My Hugo Ballot 2014

The voting deadline for the Hugo Awards is tomorrow, July 31st, and I’ve read as much of the Hugo content as I’m going to have time for. So, the time has come for me to cast my ballot and put awards aside until next year. As I’ve done the last couple years, I’ve publicly shared what my ballot is going to look like, as kind of a final section of my Hugo review that is kind of an overarching look at what I thought of the categories. I didn’t read work in all the categories, so I’ve abstained from voting in those that I had no familiarity with and left them off the ballot.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with how the voting system works, it used an instant runoff scheme which allows you to rank all of your choices. First, they count everyone’s first choice. If no one gets more than half the votes, then the lowest ranked one in that scheme is eliminated, and anyone who chose that one as their first choice then has their 2nd choice tallied instead. And so on until there is a clear winner. It is possible to vote for “No Award” which you do if you would rather no one win at all than for the remaining ones to win, and in the end if too many ranked No Award above the eventual vote-winner, then no award is given.

 

Best Novel

  1. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  2. Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  3. Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK) (will post review on July 30)
  4. Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK) (I reviewed it here)
  5. No Award

I also reviewed Larry Correia’s Warbound here but ranked it below No Award. I didn’t get a copy of Neptune’s Brood until quite late in the game. I won’t finish it before the deadline but I’ve read far enough to get an overall impression to rank it here. I originally planned to post this ballot on July 30, but decided to post my partial review of Neptune’s Brood on that day to give me a couple more days of reading.

 

Best Novella

  1. “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  2. “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  3. No Award

I reviewed this year’s Novella category here for more details.

 

Best Novelette

  1. “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
  2. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  3. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
  4. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Short Story

  1. “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
  2. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Related Work

  1. “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

 

Best Graphic Story

  1. The Meathouse Man, adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
  2. Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  3. No Award

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  1. Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  2. Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuar√É∆’ ≥n & Jon√É∆’ °s Cuar√É∆’ ≥n, directed by Alfonso Cuar√É∆’ ≥n (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  4. Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  5. Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

I reviewed this year’s nominees here for more details.

 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  1. Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  2. No Award

Game of Thrones is awesome, and that was one of the best episodes in the series so far. I haven’t seen the rest of the category, but I am tired of episodes of Dr. Who dominating the ballot. There ARE other worthwhile things being published in SF, people. I’d rather Dr. Who would not be on the ballot or win anymore, so I’m voting accordingly. I haven’t seen Orphan Black, don’t know anything about it–so I don’t want to vote for it with no knowledge, but to vote No Award above Dr. Who episodes there’s nothing to do but lump Orphan Black in with them.

 

Best Editor, Short Form

  1. John Joseph Adams
  2. Neil Clarke
  3. Sheila Williams

 

Best Professional Artist

  1. Dan Dos Santos
  2. Julie Dillon
  3. John Picacio
  4. John Harris
  5. Galen Dara

I based these entirely on the portfolio included in the Hugo packet. Though I do have a soft spot for Dos Santos–I have an autographed print of his portrait of Moiraine Damodred hanging in my office at home. They’re all good but I tend to like the styles that make the people seem very real, and convince me that everything unrealistic is just as real.

 

Best Semiprozine

  1. Lightspeed Magazine
  2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies

 

Best Fanzine

  1. Dribble of Ink

 

Best Fancast

  1. No Award

It’s not that I hate the nominees. It’s just that, with all the amazing fiction podcasts out there, I find it extremely disappointing that only nonfiction podcasts are on the ballot, and that the only fiction podcast that’s ever been on the ballot had to heavily pander to get there. If fiction podcasts aren’t going to be recognized in this category, then I hope this trial category is short-lived.

 

Best Fan Writer

  1. Kameron Hurley

 

Best Fan Artist

  1. Sarah Webb

I based these entirely on the portfolio included in the Hugo packet, which only included work from three of the five nominees for some reason.

 

Hugo Novelette Review 2014

written by David Steffen

Now that the Hugo packet is finally out, I can finish my reading of the Hugo nominees.

 

1. “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)
This is told as two seemingly separate stories, taking place in a world that will be familiar to her fans, as she has told stories from this world before. One story is about Lan Nhen and her sister Cuc as they go to rescue a damaged mindship that contains the mind of a relative. They come from the Dai Viet culture where ships are controlled by human minds, birthed as mechanical objects from human wombs. The other story follows Catherine, who has been “rescued” from Dai Viet culture by the empire which has tried to give her a new life in the imperial way.

Aliette’s stories have a great deal to say about how cultures interact with each other, not in the war that is often the subject of SF stories, but more in regards to cultural assimilation, imperialism, and the motivations of individuals who are just trying to survive in the boundaries where wildly disparate cultures intersect. She has a real gift for exploring this topic. This is a very good story. It did take me most of the story to guess how the two tales are related to each other, but it was done well.

