Once more into the breach, dear friends!
The Hugo nomination voting closes in about 24 hours, and I figure now is as good a time as any to post my second annual "uniformed speculations." I'm a little earlier than last year, but life is crazier this year, so I'm gonna post when I can.
As last year, I don't have much to say about the short fiction categories. I'll probably never have anything to say about the short fiction categories; I like letting the awards act as a filter for me, and I'm perfectly happy reading only 15 stories a year. It is worth noting that Ted Chiang published something, so I'm sure that will be nominated (and will probably win). I'm not complaining. I've read some Chiang, and I think he deserves his stranglehold on short sf awards. I'd also love to see Paulo Bacigalupi's The Alchemist and Tobias S. Buckell's The Executioness nominated. The two authors collaborated on a fantasy world, wrote a novella each, and released it as an audiobook on audible. I like the experimentation there, especially in the format, and I've heard good things.
So, onto the categories I can speak to a bit a more:
Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, isn't nearly as cut and dried as last year (when I went 5 for 5 in my predictions). Inception is obvious, and probably has the Hugo in the bag. I imagine Toy Story 3 will make an appearance, perhaps alongside How to Train Your Dragon. Tron: Legacy seemed to have enough geek buzz to be a factor, even if it didn't get much mainstream respect. I'm going to go out on a limb and pick Splice as my fifth, as it also had some geek buzz, and has that "not Hollywood" factor that Hugo voters seem to like (see the massive support for Moon and District 9 last year).
Those are my five predictions, but Predator, Harry Potter and Iron Man sequels have a shot. I'd like to see Scott Pilgrim, and I'd especially like to see Never Let Me Go get a nod (instead of Tron, please).
In 2010, Doctor Who produced a handful of disappointing specials and still managed three of five short form nods. In 2011, Who had a spectacular year with a new showrunner and a new Doctor, and it produced a dozen eligible stories. Every episode Steven Moffat has written for Doctor Who has received a nomination (and all but one won). Moffat wrote five eligible stories this year, and there were two widely-acclaimed non-Moffat stories ("Amy's Choice" & "Vincent and the Doctor"). Put all of this together, and it seems plausible that Who would sweep the nominations in this category. However, I'm going to predict that this is the year that Fringe gets at least one nomination to prevent the sweep. I don't know which episode, because I don't watch Fringe (yet! - I've been meaning to!). So, I predict something along the lines of Doctor Who: Angels two-parter, finale two-parter, "Amy's Choice," and "Vincent and the Doctor," and a Fringe episode, probably spotlighting lovable mad-scientist guy.
I'm fine with this. There was more sf tv last year than in the past (and more to come this fall!), but it all looked pretty awful. V, No Ordinary Family, and The Event...blah. I would like to see a nomination for ill-fated Battlestar Galactica spin-off Caprica though. I especially liked the New Caprica episode "There is Another Sky."
I'm a comic book reader, but I might cut the graphic story category from my coverage this year. Frankly, it's been a trainwreck. Based on the trends, the nominees will be:
1. Latest Girl Genius
2. Latest Schock Mercenary
3. Latest Fables
4. Something by a Dr Who writer
5. A soiled, crumpled napkin discarded by Neil Gaiman at a bar during San Diego Comic-Con
It'd be nice if Urasawa's neo-Astro Boy manga Pluto or Mike Carey's Unwritten get nominations, and I'll be angry if Scott Pilgrim doesn't get any love, but I'm not getting my hopes up for this category.
Okay, the main event.
I obviously spend most of my fiction time these days reading old sf winners, so I haven't had time to read many 2010 books. Looking around several different reviews though, it seems that the consensus top books are:
The Dervish House Ian McDonald
Kraken China Mieville
Blackout/All Clear Connie Willis
How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe Charles Yu
Who Fears Death Nnedi Okorafor
Zoo City Lauren Beukes
If I had to put money on the nominees, I'd take the top four and ('cuz we know the people love him) Robert Sawyer's www:Watch. I'd like to see something a little more like this list though. It's also worth noting that 4 of 6 of last year's nominees were men, and a woman has not won this award for six years. That doesn't seem right, and yet, I get the feeling its a race between Mieville, McDonald, and Yu from what I've heard so far. We're on the verge of tying the mid-80s for the longest stretch of male Hugo winners since LeGuin broke the gender barrier in 1970.
That said, I rather hope that Willis's Oxford time travel duology doesn't get a nomination. I like her a lot (very positive To Say Nothing... review forthcoming), but that's a lot of reading for a premise I've already seen multiple times from her. Nevertheless, I really do expect these books to be on the nominee list. Maybe she'll surprise me with a new angle.
A couple of wildcards I wouldn't mind seeing:
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart - I like the literary crossovers.
Mockingbird Suzanne Collins - this YA dystopia was probably the bestselling and most talked about sf book of the year, but I've heard very little Hugo buzz about it. Is there a backlash against YA after 2009's YA domination of the Hugos? It's the one novel I have read, and it's good - not necessarily Hugo-worthy, but maybe Hugo-nominee-worthy.