The Hugo awards and the Prometheus awards are different in focus, but occasionally overlap.
This year, the overlap is minimal but worth mentioning: In their respective Best Novel categories, one 2021 work has been recognized at some level by both awards.
Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir’s sf novel, is one of six Best Novel finalists in the Hugo Awards, presented nearly annually since 1953 by sf fans attending or supporting the World Science Fiction convention.
Weir’s novel was also one of 16 works nominated this past year for the Best Novel category of the Prometheus Awards.
For the record, here are the six works competing for the Hugo for Best Novel:
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager / Hodder & Stoughton)
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (Tor)
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Ballantine / Del Rey)
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (Tor / Mantle)
Nobody knows whether Project Hail Mary will win the Hugo this year for Best Novel, but it wouldn’t be surprising. Weir’s novel is certainly entertaining enough as a fast-paced, unpredictable but logical sf adventure.
Weir is known for writing hard-science adventures with individualistic themes, often centering on one man who finds himself in an unusual and extreme situation with the heroic potential to make a big difference against impossible odds. That’s probably one key aspect of Weir’s appeal for LFS members who nominate his fiction.
Weir, best known for his breakthrough first novel The Martian and its excellent film version, previously was recognized in 2018 as a Prometheus Best Novel finalist for Artemis, a near-future heist thriller set on the moon in a free-market-oriented lunar colony.
In Project Hail Mary, a lone astronaut groggily wakes up with only fragmentary memories on an Earth space ship and gradually realizes that he’s been sent on a desperate quest to save the Earth from disaster.
As he struggles to understand his surroundings and extraordinary situation, Ryland Grace must figure out how to survive and face a series of challenges, even as his continues to be weighed down by health and memory issues.
Eventually – Spoiler alert: Stop here if you haven’t read Project: Hail Mary yet but want to! – the novel also becomes an intriguing and ingenious first-contact story.
Ryland meets an alien sent on another space ship to the same distant solar system that might offer a solution to the crisis. Both individuals must figure out a way to communicate with each other, and ultimately join forces to tackle a fascinating series of scientific problems and overcome various hurdles to save themselves, their species and planets.
A FOCUS ON LIBERTY
The Prometheus Award’s distinctive double focus – on good, well-written sf/fantasy that also champions individual rights and personal freedom – helps explain why some Hugo finalists don’t end up ranking higher in our award.
Although Weir’s latest bestselling novel is a fun read and admirably champions rationality and science, it falls short in the other key area that defines the Prometheus Award. In short, in the judgment of some LFS members, its libertarian and anti-authoritarian content is minimal, especially compared to other Best Novel nominees.
Moreover, some aspects of the story, involving how Earth governments respond to the world-threatening emergency with a centralized and decidedly authoritarian response, contradict libertarian views that social, economic and even existential challenges can best be solved through cooperation, not coercion.
Not that Weir’s portrayal of how governments predictably react to crisis by trying to expand their power is unrealistic. But from the perspective of many LFS members, such pragmatic realism misses an opportunity to explore how more freedom might help, not hinder efforts for humanity to survive.
Still, Project Hail Mary is very entertaining and stimulating to read, delivering some of the hard-science substance that harkens back to the golden age of sci-fi, and we wish Weir good luck in the Hugo awards competition this year.
* Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.
* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.
* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.