It’s November 1st, so time for an updated Hugo prediction!
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. I’ve based these on the various Reports I’ve done, the Review Round-Ups of individual texts, and my tracking of Hugo Popularity.
One advantage of doing predictions so early is that it also leaves of plenty time for change. If your favorite novel is down on the list, do something about it: post a review, blog, tell us about it in the comments. A ton can—and will—happen between now and the Hugo nominations. This is an award for SFF fans, and SFF fans should determine which novels make the slate.
Titles link to Review Round-Ups for each author (when I’ve done them).
Tier I: Likely to be Nominated
This tier is full of strong contenders, based on previous Hugo Best Novel performance, reviews, genre, and popularity.
1. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie: The sequel to the 2014 Hugo and Nebula winning Ancillary Justice has been well-reviewed and received, but will fans want to give the award to Leckie twice in a row?
2. Lock In, John Scalzi: The 2013 Best Novel Hugo winner, and Lock In has been quite popular.
3. Monster Hunter Nemesis, Larry Correia : 2014 Hugo Best Novel nominee, placed 6th in 2013, and a prominent Hugo campaigner.
The Martian, Andy Weir: The bestselling SF novel of 2014, but I don’t think it will be eligible. See my post on the issue.
5. Echopraxia, Peter Watts : First novel since his 2007 Best Novel Hugo nomination for the highly regarded Blindsight. If The Martian is ineligible, Watts is the next most-logical SF novel to slide into its place.
6. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer: Beginning of his Southern Reach trilogy, all published this year. Popular, well-reviewed and well-liked. More people read and liked this short first volume than finished the series, so I think it’s Annihilation and not the whole Southern Reach that ends up nominated. Could benefit from a likely Nebula nomination.
Tier II: A Fighting Chance
These authors will need some help to make into the slate: strong placement on year-end lists, a big sales push during the Holiday season, a Nebula nomination (which helps your Hugo chances greatly), or some sort of formal or informal campaign. I’d note that some of these books might well be “better” than the books above them, but we’re discussing Hugo chances here, not which books are actually best.
7. Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson : Nominated with Robert Jordan for Wheel of Time in 2014; first book in this series (The Way of Kings) placed 11th in 2011; staggeringly popular. If the Hugo wasn’t biased against epic Fantasy, this would be a shoo-in.
8. The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley : 2014 Best Fan Writer Hugo winner, 2014 Best Related Work Hugo winner, 2012 Nebula novel nominee, first novel in an ambitious new series. Proved divisive amongst reviewers, and popularity isn’t as strong as other contenders.
9. My Real Children, Jo Walton: 2012 Hugo winner, lower on list because of a lack of strong SFF element.
10. Symbiont, Mira Grant: Nominated for four Hugos in a row from 2011-2014, although she barely made the field last year; published very late in year (November) for a Hugo contender.
11. City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett: Fast rising candidate, and a very well-reviewed and well-liked fantasy novel. Could capture Gaiman’s (huge) audience. I’ll be moving this up if it continues to do well amongst readers and reviewers.
12. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison: The other fast rising candidate, a popular fantasy novel. Strong reviews and well liked. Is there enough space for multiple fantasy novels on the Hugo slate, though, or can only one of Bennett/Hurley/Addison make the field? Could Sanderson crush them all?
13. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell: Surprisingly popular literary novel; contains some speculative elements (war with strange psychic entities), but those are late in the book. More of a Nebula than Hugo nominee.
14. Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes : Beukes placed 7th in the 2014 Hugos, 11th in 2012, but this is more crime and less speculative than the excellent The Shining Girls.
15. Cibola Burn, James S.A. Corey: 2012 Hugo nominee, 8th in 2013, 14th in 2014.
Tier III: Long Shots
These authors could have an argument made for them, but would need quite a bit to happen to make it into the slate.
16. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross: 2014 Hugo nominee, 2014 Novella Hugo winner, last novel in this series (Apocalypse Codex, from the Laundry novels) didn’t place in top 15.
