Here are the 2023 Hugo Award Finalists

Award ballots are generally a good barometer for the state of a community

Here are the 2023 Hugo Award Finalists
Image: Andrew Liptak

Earlier this week, Chengdu Worldcon, the 81st World Science Fiction Convention, announced the finalists for this year's Hugo, Lodestar, and Astounding Awards. As with any award-season list, there are the usual complaints that there's something missing, or that there are other random issues, and this year's ballot strikes me as a good reminder that fandom is a complicated body, and that at its heart, it's a body of people who're connected by a shared tradition of enjoying one particular type of fiction in a certain social context that stretches back nearly a century.

My initial reaction to the list is that it's a bit of a perplexing one: the novel category has a bunch of books that I thought for sure would get a nomination but didn't, like Ray Nayler's The Mountain in the Sea, R.F. Kuang's Babel, or Simon Jimenez's The Spear Cuts Through Water, each of which have been fairly highly acclaimed within fan circles, and in the larger literary / reading world.

My second thought was that this is probably the most internationally-diverse list that we've ever seen, which the folks at the unofficial Hugo Book Club blog pointed out: this year's prose categories include nominees from "the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Taiwan, and New Zealand," and I'm guessing there's a similar thing going on with the fan and art categories as well. "World" Science Fiction Convention has always been something of a misnomer, given the concentration of SF/F fans in North America and Europe, and while nine countries isn't exactly representative of the entire world, it's good to see that fandom is waking up to stories from other places around the world.

Over on Reddit, John Scalzi posted up some good observations about the character of the community that's behind the awards, and why you see a company like Tor dominating them with the books they produce year in and year out. One point in particular stood out to me:

The first is the (relative) decline of the "Big Three" short fiction magazines in SF/F (Asimov's, Analog, F&SF) and the commensurate rise of a series of online short fiction publishing venues like Uncanny, Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons (among others). The Big Three ran on Silent, Boomer and Elder GenX writers, and the market forces for the genre those writers came up in was heavily cis and white and male. The newer venues, by inclination and necessity, cultivated younger generations of writers from more diverse backgrounds. When the Big Three declined and the online magazines rose, their respective stables of authors more or less rose or declined with them.

The rise of online magazines has been a key inflection point for a number of years now (I really need to get my hands on a copy of Mike Ashley's Rise of the Cyberzines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1991 to 2020, which *sigh* costs ~$150, to see what his conclusions are. The first three books of this series are indispensable for examining the history of the genre) because amongst other things, have removed the barrier to entry that was physically mailing a manuscript to a magazine office in New York City, and waiting for it to come back to you. With the rise of places like Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and others, you've seen a new grouping of legacy outlets that have helped nudge the genre in different directions (which, I might add, Hugo voters are reading and enjoying).

One thing that I've come to understand over the years is that legacy institutions are slow to move or change: a long-running magazine like Asimov's or Analog have their dedicated readers who know what they like, and there's generally a reason why you'll have fans gravitating toward newer magazines that don't have those preconceived notions or legacy behind them. Neither of these things are bad: I still pick up Asimov's whenever I see one at the local Barnes & Noble, and enjoy their stories. They're just slower to adapt to the rapid changes that the internet has brought with it.

It's also worth noting that these types of awards are the product of the fandoms that support them, and as Scalzi notes, Hugo voters aren't a monolith. Nor is SF/F fandom a monolith, as this list of nominees shows: the folks voting for the Hugos have slightly different tastes than the Locus or Nebulas or the Shirley Jacksons, and so forth. There are overlaps and significant differences. If I were to set up an award through Transfer Orbit, I imagine that we'd see a different shortlist and finalists. Hm.

It'll be interesting to see what the numbers look like after the winners are announced in October.

Here are the finalists for this year's awards:

Astounding Award for Best New Writer

  • Travis Baldree
  • Naseem Jamnia
  • Isabel J Kim*
  • Maijia Liu
  • Everina Maxwell*
  • Weimu Xin*

*finalist in their 2nd year of eligibility

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult  Book

  • Akata Woman (The Nsibidi Scripts) by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn
  • Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak by Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik
  • In the Serpents Wake by Rachel Hartman
  • Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods by Catherynne M. Valente

Best Fan Artist

  • Iain Clark
  • Richard Man
  • Laya Rose
  • Alison Scott
  • España Sheriff  
  • Orion Smith  

Best Fan Writer

  • Chris M. Barkley
  • Bitter Karella
  • Arthur Liu  
  • RiverFlow  
  • Jason Sanford  
  • Örjan Westin

Best Fancast

  • Coode Street Podcast presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe, produced by Jonathan Strahan
  • Hugo, Girl! by Haley Zapal, Amy Salley, Lori Anderson, and Kevin Anderson
  • Hugos There by Seth Heasley
  • Kalanadi created and presented by Rachel
  • Octothorpe by John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty
  • Worldbuilding for Masochists by Cass Morris, Rowenna Miller, Marshall Ryan Maresca

