When I was a kid, just discovering science fiction and fantasy, my uncle recommended I start with books that won the Hugo and Nebula awards, and move on from there. I discovered some of my favorite books this way, but I always figured that the awards were voted upon by Secret Masters seated on some distant mountain. Only last year did I learn that anyone can nominate works for the Hugos, and vote on them—well, anyone willing to spend a little money for the privilege.
Here’s how it works: each year, one science fiction convention out of all conventions in the world holds the title of “World Con.” This year’s World Con is Lone Star Con, held in San Antonio. Anyone who, as of January 31 2012, has a membership (basically, a ticket) to this year’s World Con, or last year’s, or next year’s, can nominate and vote. World Cons even have a ticket you can buy if you don’t want to go to the con, and only want to nominate and vote on the Hugo Awards—it’s $60, and gives you voting / nominating rights both this year and next year.
For $60, you get to stand up and say what you think the most important works in science fiction and fantasy were last year. Pretty wild. And the voting pool’s actually quite small. It’s not tiny or anything, but each vote makes a difference, and if you feel certain works or authors aren’t getting enough attention, your voice matters.
On top of that, for your $60, you generally get electronic copies of the works that end up on the final ballot. All these authors deserve your, you know, real financial support—as far as I know being in the Hugo voting packet doesn’t garner anyone royalties or ad impressions—but voting packets are great ways of discovering new authors you can support in the future. One of my favorite genre books of 2011 I discovered in the Nebula voter’s packet. Pretty neat!
Here’s what you do:
1. Register for World Con before Jan 31 2012, by filling out this form. Click “Submit.” This will take you to a page where you can select the kind of membership you want to buy. If you don’t plan to go to World Con this year in person, you want the “Supporting Membership ($60),” which is the last option on the next page. Fill out the form, and click “Buy Now,” which will take you to a PayPal payment processing page.
2. Receive a Hugo Voter PIN. World Con will send this number to you.
3. When you have received your PIN, use this electronic form to nominate works for the Hugo, and there you go! You’ll receive more instructions from the award administrators from that point on.
But Max, what should I vote for?
If you got this far, you probably have some strong ideas of your own, and I bet you can decide for yourself. The Hugos have categories for everything. This website I keep linking you to has a list; some sections about which you may have opinions, depending on what you do for fun, are “Best Novel,” “Best Short Story,” “Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)” (which is to say, movie), “Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” (probably a single episode of a television show—I don’t know how two-parters work in Hugo voting), Best Professional Artist, Best Fan Writer (very happy this category exists!), Best Fan Artist (ditto!), and so on.
This year was pretty dense with writing, and I didn’t catch up on a lot of the good new releases. Rise of Ransom City, by Felix Gilman, came out in 2012, as did Railsea, by China Mieville, and I liked them both a great deal. A kind of left-field idea: Madeline Miller’s novel The Song of Achilles is amazing, and while it’s shelved in the Literature section of the bookstore, it’s that rare gem, a retelling of the Illiad that actually includes, you know, gods, and goddesses, and all that fantastical stuff that’s actually in the text. Plus, it’s beautifully written, and it’d tickle me if there was an edition of the book that had both the Orange Prize and the Hugo listed on the cover. Take that, Artificial Genre Boundaries!
Of course, there’s plenty of television and film to nominate. This was a good year for SF and superhero blockbusters—but please consider my impassioned plea to consider Rian Johnson’s Looper. At least see it, if you haven’t already. It’s a good film.
What are you eligible for, Max?
My first book, Three Parts Dead, is eligible for Best Novel, and is awesome. I’d be pleased if you would consider nominating it. Don’t take my word for it—ask Carrie Vaughn, or the Book Smugglers. Also, I’m eligible for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer award this year The Campbell isn’t a Hugo Award, but Hugo voters vote on the Campbell award at the same time as the Hugo award. A little complicated, I know.
As for related works, my amazing cover artist, Chris McGrath, is eligible for Best Professional Artist, and my editor David Hartwell is almost certainly eligible for Best Editor.
And that’s a long post, so I’ll cut it short here. Any questions? What did you think was the best genre novel of 2012?