Sunday 20 October 2019

Cautiously Optimistic About The Best Series Category

We had our doubts about the creation of the Hugo Award for Best Series.

Does the category fill a need? Would the vote just be about name-recognition given how difficult it is to read all the shortlisted works? Might we just see the same set of series showing up on the ballot on alternating years?

But some of these doubts have been allayed by Becky Chambers’ series Wayfarers receiving the
Becky Chambers' win
shows that Best Series
serves a segment of SF
ignored by other Hugos.
(Image via Goodreads)
award in Dublin at Worldcon 77. It’s not just because we enjoyed the Wayfarers novels. This win gives us hope because it demonstrates that the Best Series Hugo can recognize works that weren’t well-served by the pre-existing four fiction categories (novel, novella, short story and novelette).

There are at least two reasons why we consider this to be a monumental win: none of the novels in the series had already been awarded a Hugo; and it recognizes a relatively new talent, as Becky Chambers is both the youngest person to have been shortlisted for Best Series and the youngest to win it by three decades.

These facts may seem like minor distinctions, given that the category has only been around for three years. But to us they are positive indicators that the category might be working as intended.

For the first two years of its existence, the Best Series Hugo Award was presented to a towering icon of science fiction — Lois McMaster Bujold. She has won the Best Novel Hugo more often than any other living author, and each of Bujold’s wins for Best Series involved a series that had previously won her a Hugo or two.

It would be hard to argue that Bujold’s work is not meritorious. But if the Best Series Hugo only ever went to series that include a Hugo-winning novel, it might call into question the need for a series award at all. Giving a Best Series Hugo to Best Novel winners seems a bit redundant.

Did the Vorkoskigan
saga need another
Hugo Award?
(Image via Amazon)
Although two of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers novels appeared on the shortlist for Best Novel, the majority of the series on the ballot in each of the years the award has existed were composed of previously non-Hugo-shortlisted works (series such as The Centenal Cycle, Rivers Of London, and The Memoirs of Lady Trent.) This indicates strongly that the award is serving a segment of genre fiction that was not served by the existing categories.

It is interesting to note that to date only Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books have made a repeat appearance on the best series shortlist. With six finalists listed in each of three years, one repetitious nominee out of 18 gives us hope that we might continue to see a diverse range of series getting shortlisted. A lack of repeat appearances could indicate that the category is serving a diverse and engaged readership.

It is too early for anyone to pass judgment on whether or not the Best Series Hugo is a useful addition as a category.

But in the long term, we would be happy to be shown that we were wrong in our initial opposition to the creation of this category.


  1. To me the Hugo awards should be fun and interesting, both in the year it was awarded and as a guide for people looking back and wondering what fandom was thinking about. Best Series appears to be doing great on these qualities too. Like I of course agree Bujold doesn't need another win, but there's no way Vorkoskigan saga would ever win again despite it going strong and having a dedicated fandom. So as a way to recognize these kinds of works its good.

    that said consecutive wins are definitely boring, so it was very important that someone like Chambers won this year. Recognizing new work is fun and interesting for sure. :)

  2. I remain somewhat skeptical about this award. I am not sure I want it to go away, but I do think there is something broken about it, or not quite right yet. Perhaps this is an artifact of my being primarily a reader of novels, and not quite as focused on series.

    That said, I am wondering if Tade Thompson's "Rosewater" series is eligible. It's the best series out there in my opinion. Or perhaps we're left trying to figure out which of this year's 2 novels in the series to nominate in the Novel category.

    1. I believe that Rosewater is eligible. It's definitely making it onto my ballot.