Hugo Award finalists include a story in tweeted images
April 7, 2022 8:51 AM   Subscribe

The 2022 ballot for the Hugo, Astounding, and Lodestar Awards, awards for achievement in science fiction and fantasy, has been announced. Worldcon members submitted 1368 valid nominating ballots (up from 1249 last year and down from the heights of the 2010s); voting will open in May and the final results will be announced on September 4. Notably, "Unknown Number" by Blue Neustifter a.k.a. Azure Husky (previously) is a story that was originally published as a Twitter thread containing a series of simulated text messages.

Blue Neustifter's story "Unknown Number" is also available to read via the less-privacy-invasive Twitter reader nitter. Neustifter notes:
I understand twitter threads aren't the most accessible way to read things. I ask to not be tagged into any sort of "thread unroll" type bot: I block them as much as possible because I don't want other people to control and monetize my work that way

While not a perfect solution, I've made a version of this story on Facebook that is readable and shareable publicly ( ). Someday I hope to have this published elsewhere and will share in this account when that occurs.
Neustifter previously.

Also previously on MetaFilter: finalists "Proof by Induction" by José Pablo Iriarte, "Mr. Death" by Alix E. Harrow, "That Story Isn’t the Story" by John Wiswell, "Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather" by Sarah Pinsker, and “How Twitter can ruin a life” by Emily St. James.

And a number of the films and TV shows on the ballot are on FanFare!
posted by brainwane (37 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
That Facebook link immediately asked me to log into Facebook, but the nitter one works, FYI.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:13 AM on April 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Some other notes: posted by brainwane at 9:42 AM on April 7, 2022 [10 favorites]

Wow, I'm 0 for 6 on reading the novels this year. Well, I tried to read Project Hail Mary, but The Martian was enough of Andy Weir's prose for one lifetime, thanks. I'm sure it'll make a fun film.

What was good?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:53 AM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

All of Catherynne M. Valente's nominations are well-deserved.

Project Hail Mary is, for all intents and purposes, The Martian II: Just A Different Problem. It's a fun enough book if you like that sort of thing, but it's definitely a nomination based on being a story that everyone bought and a few of them liked.
posted by Etrigan at 10:04 AM on April 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Yay! Nominated for Best Series is Merchant Princes by Charles Stross! Those are my favorite cstross books!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:14 AM on April 7, 2022 [9 favorites]

What was good?

I liked both The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, and A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine. Both continue world building (universe building, I suppose) that they have previously established. So if you've read them and liked them, you might like these, too. If not, I recommend their work.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:20 AM on April 7, 2022 [9 favorites]

The Star Trek episode that made it to the Dramatic Presentation: Short Form ballot isn't Discovery, it's Lower Decks!!

LDS is fun. DIS is… often not.
posted by zamboni at 10:20 AM on April 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Unknown Number, Previously

I also enjoyed those two sequels. A Memory Called Empire won the 2020 Best Novel award, and The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is the third book from Becky Chamber's quadrilogy to be nominated, the first entry somehow being overlooked.

Looking forward to reading the rest of the nominees!
posted by Aiwen at 10:56 AM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Whoops - miswrote - I accidentally said that this year's number of Hugo nominating ballots was down from last year. It is up from 2021 but still down from the 2010s. I have asked the mods to fix it. Thank you for catching that.
posted by brainwane at 11:03 AM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm glad Becky Chambers got nominated twice. I really like the Wayfarers books, but Psalm For The Wild-Built feels like it's in a totally different category. (I love it to death, in case it's not obvious)
posted by lumpenprole at 11:07 AM on April 7, 2022 [9 favorites]

brainwane, you are a treasure.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:18 AM on April 7, 2022 [11 favorites]

Mod note: fixed the temporal up /down reality distortion; there was nothing to see here. Everything is in order.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:50 AM on April 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

Increment the Metaverse by 1.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:54 AM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

While I agree with others that Project Hail Mary is very much in the vein of The Martian, I did find it to be an improvement, writing and story-wise. It had a plot development that was tied to character that genuinely surprised me, and that gave the book an emotional arc and depth that wasn't necessarily there with The Martian, which was pretty purely a Man vs. (Mars) Nature story. That said, I do listen to Weir's books as audiobooks, because I suspect the excellent narration/performance elevates writing tics that I would otherwise find unbearable. And yeah, I look forward to the movie adaptation.

It's not my favorite of the books I've read on the Best Novel slate though, that would be A Desolation Called Peace, which had a bunch of characters I really enjoyed, and which continued doing some fascinating universe-building. Same for A Master of Djinn, though I think that one suffered from some pacing problems. I also enjoyed The Galaxy, and the Ground Within which did a lot with its low stakes. I think more scifi books could stand to have low stakes and a focus on relationships.

