On Hugos and Nebulas: The Books

About a year ago, a friend challenged me to read at least 10 of the books considered to be the best in the genre I write. So, I scared up a list of the Hugo and Nebula winners and scanned through the titles. I’d already read a few, so I found another 7 and checked those out, too.

Dune by Frank Herbert (1965 Nebula, 1966 Hugo): A boy on a desert planet becomes a leader and avenges his family. I read the series when I was in high school.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1954 Hugo … retro award): Books have been banned and firemen are sent out to torch them. I read this for a science fiction literature class in college.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (2001 Hugo): Harry, a wizard-in-training at a special school, takes part in a huge tournament. This is Book 4 in the series and the last Harry Potter tale I read before I gave up on them.

The rest were all read within the last year, mostly at lunch.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (1969 Nebula, 1970 Hugo): A traveler on a first contact mission has to get through to one or both very xenophobic governments.

Gateway by Frederick Pohl (1977 Nebula, 1978 Hugo): Humans have found an alien race’s technology but don’t entirely understand it. They use it anyway to go exploring, which doesn’t always turn out well.

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (1960 Hugo): This tale follows a young man through training and into war against bugs.

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (1973 Nebula, 1974 Hugo): A group of humans intercept and investigate an alien craft as it zips its way through the solar system.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985 Nebula, 1986 Hugo): A genius kid is trained in military maneuvers.

Ringworld by Larry Niven (1970 Nebula, 1971 Hugo): Representatives of three races — including humans — go investigate an enormous, habitable ring around a star.

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre (1978 Nebula, 1979 Hugo): A healer who uses modified snake venom to treat people seeks out a special type of snake.

The purpose of this challenge was to learn about what makes excellent science fiction and fantasy. As I was reading the most recent seven and reflecting on the first three, I made a list of characteristics they all have in common. I found the similarities fascinating, especially in light of The Rules of Good Writing that were crammed down my throat when I was still an extremely newbie writer.

Stay tuned while I review my observations and compare them to The Rules.


9 thoughts on “On Hugos and Nebulas: The Books

  1. Edward Forrest Frank

    Actually, things turn out well in Gateway overall.


  2. […] “follow the rules of good writing.” While I was reading the 10 Hugo/Nebula books for a challenge, I found very much rule-breaking going on, and these are supposed to be the best books of the […]


  3. […] – internal or external – for bad behavior. Some of the books I read for this challenge will go in my discard pile because the lead characters are either uninteresting or unlikable. The […]


  4. […] observation in my Hugo/Nebula Challenge was just how minor the plot could get. Newbie writers are told that they need to have a detailed […]


  5. […] with an analysis of the Hugos and Nebulas I read as part of a challenge, here’s another quirk that many of those books had in common: Filter […]


  6. […] One beta reader even admonished me to avoid repeating similar-sounding names between unrelated books. Apparently, no one filled in the Hugo and Nebula writers on all the naming rules, or else, the vast majority of these writers served up a Bronx cheer for a response. Every single rule I listed was mercilessly violated by one or more of the books in the challenge. […]


  7. […] next “forbidden trait” I found in the Hugos and Nebulas I read was … failure to stay on […]


  8. […] and bonnets), I do my best to avoid them. Imagine my annoyance when about half of the books on my challenge list interrupted a perfectly good plot with two or more beings doing the horizontal mambo “on […]


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