For more than 65 years, fans have been gathering at Worldcon and selecting what they think is the best science fiction or fantasy work of the year. Unlike other award programmes–like the Nebula awards, which are chosen by writers, or awards chosen by professional panels–the Hugo Awards are chosen precisely by fans, members of the World Science Fiction Convention. As such, the Hugos can sway with the cultural moment, and in recent years has been subject to some controversy.
The proof of the sauce is in the tasting, however, and the Hugo Awards have tagged some of the most important books of the last century, including Frank Herbert’s Dune, James Blish’s A Case of Conscience, Robert A. Heinlein‘s Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, Ringworld by Larry Niven, Neuromancer by William Gibson, Ursula Vernon’s Digger, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Orson Scott Card‘s Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman and American Gods, Nnedi Okorafor’s gorgeous novella Binti–which I recently reviewed–and a stunning triple win for N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy.
The Hugo Award #1 choice is not always the book that resonates in the future, and sometimes books take a while to get into the hearts of readers. But the Hugo Awards have a way of highlighting authors like J.K. Rowling, Samuel R. Delany, George R.R. Martin, James Tiptree, Jr., Philip K. Dick, Octavia A. Butler, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, Charles Stross, Robert J. Sawyer, Nalo Hopkinson, Isaac Asimov, David Brin, Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, John Crowley, Arthur C. Clarke, Jerry Pournelle, and Roger Zelazny.
This year, the convention was totally online due to COVID-19. George R.R. Martin was the host, with a series of pretty weird, often interesting, occasionally groan-worthy stories and anecdotes pre-recorded, and then live shots of the award announcement and then the authors’ reactions. It was neat to watch and made me long to be there live sometime.
This year’s list of nominees is tempting for readers. In the novel category, it is an all-woman cast, I believe, which is a comment all on its own. Which is why some of us teacherly-readerly folk at Signum University thought it would be fun and perhaps even useful to get together to discuss the best novel list.
- The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan) – reviewed by Trevor Brierly
- Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing) – reviewed by Kris Swank
- The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (Saga; Angry Robot UK) – reviewed by Sparrow Alden
- A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (Tor; Tor UK) – reviewed by Gabriel Schenk
- Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing) – reviewed by Kat Sas
- The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK) – reviewed by Brenton Dickieson
Each reviewer took about five minutes to introduce their novel and talk about what they liked or didn’t like about it. We then opened it up for a wider discussion, taking questions and comments from the audience. In Battle of the Books style, the audience then voted on which novel they most want to read, and which they think should win the prestigious Best Novel Hugo Award. The actual winner was announced about an hour after our prestigious event, and Gabriel’s book took the night!
We have captured the video and have shared it here below. Want to follow what’s new and exciting in the world of science-fiction and fantasy? Need help deciding what to read next? Planning to move to a different planet and would like to read stories set on other planets to help you prepare (or, in my book’s case, other worlds)? Perhaps our ad hoc, voluntary, off-the-red-carpet panel will be the thing for you, where Science-fiction and Fantasy readers each talked about one of the shortlisted titles in the Best Novel category of the 2020 Hugo Awards!
Hope you enjoy!
P.S., I still think my book, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, was the best.