The 2014 Hugo Awards Post

The 2014 Hugo Awards have been given out and the slate of winners is highly diverse and overall very good (detailed voting and nomination breakdown here), which is even more remarkable considering that the 2014 Hugo shortlist was probably the most controversial in ages. For some background, see my posts here, here and here.

My reaction, when I saw the list of winners this morning (I spent Sunday night writing and didn’t follow the announcements live, deciding I didn’t need the grief) very much matters that of Natalie Luhrs from The Radish: Faith in humanity (and fandom) restored.

The Hugo Award for best novel went – highly deservingly – to Ann Leckie for her Ancillary Justice. Now Ancillary Justice has made an almost unprecedented sweep of this year’s SFF awards, winning also the Nebula, Clarke Award and Locus Award for best first novel, making it the standout SF novel of the year. And indeed, Ancillary Justice stood heads above all of the other nominees in this category. Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross finished in second place, which is not unsurprising, since he has many fans, even though I am not one of them (writing wise – I like Charles Stross as a person). Parasite by Mira Grant a.k.a. Seanan McGuire finishes in third place and the two most controversial nominees, the entire Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson as well as Warbound by Larry Correia finish fourth and fifth respectively, proving that even a rabid fanbase (and one focussed only on one specific work or author) isn’t enough to win a Hugo without broader fandom support.

Looking at the extended nomination list, it turns out that Neil Gaiman was nominated for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but declined, which is a pity since I liked that novel much more than any of the other finalists except Ancillary Justice. However, we cannot blame Neil Gaiman for either Wheel of Time or Warbound, since the novel that snuck onto the shortlist instead was Parasite. However, if you eliminated both Wheel of Time and Warbound, the best novel nominees would also have included The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes and A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, which would have made for a much stronger shortlist.

The short fiction categories look very good as well. Novella is a bit disappointing with Charles Stross winning for Equoid (sorry, but his work just doesn’t do it for me, even if it includes unicorns), followed by Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne Valente, my personal favourite Wakulla Springs in third place and the two sad puppy candidates finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Personally, I found best novella the most disappointing category this year and voted “no award” in second place.

After being disqualified on technical grounds last year, Mary Robinette Kowal wins in the best novelette category for The Lady Astronaut of Mars. This wasn’t my first choice in the category (that would have been The Waiting Stars by Aliette de Bodard), but it’s one I’m happy with. I didn’t much care for the Ted Chiang story, but I know he’s very popular. I’d also love to congratulate the oft nominated but never winning old workhorse “No Award” for finishing in fifth place.

The Hugo for best short story went, pretty surprisingly IMO, to John Chu for The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere. Again, this wasn’t my first choice (that would have been Selkie Stories Are For Losers by Sofia Samatar), but one I’m very happy with. Indeed, John Chu’s short story was one of only two pleasant surprises in this year’s Hugo voter packet, the other being The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who in the graphic story category. Rachel Swirsky’s Nebula winning story If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love, which was among the most divisive nominees this year with people either loving or hating it, landed in third place, Thomas Olde Houvelt (which I wanted to love, but didn’t) in fourth.

The Campbell Award goes – again well deservedly – to Sofia Samatar. I’m a bit disappointed to see Benjanun Sriduangkaew finish in last place, since I like her work a whole lot. But then she was probably disadvantaged due to being the only pure short story writer on the list.

This makes three women, two writers of colour and one international writer winning in the fiction categories with only one winner a white man. Coincidentally, it also means that a piece of non-binary gender fiction and a piece of GLBT fiction are among the winners.

The rest of the winning slate looks similarly good. Best related work and best fan writer go to Kameron Hurley, again highly deserved. But then there were no bad choices for fan writer this year and indeed every single nominee would have deserved to win. Both art categories were taken by women, which I think is a first, with the wonderful Julie Dillon winning for pro-artist and Sarah Webb, who is only 19 years old, winning fan artist.

The editing categories also go to two women, Ellen Datlow and Ginjer Buchanan respectively. Lightspeed wins in the best semi-prozine category, while A Dribble of Ink wins best fanzine. Personally, I would have preferred The Book Smugglers in that category, but it’s still an excellent choice.

