When I was young, I often selected a book at the store if it had been a Hugo and/or Nebula winner. If it won both, that seemed to me that it really was something I want to read. And in some respect, I still look at those awards for ideas. Sometimes.
I'm a lot older now, I have access to more information now than I did as a kid (after all, Al Gore hadn't yet invented the internet, at least not in its current incarnation of Amazon.com and cat memes). And I take awards with a grain of salt. After all, I think if John Scalzi found a way to publish his weekly grocery list, it would win a Hugo. Now, it could be that it was a particularly fine grocery list, but Scalzi is engaged with his audience. He spends a lot of time interacting with his audience, online, at cons. Yesterday at LoneStarCon 3, I saw an *enormous* autographing line, and a quick glance at a book told me it was for Scalzi's autographing. That was by far the biggest line I had seen in the day and a half I had been there (so of course, that doesn't mean it was the biggest line of the con, but I'm willing to bet it was one of them).
Some books that do really well in the awards, such as Jo Walton's Among Others didn't quite resonate with me (although I must be close in age to her, because I could relate to so much of the book from a nostalgic perspective). After all, as I've aged, I've developed my own tastes. I don't just pick up a book anymore because it's a Hugo winner. And given how the voting sometimes goes, I have to think that books being selected are often for reasons more about the author than the book itself. I have read some Scalzi, and thought what I had read was perfectly okay, but not necessarily my favorite kind of books. He definitely has a niche that resonates with a lot of fannish readers, he's a pretty nice guy who comes from fandom and enjoys interacting with his audience. I suspect his accolades, especially the Hugo he won last night for Best Novel, has much to do with those other factors as well as the book itself. Which isn't to say he shouldn't be congratulated, because of course he should. He did win a major award, and it's because for whatever reason, people had a positive reaction to his book and that is an accomplishment worthy of being celebrated.
But I'm more deliberate in the books I pick to buy and read, and I'm not afraid to stop reading a book I'm just not enjoying (because life is too short and I have too many books). There are some people who's taste seems to be close to mine, and I'll take their recommendations quite seriously. I've also found I react more to books from certain publishers (particularly indie publishers). I really liked the books in general that came out from Nightshade, which alas is no more. I've generally enjoyed the books from Tachyon, Pyr and most recently Angry Robot. I suspect that has to do with the editorial vision of the publishers, which is a more limited operation (in terms of personnel) and not one of the major NY houses. Of course I still buy plenty of books from the major publishers, but I have enjoyed discovering a whole new set of books (and I may have bought a substantial number of books this weekend from Angry Robot, because I have become such a fan).
I was supposed to work WorldCon this past week (in fact, I was supposed to still be in San Antonio). But several weeks ago, events conspired to force me to cancel those plans. The work I need on my house turns out not to be as bad as it initially looked like it would be, but I'm still going to be shelling out several thousand dollars in the next few months for work that needs to be done to protect my investment and prevent much more expensive repair work in the future. I also had a rather busy August at work, including the last week which was horrendously busy. I drove to San Antonio Saturday morning, and ran into several people. My plan had been just to see people, not to go to any panels and that is what I did. I saw many people I don't get to see much and that was wonderful. Some people I only saw once in passing and never again, the nature of a several thousand person convention. Saw some folks I haven't seen in years, and it was such a treat to see so many people, even if just briefly.
But. But overall, through no fault of the convention at all, I was desperate to get home, so I came home early Sunday afternoon. I'm a classic introvert and I was desperate for some alone time. Being around so many people was wearing hard on me. I could feel myself physically relax when I got home yesterday. Helped that my house had been cleaned yesterday by my friend who also came to feed the kitties yesterday morning. After I got unpacked, sat on the sofa, and was going to watch some football but ended up watching a movie instead, petting kitties. I could use a few more days of this, but I'm planning to take some extra vacation in December and have a full 3 week vacation of doing absolutely nothing.
I went to a few parties Saturday night, and there are some very interesting upcoming WorldCon bids. But, I'm not a WorldCon kind of person. It's too big for me. This really is one of those it's not them it's me kinds of things. Plus, when I worked with undergraduates I could never go during Labor Day weekend. Now that I work with graduate students and my peak workload is end of semester not beginning of semester, I can't go in mid-August which is when so many are now bidding (this is why I cannot go to London or Spokane). I will go back to WC when the timing is right, but I'm most comfortable at World Fantasy. It's more of a working con for editors and writers, limited programming, very active foody and bar scene, and most important for me, limited in size to around 1000 people. It's the major con I feel most comfortable with.
I seem to be happiest though at the regional cons, and I'm looking forward to going to FenCon in a month, because it is one of the cons where I am at home with family.