17. William Gibson, The Peripheral: Gibson hasn’t been nominated for a Hugo since 1998, but this might mark a return. Keep your eye on reviews.
18. Elizabeth Bear, The Eternal Range trilogy: With Jordan getting nominated last year, there have been some rumblings about nominating Bear’s well-reviewed fantasy trilogy. That’s going to take a lot of effort to happen, particularly if you take a look at the popularity indicators for Bear (number of ratings on Goodreads, for instance: the last volume has a mere 269 ratings as of November 1, 2014). Not enough readers = not much of a chance.
19. Valour and Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal: 2014 Hugo Novelette winner, 2011 Hugo Short Story winner, placed 8th in 2011, 10th in 2012 for Best Novel.
20. Mainstream Fantasy Novels: There are plenty of mainstream fantasy writers that don’t stand much of a chance, despite their books being well liked. Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, etc. The Hugo has never been very hospitable to novels in Epic fantasy series. Vote for Sanderson if you want a book like this on the slate.
21. The Space Epics: Same thing with these. Books like Peter F. Hamilton’s The Abyss Beyond Dreams, Alastair Reynold’s On The Steel Breeze, may seem like possible candidates, but they haven’t done well in recent years. Throw Greg Bear in here as well.
22. Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem: A high profile release by China’s most popular SF author, but foreign-language texts have done terribly in the Hugos.
23. The Chaplain’s War, Brad Torgersen: First novel, 2014 Hugo Novelette and Short Story nominee, 2012 Hugo and Nebula Novelette nominee, didn’t grab much attention when released. Could be part of a future “Sad Puppy” campaign by Correia.
24. The Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor: No 2014 US release for this book dooms any chances.
25. The Girl with All the Gifts, M.S. Carey: Popular zombie book, would need tons of support to make the slate.
That’s a long list. I’m sure I could add more to the “Longshots” section. Who else is missing? Who has a real chance of snagging one of these awards, and more important, why? Who’s your current front-runner? What SFF book have you liked best this year?
Peter Watts is back with his first novel since Blindsight (2006). That novel picked up a nomination for the 2007 Best Novel Hugo (it lost to Rainbow’s End), and its reputation has only grown since. Elizabeth Bear called it “the best hard science fiction novel of the first decade of this millennium,” and the book placed 4th in Tor.com’s “Best SFF of the Decade” poll and 6th on LocusMag’s 21st Century All-Time poll. Those are some impressive credentials, and it means that Echopraxia, a semi-sequel set in the same universe as Blindsight and dealing with many of the same themes, might be well-positioned to make some serious Hugo and Nebula noise this year.
It’s difficult to describe Watts: his books deal with a dense array of themes, ranging from aliens, zombies, vampires, spaceships, the meaning of consciousness, and the ability of humans to make sense of their world. Echopraxia looks to extend those discussions, this time telling us the story of a technology-resistant biologist who finds himself on a strange spaceship surrounded by a range of post-human and biomechanical entities, struggling to keep the world in order. If that sounds baffling, it is, and trying to reduce Watts down to a simple statement of plot is pointless. These books are meant to be mind-boggling explorations of the far reaches of science. Go in spoiler-free and you’ll have a better time. If you’re looking for extended discussion of consciousness, a rigorous exploration of what technology might do to the idea of the “human,” and some space-action to boot, Watts is the writer for you.
I currently have Echorpaxia at #10 on my Hugo Watchlist. The eight year gap between Blindsight and this book hurts Watts chances; Hugo voters can be quick to forget an author. Furthermore, most of the “big ideas” of Echopraxia were introduced in Blindsight, making Echopraxia a little less exciting in contrast. Still, I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see Watts make the slate: there aren’t a lot of hard SF books like this out there, and if The Martian winds up being ineligible (for being indie published before 2014), I could see Watts grabbing that spot. Watts also has some solid recent Hugo history, including a win in 2010 for the novelette “The Island” and a 2011 short story Hugo nom. It will be really important to see how Echopraxia does on year end lists. Are people going to see this as a worthy successor to Blindsight, or a hashing over of the same ground? Only time will tell.
