Thursday, July 16, 2009

Handicapping the Hugos, 2009 Edition

Updated 8/11/09 with new "checking my work" sections to see how (in)accurate my predictions were, partially based on the actual votes.

I seem to have neglected entirely to post the 2009 Hugo nominees, showing just how far I have drifted from the SFF world since I wandered over into the Land of Accountancy. (If anyone at a reputable publisher has an interest in retrieving me, I may be able to retrace the bread crumbs.)

As I've done in past years, I'll attempt to predict the winners, using my usual mix of intense cynicism and sarcasm. It's flavored with more ignorance than usual this time out, since I basically haven't been reading short fiction the last couple of years. As always, I am not predicting what works I want to win, but the ones I think those benighted souls who call themselves Hugo voters will vote for. And, again, I'm usually wrong. I also should mention at this point that I was eligible to vote for the Hugos this year, but forgot -- meaning that I really will have no excuse for complaining if one of my favorites loses.

(Oops. I did post the nominees, and said then that I'd do something like this around now. It's nice to know I can predict myself so accurately. Speaking of inaccurate predictions, let me link to my frivolous and ill-conceived 2008 and 2007 posts on this subject.)

Best Novel

  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson (Morrow; Atlantic UK)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen; HarperVoyager UK)
  • Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
  • Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)

This is a tough category, full of well-loved writers, all represented by books that seemed to be quite popular. I suspect this one will be a tight race through all of the drops, but that those drops will be (in this order) Doctorow, Stross, and then Scalzi. I think Stephenson will squeak ahead of Gaiman in the end, aided by the Hugo voters' instinctive tropism towards SF when they have the choice, but Anathem is the one book I haven't read, so I could be wrong about its essential appeal. Still: a very strong year, even if I did have qualms about the Stross and Scalzi books.

Checking my work, 8/11: Graveyard Book did beat Anathem, but it led the whole way. But Anathem's support was weak enough that Little Brother snuck past it for second place. Wrong!

Best Novella

  • “The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
  • “The Political Prisoner” by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF Aug 2008)
  • “The Tear” by Ian McDonald (Galactic Empires)
  • “True Names” by Benjamin Rosenbaum & Cory Doctorow (Fast Forward 2)
  • “Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)

I haven't read any of these, so I'll have to guess. I still think magazine stories, particularly those in Asimov's, have the edge among Hugo voters, so I suspect it will be a race between Kress and Reed. I predict Reed will win.

Checking my work, 8/11: "Erdmann Nexus" was ahead the whole time, and won. I expect I predicted it for the utterly wrong reasons, but I'll take it. Right!

Best Novelette

  • “Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Jan 2008)
  • “The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
  • “Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008)
  • “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” by James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s Feb 2008)
  • “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)

Resnick has a story with an odd title, so I'm going to predict that he will win. It's as good a reason for a prediction as any.

Checking my work, 8/11: "Alastair Baffle" was dropped first; I was completely wrong. Wrong!

Best Short Story

  • “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008)
  • “Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick (Baen’s Universe Oct 2008)
  • “Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two)
  • “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • “From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)

I have the sense that Chiang always wins, but that's the Nebula -- he's won the last couple of times he was Hugo-nominated, but not before that. But I still think he's on a streak, and so will win this time. If he doesn't, it'll be Swanwick.

Checking my work, 8/11: I was right about Chiang, but not about Swanwick being his strongest competition; "Babel's Fall'n Glory" was the first drop. Right!

Best Related Book

  • Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan University Press)
  • Spectrum 15: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art by Cathy & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood Books)
  • The Vorkosigan Companion: The Universe of Lois McMaster Bujold by Lillian Stewart Carl & John Helfers, eds. (Baen)
  • What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon Publications)
  • Your Hate Mail Will be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press)

This category, in my mind, always goes to the book by or about the oldest writer on the most fannish topic. But there's nothing obvious along those lines this time -- there are two books of serious criticism, one of semi-serious hardly-any-criticism-at-all, a collection of art, and a collection of writings on writing by Scalzi. In that company, I think Scalzi will romp away with it -- the Mendelsohn and Kincaid books, being the most serious and least-read, will be dropped first. (If I'm wrong, it will be if the book about Bujold pulls ahead.)

Checking my work, 8/11: Scalzi did win, as I predicted, but Mendelsohn was a close second, so I was wrong about that. Right!

