It hasn’t been that long since the 2021 Hugo Award winners were announced, but it’s already nominating season for the 2022 Hugo Awards (and other related awards). I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on works I will be pulling for and think you ought to consider nominating as well! I have some categories I need to fill out, so let me know your recommendations.
Novels are my preferred format, and I read more than 600 books last year. To be fair, a huge majority of those weren’t published in 2021, so that narrowed it down quite a bit. I still can’t get myself down to a top 5, though, and so I’m sharing some of my choices here in the hopes that you’ll weigh in and help me decide which to put on my nominating ballot.
Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff- A dark epic fantasy about a world in which vampires have taken over after they used some kind of evil spell to darken the world and give them freedom to conquer. The story follows the narrative of Gabriel de Leon, a vampire hunter known as a Silversaint. De Leon uses the combination of silver tattoos and vampiric powers to take the battle to the undead as he tells his story to a servant of the Vampire Empire itself. The relentless violence and action in the novel is supplemented by numerous twists and turns that keep readers guessing all the way through. It’s a fabulous read.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir- I always feel a bit nervous diving into a novel that is super hyped. Too often, it sets expectations so high that it gets hard to feel anything but unsatisfied after reading it. Andy Weir’s The Martian was a fun read, though, and I wanted to dive into his latest book. I’m glad I did, because Project Hail Mary lives up to the hype. It’s an inventive hard science fiction story that keeps throwing new wrenches into the works. Weir has a way of creating the atmosophere of “just one more chapter” in every chapter. I hugely enjoyed this book from cover-to-cover.
Catalyst Gate by Megan O’Keefe- The finale to O’Keefe’s “The Protectorate” series is a brick of a book with extensive political (and other) intrigue. This is a space opera/adventure novel that punctuates character moments with intense action scenes. It’s a fine conclusion to a great series.
The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter- I went into this one with no expectations and walked away totally sold on the setting and characters. Speculative fiction being mashed up with mysteries is one of my favorite ways to do things, and The Helm of Midnight has mystery and intrigue in spades.
Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky- Tchaikovsky continues his blend of unique aliens, excellent action, big questions, and great characters with this novel, first in a series. It’s an epic space opera that certainly delivers the goods time and again.
Chaos on Catnet by Naomi Kritzer- Kritzer raises questions about religion, who we are, how to perceive reality, and teenage angst in this delightful read that continues the Catnet series. I was shocked beyond all when I fell in love with the first book, and this was among my most anticipated reads this year. It did not disappoint.
To End in Fire by David Weber & Eric Flint- Hey, everyone has favorite series/authors. David Weber is one of mine, and it’s beyond insane to me that he’s never gotten even a nomination for his many wonderful Honor Harrington books, Safehold series, or any of his other great books. This novel continues another side series to the main Honor Harrington series, and I know that it’s so many books in that it’s unlikely to get a nod, but dangit, Weber deserves it and I’m going to keep pulling for him. This book is a satisfying info dump of a novel that helps wrap up a number of loose threads and advance the story, and I love it.
Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee- The finale of the Green Bone Saga is a massive epic urban fantasy. I cannot emphasize how fantastic this series is, and Lee is just an absolute master of the genre. Magic, double-dealing, mafia-esque crime rings, and more abound.
Here’s a category I have some catching up to do on, but I have a bunch of sci-fi magazines from which I can pick my favorites. I do have one work to discuss here, though.
“Proof by Induction” by José Pablo Iriarte- this story rocked me when I read it early this year. In this story, Iriarte weaves an absolutely gripping story about the loss of a parent around some technology that allows a kind of continuing relationship with the deceased. I don’t want to spoil too much, and the story is freely available at the link I put there in the title, but this is a fabulous read. I lost my dad in 2020, and this short story helped me work through some of my own lingering issues and brought me to tears more than once. I consider it among the finest reads I encountered all year, and definitely an early choice for my best short story.
Best Related Work
Out of This World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium by Rachel Cordasco- An academic book about, well, what the title says. It’s a fascinating read by a true expert in the field and deserves to be on the ballot.
“The Problem(s) of Susan” by Matt Mikalatos (Tor.com)- What to do with Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia? I love Mikalatos’s approach here, and with the continuing influence of C.S. Lewis and the beautiful prose and thoughtfulness of this essay, I’d love to see it on the Hugo ballot.
“Pro Wrestling is Fake (But You Already Knew That)” by Veda Scott (Uncanny)- I had a brief love affair with pro wrestling, even to the point where a bunch of us in college paid for the Pay-per-view for Wrestlemania. It was a lot of fun seeing the storylines and the humor surrounding the drama on the stage, and this article by Veda Scott was an absolute delight to read.
True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee by Abraham Riesman- A fascinating biography of the (in)famous Stan Lee that shows his life both good and bad. I highly recommend it to any fans of comics, movies, or even speculative fiction generally. It’s a fabulous biography.
Would love some suggestions here, but novella must include Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky because he’s the best.
I’m still doing my reading for this, so I’d love some suggestions.
Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko- the finale to her duology, this is another fantastic read that combines some unique magical trappings with great character building and epic moments.
I think this is one of the most fun categories for which to nominate works. It’s also a great way to see what others are reading and pick up some new series.
The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee- What if The Godfather was about Yakuza-esque criminals and had magic and questions of colonialism? Yes, this series is that and then some.
InCryptid by Seanan McGuire- One of my favorite authors continued perhaps my favorite series of hers here. The InCryptid series features a bunch of awesome use of cryptid-like and fairytale monsters along with some originals, all with sets of rules and a family trying to deal with all the drama. Truly some of the most fun books to read that I know of, and I would love to see it get a nod here.
The Books of Babel by Josiah Bancroft- I am finding myself at a loss for words trying to sum up this series. It starts with a man trying to find his wife in the Tower of Babel, only to get sucked into a wonderful adventure that features sardonic humor, a myriad of characters, and so many wonderful locales. It’s a truly amazing experience and this series is fantastic.
The Protecorate by Megan O’Keefe- This series moves from being a rather intimate story about two characters into a massive space opera over the course of three books, and each one has its own unique feel. I hugely enjoyed this series and commend it to you.
I’m intensely biased here, having appeared twice on the “Hugos There” Podcast, I would love to have it nominated for a Hugo! Please! Also, “Hugo, Girl” is an absolute delight in every episode and ought to be on your nominating ballot.
All Editors/Artist categories, as well as Fan Writer and more
Still doing research and would love recommendations.
Cora Buhlert- she was nominated last year, but definitely deserves to be on the ballot again.