Doreen Sheridan: We should have a conversation about the Hugos and edit that and post on the site, because lol.
Doug Merrill: Sure! I was thinking about writing up my reactions, but joint reactions would be even better.
Looking at the longer list of statistics, I was so glad that Light from Uncommon Stars scraped in to the finalists. I would totally have missed it otherwise, and what a great book!
The two novels that just missed the cut were Perhaps the Stars, and The Witness for the Dead, which is the second book in the Goblin Emperor world.
I’d have traded those two for Project Hail Mary and A Desolation Called Peace. Of course those same stats showed that A Desolation Called Peace had the most nominations and led at every stage of voting. My being unable to finish the book puts me very much in Hugo’s minority.
Doreen: Very much agreed regarding Uncommon Stars. I haven’t heard of Perhaps the Stars, but I think you either reviewed The Witness for the Dead or it’s crossed my desk at some point.
Doug: I reviewed Witness. Perhaps the Stars is the fourth and last book in Ada Palmer‘s hugely ambitious Terra Ignota series (started with Too Like the Lightning). I gave the series my top vote in that category, where it came fourth.
What kinds of things struck you about this year’s Hugos?
Doreen: Gah, really, A Desolation Called Peace was that popular? I have a hard time believing that many people actually read it. It was 100% last on my list after spending so much time hate-reading A Memory Called Empire, which I know you enjoyed more than I did. Most of the online reviews assured me that Desolation was like Memory but EVEN MORE SO, which already makes me want to gouge out my reading eyes. Arkady Martine is great at anthropological stuff but her plot was so dismal and unlikely and pedestrian. I wanted to sit her down with some actual thrillers so she’d know what a good one looks like.
Doug: Bwahahaha about actual thrillers!
But yes, at the nomination stage it had almost twice as many points as Uncommon Stars. Then! People read the Aoki book and it leapt from sixth to second. After the formality of eliminating No Award, the gap was only 14 votes (381-366). But A Desolation Called Peace kept picking up more votes than Uncommon Stars each round, and the gap got wider. I actually had Project Hail Mary below A Desolation Called Peace because I thought Martine’s was the better book, though it was not for me.
The novella longlist looks great! I saw some twitter commentary kvetching that Dune won best dramatic presentation (long). I mean, like the movie or not there was no was it wasn’t going to win.
Did you align with Hugo voters in other categories? I’ll admit to not getting to Graphic Stories in time this year.
Doreen: Graphics-story-wise, Kieron Gillen was robbed. Longform-presentation-wise, I’m surprised Space Sweepers didn’t do better, and am also surprised that The Suicide Squad didn’t even make the long list, perhaps because of the long shadow cast by its (inferior) predecessor.
Doug: I didn’t see Space Sweepers! And that’s understandable about Suicide Squad. Bet a lot of people didn’t give it a look in.
Doreen: I mean, I still have to actually read A Desolation Called Peace (as well as the Weir and Parker-Chan) but I was pretty happy with what I did read. And I’m really glad that getting nominated gave the Aoki so much exposure! It’s a fab book that 100% hadn’t crossed my radar till the nomination, and till you urged me to prioritize reading it. I’m still very grateful you did!
Doug: Was Far Sector a standalone? Graphic Story is tricky for me, because I kinda have a preference for standalones. But I can also see the joy of great execution deep in a series.
Doreen: I’m actually surprised Chamber’s The Galaxy, and the Ground Within didn’t do better, considering her far inferior work won the novella category. I feel the Tchaikovsky enjoyed a similar effect as the Aoki did, in that ppl liked it once they learned about it (granted, one of those ppl was not necessarily me. It was fine. You liked it better than I did, tho.)
Doug: I skimmed a lot in Weir’s book. I get that a lot of people will geek out over the problem-solving, but that didn’t do much for me.
Doreen: Re: Far Sector, in all honesty, if I’m not sent a copy, I won’t review it. My life is too short and I have too many books to cover already!
Doug: Ah ok, I hadn’t realized it wasn’t in the packet. Someone in one of the artist categories had a blank packet too, iirc. Sorry, dude.
Doreen: I was pleasantly surprised that my top picks were the winners of the novelette and short story categories tho! And a little surprised that readers chose Novik‘s The Last Graduate overall, as there was so much controversy over the first book in the series and I’ve heard very little about this follow-up.
Doreen: Also, Dune was a really good movie, solid on so many levels. Are ppl really complaining about it on Twitter?
Doug: What was the controversy over the first Novik? It didn’t do much for me, and so I knew I wouldn’t be reading the second. Even if the cliffhanger was good.
On the #HugoAwards hashtag, I saw a couple of folks saying that Dune was slow and dull. Didn’t agree at all, and that win was probably the easiest prediction on the whole ballot.
“Bots” and “Oaken Hearts” were my last place votes in both categories. I thought novelette was a super strong category this year. They were all good stories, it was just a matter of which tickled your particular fantasies.
Doreen: Plenty of ppl had some valid, some less so criticisms of the language Novik used in the first book, accusing her of racism, however unintentional. I’ve literally heard nothing of the follow-up save that it’s the follow-up, so I imagine this win is a rebuke to the kerfufflers.
Doug: Hmmm, I missed all of that.
Doreen: Wow, ppl actually said Dune was slow and dull? Compared to, say, The Green Knight? JFC, ppl are ridiculous.
Doug: The Last Graduate is another book that led at nominations and all the way through. In fact, the YA voting order is exactly the nominations order.
Yes, Green Knight was slow and weird. I’m glad something like that is out there, but it’s by no means the year’s best.
Doreen: I knew you would hate “Oaken Hearts,” not because of the content but because of the format. I love those weird, innovative marginalia as stories, but know you prefer more classically-told stories like “Tangles.”
