The Hugos of Hugos

Well voting’s all done,
and the evening’s getting late,
time to see what I should rate,
of all the stuff I saw and read,
that touched my heart and my head.

I can’t compare everything and while I did think of a grand inter-category rating of all the stories, I decided that was too hard. So instead, here are my favourite discoveries from the Hugos. To be a ‘discovery’ I have to have only read, watch or listened to it AFTER it was nominated for a Hugo. So some great stuff is not on the list because I’d already read it.

In no order:

  • Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer. I certainly got my money’s worth out of this long but incomplete novel. Complex, weird, flawed but maybe intentionally so. Not so much an intellectual novel as a story about people who overthink things for people who overthink things.
  • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle. I think of the two Lovecraftian novellas “Vellit Boe” is getting more love and rightly so – it is more loveable. This one stuck with me though and my head keeps revisiting it.
  • That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn. No particular feature stood out for me with this story but as a whole it was well crafted. I liked how it worked as a short story without relying on surprises or twists or even an unusal narrative structure – not that I dislike those things, just that it was done well here.
  • Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda. An almost perfect combination of art, design and story.
  • Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers. It could have been dull and nothing more than a bunch of cliches or warmed-over tropes but instead it worked as a compelling TV show with genuine scares and warmth.
  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris. A clever, humane and emotionally deep story about youth, old age, regrets and holiday romance. At the same time a strong SF story.
  • Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping. A really unexpected gem that I had playing over and over on my phone. I’m still gushing about this one.

 

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6 comments

  1. Mark

    I think The Expanse was the thing I hadn’t read but ended up being really impressed by. I was blown away by how good San Junipero was for a TV episode.

    In contrast I’m going to have to file Splendor & Misery under “Just Not For Me”. I did try, but tbh most of the music I listen to doesn’t even have meaningful lyrics, so something that depends on taking the words in wasn’t likely to resonate with me.

    On a different metric, the thing I’m most invested in seeing win is Ninefox Gambit – along with loving the book for itself, I think that awarding an exciting and imaginative debut novel is exactly the sort of result the Hugos should be producing. (Weirdly, given how much criticism I gave TLTL, I’d also like to see Ada Palmer lift the Campbell for sorta-similar reasons.)

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  2. Cora

    “San Junipero” was a really pleasant surprise for me, especially since I dislike Charlie Brooker from his days as a TV critic. I also loved “The Tomato Thief”, a story I’d missed when it was first published. As for “The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe”, my initial reaction when I saw it on the shortlist was, “Not another bloody Lovecraft retelling, how many more of those do we need?” But in the end, I wound up enjoying it a whole lot.

    For my Mom, “The Tomato Thief” was the standout, at any rate she kept telling me how much she loved the story with the tomatoes. “The City Born Great” is another one she enjoyed a lot.

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  3. Andrew M

    I would like to thank you for directing me to that analysis of ‘Splendor and Misery’, without which I would not have had th slightest idea what I was listening to.

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  4. Johan P

    The Ballad of Black Tom was the most pleasant, unexpected surprise. LaValle avoids the bloated, purple prose of Lovecraft (which Johnson instead mimics), have kept the best part of Lovecraft (the lurking, unknown horrors), and have added a very strong description of oppression.

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