Hugo 2020 Stats First Look

Firstly, that ceremony was just not very good. Sorry ConNZ people, I know you’ve done a lot in difficult circumstances but yikes that was a slow landslide of bad things. The idea of long pre-recorded segments to allow for technical hitches was sound, having most of them been rambling dodgy anecdotes from GRR Martin with bonus Robert Silverberg was not good. A tour round the WETA workshop or somebody talking about the Hugos in nearby Rivendell etc. And then the mispronunciations…people will make allowances for live mistakes but recorded…not good.

Anyway. The results were a lot more fun than the ceremony and at times the results were duelling with the ceremony (e.g. Jeannette Ng speech from last year’s ceremony winning Best Related Work).

So what is interesting in the stats

Best Novel

The answer to why Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower wasn’t a finalist is that she declined the nomination. This resulted in Charlie Jane Anders book The City in the Middle of the Night being a finalist. I think The City... was a worthy finalist but I thought it would come last. While it was low ranked in the final vote it still beat The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

The winner, A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, was my second choice and a very deserving winner. The ironic surprise is that Martine didn’t quite make it to be a finalist for the Astounding Award. She was eliminated in the final EPH round of the nomination phase. I’m sure she’ll be happy with the Hugo Award for Best Novel as a consolation prize thought.

The longlist is quite strong in Best Novel. Some books I have enjoyed (Tiamat’s Wrath, Children of Ruin) and books I’ve seen strongly recommended.

Short Fiction

No big surprises here. The longlist for Short Story is a stronger set of stories than the longlist for Novella and Novelette IMHO but that’s the way of those categories. Short Story is a tougher and more competitive field. There was some interesting stuff going on in the EPH rounds as a consequence. Sen, Ramdas, Greenblatt, Kowal, Bolander, Osborne and Wise all battling it out with some Nebula finalist stories not making it to the Hugo finals.

Dramatic Presentation

Boring choices dear Hugo voters and I say that as somebody who thoroughly enjoyed The Good Place. Longlist is a bit dull to.


I don’t pay much attention to this category. Not sure why Navah Wolfe wasn’t eligible but interestingly the winner of the category, Ellen Datlow was ranked relatively low in the initial nominations. Some EPH battles going on in later rounds also. The net effect of all of this was nil as Wolfe then won the other editor category.


A decent longlist with Hugo Book Club, Rocket Stack Rank and The Full Lid, just below the cut off to be finalists.

In the final voting there was a bit of an exciting preference battle between The Book Smugglers and Nerds of a Feather, with the Nerds overtaking the Smugglers briefly after Galactic Journey got eliminated.

Fan writer

You naughty people! Looks like I got to play some fun EPH games! (The only name I don’t recognise in the long list is Stitch. [ETA: really interesting blog here ])

So I had an EPH battle with Sarah Gailey and then with O Westin, then stood aside while Jason Sandford had a couple of bouts, then he and I fought and then I had to fight Cora but she beat me with one of her secret power attacks. None of us remember this happening of course and reading the EPH stats looks like a very weird game of Pokemon as explained by an eight year-old!

The race for the winner proved to quite close at the end. After eliminations, there was only 21 votes between Bogi and Cora. It was always going to be a tough category to vote and so it proved! A talented set of finalists.


27 responses to “Hugo 2020 Stats First Look”

  1. Arkady Martine has a lot of short fiction listed on ISFDB going back to 2012. I find the Astounding Award’s income-based eligibility rule confusing, so I’m not absolutely certain about this, but it’s likely she’d have been disqualified even if she had gotten enough votes in that category.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been confirmed Martine would not have been eligible had she gotten enough votes to make the shortlist for the Astounding Award.

    In a similar interesting twist, The Ten Thousand Doors of January wound up ninth on the Lodestar list, despite getting a Best Novel nom. It’s bizarre to me when that happens.

    Also, City not only needed The Raven Tower to decline the nomination, but for two initial higher vote getters to fall behind it after EPH was enacted. (I still don’t think it deserved the nom, which is why I point this out, but I guess the fact that it made it because of EPH shows a much more varied group disagrees with me?)

    Liked by 2 people

    • garik16: In a similar interesting twist, The Ten Thousand Doors of January wound up ninth on the Lodestar list, despite getting a Best Novel nom. It’s bizarre to me when that happens.

      I think that was a result of people feeling as though nominating something for the Lodestar is confining it to the “ghetto” and very determinedly refusing to do so.

      The thing is, January was one of the best YA novels I read last year, but it wasn’t even close to one of the best SFF novels I read last year. So sure, you can be petulant in that way, but it’s not going to get me to award something that is way out of its league in the Best Novel category.


      • This drives me nuts – reminds me of the oscars with best foreign film. We had a similar issue with the nebula this year – gods of jade and shadow is clearly YA but earned a best novel nom and not a Norton nom.

        This makes little sense – YA novels are novels and fit both categories

        Liked by 1 person

        • Martin Pyne: I note that Harrow has stated that January is not YA, so I suspect it would not have appeared on the shortlist regardless of nominations..

          Authors don’t get to dictate to me how I perceive their novels.

          Harrow may insist that her novel isn’t YA, but it sure as hell is YA as far as I’m concerned, and any attempts to police my opinion on that will not be well-received, nor get her the result she is going for.


      • I’ll tend to defer to authors on whether their work is YA or not, since it’s one of the subgenre classifications that’s often hard to define* – especially in this context since if Harrow insists it’s not YA, she’d probably decline the nomination if she made the shortlist for the Lodestar, making it a waste of a vote. Still that explains the discrepancy here at least.

