The marquee category, prima inter pares, what people mean when they refer to “The Hugo Award”, the novel category is open to works greater than 40,000 words (~80 pages plus). It is also the category I dread the most; no matter how bad a short story is, it will be gone in a moment, while even a good story can drag at novel length. This year I’ve read two going in, Trail of Lightning and Revenant Gun.
This is a pretty self explanatory category typically composed of graphic novels and trade paperbacks. The big story of 2019 is how stagnant the selection is; half of the Graphic Story slate has been locked in since 2017, in the form of Saga (six time nominee), Monstress (two time winner), and Paper Girls. Fortunately two of the repeats (Monstress and Saga) were my top picks of last year, so it is hard to begrudge them their perennial status.
The Campbell award is open to the best new writer, and is judged over their output regardless of length or quantity. Usually, the main thing to comment on is that it is not really a Hugo, but the interesting wrinkle of the Campbell award this year is that you can be eligible for it twice.
Hugo novelettes tend to be long short stories (7500-17500 words). The little bit of extra space gives more flexibility and can lead to greatness (last year’s Wind Will Rove, or two years ago’s Tomato Thief spring to mind), but far to often they fall into the uncanny valley where the length makes them flabby without gaining the depth of a longer work.
I like short stories to be self-contained: a good idea or a complete story. As such I often gravitate to stories that are focused on doing one thing well. It also means that I tend to prefer vignettes, where Hugo short stories can be surprisingly long (7500 words or less).
As a movie, Avengers Endgame was overly long, slow in places, and incredibly self indulgent; as an experience, Avengers Endgame was the end of a journey through two dozen movies that evoked powerful emotions in me. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been running for over a decade, and Endgame felt like a weaponised piece of nostalgia, evoking the entire history of the MCU, and by extension, the last quarter of my life.
I understand that Historical 14th Century Russian Folk Fantasy might not be the selling point for others that it is for me, but regardless, the Winternight Trilogy is something special. I can’t speak to the accuracy of Arden’s Rus, but the verisimilitude is impressive, from the frozen rural hold where the book starts, through to the proto-city of Moscow, all under the yoke of absent Tartar rulers. It is a land of hard work, resilient people, and of course magic.
I’ve been pretty harsh on recent seasons of Dr Who for having over-plotted season arcs, a poor understanding of time travel, and a lack of conviction that just wore me down. This season could have just given us a female Doctor, told some bog standard, standalone Dr Who adventures and I would have been happy as a woodchuck. Instead, they not only fixed almost all of my problems, but Dr Who feels like it has come back with a purpose – it has things to say and it’s not afraid to say them.
Sometimes I just want the literary equivalent of junk food. Hullmetal Girls has a cover of an earnest women in space armor, the dedication is to the kung fu panda 2 soundtrack, and the blurb is about a girl in a lost fleet who agrees to become a robocop for the government, only to find that all is not well (and it’s obvious both what is not going well and where it is going to go).