Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists

Well, this year’s Hugo ballot has been announced, so here are a few quick thoughts…

I strongly suspect that Best Novel will boil down to a competition between the Jemisin, Clarke and and Wells books, and I won’t place bets on the winner.

I’m very happy to see Isabel Fall’s helicopter story make Best Novelette. Having written about the controversy surrounding the piece, it’ll be refreshing to take a step away from the discourse and talk about the story as, well, a story.

Finally, the main thing I’d like to talk about…

I think Best Related Work needs an overhaul. Traditionally, it’s been a category for non-fiction books with the occasional miscellaneous finalist thrown in, but now the miscellania has almost taken over. Lynell George’s A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler is the only non-fiction book in the category, although I suppose you could count Maria Dahvana Headley’s translation of Beowulf as being along those lines. The other finalists are a virtual convention (the inaugural Fiyahcon), a livestream series adjacent to a virtual convention (CoNZealand Fringe), a feature-length YouTube documentary (The Last Bronycon: A Fandom Autopsy) and a ranty blog post (Natalie Luhrs’ response to George R. R. Martin’s much-derided hosting of last year’s Hugos).

Let’s be honest here: in its current form, Best Related Work is a chaotic grab-bag of things that can’t possibly be compared along even lines. Yes, it’s fun to have an odds-and-ends category, but surely it’s fair for non-fiction books to have their own award? Or perhaps Best Related Work could be divided into long and short form, so that books and documentaries that go into depth about their topics aren’t forced to compete with ranty blog posts? The Bram Stoker Awards recently introduced a category for essays to go alongside their existing award for non-fiction books, and I’d say it’s time the Hugos looked into setting up a similar division.

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