The 2021 Nebula and Hugo Finalists for Science Fiction and Fantasy

The finalists for this year’s Nebula Award were announced on March 15, 2021.  The Nebula Awards are voted on by members of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America which, according to its website, has over 1,500 members.

I’ve read four of the six Nebula finalists for best novel, and I started but didn’t finish The City We Became. Jemisin is certain to be a very strong contender. I loved Black Sun and Network Effect but would probably choose Piranesi to win, since it was such a unique and haunting read – and also we’ve been waiting a long time for a book by Clarke.  I enjoyed Mexican Gothic but wouldn’t put it on the same level as the others. I haven’t read The Midnight Bargain but I’ve added it to my list. One thing that’s striking is that all of these novels are written by women, and most are women of color.

  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury US; Bloomsbury UK)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US & UK)
  • Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher)
  • The Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk (Erewhon)
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga; Solaris)
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

The Nebulas also have a category for middle grade and young adult fiction.  I haven’t read any of these but I’ll be reading Elatsoe for my book club and I love T. Kingfisher. I’ve added Raybearer to my TBR list.

  • RaybearerJordan Ifueko (Amulet)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
  • A Game of Fox & Squirrels, Jenn Reese (Holt)
  • Star Daughter, Shveta Thakrar (HarperTeen)

The Hugo Awards are nominated and voted on by ballot but unlike the Nebulas, Hugo voters are not necessarily writers. You or I can be voters if we pay the conference fee (for this reason and others, I prefer the Nebulas). The finalists for the Hugo Awards were announced on April 13, 2021.

The Hugo finalists for best novel are similar to the Nebulas, with the addition of Harrow the Ninth and The Relentless Moon.  I haven’t read either of those, although I started reading Gideon and didn’t finish it (though I know how much people love it). Like the Nebulas, this year’s novels are also all written by women. 

  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press / Solaris)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Harrow The Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (
  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
  • The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books / Solaris)

One thing I like about the Hugos are that they have a best series category: 

  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor Books)
  • The Lady Astronaut Universe, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books/Audible/Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction/Solaris)
  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)

I’ve read books in all but the Scalzi series. Of the others, I lean towards The Poppy War series; those books are intense and incredibly detailed, and I like the way they are based on China’s history. I also really like the Murderbot series; I think Martha Wells has created fascinating characters and I appreciate her sense of humor. I’ve only read the first books of the Daevabad Trilogy and the Lady Astronaut Universe, and the first few of the October Daye series. 

The Hugos have a separate award for young adult novels, and again I haven’t read any but I do plan to read some of them. I hear good things about Legendborn.

  • Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)
  • A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Margaret K. McElderry/ Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
  • Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet / Hot Key)
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions)

I should note that both of these awards have categories for shorter works like novellas, novelettes and short stories. I generally prefer novel-length work so I hadn’t read anything in these categories this year.

What’s missing from these lists? I would have liked to see The Once and Future Witches and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I also wondered if The House in the Cerulean Sea was eligible. I believe all were published in 2020 but sometimes eligibility rules get complicated.

The Nebula awards will be announced at their conference in June, and the Hugo awards will be announced in December at a conference in my hometown, Washington DC. We’re thinking about going, but I’m not great with big crowded events, and I figure this one will be full of people who missed going to similar events in the last year and a half.

Hope you got some new ideas for your TBR list! Which books will you be pulling for?

  9 comments for “The 2021 Nebula and Hugo Finalists for Science Fiction and Fantasy

  1. May 8, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    All of them are soo well deserved!

    • May 10, 2021 at 2:13 pm

      It is a tough choice! Do you have any favorites?

  2. May 9, 2021 at 8:15 am

    I try to cover the short works. Reviews and links to online available stories are here:

    • May 10, 2021 at 2:12 pm

      They do have a lot of categories relating to shorter works. I don’t read a lot of novellas or short stories so I didn’t have any opinion on their nominees. Thanks for sharing your reviews!

      • May 10, 2021 at 2:14 pm

        Most people care more for the novels, that’s true. I like them also, but when award season is running, I can’t get through all the novels.

      • May 11, 2021 at 9:11 am

        I appreciate a good book of short stories, but novellas nearly always leave me wanting more. That’s just my own preference.

  3. May 9, 2021 at 10:22 am

    I really want to attend the World Science Fiction Convention as well but am still debating it. Despite how things are now, I only want to go if it’s an in-person event rather than a virtual one, but I’m willing to wait until next year or years from now to make that happen. I want the convention experience and now wish I’d went to past ones.

    • May 10, 2021 at 2:10 pm

      It looks like it will be in Chicago next year. I hope you get there! It does seem like a shame to pass it up when it’s where I live.

      • May 10, 2021 at 8:00 pm

        It does. I checked their website after reading your post and saw that they plan to hold it partly in-person, so it’s highly likely that I’ll go.

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