Is there a theme to the early 1990's Hugo award winning novels? At first glance space opera seems to be on the rise but when two of the three space opera winners are part of the same series from the same author it lessons the impact. Even if we extend the space opera label to Hyperion which has some of the elements but uses them in a very different way it's not much of a theme. There's a surprising number of light novels in the awards between Bujold and Willis but the rest of the winners are a bit dense.
Four of the six winners are not stand alone novels requiring either prequels or sequels to complete the stories and even the other two are part of series. I suspect that voting for the entire series is what drove in The Vor Game, Barrayar, and Green Mars. It doesn't speak well of the genre that for this period the majority of the winners cannot stand on their own. It speaks to an insular nature, a group going inward rather than reaching out. Eventually that does change but this period is the nadir of that attitude.
Picture for a moment that you're a young science fiction fan looking for a book. I know that's a stretch since all of those words don't really go together any more but bear with me. The Hugo awards as a small part of their function draw attention to these works and so you buy Hyperion. You only get half a book that way! While I'd never say that award winners should not go to books that are part of a series seeing every award go that way points out a real problem with the science fiction that was published at the time.
So let's hit the tally board:
For all my griping above I did enjoy Hyperion, The Vor Game, Barrayar, A Fire Upon the Deep, and Doomsday Book. The only one I disliked (and that's putting it very mildly) is Green Mars. Stay tuned for a lot of reruns in the late 90's; you'd almost think that things were falling into a very deep rut.