Books You Won’t See at the Hugo Awards

So apparently the Hugos suck this year, thanks to an organized voting campaign. See Patrick Nielsen Hayden on the voting campaign, which seems to be in part a product of internal disputes within the field (various right wing people upset that f/sf isn’t ‘their’ field any more, and belongs to teh_women/teh_gay/teh_PoC) and in part overspill from Gamergate. I don’t know many of the slate of nominees put up by the campaign, with the minor exception of Marko Kloos (whose self-published book I read and thought was unexceptionable military SF with the usual odd politics), and the unlovely John C. Wright (whose work and political opinions remind me of Gene Wolfe if Gene Wolfe had been subjected to an involuntary lobotomy). I did read and like Katherine Addison’s (Sarah Monette’s) The Goblin Emperor (although I liked her Melusine books even more) but apart from that I don’t have much advice to prospective Hugo voters on what they should vote for. What I do have is opinions on other work that didn’t get nominated but that seemed to me to be worth reading, and I hope that CT readers have too. One of the important functions of awards is to point readers towards good work that they otherwise might have missed. Since the Hugo Awards won’t be doing much of that this year, other people should do what they can.

Best Novel

2014 was in my opinion a pretty good year for novels – much better than 2013. Novels I especially liked.

Jo Walton – My Real Children. Probably not in need of much publicity given Walton’s previous Hugo win, but really, really good. January saw the publication of The Just City which is even better (but obviously was not eligible for awards). It’s one of those books that sounds as if it can’t possibly work – Plato’s Republic as SF, Greek gods, Socrates-as-muops, robots evolving consciousness – but does, gloriously. It’s also – like Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty a book which reads as though it was purposely written to hit Crooked Timber’s sweet spot. And you’ll be hearing more about it here.

William Gibson – The Peripheral. I’ve written about it already here – this may be my favorite science fiction novel published last year.

Greg van Eekhout – California Bones. Again, I’ve written about it already. The next book in the series is even better.

Elizabeth Bear – Steles of the Sky. Write-up here. Really nicely done fantasy in a non-Western setting with fine attention to the underlying sociology.

Peter Watts – Echopraxia. It pursues many of the same themes as his previous Blindsight but perhaps isn’t quite as disturbing in its bleak view of human cognitive limitations and what they mean for our place in the universe. The characterization isn’t up to much but that is part of the point.

Felix Gilman – The Revolutions. Write-up here.

Elliott Kay – Rich Man’s War. A sequel to his Poor Man’s Fight – originally self-published, but now coming out via Amazon’s in-house publishing arm. Has all of the virtues of early Heinlein without the dubious politics. Highly recommended.

Best Novella

Daryl Gregory – We Are All Completely Fine. An excellent, sardonic take on HP Lovecraft – what happens when those driven into shrill unholy madness by perceiving the true lineaments of world go into group therapy? His new juvenile, Harrison Squared is a prequel, but doesn’t look to be nearly so creepy.

Best Short Story

Ruthanna Emrys – The Litany of Earth. A very different take on HP Lovecraft, which very nicely turns his racism back on itself and just a lovely short piece. I haven’t read anything by Emrys before, but I’ll be looking out for her name.

Hannu Rajaniemi – Invisible Planets. in Jonathan Strahan ed., Reach for Infinity. I’ve never warmed to Rajaniemi’s novels, but this was really well done – while being more deliberately scientifictional, it captured Calvino’s grave playfulness very well.

Best Related Work

Again, Jo Walton. What Makes This Book So Great should not only have been nominated for Best Related Work this year but won it by a landslide. I read all the columns when they were published on Tor.com – but reading them cumulatively makes a big difference. I’ve already bought (and not regretted) Jack Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence, and Candace Jane Dorsey’s Black Wine on the strength of her writeups, and want her to start writing about Steven Brust’s Taltos series again, now.

If there was a ‘Best Short Story Collection’ category, I’d also have nominated Ysabeau Wilce’s Prophecies, Libels and Dreams.

Those are what I’d like to have seen on the ballot. What about you?

[Cross-posted at Crooked Timber]

Henry Farrell

Henry Farrell is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.