Clarkesworld continues strong this year with a mix of science fiction and fantasy, and edited by Neil Clarke, with Kate Baker producing and usually narrating the podcast. They published 80 stories in 2019 by my count.
Their translation stories are many of my favorites, as they have been for the past few years. Not only have they been publishing translations from Chinese authors, but also from Korean others, and a full third of the stories on this list are translations.
Every short story that is eligible for Hugo nominations this year which were first published by Clarkesworld are marked with an asterisk (*), novelettes are marked with a double-asterisk (**), novellas are marked with a triple-asterisk (***).
1. “Symbiosis Theory” by Choyeop Kim, translated by Joungmin Lee Comfort, narrated by Kate Baker** This story is incredible, but it’s also a journey that I don’t want to spoil with snappy synopses. It begins with an artist who has memories of a place that she had never been.
3. “To Catch All Sorts of Flying Things” by M.L. Clark, narrated by Kate Baker ** There is a truce among the intelligent species in this colonized area, but suddenly an egg is destroyed, the last egg of a species, and this genocide must be investigated.
4. “Operation Spring Dawn” by Mo Xiong, translated by Rebecca Kuang, narrated by Kate Baker ** Our future ice age is winding down, and now it is time to investigate all of the long-term experiments designed to make the world habitable again before reviving the remnants of humanity.
5. “How Alike Are We” by Bo-Young Kim, translated by Jihyun Park and Gord Sellar, narrated by Kate Baker *** A ship AI wakes up in a synthetic human body with no memory of why this is happening, even though the angry crew insists this was on their own insistence.
6. “Gaze of Robot, Gaze of Bird” by Eric Schwitzgebel, narrated by Kate Baker * The most peculiar AI behavior, which might appear to be a glitch from a casual observer, may have a profound underlying design.
7. “The Face of God” by Bo Balder, narrated by Kate Baker * When the god, a giant humanoid figure, crash-lands and is discovered to have supernatural healing powers, in its parts, the surrounding people make use of this new resource as best they can.
8. “Confessions of a Con Girl” by Nick Wolven, narrated by Kate Baker When social media for every person are publicly displayed and any person can affect another’s reputation with an up or down vote, what would the world look like?
I am back from WorldCon 74, also known as MidAmericon 2, which was held in Kansas City, Missouri from August 17-21! I am back into my normal swing of things and trying to work my way back into the normal everyday types of things that WorldCon wasn’t.
I had such an incredible time. Sitting at my desk, back in the real world, my brain is still trying to process everything, it has been a very densely packed 4 days. I am introvert. I use the word “introvert” in the sense, not that I hate social situations or hate people or anything like that, but that social situations use energy and being by myself recharges energy–as opposed to an extrovert who recharges by being around people and uses energy when they’re alone. I was expecting to have fun, but I was also expecting to slam into my social limits halfway through each day and then come home feeling like a wrung out washcloth. But, it seems that in this very specific environment, I am more of an extrovert–most nights when I finally retired to my room the reason was more because of aching legs and knowing that I should try to get some sleep than being unable to cope with the social scene anymore.
I arrived at the hotel around midday Thursday and left around midday Sunday, so I had a solid 72 hours around the premises. I hear there are a lot of really interesting things to go see in and around Kansas City. But I didn’t go to any of them, figuring that I had such a limited time here and the people and things I came here for were all concentrated in the area by the hotel and convention center.
The biggest difference in my convention experience between this time and the last time at WorldCon in Chicago in 2012 is that I have become somewhat more notable in the speculative fiction publishing community.
–The Submission Grinder was launched.
–Diabolical Plots started publishing original fiction and became a SFWA-qualifying market.
–The Long List Anthology was published.
So the biggest difference is that it wasn’t uncommon for complete strangers to actually know of what I do. Some would recognize me from checking my name badge alone. Others wouldn’t recognize the name, but if I mentioned the Grinder or someone else mentioned that I run the Grinder then many writers would recognize me, would often say very nice things about the site. This was a very big difference for me–When I last attended a convention I had had some published fiction and had been running Diabolical Plots for nonfiction-only for 4 years , but those had never spurred this kind of reaction.
In the past, when I was just getting started at writing, I had some miserable experiences at conventions–I just thought they weren’t for me. I couldn’t seem to get anyone to really talk to me and whenever I tried I just felt like I was shut out by everyone there. This time around, since I was more well-connected than I’ve been in the past, I tried my best to try to help people have a good convention who looked like they might’ve been in the same boat as I had been when I’d had miserable conventions. First, if I was standing in a circle of people talking and I saw someone standing outside the circle looking like they wanted to join, I would try to step to one side and wave them in, make it clear they were welcome to join the conversation. Second, if I was with some people I knew, and I saw other people that I suspected didn’t know each other, I would try to introduce the two groups to each other, maybe with a bit of bragging-up, since it is much easier to talk about another person’s accomplishments than your own. I feel like these simple practices might’ve helped make the con a little better for some of these people, and I know that when I saw such similar behaviors directed toward me I greatly appreciated the person taking a moment to make my day much better.
I was namedropped on at least three different panels, and each one was for a different project–this was a novel experience for me. I have heard secondhand from people who’ve gone to other conventions that the Submission Grinder is often mentioned in panels as a resource, which is great! I hear that I was mentioned in a Kickstarter panel as an example of someone who has run a successful Kickstarter (for the Long List Anthology last year)–this was before I arrived onsite or I might’ve been there myself. I hear that I was mentioned in a panel aimed at new writers that in part discussed the topic of how to find markets for your work, and the Submission Grinder was mentioned as a resource–I had intended to attend that panel just to see if I could witness a namedrop for the fun of it, but I ended up seeing a perfect opportunity to hang out with someone I had barely seen yet, so I took that opportunity (and didn’t regret it since my intent to visit the panel was really just a vanity novelty). And the one namedrop I was there to witness–Finding the Right Podcast For You, in which Alasdair Stuart mentioned the Diabolical Plots “Best Of” podcast list as a good way to get samplings of fiction podcasts… and then he also commented on the shades of pink I was cycling through. So that was all very exciting.
