How reliable are Hugo / Nebula awards and nominations?
Athryn brought up Hugo awards in another thread and I thought this deserves it own thread.
Back in 1998, I was on the look-out for new authors, so I blindly bought all the Nebula nominations that year. By and large, I was disappointed and in some cases (Catherine Asaro's "The Last Hawk", I was repulsed with such poor writing). Jack McDevitt is pulp at best.
Combine that with around that time, I had a complete disdain for the the academy awards because of their horrible track-record, (the english patient anyone?) and I completely wrote off award winners of any type.
So the question is, how reliable have you found Hugo / Nebula awards to be the best of the best?
Nominations vs winners?
Looking over the last 10 years of the Hugo Awards, I'm not very familiar with 90% of the titles.
Looking over the last 10 years of the Nebula Awards, and I'm similary perplexed (and when Jack McDevitt or Catherine Asaro out right wins, something is definately fishy - and Haldeman's Camouflage is not his best work.
What say you QT3 on Nebula / Hugo winners & nominations?
I actually find the Hugos and Nebulas to be more refreshing then the Oscars. They tend to weigh less towards the artsy and often just have plain entertaining as the winners (e.g., camouflage).
That said, obviously no one is going to completely agree on any list. Generally, I consider the actual winner and nominees as all about on par. Overall, they're decent reads. Do I feel in a particular year a "better" book is excluded from that set? Sure, but that's subjectivity for you.
The Graveyard Book won this year? Seriously? I mean it's not a bad book, per say, but it's really not anything more than Gaiman trying to be Pratchett to kids and getting a mediocre result. I guess this just confirms my opinion that Gaiman is waaaaaay overrated.
Anyway, I too haven't followed enough of the recent winners to comment but had a similar experience. Around 2000 or so I ran out of books to read and bought a bunch of Hugo/Nebula winners and found myself very unimpressed.
I'm not sure about the entire historical scope of the awards, as I recall some good choices in prior decades, but I'd say the last decade or two the picks have not been very good, both in nominations and in final awards. Some of the nominations in parctular seem to have been handed out for name recognition (Nebula) or past accomplishments (Hugo). I guess that's unavoidable with long-running awards but if you want to use the awards as reading suggestions, its disapointing.
Disagreeing with Stepsongrapes: I feel that the nominees miss a lot of good work. For example, I didn't see *anything* by Alistair Reynolds or Neal Asher on the lists and both of those authors have at least a couple of very good books in this time frame. The awards don't completely suck but they are not a particularly good guide to quality sci-fi, in recent years, IMO.
I prefer Nebulas to Hugos, though there is plenty of politics in the former.
I started using the Hugo and Nebula awards lists to determine my science fiction reading choices back in 1991. I haven't been disappointed much. Most of them are totally worth it.
Here's the ones I've read from the Hugo list that I would recommend:
1960 - Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (Awesome, just incredibly good. I was blown away).
1966 - Dune by Frank Herbert (Again, when you read the classics, and they're THIS good, its a great thing).
1967 - The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (Wow, once again, very unorthodox style, truly classic book).
1978 - Gateway by Frederik Pohl (Very claustrophobic, depressing. Highly recommended).
1981 - The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge (Epic Space Opera, very entertaining).
1982 - Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh (Gritty, hard to get into, but worth it).
1983 - Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov (Excellent continuation of Foundation trilogy).
1984 - Startide Rising by David Brin (Epic Space Opera again. If you haven't read this yet, you've GOT to).
1986 - Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (This is the book I lend to anyone who has never read science fiction to get them hooked).
1987 - Speaker For the Dead by Orson Scott Card (My personal favorite in the Ender series. It changed my outlook on life).
1988 - The Uplift War by David Brin (Same universe as Startide Rising, but not a sequel, these can be read in any order. Highly recommended).
1989 - Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh (A book about cloning. Truly depressing at points. Very long book. Same universe as Downbelow station, but independent, can be read in any order. This is the book largely responsible for getting rid of most of my homophobia btw. That isn't the subject of the book, that's just a sidenote from me. Highly recommended).
1990 - Hyperion by Dan Simmons (Truly excellent melding of horror and science fiction. I recommend the sequels too).
1991 - The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold (Part of the Vorkosigan saga. Excellent).
1992 - Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold (Part of the Vorkosigan saga. Excellent).
1993 - A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge (My lord is this book trippy! Truly original. Epic Space Opera too. Highly recommended).
