After discussing the Hugo Awards when they were originally announced, here, I feel it is incumbent upon me to be transparent about my ballot. I also feel I shouldn’t be transparent until the voting has closed, and so, I’ll be talking you through my (fiction) ballot as it was finalised on Friday…
1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
2. Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross
3. Parasite by Mira Grant
4. No Award
Unranked: Wheel Of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson; Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
Ancillary Justice was always going to be my top pick on this ballot, with its fascinating approach to gender, its wonderful discourse on imperialism, its brilliant writing, and its fantastic concepts executed within the frame of a brilliant military science fiction framework. Similarly, the economics-and-big-thinking Neptune’s Brood, while less exciting and more poorly integrated between information and plot, is a well-deserving nominee, in the old-school tradition of taking big thoughts and ideas and then putting them into place. Parasite scrapes onto the ballot because I’d rather see McGuire take the ballot for what is, bluntly, a subpar novel than see No Award win the award. Meanwhile, I’d much rather see No Award win than Wheel Of Time, a dull, bloated, overlong and conservative work of epic fantasy (and that’s just the first book!), or Warbound, which between its author, its subtitle, and the manner of its entry onto the ballot, I refuse to even give a chance to, without even having to take into account that unlike my top three picks, it’s the third in a series otherwise unrecognised.
1. “Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
2. “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)
3. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
4. No Award
Unranked: The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells (Privateer Press); The Chaplain’s Legacy” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
Not much to say here; Stross does an excellent Lovecraft pastiche in the letters included in “Equoid”, and tells an entertaining and horrifying story perverting a traditionally innocent myth as he does; Duncan and Klages give a good showing with their Lost Worlds piece, despite some flaws; and Valente, despite some worries about cultural appropriation, turns in her usual stellar prose and thoughtful story, albeit with perhaps a little less meat to it than normal. And of course, the Sad Puppies go unranked; Torgersen retreading old ground yet again, and Wells writing something unintelligible without having read the first instalment in his… series?
1. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
2. “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
3. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com / Tor.com, 09-2013)
4. No Award
Unranked: “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013); “Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
This one involved some really hard, and some really easy, decisions. The decision not to rank Vox Day and Brad Torgersen was incredibly easy; similarly, ranking Kowal’s story above No Award but below de Bodard and Chiang was pretty obvious, because while it is a good, emotional story, it’s not up to that level. Separating out de Bodard and Chiang was the hardest decision on this whole ballot; whereas de Bodard’s story is beautiful, fascinating, crunchy, multifaceted and wonderful, so is Chiang’s, but almost more so. Indeed, Chiang’s story is almost tailored for a reader like me, so it – just about – takes the top rank…
Best Short Story
1. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
Unranked: “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013); “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013); “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013); No Award
Chu’s story is a fascinating one. Between its utterly open use of, not just dialect but actually foreign language; its beautiful romance; and its fascinating conception, it’s a fantastic, wonderful demonstration of the way genre concepts can be used to elucidate and create a lens through which to view our own world in all its complexity and humanity. It’s head and shoulders above the other entries on the ballot, which go from the slim and glib (Swirsky) through the dull (Samatar) to the outright appropriative and poorly constructed (Heuvelt); on a ballot which already has only four entries, having only one story I can see as deserving of the award is rather shocking.
Finally, I want to talk about my favourite category, the one I’m most impressed by:
Best Fan Writer
1. Liz Bourke
2. Kameron Hurley
3. Foz Meadows
4. Abigail Nussbaum
Unranked: Mark Oshiro
I love this category wholeheartedly. While I’ve not ranked Oshiro, that’s because what he does at Mark Reads isn’t what I’m interested in, or find even very readable. Meanwhile, the rest of the ballot is full of angry feminist ladies, which we all know is a topic I have thoughts on myself. At which point, it’s a matter of seeing whose work I find better, more engaging, more thought provoking, or otherwise more worthy of the award; and that is, in some cases, a really hard decision. The toughest splits here were between first and second (Kameron Hurley’s blog is absolutely a must-read on a number of topics, while Liz Bourke’s reviews for a number of pro venues, her own blog, her academic paper presented last year all just about have the edge over Hurley’s wonderfully, powerfully expressed anger), and between third and fourth, which came down purely to personal stylistic preference. Having the Fan Writer category so absolutely, brazenly, openly and totally intersectionally-feminist is absolutely brilliant; it’s a development I hope to see expanded in future years, and wish to applaud once more!