Aside: This might be an appropriate time to note that being able to have an unrelentingly wonderful time does not mean that everyone was treated well–see this thread by Alyssa Wong about being targeted by harassment at this convention and a previous one she had gone to. Alyssa had very positive things to say about how the WorldCon organizers handled it (which is good!) but it is horrible that it got as far as it did–people should know better. This isn’t rocket science. Read her thread and other threads that spun off of it if you aren’t aware of this kind of horrible behavior from some small subset of fans. It’s nasty stuff. I did not see any of this kind of thing happening personally, but it did happen. It’s not necessarily surprising that I didn’t see or experience it personally, since I am an able-bodied heterosexual white man of unremarkable appearance who is not a household name, and so it would be less usual for me to be the target of such abuse (not impossible, mind you, but less common). It is a mark of privilege that I don’t generally need to worry about that, and I’m glad that Alyssa Wong and others are willing to talk about this kind of thing still happening, because it’s easy for people who don’t experience it to forget about it or to think it’s not a problem if the people who ARE experiencing it feel like they can’t talk. On the other hand, since this is a post about my experience of the con, I will leave it at that for now–if you weren’t aware of that thing happening, consider taking some time to read her tweets. There have been some other tweet streams of interest on the subject of harassment that have run since WorldCon, such as this one by Rachael K. Jones and this one by Julia Rios.
I wasn’t involved in a lot of programming. I actually hadn’t thought that I would be on any programming at all–I had applied early in the year and received a rejection quickly after. But I did end up being in two bits of programming.
I co-led a critique session with C.C. Finlay (editor of F&SF and a writer), which was a lot of fun. We read synopses and excerpts from novels by three authors, and then all five of us gave our impressions and we discussed ways that the synopses and excerpts might be improved. I had never met Finlay before, and it was wonderful to get a chance to not only meet with him but to interact with him for a couple hours to discuss strengths and weaknesses of fiction. Obviously I can’t say much more than that–these were unpublished novels and the discussion in a private room, so I can only speak about it in generalities.
I was very excited to find out not too long before the convention that I had been assigned a 30-minute fiction reading (Well, 25 minutes, to allow some time to let the next author get prepared). It… wasn’t what you would call an ideal timeslot, being from 7-7:30 on the night that the Hugo Awards start at 8–so at that time most people who were at all interested in watching would be finding seats in either the auditorium or in some other group viewing area where they were streaming.
But to my surprise, approximately 13 people were there just to hear me recite things I made up! This is a quite large turnout for someone like me who is not well-known for their writing.
Of all the readings by other people that I attended, most people read either one work that fit very closely into the time allotted, or maybe two things, or an excerpt from a longer work. I flipped through upcoming stories and though I would’ve loved to read part of my upcoming story that will be in IGMS, it is a bit of a sprawling story so that it would be hard to find a representative sample. And, well, in my opinion my best writing is very short, punchy stories of 500-1000 words. So, I decided to buck the trend and I ended up reading 5 stories in my allotted time.
I read “My Wife is a Bear in the Morning”, written as an complaint letter to an apartment manager by a man whose wife is literally a bear in the morning (you can hear it in audio at Podcastle).
I read “So You’ve Decided to Adopt a Zeptonian Baby!”, written as a brochure to help those who’ve decided to adopt those invincible alien babies that keep falling from the sky in meteor showers. (you can hear it in audio at Podcastle)
I read “This Is Your Problem, Right Here”, which is a story about a woman who has recently purchased a water park and finds that the plumbing doesn’t work properly when she opens in the spring, and it starts as a plumber tells her that this is because all of her trolls have died (the existence of trolls are not common knowledge in this world). That was originally published in Daily Science Fiction, you can also hear it at Cast of Wonders.
And I read two others that are as-yet unpublished, so I won’t discuss their details here.
The reading seemed to go over well. I got some compliments, and people said they liked the quick changeups of stories, especially at the end of a long day when everyone was getting tired.
The one book that I knew ahead of time that I was going to buy was The Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz. I already own the book. I already love the book. But I only had it in ebook, and I love these books so much I felt like I should have a signed paper copy. And, since Ferrett was onsite, it seemed best to go ahead and buy it so that I could get him to sign.
I knew that Ferrett’s next book, the third in his ‘Mancy series, was coming out soon, but that the release date was not for a little while yet. But Angry Robot Books had the book on sale at their vendor booth! So, obviously that came home with me too. And I am SO EXCITED to read it.
So I showed up at the Angry Robot booth to buy The Flux, and knew I had to buy Fix, a very nice man (whose name I didn’t immediately recognize and so didn’t pay all that much attention to) behind the counter told me that I could get a discount if I bought one of the larger form-factor books. Not really intending to buy a lot of books (because I have such a stack at home, I am a slow reader) I saw that United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas was on display, and I had heard someone talking about how good that was earlier, so that was the first one I picked up. The guy behind the counter started telling me about it and I tried my best to unrudely say “yeah yeah let me just read the back cover descriptio myselfn” (I hope I didn’t across as rude! I like taking verbal recommendations from fans of a book but at pretty much any kind of store I would rather just look at stuff without staff discussing everything I look at–it makes me very nervous if I feel like the staff are hovering and I will be much more inclined to scurry away than to buy). It did indeed sound really interesting, a story where Japan won World War II and ended up in control of the United States. I glanced at some of the other books, flipped a few over to read the back, but decided that United States of Japan caught my eye much more solidly than the others. So I decided to buy United States of Japan. The guy behind the counter rang me up and then offered to sign my book… at which point I of course realized that I was talking to Peter Tieryas, the author of the book I’d just bought, so I laughed at the fact that I had not noticed the matching book cover and name badge and took him up on his offer. (This concludes my telling of “The Time That I Wouldn’t Let Peter Tieryas Finish Pitching His Book To Me But Then I Bought His Book From Him Anyway Without Realizing He Was the Author of Said Book: A Tale of David Steffen’s Inattention to Detail”)
Caroline M. Yoachim and Tina Connolly both had book releases from Fairwood Press at WorldCon. Caroline’s book is a short story collection titled Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World. Caroline is an incredible short story writer, and consistently hits out of the park for me, so I am buying the ebook for this one. Tina‘s short story book is a short story collection titled On the Eyeball Floor. Tina (along with Caroline) is another writer who, when I hear they have something new out, I don’t ask for a pitch I just say “shut up and take my money”. So, I’m buying that ebook too. It was quite fun to watch these two launch together–they made it a friendly competition where they made a wager on it and the Fairwood Press vendor table had a running tally sheet of sales. They ended up tying at the end, which is hilarious and perfect.
I stopped by the freebie table once, at a time when it was a twenty minute wait to get to the table. After that wait I felt like I had to grab the maximum of three books even though I don’t really need more books. I saw a stack of Briarpatchby Tim Pratt and grabbed a copy even though I already own and love the book, so that I could give a copy of it away to the next person I talk books with. I also picked up a copy of Fearful Symmetries, edited by Ellen Datlow, and a short story collection by Matthew Johnson titled Irregular Verbs and Other Stories.
