Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hugo Nomination Speculation Time: Fiction

As usual, I haven't really checked out any short fiction. If I had more time, I could have dived into the Nebula list and gotten a sense of what's out there, but I didn't. I hope Rachel Swirsky gets nominated again, because she had the finest Hugo entry last year and a strong one the year before. Otherwise, Ken Liu seems to be the name to watch for.

I should mention that I also read a book that would fit nicely into the "Other Works" category: Grant Morrison's paean to superhero comic books, Supergods. Morrison is an imaginative writer of comic books like the X-Men, Batman, and Superman, alongside some weirder stuff (I'd suggest Seaguy as a good introduction to the oddball brilliance of his work). It was a fun read, with a good account of the rise of the genre and its redeeming qualities (it really does have some!), but all of that is intermingled with an off-putting autobiography that veers between self-congratulation (Morrison is certainly innovative, and he just can't stop reminding you about it) and painfully sincere psychedelia (higher beings revealed the nature of the universe to Morrison in the '90s. No really, they did). Anyway, I might nominate it anyway, for the good parts.

The main event - Novels!

I've actually read some this year, though Lev Grossman's The Magician Kings is the only one I feel strongly about nominating.

Mieville's Embassytown is an ambitious book that gives off a strong '60s New Wave vibe. It has to be the early favorite. I didn't love it, but I can't fault his ambition (don't I say that about all Mieville books?), and it's nice to see a hot young fantasy writer take at a stab at an older sf genre like space opera. Ernest Cline's first novel Ready Player One also seems to have a lot of support; it's a fun '80s nostalgia fest...and that's about it. It seems to have a struck a nerve with a lot of sf readers though.

I'm reading James Corey's Leviathan Wakes now. It has a nice, classic feel, and it's a very competent action story - maybe that sounds like faint praise, but I don't mean it to. I do mean, however, that it's probably lacking the sense of "importance" that I think many Hugo voters look for. I haven't decided my own take yet, but I will complain that this is unfair if Ready Player One gets nominated instead. I'm also reading A Dance with Dragons, but I've put that one down a few times. It's not bad, but it does feel like some momentum's been lost.

Reamde was my disappointment of the year. I love Stephenson; I really did not like this book. The first third had some nice Stephenson digressions about "how the world works," which were then neatly applied to world-building in a fictional MMORPG. Then the book bogs down in an interminable action scene that seems like it will never end. Then there's a brief break, and AN EVEN LONGER action scene. This final two-thirds of the book is lacking Stephenson's trademark speculative digressions (my favorite part of a Stephenson book), but full of his trademark macho b.s. (not my favorite part of a Stephenson book). It's not really speculative in any way, so I don't expect to see it on the short list.

Jo Walton's Among Others is next on my reading list, and I hear a lot of good things. I imagine Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique is a contender. I wouldn't mind seeing Ian Mcdonald's YA Planesrunner, which sounds fun.

I can't figure out if Hanna Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief is eligible this year...and that alone is probably a strike against it getting nominated. Okay, google.... and it is! But, really, most people read this one a long time ago.

And then, there's a host of sequels to nominated works. Mira Grant's zombies vs. bloggers story continued in Deadline. The second AND third volumes rounded out N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy. Sawyer's www trilogy ended, though people don't seem to be talking about it. And, Vernor Vinge released a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep called Children of the Sky.

If I had to guess, I'd go with a nominee list of (in order of certainty):

Ready Player One

Among Others

Kingdom of the Gods

Children of the Sky
Leviathan Wakes

I wouldn't be unhappy with this list. But, I'm likely wrong on half, and, of course, there will probably be a book I've never heard of on there.

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