On the Hugo Award for Best Series

Last year, the WorldCon business meeting approved a new Hugo Award for Best Series. What’s eligible for this award?

A multi-installment science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, appearing in at least three (3) installments consisting in total of at least 240,000 words by the close of 2017, at least one (1) installment of which was published in 2017.

This is, by design, very open-ended. There is no requirement that a series be completed—and that’s fine, because neither the Hugo Administrator nor Hugo voters should be expected to be clairvoyant. The 1966 Worldcon voted Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy a special “Best All-Time Series” award under the assumption that it would end with Second Foundation; in 1966, Foundation’s Edge and its progeny could not have been reasonably foreseen.

However, just because something can’t be legislated doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be kept in mind while nominating and voting. The standard I intend to apply is that to be worthy of a Best Series Hugo, a story must be fully satisfying even if no other installments are ever published. This does not necessarily mean a story must be conclusively over. For instance, while I can certainly imagine new installments in the Vorkosigan Saga, last year’s winner in the award’s trial run (and if Lois McMaster Bujold wants to write them I’d happily read them), my enjoyment of the series will not be diminished if Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is ultimately the final installment. But I don’t think a series that is clearly incomplete is award-worthy, and I’m not inclined to grant credit for future work. Everybody can think of a series that started strong and then went off the rails. I’m not comfortable coming back in the future and saying “this received the Best Series Award but you need to ignore its conclusion”. I don’t even love new books getting a “Hugo-Nominated [or Hugo Winning] Series” stamp from their publisher when the Hugo electorate hasn’t had a chance to read the book yet, although I recognize that marketers are going to pull that kind of thing regardless.

I do not intend to nominate any series that does not meet this criteria, and I urge others to do likewise. I will also likely rank any clearly incomplete series nominated below No Award, although I might consider a series whose final installment is published in 2018 before the voting deadline, as such a series would be ineligible for future nomination. And yes, I fully anticipate that I will rank something I quite like below No Award.

While I strongly believe that an incomplete series isn’t award-worthy, I’m also motivated a bit by necessary reading triage. Last year’s Best Series nominations involved, if I’m counting right, 52 novels and assorted short fiction. I might be able to read all of that in the two-and-a-half months available for voting, but it would be a close call, especially given that I occasionally like to do things with my spare time other than reading. And that’s not factoring in the six novels, six novellas, six related works, the new YA award, the Campbell Award, etc. on the ballot. (Obviously I will have read some of these already, but likely not enough to make a huge difference. I also don’t think I’ve read much from 1942, and there are Retro Hugos….) While I might want to read incomplete series that end up getting nominated (recommendations are a good thing, especially when the Hugo Packet provides free samples), I’m not going to feel pressured to do so before July.

I know I’m conflating “incomplete” with “fully satisfying if no other installments are ever published”, which isn’t completely accurate. The biggest tension here is series that are unified by setting but have neither a single overarching story nor a defined endpoint. The obvious example to me is the Discworld, which I would argue to be clearly award-worthy but also didn’t “complete” until after Terry Pratchett’s death. The old quotation about recognizing people while they’re alive to enjoy it applies. Of course, the same issues with potential future quality decline apply as well. Some questions don’t have easy answers.

While it might be difficult to find satisfactory completed series every year, N. K. Jemisin’s exceptional Broken Earth trilogy is eligible for the 2018 Best Series Hugo. I’m nominating it. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to do so.

Election Day 2017

I don’t have a ballot today, but these are the biggest races I’m watching.

Race Projection
Maine Question 2
Medicaid expansion
Passes.
New Jersey Governor DEM Gain. Murphy elected.
New York, NY Mayor DEM Hold. DeBlasio re-elected.
Utah Congressional District 3
Provo
GOP Hold. Curtis elected.
Virginia Governor DEM Hold. Northam elected.
Washington Senate, District 45
Kirkland, Redmond, & Sammamish
DEM Gain. Dhingra elected.

The Washington legislative seat is principally important because gaining it also gives Democrats control of the Washington Senate (and full control of the Washington state government).

I’m also going to try to keep an eye on Virginia’s lieutenant governor and attorney general races, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court elections, and the aggregate change in the Virginia House of Delegates, as well as any other interesting state or local results that come in.

2017 County Highpointing, and What Comes Next

MartinPyne_CountyHighPoints
My current county high point completion map.
Absent an unexpected travel opportunity, I’m done with county high points for the year. It was a fairly productive year in terms of my original goals, but there were still plenty of lessons to learn.

My big push for this year was to get most of the Lake Tahoe-area high points, and this was very successful. The only county high point that remains for me near Tahoe is Snow Valley Peak, high point of Carson City. I also tagged a few other county high points in the northern Sierras. As a result, I was able to extend my home glob into Nevada—more on that later.

