The blindingly obvious trend in the Hugos is the rise of fantasy and the fall of the most traditional forms of science fiction. We went three-and-a-half decades without a fantasy winner, and then we have more than half of the Hugo awards for best novel going to fantasy books. That’s quite a sea change. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t know if this is an issue of gender, a rise in the quality of fantasy, or a decline in sf, but I’m not going to fret over it, even though I do lean more towards the science fiction end of the speculative spectrum. Hooray for variety!
SF is clearly in some kind of decline though. The most obvious change is the fall of space opera, which had dominated the genre in its golden age, and had a long and powerful resurgence through the post-Star Wars era. Space operas or books about alien visitors won 2/3rds of the ‘50s Hugos, more than half of the ‘60s, 70% of the ‘70s Hugos, 90% of the ‘80s Hugos, and more than half of the ‘90s Hugos. And then, in the ‘00s, one. And even that one focuses more on contemporary characters responding to big changes with the aliens distant and mysterious. So, something has clearly happened. The limited reading I’ve done on latter day space opera writers like Alistair Reynolds tells me that space opera has become far less accessible to the average reader. I’m not sure about cause and effect though. Were space operas abandoned because they got too far out and self-referential, or have they moved off to their own little corner to play with Big Ideas because no one pays attention any more? Big Ideas did abound in this decade though.
Other trends? Everyone loves history all of the sudden, which makes me happy. The Baroque Cycle takes science fiction to a new frontier, Jonathan Strange does the same with fantasy, and lots of other books follow suit, like Brasyl, or, deeper into the past, Lavinia. Also, globalization is clearly on sf&f writers' minds. Bacigalupi and Ian McDonald (and Air) provide obvious examples, but detailed and respectful explorations of exotic settings became the norm in these (mostly) English-language books. This is another trend I welcome, and I hope both stay alive. The Years of Rice and Salt nicely combines both trends.
1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
2. Kafka on the Shore
3. The Baroque Cycle
4. The Years of Rice and Salt
5. River of Gods
6. A Storm of Swords
7. American Gods
8. The Yiddish Policeman’s Union
10. The Windup-Girl
2. Nova Swing
3. www.Wake (not Hominids! Take that Sawyer h8ers!)
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
3. Children of Men
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Least favorite films:
3. Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
And, my recap of the awards is done!
The rest of this week, I'm going to look forward to this year's Hugo nominations as I try to fill out my ballot. I'm also going to take on Worlds Without End's Grand Master Reading Challenge, because WWE is awesome and has been the fuel of this blog.
And then…something. I don’t know…
Where are you 2012 Hugo nominations??? I need you now!