Watts has no Nebula history (0 nominations ever), so I don’t have him currently on the Nebula Watchlist.
On to the book:
Book published August 26, 2014.
There’s also a review at Tor.com, but since Tor is the publisher, I think there’s a conflict of interest in reviewing your own book. What are they going to do, trash it? This is a lot fewer mainstream reviews than other big SFF books this year, and that may say something about the reach of Echopraxia: it’s for hardcore SF and Watts fans only.
Given that the book has been out since August (I’m putting this up October 5th. I know I’m behind), that’s not very many WordPress reviews. That says something about a book’s initial reception and initial popularity, both important factors in racking up awards attention and nominations. Furthermore, the reviews are pretty tempered—a lot of scores in the 70% range, which is low for a major SFF release. All of that might not matter—a book needs passionate fans, not fans across the board, to snag nominations. If the core of readers who loved Blindsight also love this novel, they can propel Watts to another nomination. If they find Echopraxia doesn’t live up to Blindsight, then no nomination for Watts.
To go with my far Too Early 2015 Hugo Prediction, here are some additional possibilities for the 2015 award season. Some readers have noted that it’s too early to predict the Hugos: I 100% agree. That’s the fun of it. Why so serious?
Having this conversation early gives potential readers more of a chance to read the nominees. If anyone has suggestions for additional candidates, put them in the comments. It would be great if we, as a community, could come up with a comprehensive Hugo (and later Nebula) watch list.
As a reminder, here’s my too early slate (now in order of most likely to be nominated):
1. Ann Leckie, Ancillary Truth: Last year’s Hugo and Nebula winner, due out October 7th.
2. John Scalzi, Lock In: The 2013 Hugo winner, and one of the best reviewed and marketed novels of his career.
3. Larry Correia, Monster Hunter NemesisL who has offered himself up as a conservative alternative to the Hugo slate.
4. Andy Weir, The Martian: NYT bestselling hard SF novelist, that might or might not be eligible, as the book was originally indie published before being issued in hardcover this year.
5. Kameron Hurley, The Mirror Empire: one of the most buzzed about fantasy novelists of the year, and a fantasy alternative to the rest of the slate.
As always, my predictions are who is likely to be nominated, not who should be nominated.
Of course, some big novels will be published between now and the end of the year; Ancillary Justice wasn’t published until October, and it swept the awards.
First, let’s dig into the numbers. Here’s this year’s Hugo nominees and the number of votes they received, taken right from the Hugo website:
368 Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie 23.1%
218 The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman 13.7% * Declined nomination
184 Warbound Larry Correia 11.5%
160 The Wheel of Time Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson 10.0%
120 Neptune’s Brood Charles Stross 7.5%
98 Parasite Mira Grant 6.1%
96 The Shining Girls Lauren Beukes 6.0%
92 A Stranger in Olondria Sofia Samatar 5.8%
91 A Few Good Men Sarah A. Hoyt 5.7%
84 The Golem and the Djinni Helene Wecker 5.3%
81 The Republic of Thieves Scott Lynch 5.1%
74 Under a Graveyard Sky John Ringo 4.6%
70 London Falling Paul Cornell 4.4%
69 Abaddon’s Gate James S.A. Corey 4.3%
67 Steelheart Brandon Sanderson 4.2%
66 River of Stars Guy Gavriel Kay 4.1%
A couple quick things to note: Mira Grant wouldn’t have made it if Gaiman hadn’t declined, and she beat Samatar and Beukes by only a few votes. Correia was solidly in the field, one of the reasons I think he’ll make it this year, even if there is less enthusiasm for a “Sad Puppy” slate.
A fair number of authors on this list don’t have books coming out this year. I wasn’t able to find books by Samatar, Hoyt (Night Shifters is a collection of previously published novels), Wecker, Lynch, and Guy Gavriel Kay. Ringo has two zombie sequels out this year, which probably muddies the voting waters so much that he doesn’t have a chance. Cornell’s sequel to London Falling is The Severed Streets, but sequels tend not to jump up in the Hugo voting. Same thing for Cibola Burn, the latest Expanse novel by James S.A. Corey. It’ll be interesting to see if the Expanse TV series will eventually push up these novels, but that is still a ways off.
