Two hundred and fifty two million years in the making, a book that spans geological eras, astronomical bodies colliding, and people getting upset at award ceremonies. Space! Big game hunters! A surprising number of priests! Atheist therapods! This is a book that has everything but a simple premise!
Let’s go back to the beginning. The Permian-Triassic extinction event aka “The Great Dying” was our planet’s greatest extinction event that we know of. Over 90% of marine species and 70% land species died off…hold on…that’s too far back. Fast forward a bit. The USA of the 1950s! A time of optimism, change and technology! Into that exciting era of rock-and-roll stepped the Hugo Awards for Science Fiction. The awards, often controversial, usually provocative and always interesting would become the premier science fiction & fantasy awards for books written in English.
Jo Walton’s Informal History of the Hugos did an excellent job of combing through the eras of the award to give a sense of the changes in taste and the dynamics of the voters. However, with so many categories and so many notable finalists, any attempt to capture the full breadth and depth of the awards is nearly impossible. There are many Hugo read-through projects (e.g. Nerds of a Feather’s current Hugo project http://www.nerds-feather.com/search/label/Hugo%20Initiative ) but I did not want to cover the same ground. So while I had considered a Hugo history project for this blog I never could find the right approach or a way in that would not be just repeating what more skilful people had done better.
The nomination of Brooke Bolander’s “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” set me thinking. 2019 was, by my reckoning, the first truly “post-Puppy” Hugo Awards — the first year since 2013 in which the extreme right-wing campaign to influence the award was not directly visible on the nomination process. That set me thinking of an arc of three stories in which the Puppy debarkle had played out:
- Rachael Swirsky’s movingly lyrical If You Were A Dinosaur My Love — a story hated by the right wing factions behind the Puppy campaigns.
- Chuck Tingle humorous monster erotica “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” — nominated by alt-right trolls but which led to a spectacular counter-trolling by Chuck Tingle himself.
- And the Brooke Bolander’s story in Uncanny Magazine, a combination of author and platform that was a fair illustration of where the Hugo Awards had come to in the wake of that conflict.
So, there was a hook. The past five years of the Hugo Awards could (sort of) be traced in terms of a set of stories with dinosaurs in them. It was, a decent enough idea for an essay. Now what would the first paragraph of that essay say? “Dinosaurs have often featured in the Hugo Awards.” Hmm, was that true or would I just be talking out of my cloaca? I’d need to do a bit more research and that meant surveying the awards lists for dinosaur stories: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/what-have-i-missed/
Thanks to helpful readers here, I tracked down stories and the shape of the Hugosauriad became clear. I would write not a biography of the Hugo Awards but a dinography — a history using dinosaurs as the instrument.
Picking a single theme opened up a way into the huge scope of the Hugo Awards. Instead of just winners, I could look at notable finalists as well but more than that, I could look at stories that weren’t even nominated (in some cases because they preceded the Hugo Awards) but which were influential. It also meant that I could trace how one theme had changed and shifted in the genre over decades but also how features of the Hugos (such as the infamous No Award) had played out in multiple eras.
To my delight and surprise other themes volunteered themselves as if eager to jump on the bandwagon: the boundary between science fiction and literary fiction, the influence of changing scientific ideas on science fiction, the role of humour in science fiction, the representation of women as both authors and characters in the awards.
The Hugosauriad is not a comprehensive look at the Hugo Awards nor is it a comprehensive look at dinosaurs as a theme in science fiction but it is both a deep and varied examination. I have tried to vary the style and approach of the essays. Some are serious, one at least is very silly. Some deal with a single story in depth, others are focused on the wider context.
The original essays can be found on this blog https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/hugosauriad/ but I wanted to ensure there was an ebook version that could be read as a complete history. I considered quickly bundling things together but I was sensibly persuaded to spend at least some time tidying up. Thanks to JJ, quite a substantial number of typos and clunky sentences have been fixed! More may have crept in since!
The Hugosauriad: A Dinographic Account of the Hugo Awards is now available in multiple ebook formats. As always the cost is FREE and half price for dinosaurs.
It’s available at most ebook distributors except for Amazon: