Women of Color Win Big at 2016 Hugo Awards
Awarded annually since 1955, the Hugo Awards reward excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. One of the things that makes this particular award so special is that the Hugos are run by and voted on by fans, or more specifically, by members of the current voting year’s World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon). This year the science fiction and fantasy fans awarded three of the fifteen possible awards to women of color.
N.K. Jemisin won the award for Best Novel for The Fifth Season. Nnedi Okorafor won Best Novella for her story Binti, and Hao Jinfang won Best Novelette for Folding Beijing. For those curious about the distinction between a novel, novella, and novelette, works in the novel category must contain 40,000 words or more, novellas between 17,500 and 40,000 words, and novelettes between 7,500 and 17,500 words. Short stories are works under 7,500 words.
That an African-American woman, a Nigerian-American woman, and a Chinese woman won three of the top science fiction and fantasy awards is especially spectacular given the controversy over the last few years when various factions tried to argue that the Hugo Awards were unfairly favoring literary work over popular works and works by or about “underrepresented minoriti[es] or victim group[s].”
Interestingly all three books comment and reflect on inequality and class in some way. The Fifth Season is an apocalyptic tale that takes place in a world where apocalypses occur as regularly as the weather patterns and where a caste system divides and scars the people struggling to live in that world. In Binti a woman is the first of her people to be offered a place at a prestigious university. To accept the offer means traveling between the stars and finding a way to survive a war with an alien race. In Folding Beijing a divided Beijing folds like origami revealing inequalities among the three sectors of the city.
For a humorous and honest reflection of what it means to her to win a Hugo, read Jemisin’s post where she describes her Scattered Post-Hugo Thoughts.
For more about the Hugo Awards, Worldcon, and the World Science Fiction Society which sponsors Worldcon, and how the voting process works see here. The full of list of Hugo winners can be found here. Finally, if you’re interested in reading an analysis of this year’s awards and what they mean in light of the controversy surrounding the Hugo Awards over the last few years check out this article from The Verge.