In the short dramatic presentation category, the Red Wedding a.k.a. the Game of Thrones episode “The Rains of Castermere” knocks out umpteen reiterations of Doctor Who as well as Orphan Black. Judging by the nomination breakdown, the extended ballot would have included yet more Doctor Who, more Orphan Black, more Game of Thrones as well as Sleepy Hollow (didn’t work for me, but at least it’s something different), Fringe (Is that still on?) and Chris Hadfield performing “A Space Oddity” aboard the ISS, which would have been interesting.

Gravity a.k.a. Sandra Bullock moaning in space wins unsurprisingly in the long dramatic presentation category, since it’s exactly the sort of serious science fiction film that Hugo voters like. I’m surprised to see Frozen finishing in second place, but then I don’t get the love for this one at all. My personal No. 1 and 2 choices, Iron Man 3 and Pacific Rim, both finished lower than I expected, namely in third and fourth place. But then Iron Man 3 got a lot of backlash, though I personally enjoyed it quite a bit, and Pacific Rim, while fun, isn’t exactly deep. Looking at the extended nomination list, I’m a bit sad to see that my two non-mainstream nominations, Only Lovers Left Alive and The Congress didn’t even gather enough nominations for a mention, but then both movies didn’t get a US release until 2014.

Finally, the win for the XKCD strip Time in the graphic story category leaves me completely stumped, especially considering it knocked out such fan favourites as the excellent Saga and Girl Genius as well as the surprisingly lovely The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who. No I’m not the world’s biggest XKCD fan in general, though I find it amusing on occasion. But Time just left me scratching my head and wondering “What is the point?” In fact – and Randall Munroe can live with this, considering that he won – I voted Time under “No award”, because I had no idea what it was supposed to be about. I did place it ahead of Meathouse Man, though, cause the less said about that one, the better.

So overall what threatened to become the biggest Hugo embarrassment in decades turned out to be a good year after all. Fandom has spoken and it has decided that it wants to be a place for diverse voices, the it wants to see women and creators of colour and international creators.

Scotch Frye Samizdat pretty much echoes my views, particularly with regard to the many wonderful women nominated.

In the end, all the sad puppies achieved was heaving some works onto the ballot that wouldn’t have been there otherwise (Toni Weisskopf and Brad Torgersen would probably have made it, since Weisskopf is a respected editor and Torgersen popular with the Analog crowd) and pissing off the Hugo electorate so much (since Hugo voters really don’t like the award being gamed) that even nominees who did not endorse the sad puppy slate such as Dan Wells or Elitist Book Reviews as well as otherwise popular nominees like Brad Torgersen or Toni Weisskopf suffered by association. Though I have to admit that I placed all the sad puppy nominees low on my ballot – even those who distanced themselves from the campaign – because I just didn’t like the works in question very much. I was willing to give Brad Torgersen (whose previous Hugo nominated story “Ray of Light” I quite liked) and Dan Wells a fair shot, but I found that I just didn’t like the works of theirs that were nominated. I also tried reading Warbound and Opera Vita Aeterna and again, I didn’t even feel bad about placing them low on the ballot, because I just didn’t like the works. As for Toni Weisskopf, I find that I buy a lot fewer Baen Books (only Lois McMaster Bujold and Sharon Lee/Steve Miller) since she took over. Now of course the sad puppy candidates weren’t the only works on the ballot I didn’t like. I also didn’t like the two Charles Stross works or The Ink Readers of Doi Saket or Time or Meathouse Man or Frozen or Gravity or Orphan Black, even though I have no political disagreements with their creators.

Though it is interesting that the point of the sad puppy campaign – at least as far as I can tell – was to prove that works by rightwing and conservative writers were unfairly neglected regardless of literary merit. However, in order to make that point it would be helpful to – you know – actually nominate works that have literary merit beyond being written by people of the right political views or being liked by Larry Correia. And if you look at the nomination breakdown, you see how many bullets were dodged, including not just fiction by John Ringo and Sarah Hoyt, which might actually have turned out to be good, but also an RPG handbook by Larry Correia and an essay on training soldiers by Tom Kratman, which have no more place on the best related work ballot than the filk CDs and podcasts, which have infuriated me in previous years.

