The obligatory 2016 Hugo Shortlist Post

So the finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards were announced today – against tradition in the middle of the week rather than on a weekend, which will make John Scalzi happy (though since he recused himself from nominations this year, it’s not really his problem) and will make everybody who has to work during the week and would like to engage in the inevitable discussions unhappy.

Coincidentally, this year’s Hugo finalists were also announced on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster – an unfortunate coincidence that the MidAmeriCon organisers may not have been aware of, since Chernobyl isn’t as big a deal in the US as it is in those parts of Europe who got radioactive fall-out dumped onto their heads.

What is more, just to prove that this April 26th is not a completely bad day, the inquest about the Hillsborough disaster ruled today that the 96 dead Liverpool fans were “unlawfully killed” due to fatal failings on the part of the police and emergency services. This is a very good thing – and the Hillborough disaster has always loomed large in my memory, since it happened just before my 16th birthday and many of the victims were my age – though it’s sad that it only took 27 years to get there.

But let’s get back to the Hugos. Ready? So here we go…

Warning: Lots of Hugo and general SF neepery under the cut.

Okay, so the shortlist for the 2016 Hugos was announced today and it’s once again pretty damn awful, since Vox Day and his Rabid Puppies have once again succeeded in vandalising parts of the short list, particularly in the smaller categories. Though thankfully, the Sad Puppies don’t seem to have had that much of an impact this year, except where the Sad Puppy list and Rabid Puppy slate overlapped.

The full list of nominees is here.

Thankfully, the best novel category looks pretty good and largely unvandalised. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie, Uprooted by Naomi Novik and The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin are all good choices, though I haven’t read the latter two. Ancillary Mercy was one of my nominations as well.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher could be viewed as a puppy pick, since the Butcher is popular with the puppy crowd and also was on both the Sad and Rabid Puppy lists. However, Jim Butcher is also a popular writer with a big fanbase. For example, my Mom nominated The Aeronaut’s Windlass and she’s definitely not a puppy, but likes Jim Butcher’s work. So do I, though I didn’t nominate him.

The only nominee in the novel category I really disagree with is Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, because I had a bad experience with Stephenson’s work in the past, the Baroque Cycle to be exact. And unlike the Baroque Cycle, Seveneves sounds awful and reviews like this one by James Davis Nicholl don’t make it sound any more entrancing. But even though I really, really dislike Neal Stephenson’s work, he is popular with a certain crowd and Seveneves was a much discussed book. So even though Seveneves was on Vox Day’s slate and probably on the Sad Puppies’ as well (I can’t be bothered to check right now), it’s not an unlikely finalist and might have made it anyway.

On to the novella category: Again, it’s not entirely awful, unlike last year, where I voted “No Award” in first place, or even 2014, where I voted “No Award” in second place (I disliked all but one nominee). Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold and Binti by Nnedi Okorafor were both on my list and Penric’s Demon was on my Mom’s as well (plus, she really liked the cover for Binti). The Builders by Daniel Polansky is another novella, though I haven’t read it, since stories about anthropomorphic animals rarely do it for me. I also haven’t read Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds and Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson, since I’m not a big fan of either author. Slow Bullets and The Builders were both on the Sad and Rabid Puppy lists (apparently, they forgot that they were supposed to boycot Tor), as was Penric’s Demon, though Alastair Reynolds requested to be removed. Brandon Sanderson may well have been on one or both puppy lists as well, since he seems to be popular with that crowd. Nonetheless, none of these nominees are unreasonable and any of them might have made it without canine assistance.

On to novelette: Again, this category isn’t a complete loss. “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of the Dead” by Brooke Bolander was also on my list. “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jinfang, translated by Ken Liu, got a lot of buzz and not just from the pups either (though Vox Day liked it). Plus, it’s good to see another work in translation and another piece of Chinese SF on the fiction shortlist after last year’s surprising triumph for fiction in translation. “Obits” by Stephen King was on one or both puppy lists, but it’s far from an unreasonable nominee.

Which leaves the two entries from the There Will Be War anthology, edited by Jerry Pournelle and published by Vox Day’s Castalia House. Now I haven’t read the anthology, since military SF isn’t really my thing. And I have never heard of Cheah Kai Wai, author of “Flashpoint Titan”. Apparently, he’s a Singaporean author, so at least that’s another strike for SFF from beyond the US/UK. As for David Van Dyke’s “What Price Humanity?”, I haven’t read this particular story, but I know David personally and have read other works by him (and proofread the German translation). He’s a fine writer and good guy and really doesn’t deserve the backlash he may get over this.

