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Just Finished (For the third time) - 'Mirror Dance' by Lois McMaster Bujold

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I've posted a new review, this one for 'The Doomsday Book' by Connie Willis, who many would call one of the greatest women writers in all science fiction, I would agree but subtract the 'women' statement.  Connie Willis is a great writer.  This novel won the Nebula Award for 1992, and tied with Vernor Vinge's 'A Fire in the Deep' for the Hugo Award, it also won the Locus Award for the year and several more awards for fantasy novels.  I'm a little disappointed in the Hugo voters for not giving Doomsday a clear victory.  Often I feel like there is too much science fiction being written and the voters just get stuck in a rut and consistently nominate the same authors over and over.  Vinge's book is good (I'll probably review it pretty soon since I'm bringing it up) but Doomsday stands high above all the other books from that year.  The amount of research Willis put into it, and the amount of detail that goes in to bringing her world to life are just too impressive.

There are a lot of issues that one can have with the nominations for the Hugo Award for best novel.  It's the ultimate popularity contest, anyone can nominate any novel for an award, and anyone willing to pay their dues can vote for whichever novel they want.  Let's look at statistics, there have been about 60 nomination years with about five novels shortlisted every year, but there have only been 128 different authors nominated, and only 42 authors have won the award.  So it looks like while new authors have a fighting chance to win the Hugo award (42 out of 60) the best way to get nominated for a Hugo is to have been nominated already.  Since the voting for the Hugo Award is done by the fans, those writers that have an established fan base have a built in edge in getting nominated for the award.  You'll see a lot of series on there, if the fans nominate the first book in a series it's a good bet they'll nominate the second.  Or, if an author who's been nominated for one series begins a second you can usually rely on it to recieve a nomination as well. 

Many authors do consider the Hugo to be the most prestigious award for sci-fi, but I've often thought that the Nebula Award (Only writer's get to vote) should be the most coveted prize.  It seems like an author would rather want the recognition of their peers than adulation from the fans.  What do I know.  The statistics for the Nebula aren't much better: 47 nomination years with 135 different nominees and 35 different winners, and the Nebula awards haven't always limited it to only 5 shortlisted nominees per year, in 1976 there were 19 novels nominated for the award.  So the Nebula Awards have the same problem as the Hugos with repeat nominations.

What does all this mean?  I don't know.  If you want to get nominated for an award for writing science fiction the best way to do it is to have been nominated already?  Maybe, or maybe it just means that the best writers in the business are constantly grabbing the top nominations.  Though there are a whole crop of great books and writers that have only been nominated once, books like 'The Inverted World,' 'China Mountain Zhang,' and 'Tea with the Black Dragon' and looking at these statistics I get worried that good books like these are being left out of nominations because their authors don't normally write sci-fi or aren't perennial nominees.

Going back to 'The Doomsday Book' I've got to say that my review is pretty long, it's a tough book to talk about.  Many people criticize it as being slow, or they make fun of the light tone in the first half.  I don't know what to say about all that, I think those aspect of the novel are important.  And also I feel the need to defend it because it made me cry like a little girl.  This book might be the most depressing thing ever written, but I think Willis is doing a lot here from a literary standpoint that needs to be brought up if you're goint to review her novel. 

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