Perhaps most indicative of the mood surrounding the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist is that most of the discussion is about the Clarke Award itself, rather than the mostly baffling list of novels the jury selected this year. It’s a fairly cut-and-dry list that doesn’t garner much debate or consideration; each book seems to inspire unequivocal feels from most readers, but they do make a odd collection when taken together. After much thinking, and some discussion with Jonah Sutton-Morse and Maureen K. Speller on the Cabbages & Kings podcast, it seems some themes of kinship have emerged from what is an otherwise unfocused and random-looking award list.
There is more than one way to slice this, but I think the following pairings seem to suit: Surface. Contrivance. Salience.
It’s Hugo NIGHT! No Award will win! SJW works that aren’t that revolutionary will win! Puppet-slated works that were actually popular between both factions will win! And people won’t talk about it in any honest way until the historical narrative shows up far down the road! If they talk about these books at all! Because old is bad and these nominees will soon be old!
But the historical narrative of the 2016 Hugos isn’t here yet. So you know what that means… it’s time to go… Back to the Hugos!
Hugo Year: 2006
2006. Well, you know what happened. It was practically yesterday. But before this election. And Brexit. And the selfie-stick. So it couldn’t have been that bad, right?
Meanwhile, at another L.A. Con (IV), Connie Willis hosted the Hugo Awards, just like she did in ’96.
The Winner: SPIN by Robert Charles Wilson, followed by LEARNING THE WORLD by Ken MacLeod, A FEAST FOR CROWS by George R. R. Martin, OLD MAN’S WAR by John Scalzi, and ACCELERANDO by Charles Stross.
Kofi Annan led the UN, Chuck and Di got divorced, and Jeeves joined the Internet with a capital ‘I’. Bombings, shootings, explosions, and viral outbreaks happened worldwide. Also, thirty black churches were burned to the ground in Mississippi. But gas was only a dollar!
Meanwhile, L.A. Con III was hosted in Anaheim, CA by Connie Willis.
The Winner: THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson, followed by THE TIME SHIPS by Stephen Baxter, BRIGHTNESS REEF by David Brin, THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT by Robert J. Sawyer, REMAKE by Connie Willis
It’s Retro Hugo Day! And fans are Slans! Or something vile like that. But let’s not be Slans; instead, let’s go… Back to the Hugos!
Hugo Year: 1946 via 1996
1946: The Iron Curtain comes down, bikinis hit the French Riviera, and the US gets Tupperware.
In 1996 Hugo voters decide to play their own version of revisionist history (so don’t hate on me!) by voting on a 1946 Retro ballot.
The Winner: “The Mule” from FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE by Isaac Asimov, followed by THE WORLD OF NULL-A by A.E. van Vogt, THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH by C.S. Lewis, DESTINY TIMES THREE by Fritz Leiber, and DANGER PLANET by Edmond Hamilton (as Brett Sterling)
It’s Hugo Week! You know what that means? It’s almost Not-A-Hugo-Award-And-Not-That-Campbell-Award-But-That-Other-Campbell Award time! Exciting!
(Are rebrands too radical for SF awards?)
Anyway, it’s time to go… Back to the Hugos!
Hugo Year: 1986
1986: Chernobyl. The Challenger. Hijackings. Bombings. Fires. Genocides. Reagan. Thatcher. Noriega. (If you think 2016 is bad, check out this timeline.) Also, I started Kindergarten and got in trouble for not coloring inside the lines. (It was because of those BIG crayons! Remember those crayons? I hated them.)
And Bob Shaw hosted ConFederation in Atlanta, Georgia, where Orson Scott Card took the big Hugo prize for Ender’s Game.
The Winner: ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card, followed by CUCKOO’S EGG by C.J. Cherryh, THE POSTMAN by David Brin, FOOTFALL by those fucking guys again, and BLOOD MUSIC by Greg Bear
It’s Hugo Week! And it’s not that big of a deal! So you know what that means… it’s time to go… Back to the Hugos!
Hugo Year: 1976
1976 saw the beginning of the end of Apartheid, the Viking probes landed on Mars, and Nadia Comeneci stole the hearts of Olympics viewers worldwide.
Meanwhile, the FIRST MidAmeriCon was held in Kansas City, hosted by Wilson Tucker.
The Winner: THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman, followed by: DOORWAYS IN THE SAND by Roger Zelazny, INFERNO by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, THE STOCHASTIC MAN by Robert Silverberg, and THE COMPUTER CONNECTION by Alfred Bester
It’s Hugo Week! And I’m just not that into it! So you know what that means… it’s time to go… Back to the Hugos!
Hugo Year: 1966
Fifty years ago: Muhammad Ali defied the draft, Indira Gandhi headed India, and the Miranda Rights were born (remember those?).
Meanwhile, Isaac Asimov announced a tie at Tricon in Cleveland when Hugo voters couldn’t decide between an ecological sand opera and a jaded god. (Also notable: A little story called “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” won the Hugo for Best Short Fiction. As much as I complain about Harlan Ellison, I do adore this story.)
A tie! THE WINNERS: DUNE by Frank Herbert & THIS IMMORTAL by Roger Zelazny! Followed by THE SQUARES OF THE CITY by John Brunner, THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein, and SKYLARK DUQUESNE by EE Smith.