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March 23, 2006

Nomination Aftermath

I've had my day of feeling like a pretty princess with the Hugo/Campbell nominations (and also, went to sleep at 7pm because I'm sick, sick, sick and then slept for ten hours straight), but before I move on to blather about other topics I'd like to make post some other, general thoughts on this topic. This is going to get mega-geeky for those of you not into science fiction. Sorry about that.

* Toward my Hugo nomination specifically, the general response has been varying levels of surprise, to which I can honestly say, well, folks, join the club. Prior to getting the e-mail informing me that it was a Hugo nominee, my thought about the matter was "it'd be nice, but it's not going to happen," and then I'd think about something else. I like my book, you know, rather a lot. But I'm also a realist, and the realist point of view suggests that a first-time military SF novel openly patterned after Ol' Bob's work doesn't get to the show. Which I suppose just goes to show you can be a realist and also be wrong. Clearly, I'll never be a realist again.

* The largest amount of surprise seems to come from across the sea, from the British fen. This is entirely unsurprising to me because as far as I know you can't really get Old Man's War in the UK; aside from what relative few of them read the Whatever or remember me wandering through Interaction I'm entirely unknown. This was indeed one purely mechanical reason I suspected I wouldn't be on the ballot: The nominating class consisted of members of the Interaction and LACon IV conventions, and when half your potential nominating class has not had ready access to your work, well, that's a problem, isn't it? So, to the UK fen who've not heard of me before: uh, hello. Nice to meet you.

* As for how OMW got on the ballot at all, much of the speculation centers on Web presence/popularity and possibly the nefarious influence of Instapundit, who has pimped the book pretty seriously. Well, I don't know about the Instapundit thing, because I'm not entirely sure of the overlap between Instapundit readers and Hugo nominators, and in any event he's also pimped Accelerando and Learning the World, so even if he were a factor, I am not the only one to benefit. I think my general Web notoriety doesn't hurt. Ultimately, though, there are two other considerations which I think are more relevant: OMW has sold pretty well, particularly for a debut novel, so a good number of people have seen it. Also, if you don't mind me having a moment of authorial pride, the book doesn't actually suck. Basically, I think people read it, liked it, and voted for it. Simple enough.

* Having said that, I wonder what lurks below the cut. You know, I voted for Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys and was more than a little surprised it didn't make the ballot, and I gather that a number of others were as well. If it comes to pass that OMW nudged ahead of Anansi by a couple of votes, I can see myself being stabbed to death by a clutch of very cute goths. Dear very cute goths: I'm a Gaiman fan from way back. I once did a newspaper article on graphic novels just to have an excuse to interview him. And I even have a character named after him in OMW (one for Dave McKean, too). Please don't stab me.

* Do I think I can win the Hugo? Well, now. I wouldn't mind getting that rocketship, and it would be stupid and disingenuous to suggest otherwise. But it's not up to me; people have to read the book and decide if it works for them. I will say this: I feel exceptionally fortunate that there's no one on the ballot I would mind losing to. Charlie Stross is a friend and Accelerando was the first book I put on my own Hugo ballot; I would whoop and holler if he won. Robert Charles Wilson and Ken MacLeod write books that are both mind-stretching and human-centered, and both Spin and Learning the World are excellent works -- not just for science fiction, but for fiction, and I would be proud to have either represent the genre in which I work. I've not read A Feast for Crows so I can't speak to it specifically, but GRRM is a fine writer and a good fellow. Also, come on: Feast sold more books in its first week than OMW is going to sell in the next three years, even with a Hugo nod. #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List is not a trivial factor.

Everyone says "it's an honor to be nominated," but you're never entirely ready for the moment it actually becomes a true statement. But it is true: I'm positively giddy to be mentioned in the same breath as these guys and their books. As an author, I'd be happy if my book won; as a reader and all-around skiffy geek I'd be happy if any of these books won.

* I'm equally pleased with my class for the Campbell, and it's my sincere hope you'll check out the other nominees. I've heard rumblings that I'm the presumptive front runner in this category, but Brokeback Mountain was the presumptive front runner, and look what happened there. These folks are too good as writers to discount in any way; I don't and I hope you won't either.

* I'm struck at how substantially different the Hugo and Nebula ballots are this year; even in the short story categories there's not a whole lot of overlap. This is no doubt significantly due to the differing ways in which works become eligible for consideration for each award; only one of the Nebula nominees for Best Novel was even released in 2005; indeed of the literary categories, only the Short Story Nebula category had the majority of its nominees from the 2005 calendar year. I've already noted my opinion this makes the Nebulas somewhat stale as awards go, so there's no need to go into that again.

However, even factoring the 2004 Hugo awards into the mix, there's not a lot of overlap; only one book, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, is on both the Hugo and Nebula lists the last two years, suggesting that even if the awards had the same temporal window, there wouldn't be too much in common between the slates. I'm perfectly good with this -- in fact I like it this way, since SF is varied field and there are many excellent books which deserve recognition for different factors. I have my problems with the Nebula Awards, but quality of the finalists is not one of them.

