First Lines From the 2024 Hugo Nominees

First Lines is a series of blog articles posted on around the first of the month. Inspired by a friend’s suggestion that I write a post on how to write the first line of your story, I also started this series. I hoped to inspire myself and other writers with these and to point readers to books they might enjoy.

As writers, we’re often told that the first line of a story must hook the reader (particularly if that reader is an editor.) Implied is that the editor will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. But the hooky-ness of a first line is in the eyes of the beholder. 


These first lines are all from books nominated for the 2024 Hugo Awards. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on all the nominated works. I’ve included those titles as “other nominees” and a link if I could find one. I hope you enjoy what I’ve included here and that you’ll find and read the other nominees as well.

The Hugo Award

The first Hugo Award, given to Alfred Bester in 1953, grew into one of the most prestigious awards in science fiction. Presented annually since 1955, members of the World Science Fiction Convention vote the Hugo Awards on each year.

The awards are trade/service marks of the “Worldcon Intellectual Property (WIP), a California non-profit corporation managed by a committee of the World Science Fiction Society (“WSFS”) which sponsors the annual World Science Fiction Convention and the Hugo Awards.

Voting members of the year’s Worldcon can nominate works or persons from the previous year in fifteen categories. They make nominations between January and March each year.

In April, Worldcon releases the shortlist. After that, members of the current Worldcon receive a final ballot. Voters rank all nominees.

Winners receive a special trophy which is announced and presented during the Worldcon. They will announce the 2024 winners at the 82nd World Science Fiction Convention in Glascow in August. 

Best Novel Nominees

The Cover of the Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi has an image of a sale boat with red tenticles reaching up out of a turbulant blue sea and an octopus-like creature visible below the water's surface.

God as my witness, none of this would have ever happened if it were not for those two fools back in Salalah. Them and their map.

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty (Harper Voyager, Harper Voyager UK)

The cover of the Saint of Bright Doors is an illustration of an ornate, orange and brown Morrocan-style door on a splash of dark blue on a yellow-green background with broken Morrocan-style or possibly Spanish blue and white tile across the top and in the bottom right corner.

The moment Fetter is born, Mother-of-Glory pins his shadow to the earth with a large brass nail and tears it from him.

The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera (Tordotcom)

The cover of Some Desperate Glory has a photographic style image of a young blonde haired woman stepping out of a narrow bright spot that is a planet's horizon as visible from space. On either side of her are two halves of a double door with an angel like creature carved so that it divides in half when the doors open

Who are the humans?

These misunderstood latecomer to the intergalactic stage have a proud history.

Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh (Tordotcom, Orbit UK)

the cover of the Starter villain has the photo portrait of a cat wearing a white collared shirt, blue necktie and brown suit coat.

I learned about the death of my uncle Jake in an unexpected way, which was from the CNBC Squawk Box morning show.

Starter Villain by John Scalzi (Tor Books, Tor UK)

The cover of Translation State has a background gradiant from deep red on the spine side to a green on the right side. The title is in the center underneath it is the author. Above the title is the bottom half of a rounded cornered square with multiple white lines around it. In the center of there's gold on white marbled circle with a black triangle in the center. The square at the bottom repeats the image except that inside the circle is a black silhouette of a long necked, possibly bald human head and shoulders

The last stragglers in the funeral procession were out the ghost door before the mason bots unfolded their long legs and reached for the pile of the stones they’d removed from the wall so painstakingly the day before.

Translation State by Ann Leckie (Orbit US, Orbit UK)

THe cover of the Witch King has the illustration of a human face with longish brown hair, wearing a blue cape with bronze lining, the individual's left hand reaches toward the reader with his fingers and thumb outstreatched. a magic bubble wends under the author's name and the title on the bottom 2/3s of the book

Walking was floating to the surface of a soft world of water, not what Kai had expected.

