The Hugo Awards That Might Have Been

hugo awards logo largeThe Hugo winners were announced this past weekend. The whole Puppies controversy led to this year’s awards receiving by far the most votes of any Hugo contest, a great deal of chatter in the blogosphere and Twitter and even traditional media. And the results were definitively not on the side of the Puppies.

Others have analyzed and reported on the results, so I won’t reiterate what others have said here, but it’s well worth looking more closely at the short fiction category, since that was what I reviewed here previously.

In my review of the nominees, I mentioned that I found the entire list of Nebula nominees better than any one of the Hugo nominees. Right about the same time, John Scalzi posted his recommendation that readers compare those lists, and if any Hugo-nominated story seemed better than anything on the Nebula (or Locus) list, then vote for that story, but if not, then vote No Award. So I was not the least surprised to see No Award take the category, though I also wouldn’t have been shocked if Kary English’s story had won, as it was clearly the most skillfully written in the category.

What’s most interesting now, though, is that the WorldCon committee has released the full data, which gives us a chance to see what the nominees might have looked like if not for the Puppy slates.

For short fiction, it may have looked like this:

The Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon
The Breath of War by Aliette de Bodard
The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar
When It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster
A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone

(There’s some question whether Gladstone’s and Foster’s would have met the 5 percent cutoff or not, but I’ll leave them on.)

Interestingly, four of those five were on either the Nebula or Locus lists (and Vernon’s won the Nebula), so I’ve already reviewed them here. The one completely new nominee is Gladstone’s story from Tor.com. So how does that story fit with the others?

One way to describe “A Kiss With Teeth” is that it’s a vampire story crossed with the Incredibles, with a touch of Frozen. Vlad is a vampire who is trying to live an average human life, with a wife who knows his secret and a son who, as far as they know and intend, doesn’t.

When their son struggles in school, Vlad tries his best to get involved in culturally acceptable ways. Meeting with the teacher, though, reignites Vlad old hunting instincts. It is a past he longs for but also guiltily fears.

What follows is a harrowing account of a struggle between instinct and responsibility, past and present, identity and society, a struggle that is not simplistic but earns its satisfying ending.

What might have won the Hugo from this mix of stories? Impossible to say, of course, but Vernon’s Nebula win surely gives some weight and momentum to it. My vote would have likely gone to either Foster or de Bodard. I will have to read through them each yet another time and see what I think now, several months after last reading them. Not a hard thing to do. All are again worth (re) reading, so give them all a read, and then you might wish to engage in your own bit of that classic genre pastime, what if?

I’d love to hear your counterfactual final ballots!

Author: Daniel Ausema



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