On to short story, where it gets weird: Thankfully, there is at least one reasonable nominee in this category (even though it had the misfortune of Vox Day liking it), “Asymmetrical Warfare” by S.R. Algernon, which is a neat little story, though it wouldn’t have been my choice. “Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao from the There Will Be War anthology and “The Commuter” by Thomas A. Mays are completely unknown quantities to me – I have never heard of either author. “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris, published on Vox Day’s blog, is just crap, a stupid parody that isn’t even remotely funny.

Which leaves what must be one of the strangest Hugo nominees ever, namely Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle. The background is that last year, the Puppies insisted on calling Rachel Swirsky’s 2014 Nebula winning and Hugo nominated short story “If you were a dinosaur, my love” (which they really, really hated) “gay dino-porn”. Whereupon several of us pointed out that a) the character in the story isn’t gay, and b) it’s not dino-porn, though dinosaur erotica can certainly be found on Amazon, if one is so inclined. Apparently, Vox Day took the hint and checked out some dinosaur erotica on Amazon and found Chuck Tingle. And instead of exploding on the spot, he liked what he found so much that he promptly put it on his Hugo slate.

Okay, so he is just trolling, trying to damage the award with an obvious troll nomination, and he’s probably chuckling at having gifted the Hugos with a finalist that has the word “butt” in the title. And given that erotica writers tend to value their privacy, I’m surprised that the estimable Mr. Tingle (not really his name) did not turn the nomination down. However, the estimable Mr. Tingle decided not just to take on the hard race against “No Award”, he even decided to capitalise on his nomination by publishing Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Award Nomination, which must be the first instance of publicly available Real Person/Hugo Award slash.

So while Chuck Tingle is definitely not a reasonable nominee and will very likely finish under “No Award”, he at least seems to have a sense of humor, which is more than you can say for the puppies. I also suspect that Space Raptor Butt Invasion will not be the worst Hugo nominee of all time – that honour goes to last year’s Wisdom from my Internet and that Campbell Award nominee who didn’t even seem to know what a novel was. It’s probably not even the worst nominee in this category – I strongly suspect that “If You Were an Award, My Love” is worse.

BTW, the Puppies are really still pissed off about “If you were a dinosaur, my love” two years later (and let’s remember that it didn’t even win), if they nominate two stories that are a direct reaction to that story.

On to best related work, where things get bad: Now best related work is a mixed bag at the best of times and has contained podcasts, filk CDs, blogposts, collections of blogposts alongside serious scholarly examinations of the genre. Since the puppy attacks, this is one of the categories which has been completely vandalised. This year’s finalists are: A biography of Gene Wolfe, published by Vox Day’s Castalia House, two exposés about pedophilia in SFF, one of which appeared on the Castalia House blog, a Castalia House blog series about the works mentioned as inspirations for Gary Gygax in Appendix N of the original Dungeons & Dragons rule book and SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day a.k.a. the book with the two chapter 5s in its original edition, which BTW was brilliantly parodied by Theophilus Pratt a.k.a. Alexandra Erin (one of my fan writer nominees this year) as John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels.

So yes, it’s a whole load of crap with the Gene Wolfe biography and the Appendix N thing as the only remotely reasonable nominees. And having read some of the Appendix N reviews, I wasn’t overly impressed by them. As for the two pedophilia exposés, it is a common tactic among the extreme right to smear their opponents by associating them with pedophilia. Here in Germany, we’ve seen this with the AfD and others on the far right attacking the Green Party over some problematic items regarding minors and consent in old party programs from the 1970s. A variation of this are all those white man knights on the right who are suddenly so concerned about sexual violence against women since New Year’s Eve – as long as the perpetrators are foreigners and muslims, whereas none of these defenders of white German womanhood gave a damn about the many rapes and sexual attacks on women that occur every year during the Oktoberfest or Carnival. Because it’s not really about protecting women and/or children from sexual violence and abuse, it’s about using violence against children and/or women as a weapon against the opposition. Case in point: Last year, the puppy shenangigans very likely kept an exposé about Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband Walter Breen, a convicted pedophile, off the ballot, while nominating a different version of that exposé this year.

