(not the) Hugo Awards: John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Awarded with the Hugos, but not a Hugo Award, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer has been awarded since 1973, in honour of the editor who for better or worse has shaped American science fiction the most. Writers are eligible for two years after their first sale and indeed three of the candidates below are in their second year of eligibility, indicated by an asterix:

  • Wesley Chu
  • Max Gladstone *
  • Ramez Naam *
  • Sofia Samatar *
  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Save for Wesley Chu, whose The Lives of Tao I’d seen in the local sf bookstore, none of these were writers I knew before I got my hands on the Hugo Voters Package (hurhur). I’ve been slowly working my way through the books and stories in it and have now almost finished reading through the Campbell nominees. I’m still reading Ramez Naam’s Nexus but I already know that he, though not a bad writer, is the least of the five candidates.

To determine the best was more difficult. Sofia Samatar, with her excellent fantasy picaresque A Stranger in Olondria quickly went to the top, but Benjanun Sriduangkaew, represented with three excellent short stories Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade, Fade to Gold and The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly, was a strong challenger. Sriduangkaew has a vivid imagination andis at home in both science fiction and fantasy, but in the end I still had to give the nod to Samatar.

In the middle of the pack are Wesley Chu, who wrote a decent but not spectacular first novel and who I ended up putting in fourth, while Max Gladstone wrote a much better steampunk fantasy novel. I wouldn’t mind seeing him win the Campbell either, though I do think Sriduangkaew and Samatar both are a quantum leap ahead of him. If either Chu or Naam win thought that would be a disappointment, as their work is no more than competent adventure science fiction. My final ranking therefore:

  1. Sofia Samatar
  2. Benjanun Sriduangkaew
  3. Max Gladstone
  4. Wesley Chu
  5. Ramez Naam

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