The Wheel of Time Did Not Win a Hugo. (And that’s okay.)
For those who haven’t yet seen the results of the 2014 Hugo Awards, they have been posted here. The Wheel of Time, despite displaying a fine showing for first place votes, ultimately did not prevail in winning a Hugo Award. (Though Mary’s excellent novelette, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars,” did win—so congrats! And Julie Dillon, whose art graces the cover of Shadows Beneath among many other works, picked up a well-deserved Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist.)
The first post online I saw regarding this was someone commiserating toward me that I’d been robbed. While I appreciate this sentiment, and this fan’s enthusiasm, I don’t feel the same way. I think it’s incredible we got onto the ballot in the first place, and I think we did very well. We were not “robbed.” This is how the Hugos work—the fans decide what is worthy, and—by definition—that is the piece that deserves the award.
This is a good thing. The award—as I’ve blogged about before—belongs to the fans. In addition, the Hugos have a built-in failsafe against people swinging in and voting only for one author, rather than reading extensively in the category. (It comes in the form of Instant Run-Off voting, which is explained here.) While The Wheel of Time got a lot of votes for first place, not many people ranked us second or third. This means that while some people really, really love The Wheel of Time, the majority of voters didn’t. (Or, the people who ranked us second also ranked Ann Leckie’s book first.)
More likely, though, I have a hunch that many readers just didn’t have time to read the entire series by the deadline. Epic fantasy novels have a tough time at the Hugos. The Lord of the Rings, famously, lost to Foundation. Volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire have lost on three separate occasions, while Guy Gavriel Kay (in my opinion, the greatest living author of epic fantasy) hasn’t ever even been nominated.
I don’t think this is the result of some conspiracy, though the award—which is in the shape of a rocket ship—does tend to favor science fiction. I do think, however, that the length of epic fantasy books and series work against them in regards to awards. Hugo voters, historically, have been a responsible lot—but asking them to read ten thousand or so pages before voting in a category was a bit of a stretch.
Reading, digesting, and keeping abreast of an epic fantasy series is a time-consuming process, which sticks us with a catch-22 when it comes to awards. If volumes get nominated on their own, as George R.R. Martin’s were, they can’t be read alone, and have a handicap because they’re only one slice of a larger story. If they get nominated as a single story (as The Wheel of Time did) then they’re just too long to read in time for the voting. (Not to mention the controversy of having a series voted in the “novel” category.)
This isn’t to say fantasy novels in a series can’t win. (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire did win, as did Paladin of Souls by Lois Bujold.) But in the long run, I always thought we were an underdog here, and I’m actually pleased at the showing. (We ranked significantly higher than “No Award,” which means that the majority of fans did think we deserved the award, just not as much as other pieces did.)
I’m fully confident that The Wheel of Time was, and is, worthy of award recognition. Robert Jordan was an amazing man, and a fantastic author who inspired an entire generation of writers and readers. I’m honored to have been part of the series, and honored that the Hugo voters gave us a nomination in the first place. Truly, this was a great way to recognize him, and I sincerely appreciate the nod from fandom.
Congratulations to all the winners! I look forward to seeing you all in Spokane next year.