Posts Tagged ‘Hugo Awards’

Science Future: Harking Hugos


Science fiction inspires the world around us. It inspires our future. To discover these influences, we look to the future of science, to Science Future. The Science Future series presents the bleeding edge of scientific discovery and links it back to science fiction in order to discuss these influences and speculate on the future of science fiction.

Harking Hugos

Each year the Noble Prizes are given out to people who have achieved great things in their life. They is given out to people who have furthered the advancement of the fields of science and the humanities and represent great personal achievements for both the recipients and society. Like science, science fiction has its own award called the Hugo Awards, given yearly to the best science fiction stories. As regular listeners may know, Escape Pod has a tradition of presenting the short stories nominated for the Hugo Awards and keeping in theme with the celebration of the Hugo Awards, Science Future is going to present scientific breakthroughs that relate to the Hugo nominated short stories and novellas presented here on Escape Pod.

Artificial Intelligence is something science fiction has dreamed about since the first computer was built. The story Want of a Nail By Mary Robinette Kowal introduces us to an artificial intelligence that lives as a guardian of the memories of a human family traveling the stars. This artificial intelligence acts the family’s historian, both selecting and storing important events for the family to remember. Modern computers couldn’t hope to perform such a complex task, at least not without a major breakthrough, which it may have created at the University of Exeter. Researchers have created a processor which copies how the human brain processes information. The human brain doesn’t differentiate between processing and collecting information like current computer processors and but this new one  uses phase-changing materials that allows it to both process and store data at the same time.

It is not certain, however, that we’ll ever create a true artificial being but science fiction has presented us with other options for our electronic creations such as implanting them in their own bodies. In the story Plus or Minus By James Patrick Kelly deep space explorers have augmentations which allow them to communicate with simple thought alone. Today we are limited to using external devices such as cellphones to communicate with people beyond the range of our physical presence but the University of Michigan has taken steps to fix that with the BioBolt. The BioBolt is a minimally invasive brain implant which is placed on the skull and is connected to a small film of microcircuits that rests on the brain and listens to neurons. Since the entire device is under the skin with nothing sticking out, the chances of infection are greatly reduced. In order to communicate it uses the electrical field produced by skin to transmit to any other device touching the skin, creating a simple way for the brain to be listened to without wires sticking out of the skin.

An entirely new and wondrous place will open up to us the day we can think at each other and be heard. This world will be full of exciting possibilities like direct knowledge transference, language-less communication, and body hacking! Oh wait, we already have that last one. A joint effort by the University of Tokyo, Japan, and Sony Computer Science Laboratories have created the PossessedHand project which has produced a device which lets someone hijack another person’s hand movements. It does this by directly lightly shocking the muscles in the arm allowing people to program a sequence of specific finger movements. The device doesn’t work perfectly yet it does successfully control the fingers of another human being, which is hauntingly familiar to one of Hugo nominees, The Things by By Peter Watts. In The Things creatures find it easy to control the bodies of the humans they find but like the controllers of the PossessedHand project, they can not fathom their prey’s minds.

The creatures in The Things embodied the idea of self-preservation not by fight or flight but with breeding. The ability to breed is also one of the main themes of the story Amaryllis by Carrie Vaughn. In Amaryllis a woman is born to a society where food is strictly rationed and therefore the act of breeding is also tightly controlled. The ability to give birth to a child is something perhaps too undervalued in the modern day except by doctors at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Hospital in Sweden. There doctors are preparing to attempt to complete the first successful transplant of a human womb. Among the subjects under review include a fifty six year old woman who is donating her womb to her twenty five year old daughter.

The miracles and breakthroughs envisioned and brought to us by science  and science fiction all deserve our appreciation regardless of any awards given. Congratulations to all the Hugo Award nominees.

Literature that keeps employing new linguistic and formal modes of expression to draft a panorama of society as a whole while at the same time exposing it, tearing the masks from its face – for me that would be deserving of an award. – Elfriede Jelinek

One more Hugo post- Ponies


We didn’t have the rights to Ponies, by Kij Johnson, but we wanted you to have a chance to experience it, so we’re linking to the Tor.com story and reading of it. Ponies is about, well, ponies, but also about little girls growing up, and the darkness that can entail. Dark. Oh so dark…

And we have some art by Skeet Scienski!

That does it for the Escape Pod Hugo offerings. To recap:

Short story:
The Things, by Peter Watts
For Want of a Nail, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Amaryllis, by Carrie Vaughm
Ponies, by Kij Johnson (Link to Tor.com)

Novelette:
Plus or Minus, by James Patrick Kelly
Eight Miles, by Sean McMullen (link to author’s site)
The Emperor of Mars, by Allen Steele (link to author’s site)
The Jaguar House, in Shadow, by Aliette de Bodard (link to author’s site)
The Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made, by Eric James Stone (link to author’s site)

(Apologies all around for my mistake in saying Stone Wall Truth was a Hugo nominated story. Instead it was nominated for the Nebula this year.)

