Hugo Reading Progress

2024 Hugo Awards Progress
30 / 57 items read/watched (52.63%)
3375 / 7751 pages read (43.54%)
495 / 1360 minutes watched (36.40%)

07 August 2020

The 2020 Hugo Awards: Results and Final Thoughts

The timing of this year's Hugo ceremony was such that I couldn't watch the livestream: 7pm Eastern time overlaps too much with my toddler's bedtime routine! By all accounts, it sounds like I made the right call in any case, given that the ceremony ran over three hours instead of the usual two-ish. One would have thought that pre-recording most of the ceremony (as has to be done in "these unprecedented times") would have made it easier to keep the ceremony to time, not harder. Have Worldcon chairs ever had to apologize for their Hugo ceremony before? Between this and last year's Hugo losers' party fiasco, it seems like George R.R. Martin might be more trouble than he's worth as an ambassador for the World Science Fiction Society.

Also if you want a cool visual representation of how ranked choice voting works, I recommend this thread on Twitter by someone named Martin P.

So what did I think of the results, and how did they compare to my own votes? Just some brief thoughts here:

Category What Won Where I Ranked It What I Ranked #1 Where It Placed
Best Novel A Memory Called Empire 1st A Memory Called Empire 1st
I believe this is the first time in my four years of voting where the thing I voted into first place for Best Novel came first! (It was the only such category this year.) So naturally I am pleased because my favorite won, and also pleased because I called it: "My guess is that Memory Called Empire will win; it has the slightly-literary-and-set-in-space-but-not-too-weird tone that I think appeals to Hugo voters." I had been surprised and disappointed that Ann Leckie's Raven Tower wasn't on the ballot, since I wanted an excuse to read it; it turns out that it did have enough votes to make the ballot, but Leckie declined nomination, allowing The City in the Middle of the Night (which I ranked second but came in fifth) on.

Best Novella This Is How You Lose the Time War 3rd The Deep 6th
I enjoyed this; as I said in my ballot post, I would have happily seen anything in my top three in this category win, and I predicted that either it or Ted Chiang's "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom" would win. Chiang came in fifth, though, so I'm not such a savant! I am bummed but not surprised that The Deep languished down in sixth.

Best Novelette Emergency Skin 4th "For He Can Creep" 4th
I am both surprised and not surprised by this outcome. Surprised because Emergency Skin was not great; not surprised because Hugo votes love rewarding people who already won Hugos with more of them for substandard work. This was a weak category this year, though, so I find it hard to get worked up about it. (The work I placed sixth did come in sixth, though, so I wasn't the only one who found it obscure.)

Best Short Story "As the Last I May Know" 7th No Award --
In my notes on the winner, I wrote, "it is overall banal and obvious and unaffecting, and I am surprised it was published, much less nominated for a Hugo." Well, now I have to revise that to "much less won a Hugo"! Clearly I am out of step on this category, which I No Awarded because nothing really struck me as award-worthy. I look forward to reading Clarke's Best Science Fiction of the Year for 2019 and seeing if he found more worthy short fiction than the Hugo nominators.

Best Related Work 2019 John W. Campbell Award Acceptance Speech 7th The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein 5th
One of my Hugo pet peeves is when Worldcon members award something that happened at Worldcon, but it clearly is not a pet peeve of the wider membership. I do find it funny that there's a group of people (mostly on Twitter) who complain that WSFS is full of sexist racist dinosaurs. Perhaps it is... but who do they think is voting for Hugo Awards for things like this and AO3, other than WSFS members? The Heinlein book deserved better, but judging by this and last year, nuanced discussions of Golden Age sf figures are clearly out of fashion.

Best Graphic Story or Comic LaGuardia: A Very Modern Story of Immigration 3rd Paper Girls 6 4th
This category should be cancelled, in my opinion. Hugo voters have a strong preference for mediocre comics written by people who have won Hugos for prose work, and by and large, the best in contemporary sf comics is not making the ballot, and when it does make the ballot, not winning. The longlist shows, for example, that two different Seanan McGuire comics ranked eighth and eleventh, and I refuse to believe Spider-Gwen and Nightcrawler were among the form's best work for 2019. Thank God we were spared Questionable Content, inexplicably down in thirteenth!

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Good Omens 6th Russian Doll Season One
Of course.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) The Good Place: "The Answer"
2nd Watchmen: "This Extraordinary Being" 5th
Somehow the good Watchmen episode on the ballot came in fifth, and the bad one second. But the Hugo voters did agree with me that the 2019 Doctor Who New Year's special deserved to come in last.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book Catfishing on CatNet 3rd Riverland 4th
Catfishing was one of three books I thought might win this category, because Hugo voters love rewarding previous winners, and Catfishing was a sequel to a Hugo-winning short story. I also knew it wouldn't be Riverland, and indeed, it languished down in fourth. Minor Mage had a nice second place showing, at least. I do feel that anyone looking to the Lodestar as a guide for the best in YASF is going to find a very eclectic bunch.

As always the reading experience was a bit of a mixed bag; Gideon the Ninth (which I ranked sixth for Best Novel but came in third) nearly made my whole reading process stall out before it even began! But I did get to read and watch some great stuff I wouldn't have gotten around to for a long time, if ever: Russian Doll, both stories from Exhalation, "For He Can Creep," This Is How You Lose the Time War, The Deep, The Light Brigade, The City in the Middle of the Night, A Memory Called Empire, Becoming Superman, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, Minor Mage, Riverland. I was pretty disappointed in short fiction this year, but at least all that is, well, short. Much worse to slog through a bunch of bad novels, as I have done in years past!


  1. There's been some discussion recently of separating out Best Nonfiction Work and Best Related Work into their own categories so that works of scholarship and such can still be recognised without being drowned out by the insular fandom practices you mentioned (and which I also complained about on Twitter).

    Your point about Best Graphic Story or Comic is well taken, though I'm not sure what to do there--I agree conceptually that the category should exist, but (as you say) the Worldcon membership as a whole is hardly living up to its intended spirit. :/

    1. Hm, what would a non-nonfiction (!) Related Work category look like? Even though it's been won by such works two years in a row now, they're overall rare. Looking at this year's longlist, just two of the fifteen aren't easily categorized as nonfiction. I guess there would be some space for art books to get it again. (Of course, nominating practices would be different if the category was differently defined.)