Doug: Yep, you got me. I did indeed have “Tangles” first.
Doreen: I really hated The Green Knight. Love the concept, love the casting, hate the script or whatever passed for it, and the directing simply could not make up for all the holes in the storytelling.
Doug: In theory I like experimental forms, but in practice I don’t vote them very high.
I think I saw Green Knight on an airplane, so I was content to just sit and look. Or maybe I saw it on DVD here, not entirely sure.
Doreen: Novelette was very strong this year. V much agreed on “is this the kind of story you find interesting?” being the determining factor given the heaps of craft and talent on display.
I went to see The Green Knight in theaters and that was a waste of my money. Still so mad.
Doug: Yes, Green Knight was more like a medieval chronicle or an assemblage of bits of Malory than like a contemporary movie.
The novella longlist looks like a good place to spend some money! There’s even the sequel to Finna for you. I’m kinda sad that Terra Ignota didn’t do better. There isn’t anything like it, there isn’t going to be any more of it (I don’t think), and it’s hugely ambitious.
Doreen: I’m not supposed to spend money on books until I finish some of what I have already. I just got my Iron Circus folktales collection in the mail and mean to buy the final book in the series, but that’s it, honest! My current reading lists, front and back, are just too overwhelming.
Doug: Understandable! I think the recent Rivers of London is the only book I bought in the last month or so. On the other hand, I brought up from the basement what is probably close to a decade’s worth of German-language reading. So.
Doreen: Lol. The Rivers Of London series is really good, and he sorta resets it after Book 7, so newer readers (or older readers with terrible memories like miiiiine) don’t have to read all seven to jump in on the new arc. I’m a big fan.
Doug: Nice! I am really tempted right now to get them aaaalllll.
Doreen: Tho going back to the Hugos, I’m glad that Our Opinions Are Correct won Best Podcast. It’s really far superior to anything in its field, tho maybe also I really enjoy listening to Annalee Newitz talk.
Doug: And I’m finally getting to the fourth Murderbot. Reading order 2-5-6-1-3-4, lol.
Doreen: Newitz’ voice is just so delightful! Oh yikes, I super need to catch up on Murderbot, but I say that about everything. So.
Doug: Tell me more about podcast! I am utterly uninformed, and did not vote in that category.
Doreen: Also glad Rovina Cai won Best Artist: her work is sometimes, tho not often, the best thing about the books I’ve read.
Doug: Fugitive Telemetry (#6) led the nominations in novella, but Wells declined.
Doreen: Yeah, I saw that! I think she knows these are great for book sales and wanted to give smaller authors a chance… but then Chambers won with the inferior A Prayer for the Wild-Built anyway.
Doug: I voted Rovina Cai second place, based entirely (or almost entirely) on the Hugo packet. Good work, though!
Doreen: Tho I guess Wells staying off the ballot leaves a slot open for others.
Who was your first choice over Cai? Mine was Tommy Arnold.
Doug: Mine was Alyssa Winans. I’d have to go back to the packet to guess why.
Wells declining let Elder Race in among the finalists. I think Murderbot would have won again and deserved to. Those stories just work so well at that length.
Interesting that Related Work was one of the few where the eventual winner didn’t lead all the way through. I plumped for “How Twitter Can Ruin a Life,” against my expectations coming in, because it was so focused and so well done. And also because I still think Hugo voters whiffed badly by not choosing “Helicopter Story” when they had the chance.
Doreen: I’m glad Elder Race placed well, even if it wasn’t my favorite. I mean, I actually voted for it 2nd after the Harrow, which should tell you how I felt about the other novellas! Speaking of Harrow, I really liked A Spindle Splintered more than her other work nominated in Short Story.
I didn’t get to any of the Related Works this year, alas, tho I did download the Stan Lee biography and mean to read it at some point still. I very much agree with you about how shamefully Fall was treated over “Helicopter Story.”
Doug: And we reversed again. I found “Mr Death” touching rather than mawkish; maybe it caught me on a sentimental day.
I skimmed through the Related Works to get a sense of how I thought they compared to each other. I had really high hopes for the Dangerous Visions book that were not fulfilled; maybe I didn’t find the stronger essays in the book. The longlist shows me that there was a biography of Roger Zelazny that just missed the cutoff. That might be interesting!
Doreen: Regarding “Mr Death,” ha, I have a non-Christian view of death that is far too rational for the framing of the story, but I can see how others would feel differently, and that’s okay!
Wait, are you making a shopping list of the longlist?
Doug: Maybe? Adding to the very long interested-in list that lives in my phone, for sure.
Interesting that I felt part of the target audience for Across the Green Grass Fields but not for A Spindle Splintered. I still haven’t figured out what to say about The Past Is Red.
Doreen: That IS interesting! Maybe you were always more Horse Girl than Princess? 😉
Doug: Very likely! What about you?
Maybe Green Grass feels more like a D&D adventure. Splinter is much more tied to the mundane world. I wonder if hating The Fault in Our Stars left me allergic to tales of Doomed Young People.
Doreen: 100% more Feminist Princess than Horse Girl
Doreen: OH NO, you hated The Fault In Our Stars?!?!?!
Doug: zomg yes. Hay. Ted.
I was caustic in my review, iirc.
Doreen: I just went to re-read it, lol. I’m not the only one who can accuse something of being mawkish, I see.
Doug: Nope! That’s another Not Aimed At Me book, which is fine. Ten million John Green fans can be wrong, but it doesn’t have to be my concern.
Doreen: Lol. Okay, I have to go get ready for D&D. Thanks for the chat!
Doug: Have fun storming the castle!