The 2016 Hugos


Man, they’re just torturing puppies. The Sad/Rabid/Pathetic Puppy slate got repudiated again by giving awards to people who earned them.

The winner of the best novel was The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. This book is not light reading: three different narrators gradually coming together in a complex fantasy story set on a world with frequent apocalyptic geological catastrophes, held together by by wizards who focus on calming seismic events…or in some cases, triggering them. This is a story with a lot of hard detail and psychological nuance. It deserves this award.

The best novella (and for me, it literally was — this was my favorite SF story of the past year) went to Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. This was classic hard SF — humans live in space, engage in interstellar travel, and meet alien species, some of whom want to kill us. And at the same time, it doesn’t erase 90% of the human species by turning starfarers into an American monoculture of endless variations on Captain Kirk.

Both of those are written by black women. That has got to sting the Puppies, who hate “SJWs”, which is actually a code phrase for “doesn’t think white men necessarily deserve all the things”. There’s also no way to call these token awards — these were stunningly good books.

Most of the rest of the nominees I hadn’t read — especially that very popular “No Award” that seemed to beat out offerings from Castalia House. Of the ones I did read or saw, I did not much care for The Martian by Andy Weir, which won best long form dramatic presentation, although I will admit that the book was a fast-paced page turner, and the movie was slick. I just objected to an engineering wish-fulfillment fantasy presented as science. That one is going to be long forgotten while people will still be watching Mad Max: Fury Road. I noticed that one episode of Jessica Jones also won best short form dramatic presentation.

The best thing, though, is that when awards are given on merit, rather than racial and gender bias, you start to seen great new voices being appreciated.

NK Jemisin’s acceptance speech is worth reading. For completely different reasons, Vox Day’s weird rationalizations are also worth reading, to see the depth to which the puppies will sink. He calls Jemisin a half-savage, claims her win was primarily a vote against the Puppies, claims credit as kingmaker for The Martian’s win (it was a very popular movie and book, you know, without Theodore Beale’s “help”), and declared that coming in second place was a great victory. He also comes right out and says that the goal was to burn the Hugos.


  1. says

    YES! The Fifth Season was an excellent read, and I can’t express just how much I love Binti. Binti is one of the best, most captivating stories I have read in a very long time, and I have recommended it far and wide.

  2. Becca Stareyes says

    I’m just reminded of the scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the Grinch figures out that he can’t steal the Christmas Spirit from the Whos and decides to return all their stuff.

    Except Day seems either unable or unwilling to admit that at this point, he can’t ruin the Hugos, he can just be a pain in the neck that everyone works around.

  3. says

    I just want to say: Chuck Tingle’s response to the racist/sexists’ trolling was awesome; I wish he had won something. I bought a few of his books just to support him and … Mini-review: they are as “out there” as they sound. He must be a really interesting person.

  4. marcoli says

    Anything to make the sad puppies sad is a good thing. The sound of their gnashing teeth and rending of garments in despair is a happy noise.

    You mention how irksome it is when highly sciencey sci fi movies do things that are very improbable. I get that experience too, with The Martian and also with Gravity. Funny how that makes me get all bent out of shape. But of course when pure sci fi movies do crazy impossible things like explosion sounds in space (and don’t get me started about interstellar travel), we all just accept it without a twitch.

  5. Artor says

    Hmm, I started in on Fifth Season, but I was distracted and it was dense, so I set it aside. I guess I’ll pick it up again when I can pay attention. And I guess if Jemisin is half-savage, then Vox Day must be completely savage?

  6. Jake Harban says

    What? You mean for two years in a row, white men have lost the exclusive right to receive one particular award for their work even when they don’t deserve it? What horrible oppression! When will white men ever catch a break?

    Warning: This comment contains excessive quantities of sarcasm which may be hazardous to certain people.

  7. says

    The Martian and Gravity have a lot in common: both well-made, optimistic, and constructed on a foundation of can-do engineering know-how…and they both shit the bed on the science (The Martian, literally so).

  8. A Masked Avenger says

    PZ, Beale has added a new post which is pretty epic for its blatant racism, and your link took me there first. Only after I read it did I hit the post you were talking about, which cleared up much confusion. You might want to direct link instead.

    In the Hugo post he’s doing the usual reframing one sees from his ilk. His use of the phrase “half savage” is an homage to… himself. Calling her that is basically how he got kicked out of the SFWA, and he just wants to double down on that, in passing like.

  9. says

    I am sad that Chuck Tingle got no awarded. That man is a national treasure and the only good thing VOXMAN has ever done, wholly unintentionally, was give Tingle a larger audience.

    Fury Road is better but the bad science in the Martian isn’t why. The golden globes and I might be alone on this but I consider The Martian a comedy; there’s a strong aura of absurdity that permeates every frame of the film. It’s seems beside the point to worry about science when the film itself is only cares about SCIENCE!!!

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I was pleased to hear that Gaiman accepted his award with a tinge of embarrassment at all the shite the Puppies throw a the Hugos.
    to ramble: I’m currently rereading his American Gods in anticipation of the upcoming AMC adaptation with his participation. It is nice to know that the author I’m fannish about is also a reasonable person.
    I still hope next years Hugos will award ATBITS (look it up) for Best Novel. yay CJA (look it up).

  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I’d like to coin a TLA of my own. LIU (as in Look It Up). For when I habitually throw around acronyms that I assume are universally understood.
    oops my arrogance is showing BRB

  12. says

    The winner of the best novel was The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. This book is not light reading: three different narrators gradually coming together in a complex fantasy story set on a world with frequent apocalyptic geological catastrophes, held together by by wizards who focus on calming seismic events…or in some cases, triggering them. This is a story with a lot of hard detail and psychological nuance. It deserves this award.

    I just finished The Obelisk Gate. I wanted to yell and shout when it was over. Gimme more!!!!
    But now I need to reread The Fifth Season

  13. says

    Beale’S “Victory” post is priceless. It’s like there’s no possible result where he wouldn’t have claimed victory. It’s worse than the Texas Sharpshooter: Beale looks at random holes in the wall and paints bull’s eyes around Every. Single. One of them and declares victory.

  14. says

    If John Wright wins an award for anything other than the category “overblown boring crap that’s written in the tone of the creepy guy in your gaming club that you avoided because he could pontificate for hours without drawing a breath” it’d be a huge injustice. I actually read a couple of his books and (because of some very positive reviews) kept going in hope they’d get better – and going, and going, and going. The hugos need something lower than “no award” like maybe “you have to be kidding me”

  15. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 14:
    The hugos need something lower than “no award” like… the ignobles.

  16. Ganner says

    I started reading comments on a few Vox Day articles. Good lord I feel like I need a shower. Those people are downright scary.

  17. DLC says

    Q: why should I give a toss what Teddy Beale thinks or writes about anything ?
    I’d sooner stare at a puddle of Lark’s vomit and try to make sense of it.
    Congratulations to the two top winners. I have not had the money for new books for a long time, but they sound like interesting reads.

  18. Ganner says

    Seriously, for all the shit I’d read about Vox Day and the alt-right, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw over there.

  19. says

    I read a bit of Vox’ “hugo review” and was struck by this:

    Observe that after only two years, we already have them voting almost entirely in reaction to us, changing and complicating their rules, and awarding SJWs instead of merit in most categories

    That’s pretty funny. After having been thrown out of SFWA and beaten like a tambourine for 2 years, Vox (who is clearly unbiassed!) says the hugos awarded “SJWs instead of merit” So, he’s saying his editorial work for Castalia actually merits recognition? If he wasn’t such a sad anklebiter he’d have a future in comedy. OK, if he was funny and wasn’t such a sad anklebiter he’d have a future in comedy.

  20. A Masked Avenger says

    @Marcus, #19:

    Observe that after only two years, we already have them voting almost entirely in reaction to us, changing and complicating their rules, and awarding SJWs instead of merit in most categories

    This is the essence of troll. “Practically all of their effort is spent reacting to my shite! I’m sig-NIFICANT! You may not like me, but by god you can’t ignore me!

    Congratulations to Theodore Beale for achieving, at great effort, what a piece of shit achieves effortlessly by floating in a punch bowl.

  21. cubist says

    Haters gonna hate; griefers gonna grief; Vox Day gonna VD.

    As A Masked Avenger noted, calling Jemisin “half savage” is a reprise of what got VD expelled from Science Fiction Writers of America.

    For some years now, VD has been portraying himself as a master of “5th generation warfare”, who arranges matters so that his ultimate victory is assured, no matter how the ‘enemy’ responds. Exactly what differentiates VD’s version of “5th generation warfare” from just automatically asserting “See? I won!” in all situations, is unclear.

    As for VD’s risible they voted for the stuff we recommended! schtick, anybody who followed the discussions at File770 last year will recognize that as the “I’m a kingmaker! really, i am!” tactic which many commenters noted as one of VD’s likely gambits when he continued to troll the Hugo Awards. Yes, “when”, because nobody at File770 seriously considered that VD would let a trivial thing like getting No Awarded into his constituent atoms, get in the way of being an asshole on as large a scale as he could manage.

    Basically, The VD Show has gone into reruns.

  22. Tethys says

    Reading VD’s angry screeds always impresses me with the Simone Biles level dishonest mental gymnastics he goes through to reach bizarre and unsupported conclusions. He quotes Neil Gaiman at length and considers him “classy”, yet somehow fails to notice that Neil’s quote calls him and all the other puppies “sad losers”.

    I think Chuck Tingle should get an special achievement Hugo for most creative use of social media category; burning Sarcastic Jousting Wit.

  23. Rob Bos says

    I would say that The Martian, while it did get some things wrong, hardly “shit the bed” on the science. It was a highly optimistic adventure-thriller of a type we don’t see much of today, and while it took some shortcuts, Andy Weir obviously put a lot of effort and love into getting things as right as he was personally able. What mistakes were made, I think were made in good faith, and that buys a lot of forgiveness from me. I mean, for instance, the windstorm thing was ridiculous, but Weir is up front about that.