1993 - Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Time travel back to the time of the Black Plague. I never liked time travel books until I read this one. Connie Willis is the best author in the world at showing, as opposed to telling. Whereas Orson Scott Card will tell you "he loved her", Connie Willis will never say it in those words, but you'll Feel It when you read about their actions. Highly recommended).
1995 - Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Part of the Vorkosigan saga. Excellent).
1999 - To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (Same universe as doomsday book. Different characters. Can be read in any order. Excellent book).
2000 - A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (Not as good as Fire Upon The Deep, but still great).
2001 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (Best of the Harry Potter books, along with book 5 and 7).
The only ones on the Hugo list that I've read, but wouldn't recommend wholeheartedly are
Ringworld by Niven - Great concept, but boring story. I mean, once they get on the ringworld, nothing really interesting happens to them, and the characters aren't really explored either.
Paladin of Souls by Bujold - This is a stand alone novel in the fantasy universe created in Curse of Chalion. Curse is a much, much better book. Paladin is just a waste of time, IMHO. I can't believe it won both Hugo and Nebula. I love Bujold, I love everything she's written, pretty much, but this book is just not all that interesting or deep.
From the Nebulas (that didn't also get Hugos):
1980 - Timescape by Gregory Benford (Like all Benford books, this is ok, but not truly great. A decent read).
1988 - Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold (Decent read. Same universe as Vorkosigan books, but different characters).
1995 - The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer (Set in Canada. Better than average. Good writing).
A lot of the early Hugo award winners were really hard to find back in the 90s, which is why I haven't read them. Most book stores tend to stock only more recent books, and I still hadn't really started shopping for fiction books online. I have started doing that recently, and I've read:
1953 - The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester - This is essentially a story about how someone can get away with murder in a society full of telepaths. From the very first page of the book, he's trying to plot his murder. It turned out to be a very satisfying book.
As for the ones that are only NOMINATED? Stay away. I tried that when I got desperate for more books to read. Believe me, most of the nominees are totally not worth reading. (There are exceptions, of course, like the Storm of Swords, which lost that year to Harry Potter, but is the better book IMHO).
On Reynolds and Asher, one thing about annual rewards is that they're annual. I'd be curious to know if you track your potential Reynolds or Asher nomination to the year it was published, would you conclusively rule that the ommitted book was better than the other nominees?
Originally Posted by Sharpe
Last year, for example, I just didn't think the field was all that strong. I'm sure in some other years, there were a lot of good books that came out at the same time.
Obviously, I'm not saying the awards are definitive, but what award ever is? Personally, I don't have any alternative recommendation, for a year-to-year survey of good sci-fi/fantasy.
It's kinda like the Pulitzer for Fiction, or any other book award. Sometimes they're spot on, sometimes it's a head scratcher.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the 2006 winner Spin, which I just finished last week. A really different science fiction book. I wasn't very compelled by the characters, but it is a good book overall, and I was fascinated by the ideas presented in it, and how humanity would react to its own mortality on a massive scale. I'd recommend that one too.
I haven't read it, but the way you recommend it made me laugh.
Originally Posted by Rock8man
Between this thread and the other SF thread I can see a few books I should pick up. I've read much of what was put out there, but a few that I've missed I'd love to get.
Originally Posted by Sharpe
I believe Reynolds has come within just a few votes of making the list at least once (ie he came in sixth in the initial voting).
I also think delayed release may be a factor in both of those cases- UK authors often have their books delayed by 6 months to a year before being released in the US. So a decent chunk of the voting block may not even have read it in it's qualifying year of release.
I picked this up as a result of it winning a couple years ago and had this same issue. Now, I am not sure if I finished it or not. Hrmmm.
Originally Posted by Rock8man
I don't follow SF as closely as I used to, but you should definitely search out and read any Charles Stross you can find...especially The Atrocity Archives.
I haven't read that many books on either list, but the ones I have read have ranged from good to outstanding. The only one I didn't like was Neuromancer, and that's probably because it's one of those innovative but unpolished genre-spawning pioneers, and I read it after a lot of better written cyberpunk. But a lot of the others are among my favourite books of all time.
I guess I should pick up The Yiddish Policemen's Union since it scored the rare double-win.
Wow, you guys didn't like spin because of the characters? Me and a buddy both read Spin in a day (I almost literally couldn't put it down) and it was largely due to the characters. Well, there's concrete evidence of "to each their own."
To add my two cents to the Hugo thing, I've read half of the books that won awards (27 of them) and am glad I read 22 of those. That seems like a pretty high ratio, higher than my general rate of book appreciation. I've only red 9 of the Nebula winners, and am glad I read 7 of them, so a similar rate but smaller sample.