Best Graphic Story

  • The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle Written by Jim Butcher, art by Ardian Syaf (Del Rey/Dabel Brothers Publishing)
  • Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  • Fables: War and Pieces Written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Mark Buckingham, art by Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy, color by Lee Loughridge, letters by Todd Klein (DC/Vertigo Comics)
  • Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic Story and art by Howard Tayler (The Tayler Corporation)
  • Serenity: Better Days Written by Joss Whedon & Brett Matthews, art by Will Conrad, color by Michelle Madsen, cover by Jo Chen (Dark Horse Comics)
  • Y: The Last Man, Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores Written/created by Brian K. Vaughan, penciled/created by Pia Guerra, inked by Jose Marzan, Jr. (DC/Vertigo Comics)

That is a very weird, unfocused agglomeration of stuff, and there's no track record for this category. So I'll go for maximum cynicism and predict the Serenity product will win, partly because I found it hermetic and unreadable.

Checking my work, 8/11: I'd forgotten one of the cardinal rules of Hugos: those who already have Hugos tend to get more of them. (Phil Foglio won back-to-back Best Fan Artist awards at the beginning of his career.) And Serenity was a solid, if distant, second. Wrong!

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer, story; Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, screenplay; based on characters created by Bob Kane; Christopher Nolan, director (Warner Brothers)
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army Guillermo del Toro & Mike Mignola, story; Guillermo del Toro, screenplay; based on the comic by Mike Mignola; Guillermo del Toro, director (Dark Horse, Universal)
  • Iron Man Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, screenplay; based on characters created by Stan Lee & Don Heck & Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby; Jon Favreau, director (Paramount, Marvel Studios)
  • METAtropolis by John Scalzi, ed. Written by: Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder (Audible Inc)
  • WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director (Pixar/Walt Disney)

I've actually seen all of the movies in this category, though I haven't seen/read/heard METAtropolis...and I think I'm very like the average Hugo voter in that. The real-writer starpower behind METAtropolis will help it, but I think, in the end, Hugo voters want movies to win in this category, and they'll like WALL-E this year.

Checking my work, 8/11: The two biggest, most popular movies (Dark Knight and WALL-E) fought it out, and the more skiffy and positive one won, as I said. (Actually, Iron Man was closer to Dark Knight than DK was to WALL-E, so that's a vast oversimplification.) Right!

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • “The Constant” (Lost) Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof, writers; Jack Bender, director (Bad Robot, ABC studios)
  • Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Joss Whedon, & Zack Whedon, & Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen , writers; Joss Whedon, director (Mutant Enemy)
  • “Revelations” (Battlestar Galactica) Bradley Thompson & David Weddle, writers; Michael Rymer, director (NBC Universal)
  • “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” (Doctor Who) Steven Moffat, writer; Euros Lyn, director (BBC Wales)
  • “Turn Left” (Doctor Who) Russell T. Davies, writer; Graeme Harper, director (BBC Wales)

Doctor Horrible, all the way. But I have a horrible track record in this category, since I have never seen any of the nominees.

Checking my work, 8/11: Doctor Horrible ran away with it, as I expected. Right!

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Ellen Datlow
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Gordon Van Gelder
  • Sheila Williams

Van Gelder has won this category twice before, and Datlow has won the predecessor category. I always assume Hugo voters are completely hidebound and conservative, only very rarely doing anything new. So I suspect it will be between the two of them. And I think Ellen will win this year, partly because of The Del Rey Book last year and partly because the publication hiccup of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror reminded the voters of what Datlow has been doing and for how long.

Checking my work, 8/11: I was right about Ellen, but her strongest competition was from Stan Schmidt, which either proves the Analog voting block is still strong, or there is an undercurrent of wanting to give the editor Hugos to the longest-standing deserving editors, in some vague order. Right!

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Lou Anders
  • Ginjer Buchanan
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Beth Meacham
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Since this category has existed, it's gone to Hartwell once and Nielsen Hayden once -- again, since I assume Hugo voters shun and fear the previously un-awarded, I think it will be between the two of them. Patrick is Scalzi's editor, which I think will bring him ahead on points.

Checking my work, 8/11: It went to Hartwell rather than Nielsen Hayden -- I'd neglected to factor in that Hartwell was Editor GoH at Anticipation, and that Hugo voters will usually pick the older of two otherwise similar candidates. Wrong!

Best Professional Artist

  • Daniel Dos Santos
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Donato Giancola
  • John Picacio
  • Shaun Tan

This is one of the most conservative Hugo categories; it tends to go to the same artist for five- or ten-year stretches, broken only when the Worldcon is overseas and a favored son breaks through. This year the Worldcon is in Montreal, but none of these folks are really "favored sons" there, so I suspect it will go to the current Standard Hugo-Winning Artist, Donato Giancola.

Checking my work, 8/11: I was right, though John Picacio was a strong second; there's hope that more than one person will be able to win this award per decade. Right!