2011 Award Season: The British Contingent


The 2011 awards season is well and truly upon us – it’s an exciting time of year, with all but one of the big awards having released their shortlists, and the SF community engaging in discussion and debate both online and off. I’m sure that there are a lot of us who know some of the nominated people personally, and in some small part we can share what must be a nerve-wracking few weeks until the various award ceremonies are held.

The big award that is still collecting nominations is, of course, the Hugos. Laura Burns has already talked about the Hugo awards, the granddaddy of the lot, perhaps. One great thing about the Hugos, as Laura mentions, is that you can join WorldCon as a supporting member, even if you can’t attend the convention itself. This entitles you to nominating and voting rights, and you get an electronic pack of all the final nominees. I’m mentioning this here again as I did this for the first time last year, and was very impressed. As a UK resident it cost me £25, and I still haven’t finished reading everything that was provided. As well as the opportunity to take part in the Hugo awards process, you get very good value for money!

As well as the Hugos and the Nebulas (summarised nicely by Bill Peters), there are two more major SF/fantasy awards on this side of the Atlantic which have recently announced their shortlists.

The Arthur C. Clarke award, so named in honour of the great SF author and originally founded thanks to a grant from the man himself, is presented each year for the best science fiction novel first published in the UK in the previous calendar year. It is described as the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain, and is unusual in that it is a jury-judged prize. Six novels are selected from publisher submissions, and the prize itself (the amount corresponding to the year of the award, so this year is £2,011) is presented at a ceremony as part of the Sci-Fi London event in April.

The Clarke awards often provoke intense debate and analysis in the UK. Personally, I don’t think the shortlist ever quite reaches controversial levels, but usually the selection is very interesting and quite unpredictable, with most commentary (at least initially) focussing on what books didn’t make it. Last year’s winner was The City and the City by China Miéville, which went on to win both the British Science Fiction Association award and the Hugo the same year. Miéville also broke the record by winning the Clarke award for the third time with The City and the City.

This year’s shortlist (selected from 54 eligible submissions) is:

Zoo City – Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)

The Dervish House – Ian McDonald (Gollancz)

Monsters of Men – Patrick Ness (Walker Books)

Generosity – Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)

Declare – Tim Powers (Corvus)

Lightborn – Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)

The eligibility criteria  – specifically the requirement for the book to have been published in the UK to quality – have thrown up an interesting result this year with Declare by Tim Powers making the shortlist. While this book was first released in the US in 2001, the first UK edition didn’t come out until 2010, hence it is eligible. Also, Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness is the third book in a trilogy.

The shortlist was released on Friday 4th March, and Clarke award administrator Tom Hunter managed to spare some time to give me his thoughts on this year’s selection:

I’ve spent most of the day tabbing between different web pages, following threads, checking Google alerts, clicking links and generally watching Twitter like the kind of geekily obsessive SF stereotype I am. I spend a good part of my Clarke Award working-life trying to challenge, and the overwhelming conclusion from all of this adhoc research is that people seem to really like this shortlist.

This doesn’t mean that they necessarily agree with all of it, and there’s no rule that says they should, but I think this year people have really seen where our shortlist has come from and the real hard work that’s gone into it on the part of the judges; who I think deserve some real kudos by the way.

Then again, maybe all the goodwill is simply down to it being our 25th anniversary…

Either way, it’s a great result for the Award and a fantastic statement about the health of modern science fiction literature – just don’t ask me to guess the winner, this really is one of those great shortlists where the field is wide open.

The British Science Fiction Association award shortlist was also recently announced, with the award ceremony held at the national science fiction convention (commonly referred to as EasterCon), Illustrious, over the Easter weekend. Interestingly, of the Best Novel nominations, three out of the five BSFA nominees are also on the Clarke award shortlist. Together, the BSFA and the Clarke awards count as two of the ‘big ones’ for the UK. A third set of awards, given by the British Fantasy Society, happen later in the year.

Best Novel

Paolo Bacigalupi – The Windup Girl (Orbit)

Lauren Beukes – Zoo City (Angry Robot)

Ken Macleod – The Restoration Game (Orbit)

Ian McDonald – The Dervish House (Gollancz)

Tricia Sullivan – Lightborn (Orbit)

Best Short Fiction

Nina Allan – ‘Flying in the Face of God’ – Interzone 227, TTA Press.

Aliette de Bodard – ‘The Shipmaker’– Interzone 231, TTA Press.

Peter Watts – ‘The Things’ – Clarkesworld 40

Neil Williamson – ‘Arrhythmia’ – Music for Another World, Mutation Press

Best Non-Fiction

Paul Kincaid – Blogging the Hugos: Decline, Big Other

Abigail Nussbaum – Review, With Both Feet in the Clouds, Asking the Wrong Questions Blogspot

Adam Roberts – Review, Wheel of Time, Punkadiddle

Francis Spufford – Red Plenty (Faber and Faber)

Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe the Notes from Coode Street Podcast

Best Art

Andy Bigwood – cover for Conflicts (Newcon Press)

Charlie Harbour – cover for Fun With Rainbows by Gareth Owens (Immersion Press)

Dominic Harman – cover for The Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Gollancz)

Joey Hi-Fi –cover for Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)

Ben Greene – ‘A Deafened Plea for Peace’, cover for Crossed Genres 21

Adam Tredowski – cover for Finch, by Jeff Vandermeer (Corvus)

Voting on the BSFA awards is open to all members of the BSFA and of EasterCon, with advance votes due by 18th April and on-site ballot boxes available at EasterCon itself.

