The 2018 Hugo nominees have been announced. Ahh, the most prestigious Award in the most marvelous genres of fiction! Science, Fantasy, the marvel of cutting-edge technology, future societies, mystery, wonder, and… No, not really. This is the Hugos we are talking about. You won’t find much of that there.
Going in somewhat blind and not knowing what to expect, a year ago I reviewed the 2017 short-story finalists, and with one or two exceptions, they were all pretty bad, and hardly science fiction or fantasy at all. I don’t expect much of a difference this year, but I have skimmed the stories and, well, there may be a glimmer of hope, but, really, don’t get your hopes up — the bar was set too low anyway.
I’m not going to review or analyze any of the stories today; I will just do a quick overview of this year’s finalists and general landscape.
The Hugos have 17 categories, although I’m interested only in four of five of them. There are (I think) 21 unique authors spread among the Big Four (novel, novelette, novella, and short story.) Unless I have missed someone, three of them (Sarah Pinsker, Yoon Ha Lee, and Vina Jie-Min Prasad) have two nominations in different categories among those four.
Demographically, the nominees are an interesting, and certainly not random, group. Aside from two Singaporean writers and Aliette de Bodard, who is a French-speaker who writes in Engish, all of them are American. Unless I missed someone, I didn’t see any British, Canadian, or Australian writer. There may be even greater geographical concentration according to their states or “literary areas” (California, East Coast, Seattle, whatever) but I’m really not going to bother checking that up.
The other notable feature is gender representation. There are 21 finalists: 17 women (there may be some LGTB member, though, I haven’t checked them all) and four* men (I almost missed it, but *Yoon Ha Lee, according to Wikipedia, is a trans man.) Two of them, John Scalzi and Kim Stanley Robinson, are science fiction heavyweights in the Best Novel category, but the rest is essentially women’s territory, with almost all the finalists being either quite young or with a strong online (i.e. social media) presence or activity.
The five short stories I will read and later comment are Carnival Nine, by Caroline M. Yoachim, Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand, by Fran Wilde, Fandom for Robots, by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, The Martian Obelisk, by Linda Nagata, Sun, Moon, Dust, by Ursula Vernom, and Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™, by Rebecca Roanhorse.
Although there are dozens of fantasy and science fiction magazines, three of these six stories were published by Uncanny, and the rest by Tor, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Apex. It should be mentioned that Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Uncanny are two of this year’s Best Semiprozine finalists.