Best Fanzine

  • Chinese Academic SF Express, by Latssep and Tianluo_Qi
  • Galactic Journey, by Gideon Marcus, Janice Marcus, Tammi Bozich, Erica Frank, Arel Lucas, and Mark Yon
  • Journey Planet, by Regina Kanyu Wang, Yen Ooi, Arthur Liu, Jean Martin, Erin Underwood, Steven H Silver, Pádraig Ó Méalóid and their other co-editors
  • Nerds of a Feather, by Roseanna Pendlebury, Arturo Serrano, Paul Weimer, Adri Joy, Joe Sherry, Vance Kotrla, G. Brown
  • Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog, by Olav Rokne and Amanda Wakaruk
  • Zero Gravity Newspaper, by RiverFlow and Ling Shizhen

Best Semiprozine

  • Escape Pod, Co-editors Mur Lafferty & Valerie Valdes; Assistant editors Benjamin C. Kinney & Premee Mohamed, host Tina Connolly, Producers Summer Brooks and Adam Pracht
  • FIYAH, edited by the entire FIYAH team
  • khōréō, edited by team khōréō
  • PodCastle, Co-Editors Shingai Njeri Kagunda and Eleanor R. Wood; Assistant Editor Sofia Barker; Host Matt Dovey; Audio Producers Peter Adrian Behravesh, Devin Martin, and Eric Valdes
  • Strange Horizons, edited by The Strange Horizons Editorial Team
  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers and editors-in-chief: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas; managing/poetry editor Chimedum Ohaegbu; managing editor Monte Lin; nonfiction editor Meg Elison; podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky

Best Professional Artist

  • Sija Hong
  • Kuri Huang Kuri
  • Paul Lewin
  • Alyssa Winans
  • Jian Zhang
  • Enzhe Zhao

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Ruoxi Chen
  • Lindsey Hall
  • Lee Harris
  • Sarah Peed
  • Huan Yan
  • Haijun Yao

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Scott H. Andrews
  • Neil Clarke
  • Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
  • Sheree Renée Thomas
  • Xu Wang
  • Feng Yang

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Andor: “One Way Out” written by Beau Willimon, Tony Gilroy, and George Lucas, directed by Toby Haynes
  • Andor: “Rix Road” written by Tony Gilroy and George Lucas, directed by Benjamin Caron
  • The Expanse: “Babylon’s Ashes” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Naren Shankar, directed by Breck Eisner
  • For All Mankind: “Stranger in a Strange Land” written by Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, directed by Craig Zisk
  • She-Hulk: Attorney at Law: “Whose Show is This?” written by Jessica Gao, Francesca Gailes, and Jacqueline Gailes, directed by Kat Coiro
  • Stranger Things: “Chapter Four: Dear Billy” written by Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, and Paul Dichter, directed by Shawn Levy

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Avatar: The Way of Water screenplay by James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, directed by James Cameron
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever screenplay by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once screenplay by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert
  • Nope written by Jordan Peele, directed by Jordan Peele
  • Severance (Season 1) written by Dan Erickson, Anna Ouyang Moench et al., directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle
  • Turning Red screenplay by Julia Cho and Domee Shi, directed by Domee Shi
  • Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road by Kyle Buchanan
  • Buffalito World Outreach Project by Lawrence M. Schoen
  • Chinese Science Fiction, An Oral History, Volume 1 by Yang Feng
  • The Ghost of Workshops Past by S.L. Huang
  • Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir by Wil Wheaton
  • Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes by Rob Wilkins

Best Graphic Story or Comic

  • Cyberpunk 2077: Big City Dreams by Bartosz Sztybor, Filipe Andrade, Alessio Fioriniello, Roman Titov, Krzysztof Ostrowski
  • DUNE: The Official Movie Graphic Novel by Lilah Sturges, Drew Johnson, Zid
  • Monstress vol. 7: Devourer by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • Once & Future Vol 4: Monarchies in the UK by Kieron Gillen / Dan Mora
  • Saga, Vol. 10 by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Fonografiks (Image Comics)
  • Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow by Tom King, Bilquis Evely, and Matheus Lopes

Best Series

  • Children of Time Series by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pan Macmillan/Orbit)
  • The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • The Locked Tomb by Tamsyn Muir
  • October Daye by Seanan McGuire
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovich
  • The Scholomance by Naomi Novik

Best Short Story

  • “D.I.Y.” by John Wiswell (, August 2022)
  • “On the Razor’s Edge” by Jiang Bo (Science Fiction World, January 2022)
  • “Rabbit Test” by Samantha Mills (Uncanny Magazine, November-December 2022)
  • “Resurrection” by Ren Qing (Future Fiction/Science Fiction World, December 2022)
  • “The White Cliff” by Lu Ban (Science Fiction World, May 2022)
  • “Zhurong on Mars” by Regina Kanyu Wang (Frontiers, September 2022)

Best Novelette

  • “The Difference Between Love and Time” by Catherynne M. Valente (Someone in Time: Tales of Time-Crossed Romance, Solaris)
  • Dream of Electric Mothers”, by Wole Talabi (Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, Tordotcom)
  • “If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You” by John Chu (Uncanny Magazine, July-August 2022)
  • “Murder By Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness” by S.L. Huang (Clarkesworld, December 2022)
  • “The Space-Time Painter” by Hai Ya (Galaxy’s Edge, April 2022)
  • “We Built This City” by Marie Vibbert (Clarkesworld, June 2022)

Best Novella

  • Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk
  • Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo
  • A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
  • Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
  • Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire

Best Novel

  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
  • Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
  • Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
  • Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
  • The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

What are your thoughts on the finalists this year?