* Yes, I'll be going to LACon IV and will be on hand for the awards ceremony. I was planning to attend anyway, because among other things I grew up in the Los Angeles area. Yes, I'll be representin' for the East San Gabriel Valley, yo -- a shout out to my homies in Azusa! Glendora! Covina! Claremont! San Dimas High School football rulez! A Worldcon in my hometown (well, my home major metropolitan area, anyway) was not something I was going to miss, nor an excuse to eat Double-Doubles until I barf. So should I win the Hugo or Campbell, winning in LA will make it doubly sweet (or doubly-doubly sweet, as I may take my Double-Double on stage with me). So, yes, you'll see me there. Hopefully I'll see you there, too.

Posted by john at March 23, 2006 08:50 AM

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Roger Fletcher | March 23, 2006 09:49 AM

Congrats from a recent discoverer of your work. Enjoyed your novels greatly and shared them with my reading friends. You made me a hero by turning them on to such enjoyable reads. Thanks. Hello to your adorable family.

John H | March 23, 2006 10:24 AM

I suppose there are worse things than barfing up In-N-Out burgers. Just don't barf them up on the Hugo should you win it - you don't want to be remembered as that guy...

John Scalzi | March 23, 2006 10:27 AM

"Don't be the vomiting winner." Thanks, I'll remember that.

Jon Marcus | March 23, 2006 11:14 AM

"Don't be the vomiting winner."

Words to live by, really.

Brandon | March 23, 2006 11:50 AM

Make sure you have a Double-Double in each hand to fully establish the duality of the situation. Then, your acceptance speech should be "Thank you. Thank you."

Michael G. Richard | March 23, 2006 11:51 AM

Congrats for your nominations, John.

If win, will you start wearing sunglasses indoors?

Alex Holden | March 23, 2006 11:56 AM

I got my copy of the OMW paperback from Amazon.co.uk (I pre-ordered it even before it was released), but it doesn't seem to be available any more except from overpriced third party sellers. Weird. Maybe it was so popular they ran out...

John Scalzi | March 23, 2006 12:12 PM

Well, even here in the US, there's a 1 to 3 week wait on Amazon for the trade paperback version. Which is interesting since the book's already in its second printing. Not exactly the best time to have a scarcity of this particular book, I have to say.

Dave Garrett | March 23, 2006 01:15 PM

Hello John,

If anyone wants a hardcover copy of OMW, the publisher version is sold old and copies are hard to find as well as expensive in the second hand market. But the Science Fiction Book Club still has their hardcover available at the club price of $11.99, plus shipping. And that is a good deal too. Dave G.

John Scalzi | March 23, 2006 01:23 PM

Indeed. SFBC is now also shipping The Ghost Brigades.

sxKitten | March 23, 2006 02:26 PM

I bought the trade edition of OMW last week at my local Chapters (only in Canada, sadly) - guess I got lucky.

Congratulations, by the way!

Josh | March 23, 2006 04:46 PM

The real reason for the nomination is that Tycho from Penny Arcade likes your work and threatened to use his 3 million strong readerbase of geeks against anyone who didn't nominate you. Buying that ad on PA for Agents all those years ago finally paid off.

John Scalzi | March 23, 2006 04:57 PM

Very possibly. Tycho rocks, and should write his own novel. Soon.

Jeff Beeler | March 23, 2006 07:38 PM

Congrats on the nominations John, you earned them.

Do you think being in your first year of Campbell eligability will hurt your chances?

John Scalzi | March 23, 2006 07:44 PM

Thanks, Jeff.

I have no idea what will help or hurt my chances, actually. It's really up to the folks who vote.

Tom Nixon | March 23, 2006 08:12 PM

San Dimas High School football rulez

Yeah? On which planet? Missed it by that much. I am sure you meant that school to the west, Charter Oak High School.

Uh, actually, when I went to COHS, they mostly lost. Repeatedly. To most everybody.

Rob | March 23, 2006 08:57 PM


Congratulations, well deserved. Gem of a book, loved it.

Dave | March 23, 2006 08:58 PM

Award-worthy science fiction and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure references! Is this a great blog or what?


John Scalzi | March 24, 2006 01:25 AM


Some of my cousins went to Chater Oak, actually. Don't remember anything about the quality of the athletic teams, I have to admit.

John | March 24, 2006 12:09 PM

Wait, what do British swamps have to do with the Hugo Awards? Sorry, but I intensely dislike the use of the word "fen" as a plural form of fan. I'm actually disappointed in you for using it.

I do, however, applaud your devotion to In-and-Out Burgers. More Double-Doubles and fewer stupid made-up plurals, I say.

Mark | March 28, 2006 01:38 PM

To be in your second and final year of Campbell eligibility does seem to be a moderate advantage on obvious grounds. (The "now or never" theory) But it's not an overwhelming advantage.

And first novels do have a tough time winning Hugos. Gibson's "Neuromancer" did win in 1985 with another first novel (Palmer's "Emergence") finishing second.

I will now go away and stew in my Hugo Award geekdom.

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