My Award Winners Quest

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Stacks of books

I don’t know that I’ve really spelled it out, but you may have noticed over the last few months that most of what I’m posting is book reviews and the occasional writing report. I’m trying to broaden things out again, but I thought I might explain something behind the book reviews, at least.

You see, I’m trying to read, or at least attempt to read, every novel-length winner of the major speculative fiction awards. Well, the Science Fiction and Fantasy ones, anyway.

Why, you may ask, and it’s a good question. Sometimes, with how tough a slog some of the books have been, and the DNF books involved, I wonder the same thing.

I suppose, fundamentally, I’m just trying to broaden my horizons. We all get into reading ruts now and then, consuming the same handful of authors and just doing re-reads of things we already like. As I get older (in my late 40s now), I’m less inclined to do re-reads, and some (many) of my favourite authors have left us so that I’ve had fewer opportunities for new works by that group.

That means I have to find new favourites. I thought that the award winners might be an interesting place to start. Many of the names you find in those lists have long careers and lots of work available. Plus, it will expose me to things I never would have thought of trying on my own.

Sure, I can randomly pick things to read that I think look interesting (and I still do a lot of that, with a decent success rate), but it’s not enough. It will never be enough. To borrow a quote from Lemony Snicket that I borrow too often, “It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read.” That pile needs to be bigger, although hopefully having it fall on me won’t be the cause of not finishing it.

But yes, the results are mixed.

The Hugos were first awarded in 1953, the Nebulas in 1966, the World Fantasy Awards in 1975, and the Auroras (Canadian Speculative Fiction awards) in 1985. I’m working my way forward from the first Hugo and I’m currently in 1983 (which means I haven’t read the first Aurora yet).

After 29 Hugo winners (including a tie one year), my average rating there is 3.21 on the Goodreads scale (which I like, but maybe needs a separate post). Seventeen Nebula winners in, we’re at 3.26, a slightly better proposition. At eight WFA winners, it’s 1.75, with exactly one book getting more than a 2.

At the same time, when I started this quest, I elected to attempt the previous year’s winners in each (the 2015 winners in 2016 for example). Those results have been a bit mixed, too.

But I’ve also found six authors whose works I have not sufficiently explored, and I expect to find more. (Alfred Bester, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin, Elizabeth Lynn, Vonda McIntyre, and David Mitchell, in case you’re wondering.)

When I catch up in another 4 or 5 years, I’m considering branching out the quest to cover all of the major English-language awards globally, which would take me to the BSFA (British), Aurealis (Australian), Sir Julius Vogel (New Zealand), and perhaps the Locus Awards (although there’s a lot of crossover with the other NA majors there). The first two of those have books on the list that I’ve previously loved.

I’m also giving serious consideration to voting rights for the Hugos next year so that I get easy access to all of the nominees.

If you want to see what I’m reading right now, click on over to my Currently Reading shelf on Goodreads. It’s likely to be eclectic and have half a dozen books on it.

Happy reading, and be well, everyone.

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