I also had a multiday trip through Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon for this year’s total solar eclipse. The part of this trip that centered around the eclipse was wildly successful, as I had a wonderful view of the eclipse from the high point of Gem County, Idaho. However, I didn’t plan the second half of the trip as well as I should have. Poor weather and a lack of adequate research led to failure on Hat Mountain, high point of Lassen County, and no attempt on Eagle Peak, high point of Modoc County. In the future, I’ll do a better job of checking the weather and planning for an entire trip, although a lack of eclipse focus should help here too—I paid almost exclusive attention to making sure I’d have a clear spot to view it.

Despite the problems with this trip, I was able to extend my home glob into Oregon by ascending Crane Mountain (and Mount Rose, a couple weeks later), and added a significant amount of glob area in Oregon by ascending Granite Peak. I now stand at 48 county high points, with 39 (across three states and 86,392 square miles) connected.

So what comes next? I’m almost out of county high points that I can hike without sleeping anywhere but my own bed, so my next targets (outside of Los Prohibidos) will likely be weekend trips, with the possibility of a longer trip or two thrown in. My current priorities, in no real order:

  • I was hoping to ascend San Gorgonio Mountain, the highest point in Southern California, this summer, but after an exhausting Sunday combining San Jacinto Peak and the drive home I decided that quidditch weekends and highpointing weekends should be separate. I should be able to do this next summer, globbing both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. (Santiago Peak would also be nice if I have time.)
  • With better planning and fewer fires, the Hat/Eagle combo in far northeastern California should be a fun weekend. It would be cool to find a route up Hat that doesn’t involve the annoying descent to Lost Lake, but I can deal with that if it’s drier and I’m not worried about thunderstorms.
  • The rest of the northern tier of California is also on my high-priority list, subject to feasibility. Mt. Eddy (ultra!) is the obvious pick. Salmon Mountain and Bear Mountain would be obvious, but last I heard the road to Bear Mountain is impassible from last winter’s storms. Hopefully that will be repaired sooner rather than later.
  • As I mentioned above, Snow Valley Peak is the last county high point I haven’t ascended near Tahoe, and it’s also one of the last doable in a (very long) day from home.
  • I want to start seriously pushing towards a Nevada completion. Nevada’s easier to complete than California, due to a lack of access issues, fewer counties overall, and no apex high points. I don’t expect to complete Nevada next year but I’d like to make some headway.
  • Similarly, I’d like to extend my home glob into Idaho and connect the three counties I already have there. Unfortunately Humboldt County doesn’t have adjacency with Idaho, so that means—in addition to Cinnabar Mountain—either BM Stevenson, a notorious tire-killer, or Ruby Dome, which is reportedly both quite fun and the hardest county high point in Nevada. Again, I don’t really expect to glob Idaho next year, but 2019 maybe?
  • And finally, some inroads into the High Sierra. White Mountain Peak (14er!) would be the obvious starting point, I think. (Although White Mountain Peak isn’t actually in the High Sierra, but the nearby White Mountains.)

In the mean time, there are plenty of Bay Area peaks to climb this winter. That is, if the worst fire season anyone can remember ever ends.

Pictures from this summer’s highpointing adventures can be found on my Facebook.

 

Early Returns

Courtesy of Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location…

New Hampshire (4 EV)
Still
Voting
President
Barack Obama (DEM)
65.1%
28
Mitt Romney (GOP) 32.6%
14
1% reporting
[NH-1] Manchester
Still
Voting
Carol Shea-Porter (DEM) 69.7%
23
Representative
Frank Guinta (GOP)
27.3%
9
1% reporting
[NH-2] Nashua and Concord
Still
Voting
Representative
Charles Bass (GOP)
60.0%
6
Ann McLane Kuster (DEM) 30.0%
3
1% reporting
Governor of New Hampshire
Still
Voting
Maggie Hassan (DEM) 58.1%
25
Ovide Lamontagne (GOP) 37.2%
16
1% reporting

Restating the Projection Policy

It’s time for the biennial restatement of the site’s official Election Projection policy, which is printed in full over the fold.

This year, the runoff clause makes things a little weird. Usually, I wouldn’t project a single House race before 6 PM Eastern Time on Election Day. However, the new California top-two voting system means that there are seven House seats for which partisan control is already decided. Both remaining eligible candidates in those House seats belong to the same party, and votes for any other candidates—write-ins included—will simply be ignored.

Therefore, victory is guaranteed for a certain party in the following races:

  • CA-08 (High Desert): GOP Hold
  • CA-15 (Heyward and Livermore): DEM Hold
  • CA-30 (West San Fernando Valley): DEM Hold
  • CA-31 (San Bernardino): GOP Hold
  • CA-35 (Ontario): DEM Hold
  • CA-40 (Los Angeles, East, and Downey): DEM Hold
  • CA-43 (Los Angeles, South): DEM Hold

Or in graphical form:

113th House Projection :: DEM 5, GOP 2

Of course, I won’t have an actual winner in any of these races until Election Night, so check back then!

UPDATE [13-Oct-2017]: The “over the fold” part of this post seems to have been lost to the sands of time. Sorry.