The shortlists so far announced show, I think, that 2010 was a pretty strong year for genre fiction. Certainly some of the novels released in 2010 I now count among my favourites, periods. All that is left is wait for the Hugo shortlist to be announced. And I’m looking forward to that very much indeed.

Hugo- past, present, and yet to come


Laura Burns, aka @moonrangerlaura or @scifilaura, is a NASA Contractor and a science fiction and podcasting fan. She participates in the science tracks at many East Coast cons. She has attended several WorldCons and has voted for the Hugos in times past. She is the head of the Parsec Awards Steering Committee (www.parsecawards.com) and has had her secret identity documented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace (www.murverse.com)

In Hollywood it is Awards season. With the constant coverage of the Golden Globes and Oscar nominations, it is hard not to know about what is going on in sunny Southern California. In the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror world, awards season has also started, but with much less pomp and circumstance. The two big awards for genre fiction are the Hugos and the Nebulas. The Nebulas are determined by members of the Science Fiction Writer’s Association, but the Hugos.. the Hugos are determined by the fans. That means you. Or at least it could. And your favorite podcasters hope you take the challenge.

First, a bit of history. The Hugo awards are managed by the World Science Fiction Society (http://www.wsfs.org/) and awarded at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon). The awards honor professional and fan contributions to the community. The first WorldCon was in 1936, but the first awards weren’t given out in 1953. Isaac Asamov was the Toastmaster and Philip Jose Farmer won for “Best New SF Author or Artist”. Even then, there was a Fan aspect to the awards as Forrest J. Ackerman won for “#1 Fan Personality”. Over the years the categories have evolved with the times.

The 2011 Categories are as follows: (http://www.renovationsf.org/hugo-intro.php) (http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/)
* Best Novel
* Best Novella
* Best Novelette
* Best Short Story
* Best Related Work
* Best Graphic Story (Trial Award)
* Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
* Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
* Best Editor (Long Form)
* Best Editor (Short Form)
* Best Professional Artist
* Best SemiProzine
* Best Fanzine
* Best Fan Writer
* Best Fan Artist

Historically, the Hugo award is a literary award, and thus the nominees are based on printed, ink on paper works. This is changing. In 2006 podcast Novella “Burn” (http://www.jimkelly.net/index.php?Itemid=45&id=15&option=com_content&task=blogcategory) by James Patrick Kelly was nominated for the Hugo and won the Nebula in 2007.  At the 2010 ceremony, the podcast Starship Sofa (http://www.starshipsofa.com/) won the Hugo award for best Fanzine. Having been at WorldCon and NASFic (North American Science Fiction Convention held since WorldCon was outside North America), I can tell you that this caused a bit of a stir.

From what I can determine, your favorite podcasts, stories, authors and editors are eligible for the following categories.
* Best Novel
* Best Novella
* Best Novelette
* Best Short Story
* Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
* Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
* Best SemiProzine
* Best Fanzine
* Best Fan Writer

Web content is also eligible for
* Best Graphic Story (Trial Award)
* Best Professional Artist
* Best Fan Artist

The story must have been first published in 2010. You can find out more details regarding eligibilty and the specific awards here (http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/).

Since the Hugo awards are determined by the fans, you have the power to make an impact. All of the statistics on the number of nominations and votes are posted online. (http://www.thehugoawards.org/2010/09/2010-hugo-award-statistics-posted/) Historically, fan involvement has been very low.  Last year was a record year for Hugo Nominations with less than 900 ballots. (http://www.thehugoawards.org/2010/04/a-little-data/) Some of the short story finalists made the cut with only 23 nomination votes.

So, how do you nominate and vote? First, you need to “join” the World Science Fiction Society by purchasing a membership to the World Science Fiction Convention. (http://www.renovationsf.org/memberships.php) There are several different membership levels. A supporting member, someone not planning on attending the convention, costs $50 until February 28, 2011.  A supporting member has the right to Hugo Award and Site Selection voting rights. Receives any materials relating to that voting. In 2010, the voting packet included free digital access to the nominees. If you later decide to upgrade to an attending member, you will do so at a discount. (http://www.renovationsf.org/register.php#types)

The Hugos are arguably the most prestigious award given for genre fiction. Far too few people get involved in the nomination and selection process. This is your chance. Nominations are open until March 26, 2011, but you need to have purchased your membership on or before January 31, 2011. If you were an attending or supporting member of the 2010 WorldCon (Aussiecon 4), you are automatically eligible to nominate, but not to vote.

There are a lot of nuances to the Hugo awards, and I have not covered all of the details here, but if you are interested, please follow the links and get involved. There are some frequently asked questions here (http://www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-faq/).