So on to best graphic story: Last year, this was one of two categories largely untouched by Puppy interference, along with best fan artist. This year, alas, we are not so lucky. Three finalists, The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams, Invisible Republic, Vol. 1 by Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, and The Divine, an award-winning manga by Boaz Lavie, Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka, are reasonable nominees. The remaining two, Full Frontal Nerdity and Erin Dies Alone, both webcomics, seem to be puppy picks. I’ve never heard of either of them.

On to best dramatic presentation, long form: The nominees here are Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Max: Fury Road, Ex Machina and The Martian. All of them are good and worthy nominees, though I don’t care for The Martian, either in book or film form, and haven’t seen Ex Machina. Also, I’m very glad that we’re spared the usual Pixar movie on the shortlist this year.

Best dramatic presentation, short form, is a mixed bag with nominations for Jessica Jones, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Grimm and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Jessica Jones was a truly outstanding series and Doctor Who still has huge fanbase. Grimm seems to be popular with the puppy crowd, though I personally dislike it.

That leaves Supernatural and My Little Pony, both of which were on the Rabid Puppy slate and are certainly among the odder choices there. Honestly, I wonder what Vox Day was smoking when he picked those two shows. With My Little Pony, he may have tried to plug into the “brony” phenomenon, but Supernatural? Has he ever actually watched that show and does he have any idea what the fandom is like? Cause Supernatural is one of the slashiest shows on US TV, has canonically queer characters and is very critical of Christianity.

On to the editing categories: The short form nominees are John Joseph Adams, Neil Clarke, Ellen Datlow, Jerry Pournelle and Sheila Williams. All of them are reasonable nominees, including Jerry Pournelle, who was pushed by Vox Day. In best editor, long form, we have Sheila Gilbert of DAW, Liz Gorinsky of Tor, Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz of Baen and – well – Vox Day. Sheila Gilbert and Liz Gorinsky are both good choices, Toni Weisskopf is the puppy favourite and Jim Minz is probably their pick as well. I wasn’t impressed by the two Baen editors’ contributions or rather lack thereof in the Hugo voter packet last year, but nonetheless they aren’t unreasonable nominees. As for Vox Day, well, that’s what “No Award” is for.

Regarding the two art categories, the pro artist category is full of people I have never heard of. Which doesn’t necessarily make them unworthy, just unknown quantities. As for fan artist, Steve Stiles is a fanzine artist and long-time nominee in this category and Matthew Callahan does photography featuring action figures, which isn’t bad, though I have seen better. I have no idea who the other three are, though again that doesn’t mean they’re bad choices.

On to best semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Daily Science Fiction are all good choices, which leaves Sci Phi Journal as the obvious puppy pick.

Regarding best fanzine, Black Gate and File 770 are both highly deserving choices and were on my list as well. Tangent Online is an established zine, though I personally don’t care for it. Superversive SF and the Castalia House blog are puppy poo.

Best fancast is a whole bunch of unknown quantities, at least to me. I suspect many of these were puppy picks, though again that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad.

Best fanwriter is another category with a lot of unknown quantities: Mike Glyer of File 770 is an excellent choice and would make a most worthy winner. Jeffro Johnson, the Appendix N guy, was on last year’s puppy slate as well, but was definitely the best of a bad bunch. His samples in the Hugo voter packet still didn’t do much for me, since he mostly writes about RPGs and I’m not a gamer, but at least they weren’t frothy ranting like the other puppy fanwriter nominees. I have no idea who the other three finalists in this category even are.

Finally, we come to the nominees for the Campbell Award for best new writer, which are Alyssa Wong, Andy Weir, Pierce Brown, Sebastien de Castell and Brian Niemeier. Alyssa Wong is an excellent new voice and was one of my choices for both 2015 and 2016. Andy Weir was probably unavoidable, because of his extreme popularity, though I find The Martian grossly overrated. Plus, the Campbell is an award that is supposed to honour the best new writer. And Andy Weir, though a newish writer, is IMO a step backwards into the genre’s past, since The Martian feels very much like something that could have appeared in Analog approx. 1960. Which I guess is the appeal for many. Pierce Brown is the author of a bestselling YAish SF trilogy and also won the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award. He also seems to be really popular with the puppy crowd and was on Vox Day’s slate. Sebastien de Castell is a Canadian author who writes a swashbuckling fantasy series that looks pretty good, based on the look-inside. Brian Niemeier, finally, is an indie author who seems to have attached himself to the puppies. No idea what he writes or if it’s any good.

