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Hugo Thoughts: Best Series

This year a new category has been added to the Hugo Awards: Best Series.

It's not a permanent category yet. Though the idea behind the category has been discussed at various worldcon business meetings over the years, it has yet to be passed and ratified. But worldcon rules permit each concom to add one category of their own choosing each year, and the Finnish fans decided to add Best Series... rather as an experiment, I guess, to see how well the category might work.

Honestly, I have mixed thoughts about adding Best Series to the Hugos as a permanent new category. Being an old guy, I can remember a time when most science fiction novels were stand-alones. If they were popular enough, they might spawn sequels, but the series novel was the exception rather than the rule. Today the reverse is true. It has become increasingly hard to find a science fiction or fantasy novel that is NOT part of some series.

So do we need a Best Series Hugo? I don't know. Being part of a series has not stopped the last three Best Novel winners from taking home the rocket, so it is not as if series books are being overlooked. And what is a "series," actually? The difficulty of defining that term is one of the reasons so many worldcons have spent so long wrangling over it.

All that being said, for this year at least there will be a Hugo for Best Series. And I'd guess that almost all the leading contenders for the Best Novel rocket are ALSO contenders for Best Series (yes, there will be a few exceptions). So the only series that I am going to submit for your consideration is one that will NOT also be competing for The Big One: my own.

No, not that one. A SONG OF ICE & FIRE had no new installment published in 2016, so it's not eligible. Besides, I don't consider A SONG OF ICE & FIRE to be a series, not as I define the word (yes, I am aware, the rules define the term more broadly). I consider A SONG OF ICE & FIRE to be one single gigantic story published in multiple volumes. (Seven, I hope). LORD OF THE RINGS was not a series either, nor a trilogy; it was a single novel published in three volumes.

But I do have a series, a true series, one that I've been working on even longer than I have ICE & FIRE, one that I am very proud of: WILD CARDS.

You know. This series here:


WILD CARDS is no stranger to Hugo competition. In 1988, when the series was only three books old, the New Orleans worldcon added a new category called "Other Forms," just as Helsinki has added Best Series, and we were one of the five nominees. We lost to Alan Moore's landmark graphic novel WATCHMEN, which surprised no one, least of all us... but it WAS an honor just to be nominated, and we had a great time at the Hugo Losers Party afterward.

Alas, "Other Forms" did not survive as a Hugo category, and the Wild Cards books, though they continued to be popular, never fit comfortably into any of the other categories. We called them mosaic novels, and some were indeed six- or seven-way collaborative novels, but they were never going to contend for Best Novel. Other volumes were more akin to anthologies... but the Hugo Awards have never had a 'Best Anthology' category (though if truth be told, I'd sooner see them add that than Best Series). I would sometimes get some votes for my editing, but never enough to make the final ballot (one year I finished seventh out of five, as I recall, but that was the closest I came). Individual stories from the books were nominated for awards and one such, Walter Jon Williams "Witness," was a Nebula finalist. That lost too. Oh, and one year S.P. Somtow presented Wild Cards with his Icarus Award.

I can hardly be objective about WILD CARDS, but I do think we're worthy of consideration. This year we are celebrating our thirtieth anniversary, a considerable achievement all by itself. All the other shared world series of the 80s are gone, but Wild Cards continues... and I think that most of those who have stuck with us over the years will agree, we're better than ever. We have entertained millions of readers over those three decades, the books have been published in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Russia, Germany, Brazil (with more countries coming up). WILD CARDS has given birth to two role-playing games, two comic book series (three more graphic novels in the works), and soon, I hope, a television series. We've had twenty-three books published to date, three more finished and delivered and in the pipeline for publication in 2017 and 2018, more to come.

But it's not just longevity. Together with WATCHMEN, WILD CARDS helped redefine the treatment of superpowers and superheroes in popular culture, taking a grittier, more realistic, more adult approach to the subject, with an emphasis on characterization. And with the full mosaics we only dared attempt every third book, we went way beyond any other shared world to create a whole new (and very demanding, I may add) template. And there's been some cool world-building too, as my team played the alternate world concept central to the series.

We have had ups and downs, of course -- hey, with twenty-three books and a couple hundred stories, how not? -- but overall, I don't know many other series that have maintained a similar consistencey of quality over half as many book, and I like to think that when we've been good, we've been very very good. Especially in those full mosaics: JOKERS WILD, ACE IN THE HOLE/ DEAD MAN'S HAND, DEALER'S CHOICE, BLACK TRUMP, SUICIDE KINGS, HIGH STAKES.