Best Semiprozine

  • Clarkesworld Magazine edited by Neil Clarke, Nick Mamatas & Sean Wallace
  • Interzone edited by Andy Cox
  • Locus edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction edited by Kathryn Cramer, Kris Dikeman, David G. Hartwell, & Kevin J. Maroney
  • Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal

The (possibly-last?) award for Best Locus will go to Locus. And it won't be close, either.

Checking my work, 8/11: This was the big upset of the night, and it seems to be a triumph of the "anybody but Locus" sentiment, since Locus was ahead until the last drop. I think the not-Locus winner was Weird Tales because of the relaunch and the 85th anniversary, but I suspect someone else would have won it this year regardless. Wrong!

Best Fanzine

  • Argentus edited by Steven H Silver
  • Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
  • Challenger edited by Guy H. Lillian III
  • The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia
  • Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima
  • File 770 edited by Mike Glyer

I'm at my most ignorant when it comes to the fan categories, so I'm often reduced to reading tea leaves. The leaves this time say that File 770 will win again.

Checking my work, 8/11: I'm vastly happy for John, but this might re-ignite the "what is a fanzine" wars; Electric Velocipede is a different kind of publication than its competitors, and it ran away handily with this category -- possibly because it attracted Hugo voters who usually didn't vote in this category. It was ahead the whole time, but I'll claim half-credit, since File 770 came in second. Wrong!

Best Fan Writer

  • Chris Garcia
  • John Hertz
  • Dave Langford
  • Cheryl Morgan
  • Steven H Silver

Scalzi is out of contention, so Langford is once again the fanwriter to beat. Being cynical and prone to assuming the most conservative/lazy tendencies of the Hugo voters as I am, that means I'm predicting no one will beat him.

Checking my work, 8/11: I was wrong, and good for Cheryl. She was ahead the whole time (it was one of those years, I guess), and beat the mighty Langford without much trouble. Wrong!

Best Fan Artist

  • Alan F. Beck
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Sue Mason
  • Taral Wayne
  • Frank Wu

In recent years, Frank Wu pretty much wins this category when he's in it; so I'm going to say that he'll do so again this year.

Checking my work, 8/11: I had a brief scare when I realized that I predicted against a Worldcon GoH winning his category -- I'd forgotten about Taral Wayne -- but I was right in the end. Right!

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Aliette de Bodard*
  • David Anthony Durham*
  • Felix Gilman
  • Tony Pi*
  • Gord Sellar*

*(Second year of eligibility)

I'm embarassed to admit that I don't know three of those names. (Probably the same three that you don't recognize, either.) Pi is Canadian, which may help him, and Sellar is also Canadian, though of the living-somewhere-else-right-now variety, which may not help as much. But I suspect that this will be a battle between the two names most of us have heard of -- Gilman and Durham. (Though I'm amused that Durham, who has been published since 1998 and whose first novel came out from a big publisher in 2001, is eligible for a "new writer" award.) Durham's book is bigger and more crowd-pleasing, so I'm going to predict that he will win.

Checking my work, 8/11: It was Durham in the end, though he didn't run away with it as I expected, and it was de Bodard that was his strongest competition. Right!

And those are my predictions -- come back here in about a month, when I'll post again to explain exactly how I got all of them wrong.

Checking my work, 8/11: Final score: 9-7, which I believe is better than previous years, though still probably wasn't worth wagering any decent sum of money on.

Listening to: Midwest Dilemma - Francoise
via FoxyTunes


Datlow said...

No way in hell (but thanks for the, I guess, support ;-) )

Matt said...

I still don't get the Durham love. His book has a 300 page prologue. It's not a bad book, I just don't understand why that's what's interesting and celebrated by those in the genre.

Time to put on my grumpy outsider hat I guess.

Adam Whitehead said...

Amongst the books I would actually quite like to see Stross or Scalzi win, so that Worldcon-goers might at least be inspired to stop nominating them every year. I suspect we'll see Stephenson get it though.

In the TV category DOCTOR WHO has to be a strong contender, although it would be nice for Davies to get it rather than four-in-a-row for Moffat. I gather the more hardcore SF fans who make up Worldcon's audience have not been so impressed with BSG's ending, which will likely render them less well-disposed to any of its episodes (although that particular episode is excellent). Personally I think LOST should get it, as that episode - the best in the show's history - is really the point at which it finally stopped teasing the mainstream audience and outed itself as a hardcore SF time travel show and proud of it.

On the movie side of things I think it will be a Dark Knight/WALL-E face-off, although I quite liked Hellboy 2.

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