Regarding the diversity count, the gender balance doesn’t look too good, particularly in the puppy affected fiction categories. Though it’s heartening that three of the five finalists in the novel category are women. Regarding POC and international nominees, the numbers look better, since I see several POC writers and international writers on the shortlist. It seems to have been a particularly good year for Asian writers with several nominees. Though I still suspect that the diversity count would have been better in every respect without puppy interference.

Hit rate: I got 18 out of 85 nominees, i.e. 21%. My Mom got 6 out of 85, though she didn’t nominate in every category.

So in short, this year’s Hugo shortlist is better than last year’s (and no John C. Wright, thank heavens) and contains a few worthy choices, though still far from good thanks to continued puppy interference. Though the main problem this year (and very likely last year as well) are the Rabid Puppies rather than the Sads. However, we do have fewer unreasonable nominees than last year and only one category (best related work) that was completely vandalised. But then, Vox Day’s strategy this year seems to have been to mix in generally popular choices like Lois McMaster Bujold, Neal Stephenson, Andy Weir, etc… among his more out there picks. He’s probably trying to gain legitimacy for his slate or he’s trying to make people “No Award” works they actually enjoy. Cause that worked so wonderfully last year with Guardians of the Galaxy.

I predict that “No Award” will take “Best related work” and maybe “Fancast”, because they are completely unknown quantities, but every other category will probably have at least one finalist finishing above “No Award”. And in 2017, the measures proposed to disperse the effect of slate voting will hopefully take effect and this whole three year drama will be behind us with asterisks (since those really seem to offend the puppies) behind the Puppy years.

As for myself, I will do what I did last year, namely give every nominee a fair shot (yes, even Mr. Tingle and his Space Raptor Butt Invasion) regardless of how they got there, and rank those I find worthy above “No Award” and those I find unworthy below, again regardless how they got onto the shortlist. Cause as I said in my reaction to the Sad and Rabid Puppy lists, even a blind chicken occasionally find a corn and even a puppy occasionally picks a decent nominee. And I certainly won’t let Vox Day or anybody else determine how I vote. I hope other voters will do the same, though I suspect that a lot of the slate nominees will suffer the Puppies’ bad behavious and not just the obscure or outright trollish choices either.

At any rate, I urge everybody who is outraged or bothered or just interested in the Hugos to get themselves a membership to MidAmeriCon and vote. Cause voting is the only way to influence the outcome. And please vote however you see fit and don’t let anybody influence your decision.

Lest I forget, the finalists for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards have been announced as well. Now this shortlist looks pretty good and seems to be largely free from canine interference. Okay, so it’s rather heavy with Heinlein, but then Heinlein is popular way beyond the Puppy realm and he had several good works out that year. Even I nominated two Heinlein works and I’m normally not a fan of his. I’m also pleased to see Kallocain by Swedish writer Karin Boye and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges on the shortlist, though I suspect neither would have been a finalist in an actual 1941 Hugo Award. And I’m really disappointed that there is no shortlist love for Edmund Hamilton’s Captain Future, since that series is indirectly responsible for igniting my love for SF.

My hit rate for the Retro Hugos is 33 out of 50 nominees, i.e. pretty damn good. My Mom’s is 12 out of 50, but again she didn’t nominate in every category.

There will probably be a follow-up post collecting reactions from around the web eventually, though I haven’t found any yet and File 770 seems to be down. I guess their server couldn’t handle the traffic.

ETA: Aaron Pound has posted his reaction and also taken the time to break down which finalists were puppy picks and which weren’t. He’s a lot more angry and less charitable than I am.

ETA 2: At Amazing Stories, Steve Davidson offers a puppy-free shortlist. He’s also a lot angrier than I am.

ETA 3: And we have the first withdrawal, since Thomas A. Mays has withdrawn his short story “The Commuter” from consideration. Kudos to Thomas A. Mays for what cannot have been an easy decision. Let’s hope the replacement is something a bit less puppyish.

Comments are closed, go and whine elsewhere, puppies.

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