I've only been a small part of that, of course. I may the conductor, but I've had a hell of a band. Over the decades, I've had the honor of working with some truly gifted and innovative writers. Howard Waldrop, Roger Zelazny, Daniel Abraham, Edward Bryant, Stephen Leigh, Victor Milan, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Carrie Vaughn, Laura J. Mixon, Sage Walker, William F. Wu, John Jos. Miller, Lewis Shiner, Cherie Priest, Walton Simons, Caroline Spector, Walter Jon Williams, Michael Cassutt, Paul Cornell, Ian Tregillis, David Anthony Durham, David D. Levine... the list goes on and on... and of course, Melinda M. Snodgrass, who has been my right hand since the start.

And wait till you see the new writers we have in store for you in the books to come, and the characters they've created for us. The best, truly, is yet to come.

WILD CARDS. Best Series? That's up to fandom. If you've liked the books, nominate them. But once again let me say that whatever you choose to nominate, you should NOMINATE.

((If you haven't read any Wild Cards and would like to try a small sample before shelling out for a book, check out the FREE stories on Tor.com)).

Clear skies and tail winds.

Comments

( 15 comments )
kalimac
Feb. 28th, 2017 03:02 am (UTC)
The Mythopoeic Society Awards have tried for years to draw the distinction you're drawing between true series and a single story told in multiple volumes. The former, in which the volumes stand alone, are eligible individually; the latter only when they're finished. (This, incidentally, is why no volume of A Song of Ice and Fire has been nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award: we're waiting for it to be completed. When it is, I don't doubt it'll be a finalist.)

Unfortunately, many Society members, who are allowed to nominate, interpret the "if it doesn't stand alone, it isn't eligible individually" to refer to any connection between books, which was not the intent. When Marion Zimmer Bradley died, someone tried to nominate the entirety of Darkover. I was awards administrator then, and disallowed this: Darkover was a series, not a single story in multiple volumes.

However, the Hugos take a different approach, and don't differentiate between the two. They certainly don't have the deferral-of-books if they don't stand alone that the Mythopoeic Awards have. When the Hugos had a one-shot Best Series before, in 1966, The Lord of the Rings, the nominee the category was intended to honor, was a single book in multiple volumes. Three of the other nominees - Barsoom, the Lensmen series, and Heinlein's Future History - were clearly series. The actual winner, Asimov's Foundation, was somewhere in between.

Edited at 2017-02-28 03:03 am (UTC)
grrm
Feb. 28th, 2017 04:09 am (UTC)
I would make even further distinctions. Barsoom and Lensmen are true series, i think. LOTR is a single book in three volumes. Foundation and Heinlein were future histories, much looser and more diffuse. Most of my own early SF was set against in the same universe, the Thousand Worlds, but I don't consider those stories to be part of a series.
geekfurious
Feb. 28th, 2017 11:06 am (UTC)
Question about Tolkien's work and ASOIAF
Could one consider The Hobbit and The Silmarillion as volumes in the LOTR book? And do you consider your other ASOIAF books/novellas (World of Ice and Fire, Dunk & Egg etc) to be volumes in one story?

Thanks.
xcalibur201
Mar. 2nd, 2017 07:55 am (UTC)
Re: Question about Tolkien's work and ASOIAF
I think The Hobbit is a prequel, while the Silmarillion is a history/backstory/reference work vis-à-vis LotR.

I can't speak for Mr. Martin on ASoIaF.
Williamjames Hoffer
Feb. 28th, 2017 04:09 am (UTC)
Best Series
For the titles alone it should win.
Matt Thornton
Feb. 28th, 2017 05:22 am (UTC)
F it, make it 8
look GRRM truth be told your ASOIAF is an amazing masterpiece, and in my honest opinion if it needs to be written across 8 books and not 7 like you thought it would, who cares if it takes even longer than everyone else has patience for. its your story, you tell it how you need to, and take as long as you need for your own piece of mind because as a reader (and someone who's willing to pay money for your work) id rather wait for something the author is happy with, not something they've been rush in to releasing before its ready or they're happy with...

cheers!
Claudia Martins
Feb. 28th, 2017 04:38 pm (UTC)
Re: F it, make it 8
He should write at his pace, and when it ends, it ends. I am personally favourable to 9 books. A trilogy of trilogies sounds appealing, doesn't it? It wouldn't hurt one bit if one of those books were to be called "A Time for Wolves" - it's a badass title, and I love the Starks, bad and good and all. But I digress.