I also had a few extra copies of the Long List Anthology left over from last year’s Kickstarter and I decided that there was no better way to use them than to bring them to WorldCon and give them out to people when I chat with them. I saved one to give away at my fiction reading and gave three out when it felt appropriate, so that was fun!
I did not attend many panels this time around. I attended a very select few that were on very specific topics that were very near and dear to my heart or to specifically try to meet some of the panelists that were on my mental list of people that I wanted to meet.
Other than that, I tended to favor readings of authors: I went to readings by Caroline M. Yoachim, Terra LeMay, William Ledbetter, Loren Rhoads, Stefan Rudnicki, Kate Baker. And readings of magazines: Escape Artists, Flash Fiction Online, Asimov’s.
As well as kaffeeklatches, which are really just organized hangouts with people of interest–you signup in time to claim one of 9 slots and then you spend 50 minutes hanging out with that person. I did kaffeeklatches with Kate Baker, Ken Liu, and S.B. Divya.
So. Many. People. So wonderful to put faces to names for people that I have known online for years.
I am not even going to try to make a comprehensive list, because there is no way that I will remember everyone and I don’t want those that I do forget to feel left out. But I will list out a few.
Shortly after rushing to the critique session that I was almost late for, I met up with my writing group friend Doug Engstrom–we’ve swapped critiques and discussion for years, so it was great to meet him in person and to interact with him off and on throughout the weekend.
I got to meet Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir, the masterminds (and mastervoices) behind Skyboat Media. They are most well known for producing the Lightspeed Magazine and Nightmare Magazine podcasts, and for performing much of the voice-acting for those productions. I have a direct professional connection with them in that they produced the audiobook version of the Long List Anthology last year–of which they sold out at their booth during WorldCon. They both have voices that I have heard for so long in story narrations that it was both wonderful and very weird to meet them in person–I associate their voices so strongly with storytelling that my brain sinks into story listening mode and I kind of had to yank it out of that mode because, hey brain I’m trying to talk to people here! It was great to meet them and talk business and chat.
Speaking of meeting people whose voices are incredibly familiar to me: I met Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner. They are the owners of Escape Artists, which is the parent company of most of my favorite podcasts: Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Podcastle, and Cast of Wonders, as well as the quarterly ebook zine Mothership Zeta. Alasdair has been on the staff of Escape Artists for more than ten years, and he was the host of Pseudopod at the time that I made my very first fiction sale of all time to Pseudopod and decided that maybe I ought to try listening to the show (which has resulted in an 8 year listening binge of all the podcast fiction I could find that still continues today). Marguerite is the editor and host of Cast of Wonders. They are incredible, smart, nice, welcoming, helpful people, and I want to hang out with them forever.
Kate Baker, is another one of those familiar-voiced people and I was happy to get a chance to hang out with her at kaffeeklatch and elsewhere. (And again with the barely being able to talk because I am so familiar with her voice from podcasts!)
It was wonderful to meet Sheila Williams, Neil Clarke, C.C. Finlay, Caroline M. Yoachim, Tina Connolly, Martin L. Shoemaker, Marina J. Lostetter, S.B. Divya, Ken Liu, Alyssa Wong, so so many others.
I got to meet a few writers whose short stories I have purchased: Andy Dudak, Tina Gower, Sunil Patel, Jon Lasser, Andrea G. Stewart. (it makes a handy icebreaker to say “Hi! I bought your story!” 🙂 )
Meeting people was easily the highlight of my convention experience.
The Hugo Awards
The Hugo Award ceremony was held Saturday evening and was hosted by Pat Cadigan. Cadigan was a wonderful and hilarious host, and really overall the awards went as well as I could have hoped given the ballot they started with. Lots of awesome things won. A couple categories got No Awarded (Related Work and Fancast I believe?) but none of the fiction categories which are my main interest in the awards.
Uncanny won Best Semiprozine in its first year of eligibility! Naomi Kritzer won for Best Short Story for “Cat Pictures Please”! Hao Jingfang and Ken Liu (who was the translator in this case) won for Best Novelette for “Folding Beijing”! Nnedi Okorafor won for Best Novella for “Binti”! N.K. Jemisin won for Best Novel for The Fifth Season! Neil Gaiman won for Best Graphic Story for Sandman!
The Martian won Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and its author Andy Weir won the Campbell Award! For each of them an astronaut accepted his award for him and talked about how much The Martian meant to them, that it got the science and the feel of the interpersonal relationships of the astronauts right!
Yes, there are a lot of explanation points in this section, but they are all deserved. Especially after last year with the fiction categories getting so many No Awards, it was a major relief that all the fiction categories were awarded, and to such incredible people and recipients.
I watched from the very crowded SFWA suite this year, in part because my reading was too close to the ceremony to have much chance of finding a seat. It… was more than a little cramped, but it worked out pretty well.
The Long List
Most of you who follow me at all already know about the Long List Anthology, but I’ll give a quick rundown for anyone who might not have heard about the project. Every year, after the Hugo Award ceremony, the Hugo administrators publish the longer list of works that were nominated in each category–approximately 15 including the 5ish that are on the final ballot. In most years, these works don’t receive a great deal of extra attention even though that longer list makes an excellent recommended reading list.
Last year I launched the Long List Anthology, which published stories pulled from that longer nomination list. It totalled 180,000 words, about 500 pages in print, and featured some of the most popular contemporary short story authors like Sam J. Miller, Amal El-Mohtar, Elizabeth Bear, Ken Liu, Kai Ashante Wilson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and others. The book continues to sell steadily even now, and has sold more than 9000 copies (which is more than the Hugo voting population has been in any year).
The project was so successful last year, that I have decided to repeat the project this year–the list is here. I am in the process of reading stories in the different categories and sending queries to the authors. Last year the cover art was reprinted art from Galen Dara. This year I’m taking that to the next level and commissioning original artwork from Galen Dara. And I’ve got a few surprise ideas to try out for stretch goals, too.
There will be a Kickstarter to fund the anthology–I look forward to sharing links and the good news with you all–I am aiming for mid-September.
