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Does an Award Win Influence Your Reading Choices?

An interesting post over at Velcro City Tourist Board ponders the value of science fiction awards in light of the recent Hugo Award ceremonies. The gist of the post is that they matter more to writers than readers. Here’s my comment from to that post…

My own reading experiences with award-winning sf books are hit-and-miss. In no way are they in perfect alignment with my tastes. Since I tend to read a larger number of sf books than the average consumer, if I only read award-winners – and for the sake of argument, let’s only consider Hugos and Nebulas – I would soon run out of stuff to read. So, for me, award wins are nice, but have little effect on reading choices.

I would think Joe Consumer is a bit different, though. He’s the guy looking for guidance on what to read. He reads maybe 6 – 10 books a year and doesn’t want to waste time on the dregs. He will use the “Award-Winner” marketing blurb as a beacon to “the good stuff” and then (probably) judge the rest of the field on it: “This is the best they have to offer?”

Then there are those who make it their goal to read all the award-winners. That’s not a bad reading project. It’s more appealing to me (who has not read all the award-winners) way more than watching all the Academy Award-winning movies – which makes no comparative sense, I know. Maybe that’s the sf fanboy in me coming to the fore.

So, award wins do matter to the reader, methinks, depending on who that reader is.

Now I ask you, SF Signal reader: Does an award win influence your reading choices?

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

14 Comments on Does an Award Win Influence Your Reading Choices?

  1. Hell no!!! And did I mention Boomer πŸ™‚

  2. Nominations influence me as much as Awards do, but its a delayed effect, since I often don’t buy HC, and the paperback versions of the nominees and winners usually come out after the Award has been

    handed out.

    While both the Nebulas and Hugos and Locus AWwards are popularity contests, they often are *useful* popularity contests. Granted, there will be years with real stinkers in the nominees (The L. Ron Hubbard Mission Earth novel in the 80’s, to name one horrible example), but usually the nominees at least have the potential for being good stuff.

  3. bryanspellman // August 28, 2006 at 3:42 pm //

    Yes and No…I read based on personal feelings, reviews, forums, library browsing…

    I do like to read one award winner a year just to see what the hype is about, but I do not run out and grab the books once winners are announced. A winner plus good PRE-award buzz is a good bet for me.

  4. I use awards as a starting point. I discovered Connie Willis, Bob Sawyer and Scott Card by reading their Hugo/Nebula award winners first, then wandered off into their other works.

    As someone who would like to win a Hugo or Nebula some day, I have added incentive to try to learn what it takes to win. πŸ˜‰

  5. Richard Novak // August 28, 2006 at 5:36 pm //

    I tend to avoid anything marked ‘special’ by an award. If I get to a book it’s in my own time. The only exception are the Grand Master awards; I will specifically look for these authors.


  6. A few years back I found that I was always reading the same few authors. I wanted to branch out, but I didn’t want to just pick something off the shelf at random. A friend put together a list of the all the books that won both the hugo and nebulas, and it made for a good place to jump off. But after doing that I tend to read stuff by authors I know rather than award winners with unfamiliar authors.

    I value personal or blog recommendations more than awards.

  7. Sometimes it does – I had great luck reading Hugo and Nebula award winning novels from the 70’s and 80’s and I’m usually fond of reading those that get the award. I don’t always love the books, but I’m reasonably sure of not getting a total stinker and that especially holds true for new authors.

  8. The only US award that seems to me useful for reading purposes is the Campbell since sometimes I miss some new writers. The Hugo and Nebula usually are too political or fadish for me, though the nominations are at least interesting to watch to see who is in favour with the “mandarins of the genre” and who is not. It’s true that sometimes a novel is so good that it has to win one of the major award but that’s rare (Spin is an excellent example of such, as a novel it was so far above pretty much anything else nominated since with all due respect Accelerando is not really a novel). On the other hand the 2 major british SF awards and the respective nominees and winners are far better indicators of quality and interesting stuff.


  9. Not often. I usually go by Author or content. “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell” won a Hugo, but I am finding it a tedious read. Lois McMaster Bujold has won a few Hugos, and I love jst about everything she’s written. David Weber, as far as I know, hasn’t won any awards, but I devour his each and every book.

  10. robert eggleton // August 29, 2006 at 3:07 am //

    Not really. I’m totally bored with sword, and hard scifi just doesn’t have the kick it once did before the emergent technologies we take for granted have become realities. It’s probably just me, but it seems that the editors of mainstream TV are so much more liberal with content than mainstream scifi. This is baffling, since children have easier access to TV than to books. I’ve been doing a lot of writing and hoping that my own first-published novel hits. However, if anybody has a strong recommendation of something that is more of a sociological scifi (I like it moving but am generally unimpressed by “action” — fights, etc.), I sure need a break and would appreciate it. I go to our bookstore weekly, but usually leave empty-handed, and almost never finish anything I buy. Thanks.

  11. joshua corning // August 29, 2006 at 3:17 am //

    Powells book store in Portland oregan…the one down town near the pizza place has a support column in the sci-fi/horror/fantacy section of the store with all the hugo novel winners hand written on one side of it and all the nebula novel winners on another side…for awhile i was using that as a good “what should i buy” list.

  12. Robert, for a list of some sociological sf titles, see wikipedia and fm writers.

  13. Depends on the award. These days I’m more likely to seek something out if it wins a juried award, such as the Tiptree or Clarke, than I am if it wins a popular vote award such as the Hugo. (That said, I’m going to read Spin.)

  14. Yes. I am trying to educate myself on classic sci fi so I am using the Hugos and Nebulas as jumping off points for reading classic sci fi. It’s also a good list to use when shopping the used book stores. The recent (90s and oughts) award winners don’t influence me that much espcially since I avoid fantasy and the Hugos have mostly awarded fantasy lately. I did purchase Spin and Old Man’s War last week before the awards were announced. In that case it wasn’t the award nomination, but what I had read of the books on the web, sci fi blogs, and Sci Fi Signal that influenced me.

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