Of course, literary taste is subjective and it is possible that the sad pupy nominators really thought Warbound or Opera Vita Aeterna or The Butcher of Khardov (that sounds like the nickname of an East Ukrainian separatist leader) or The Chaplain’s Legacy or The Exchange Officers really were among the best works of the year. After all, the Wheel of Time nominators also seem to genuinely believe that that series of really derivative big fat epic fantasy is truly among the best the genre has to offer.

I also understand that it sucks if your taste is consistently out of touch with that of the Hugo voters. After all, a lot of my favourite SFF works and writers and even whole subgenres never were nominated for Hugos either, let alone won. I guess fans of grimdark epic fantasy or romantic urban fantasy or steampunk or paranormal romance or SF romance or Franco-Belgian comics or another of the many subgenres traditionally ignored by the Hugo Awards will sympathize with the grumblings of the sad puppies. However, ballot stuffing is not the answer. And besides, right-leaning SF already has its own award with the Prometheus Award (won by Campbell nominee Ramez Naan this year), though for some reason the Prometheus Award also regularly nominates and even is won by pretty hardcore socialists. Hmm, maybe they mistake utopias for dystopias and vice versa.

John Scalzi offers his thoughts on this year’s Hugo Awards and also predicts some of the losers’ reactions on Twitter.

He turns out to have been surprisingly correct, judging by this choice Do-Not-Linkified butthurtness from Larry Correia and Vox Day and a somewhat more measured response by Brad Torgersen.

I find the lengthy Mad Genius Club quote at the end of Correia’s post also amusing in the way that particular mad genius claims that the “Left”, whoever that may be, shot themselves in the foot by not voting for the more moderate among the sad puppy slate. Because obviously people are obliged to vote for works they dislike just to disprove the paranoia of some rightwing writers. And because obviously, no one who voted for Ancillary Justice or The Lady Astronaut of Mars or The Water That Falls On You from Nowhere actually liked them.

Comments are screened and I’m not in the mood for trolls, so sad puppies, please cry elsewhere.

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19 Responses to The 2014 Hugo Awards Post

  1. Tom Kratman says:

    I wasn’t even aware it had been nominated, Cora, until yesterday.

    In any case, I am inclined to disagree. I expressly said in the essay that it was also for sci fi writers, writing about war and training soldiers for war, who hadn’t clue one about how it was done. And how it is done is unlikely to change, in principle.

    On the other hand, until someone can show me where Shaka’s alleged female impi took position at the Battle of Gqokli Hill, or, indeed, anything about its combat record, I wholeheartedly agree that “We Have Always Fought” deserved an award…but as fantasy.

    • Cora says:

      Your essay is on the extended list for “best related work”. And I have to confess that I only checked the listing on Amazon and thought it was a general overview of military training techniques, which is certainly of interest to many, but not necessarily related to SFF. However, if the target audience are SFF writers, then it would belong in the “best related work” category.

      With regard to “We have always fought”, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    • Chris A says:

      It’s true that Shaka’s women fighters are almost certainly apocryphal. Which is kind of embarrassing for Hurley, I guess, especially given the rhetorical weight she puts on that particular example.

      But there are plenty of well-documented instances of women in combat, some of which she mentions in her essay, so her point still stands pretty well, I think.

      • Cora says:

        As for Shaka’s women fighters, since Kameron Hurley did her MA on the subject, I imagine she did her research. This is probably also why she focusses so much on that particular example.

        I also agree that there are many well-documented examples of women in combat. One example that I know quite well, because she hails from my hometown, was Anna Lühring, who ran away from home at 17 and put on her brother’s clothes to join Lützow’s free corps and fight Napoleon. The city museum has a display devoted to her, which includes her boots and uniform jacket. She was obviously very slight, so it’s amazing she got away with it.

        Nor was Anna Lühring the only woman to join the volunteer armies and fight Napoleon. There were several, most of them joining the Lützow Free Corps, which I imagine must have had very loose checks of potential recruits. One woman soldier of the Napoleonic wars, Eleonore Prochaska, was only found out when she was severely wounded in battle and the doctor treating her took off her clothes and was stunned to find she was a woman. Friederike Krüger, another female soldier of the Napoleonic wars, even made it to the rank of corporal.