Witch King by Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

Best Novella Nominees

The  cover of Mammoths at the Gates has the illustration at the top half of the book, it illustrattes two mammonths facing each other with their trunks raised in an s shape and their curled tusks nearly meeting in the middle - a long beaked bird with brown and white markings sit on each tusk, in the background is another bird looking down out of the mouth of a statue at these two birds.

—and that was how we got the moon back up the mountain and into the sky, and no one was ever the wiser.

Mammoths at the Gates by Nghi Vo (Tordotcom)

Cover of The Mimicking of known successes is an illustration in oranges and yellows of a rocket ship and bulbous buildings in the distance against an orange and yellow swirly symbol in the sky, The silohettes of two people walking away from the camera are in the foreground

The man had disappeared from an isolated platform; the furthest platform eastward, in fact on the 4 degree sign 63’ line, never a very popular ring.

The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older (Tordotcom) 

Cover of Rose/House show an illustration of a series of graduated circular glass and steel buildings put together in a way that resembles an abstract image of a rose. From the bottom of this building hands a long tangle of wires and near the bottom of those, caught in the wires is the silhouette of a person almost hanging upside down

Basit Deniau’s greatest architectural triumph is the house he died in.

Rose/House by Arkady Martine (Subterranean) 

Please note: the English version of this has apparently been taken down. This links to the French version. There is an English language Audiobook here.

The cover of Thorn Hedge is a pale green blue and white, there is a close up of a white stem with a thorn on it, the thorn is covered in red blood, a drop of blood hangs from  it. in the background a multi-towered castle sits on a mountain top looking at a taller mountain.

In the early days, the wall of thorns had been distressingly obvious. There was simply no way to hide a hedge with thorns like sword blades and stems as thick as a man’s thigh.

Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher (Tor Books, Titan UK) 

Other Nominees

“Life Does Not Allow Us to Meet,” He Xi / 人生不相见, 何夕, translated by Alex Woodend (Adventures in Space: New Short Stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers)

“Seeds of Mercury,” Wang Jinkang / 水星播种, 王晋康, translated by Alex Woodend (Adventures in Space: New Short Stories by Chinese & English Science Fiction Writers)

Best Novelette Nominees

Cover illustration for Ivy, Angelica, Bay shows a person in a turban and flowing robe in profile holding a young girl to her chest. a piece of luggage is at their feet and they are against a door which is at an angle across the cover almost on the diagonal

In July 2088, shortly after I woke up from cry-sleep, I received a copy of 2181 Overture. Assuming the book was science fiction, I didn’t even bother touching it.

“Ivy, Angelica, Bay” by C.L. Polk ( 8 December 2023)

The cover of on the Fox road is an cartoonish illustration of a 1930s-1940s sedan driving on a dark road at the bottom, a fox keeps pace with it, in an non-interlocking puzzle style there are images of trees, a whole moon, and a white house in the upper parts of the cover

Trouble sits on the third stair below my door, slouching and ragged with her elbows on her knees.

“On the Fox Roads” by Nghi Vo ( 31 October 2023)

Aden had never once forgotten his gear for bulk trash day, but he found it touching that Nura still taped a monthly reminder note on the door from the kitchen to the garage.

One Man’s Treasure” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, January-February 2023) 

During one of the much smaller disasters that preceded the really big disaster, I met a lot of my neighbors online. I can’t remember if we set up the WhatsApp group because of the pandemic or the civil disorder or both.

“The Year Without Sunshine” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine, November-December 2023)  

Other Nominees 

I AM AI” by Ai Jiang (Shortwave) 

“Introduction to 2181 Overture, Second Edition,” Gu Shi /〈2181序曲〉再版导言, 顾适 translated by Emily Jen (Clarkesworld, February 2023) 


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. 

Beyond best Novel, Novella, and Novelette, there are Hugo Awards for Best Short Story, Best Series, Best Graphic Story or Comic, Best Related Work, Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, Best Game or Interactive Work, Best Editor Short Form, Best Editor Long Form, Best Professional Artist, Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine, Best Fancast, the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer (sponsored by Dell Magazines).

Do You Want to Read More?

Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Check out another First Lines post

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