        Liked by 1 person

        • garik16: I’ll tend to defer to authors on whether their work is YA or not, since it’s one of the subgenre classifications that’s often hard to define

          Well, that’s the thing, that the classification “Young Adult” is entirely subjective, according to author, publisher, or readers. (IIRC) Doors occurs from the time that the protagonist is aged 7 to the time they’re 19. That’s a bildungsroman by anyone’s measure. And the fact that the second half of the book was punctuated by me repeatedly saying, “Oh, FFS!” and “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” with regard to the main character remaining as naive and stupid at the age of 19 as she was at 7 — well, that’s the sort of stupidity I won’t tolerate in an adult novel, but am somewhat willing to make allowances for in a YA novel (and it’s also why it wasn’t on my Hugo ballot, and why it was one of the novels that I No-Awarded, because I didn’t think it was good enough to be there).


        • I nominated it in Best Novel because it was my favorite from 2019. I never considered it for Lodestar — I already had 5 spots filled there with really unambiguously YA/Middlegrade stuff. I feel like half of Doors is YA and half not. I got no argument with some one else calling it that. Agree with JJ that the author doesn’t get to be the absolute authority on that. Incidentally when I went to buy a copy in store recently, I couldn’t find it in either sff or ya sff. Bookseller finally helped me track it down in regular fiction. What the heck?


          • Laura: Bookseller finally helped me track it down in regular fiction. What the heck?

            I think that’s the result of authors/publishers not wanting works to be classified as either YA or SFF, both of which they consider to be “ghettos”; they want it to be considered “literary” so the audience is wider. But I think that often ends up being self-sabotaging. I’ve read a number of “literary” SFF works which were really good right up until around the 80% point and then completely lost the plot — and I think that was due to a desire to make it more “literary” by giving it an ambiguous non-ending (which to me, ended up rendering it mediocre). Robert Dickenson’s The Tourist was one such, Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines, Meg Howrey’s The Wanderers, Christopher Priest’s The Adjacent, Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea are others.


            • Now that you mention publisher, I remember that it was published by Redhook in the US. Which seems to be Hatchette’s “we don’t want to put it in SFF (Orbit), even though it is totally SFF” imprint. But there’s a blurb on the front cover from “Amal El-Mohtar – Hugo Award-winning author.” (Make up your mind about who you want to market to!) So I came really close to assuming the store just didn’t have it. And it undoubtedly isn’t what someone shopping in the literary fiction section is looking for.

              And speaking about annoyance with publishers, Doors wasn’t done any favors on the final ballot by being the only Best Novel which just had an excerpt in the packet.


  3. Martine’s first eligible publication was at least as far back as 2015 with stories in Strange Horizons and Apex Magazine. She wasn’t eligible for the Astounding Award this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is Stitch’s site.

    According to ISFDB Navah Wolfe has only edited three anthologies, and you need to have edited four to be eligible in Short Form.

    And yes, thoroughly agree that both Dramatic Presentation categories are extremely unexciting, even if I was glad to hear Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech.


    • I would have thought that the two novellas would be enough in addition to the three anthologies, but I guess not. Not that it matters — I would have liked to see her decline one or the other anyway.

      A quick look suggests only David G. Hartwell and VD have been finalists in both in the same year. And, of course, VD lost both to No Award.


  5. Something I noticed in the 1945 stats: Leigh Brackett’s Best Related Work winner only made the ballot because an occult text by Aleister “Let It Go” Crowley was deemed insufficiently genre-relevant.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That surprised me, not because I have an opinion on whether it’s sufficiently genre-relevant, but because I’m used to the people who could make that judgment — the given Worldcon’s Hugo Awards subcommittee — saying that it’s not their job to determine whether something is sufficiently genre. That they’ll move things to the right category based on length, rather than expect the nominators to check that, and check whether someone nominated for Best New Writer is sufficiently new for this purpose (as happened with Mur this year).

      This strikes me as prudent–otherwise sooner or later they’d be asked to state, or defend, a definition of science fiction.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They said “not sufficiently related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom to be eligible in this category”. It’s a book about Egyptian Tarot. So yeah I think it’s a bit of a stretch for Related Work.


      • I’m one of the people who nominated Crowley (even reviewed him!) – basically, it seemed related to fantasy/horror/weird fiction in general. (And, of course, pretty much everything that came out of Crowley’s mouth was fantasy in one sense or another.) But I can completely understand the admins not wanting anything to do with Crowley….

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s related to a tarot deck. To me it would be like one of the many modern books on tarot showing up in the modern Hugos Related Work. Is it just Crowley that makes you consider it as sff related? Would you consider a tarot book by sff writer Rachel Pollack for related work?


      • I wouldn’t necessarily rule out a modern book on the Tarot, especially by an SF writer of Pollack’s calibre…. I suppose, though, the Crowley book is part of Crowley’s ongoing “Great Systematization of All Occult Symbology” project, which is, well, interesting in itself, and does (in my opinion!) tie in to the weird fiction of the 1940s…. I would consider, say, a Retros nomination for Robert Graves’s “The White Goddess”, on similar sorts of grounds….

        I mean, that’s my opinion. Others, including the Hugo admins, don’t share it, and that’s fair enough.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I did try to watch but when Martin started talking about cats, I suddenly found more pressing concerns elsewhere.


    • ChrisG: I did try to watch but when Martin started talking about cats, I suddenly found more pressing concerns elsewhere.

      I actually found the cats part of it far more interesting and inoffensive than most of the rest of the things he said.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I’m kind of curious about the changes admin did in DP. Seems a bit outside their remit. Not that I really object. We certainly didn’t need to possibly have one show win in both categories.


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