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 CuarÃ’ n & JonÃ’ s CuarÃ’ n, directed by Alfonso CuarÃ’ 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 Graphic Story Review 2014

written by David Steffen

And here’s the graphic story section of my Hugo review. This is one I look forward to every year because it’s kind of a wild card. I never know what to expect out of this because I don’t really follow graphic stories at all. Last year I got to read Schlock Mercenary for the first time. This time I get to read Girl Genius for the first time.

Note that there was one story that I didn’t read and review because for whatever reason it wasn’t included in the Hugo packet: That was Saga Volume 2. I reviewed Saga Volume 1 last year which you can read here.

 

1. The Meathouse Man, adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
This story follows a hopeful young man in a bleak future. The least desirable jobs on the least desirable planets are done by “corpse” workers, the bodies of debtors and criminals whose brains have been replaced with remote control implants. The protagonist is a handler whose job is to control a crew of corpses for mining work. He tags along with his fellow miners to the local meathouse a house of prostitutes where the talent are more corpse workers. But he’s not like the other guys. He doesn’t just want to have sex with dead meat. He wants love.

This story is bleak as hell, both in the setting (though of course the characters are used to that) and in the themes and conclusion the character draws from his experiences. I don’t buy into the message the character tries to convey in the story, but for me to enjoy it I don’t have to buy into it I just have to believe that he could have that message.

 

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)
Agatha Heterodyne is the last of a mythically heroic bloodline and is also a spark (a trait that makes her a genius, it’s basically a mad scientist gene). The Wulfenbach Empire that controls Europa is after her for both of these reasons and will stop at nothing to get her. After many adventures in the previous issues, she has made her way to her ancestral home in Mechanicsburg and has convinced the town and the intelligent Castle itself of her identity. But while she’s done this, a number of other sparks have gathered their own tiny but dangerous armies, and the Wulfenbach Empire itself is poised to attack. She has to figure out how to fully activate Castle’s defenses to defend herself and her town.

Not too surprisingly, there was a lot of this story I didn’t follow. There was a nice summary page at the beginning that summed up much of what I paraphrased in my own summary, which was immensely helpful. There were a lot of character relationships I didn’t really follow–was never really sure if particular people were essentially good guys or essentially bad guys. There were also a lot of other things that raised more qeustions than answers. What’s with the talking cat courtier? What are the jagers, why do they have viciously pointed teeth and all talk with barely understandable exaggerated accents? That’s not really a flaw in the story itself, since volume thirteen is the first one I’ve ever read. So I’m not going to hold that against it, although it did make it hard to get really really into it fully.

Still, it seemed like it had good characters, some good humor, and lots of very clever ideas–the idea of a mad scientist as a protagonist and pinning them against a world where their mad scientist skills have to be pushed to their limits just to survive. Great idea and I think that if I had kept up with this one in the past this could be a really solid entry in the series. Really, considering I’m jumping in way late in the series, I couldn’t expect more.

 

3. “Time”, Randall Munroe (XKCD)
The sea is rising. Two friends from a clan of people who make their living scavenging trash from the leavings of a bigger society explore inland to see what they can see.

This story was rolled out as frames released periodically, numbering at about 3000 in total. If you follow the link i provided with the list entry, you can see one place where they’re all collected together in an easy to use format. You can either set the animation to play automatically where it will pause longer on special frames (like ones with dialog). Or you can go through yourself, including using the mouse wheel to go through them at your own pace (which is what I did).

I love XKCD. I thought the premise of the story was really solid and enjoyed it especially as the tension ramped up in the last sections of the story. But I thought the pacing could use a lot of work. The first section was about building a bunch of sand castles. Which was cute, but not exactly tense. There was some foreshadowing there as they notice the sea level is rising but I really wanted that to ramp up the tension. Their trip inland was likewise just kind of on their whim, just to see what they could find, not exactly tense though there was certainly an element of danger in exploring the unknown. I thought the story really picked up when they finally meet someone who can make some explanations, and I thought the method for showing the language barrier was a clever one (the text of the dialog is all smudged and overwritten with other words so that you’re lucky if you can make out the gist).

So, I thought it was all pretty decent, and was tense in the end, but could’ve used some more work on the pacing.

 

4. “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who”, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
The Tardis takes a wrong turn and Dr. Who ends up in our world and meets a girl who is a huge Dr. Who fan. He attends a Dr. Who convention and has to find a way to get back home, all while helping the girl.

Judging by the Hugo vote every year, I’m the only SF fan left who isn’t also a Dr. Who fan. I’ve seen clips but not a whole episode, so I can’t say I dislike it but so far I haven’t felt moved to seek it out either, and I do find it a little annoying when the show dominates the Hugo Dramatic Presentation Short Form every year.

So I’m clearly not the intended audience for this story. I read it through, gave it a shot. It was clearly meant to be campy, but if you don’t reside in that camp it doesn’t have much appeal, yeah? It probably isn’t the best choice of the first full installment of Dr. Who media to consume since it is so self-referential and I obviously don’t get all the references. But it doesn’t move me to want to find more.