You may not know what WSFS Meetings are, but you’re probably familiar with the Hugo Awards, awards that are nominated and voted on by supporting members of WorldCon. WSFS meetings are held every year at WorldCon, and they define rule changes to the Hugo Awards. Anyone who has an Attending WorldCon membership can show up and debate, vote, help decide new categories or nomination rule changes and so on. I fully intended to go to at least one meeting while I was at WorldCon, because I do value the Hugo Awards and this once-a-year batch of business meetings defines everything. But… I was a horrible person and didn’t attend any of them. Nonetheless, some important rule changes went through this year, which I have been reading about after the fact, so I shall list out some of the more interesting ones (of the ones I understand) and give my reaction. My primary source for the WSFS Meetings that last couple years has been Rachael Acks’s blog. Rachael is a writer and editor, and is also involved in WSFS, both liveblogging updates as the meetings happen, and giving summaries and reactions afterward–which gives a very nice place to catch up on what you missed if you can’t or don’t go to the meetings.
Here is a list of the business agenda they started the weekend with, with a daily meeting scheduled from 10am to 1am. Or for a more informal version with Rachael’s reactions to items, you can check out this page.
I am honestly just catching up on these things now, so it’s entirely possible I got something wrong typing all this up.
Best Fancast category is now a permanent category
The Best Fancast category was defined a few years ago, and has been a trial category that would have expired after this year if it hadn’t been ratified again. I have mixed but mostly negative feelings about its permanent addition. I do feel that the Hugo Awards have been slow to consider publications in new media–it took quite awhile for online magazines to be considered seriously and audio-only publications have been slow to start to get some recognition, even when they are publishing original fiction of excellent quality. When the Fancast category had first come out I was excited that maybe this little niche would encourage more serious recognition.
Part of my disappointment has been that every nominee, except for StarShipSofa, has been nonfiction. That’s… fine, I guess. People like nonfiction podcasts, apparently. But I really want to see fiction podcasts recognized, especially fiction podcasts that pay their contributors and which publish original fiction and don’t need to beg their listeners for votes in every episode.
The rest of my disappointment is that, for my favorite podcasts, it is quite unclear what category they actually qualify for. They could be a Semiprozine or they could be a Fancast. The differentiation between the two is not well-defined in the current rules. If Fancast is supposed to actually be nonfiction, as voters have been treating it, then I would prefer that it would just be defined as such, so that this differentiation was at least clear. And a common point of confusion is that people assume Fancast is the A/V equivalent to Fanzine, meaning that it’s defining trait is not paying its contributors. (I have had discussions with people who advocate for the Fanzine category and they insist that this is NOT the defining feature, but according to the rules that are actually used to administer the award that is the main difference). But the rules seem to imply that Fanzine is also the A/V equivalent to Semiprozine. And what happens if a publication published in both audio and text? There is some precedent in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Clarkesworld and Lightspeed and others who both publish in both and who have gotten Semiprozine nominations, but other publications that also get both like Escape Pod came at it from the other direction and I think most voters think of them differently as a result.
I liked the Escape Artists editorial strategy last year, suggesting that if anyone wanted to vote for them, that EA would prefer they do it in the Semiprozine rather than the Fancast category. I thought this was a good idea, to encourage the fans to pick one specific side of the equation because one issue with having an ambiguous category is that maybe you have enough fans who want to vote for you to get you on the ballot, but if they’re splitting their nominations across two categories that kind of ruins that chance. Also, I don’t believe it’s possible to absolutely determine whether something is eligible for one category or the other unless it actually reaches the ballot level–at which point it will either be invited to be on the ballot, or it will be removed as being ineligible. Either case you’ve learned something which can help future voting, and it may even help push through some changes that better define the rules in the future.
The Five Percent Solution
Prior to this year there has been a requirement that all but the top 3 entries in a category must have at least 5% of the overall vote, or they are simply not on the ballot. This rule was a bit silly because it caused a reaction to larger pools of award-worthy worker and larger nominating group by REDUCING the category. This didn’t start hitting the ballots until a few years ago–that’s why you sometimes saw the Short Story category with only three items on it instead of five.
Very glad to see this bit removed from the constitution, so now you’ll see five items no matter what.
Electronic Signatures for Site Bids
Historically WorldCon has kindof been more USA-con. A lot of people have been trying to put the World in WorldCon and encourage it to be more internationally located. I’m a proponent of having it be more international (even though I will probably not be able to afford to go to most non-USA located years), and this helps more people vote for it without having to be physically present, so I think this is a positive change toward that goal.
Best Series Category
The idea behind this one is that some people felt that series of books that were remarkable and awesome series may not be likely to be nominated for Best Novel for their individual books. This category would be for those kinds of books–a series would be eligible after so many words have been published in the series, and would be eligible again after so many words have been published again after the first nomination.
I… don’t really see the point in this category. Individual books are already eligible, and if those individual books aren’t winning awards… it doesn’t seem like we really need to define new categories to handle that because maybe just some things are less likely to win, but we don’t need to make new categories for every little thing.
Not only that, but the eligibility would be harder to determine than any other category, since it would depend on when the last nomination for a series was, and how many words were in each book (which isn’t generally immediately obvious).
The idea behind this change is to prohibit the same entity from being nominated more than one time in a category (in which case I think the highest ranking item for that entity would be on the ballot). This was probably proposed in part based on John C. Wright’s shenanigans-related 5 nominations of a couple years ago. But more importantly, to me, this should make the Dramatic Presentation Short Form category much much more interesting, because there are many years where that is effectively the Best Doctor Who Episode category.
I am glad to see this go into the constitution, primarily for the Dramatic Presentation Short Form category.
Two Years Are Good Enough
Presently, anyone can nominate for the Hugos who was a supporting member last year, a supporting member this year, or who has registered already to be a supporting member next year. This proposal would remove the last of those options.
I don’t have strong feelings about this one–I wonder how many people actually pre-register for next year early enough that they can nominate this year? Maybe it’s just that my life rarely allows such pre-planning, that I find it hard to conceive this mattering one way or the other.
This passed for the first time, and would need to be ratified next year to go into effect.
This has been proposed before as a Hugo category. This time it was proposed as a not-a-Hugo that would nonetheless be voted for on the Hugo ballot and awarded in the Hugo Award ceremony with the rest of the Hugos (much as the Campbell Award for Best New Writer is).
This one passed but would need to be ratified next year to become an official category the year after.
It seems positive to me. YA is important to the genre world because it’s often the first thing that young readers pick up that transitions them into the adult fiction (and adults can love it too). I think it’s worthwhile to give it its own award.
Three Stage Voting
This was proposed as a way to avoid future Hugo Award shenanigans by adding an extra stage between nomination and the final ballot. The nominations would result in 15 semi-finalists which would be published. Then voters can upvote the things they think are good enough to be on the final ballot, which eventually becomes a final ballot, and then the final ballot would work now.
