The internet being what it is, even a post as marginally belated as this one feels a little redundant. Still, it would feel stranger not to set down my thoughts on this year’s winners at all, if only because I can’t agree with Cory Doctorow that these are “some of the best results in recent memory”; they seem to me, as usual, a mixed bag, and perhaps more than usual an inconsistent bag.
The only explanation I can come up with for, say, the two Best Dramatic Presentation results – setting the immensely pleasing recognition for the low-key, nuanced Moon against the downright distressing award for the bombastically nonsensical The Waters of Mars, not just the worst nominee and bad by the standards of all TV, but bad by the standards even of the Doctor Who specials – is that completely separate groups of people won the day in each category. (This is just about possible, although not very likely, based on the voting statistics [pdf]: from 1094 ballots cast, after redistribution of preferences Moon won its category with 418 ballots, while The Waters of Mars won with 350.) More seriously, Jonathan Strahan, who worked on two of the nominees for Best Novellette, loses out in Best Editor: Short Form to Ellen Datlow, who didn’t work on any nominees this year; and Juliet Ulman, who edited two of the Best Novels, only got as many first-preference votes as No Award in Best Editor: Long Form. You can, of course, say that the Best Editor categories are for consistency over a body of work, rather than acquiring a few standouts, but that doesn’t seem to explain the continued overlooking of Sheila Williams, whose Asimov’s has in recent years dominated the short fiction categories – 10 of 15 nominees in 2007; 7 of 15 in 2008 and 2009; and while 3 of 15 nominees this year looks like a slump, it’s still more than any other single publication managed – yet who has never won in her category.
It was satisfying to see a new Best Semiprozine – that is, the voters neither went back to their old Locus habit, nor settled into a new pattern with Weird Tales – and Clarkesworld certainly had a good year. (Although as Mark Kelly notes, it is a bit odd that Weird Tales dropped so far down the ranking.) I can only hope the award continues to move around, since I, like Abigail Nussbaum, am starting to feel a little bothered by the number of recusals. (My suggestion? The New York Review of Science Fiction, which is long overdue and having a good year.) Best Related Book was not a surprise, although This is Me, Jack Vance! is the only nominee in the category I haven’t sampled; neither was Best Graphic Story, to the point where it’s quickly becoming clear that voters don’t really know what to do with the category as it’s currently constituted. I’d be in favour of Liz Batty and Nick Honeywell’s proposal, in The Drink Tank [pdf], to change the category to Best Graphic Novel.
The winner of Best Fanzine, meanwhile, and for the second year running, is a winner within the letter of the rules rather than what I consider to be the spirit of them. Contra Jason Sanford, the only boundaries that StarShipSofa pushes for me are the ones I don’t really want to see pushed: ‘zines that publish fiction may be eligible within the current wording, but I don’t want to see them become the norm; ditto podcasts, if only because I’m too much of a written-word junkie; and nor do I want to see it become common for eligible ‘zines to campaign for their nominations. As Mike Glyer points out, however, the voting statistics don’t yet suggest that these two winners represent a sea-change in how the category is treated; and it’s good to see ‘zines like Journey Planet and group blogs like SF Signal bubbling under, not to mention Steam Engine Time, which I’d have dearly loved to see on the ballot.
And looming over everything else there’s that improbable tie for Best Novel, only the third in the history of the Hugos. As others have noted, it’s hard not to feel there’s a certain cosmic rightness in it, either because, like Jonathan McCalmont, you take it as a reflection of the fact that neither is quite polished enough to merit a full Hugo, or simply because these are the two novels that have been sharing out awards between them all year, and it’s appropriate to have that competition captured in this way. I tend to the latter view.