2015 Hugo Prediction, Version 4.0
A lot has happened in the past month that will shape the 2015 Hugo Best Novel nominations. These are usually announced around Easter weekend, which has the unfortunate tendency of burying the nominations in the holiday. The deadline for nominations this year is March 10, 2015, so WorldCon voters still have time to get their nominations in.
In this post, I’ll focus on my final prediction: which 5 books I think will make the 2015 slate. Since the Nebula nominations just came out, these are likely to influence the Hugos in a substantial way. Over the past several years, about 40% of the eventual Hugo slate has overlapped with the Nebula slate. The Nebula slate is widely seen and discussed within the SFF community, and even if it only influences 4-5% of WorldCon voters, that’s enough to push a book from “borderline” to “nominated.”
Speaking of widely seen and widely discussed, the “Sad Puppies 3” slate is also likely to have a substantial influence on this year’s Hugo. Helmed by Brad Torgersen this year (and by Larry Correia in the past), the Sad Puppy 2 group of suggested nominees had a definite impact on the 2014 Hugos (placing 1 book into the Best Novel category, and several other nominees into other fiction categories), and there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest this campaign won’t be equally (or slightly more) successful this year. See my “Modeling Hugo Voting Campaigns” post for more discussion.
So where does that leave us? Here’s my top 5, based on awards history, critical acclaim, reviews, and popularity. Remember that The Martian by Andy Weir isn’t up here because of eligibility issues. Otherwise I’d have Weir at #3.
Reminder: Chaos Horizon is dedicated to predicting what is likely to happen in the 2015 awards, not what “should” happen. So, long story short, I’m not advocating any of these books for the Hugo, but simply predicting, based on past Hugo patterns, who is most likely to get a nomination.
1. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer: VanderMeer’s short book, the first in the Southern Reach trilogy that all came out this year, was one of the most critically acclaimed SF/weird fiction novels of recent years. It sold well, received a Nebula nomination, and provoked plenty of debate and praise, including high profile features in The New Yorker and The Atlantic. While the Hugos aren’t as susceptible to literary acclaim as the Nebulas, this is either a “love it” or “hate it” kind of book. Readers are either fascinated by VanderMeer’s weirdness and fungal based conspiracies or completely alienated by them. Since you can’t vote against a book in the nominating process, the “loves” will outweigh the “hates.” I have VanderMeer as my early Hugo favorite: I think he’ll win the Nebula, and that win will drive him to the Hugo.
2. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: The Hugo tends to be very repetitive, nominating the same authors over and over again. Given how dominant Leckie’s 2014 Hugo win was (and overall award season), it’s hard to see her not getting another nomination. Even if Ancillary Sword is slightly less acclaimed than Ancillary Justice, it still placed first in my SFF critics collation list, and it has already garnered Nebula and BSFA noms. While I think it’s unlikely Leckie will win two Hugos in a row, the VanderMeer may prove too divisive for the Hugo audience. In that case, Leckie might emerge as the compromise pick. The Hugo preferential voting system can easily allow for something like that to happen.
3. Monster Hunter Nemesis, Larry Correia: Correia finished 3rd in the 2014 Hugo nominations, with only Leckie and Gaiman placing above him (Gaiman declined the nom). That put him very safely in the field, and the mathematics are in Correia’s favor for this year. While Monster Hunter Nemesis is a slightly odd choice for the Hugos, being 5th in a series and urban fantasy to boot, it’s hard to imagine Correia’s supporters abandoning him en-masse in just one year. Despite the vigor of his campaign, Correia doesn’t haven’t the broad support necessary to win a Hugo.
4. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison: There are a number of edgier fantasy novels that could work their way into the Hugo. I’ve had the race down as between Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs and this book for a while. With Addison grabbing the Nebula nomination, that probably boosts her into the Hugo field. This was well-liked in certain circles and placed very high on the SFF critics list. It’s also fantasy, which has a definite block of support behind it—not every WorldCon voter reads SF.
Now things get interesting. I expect their to be an all-out war for the fifth spot, given that there are 4-5 viable contenders. This’ll come down to who gets the vote out, not necessarily which novel is “better” than the other novels.
5. Skin Game, Jim Butcher: Skin Game was part of the “Sad Puppy 3” slate, but Butcher’s appeal extends well beyond that block of voters. While Butcher has never gotten much Hugo love in the past, he is one of the most popular writers working in the urban fantasy field, and his
Henry Harry Dresden (EDIT 3/12/15: Stupid typo on my part. Names are always hard to catch. I’ve read multiple of these novels, too!) novels have been consistently well-liked and well-loved by fans. Even WorldCon voters who don’t agree with the Sad Puppy 3 argument may look at the list, see Butcher, and think, Why not? If Correia can make the slate, so too can Butcher—and Butcher might be even more popular in Sad Puppy realm than Correia. On the negative, this is #14 in a series, and that’s a tough sell to new readers. I’ll be fascinated to see how the vote turns out on this one.
6. The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu: Liu is a best-selling Chinese science fiction author, and this is his first novel translated into English. Liu’s chances have been greatly boosted by his Nebula nomination: this is going to put Three-Body front and center in SF fandom discussions. But is this a case of too little, too late? Are people rushing out to buy the Liu, and will they have time to read it before the Hugo voting closes? Liu’s novel will be very appealing to certain groups of SF WorldCOn voters since it has has throwback elements to hard SF writers like Arthur C. Clarke. I think it’ll be very close between Butcher and Liu (and maybe even Addison), and we’re dealing with guesswork here, not solid facts. There’s simply not enough data to model how a Chinese novel might do against an urban fantasy novel supported by a voting campaign.
7. Lock In, John Scalzi: Although Scalzi isn’t getting a ton of buzz right now, he does have 4 recent Best Novel nominations and a 2013 win for Redshirts. That indicates a broad pool of support in WorldCon voters; Scalzi is an author they’re comfortable with. While he might not be #1 on a lot of ballots, is he #4 or #5 on a plurality? We saw an old-standby in Jack McDevitt grab a Nebula nomination this year. Could Scalzi play the same role in the 2015 Hugos? You can never assume that the Hugos or Nebulas won’t be repetitive.
So, there’s my field. I’m going to drop City of Stairs down to 8th place: no Nebula nom really hurts it. I’m leaving McDevitt off the Hugos; he’s never had much chance there. Charles Gannon received both a Nebula nomination and an endorsement on the Sad Puppy 3 slate. Gannon isn’t as popular as Correia or Butcher, so I don’t think as highly of his chance. I’m slotting him in at #10. That gives us:
8. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett
9. Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson
10. Trial By Fire, Charles Gannon
11. Symbiont, Mira Grant
12. The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley
13. The Peripheral, William Gibson
14. My Real Children, Jo Walton
15. Echopraxia, Peter Watts
So, that’s how Chaos Horizon thinks it’ll play out. What do you think? Who is likely to grab a nomination in 2015?