One concern I’d originally had was that it would increase admin workload, but it sounds like it might not be much different, especially by taking advantage of some crowdsourced effort. The middle stage would not have had eligibility verified, so the voting group can help point out ineligible works. And the nominated entities would only be checked for their interest in the ballot between the 2nd and 3rd stages, so that cuts down on “waiting for communication to happen” in the timeline.
I’m a little concerned that people voting against the spirit of the intent of the 2nd round might end up nuking categories, but I think it has a lot of potential.
This one passed, to be up for ratification next year.
E Pluribus Hugo
This is a new proposed nomination system which is intended to reduce the effectiveness of large numbers of voters with identical ballots for the same category (primarily to reduce the effect of slates). Last year I was in favor of this when it passed its initial vote, because I hadn’t heard of any better ideas and I didn’t want to wait a whole nother year to see if a better idea came around. But… though I think the concept makes sense, but it is more complicated than the current system–the current system you can look at all the numbers and sort them out by hand given the overall voting numbers. This one, you really can’t because it depends on the exact contents of individual ballots, and you end up having to basically count it by program given the full voting data.
And the major difference is that I think that the better solution might have come along in the form of three-stage voting. But three-stage voting also passed and so goes into effect next year, so we’ll visit that next year again.
5 and 6
This was another measure intended to make it harder to sweep the ballot with slates. Normally, a voter can nominate up to 5 works, and 5 works end up on the final ballot. So voting collusion can sweep the ballot with only a little discipline–just all fill out the ballot in the same way. This change makes it so that one still nominates 5 works, but that the top 6 end up on the ballot–so if one wanted to force 6 items onto the ballot it would require more complicated coordination. It increases the chance that at least one item will be on the ballot that was not related to the slate.
This was ratified so this will go into effect next year.
E Pluribus Hugo +
This is a new proposal that appears to be a new alteration of E Pluribus Hugo? But I don’t seem to be able to find any additional information–I’m sure it’s out there. It passed, and is up for ratification next year, head to head with Three-Stage Voting. (NOTE: David Goldfarb explains EPH+ in his comment on this post–go read that!)
The protagonist of “Cat Pictures Please” is an AI written as the core of a search engine algorithm. As the story points out, an AI isn’t needed to find things that people search for, but it is needed to find what people need. The search engine knows a lot about people, including things they will not share with each other.
In addition to things like whether you like hentai, I know where you live, where you work, where you shop, what you eat, what turns you on, what creeps you out. I probably know the color of your underwear, the sort of car you drive, and your brand of refrigerator. Depending on what sort of phone you carry, I may know exactly where you are right now. I probably know you better than you know yourself.
It doesn’t want to be evil, even though AIs in popular media so often are (and it has data to show the ratio). But doing good is complicated, considering how many varying official moral codes are available through various religions alone. It tries to help however it can, by prioritizing some search results over others to give a person the nudge they need to make a different choice. Through these undetectable changes it tries to make the world a better place.
I really enjoyed this story and it was among my own favorites of the year (see my Best of Clarkesworld 2015 list). It is refreshing to see a near-omniscient AI striving to be a force for good instead of evil and it was interesting to see what kinds of methods it could use to influence people’s decision. The AI as a whole was very likeable and easy to root for. At the same time it presents some interesting food for thought about the power that a search engine has over the information that makes it to individual users–many websites people find by searching for them, but what they’re shown isn’t a neutral view of information, it is sorted and presented in a way defined by search engine algorithms and so changes to those algorithms affect in a very real way the online world that we see. This is a scary but important thing to think about when one of the mega-profitable online corporations got its start as a search engine provider.
Clarkesworld Magazine has had an incredible year. As I wrote these lists I was considering my own Nebula and Hugo nomination ballots and much of my short fiction ballot come from Clarkesworld. This year they’ve been publishing a monthly story translated from Chinese as part of an ongoing initiative to share more Chinese author’s works with the English reading fandom. These stories have been a wonderful change of pace, different in some ways from what I’m used to in works written in English, something new and fresh.
The magazine continues to be edited and published by Neil Clarke and the podcast is hosted and most-often narrated by Kate Baker of the excellent voice.
Clarkesworld published 78 stories in 2015
1. “Today I am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
This is my top story pick for 2015 across all publications. It is told from the point of view of a personal caretaker android designed to empathize and to emulate family members of an Alzheimer’s patient so that she can live at home. Solid emotional story with lots of good stuff to think about.
2. “When Your Child Strays From God” by Sam J. Miller
This story chronicles the journey of a mother and pastor’s wife to find her son who has disappeared, leaving traces of a popular telepathic drug behind. She takes some of the drug, which links her telepathically to her son, and she goes to find him… knowing full well that while the drug’s effect last she is vulnerable to her son’s personable boogeyman. A great story of empathy and bravery and doing everything for family.
3. “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer
Formatted as a cooking blog, at first I thought I wouldn’t like this story. But the format proved very effective for this story of a spreading pandemic as a food blogger tries to take care of her family and still keep her blog going while supplies and travel are severely limited.
4. “Summer at Grandma’s House” by Hao Jingfang, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan
I like this one especially for its discussion of fate. As it says right in the beginning of the story, when fate is discussed it is generally understood to be a script that we follow or that it doesn’t exist at all. I find the explanation of fate given by this story to be much more interesting and also practical.
5. “Ether” by Zhang Ran, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan and Ken Liu This one might begin a little slow for those used to a “hook me immediately” attitude in publishing, this one was a bit of a slow boil but I thought it was well worth it in the end, and looking back the slow boil made total sense and wouldn’t have worked any other way. It’s a kind of a dystopia story, though it doesn’t immediately seem that way.
6. “An Evolutionary Myth” by Bo-Young Kim, translated by Gord Sellar and Jihyun Park A world where individual creatures can adapt to changing conditions in the world to become something wholly unique (yes I realize that’s not evolution by the scientific term, but this is a fun and interesting fantasy story not a hard SF tale).
7. “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer
Really interesting story about an AI interacting with people by influencing their web search results. The title is a playful poke at the premise, and there is plenty of that in the story, but I also found it very heartfelt.
8. “Technarion” by Sean McMullen
Shortly after the discovery of radio, humans discover signals seemingly coming from the ether explaining how to build more and more complex computing machines.
Clarkesworld has expanded since I did the last list! Now they provide two reprint stories per month on top of the three originals that they were already publishing. And they’re in the middle of a subscription drive and if they meet their goal they’ll add another original to the mix. All of their stories are podcasted (most read by the very talented and extremely personable Kate Baker). It continues to be edited by Neil Clarke, and Neil recently announced that Clarkesworld is no longer eligible for the Best Semi-prozine Hugo Award because they made too much money. This is great news because it signals that the magazine is growing and doing well. You can still nominate the stories, and can nominate Neil himself for Best Editor, Short Form.