From last years close calls, that leaves Sanderson, who I dealt with in my last post, so that leaves Lauren Beukes:
Lauren Beukes, Broken Monsters (less likely to be nominated): Beukes almost broke through with The Shining Girls last year, a time-travelling serial killer story. If that doesn’t sound cool, what does? This novel is due out on September 16th, and has an intriguing jacket copy: a cop in Detroit, a mysterious case that seems to fuse human and animal bodies, and all sorts of trippy and disturbing stuff. It doesn’t, however, sound particularly like a SFF novel, but maybe more like a post-modern take on the cop novel. The description doesn’t really give away the genre, so we’ll have to wait and see how speculative this is. Even if it’s not a Hugo or Nebula contender, it still seems like a very interesting read. I’ve added it to my “to read’ pile, although I can’t pre-order due to Amazon’s feud with Hachette. :(.
Here are some other possibilities suggested by commentators:
Echopraxia, Peter Watts (50/50 chance to be nominated): This was a good suggestion of a potential contender. This is Watts’ long awaited follow up to the well-regarded Blindsight, which received a Hugo nomination in 2007. In those intervening years, I think Blindsight‘s reputation has only increased, winding up as one of the more talked about SF novels of the past 10 years. Watts has tons of challenging and interesting hard SF ideas in these novels, and I can easily imagine that element SF fandom coalescing around this novel. If Weir isn’t eligible, this could be the hard SF novel that sneaks into the slate.
Cixin Liu, The Three Body Problem, translated from Chinese by Ken Liu (less likely to be nominated, but who knows): A real wild card. Cixin Liu, according to the Amazon.com description, is the most popular SF writer in China, and this is his first novel being translated into English. Historically, the Hugos have been completely biased against non-English language books. This is a shame, given that these awards are given by the WorldCon; you’d figured you’d have to honor the rest of the world at some point. This book is due out November 11th, and it’ll be interesting to see how much buzz it gets. I have it on my “to read” list, but it’s too early to say if this is an award contender.
Elizabeth Bear, The Eternal Sky series (less likely to be nominated): Although dead, Robert Jordan is still a trailblazer. By getting his entire series of The Wheel of Time nominated through something of a loophole (that allows serialized works to be nominated as one big work), this has opened the door to other fantasy series being nominated. Bear was brought up in the comments by Niall in the comments as a possibility. On the surface, this makes sense: Bear is well liked, has four Hugos (two for stories and two for podcasts), and this fantasy series is well regarded for its genre-bending. Still, Jordan didn’t make it into the slate that easily: he picked up only 10% of the total vote. How much less popular than Jordan is Bear? To nominate a series, voters have to know to nominate the series, and that takes an organized campaign and a huge fanbase. If Bear’s fanbase is 50% of what Jordan’s is (no offense, but that’s a wild overstatement of Bear’s popularity), she’d wind up outside of the slate. I find it hard to imagine any other complete series getting nominated, because no one beside Martin has Jordan’s huge following, and Martin’s novels already get nominated for the Hugo. Perhaps The Kingkiller Chronicles could be nominated as a series in a few years. Any other possibilities?
Fantasy Novelists: Take your pick of names: Joe Abercrombie. Patrick Rothfuss. Mark Lawrence. I’m sure I could add more. These are some of the most talked about fantasy writers of the past five years, and all have new books coming out this year. For whatever reason, though, authors like this don’t make the Hugo slate. Of those three, there are exactly 0 Hugo nominations between them. If anyone from this type of authors would have a chance, it would be Sanderson with Worlds of Radiance. I might end upgrading his chances to 50/50: if he just doubles his vote from Steelheart—a far less respected book—he’d be in the field.
I’ll continue mining the comments for more ideas, and I’ll try to address the other novels mentioned in the comments in my Hugo contenders post.