Listening to Coode Street this morning, I heard Gary commenting that the nature of this year’s ballot may be something to do with the electorate being predominantly American (given that we have two US-Worldcons in succession). There’s a point there, but it’s not the one that people normally make about fans voting for writers from their own countries. American fans, in my experience, are not terribly nationalistic. They’ll buy books by people from any country. They may have cultural biases so that, for example, they might prefer the work of one British writer over another, depending on which is more accessible to them. But the main issue is that they vote for what is available. Two US Worldcons in succession means that the nominees will probably be drawn solely from books that are easily available in America.
Other people have been complaining that the choices this year are very “safe”, “traditional” or “middle-of-the-road”. That too is partially a function of being limited to books that are easily available in the US. But it is also a function of increased turnout. Back in the days when the number of people participating in the Hugos was very small, fans liked to grumble that their tastes were not reflected in the short lists because the voters were a small, unrepresentative clique. This year set another record for the number of people submitting nominating ballots, and yet there are still complaints. Everyone likes to think that their tastes are shared by the majority, but my guess is that most people who are serious about fiction will find that the majority doesn’t share their tastes at all. They certainly don’t share mine.
One interesting thing about this year’s ballot is the number of nominees with a connection to A Game of Thrones. Obviously Series 1 and A Dance with Dragons are nominated, but there are other nominees who might benefit from a strong turnout by GRRM fans. Anne Groell is up for her first ever nomination in Editor: Long Form, and the books she is most well known for editing are the Song of Ice and Fire series. John Picacio also has a GRRM connection, having recently completed illustrating a Game of Thrones calendar. But the most interesting connection is with another Novel nominee. James S.A. Corey is a pen name for a writing team composed of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Ty’s previous claim to fame is his work as GRRM’s personal assistant. This is probably the first time ever that an author and his PA are both up for the same award. (Your turn next, Lorraine.)
The other newbie in Editor: Long Form is Betsy Wollheim, but she’s by no means new to the business. She’s been working at DAW since 1975, and has been in charge since 1985, but she’s been in the business pretty much all of her life. Her father, Donald, was pioneer of paperback publishing and primarily responsible for the pirate edition of The Lord of the Rings that Ace put out in the early 1970s. There are some extracts with a Locus interview with Betsy available here.
The Fancast category is hugely competitive, with five very fine nominees. I’m still very dubious about the idea of separating categories by the method of delivery, but the category looks viable right now. Of course it could end up with the same nominees year after year — we can’t know that yet. But for now it looks healthy.
There was apparently an error in the embargoed press release sent out by Chicon 7 that led to Brad Foster being left off the Fan Artist nominees in many announcements. This was another of those “tie for 5th place” issues, and somehow one of the six nominees got dropped. Talking of Fan Artist, no one has been able to answer my question about Randall Munroe. I love XKCD as much as anyone, but as far as I can see it is a profit-making business and if that is the case I’d like to know what fan art Munroe does.
I’m totally bemused as to what Seanan McGuire’s Wicked Girls is doing in Related Work. It’s great to see a filk album get nominated, but music has always been eligible in the Dramatic Presentation categories. There’s no need for it to be in Related Work.
The gender balance in fiction is very good. 11 of the 21 nominated works are written by women. Elsewhere things are not so good. The Dramatic Presentation, Graphic Story and Professional Artist categories, for example, are almost entirely male.
And finally a quick nod to Orbit. According to Liza Trombi (also on Coode Street this episode), Mira Grant’s Countdown is the first stand alone published piece of short fiction from a major publisher to make the ballot. As far as I’m aware, it is only available as an ebook. This is a very interesting development in publishing.