        • Tom Kratman says:

          No, Cora, she just made it up and a professor or a few bought it because it fit the desired Pravda. There were some black female combat regiments, but they were not Zulu, but Dahomeyan. There is some valid history of women combatants. That history is undermined and discredited, however, when matched against spurious nonsense.

          • Cora says:

            Well, I’m not sure how things are done at the University of Alaska and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, where Kameron Hurley got her degrees, but at least here in Germany professors actually require some sort of solid research beyond just making up a few facts. Even the various politicians involved in academic plagiarism cases lately did come up with research that looked plausible at first glance, even if it turned out to be plagiarized later.

            • Tom Kratman says:

              What I suspect happened, because it happens all the time, is that she doesn’t understand enough about war to tell the difference between form and reality. You can find a lot of this in feminist writings about the military, whether it be from the vastly ignorant Air Force Major General Jeanne Holm or Bonnie Tsui’s mostly preposterous “She Went to the Field.” They just don’t know enough about the subject to tell what is real and important, and what is not.

      • Tom Kratman says:

        There are some, Chris. “Plenty,” just like “always,” is too strong. It’s too strong in part, in good part, because it leads people astray, and damages the prospects of future women combatants by subjecting those prospects to the filter of fantasies.

  2. Tom Kratman says:

    Well…would you happen to have some cite to show where Shaka’s female impi was at the Battle of Gqokli Hill? 😉 (She made it up, okay. Women in Shaka’s empire were cattle. So were men. The difference was that the men were bigger, stronger, and faster, and got to the battles, while the impis of women and boys carried the food, the sleeping mats, and the cookpots, and caught up eventually with the men. The mere fact of similar organization and sharing a term, but with neither strength nor speed nor training, doth not put them on the line or make them an example of “always fought.”)

    Hmmm…have you read this, Cora:

    The problem isn’t that women have never fought. “Always,” however, was way too strong a term. There are limited number of instances, some with some success, others without. Moral success was more common than physical success. My impression of the essay, though, was that the writer really didn’t know enough about war to tell the difference. Pity, really, because a military disaster that comes about from misutilizing and misorganizing women in and for combat will do the idea terminal harm. Imagine the result of the 54th Massachusetts, at Battery Wagner, failing miserably, for example.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for the link, Tom.

      I think you’ll have to take this up with Kameron Hurley, since I freely admit that I know very little about South African history. However, Kameron Hurley apparently did her MA on the subject, so I imagine she did her research.

      And while one might argue with the wording of her essay, I think we can agree that women have always been involved in war, not always on the front lines (though there are plenty of examples of women dressing up as men and joining fighting forces from Jeanne d’Arc to the various crossdressing women soldiers of the Napoleonic wars), but often as partisans, snipers (many snipers during the siege of Sarajevo were women), manning anti-aircraft guns (even the Nazis who were traditionally very hostile to women in combat used women and adolescents to man anti-aircraft guns), manufacturing weapons (Rosie the Riveter and her international sisters), treating the wounded and various support jobs.

  3. People who natter on (and on and on and on) about male warriors and their fetishistic associated etcs see war exclusively as conquest of others. There has never been a defense of home territory that didn’t prominently involve women.

    • Cora says:

      Definitely agree. Women may be less interested in conquest than men, but when the war comes to their doorstep, women are always involved in defending their homes. We have plenty of confirmed instances of women fighting in the Napoleonic wars, e.g. in Spain and the German states, women fighting (often as partisans or resistance fighters) in WWI and WWII, women fighting in the Spanish civil war, the Balkan wars, etc…

    • Tom Kratman says:

      Never, eh? So the women in Cetshwayo’s army at Isandhlawana. where were they? And the German women prominent in the final defense of the Reich in 45? Where were they? How were they prominent? And the female Japanese Kamikaze pilots as we closed in on the home islands? Happen to have a list of their names.

      In short, horse puckey. History is replete with examples of women prominent only on the auction block after their societies went under. Examples of “prominent” women in defense – or women prominent in defense – are quite rare unless one is will to do vast violence to both history and the language.

