Monday, June 10, 2013

A new reading challenge: The Hugos

The nominee list for the Hugo Awards is out, and I'm ready to crack my knuckles and get reading, so I'm going to give it a (limited) go.

The Hugos, which are one of the longest-established of all the speculative fiction awards,  are voted on and awarded by the members of WorldCon (the World Science Fiction Convention). Although they're often US-centric, this is becoming less true as time goes on, which can only be a good thing for the genre more widely. Many of my favourite Golden Age sci fi writers - about whom I may write a panegyric, one day - were Hugo winners, often multiply, and the Awards have a history of supplying terrific reading material.

The full list is here. I, however, am going to limit my reading to the first 4 categories: novel, novella, novelette and short story. The list is:

Best Novel
  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Blackout, Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi (Tor)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW)
Best Novella
  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
  • The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
Best Novelette
  • “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
  • “Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente ( Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
  • “In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
  • “Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire ( A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
Best Short Story
  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard ( Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
I am not starting from zero - I've already read (and reviewed on The Shake) the wonderful On a Red Station, Drifting, and I've also read Nancy Kress's After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, which I found slightly disappointing. I haven't, however, read any of the novel nominees, any of the novelettes, or any of the short stories. So there is a fair bit to get cracking on! Thankfully I have a fair while - the Hugos won't be announced until LoneStarCon (29 Aug - 2 Sept), so that gives me a bit of a window.

The rough plan is to start with the short stories -Worlds Without End has handily located free links for each one, which makes life easier! - and review them as one block late this week. As there are only three stories, I think a side by side review is not only appropriate, it's the best way to approach them.

Then I'm going to hit a couple of the novels - I'll tackle Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312 for review here, and I might cover John Scalzi's Redshirts for The Shake. I read Robinson's Mars trilogy years ago and remember enjoying it but finding it quite demanding as well (he expects you to work for your epiphanies, does Robinson!) As for Scalzi, I've read and vaguely remember enjoying his Old Man's War, but my main familiarity with him is via his hugely popular blog, Whatever. I've heard a good buzz about Redshirts though so we'll see how it stacks up.

I don't have specific timeframes for novel reviews and I may not even review all of them, depending of how exciting I find them (I often don't review things I find simply meh, rather than good, interesting, thought provoking or, on the other side, really awful). However, I'd be aiming to be done with reading the novels by end of July, to allow a month for the novelettes and the rest of the novellas.

So here we go again - shaped reading FTW! Should be fun.

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