 

2. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
A very interesting story on the subject of memory. The main part of the story is written from the POV of a journalist documenting his trial of the new memory enhancement product called Remem. Lifelogs that record everything that you see and hear have been available for quite some time, but the process of finding a particular memory in the huge set of data that any person builds up is time consuming enough that it’s generally only used for special occasions or for court cases where a team can be paid to look through the evidence. But that has all changed now with the Remem product that can find any memory in just a moment, by only giving it a vague explanation. Our protagonist is very concerned about what this will do to the way people think and remember when they no longer need to do the remembering for themselves. And in particular that it will lead people to constantly recall each other’s faults instead of letting them fall into the vagueness of memory.

There is a parallel story about a man named Jijingi who is a member of a tribe that has not developed a written language, and their visit from missionaries. A missionary named Moseby offers to teach Jijingi to write and Jijingi accepts, but is soon alarmed to find how much he is changed by the process–writing is a technology like any other, and one can’t use it without being changed by it.

Both stories were compelling and heartfelt. The journalist’s more so than Jijingi because I share some of his concerns about how modern technology is affecting people’s mental abilities, and I felt for the trials that he went through–who hasn’t thought they remember something completely different from another person, but in real life there’s generally no way to prove it.

 

3. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
An aging woman astronaut is offered another chance to go into space, to visit an extrasolar planet, but her husband Nathaniel is nearing the end of his life and he might not last the three years the mission will take. She has yearned for another opportunity to relive the missions of her younger days. Should she stay or should she go?

This story and the people in it felt exceptionally real. This story is an apt metaphor for the kind of difficult life decision that we may come across from time to time, and by using the speculative element to reinforce it, it only becomes stronger, more understandable. How could you not relate to that?

My only qualm with the story was that it had an obvious reference to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz right in the first paragraph, referring to Dorothy who was raised by her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in Kansas. While Dorothy played an important role in the story, as far as I could tell the story had nothing to do with L. Frank Baum’s Oz stories. This left me disappointed at the namedrop that apparently went nowhere.

 

4. “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
This is the story of Chopper and Chesty, both members of the Orbital Defense Initiative Station, run by the United States military forces to protect the USA’s interests in space. It flashes back and forth between the past as Chopper and Chesty begin their training for the ODIS, and the present as Chopper and Chesty are the only remaining defenders of the ODIS against an attack by Chinese agents. Chopper and Chesty are Operating their robotic avatars remotely.

This story was okay. Kind of a Golden Age SF, the kind that has action but not a lot of deep thought, and you can enjoy it if you just watch the stuff happening but don’t expect much else out of it. The codename Chesty for the protagonist’s female colleague just made me cringe whenever I heard it–even though it was apparently a reference to Marine Chesty Puller and very fitting as the character is rare Marine in the organization. I had no idea who it was referencing while I read the story and it just seemed like a needless sexual reference of the only major female character–just a bit more explanation of where the nickname would’ve gone a long way toward reducing the cringe factor. Overall, not a bad story, but it doesn’t fit my idea of award-nominated material. I need something more than this.

 

5. “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
This is the story of an elf that asks to stay in a monastery, offering to make illuminated manuscripts during his long stay in exchange for answers on the subject of religion from the abbot. A demon follows in the elf’s footsteps, demanding the elf leaves with it.

I just found this story dull from start to finish. I didn’t care what happened, or about the fate of any of the characters.

I feel that I should mention that this story has been involved in some of this year’s drama (there’s always SOME drama during award season). Vox Day is the pseudonym of Theodore Beale, who blogs about various topics such as the supposed unsustainability of feminism. He has publicly posted this last year that he aimed to get himself on the ballot and implied that he would be willing to bankroll WorldCon memberships of people who support his views. All this to piss people off and prove a point that he’ll get voted off because the Hugo voting population is voting based on what they think of author’s personal views rather than story quality. I won’t link to his blog. You can find it easily enough with a websearch if you feel inclined.

If you feel that you should vote against Vox Day because of his personal views, I have no problem with that. You should make whatever vote you know you won’t regret and I certainly understand wanting to automatically vote against someone whose views you see as poisonous.

My heart tells me that I should vote based entirely on story quality. The Hugo Award for Best Novelette is not meant to be a contest of the popularity or rationality of the author. It’s meant to be about the quality of the story. If Vox Day wrote an amazing story that topped all the others, then I would vote for it. And if someone buys their way onto the ballot, I figure that quality will out itself.

I had heard about the controversy of someone buying their way onto the ballot before I knew which author it was that was at the center of it, but to avoid biasing my views I intentionally avoided finding out which author until I’d read all the stories in that category. I ranked all of the stories after I’d read them, and without taking into account his personal views, I still voted him at the bottom, under where I will vote for No Award, meaning that I would rather no one at all walk home with the trophy than for this story to win it.

Assuming he did buy his way onto the ballot, the real shame is that some other story, some worthy story actually chosen by the Hugo voters as a whole, was bumped from the ballot for this. We don’t know whose story that was at this stage, though we will be able to determine that later after the Hugo awards release their voting numbers.