Predicting the Next Hugo Award-Winning Novel

Hugo Award from the 2007 WorldCon in Japan, derived from photo by Cory DoctorowFor the last two years I've voted in the Hugo Awards, yearly literary honors for science fiction and fantasy (but mostly science fiction). I skipped the best novel category because I hadn't read most of the works, which is no fun at all since that's the biggest award. So when the 2010 Hugos are decided next spring, I'd like to have completed enough of the nominated novels to make an informed vote.

This won't be easy, since I only read around one book a month. But after digging into the history of the awards, I've found that most best-novel nominated authors have been there before. If you're nominated for one novel, you have a pretty good shot that your next will be nominated as well. During the past decade, 34 out of 50 nominees were retreads. Here are the only first-timers over that period:

  • 2000: J.K. Rowling
  • 2001: Nalo Hopkinson, Ken McLeod, George R.R. Martin
  • 2002: Neil Gaiman, China Mieville
  • 2003: None
  • 2004: Charles Stross
  • 2005: Iain M. Banks, Susanna Clarke, Ian McDonald
  • 2006: John Scalzi
  • 2007: Michael F. Flynn, Naomi Novik, Peter Watts
  • 2008: Michael Chabon
  • 2009: Cory Doctorow

There are currently 68 living Hugo-nominated best novel authors, ranging in age from Naomi Novik at 36 to Frederik Pohl, who turns 90 next week on Nov. 26 and recently began his own blog. I put together an Amazon wish list of 22 novels by these authors coming out this year, leaving off some books that have no shot at all, such as book five in a genre series and every co-authored novel except for David Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Escape from Hell, the sequel to their 1976 Hugo-nominated novel Inferno.

I'm guessing that four out of five Hugo nominees and the eventual winner are on this list. I recently finished Transition by Iain M. Banks and began reading This is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams, who was nominated 11 years ago for the novel City on Fire.

If you'd like to vote in the Hugos, all that's required is to become a supporting member of the next WorldCon science fiction convention before voting begins. A supporting membership in AussieCon 4, the 2010 WorldCon in Melbourne, Australia, currently costs $50 and can be upgraded later if you decide to attend. One cool perk of being a Hugo voter is that you're sent ebook copies of most nominated novels and many other nominated works for private review. Unfortunately, by the time they arrive you only have a few weeks in which to read them.

I'll be posting a review of Transition later this week.

Credit: The photo of a 2007 Hugo Award statue was derived from a photo taken by Doctorow available under a Creative Commons license.


Iain Banks is by far my favorite SF writer. LOVE that dude

Thanks for the information. $50 is a small price to pay for getting ebook copies of nominated novels. I doubt I will make it to the acutal con, but love the idea of getting a vote!

What's the best Banks book, Mikey? This was my first to read.

I love Use of Weapons and Consider Phlebas, and Look to Windward is another great one. His non-SF stuff is kinda creepy but good, Complicity is probably the best-known and the Wasp Factory the creepiest. But I love his SF world, it's easily my favorite imagined universe. Didn't like Feersum Endjin much.

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