The Annual Hugo Nomination Reaction Post

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.”

Anyway, here are the nominees for the 2014 Hugo Awards and 1939 Retro Hugo Awards.

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.

Liz Bourke, John Scalzi, George R.R. Martin, Mondyboy, Staffer’s Book Reviews and the Skiffy and Fanty Show offer their reactions. Meanwhile, Larry Nolen is pretty disgusted by the whole thing.

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.

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31 Responses to The Annual Hugo Nomination Reaction Post

  1. Yama says:

    I wonder how many people have actually read Day’s story.

    Given his track record, I doubt it’s good.

    • Cora says:

      Maybe he is a better writer than genre commentator/pundit. I doubt it, though.

      • Yama says:

        I’ve read some of his fiction.

        It’s bland at best. There are some hilariously bad things buried in there but it’s mostly just bland.

    • MA Thyer says:

      I have to say that I’ve removed authors from my W2R list for far less. OS Card for instance has a knack for sticking his foot in his mouth with a routine that is otherwise enviable. It’s like he schedules the next time he’s going to say something intolerant and stupid. Vox Day doesn’t seem to need the schedule since he’s pretty much on all the time. He has an agenda, talking points, and a message all predicated on an insatiable, burning hate. Poor fella just needs to cool down and I doubt his relentless campaign to get on the ballot or the period of shame that his success will cause will do anything to reduce the temperature of his soul.

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  3. Rachael Acks says:

    That’s very much my concern as well, and I really should have said so more strongly in my own blog post. I’m determined to approach the reading list with an open mind–though goodness knows what I’ll actually have time to read–but I’ve already heard some rumblings of the “Well if Correia and VD pushed for this person I want nothing to do with them” and I think it’s pretty sad. It also makes one wonder who got pushed off the list because of the voting bloc. Ugh.

    • Cora says:

      I believe that we should evaluate the nominated works on their own merits, but VD is VD and Correia’s aggressive campaigning has left a very sour taste in many people’s mouths. Ditto for Toni Weisskopf and her clueless “Why can’t we all just get along and love Heinlein?” post a while back. Brad Torgersen, Dan Wells and the Elite Book Reviews person may well suffer for it, even if they had nothing to do with the aggressive campaigning.

      I also would love to know who got pushed off the list because of the rightwing voting bloc and the Wheel of Time voting bloc, too, since I suspect those works would have been more worthy.

      • Marc Cabot says:

        Leaving aside the subjective nature of “more worthy,” there will always be books one person considers “more worthy” pushed off the list by other less worthy books, because that is the nature of popularity contests. Holding that against someone is not very logical, IMO. (Although that daft bugger who got one of the slots on “Creature Workshop” and then quit two episodes in because he was wonesome should be horsewhipped, IMO.)

        Basically, Correia/Day (for the record, I like Correia’s books, find his personal writing usually enjoyable, and wouldn’t pee on VD if he was on fire) have a win/win thing going here. No matter what happens, it proves one or more of their points. The only thing that could possibly have undermined their position is the opposition pointedly ignoring them and outvoting them using the same appeal. Obviously that was never going to happen: the first is not in accord with human nature and the second, I believe, might be statistically impossible. And, again, those are both things that advance their arguments.

  4. Mark says:

    I almost forgot that I could vote (supporting membership for the last world con) and I didn’t read much genre fiction last year, so I only voted in the novel and the best dramatic presentation (long) categories. Which is a bit sad, because I always considered the short fiction categories of being of the most interest, at least to me personally. Also my picks tended to be a bit-too-mainsteamish probably (Karen Joy Fowler and Lauren Beukes in the novel category), or obscure Leena Krohn’s Datura. I also nominated Neil Gaiman, who I thought gets nominated for anything that he gets published, but this year he was not. And my movie picks were obviously irrelevant: The Congress and Nuoc 2030. The latter is a Vietnamese film that I have seen at the Berlin film festival this year.

    My reaction to this year’s nominees:

    The short version: It looks like this prize is not a prize from fans anymore, but one from activists. Which interestingly kind of mirrors the state of the genre and of fandom, I think.

    If Vox Day gets nominated, and Correia, then it’s kind of obvious that campaigns got them on the list, and not necessarily literary merit. So we have the token right-wring writers along with writers with more liberal and leftist backgrounds (I assume some people will call them token left-wing writers). So there we have it, a list that includes some good names, but which looks like a list on which you get if you have the most personal background points. If it’s so easy to hijack the system than I simply assume that EVERY nomination was in fact the result of a successful campaign. I cannot take such an award very seriously anymore. And about the Wheel of Time nomination: a very odd idea, which a number of people seem to have shared (looks like another campaign. In this case for an idea). If I would have any interest in this award this year, then my ambition would have been to read all the nominated fiction. Ideally, everybody who votes in a fiction category reads all the nominees. So we are supposed the whole Wheel of Time series now?

    Now I guess that you can tell me that I’m naive (it is just another year, it has always worked this year, a critical reaction is also just predictable) or that it is just silly to demand that “literary merit” is what counts to get nominated. This being a genre award, and all. I have a broad definition for literary merit, btw, which includes idea, world-building, theme and politics. Yes (and I think we already had such discussions), I don’t mind politics that are part of the story at all. I think De Bodard tends to do this very well, for example. So I wouldn’t even mind battling stories with diverse politcal backgrounds for the award, but I do mind people with politcal opinions who coincidentally also wrote stories battling for the Hugo.

    • Cora says:

      Lauren Beukes and “The Congress” were also among my nominations. I’m not really surprised “The Congress” didn’t make it – it’s too out there for the blockbuster crowd. I had higher hopes for my other arty film nomination, Jim Jarmush’s “Only Lovers Left Alive”, because it stars fan favourite Tom Hiddleston. But apparently it didn’t get an US release until 2014, so lots of people didn’t see it in time for the deadline.

