So, the Hugo awards have come and gone for 2013. People have blogged widely about it, and all that need saying has already been said (see here for my thoughts on this year’s ‘Best Novel’ winner, Redshirts by John Scalzi, for instance). So, instead of recapping the conversation (which, to be frank, I’m a little behind the curveball in catching up on), I thought it would be more interesting to look ahead at next year’s awards, and start the conversation a little early. This way, I can hopefully convince you to check out some of the year’s best works while there’s still time to enjoy and nominate it.
I’ll work through several of the categories, those which I have any sort of opinion of, and discuss the works that I think are most impactful and important, and will, as of right now, appear on my ballot (until they’re replaced by something even more awesome between now and the time nominations are due.) And then, in the ‘Also/maybe/are these good?’ sections, I’ll list off a few choices that I haven’t read/experienced yet, but feel that they deserve to be in the conversation and will likely be considered when I do get around to them.
I’d also encourage you to join me in the comments. Tell me why I’m wrong. Tell me what you’ve read this year that resonated with you. Because, what’s the point of award season if not to encourage people to discover great new books, films, and every other story of art?
So, let’s begin in the most obvious spot:
- The Tyrant’s Law by Daniel Abraham (REVIEW) – Another addition to a series that proves Abraham is one genre’s (he publishes a fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy novel each year) most consistent and prolific authors. On top of that, The Dagger and the Coin fills a perfect niche between the sprawling politically-charged fantasy of Martin and the adventurous, 80s-throwback fantasy of Brooks.
- Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear (REVIEW) – Seriously. You like fantasy? You want fantasy to be more than a cliched, quasi-medieval broken record? Go read this series.
- The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord – A Star Trek-analogue that asks smart questions, introduces readers to genuinely likeable and interesting characters, and quietly explores genocide through the emotional journey of a survivor.
- The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch – Lynch still has it. A big step up from Red Seas Under Red Skies, and proof that he knows how to the evolve the series beyond the heist-a-book style that it appeared to be through the first two volumes.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – I’m still thinking about this one weeks after finishing it. As beautiful, melancholy, and nostalgic as anything Gaiman has written.
Also/maybe/are these good?
The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente (do short fiction collections count?), River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay, Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh, The Golen and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.
Best Professional Artist
(As always with this category, it can be difficult to tell exactly when artists are producing their work. If they finished a painting for a book cover in 2012, but the book is released in 2013, does that count?)
- Todd Lockwood – I’ve long been a Lockwood fan, but I’ve never nominated him for this award before. I felt like his work in 2013 was one of his stronger years, and I’d be happy to see this recognized. I’m particularly fond of his work for Marie Brennan’s recent novels.
- Julie Dillon – Hhngggh.
- Olly Moss – Double hhngggh.
- Yeong-Hao Han – I discovered Yeong-Hao Han through Magic: The Gathering and fell in love with the creativity, texture and emotional resonance of his work. His art for Millstone is particularly striking and thoughtful. More of his art can be found on his CG Hub page.
- Lauren Panepinto – Call me crazy, because Panepinto is, officially, the Art Director at Orbit Books, and not a ‘Professional Artist’ in the same sense as the other folk on this list, but Orbit features some of the most striking and unique covers these days and Panepinto creates many of them herself through composite imagery and photoshop trickery. I think the artistry of her contributions to the look of genre (hooded dude be-damned) deserves some recognition. Panepinto explores her process in several posts on the Orbit Books blog.
Best Fan Writer
- Kameron Hurley – Can I direct you to this article? Is that too on-the-nose?
- Foz Meadows – You might recognize her from her writing here on A Dribble of Ink. You might also recognize her from her work on Shattersnipe. What can I say? When I like a writer, I try to publish their work.
- Justin Landon – Like Foz, I surround myself with people I think are great writers. From his work on Tor.com’s re-read of Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law, to his dismantling of the Hugo Awards, to his coverage of the Nightshade fiasco, Justin’s been doing fine work of late.
- Liz Bourke – She makes me think about genre, its greatness and its failures, more than anyone else in fandom. Read this, for example.
- Myke Cole – I’m not sure if he writes prolifically enough to earn a place on the ballot, but his piece on PTSD and its relationship to military science fiction/fantasy is poignant and important to the continued growth and maturation of the genres.
Also/maybe/are these good?
Renay, Jared Shurin, Niall Alexander, Abigail Nussbaum.
Best Editor (Short Form)
- Neil Clarke – Does he need an introduction? It’s worth also pointing out Gardner Dozois and Sean Wallace for their work as editor and reprint editor at Clarkesworld. Kate Baker does wonderful work, too, but she’s the non-fiction editor, which probably doesn’t count here.
- Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Liz Gorinsky, Ann VanderMeer, and Ellen Datlow – Though they’re slow as molasses in January (I figure it’s only suitable to use cliches in a conversation about editors), it’s hard to argue that the Tor.com editorial staff aren’t publishing some of the strongest and most consistent short fiction digitally or in print. Too bad it’s difficult to determine who acquired which stories.
- Jared Shurin and Anne Perry – Can you nominate a duo? The Lowest Heaven is a sublime collection.
- Brit Mandelo, Julia Rios, and An Owomoyela – Strange Horizons continues to treat SFF fandom with more respect than any other venue, as something to be explored, treasured and analyzed, and to aid in the celebration of SFF’s diversity. Their fiction is no different and these three editors continue to published some of genre’s best stories.
Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
- Bioshock Infinite – Yeah, the gameplay is a little tired, especially the combat, but the exploration, art direction (!) and story are stick-with-ya-like-a-ladle-full-of-cinnamon.
- Star Trek Into Darkness – Somehow manages to be bigger, more energetic, smarter and more fun than its predecessor. Also, many fewer plot holes. From the opening scene, it felt like falling into good company and old friends.
Secret Hugo for Best Novel not Published in 2013, but, damnit, go read it anyway!
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger — Good golly. This is one of the best novels I’ve read this decade. I should’ve listened to my wife when she suggested it a few years ago.