Hugo Awards! Fee’s picks from frabjous finalists

The Hugo Awards are the last hurrah of the year for science fiction, fantasy and horror novels, novellas, series, young adult, graphic novels, non-fiction and media, just to name a few.

There have been an amazing amount of tantalizing, heartwarming and shocking stories released this year, many of them written during the pandemic. Some have made the rounds for the Nebula, Locus, Stoker, Afro-Futurism, Shirley Jackson, Dragon or New Zealand's Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and are up for their last shot at a big prize.

Winners will be announced this year at the Chengdu WorldCon, 21 October. 

Here are some of my faves and picks for the Hugo Award for Best!

Best Novel:

Nettle & Bone

"Enough of this place," said the dust-wife." "Everyone have their souls still?  Shadows still attached? Then let's go before that changes."

Nettle & Bone by T.Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) is a gorgeous book and one of two entries by an author who has gained a fan in me.

What if marrying the prince wasn't a happy ending? This dark fairy tale is full of magical realism and self-awareness while turning traditional roles around.

Marra is the hero attempting to rescue her sister from a husband who gives her bruises but offers her death. But first she must make a cloak of nettles, a dog from bones and catch the moon in a jar, to gain help from a Dust Wife. 

T. Kingfisher's beautiful, clever and horrifying imagery reminds me of the amazing Clive Barker. With hints of Rossetti. And, Bonedog! <3

The Kaiju Preservation Society

One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.

The Kaiju Preservation Society by the legendary John Scalzi won a Locus Award this year, so its a strong contender. Kaiju is a fun angle on winged lizards - kind of Godzilla meets the World Wildlife Fund, set in another dimension of Earth. Will it go all Jurassic Park?

Jamie's a graduate intern with Uber Eats competitor, FüdMüd, until his asshole boss, Rob Sanders, rips off his ideas and busts him down to delivery boy. When the pandemic hits, Jamie's delivering dinner, but his future's uncertain. When he's offered a grunt's job at KPS, Jamie and his cohort, including a Kiwi called Kahurangi, find themselves in Greenland; gateway to another version of Earth: Kaiju Earth. Where Godzillas the size of mountains, powered by biologically evolved nuclear reactors fly in the skies. 

John Scalzi's wise-cracking characters had me LOLing on the bus - there's even a Māori character - and his setting, in particular the creatures, has me still halfway in Kaiju Earth. I can't wait for the movie, cos who doesn't f'ing love Godzilla?

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau

In the needless cruelty of my father's experiments and the creation of the hybrids, we have sinned. I thought Yuxatan a paradise, but it is not so. He shaped pain into flesh.

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by the prolific Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a romantic treatment of the old story from not only a feminist point of view, but that of the creatures too - who are, of course, less monstrous than humans.

Carlota's story unfolds in a luxurious setting, perhaps the most authentic treatment of the old story yet: the remote Yucatan Peninsula. Gothic in its scope, it's set in a run-down mansion with a sanitorium.

The creatures are well-imagined, their torment evoking both sympathy and revulsion. Moreno-Garcia uses the plot as a vehicle for strong statements about colonisation; adding the late nineteenth century Latin revolution to the time period of the setting.  Carlotta is vivid as a coming-of-age character who has also been saved by her father's medicine.

Nona the Ninth

Kiwi author Tamsyn Muir continues the Ninth House series, which grabs awards each year, with Nona's story. Go Tamsyn!

Lucinda Riley it's not - this planet has deadly politics, and even deadlier necromancers. In this third book of the series, Nona's consciousness has been given a stranger's body and she could do with counselling but is too busy being the weapon to save the last Cohort from the Emperor Undying.

Instead of walking on the beach, she's dreaming of a face painted with a skull, and trying to avert the doom promised by the blue sphere hanging in the sky.

Best Novella:

Into the Riverlands

Chih barely sidestepped as the man roared with fury and charged, and whatever good intentions they had were soundly ruined as they tripped over a stool and landed flat on their rear. Above them, Almost Brilliant shrilled in panic.

"Welcome to the riverlands, cleric," said the waitress with grim amusement.

Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo won a Nebula Award this year.

Featuring non-binary character, Cleric Chih, It's the third wonderfully imagined adventure in the Wuxia-styled Singing Hills Cycle.

In this episode, Cleric Chih, accompanied by their companion, Almost Brilliant, a talking bird with a perfect memory is looking for more of the peoples' stories, to archive for their order.

They find mythical martial artists, some very unreliable narrators, and a fair bit of action. 

The series begins with The Empress of Salt and Fortune, which is astoundingly beautiful, followed by When the Tiger Came Down The Mountain, which is deliciously beguiling, and reminiscent of Kipling's Just So Stories. The next installment, Mammoths at the Gates , has just been released. The tales can be read in any order.

Even Though I Knew the End

She cocked a smoky black eyebrow at me and smiled as her eyes changed from night-burnished brown to glowing, unnatural red; red as Hell's blazes. "A thousand dollars, cash...and your soul."

Even Though I Knew The End by C.L. Polk is entertaining and heart-wrenching. It won the Nebula round this year for Best Novella.

Rendered with wisecracks, wit and beautiful prose, it's the fast-paced, gum-shoe detective styled tale of a woman fighting for her life and her future with the woman of her dreams.

It's a bit like Polk's last really successful title; This Is How You Lose The Time War crossed with Good Omens, - essentially a turf war between angels and demons. On earth, however, humanity has a way of blurring the lines between good and evil...

What Moves the Dead

The animal moved. There were three veterans at that table, battle-scarred soldiers who had served their countries honorably in more than one war . . . and all three of us screamed like small children and recoiled in horror.

What Moves the Dead, by T. Kingfisher, (Ursula Vernon) is not charming at all. Its visceral and its brilliant.

Kingfisher's second nominated work (like, wow!) injects new 'life' into Poe's House of Usher, adding fungus to the creeping terror of the setting and its undead inhabitants. The house is indeed alive, and Kingfisher attributes the glowing of the lake to the fungus.

Its cringeworthy, with well-timed scares in the text. I love the bit where the battle-hardened soldiers scream like schoolgirls. Definitely an author to watch - her versatility and unique imagination are obvious in these two works.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Everything Everywhere All at Once

There's a really competitive lineup for this category, including Avatar, Black Panther, and Nope, to name a few, but my money's on Everything, Everywhere, All At Once.

This film was brilliant, fun, and quite cleverly sci-fi. It scooped seven (!) Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, and five Critics' Choice Awards. Michelle Yeoh makes this film, its a must-see this year.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:

Another great lineup in this section, including episodes from Star Wars series, Andor, but I'm going with the sure bet on this one: Stranger Things: Chapter 4, Dear Billy.

It is, of course, the scene that went viral: Max rising up in the air like Vecna's victims, to the tune of Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill (1985), which also went viral, becoming number one on music charts in 2022, when the episode aired, and bringing an upsurge of interest to the long-running Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever. Winner! 

Find the full list here: 2023 Hugo Awards | The Hugo Awards

If your faves haven't made it to the Hugos, don't forget the GoodReads' Reader's Choice Awards happen in the next few months. Readers can vote on these, or feel free to create your own list of Best Reads of the year on our catalogue. 

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