      • Cora says:

        I can’t speak for the other two examples, but during WWII there were approx. half a million women and girls working for the Wehrmacht. A lot of them were working in office jobs (my grandma was one of them), as radio and telephone operators, messengers, nurses, spotters and particularly manning anti-aircraft guns and spotlights, which were operated largely be women and teenagers. A lot of the refugee treks from East Prussia, Pommerania and Silesia were also organised by women. There probably also were some women who took up rifles, axes, pitchforks and whatever weapons they had to fight off the advancing allied troops (particularly the Red Army), though it’s hard to say how many there were, since few of them survived. It’s true that there weren’t a lot of women involved in frontline combat and even the last ditch defence against the encoraching allies in late 1944/early 1945 consisted mostly of old men and teenaged boys, but the Wehrmacht did enlist women, even if they were rarely mentioned after the war.

        • Tom Kratman says:

          Okay, a lot or almost entirely? I’ve found records, German records, of Russian female combatants. But German female combatants? Some manned air defense sites, I think, or at least parts of them. But that’s not the same thing either. In any case, the challenge I set, come up with some women _prominent_ in the defense of the Reich in 1945, you’re not going to be able to meet because it just didn’t happen. You may well find some who elected “suicide by Russki.” You can find, if you look to an earlier war, a very brave German telephone switch board operator in East Prussia in 1914 who kept her station and sent intel to Ludendorf and Hindenburg. (She didn’t get the Iron Cross they put her in for because there was no provision for giving it to civilians. I think they got her something else, though.) That, however, is not fighting. Were women gang raped by entire Guards Tank regiments? I’d be very unsurprised, but that is not fighting, that is just being a victim. Jesus, Cora, I’ve read some preposterous feminist claims of equivalency to combatants with female concentration camp guards. To paraphrase, “They were in uniform, weren’t they? Member of the SS, weren’t they? And armed, weren’t they? ANd under a chain of command, weren’t they? Clearly it’s exactly the same.” Perhaps it would have been had the Jews, Poles, and Gypsies been armed, too, but they weren’t.

          • Cora says:

            The sources I’ve found talk of 400000 to 500000 women who served in the Wehrmacht at some point in some capacity. Many of those were probably in non-combat positions like office jobs, medical posts and the music corps. However, German air defense during WWII was largely staffed by women and teenagers of both genders, probably because those jobs could be done close to home and were less physically demanding than frontline combat. All women serving with the Wehrmacht would have been young and unmarried, because the Nazis really did not like married women and mothers working, regardless in which capacity.

            As for WWI, you forgot the remarkable Dr. Elsbeth Schragmüller, head of military intelligence for the western front with the rank of a lieutenant colonel. She might well have continued to work in military intelligence in WWII, if cancer hadn’t killed her in 1940.

  4. Cat Faber says:

    I would respectfully disagree with you about filk songs. Many of them are about works of science fiction and fantasy–sometimes to comment on them, as in Bob Kanefsky’s brilliant “Mutant Generations”, sometimes simply to celebrate them as in my own “The Girl Who Led The Revels. And some songs are (as far as I know) not about any book, but deeply Fantastical or SFnal in their nature, as in “Ship Of Stone by Don Simpson.

    Filk is not necessarily a related work, since it may be about cats or computers, just as an essay may be about coffee or work etiquette. But I think has the potential to be a related work.

    On a different subject, it does indeed seem very weird that the Sad Puppies believe that we don’t actually like what we like, and we should vote for what we don’t like because its politics are more pure.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for the comment, Cat, and the info about filk songs.

      To clarify my point, I don’t have a problem with filk CDs being nominated for the Hugo. However, I believe they would fit better into one of the dramatic presentation categories than into best related work, which I have always considered as intended for non-fiction related to SFF in some way.

      • Cat Faber says:

        I would suggest that filk that comments on works of SFF, like Mutant Generations, may still qualify as “non-fiction related to SFF.”
        I’m not up on the fine points of the Hugo division rules–if audio books go in “dramatic presentation” then filk should probably also go in “dramatic presentation.” But if, say, an audiobook of essays about SFF would go in “best related work” then filk that comments on SFF stories would logically also go in “best related work,” I should think.

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