      Lauren Beukes was probably hampered by the fact that The Shining Girls was a mainstream success and marketed as Gone Girl 2.0. Plus, someone who likes Wheel of Time or Larry Correia’s works probably won’t have much use for Lauren Beukes. As for Gaiman (whom I didn’t nominate, because there were other worthy books and I figured he didn’t need the help), it’s rumoured that he would have been nominated and turned it down, probably because he’s still annoyed about the Jonathan Ross thing.

      Otherwise I agree that this shortlist is the result of activism and campaigning at work, since there is no way Larry Correia or VD got there on their own. Ditto for the game tie-in novella. Hugo voters are traditionally hostile to urban fantasy, the subgenre Correia’s works broadly fall into. As for VD, he is better known for being a ranting bigot than for his writing. Brad Torgersen and Baen editor Toni Weisskopf might have gotten nominated without the questionable “help” of VD and Correia and may well get caught in a backlash. The Wheel of Time thing was another campaign, though this time one initiated by fans of the series.

      I also noticed the influence of certain eligibility lists, e.g. for the Campbell or the Hugo eligible artist tumblr, on the nominations. The Retro Hugos were also strongly influenced by the eligible works list on the official Loncon website, e.g. I doubt many people have actually listened to the radio dramas nominated apart from War of the Worlds, but they were all listed on the official site. Meanwhile, no one seems to have considered nominating animated cartoon shorts, even though there were several wonderful choices available.

      Popularity and outreach definitely plays a role in what gets nominated. For example, I like John Scalzi’s work, but I don’t think every utterance of his automatically deserves a Hugo nomination. And the fact that he has a hugely popular blog with 45000 readers a day certainly plays a role.

      I fully agree that literary/artistic merit should be the deciding factor for nominating and voting for the Hugos. Political and personal considerations do play a part, e.g. I am more likely to enjoy a work that broadly agrees with my own political views, but over the years I have also enjoyed many works that didn’t. And there definitely is room for works of different political slants on the Hugo shortlist (and has been for as long as there have been Hugos), as long as those works have actual merit as fiction/art. For example, I did like the one Brad Torgersen story I read a few years ago, though I disagree with his politics, and I may wind up liking his two nominated stories this year. I might even have enjoyed the Larry Correia novel, since I like urban fantasy and sometimes like mindless monster killing, though his aggressive campaigning has left a really sour taste in my mouth.

      • Gaiman has turned down nominations in the past. He withdrew Anansi Boys in 2006. At that point he had won Hugos three years straight in the prose fiction categories. He considered withdrawing The Graveyard Book but Locus editor Charles Brown talked him out of it.

    • Marc Cabot says:

      If Vox Day gets nominated, and Correia, then it’s kind of obvious that campaigns got them on the list, and not necessarily literary merit

      First Objection: Assumes facts not in evidence. Have you read the works in question? Have you polled a statistically significant number of fans to see if, in fact, a significant number of them find either of the works in question meritorious enough to deserve a nomination?

      Second objection: Irrelevant. Campaigns for Hugo nominations are an old and time-tested tradition. Correia/Day may have upped the ante, both by more aggressive tactics and by proposing whole slates, but they are not doing anything that the fandoms of less controversial writers have not been doing for decades.

      • Mark says:

        Logical flaw in your first objection: I said a campaign got them on the list, which doesn’t mean that there may also be a literary justification for these nominations. But that would be a coincidence.

        Second objection: I understand that literary merit never was the only criteria. It’s probably not even the most important one. People campaigned for their own work or that from others, may be particularly likable/sociable or may have very huge fan bases (the Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin category). In my opinion what is different about this particular campaign is that it’s the first that is primarily about showing how you can trick the system and showing how the whole process was already broken anyway. It follows the same thinking, but on a larger scale, than you in your comments: “what you can do, we can do as well.” “You say we are stupid, no YOU are stupid.”

        That’s not aggressive or upping the ante. It’s using juvenile tactics.

  5. Andrew Trembley says:

    Unless I’m mistaken, Writing Excuses is produced by Brandon Sanderson’s company. That excludes it from the fancast category.

  6. Monty says:

    I’m not an Ayn Rand fan, but her novella is the only one that’s still in print in 2014, so I think it probably deserved its nomination. Although I haven’t read it yet, so I might change my opinion. Anyway, I’m just glad the L. Ron Hubbard options (one in Novella and one in Short Story) didn’t get nominated.

    The lack of Graphic Story nominations is disappointing, although Action Comics #1 was really the only option in the category.

    • Cora says:

      Yes, at least we were spared an L. Ron Hubbard nomination. And I might be unfair towards Ayn Rand, but both her work and her views just put me off. Coincidentally, I vehemently disliked the film version of The Fountainhead long before I ever heard of Ayn Rand.

      I nominated two Tin Tin stories (King Ottokar’s Sceptre and The Black Isle) as well as a Flash Gordon and a Phantom story from the daily comics alongside Action Comics #1. But I suspect a lot of people forgot the serialized daily strips and non-US comics are not on many people’s radar, even if it is Tin Tin.

  7. One of the authors on Larry Correia’s slate has stated that he did not ask or want to be part of it. (And that he didn’t produce a 2013 work anyway, so Correia dragging him into this was totally pointless.)

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for the link. I’d seen the post, but I hadn’t seen Taylor’s comment yet. Marko Kloos, the guy Correia tried to get onto the Campbell slate and who turned out to be not eligible, has also stated that he didn’t know about the campaign and didn’t want to be part of it. And I do feel sorry for the people who got dragged into this without their knowledge.

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