Colin Dwyer

If you've opened a novel by Patrick DeWitt before, it ought to come as no surprise to find that a pivotal scene in his new one hinges on acts unprintable. That is, at least, as far as NPR's family-friendly website is concerned. If you haven't yet cracked one of his books, suffice to say the scene I'm referring to boasts violence, sloppy nudity, acts of lewdness — and one piece of cylindrical lunchmeat, alarmingly misused.

In the three decades that the National Medals of Arts have been awarded, the list of recipients has grown long and luminous. Ray Bradbury, Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin, Frank Capra, Georgia O'Keeffe, even AT&T (and many, many more) — the artists and arts patrons who have earned the prize from the U.S. government are as hallowed in name as they are diverse in discipline.

This year, that list got a bit horrific.

Of the 85 works nominated for this year's Hugo Awards, one of science fiction's most prestigious prizes, a dozen walked away with wins. Among their number were hit series, household names and repeat recipients — but a day later, the winning entries getting the most attention have no names at all: In several of the categories, voters picked "No Award" instead of bestowing the prize on one of the nominees.

That strange result will be explained — as best it can be — in just a second.

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