Happy to see Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher's World of the White Rat series nominated too! Those books are delightfully fun fantasy romances. The first in the series, Swordheart, remains my favorite, but they're just fun reads all around. I'd read dozens of books in this particular genre mashup of fantasy and adventure/mystery and romance.
posted by yasaman at 12:31 PM on April 7, 2022 [9 favorites]

* waves *
posted by cstross at 1:01 PM on April 7, 2022 [37 favorites]

What a great crop of nominees! I'm especially pleased to see some of my big faves from last year, like A Desolation Called Peace, The Last Graduate, Nemesis Games, and wej Duj.

Also very happy to see a lot of stuff I greatly enjoyed -- The Galaxy and the Ground Within, A Master of Djinn, She Who Became the Sun, Elder Race, The Past Is Red, The World of the White Rat, The Green Bone Saga, and Iron Widow, as well as personal nominations for Bitter Karella, A. K. Larkwood, Everina Maxwell, Shelley Parker-Chan, and Xiran Jay Zhao.

My one bittersweet note this year is that I knew that some of the books I thought of as the absolute best had no chance. Strange Creatures by (Mefi's Own) Phoebe North was the best SFF book I read in 2021, bar none. I would have also put A Dowry of Blood by S. T. Gibson up there with books like A Desolation Called Peace. But A Dowry of Blood is only just starting to get a little traction after being a nominee in the Goodreads Choice awards, and Strange Creatures is one of those hard-to-define books that lives in the cracks between genres.
posted by kyrademon at 1:01 PM on April 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

I enjoyed Light From Uncommon Stars while I read it, but the more I think about it, the more problems I have with it.

The other novels are good, my favorite was A Master of Djinn. I love everything P. Djèlí Clark writes.
posted by DowBits at 1:53 PM on April 7, 2022

I just read "Unknown Number" and promptly sent it to two dozen people. What a great story, told in such an amazing manner.
posted by goatdog at 2:50 PM on April 7, 2022

"Unknown Number" is the real deal.
posted by signal at 3:37 PM on April 7, 2022

Pleased that Terra Ignota made the list for Best Series. I nominated Perhaps the Stars for best novel too, but I can't say I'm very surprised that it didn't make it to finalist status.

I'm looking forward to making my through the nominees.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:05 AM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

I agree that Becky Chambers is good at low stakes writing, although one could say her work is high stakes in the realm of relationships? Both of her nominations seem fair to me. Not having read anything else on the lists (apart from the excellent "Unknown Number") I look forward to delving into some of the available online content.
posted by domdib at 3:21 AM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm not exactly a voracious reader so rarely have I read more than one nominated novel or novella by the time the nominations are announced. So I'm no expert but, I'm kinda surprised Klara and the Sun wasn't nominated.

Is it typical for literary/sci-fi cross-overs to be left out of the Hugos?

It's certainly an outstanding read that I'd recommend to anyone here.
posted by midmarch snowman at 7:00 AM on April 8, 2022

Unknown number is great and I hadn't seen it. Thanks!

Though, if I may riff on a really interesting story, I can't imagine being the person on the receiving end of that exchange and finishing the conversation without also saying, "wait, before you go, send me everything you know about how to communicate between universes. There are so many other things to explore!" Which, I realize, is outside of the very thoughtful and narrow scope of the piece and probably should have been left off in order not to distract from it. But, come on! They're a happy, satisfied person who used to study physics and yet aren't at all curious about this ground-breaking discovery or its possible uses? I'd have expected it to end with, "Let's be friends. I'll give you fashion tips for a new wardrobe that you can spend your Nobel prize money on, and then we can find out what the world would be like today if Cortés had died as a child.")
posted by eotvos at 7:52 AM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

> "Is it typical for literary/sci-fi cross-overs to be left out of the Hugos?"

The short answer is yes.
posted by kyrademon at 8:24 AM on April 8, 2022

midmarch snowman: I agree with kyrademon. There are several authors (Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro are top of mind for me) who write books that incorporate speculative elements but are targeted at readers of mimetic fiction rather than engaging with the genre expectations of scifi or of fantasy. Michael Chabon won the 2008 Best Novel Hugo for The Yiddish Policemen’s Union which I recall being a crossover kind of book, but I think in general, yeah, the people who nominate in the Hugo Awards are more interested in books that are deliberately in conversation with the science fiction and fantasy genres, that get marketed to scifi/fantasy readers.