    I don’t think it deserves that level of derision.

  24. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 23:
    I think the comment about “shit the bed” was meant to be taken as a literal reference to a scene in the movie where Damon fertilized his garden bed with shit, for fertilizer.
    At least that’s how I took it.
    Martian had a few [literally] flaws, but it did not present fauxscience for dramatic effect. I still appreciated as a ‘plausibility’ of the first human mission to Mars.
    Gosh, yes I am a fan, presenting unsolicited endorsement.

  25. Rogue Scientist says

    @10 Neil Gaiman is an incredible author, and in my humble opinion American Gods is his best work.
    Since it took me a nonzero amount of effort to find it, for anyone interested ATBITS is All The Birds In The Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (which I am now going to check out).

    @23 @24 PZ really doesn’t seem to like optimistic space fiction (my theory is he got a telescope dropped on him as a baby), so keep that in mind when he talks about what he likes.

  26. screechymonkey says

    I guess sometimes it pays not to know too much about a subject. I was able to enjoy The Martian. The idea that Fury Road was a better film is strange to me; it’s a well-executed example of its genre, and full marks for having a female protagonist, but you have to really, really, really like guns and fights and cars and guns and guns.

  27. johnmarley says

    I didn’t see either “Gravity” or “The Martian”, so I can’t comment on them. Re: Neil Gaiman: “American Gods” was pretty good, but I like a lot of his other stuff better. “Anansi Boys” and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” come immediately to mind. “All the Birds in the Sky” was okay. “Binti” was incredible. I’m only about a quarter of the way through “The Fifth Season” but is really good so far. Vox Day is an asshole.

  28. Rowan vet-tech says

    The 5th Season is probably my favorite book now. I’m about halfway through the Obelisk Gate and I recommend Jemisin to EVERYONE whenever people ask me what I’m reading.

  29. Matt Cramp says

    What’s funny to me is that Vox Day mostly made the Hugos more notable, through the mechanism “George R. R. Martin is talking about it and if we run a story about what the creator of Game of Thrones cares about we’ll get so many hits”. The narrative has been, for the last two years, these “Rabid Puppies” are causing controversy but they were ineffective because The Three Body Problem/The Fifth Season won, which are both pretty good sci-fi and the kind of recommendation people will trust in the future. Vox Day’s actions got N. K. Jemisin in the paper for writing an excellent book, when she otherwise probably wouldn’t have. Vox Day’s actions allowed the Hugos to present themselves as an award that consistently makes good decisions – maybe it won’t always award the “best” sci-fi of the year, but as you can see, mainstream press, it can be trusted to award high-quality books.

    The irony would be delicious if the dish wasn’t seasoned with fresh white supremacy.

  30. taco_emoji says

    Completely unsurprised that NKJ won, her Inheritance trilogy was pretty incredible. Excited to get into Broken Earth!

  31. Mobius says

    I’ve placed a hold on Jemisin’s book at the Oklahoma Virtual Library and will load it up on my Kindle when it becomes available. I did download Jemisin’s first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and so far it is quite good. Very well written and an interesting plot.

    Kudos to her.

    BTW, according to Wikipedia “Broken Earth” is the first of a trilogy. The second book, The Obelisk Gate, is due out this month.

  32. rrhain says

    I’m gonna have to say you have it backwards, Professor. Well, you probably have it correct…everybody is going to remember Mad Max…but it won’t be because of it being a good movie. Instead, they’ll remember it because stuff blew up.

    Me, I’ve already forgotten most of it. Something to do with Charlize Theron going home across the blasted desert of Australia but other than that, stuff blew up. How remarkably efficient all those internal combustion engines were to be able to travel that far that fast. There was a guy in it, right? And the point of him was….?

    But the Martian? That one I’m going to remember. And I saw it with a good friend of mine who actually works for JPL on the Mars projects (she’s the first woman to lay tracks on Mars) and builds robots for space exploration. And it was fun to hear her sigh when they showed the cars (“Rubber wheels on Mars?!”) But to pooh-pooh engineering as “not science” is the same mistake as claiming applied physics isn’t really science or that applied math isn’t really math. Engineering is the application of science to a particular task. You may not necessarily be developing a new theory, but you need to understand the science in order to actually use it in novel ways.

    After all, most science fiction isn’t about science, either. Most events in Star Trek that require activation of the Doubletalk Generators are engineering problems (“How do we change the gravitational constant of the universe using only the main deflector dish, the holodeck, and some earwax from Wesley Crusher?”) And yet, it’s “science fiction” because it’s in space. I don’t see much of what I would call “science” (testing hypotheses to develop theories) in science fiction…just application of science to situational problems.

    And that’s engineering.

    But to say it “shit the bed” has me asking: How? Yeah, there are some blatantly obvious things (the storm being the most obvious one), but what more is it that has put you off? Especially compared to Mad Max’s use of hooking up some random person as a human dialysis machine? Are we talking some literary equivalent of the “uncanny valley”? The closer you get to having an accurate representation, the more glaring the discrepancies become?