Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Best Novel Hugo 2012 nominations

I've just submitted my nominations for the 2012 Best Novel Hugo. They are:

It's probably not a very surprising list, given what I've said here previously, but I'm quite pleased with it. If these were the five books that appeared on the final ballot, I'd have real difficulty choosing a winner. That may seem like a statement of the obvious, but it isn't; in a different year, I would have been very happy to nominate Grail by Elizabeth Bear or Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, knowing full well that I wouldn't vote for them to win.

It's also a list that makes clear many of my preferences, and I suppose that's as it should be. There's more science fiction than fantasy, and the fantasy I did include -- Among Others and Mechanique -- isn't very traditional. Mechanique in particular is pretty genre-bendy (io9 called it "a steampunk/post-apocalyptic/magical-realist/paranormal adventure"). If I were hell-bent on classifying it, I'd probably rather call it weird fiction than fantasy.

Four of the five novels on my list are stand-alone, and the only one that isn't (The Quantum Thief) is the first book in a series; none of its sequels have appeared yet. I've also veered towards the literary end of the genre(s). That doesn't surprise me, but I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

If these were the five novels on the final ballot, I have some guesses about how the voting would go. Interestingly, at least to me, they're pretty much all based on my perception of the Hugo voting community, and not the novels themselves. 

I'd pick Embassytown to win -- I think Hugo voters like China Mieville, and they tend to prefer science fiction over fantasy. Among Others would have to be in with a chance, though, thanks to its loving nostalgia for the science fiction genre. Nostalgia was a prominent feature on last year's Hugo ballot, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of Hugo voters have reading histories quite similar to the protagonist in Among Others.

I don't see any way that Soft Apocalypse could win, mainly because it's quite confronting. My feeling is that books like that, no matter how good, don't win popularity contests. Probably Mechanique faces similar difficulties. The Quantum Thief could be a bit of a dark horse. Normally I'd call it unlikely, because it's a demanding read. But it is rich with science fictional ideas, and that is something that I suspect the Hugo readership likes.

Anyway, enough speculating about a list that may correlate only weakly with the actual final ballot. The official announcement of the nominees is a month from today, on April 7th. What do you reckon the odds are that George R. R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons will make an appearance? And that it'll go on to win? And that I'll be grumpy about it?

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