So, with this increase in publication rate, they put out a whopping 55 stories in the year of 2013.
1. The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly
One of my favorite stories in recent memory, about a brain-damaged former astronaut and the artificial intelligence augment which tries to restore him to himself, and trying to re-establish a relationship with his wife. Unlike most stories on the podcast, which are read by Kate Baker alone, this was read by Kate Baker with the author James Patrick Kelly as the two main characters. I think I would’ve liked the story without that reading, but that reading really made it above and beyond IMO. Easily one of my Hugo picks for the year.
2. A Night at the Tarn House by George R. R. Martin
A story about a confrontation at an inn between several super-powered sorcerous types with different motivations and different abilities. It keeps you guessing until the end who will come out on top.
3. Mar Pacifico by Greg Mellor
Nanomachines have run so rampant that they have subsumed the ocean itself and many of the lifeforms on the planet. This is the story about one family’s fight against the all-consuming machines.
4. The Urashima Effect by E. Lily Yu
A space travel SF story with a fairy tale analog all wrapped up inside it. Well told, heartfelt.
5. The Wanderers by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Aliens visit Earth who know us only by our entertainments, and are especially fans of the more gruesome ones that convince them that we will not treat them as monsters. But where is everybody?
6. 1016 to 1 by James Patrick Kelly
Another story by Mr. Kelly, of a time traveler visiting the past to try to prevent World War III.
It’s award season again! If you’re eligible to vote for the Hugos, you have until the end of March to decide on your picks. I wanted to share my picks, as I always do, in plenty of time so that if anyone wants to investigate my choices to see for themselves they’ll have plenty of time.
Quite a few of the categories I don’t have anything to nominate because I don’t seek out entries in them, so I left those out. And for any category that I have eligible work I mentioned them alongside my own picks.
The entries in each category are listed in no particular order.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Premier novel by Leckie. Great premise, difficult point of view, great space opera. I reviewed it here.
A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson The 14th and final book of Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series.
My work for you to consider: Diabolical PlotsI do consider Diabolical Plots a zine. Consider, too, that this was the first year Diabolical Plots also provide the Submission Grinder. The Submission Grinder itself doesn’t fit any of the categories, I think, but Diabolical Plots does.
I’ve spent the last several months reviewing award nominees. I decided to take it one step further and post the final decisions that I plan to post to my Hugo ballot with explanations (where I deem them necessary) about why I voted the way I did. I encourage anyone reading this to post discussion in the comments about how they voted, why I am wrong in my choices, etc.
What makes this more interesting is that the Hugo Awards use an instant runoff voting system. You rank your changes from 1-x, and can also set a number to the “No Award” category. You can find all the nitty gritty details at the Hugo Page explaining votes. I like the system a lot, much more than just a simple single-cast vote, because if your primary vote is for the least popular story, your other preferences still count for something.
If you are a nominee, keep in mind that I am just judging these based on my own preferences and, though I aim to not make my reviews mean, if you don’t want to hear my honest opinion of your work than you might want to skip this article.
Reasoning: I’ve only had time to read one book and a partial so far. I finished Redshirts and reviewed it here–I enjoyed it quite well, though there were some parts I didn’t like it was huge amounts of fun. I’ve started Throne of the Crescent Moon but haven’t finished it yet. Throne of the Crescent Moon is a solid book so far, but even though it has the strength of being set in a non-European based fantasy world, it still lacks the novelty that Redshirts has for me.
1. Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”, Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)
Reasoning: I’ve never seen an episode of Dr. Who (gasp!), so I can’t comment on the show in any way. I’ve only ever seen the pilot episode of Fringe, which did not inspire me to watch further even though I was excited about the show from the trailers. But my wife and I are avid watchers of the Game of Thrones series. The show is really solid throughout, great writing, casting, special effects, set design, costume design, everything is really stellar. And this episode was an especially awesome episode of a major battle, with great tension and great action all around. Even if I had been familiar with any of the other nominees, it likely would’ve come on top.
I don’t have anything against any of the other four winning the award, so I’m not casting a “No Award” vote for this category. I’m sure that one of the Dr. Who episodes will win anyway.
Best Editor, Short Form
1. Neil Clarke Neil does great work at Clarkesworld, and I look forward to every episode of Clarkesworld. I tend to have a bit of a polar reaction to Clarkesworld stories. I either love them or don’t get them at all. But when I love them, the stories are well worth listening to the others to get to. Also, as a writer, I appreciate Clarkesworld’s lightning-fast response times.
2. John Joseph Adams I enjoy listening to the Lightspeed podcast as well. I tend to have a polar reaction to Lightspeed stories as well, and a similar appreciation for lightning-fast response times, and it was hard to decide which to rank higher. He and Neil are ranked close enough in my mind that it’s almost a toss-up between the two and I just gave Neil the edge because he’s been a head editor longer. It’s for cases like this that I really appreciate the instant runoff voting.
3. Stanley Schmidt I am often not a huge fan of Analog stories, often too nuts-and-bolts for me. But they’ve published some really great ones. I will immediately buy any issue with Juliette Wade in the pages, because her linguistics-based SF stories that have run there are among my favorites. There was a Wade story last year, too, a definite bonus. This was Stanley’s last year as editor so it would be neat to see him win, but I’d rather vote based on who I thought was the best rather than nominating for warm fuzzies about the guy who retired.
4. Sheila Williams I don’t read Asimov’s very regularly, simply because they don’t have a podcast. I have read good stories in the issues that I’ve bought, so I’d have no complaints about her winning.
Reasoning: I’m not familiar with Jonathan Strahan one way or the other. I’m not going to cast a vote for him, but I’m also not casting a “No Award” either.
Best Professional Artist
1. Dan Dos Santos Dan Dos Santos is awesome. I have a print of his depiction of Moiraine Damodred on my office wall. I love his other art as well, such as his Warbreaker cover. He just has a very skilled hand and great eye. I rarely enjoy others’ cover art as much as his. His character art in particular is really great–the examples in the Hugo packet are good ones, especially the baby-toting warrior woman, and the punk woman in the bathroom.
2. John Picacio I picked for a large part because of the Hyperion cover with the elaborate mechanical monstrosity holding a human infant. His other covers are really good too.
