This year a new category has been added to the Hugo Awards: Best Series.
It’s not a permanent category yet. Though the idea behind the category has been discussed at various worldcon business meetings over the years, it has yet to be passed and ratified. But worldcon rules permit each concom to add one category of their own choosing each year, and the Finnish fans decided to add Best Series… rather as an experiment, I guess, to see how well the category might work.
Honestly, I have mixed thoughts about adding Best Series to the Hugos as a permanent new category. Being an old guy, I can remember a time when most science fiction novels were stand-alones. If they were popular enough, they might spawn sequels, but the series novel was the exception rather than the rule. Today the reverse is true. It has become increasingly hard to find a science fiction or fantasy novel that is NOT part of some series.
So do we need a Best Series Hugo? I don’t know. Being part of a series has not stopped the last three Best Novel winners from taking home the rocket, so it is not as if series books are being overlooked. And what is a “series,” actually? The difficulty of defining that term is one of the reasons so many worldcons have spent so long wrangling over it.
All that being said, for this year at least there will be a Hugo for Best Series. And I’d guess that almost all the leading contenders for the Best Novel rocket are ALSO contenders for Best Series (yes, there will be a few exceptions). So the only series that I am going to submit for your consideration is one that will NOT also be competing for The Big One: my own.
No, not that one. A SONG OF ICE & FIRE had no new installment published in 2016, so it’s not eligible. Besides, I don’t consider A SONG OF ICE & FIRE to be a series, not as I define the word (yes, I am aware, the rules define the term more broadly). I consider A SONG OF ICE & FIRE to be one single gigantic story published in multiple volumes. (Seven, I hope). LORD OF THE RINGS was not a series either, nor a trilogy; it was a single novel published in three volumes.
But I do have a series, a true series, one that I’ve been working on even longer than I have ICE & FIRE, one that I am very proud of: WILD CARDS.
You know. This series here:
WILD CARDS is no stranger to Hugo competition. In 1988, when the series was only three books old, the New Orleans worldcon added a new category called “Other Forms,” just as Helsinki has added Best Series, and we were one of the five nominees. We lost to Alan Moore’s landmark graphic novel WATCHMEN, which surprised no one, least of all us… but it WAS an honor just to be nominated, and we had a great time at the Hugo Losers Party afterward.
Alas, “Other Forms” did not survive as a Hugo category, and the Wild Cards books, though they continued to be popular, never fit comfortably into any of the other categories. We called them mosaic novels, and some were indeed six- or seven-way collaborative novels, but they were never going to contend for Best Novel. Other volumes were more akin to anthologies… but the Hugo Awards have never had a ‘Best Anthology’ category (though if truth be told, I’d sooner see them add that than Best Series). I would sometimes get some votes for my editing, but never enough to make the final ballot (one year I finished seventh out of five, as I recall, but that was the closest I came). Individual stories from the books were nominated for awards and one such, Walter Jon Williams “Witness,” was a Nebula finalist. That lost too. Oh, and one year S.P. Somtow presented Wild Cards with his Icarus Award.
I can hardly be objective about WILD CARDS, but I do think we’re worthy of consideration. This year we are celebrating our thirtieth anniversary, a considerable achievement all by itself. All the other shared world series of the 80s are gone, but Wild Cards continues… and I think that most of those who have stuck with us over the years will agree, we’re better than ever. We have entertained millions of readers over those three decades, the books have been published in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Russia, Germany, Brazil (with more countries coming up). WILD CARDS has given birth to two role-playing games, two comic book series (three more graphic novels in the works), and soon, I hope, a television series. We’ve had twenty-three books published to date, three more finished and delivered and in the pipeline for publication in 2017 and 2018, more to come.
But it’s not just longevity. Together with WATCHMEN, WILD CARDS helped redefine the treatment of superpowers and superheroes in popular culture, taking a grittier, more realistic, more adult approach to the subject, with an emphasis on characterization. And with the full mosaics we only dared attempt every third book, we went way beyond any other shared world to create a whole new (and very demanding, I may add) template. And there’s been some cool world-building too, as my team played the alternate world concept central to the series.
We have had ups and downs, of course — hey, with twenty-three books and a couple hundred stories, how not? — but overall, I don’t know many other series that have maintained a similar consistencey of quality over half as many book, and I like to think that when we’ve been good, we’ve been very very good. Especially in those full mosaics: JOKERS WILD, ACE IN THE HOLE/ DEAD MAN’S HAND, DEALER’S CHOICE, BLACK TRUMP, SUICIDE KINGS, HIGH STAKES.
I’ve only been a small part of that, of course. I may the conductor, but I’ve had a hell of a band. Over the decades, I’ve had the honor of working with some truly gifted and innovative writers. Howard Waldrop, Roger Zelazny, Daniel Abraham, Edward Bryant, Stephen Leigh, Victor Milan, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Carrie Vaughn, Laura J. Mixon, Sage Walker, William F. Wu, John Jos. Miller, Lewis Shiner, Cherie Priest, Walton Simons, Caroline Spector, Walter Jon Williams, Michael Cassutt, Paul Cornell, Ian Tregillis, David Anthony Durham, David D. Levine… the list goes on and on… and of course, Melinda M. Snodgrass, who has been my right hand since the start.
And wait till you see the new writers we have in store for you in the books to come, and the characters they’ve created for us. The best, truly, is yet to come.
WILD CARDS. Best Series? That’s up to fandom. If you’ve liked the books, nominate them. But once again let me say that whatever you choose to nominate, you should NOMINATE.
((If you haven’t read any Wild Cards and would like to try a small sample before shelling out for a book, check out the FREE stories on Tor.com)).
Clear skies and tail winds.