It's worth noting that the finalists for Best Novel on the Hugo Ballot emerge from a wide spread of nominations. Here are the detailed stats on the top nominees from last year. In the Best Novel category, nominators submitted 1093 nominations for 441 different nominees. Each nominator could nominate several (six, I think) books. The finalists got 132 to 309 nominations; the next novel, the one in seventh place, got 124 nominations, meaning it missed a slot by eight nominations. So in September, when WSFS publishes the list of top nominees, maybe Klara and the Sun will be somewhere in the also-ran slots. But I do doubt it.
posted by brainwane at 8:43 AM on April 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

midmarch snowman: " I'm kinda surprised Klara and the Sun wasn't nominated.
Is it typical for literary/sci-fi cross-overs to be left out of the Hugos?

I haven't read "Klara and the Sun", but in my experience when "literary" writers, AKA psychological realists, attempt sci-fi cross-overs, they tend to write their usual psychological realist tropes and characters and add a single SF conceit, such as:

What if people made androids to serve them but they had their own agenda?
What if you could travel in time?
What if the global computer network became sentient?

And the psychological realist part is fine, thoughts are thought, emotions emoted, trauma is traumatic, and some professor and/or writer sleeps with somebody much younger than them, but the SF part rarely clicks.

The issue is usually that the SF aspects they choose are usually super old and already hashed out a hundred times, and they (the writers) act as if they're the first person to come up with the idea that if you step on a bug in the Pleistocene it will change your home-time when you go back to it.

Great SF is about characters and feelings and inappropriate academic power dynamics, sure, but it's also about taking a fresh idea and running with it in a new direction and seeing what happens. Emphasis on the fresh and new.

This is why most SF fans tend to ignore 'literary' writers slumming it in SF, and not nominate or vote for them in awards season.
posted by signal at 8:54 AM on April 8, 2022 [9 favorites]

As a commenter at File 770 notes, "Looks like women have had their 6th straight dominant year in nominations in the professional writing categories of Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Best Series, Lodestar, and Astounding with 33 of the nominations compared to 7 for men and 2 for non-binary individuals."
posted by brainwane at 9:06 AM on April 8, 2022

> "... but the SF part rarely clicks"

I hate this argument and it's one reason I didn't want to get into the long answer.

Yes, there's been crappy "literary" SFF of the kind you describe. There's also been absolutely brilliant "literary" SFF, which also generally gets ignored by the Hugos. I could list scads of both.

And yes, there's a longstanding disdain by SFF genre fans of "literary fiction interlopers"... as well as a longstanding disdain by literary fiction fans of "mindless trashy genre books." Both sides have to completely ignore the many brilliant works coming from the other side if they want to take those stands.

There are crossover hits from both sides, but they tend to be the exceptions.

It probably doesn't help that literary fiction books generally aren't marketed to genre fans, and vice-versa, which helps to entrench those attitudes.

The people who vote in the Hugos tend to primarily be SFF genre fans. That means a lot of literary SFF doesn't make it onto their radar in the first place. This isn't 100% true (either for the fans or for the books), but it tends to end up being how things shake out.
posted by kyrademon at 9:47 AM on April 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

Looks like women have had their 6th straight dominant year in nominations

The future the Sad Puppies feared has come to pass. And it’s wonderful.
posted by notoriety public at 2:06 PM on April 8, 2022 [12 favorites]

One would hope they are now very, very Sad or have moved on to foul some other nest.
posted by skyscraper at 5:28 PM on April 8, 2022

I have a neighbor AND a coworker's wife who are Nebula winners. So if you're a nominee, be nice to me.
posted by neuron at 12:03 PM on April 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

On Twitter from C.L. Polk, nominated for Best Series for The Kingston Cycle:
I’m still feeling the buzz about this Hugo thing, but there was something that I didn’t really realize about Witchmark, and I got filled in on this today:

Because Witchmark happened, and because it did well, a lot of books used Witchmark as a comp

and sold.

I mean I saw the occasional tweet float by for a pitch event on twitter, but that was the tip of the iceberg, apparently. There’s a boom in LGBTQIA+ fantasy recently

…*and I helped*

Because I wrote about Miles Singer, and a city with bicycles and apple trees in the street
More in their thread (hat tip to cstross)
posted by mbrubeck at 1:47 PM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

The people who vote in the Hugos tend to primarily be SFF genre fans.
Also, it's worth emphasizing that for the Hugos we're talking about on the order of 1000 self-selected individuals. Of course, those people are going to be SFF genre fans, but also, a non-insignificant proportion of them are also going to be SFF professionals (writers, editors, etc). As such, you are definitely going to see a strong focus on works published by SFF imprints and in SFF magazines. The occasional novel outside of the SFF publishing ecosystem will get enough attention in Hugos circles to get on the ballot (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union really is an incredible book), but I don't see this happening in the short fiction categories.