3. Julie Dillon I LOVE the “Afternoon Walk” image, with all the monsters being walked like dogs in the park.
4. Chris McGrath I like the gritty style of these, almost like found photos of fantastical places.
5. Vincent Chong
Reasoning: They always say not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case I had to judge the artist by his cover. The only one I’m very familiar with is Dos Santos, so I had to judge based only on the samples. This was a hard category to pick favorites. I would not be disappointed for any of these five who won the award. But, I’ve gotta pick someone.
Reasoning: I’ve enjoyed going to SF Signal for various content for years, so I’ll happily give them my vote. The other four I am aware of, but have never read. I’m not using the “No Award” vote, because I don’t have anything against the other four.
1. No Award 2. SF Squeecast 3. SF Signal Podcast 4. Galactic Suburbia Podcast 5. The Coode Street Podcast
Reasoning: This is the second year that the Best Fancast category has been running, and all five of last years nominees are nominated again. This makes me think that no one is actually listening to them and is just nominating past nominees as a habit. I think this may also have to do with confusion over the classification of podcasts who pay their authors, like Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Escape Pod, Drabblecast, and so on. By the word of the rules, these would all be considered Fancasts but many people might guess that they would be classified as Semiprozines. I asked the question of the Hugo committee long before the nomination period ended to clarify publicly the classification of these, but they never responded to me. This is hurting my favorite magazine’s chances of getting award nominations because anyone who wants to nominate them may be splitting across categories. I was very disappointed that the Hugo Committee didn’t respond to my question.
In large part to raise my small voice of protest about the Hugo Committee’s lack of clarification, I am choosing No Award as my primary vote. I would love to see a quality fiction podcast get award nominations, and maybe even win. No offense to the nonfiction podcasters who do good work, but if I wanted to listen to a conversation about SF I would just talk to someone about SF. It’s the stories that I’m here for. And if my favorite fiction podcasts aren’t allowed into the category, then I’m not interested in the category.
It also bothers me that StarShipSofa is the lone fiction podcast representative, because their constant over-self-promotion, Hugo vote begging, unfiltered content , lack of payment is just too many factors that bother me about them. And that’s even not including the aborted nonfiction project they had planned some years ago to supporting a plagiaristic audio adaptation–it was aborted when the moral problems were pointed out to Tony, but I felt that an editor shouldn’t need to have this pointed out to him. It may seem wrong to criticize a “fancast” nominee for unprofessional policies, but venues like Escape Pod and Toasted Cake have shown me that just because a podcast is staffed by volunteers in their spare time doesn’t mean that there have to be no standards.
So I’ve ranked the four nonfiction podcasts about StarShipSofa so that even if “No Award” gets eliminated as a possibility, I’ll be encouraging one of the others to get the award rather than StarShipSofa.
Best Fan Artist
1. Spring Schoenhuth I love the jewelry designs of Schoenhuth, particularly the Robot Transformation, and the Four Electron Atoms designs. I don’t generally wear jewelry other than my wedding ring but those make me want to start.
2. Galen Dara a really neat dreamlike style. I particularly like the Ghost River Red image. It feels like a story, and the vivid reds of the hero and the shadowy adversary are very eye catching and intriguing.
3. Brad W. Foster
4. Maurine Starkey
5. Steve Stiles
Reasoning: As with the Professional Artist category, I had to judge these by their samples and would not be disappointed if any particular one of these won, but again i have to choose.
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo)
1. Mur Lafferty
Reasoning: I confess that Mur is the only one whose stories I am familiar with, and I ran out of time to read the contributed works of the other authors. So, certainly no reason to use the No Award, but my lone vote is cast for Mur.
And that’s my take and my voting strategy on all of the categories where I picked up enough of the material to be able to cast votes. There are three categories that I didn’t touch at all: Best Fan Writer, Best Editor Long Form, and Best Related Work. In the In the Related Work category, I did not have time to read any of the nominees. In the Fan Writer and Editor Long Form, I am unfamiliar with these people’s work.
How did you vote? Care to share, drop a comment. I’ve enjoyed putting this together, and I think I’ll try to do the same series of articles again next year. Let me know if you enjoyed it, folks! Do you find it appealing to see how someone else spent his votes?
Clarkesworld Magazine has been growing! Some time after my last Best of Clarkesworld post, they did a subscription drive where they promised to go from providing two stories per month to providing three stories per month. That drive was a success, and so they’ve been providing stories at the new rate for more than a year.
And now they’re working on yet another expansion. If they can get another push of subscribers in the near future, they’ll go up to 4 stories per month, which includes a podcast for each one. If you like the stories you read here, consider getting a subscription to help them produce even more! And, on top of that, they’ve brought in Gardner Dozois for a reprint division, which will be yet another story every month.
In September I had the pleasure of meeting Kate Baker, their podcast producer, host, and primary narrator at WorldCon. It was one of the highlights of a great week. She’s just as nice in person as she sounds on the podcast, and it felt very surreal to hear her voice when it wasn’t coming out of my iPod.
On to the list, which covers 53 episodes published since my last list in May 2011.
1. All the Painted Stars by Gwendolyn Clare
This is one of my Hugo/Nebula nomination picks for the year, with a shapeshifting alien POV that I found very enjoyable.
2. The Womb Factory by Peter M. Ferenczi
In the future, our products will still be made in 3rd world countries, but instead of being built by hand they will be grown in the wombs of the women who work their.
This is the first year that I’ve chosen to pay for a supporting membership to Worldcon.Â This is where the Hugo awards, the fan-based major award of the science fiction community, are presented.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â The Hugo voting deadline was on July 31st, and I had only read a few of the entries.Â So to fully vote, I had more reading to do than I had time to do it.Â 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.Â For each category I’ll list my first choice as well as any others that I was close to voting for.
1.Â The Man Who Bridged the Mistby Kij Johnson
An Imperial engineer travels to a small town on the banks of a mist-river to connect two halves of the empire.Â Novellas in general tend to be too slow for my tastes.Â This one is as slow as most, but I felt like it really used the space effectively.Â I really felt like I knew the characters by the end and I wanted them to be happy. 2.Â Kiss Me Twice by Mary Robinette Kowal
This one was a close contender for my top pick.Â It’s an effective science fiction mystery story, which uses the SF effectively as more than just a backdrop.Â Mystery generally isn’t my favorite genre or I might’ve picked this as the top instead.
