There are certain debates that reoccur with clockwork-like regularity in the SFF world, e.g. the gender debate, the race debate, the grimdark debate, the genre versus literary fiction debate, etc… However, there is only one debate that reoccurs at exactly the same time every single year and that is the debate about the Hugo Award nominations. Because the nominations are always announced on Easter Saturday, even if some people don’t like it*, it means that the online SFF world will be amusing itself during the long Easter weekend by debating, praising and complaining about the Hugo nominees.
Indeed, I even postponed a planned series of posts till after Easter, because the Easter weekend is Hugo nomination announcement time and I’ll be sure to post about that at least once, maybe repeatedly if there’s a bigger controversy.
Plus, this year I am even more invested than in past years, since I have nomination and voting rights. And lots of “Who?” or “What the fuck?” or “No fucking way!” nominees means I’ll have a harder time deciding who to vote for beyond the ever popular “No award”. Especially since I’m also not overly inclined to spend a lot of time on evaluating works I have zero interest in. To quote the late great Marcel Reich-Ranicki, “Life is too short for bad books.”
This year’s best novel slate is pretty dreadful. I liked and nominated Ancillary Justice, so this will get my top vote by default. I also like Seanan McGuire as a person and like the novels she has written as Seanan McGuire, but her Mira Grant books don’t interest me, mostly due to a lack of interest in zombies. Though Parasite seems to be the start of a new series, so maybe this one will work better for me. I have never cared for anything Charles Stross has written in spite of trying to read him several times and I doubt Neptune’s Brood will change that. The Wheel of Time was a hugely popular series, but it is not a single work and I don’t think a rule developed for serialized novels decades ago should apply to a series of 14 or however many there were very thick books. Besides, I have never read any of the Wheel of Time books, so I have no idea how to judge this series fairly. Moreover, Larry Correia will be pleased that his relentless self-promotion has finally paid off and won him a Hugo nomination for Warbound. Does this mean he will stop now?
All in all a really weak best novel category, ironically in a year that had much more interesting novels to offer. It’s also very telling that I had to look up the titles of several nominees repeatedly, while typing this post.
The short fiction categories also left me with a lot of “What?” reactions. I nominated “Wakulla Springs” by Ellen Klages and Andy Duncan in the novella category, “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard in the novelette category and “Selkie Stories are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar. I also read “If you were a dinosaur, my love” by Rachel Swirsky, because so many people were raving about it, though I seem to be one of the few people who didn’t love it. I didn’t read any of the remaining nominees, though I will try to rectify that and there are some very good writers on the nominee list. Decent diversity count as well with several women, writers of colour and international writers nominated in the fiction categories.
Alas, the short fiction or more specifically the novelette category also contains the biggest “What the fuck?” and “No fucking way” nomination, namely a story called “Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day. I suspect this one profited strongly from the rightwing voting bloc invited by Correia’s “please, please, give me a Hugo” campaign. Brad Torgersen probably also profited from the rightwing voting bloc, though he is also popular with the traditional Analog crowd. And to be fair, I quite liked the one story of his I read several years ago.
At The Radish, Natalie points out that both Larry Correia and Vox Day heavily campaigned for specific nominees, several of which made it onto the ballot. The comments are… interesting to say the least. Rachel Acks, File 770 and Renay also weigh in. I also wonder whether Correia and Vox Day may not have done their favoured nominees a disservice, since there may well be a backlash against some of them, whether they had anything to do with the aggressive campaigning or not.
The Campbell award nominees are nicely diverse as well, including lots of women, writers of colour and international writers. Sofia Samatar and Benjanun Sriduangkaew were on my list as well. I’ll have to investigate the other three.
Regarding the best related work category, I nominated Wonderbook and might well have nominated Kameron Hurley’s awesome essay “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” if I had known that single essays were eligible in this category. I can’t really comment on either Queers Dig Timelords or Speculative Fiction 2012, since I have read neither. As for Writing Excuses, I still have no idea why this is even nominated in the best related work category rather than in the podcast category.
Graphic Story: I nominated Saga and have little idea about the others. Though it was pretty obvious that my other two nominees wouldn’t make it, since both were French comics.
Dramatic presentation long: I nominated Iron Man 3 and Pacific Rim, so I’m pleased to see them here. I didn’t care for Gravity and didn’t bother with Catching Fire or Frozen at all. I’m surprised Thor: The Dark World didn’t make it, since people seemed to enjoy that one more than Iron Man 3.
The “Dramatic presentation short” category is even more Doctor Who heavy than usual, which makes voting difficult, since I’ve given up on Doctor Who (I quite liked An Adventure in Space and Time, though). The Game of Thrones episode “The Rains of Castermere” was a no-brainer and Orphan Black is very popular, though I for one don’t like the show (and I tried. I really tried).
I can’t really disagree with the best editor nominations or best pro artist nominations. The semiprozine category matches my nominations in all but one.
The fan categories look pretty good as well. I nominated Pornokitsch and The Book Smugglers and really like A Dribble of Ink as well. I have no idea what Journey Planet and Elitist Book Reviews are. Though the fact that the latter has a category called “Books for Chicks” does not bode well for them. The fanwriter category is full of excellent choices with Liz Bourke, Kameron Hurley, Foz Meadows, Abigail Nussbaum and Mark Oshiro. And of course we have four women nominated in that category (three of which I nominated). What is more, all three of my fan artist nominations made the ballot. I can’t really comment on the podcast category, though I’m pleased to see the Skiffy and Fanty Show and Galactic Suburbia there.
There are 88 nominees for the 2014 Hugos (plus Campbell awards) altogether. 34 of them match my nominations. That’s a 38.6% hit rate. Though in many categories I have no idea how to vote at all. I guess the good old favourite “No award” will get some workout.
As for the Retro Hugos, out of 45 nominees altogether, 12 match my nominations. That’s a hit rate of 26.6%. Mind you, I didn’t nominate in the fanzine and fan writer categories at all, because I simply don’t have enough knowledge in those areas. I’m surprised that there is no graphic story and dramatic presentation long form categories, since I actually came up with nominations for both (good ones, too). I’m a bit surprised at the dominance of radio drama in the short dramatic presentation category (I nominated lots of cartoon shorts), though I will be happy to vote for War of the Worlds. The only real “What the fuck?” nominee Retro Hugo categories is Ayn Rand in the novella category. I gues it’s that rightwing voting block at work again. I also vehemently dislike “Helen O’Loy” by Lester del Rey.
*I don’t really buy their reasoning BTW. Yes, Easter is a dead time newswise, but since it is a dead time, news crews will probably be more likely to run a story on a local author gaining a Hugo nomination than otherwise. Nevermind that the Hugo Awards are not the Pulitzers or the Booker Prize, so general news interest beyond the genre press is limited to the occasional regional paper running a local boy/girl done good story.