Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011 Hugo Nominations: Novella

The Hugo Award nominations deadline is upon us very soon (March 26). To my regret, the novella category is one that often gets short-changed by me.  I never seem to allow enough time to read that particular length of fiction. This year I’ve done better than usual and I’ve read what I hope are many of the best novellas. I was guided in my choices for what to read by the Locus Recommended Reading List and Year in Review essays in the February 2011 issue of Locus. I was guided, also, by the contents of the four year’s best science fiction anthologies edited by Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois, Rich Horton, and David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer. I haven’t actually held any of these books, most of which haven’t been printed yet, but their tables of contents are available online.

First rank:
"The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon" by Elizabeth Hand (Stories)
"Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance" by Paul Park (F&SF)

These were the two best novellas from 2010 that I read. Both are brilliantly written, involving and mysterious.  Both stories concern secret histories, or hidden histories. "The Maiden Flight of McCauley's Bellerophon" concerns members of the staff of the Museum of American Aviation and Aerospace, who gather after learning that a coworker is seriously ill, and, in an elegiac gesture, decide to test fly an early heavier-than-air craft. "Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance" is a meta-fictional history of the author’s own family, past, present, and future, reaching back to the Civil War and forward to a depopulated, exhausted future. Both stories are filled with wonderful images and unexpected turns. I am not sure which one will be at the top of my ballot.

Next rank:
“The Lifecycle of Software Objects” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
"Dead Man's Run" by Robert Reed (F&SF)
"Troika" by Alastair Reynolds (Godlike Machines)
"The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen's Window" by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean)

These are fine, award-worthy novellas. I would be pleased to see any of these on the final ballot. My quandary is that one of them will have to be left off my list of nominees, since there are only five spots available.

Honorable mentions:
"The Sultan of the Clouds" by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov's)
“Seven Cities of Gold” by David Moles (PS Publishing)
“Alone” by Robert Reed (Godlike Machines)
“Blue and Gold” by K.J. Parker (Subterranean)

These were quite good, but won’t make my nominating ballot, alas. A good year for novellas, I think, and there were several more published in 2010 that I wish I had gotten to read in time for voting.

Related links:
Locus Recommended Reading list for 2010
Locus Year in Review issue, February 2011
Hugo Awards at the annual World Science Fiction Convention

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