Hugo Picks 2012 (Part 1)

written by David Steffen

This is the first year that I’ve chosen to pay for a supporting membership to Worldcon. This is where the Hugo awards, the fan-based major award of the science fiction community, are presented. Paying for a supporting membership not only gives you the right to nominate and to vote, but also gives you the Hugo packet, a package containing most of the individual Hugo nominated works and examples of work from Hugo nominated individuals and magazines. That’s a load of bargain-priced brand-new fiction at $50.

Now, I should mention that I don’t think that the Hugos are generally indicative of the best science fiction and fantasy out there. Many of the nominees and winners I just find perplexing, often dull or unimaginative, and some authors get nominated every year even when it seems entirely clear to me that they are just “phoning it in” and the fans somehow feel that they are obligated to vote for this person.

Another thing I should add is that I only ended up getting registered on July 19th, a relative latecomer to the registration. The Hugo voting deadline was on July 31st, and I had only read a few of the entries. So to fully vote, I had more reading to do than I had time to do it. So for this first installment I’ll only be covering those categories in which I had a chance to absorb enough of the content that I feel comfortable making an informed vote. For each category I’ll list my first choice as well as any others that I was close to voting for.


Best Novella

1. The Man Who Bridged the Mist by Kij Johnson
An Imperial engineer travels to a small town on the banks of a mist-river to connect two halves of the empire. Novellas in general tend to be too slow for my tastes. This one is as slow as most, but I felt like it really used the space effectively. I really felt like I knew the characters by the end and I wanted them to be happy.
2. Kiss Me Twice by Mary Robinette Kowal
This one was a close contender for my top pick. It’s an effective science fiction mystery story, which uses the SF effectively as more than just a backdrop. Mystery generally isn’t my favorite genre or I might’ve picked this as the top instead.


Best Novelette

1. Ray of Light by Brad R. Torgerson
Brad’s a friend, but I didn’t pick his story because of that. I truly thought that this was the best of the group. It made me care about the characters. This takes place in a future Earth where inexplicable aliens have come and put up a shield between Earth and the sun so that the earth freezes over. The only humans who lived are those who fled deep below the ocean’s surface to live in underwater colonies. Nobody expects the surface to be thawed for several more lifetimes, but when a group of teenagers goes missing, a father goes to investigate.
2. Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders
A story about a romance between a man who can see the future and a woman who can see a variety of possible futures. I enjoyed reading this one as well, though its appeal was more of a thought experiment than the emotional connection I am more typically looking for.

Best Short Story

1. The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
The story of the son of a Chinese mail-order bride and the emotional connection she tries to make with him. Heartbreaking on several levels, this story really made me watch for more Ken Liu stories.
2. Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book 1: The Dead City: Prologue by John Scalzi
This story was posted as an April Fool’s joke last year on, formatted as an excerpt from an upcoming Scalzi novel. It was based on a previous blog post analyzing the most common words used in fantasy novel titles. John Scalzi took this as a challenge, and wrote this beast of a title, and the story itself is just as funny, making fun of all the common epic fantasy cliches. I heard Scalzi read this live at MiniCon 2011, and the live performance made it even better.
3. Movement by Nancy Fulda
The story of a child with “temporal autism”, although the story says explicitly that it is not actually autism but is has some common symptoms. The girl does not think on the same timescale as everyone around her, this story is about her efforts to understand the world around her on her own terms.


Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

1. Hugo
Awesome Martin Scorsese movie adapted from the children’s book titled The Invention of Hugo Cabret.ÂÂFollows an orphan boy living in the mechanical depths of a train station in Paris in 1931. The main storyline itself is really great, but it was very effective at showing the magical appeal of early cinema in the few decades before that.
2. Game of Thrones Season 1
I haven’t read any of George R. R. Martin’s books in this series, so this was my first exposure to them. The casting is amazing across the board, the special effects are great, great characters, great plot. Not a lot of fantasy in it, though there are a few select key places of fantasy, as the name implies much of it revolves around political maneuvering to rule countries. Great stuff, and it makes me want to read the books. Now if Martin would only ever finish writing them.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

1. Remedial Chaos Theory (Community)

This is one of the best shows on TV right now anyway, but this episode was above and beyond. It begins with a simple enough premise. The study group that the show centers around is at one of their apartments, and have ordered in some pizza. The apartment building’s door buzzer is broken, so when the pizza man arrives, someone has to go down to retrieve it. Nobody wants to, so they roll a die to decide. From there the episode splits into 6 timelines, each one with a different person going down to get the pizza. It doesn’t sound that interesting, but a lot of small variations add up to major and differing consequences between each timeline. I’m hoping for another Hugo nomination next year for the Community episode “Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne”, in which Pierce and the rest of the study group have to play a very complex 8-bit video game to earn Pierce’s inheritance. Brilliant. I wanted to play that game so much!


Best Editor (Short Form)

1. Neil Clarke
2. John Joseph Adams
3. Sheila Williams
4. Stanley Schmidt


Best Artist

1. Dan Dos Santos

I just think that Dos Santos’s artwork is the best out there today. I have a signed print of his illustration of Moiraine that was published in ebook rerelease of the Wheel of Time series.


Best Magazine

1. Apex
2. Lightspeed


Best Fan Artist

1. Maurine Starkey


Best Fancast

1. SF Signal Podcast
I like the SF Signal site anyway, but I really liked the discussion in the example episode with a lot of recognizable names about the future of the publishing industry
2. SF Squeecast
A Christmas themed episode that was a lot of fun. All of the members of the group are clearly having fun while they tape, and they really comes across.
3. Galactic Suburbia Podcast


Best New Writer

1. Mur Lafferty

Strange to think that she counts as a new writer because I’ve been listening to her stuff for years on the Escape Artists podcasts, and hearing about her self-published books. I really like her style though, some of my favorite EA episodes have been written by her.


As the year rolls on I’ll be reading the rest of the Hugo packet just for fun, at which point I might have more posts to pick out my favorites. And this is also the first year that I’ve been eligible for SFWA membership, which means that I can now nominate and vote for the Nebula award–so I may have something about that as well.