ON TOPIC - You know, something that puts me off about WILD CARDS is actually how... modern it is. If a character were to have a power that could explore different worlds in different times - say, ancient peoples, "medieval" settings, myths and folklore - I'd never get enough of it. That said, from what I've read, it certainly deserves being nominated a hundred times over. It seems to be George's favourite baby, and I can't blame him! Good luck, Mr. Martin. I hope WILD CARDS gets the praise it deserves.
grrm
Feb. 28th, 2017 05:29 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: F it, make it 8
Favorite? Nah. Love all my literary children. Ice & Fire, Wild Cards, Thousand Worlds, Tuf, Fevre Dream, Windhaven, the Rag, Doorways... on and on... all parts of me...
Matt Thornton
Mar. 2nd, 2017 09:16 pm (UTC)
Re: F it, make it 8
I agree 100%. Badass is an understatement. The first time I heard that title I was like holy F that's brilliant...

On a side note, I always joke with my friends and family back in Australia that I (not sure if I should be sad or proud) know more about the history of Westeros then I do about Europe haha.

so perhaps if the story takes another 10/15 years to be wrapped up it could actually cause me more harm then good lol
xcalibur201
Feb. 28th, 2017 10:37 am (UTC)
As a longtime LotR fan, I'd like to point out that while it was a single story published in three volumes, it was also internally divided into six 'books' (two books per volume).

Another personal favorite, Asimov's Foundation trilogy, is similar but different. It was published in three books; Empire/Second Foundation were each divided into two parts, but the first Foundation novel was divided into five parts. It has this structure because it was originally a set of short stories before it was organized into a trilogy.

If you're going to debate over what makes a series and what doesn't, I think it's important to consider the author's intention.
MarkLStackpole
Feb. 28th, 2017 05:34 pm (UTC)
Slightly off topic.


Those covers for the TOR reissues of the clear Hugo winner for best series are spectacular. Standouts are the portrait of Bagabond gracing Down and Dirty and the above the title billing of John Jos. Miller for Dead Man's Hand.


Why isn't there a Hugo for best art direction?
grrm
Feb. 28th, 2017 09:01 pm (UTC)
Irene Gallo has won lots of awards for art direction, but yeah, maybe that's something to consider.

I agree, Komarck's work is spectacular. The Bagabond cover is one of my own favorites as well, and I love the Mackie Messer cover on ACE IN THE HOLE and the Water Lily cover for ACES HIGH too. Oh, and SUICIDE KINGS, of course. Rusty and the Croc. Can't beat that.

I really hope Komarck gets some Hugo love this year.
jharaldson
Feb. 28th, 2017 09:55 pm (UTC)
I am hoping that the inclusion of a best series option will bring Hugo's to series like "The Wheel of Time", "Mistborn", "Dresden Files", etc... TWOT is effectively my foundation or anchor into SF&F fandom. TWOT was so popular among fans that Usenet basically had to split off the fandom for Robert Jordan into a new newsgroup because the volume of topics regarding TWOT was overwhelming the rec.arts.sf.written group. They have sold 80+ million books worldwide. The comparable for the discussion about Jon Snow's parents is "Who Killed Asmodean?" from TWOT, which perplexed fans for over a decade of crazy theories. Despite all of this, none of the individual books were ever in the finals for a Best Novel Hugo. Even last year if you took off the puppy picks the Companion book would not have even qualified for related work.

In 2014 TWOT was nominated as a series in the Best Novel category. It lost to every non-puppy nominee. In fact, it got the highest percentage of "No Award" votes of a non-puppy book in the last 5 years:

2014 - 4th place - TWOT
Award - 1632 (%65)
No Award - 860 (%35)

2013 - 5th Place - Blackout
Award - 948 (%81)
No Award - 224 (%19)

2012 - 5th Place - A Dance with Dragons
Award - 1014 (%84)
No Award - 194 (%16)

2011 - 5th Place - The Dervish House
Award - 1098 (%90)
No Award - 117 (%10)

2010 - 5th Place - Palimpest
Award - 464 (%81)
No Award - 108 (%19)

I am hopeful that something like a Series award will give a place for works like this to be awarded and look forward to what happens this year.
grrm
Feb. 28th, 2017 10:39 pm (UTC)
I understand... but is WHEEL OF TIME even eligible this year? I thought you needed a new installment during the previous year. WHEEL was completed well before 2016, was it not?
jharaldson
Mar. 1st, 2017 08:26 pm (UTC)
I was using TWOT as a comp for something this award would have helped in the past. You are correct that nothing was published that would make it a contender this year.

Current works that either don't get nominations or don't get wins that I would like to see recognized for the Series Hugo:

- John Scalzi - Old Man's War Universe - Nominated but lost, won for a standalone book in another universe
- Brandon Sanderson - Mistborn - No Best Novel nominations
- JA Corey - Expanse - Nominated but lost, not nominated for a while
- Pierce Brown - Red Rising - No Best Novel nominations
( 15 comments )

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