eat up my free time, but I really hope I can do it again next year. Once you do something three times, it becomes a tradition, and then you have to keep doing it.

* Other categories I No Awarded out of principle were both Best Editor categories (because editing is too invisible to be successfully rewarded in a popular fan award), Best Semiprozine (because what the hell is a semiprozine), and both Best Artist categories (because the difference between fan and professional artists is poorly delineated). I support efforts to reform or remove these categories, though I cannot vote as I am not an attending member of WSFS. Specifically, I think Best Editor (Short Form), and Best Semiprozine should be replaced by Best Anthology/Collection and Best Magazine.

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