Last edited by Nengjanggo; 10-14-2009 at 06:41 PM.
Why isn't Neuromancer on that list? That won the Hugo and the Nebula (and the Philip K. Dick award) and was a hell of a book, to boot, at least in my eyes.
Originally Posted by Rock8man
Gibson hasn't been quite as good in recent years, but back then, it seemed the sky was the limit.
I didn't say I didn't like Spin. In fact, I really liked the book a lot. I said I didn't find the characters very compelling. Especially the narrator. Nevertheless, I would definitely recommend the book.
Originally Posted by Nengjanggo
I just never got around to reading it, that's all. In the early years, when I used the list to look up all these books, back in 91, remember that I used to look for these books in my local Waldenbook stores. I didn't even have access to big book stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders back then. I used to pop into any Waldenbooks I ever found in a mall though, and for some reason I had trouble finding Neuromancer back then. And then in later years, I'd already stopped trying to find it, so it never occurred to me to pick it up.
Originally Posted by Omniscia
Thanks for the reminder! :)
Last edited by Rock8man; 10-14-2009 at 08:22 PM.
You forgot Kim Stanley Robinson, he won both Hugos and Nebulas. Good hard science fiction is difficult to find, I enjoyed the Mars trilogy. Other than that your list is a good recommendation.
I'd say that both the Hugos and the Nebulas have an excellent track record for picking books that are worth reading. The Hugos, understandably, have more of a populist slant.
Neither award is good at picking the books that will be, with an added 20 years of hindsight, classics.
Yeah, Red Mars won the Nebula, and the other two won Hugos, I believe. I had access to the trilogy for years, but I could never get past the beginning of Red Mars. It just starts off so boring (which is a trait I've seen a lot in Nebula winners: they tend to be a lot harder to get into compared to Hugo winners).
Originally Posted by Diana Baba
I'm sure if one day I can get past the hump, I'll love the Mars trilogy, but I haven't managed to.
I have the same problem with Diamond Age. I just can't get past the initial couple of chapters. I've tried reading that book so many times over the years, but I get so bored and go to sleep and never pick it up again for a couple of years.
I ought to hunt down some quality science fiction before I lose the genre completely. Picked up Lucifer's Hammer for some light post-apocalypse fare. I'm not a book critic but so far it seems to contain everything I can't stand: an absurd amount of sex among a bunch of nerds, characters who all have an implausible breadth of knowledge in science, and little geekfest scenes that allow the author to teach the reader about astronomy and other subjects.
It's like Ayn Rand in here. Someone rescue me.
Heheh. Yeah, Lucifer's Hammer is a strange apocalyptic novel. It didn't have enough desperation in it to satisfy me as a fan of that sort of thing in that genre, but it didn't have enough hope in it for it to be uplifting in any way either. Overall, I didn't regret reading it, but I didn't enjoy it much either. And I honestly can't remember any of the characters or plot points any more because the novel was pretty forgettable overall.
Now, if you actually were serious about some light post-apocalypse fare, the same authors also wrote Footfall, which is a pretty hilarious action-adventure romp that plays out like a summer action movie. And it has some very memorable scenes, memorable aliens and it's just an all around light-hearted good time.
Books or short stories that won both the Hugo and Nebula awards are worth reading. There are some heavy-doorstop anthologies of Hugo winners, called (surprisingly enough) The Hugo Winners, that collect the short stories and novellas, and they are also great.
Great is subjective, of course. Some of these are too dated to be really compelling, but they're interesting in a literary-archeological sense. And some of the winners are feted for their past successes than the works for which they won. Kind of like the Oscars.
Okay, not all of these are great, but they'd be good for a library collection, where everyone's neighbors' tastes are horrible but everybody finds something they like. At least, they are reliable as the best of the best...for somebody.
I would suggest widening the list to the novel nominees themselves. About 60-80% nominees are usually good, and some excellent books never win.
The entire list of short story/novella/novelette nominees are well worth reading - most of them are gems, and many are posted online (at least, when they are first nominated).
I'm always on the lookout for quality sci-fi, so if you were to recommend one book each by Alistair Reynolds and Neal Asher, what would they be?
Originally Posted by Sharpe
For Alistair Reynolds, I'd recommend The Prefect if you want a novel, or Zima Blue and Other Stories if you want short stories. The Prefect is the fifth book in the Revelation Space universe, but it stands alone.