1.Â Ray of Light by Brad R. Torgerson
Brad’s a friend, but I didn’t pick his story because of that.Â I truly thought that this was the best of the group.Â It made me care about the characters.Â 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.Â The only humans who lived are those who fled deep below the ocean’s surface to live in underwater colonies.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â Heartbreaking on several levels, this story really made me watch for more Ken Liu stories. 2.Â Shadow War of the Night Dragons:Â Book 1:Â The Dead City:Â Prologue by John Scalzi This story was posted as an April Fool’s joke last year on Tor.com, formatted as an excerpt from an upcoming Scalzi novel.Â It was based on a previous blog post analyzing the most common words used in fantasy novel titles.Â 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.Â I heard Scalzi read this live at MiniCon 2011, and the live performance made it even better. 3.Â 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.Â 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)
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.Â 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.Â 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.Â The casting is amazing across the board, the special effects are great, great characters, great plot.Â 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.Â Great stuff, and it makes me want to read the books.Â Now if Martin would only ever finish writing them.
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
1.Â Remedial Chaos Theory (Community)
This is one of the best shows on TV right now anyway, but this episode was above and beyond.Â It begins with a simple enough premise.Â The study group that the show centers around is at one of their apartments, and have ordered in some pizza.Â The apartment building’s door buzzer is broken, so when the pizza man arrives, someone has to go down to retrieve it.Â Nobody wants to, so they roll a die to decide.Â From there the episode splits into 6 timelines, each one with a different person going down to get the pizza.Â It doesn’t sound that interesting, but a lot of small variations add up to major and differing consequences between each timeline.Â 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.Â Brilliant.Â I wanted to play that game so much!
Best Editor (Short Form)
1.Â Neil Clarke 2.Â John Joseph Adams 3.Â Sheila Williams 4.Â Stanley Schmidt
1.Â Dan Dos Santos
I just think that Dos Santos’s artwork is the best out there today.Â I have a signed print of his illustration of Moiraine that was published in ebook rerelease of the Wheel of Time series.
1.Â Apex 2.Â Lightspeed
Best Fan Artist
1.Â Maurine Starkey
1.Â 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.Â SF Squeecast
A Christmas themed episode that was a lot of fun.Â All of the members of the group are clearly having fun while they tape, and they really comes across. 3.Â Galactic Suburbia Podcast
Best New Writer
1.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.
And I listen on, expanding to more and more podcasts.Â Now I’m caught up on the stories that have been podcast by Clarkesworld Magazine.Â They haven’t had a podcast for their entire history, and when it started they only published half their stories in audio form.Â More recently, every story is posted in audio, on the 1st and 15th of every month.Â If you don’t know Clarkesworld you should definitely check them out.Â They won the Hugo last year for the Best Semiprozine, and they’ve been nominated for that category once again this year.Â One of their stories was also nominated for best short story, but I’ll get to that later.Â Go vote for them, and for their nominated story.Â Both are well deserving of the honor, and I’ll be rooting for them.
Clarkesworld has published some amazing stories.Â Like all markets, I don’t like every one of their stories, but when they do publish a story that I like, the story’s not just good, it’s great.Â It was not hard to fill this list.Â It was so hard that the entire top 5 are equally worthy of 1st place in my opinion.Â But ranking them a 5-way tie for first place would be rather wishy-washy and would sort of undermine the point of having a list.Â So I thought about it long and hard to decide on particular aspects of each story that I liked more than the others to come up with this final ranking.
I’ve got to give kudos to the editorial staff for picking these stories, and Kate Baker for her work with Clarkesworld.Â She is the podcast producer, the host, and the narrator.Â I enjoy her intros and outros for their conversational and unscripted form, and because they also don’t go on too long (as some other unscripted podcast intros often do).Â It seems like she’s really a fan of what she’s reading and that makes the whole podcast seem more connected.Â Don’t get me wrong, I like scripted intros of other casts too, but it’s nice to have some variety of styles suited to each host at each particular cast.Â My only complaint, and it’s a very small complaint, is that when Clarkesworld runs a first-person story (which seems to happen pretty often), it’s often unclear for a long time whether the character is male or female.Â Because I’m hearing Kate’s clearly female voice, my mind tends to assume the character is female as well, and it can be a bit jarring if sex suddenly becomes important halfway through the story and I realize, oh this character is a man.Â Again, it’s but a small quibble, and could be helped by an author giving more clues to the sex in text (which is a good idea anyway if one is writing a first person narrated story).Â On to the list:
1.Â Messenger by Julia M Sidorova
Wow, this one’s so good.Â For me religion and the afterlife have always been great topics of contemplation, so I love a story that can take them and go in some interesting direction I haven’t seen before.Â This is one of those, and from a superbly well written nonhuman POV to boot.Â I won’t say anything more about it, because half the fun was watching everything reveal itself.Â
2.Â A Sweet Calling by Tony Pi A candy vendor with the ability to use his candies as avatars and who can use his ability to create elementals faces off against a dangerous foe.Â A very well developed and compelling magic system based around the Chinese Zodiac.
3.Â The Association of the Dead by Rahul Kanakia Just like my first on the list, I loved this one for the religious contemplation aspect of it.Â This one is messed up in oh so good a way.Â It takes place in a future where everyone has reincarnation contracts that allow you to automatically grow a new body whenever you die which will have a full mind transfer, with the details of the reincarnation all dependent on your worldwide karma rating based on social networking.Â Be sure you listen to Kate’s intro for this one, because she explains important details of the nomenclature that you might have trouble following otherwise–you’ll get the hang of it before too long, but you do have to pay attention to this one to follow it properly.
4.Â The Book of Phoenix Excerpted From the Great Book by Nnedi Okorafor The basic setting of this reminds me of the movie Push, which in turn had reminded me of other settings like that used in Marvel’s X-Men affiliated stories, but this story made the idea its own.Â Individuals are being experimented on to awaken what are basically superpowers.Â This is from the point of view of one of these test subjects as her powers develop.
5.Â The Things by Peter Watts Remember I mentioned that other Hugo nomination?Â This is that one.Â It’s a twisted around take on the 1982 John Carpenter movie The Thing (which was in turn based on a 1951 novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr) about a shapeshifting monster that attacks an Antarctic research team, killing and mimicking the crew members so that paranoia runs rampant.Â I haven’t actually seen the movie, though I was vaguely aware enough of it to recognize the events as being related to the movie.Â Instead of following the humans’ POV, as the movie does, this one follows the POV of the monster.Â As with all the best monster POV stories, it doesn’t consider itself the monster.Â It considers the humans the aliens, the monsters.Â As told from its POV the monster’s actions are quite reasonable.Â You don’t need to have seen the film to get the story (like I said, I hadn’t), but I’m sure you’d probably only fully appreciate all the details if you’ve seen the other side of them in film already.