Congratulations to the Hugo winners

The 2014 Hugo Award Winners have been announced, and to my astonishment, I have already read all the winners (but not all the nominees). I must be some kind of SF nerd.

Ancillary Justice, the space opera that won best novel, was one of the big surprises of my reading. I’m a fan of space opera (see Iain Banks), but this one, about an AI imbedded in a dead soldier, also did unexpected things with gender assumptions and made me think confusedly quite a bit. But it makes sense — why should we assign a sex to an artificial intelligence? Wouldn’t a gender-free mind not really care that much about the conventions of our language traditions? And wouldn’t interactions with biological beings that care very much about gender cause all kinds of interesting conflicts?

I also read one of the big losers, Vox Day. His pedestrian short story, clearly tailored to avoid the controversies that usually dog his work (there were zero women in it, so there was no opportunity for him to vent his usual bog-ignorant misogyny), was dead last. Worse, “No Award” beat it in the final runoff. I laugh schadenfreudenly.

Scalzi has a few words for the guy with the flaming sword. I agree with him.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    I have read Ancillary Justice. Much recommended. And a sequel is due in a few months.

  2. David Wilford says

    I was pleased to see the number of women who won awards too, especially the Hugo for Best Professional Artist going to Julie Dillon.

  3. Nemo says

    I disagree that Vox Day’s entry was innocuous. IIRC, it was basically about whether “elves” had souls — essentially, offering a pseudo-Catholic theological justification for racism, albeit against an imaginary race.

    I do agree that it was dull.

  4. David Wilford says

    Nemo @ 3:

    Phil Dick did a much better job of exploring the question of what makes us human in his novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.

  5. Phiknight says

    I’ve missed out on reading (especially sci-fi) for ten years, so Ancillary Justice sounds like a good way to start trying to get back into it.

  6. HappyHead says

    It is not often that you see someone actually come in sixth in a five person race. Congratulations to Mr. Day for such a difficult achievement.

  7. dannysichel says

    clearly tailored to avoid the controversies that usually dog his work (there were zero women in it, so there was no opportunity for him to vent his usual bog-ignorant misogyny

    To be fair to Mr Beale, I don’t think he wrote that story specifically so Mr Correia could nominate it for a Hugo. I think he wrote it for the same reasons that all writers write. It just so happened that Mr Correia considered this to be the best story that Mr Beale produced last year. I’m not sure if this says more about Mr Beale, or Mr Correia.

    I voted in the Hugos, and I ranked Mr Beale’s story below ‘No Award’. I did not do this because I disliked Mr Beale, or because I dislike his politics (although I dislike both); rather, I did it because Mr Beale’s story was dreadfully bad. In previous years, I have ranked many stories below ‘No Award’ for a variety of reasons: some of these were stories which are by authors who I like as individuals, some of these were stories by authors whose other works I greatly enjoyed, and some were even stories which Mr Beale has himself lambasted.

    And for the record, I acknowledge a slight glitch in my original review of Mr Beale’s story: the demon-creature was in fact responsible for the goblin raid on the monastery. This could have been shown more clearly, but I had originally chastised Mr Beale for not connecting the demon-creature and the goblin raid at all, whereas in fact he had connected them.

  8. says

    I hadn’t read fiction for years (just drifted to reading and writing nonfiction? got tired of bad fiction? found reality way weirder and cooler than anything human imagination can generate?). At the recommendation of beloved FB friends – who are also, and not coincidentally, Horde – I got the book.
    It took me a few chapters to “get it”, but get it I did. Okay, wow. WOW. This needs to be a movie like right now.

  9. dannysichel says

    iris – if it were made into a movie, how would we maintain the constant gender ambiguity?

  10. says

    “why should we assign a sex to an artificial intelligence?” I sure don’t. Sentient sawblade? Neuter. Talking fridge? Neuter. Living magma? Well, it sure ain’t mother Earth.
    I need to read more science fiction. Any of the winners have a bit of humor in it through all the serious exploration of societal issues and space?

  11. bachfiend says

    I’ve read ‘Ancillary Justice’ too. I won’t say that I loved it and would put it amongst the best science fiction books I’ve ever read. I just thought it was OK. I will read the sequel when it’s released, though, which is a recommendation of sorts.

  12. anteprepro says

    In the comments, Scalzi is asked what was wrong with Voxy’s story. He responds “a lot” and says he might go into more detail in a full-on post in the future. That might be something to keep an eye open for!

  13. says

    It is rather disturbing, how often the winner of the Hugo — [i]any[/i] Hugo — is a white male. There are few women, and very few people of color. In its 60 year history, there has never been an African American winner of the Best Novel award, for example. The Nebulas are almost as bad: In almost 50 years, only two African American writers have won Best Novel: Samuel Delaney and Octavia Butler.

    Why is that?

    The Science Fiction (and Fantasy) Awards Database

  14. David Wilford says

    GiS @ 15

    Why is that?

    If you must know, the lasting effects of structural racism in the U.S., which poisons everything. This isn’t an excuse, merely an explanation.

  15. bachfiend says

    David @ 17,

    Structural racism to the extent that African Americans have historically had poorer education given to them, with fewer resources, so the pool of literate African Americans with the ability to write a novel is much smaller.

    There shouldn’t be any reason in a perfect world for a science fiction novel by an African American author to win an award, if it’s good enough.

    The trouble is – we don’t live in a perfect world. For example, successful candidates for orchestral positions ran at around 20% female – and then the judging panels were ‘blinded’ with a screen to the auditioning candidate, and successful female candidates immediately jumped to 40%. There are some orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic springs to mind, which have extremely few female players.

    Even though the sole criterion for choosing a new member of an orchestra is ability, sex bias play(s/ed) a major influence.

    I think I’m colour and sex blind when it comes to choosing which books to read.

  16. says

    I read Ancillary Justice after it won the Nebula award. I loved it and I think it fully deserves the Hugo Ann Leckie just received for her novel.
    Has anyone read Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor yet? I hope it wins the awards for next year.

  17. pyrion says

    Sounds like a book worth reading. I am thrilled that PZ likes Iain Banks as well. He is one of my favourites (together with Peter F. Hamilton, especially the commonwealth novels). Iain Banks describes a very positive future where AIs and human like people live in peace. Look up the culture novels from Banks. Too bad that he died already.

  18. says

    I have read nothing but space opera all summer long (I’ve never really been into sci-fi before now and I just got hooked) and I cannot even tell you how absolutely excited I am that Ancillary Justice won the “triple crown” (Nebula, Arthur C Clark, Hugo).

    I’m making everyone read it. Even my mom.