Back to the Hugos: 1996

It’s Hugo Week! Why am I so tired?

Anyway, you know what that means…

it’s time to go…


Back to the Hugos.

Hugo Year: 1996.

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 list:

Screenshot 2016-08-13 at 9.44.14 PM

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

The ballot I would’ve made if I hadn’t been busy writing-in “Closer” on the ballot for class song:Screenshot 2016-08-13 at 9.44.32 PM

Clearly, The Prestige pulled a disappearing act here. I’m not crazy about any of the novels on this list, but if I must rank them:

The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter – Picking up where H.G. Wells left off in his classic story The Time Machine, Baxter expands on the same time travel universe, imagining new technologies, peoples, and paradoxes along the way. However, where Baxter tends to focus on Wells’ science and technology, he neglects what I consider the most important part of Wells’ works: the sociopolitical commentary.

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson – In the age of nano and almost-but-not-quite (???) post-scarcity, a smartbook comes into the hands of a poor, little girl and teaches her the tools she needs to survive, thrive, and eventually lead little Chinese girls to freedom– wait, what? Aside from the problem of too many ideas vying for attention, that weird white savior moment at the end was, well, a white savior moment.

Remake by Connie Willis – It’s hard to call fluffy this bleak future romance set in the dystopia of drugs, isolation, and pervasive Hollywood rot, and yet it is just that: fluffy. Willis shows off her love for golden age (or silver age? I really don’t know) cinema, but it feels as insubstantial as lights projected on a blank screen.

Brightness Reef by David Brin – Brin returns to his award-winning universe of uplifted animals working side-by-side with humanity. Brightness Reef brings us new drama, this time among illegally settled sapient tribes on a fallow, cordoned planet. The story is crusty, even lacking the more tension-laden dramatic moments from Startide Rising, but I can’t imagine this series being for anyone other than kids.

The Terminal Experiment by Robert Sawyer – A bad scientist guy invents a machine that can pick up the “soul pattern” while his bad scientist friend agrees to triple-clone his personality into a computer. The two inventions compound into one big problem that results in rogue AIs responsible for the murder of innocent people, and the bad scientist guys lie to the cops to cover their asses, meanwhile putting more people in danger. It might make a better X-Files epi if the plot followed Scully and Mulder instead of the bad scientist guy, but it all works out in the end, so… Perhaps it can be read as a statement about ego in scientific pursuits, but I’m not so convinced.


That’s it for Back to the Hugos. 1996. See you tomorrow when we go back to… holy morlocks this is getting to be the longest week ever. 2006.


4 thoughts on “Back to the Hugos: 1996

  1. The Time Ships isn’t perfect, but it has its moments. (I love the scene where Nebogipfel calls the Time Traveller a barbarian. Definitely a “Wait — WHAT?” moment for readers familiar with the original story.)

    I know I’ve read both Brightness Reef and The Diamond Age, but I can’t recall anything about them. (Okay, I remember some of the nonhuman characters in Brightness Reef calling humans squirrels as an insult. As far as details to stand out, that’s rather pathetic.)


  2. Joachim Boaz says:

    Yeah, Brightness Reef was “my book” as a kid. Loved how all the aliens got along…. I rather not reread it and ruin my happy memories! hah


  3. The cover of Remake creeps me out.

    Liked by 1 person

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