As such, I think it's better to think of the Hugos as community awards rather than some high minded attempt to recognize the best works that could be classified as Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Alternate History.

The Graphic Fiction and Dramatic presentation awards are definitely exceptions to the above and I some times wonder if the Hugos would be better off without them, since they are the awards that most often result in no-show winners at the ceremonies.
posted by 3j0hn at 9:30 PM on April 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

Yes, the Hugos are usually a measure of popularity rather than quality. That isn’t to say that what is popular can’t be good, but things like “do I like the author?” “Did I like previous books by the author?” have an outsized effect on the voting. For example, Bujold’s second win in 1992 was, at least in part, because WorldCon was in Chicago that year, a city where Bujold was a frequent and popular guest at conventions, and an outside number of voters were familiar with her and liked her. That doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good, but that factors other than quality also had an effect.

It’s instructive to look back over the winners and see how few are still read or talked about and how weak some of the slates appear, much less the winners. I mean The Lathe of Heaven isn’t Le Guin’s best novel,but, if quality was the sole issue, it would not have lost to To Your Scattered Bodies Go or even appeared on a slate with such slight competition.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:40 AM on April 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

One question I think many of us are wondering about: will the fans who attend the 2023 Chengdu Worldcon (many of whom will probably be Chinese speakers and/or Chinese nationals who haven't participated a lot in Worldcon before) make a big difference in who/what gets nominated and who/what wins next year? Historically, Hugo nominators and voters have been predominantly from the Anglosphere and (to my understanding) it's been quite rare for fiction by people from outside North America, the UK, and Australia to get on the ballot. (The Korean space western movie Space Sweepers is on this year's ballot for Dramatic Presentation, which is unusual as I understand it.)

I think for all the Worldcons I've been aware of, buying any kind of ability to attend/participate in the con also got you Hugo nomination/voting rights. But:
The current Worldcon is allowed to define other types of memberships to their convention. Some of these membership types may include the membership types listed above, but others (e.g. “Single Day Admissions” or “Babe in Arms”) may include only admission to the Worldcon without membership rights.
And indeed (per the Chengdu Worldcon fees chart and Q&A):
Q: What is special for the fees plan of 2023 Chengdu Worldcon?

A: We have set up a pre-packaged five-day on-site admission pass bundle, which does not include WSFS MEMBERSHIP rights (Hugo nominating/voting, site selection voting). It is not a full ATTENDING MEMBERSHIP. This is designed mainly to attract more young fans from our local community who are not familiar with Worldcon system but enthusiastic about science fiction and fantasy genre. You can also consider it as an introduction gateway to the Worldcon community. We will be offering Single-Day Admission passes next year, starting from July 1st, 2023.

Q: Is WSFS Membership required to buy the in-person five-day admission package?

A: No, WSFS membership is not a requirement to buy the in-person admission package, but if you buy both, you’ll be given a full ATTENDING MEMBERSHIP.

The same applies to Online Admission. Just remember, to “attend Worldcon activities” with an “admission” does not grant you WSFS rights or ATTENDING MEMBERSHIP status.
In-person admission: USD$30 for students, $50 for non-students who are attending their first Worldcon, $70 for everyone else. Online admission: USD$2 for students or people attending their first Worldcon, $10 for everyone else. WSFS membership: USD$50 for everyone.* So I'm guessing lots of local fans will just go for the admission ticket and not spend a big chunk of money on WSFS membership on top of that, which means they won't have as much of an impact on Hugo finalists and nominations.

* there are details on that page about, for instance, if you've already bought an advance supporting membership, voted in site selection at DisCon III, etc.
posted by brainwane at 5:29 AM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

By the way, I was poking around the recent winners and finalists/shortlisted books for some other sf/f awards because of a bit of the conversation in the Ignyte Awards thread, and noticed that the Clarke Award, the Locus Award, and the soon-to-be-renamed John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel all make a little more room for crossover folks like Don DeLillo, Colson Whitehead, and Kazuo Ishiguro, in case anyone in this thread is looking for award shortlists that are a little more attuned to their sensibilities. Also the BSFA Awards longlist.
posted by brainwane at 4:12 AM on April 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

It’s instructive to look back over the winners and see how few are still read or talked about and how weak some of the slates appear, much less the winners.

Yes - and Jo Walton did that in a blog series that I think turned into the book An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000. I've read a few of the blog posts and they're interesting!
posted by brainwane at 8:58 AM on April 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

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