It’s that time of year again when the sci-fi/fantasy literary world gears up for the Hugo Awards, geekdom’s equivalent of the Oscars. If you’re a casual fan of the genre, you might have heard or read about some controversy with last year’s awards, but that’s not actually what I’m going to talk about.
I closely followed the Hugo Awards the past two years, but this time, I’m not. Why not? Because the Hugos are irrelevant to me and mine.
“Say what?” you might ask. “Don’t you write science fiction and fantasy?”
Yes, I do, but I write young adult sf/f, which the Hugos (and by extension, the folks who nominate and vote for them) routinely ignore.
Hugo says: “Not good enough”
You might have trouble believing that, considering how Harry Potter is the Millennials’ equivalent of The Lord of the Rings, and how The Hunger Games films (which came from the bestselling series) have made a star of Jennifer Lawrence and grossed almost $3 billion (the 15th highest-grossing movie franchise of all time).
Hugo says: “Eh. Whatever.”
According to Publisher’s Weekly, “juvenile” SF/F massively outsells its grown-up counterparts, and the train shows no sign of slowing. It’s not just Potter and Katniss, it’s also:
- Percy Jackson
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (coming soon to a theatre near you, by the way)
- Throne of Glass
- Ready Player One
- The House of the Scorpion
- The Giver
- The 5th Wave (also coming soon to the movies)
- The Mortal Instruments
- I Am Number Four
…and many more (though we shall not speak of Twilight).
But you wouldn’t know that YA SF/F is rocking the house by scoping out the list of Hugo finalists and winners for Best Novel. Let me spare you some research time: since 1998 (the year after the first Harry Potter book was published, launching the YA speculative-fiction tsunami that’s persisted to this day), the Hugos have been ignoring the “kids” as much and as often as possible.
Don’t believe me? It wasn’t until 2000 that the Hugos decided that hey, this HP stuff doesn’t suck, with Prisoner of Azkaban coming in fifth out of five finalists for Best Novel. It got better the next year, when the just-over-1000 people who voted (a long-time weakness of the Hugos) could no longer ignore the elephant in the room and gave Goblet of Fire the top spot (along with honoring Midnight Robber at #5).
And then zip/zilch/nuffin’/nada YA for the next 8 years in the Best Novel category, until—Praise the baby Jesus!—2009 seemed like the “kids’-stuff” barrier had been broken: Neil Gaimen’s The Graveyard Book took the top prize, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother came in second, and Zoe’s Tale (John Scalzi’s follow-up to Old Man’s War) came in fifth.
So, yeah: other than 2009, the Hugos have pretty much blown off the bestselling, most popular subgenre of science fiction and fantasy. But don’t just take my word for it—others have noticed that, too.
(And let’s not even discuss the paucity of YA SF/F novels that the Hugos have acknowledged since the start of the awards in 1953. Yeah, yeah, yeah: Have Space Suit—Will Travel won, as did Starship Troopers. Can you name any others?)
We will not speak of the movie(s)
This dissing of my genre used to honk me off, but now, I’m done with it. Like the Oscars, the Hugos used to be cool and important, but they’ve become a joke.
I’m much more interested in the brand-new Dragon Awards announced last week by Dragon Con, one of the largest sf/f conventions in the United States. Yes, there will be a Dragon for young adult works, and instead of a few hundred or maybe a thousand people casting ballots, voting will be open to tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of fans (Dragon Con itself attracted 70,000 people over Labor Day weekend in 2015).
With a dragon coming to town, who needs an award that obviously doesn’t think much of the books that young fans are reading (in massive numbers), and that are driving popular culture? They had their chances to get it right: starting now, to hell with the Hugos.
Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy. His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in late 2016.
Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.
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