Sleeps With Monsters: Thoughts on the 2017 Hugo Awards Ballot

A new column over at Tor.com:

This year is a historic one for the Hugo Awards in more ways than one. In addition to the changes to the awards process, this is the first year in which the Best Novel nominees have been so completely devoid in white men. It may also be the first year in which more than one out trans author received a Best Novel nomination for their work.

Hugo Nominations 2017: thoughts part two

The bottom half of the Hugo ballot this year includes Best Series as a special category, as well as the usual:

Best Related Work
Best Graphic Story
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
Best Editor – Short Form
Best Editor – Long Form
Best Professional Artist
Best Semiprozine
Best Fanzine
Best Fancast
Best Fan Writer
Best Fan Artist

Best Series:

I’ll be nominating Lois McMaster Bujold for certain, since Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen means the Vorkosigan series qualifies. Whatever its flaws, that series contains some of the best science fiction of the last thirty years.

I may nominate Charlie Stross for the Laundry Files, which I think qualify.

I’m not entirely sure what else I want to nominate – Max Gladstone writes good books, but I feel like “Best Series” should be more of a keystone to a career, and I can’t think of another series with installments from last year that I’d consider an all-time best.

Best Related Work:

Sarah Gailey’s series around Rowling’s female characters on Tor.com, perhaps. Otherwise I am drawing a blank: I certainly didn’t read any related works in book form last year that’d count.

Best Graphic Story:

Bitch Planet Volume 1.

I didn’t read very widely in the graphic end of things last year. If anyone wants to supply my lack, do let me know.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):

I think this category is probably going to go to Arrival, which I haven’t seen yet. I’d be happy to nominate all of Supergirl, mind you.

I’ll probably nominate Rogue One, despite my feelings as to its flaws, because it is an admirable piece of spectacle. I need to see Arrival before nominations close. I honestly don’t think I saw a film released last year in the cinema that impressed me at all apart from Rogue One.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):

I have to finish watching Supergirl, but I’m almost certainly going to nominate an episode from that show. (I already have some favourites in mind, but if there’s a particular episode other people are considering, let me know!)

I did not like where The 100 went after episode 3.06 (I ditched the show with 3.07, because hey, why hurt myself, right?), but 3.04, “Watch The Thrones,” is still pretty awesome television. (I have a weakness for fight scenes.) 3.03, “Ye Who Enter Here,” also good.

I don’t know that I watched anything else SFnal under an hour in 2016 that I’d rate all that highly. But I’m pretty bad for watching things vaguely contemporary with their release.

Best Editor – Short Form
Best Editor – Long Form

As usual, I’m going to pass over these categories, because I don’t feel I know enough about what is a “best” in an editor.

Best Professional Artist:

Julie Dillon
Victo Ngai
Richard Anderson

Best Semiprozine:

Tor.com.
Uncanny Magazine.
Lightspeed.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
Strange Horizons.

Best Fanzine:

Lady Business (ladybusiness.dreamwidth.org)

…er. I think the only place that qualifies as a fanzine that I’m still following is Lady Business. Well. That’s me sorted, then.

Best Fancast:

No longer following any podcasts in particular, though have a wistful fondness for Galactic Suburbia – if only I could make time to listen.

Best Fan Writer:

This is a category I am seriously underread in, for 2016. Who is best at saying clever things with incisive analysis and wit? Apart from Abigail Nussbaum, of course.

Best Fan Artist:

likhain, who also I think works under another name, does really good art. But this is another category where I know I don’t know much.

Hugo nominating time is here

And since I can nominate, I thought I should share the list of things I mean to nominate. And ask for recommendations, because I’m pretty thin with regard to some categories.

Best Novel

Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword
Elizabeth Bear, Steles of the Sky
Max Gladstone, Full Fathom Five
Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon.

Best Novella

I don’t think I read a novella last year. Recs?

Best Novelette

“The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys at Tor.com
“The Devil in America” by Kai Ashante Wilson at Tor.com.

…I realise that’s heavy on Tor.com. Also, I didn’t read a lot of short fiction, and longer short fiction I read even less. Other recs?

Best Short Story

“She Commands Me and I Obey” by Ann Leckie at Strange Horizons
“This Chance Planet” by Elizabeth Bear at Tor.com
“Covenant” by Elizabeth Bear in Hieroglyph
“The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard at Beneath Ceaseless Skies
“The Truth about Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar in Kaleidoscope

Best Related Work

Rocket Talk.
Foz Meadows, “Gender, Orphan Black, and the Meta of Meta.”

Recommend me things?

Best Graphic Story

G. Willow Wilson, Ms Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal.
Gail Simone, Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues.

Recommend me more things?

Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay
Maleficent

…didn’t really see a bunch of things. Going to try to see Snowpiercer, though.

Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form

“Séance” (Penny Dreadful S1)
“Governed As It Were By Chance” (Orphan Black S2)
“To Hound Nature In Her Wanderings” (Orphan Black S2)

Best Editor Long Form

Category is opaque to me. Will not be nominating.

Best Editor Short Form

Who should I nominate? Jonathan Strahan, maybe?

Best Professional Artist

Julie Dillon
Galen Dara
Cynthia Sheppard
Chris McGrath

Best Semiprozine

Strange Horizons
The Book Smugglers
Pornokitsch

Best Fanzine

I haven’t really been reading widely this year. Rec me some people?

Best Fancast

Galactic Suburbia.

I’m not really a podcast listener, except in certain specific cases.

Best Fan Writer

Amal El-Mohtar
Abigail Nussbaum
Hello Tailor

Best Fan Artist

Rec me someone?

JOHN W CAMPBELL NOT A HUGO:

I don’t know who is eligible. Karina Sumner-Smith?

Meanings, Communities, Conversations?

There is no real point to this post. Or rather, there are a collection of points, but no closing argument. I feel like rambling.

The poll for what I should read next is still open.


There was a moment when I was tempted to refuse the Hugo Award nomination for Best Fan Writer.

Not, you understand, because I don’t feel honoured to have my work considered among the best work of the year, but because I’ve always been uncomfortable with the word “fan” as an abstract descriptor. I am a fan of things, but they are specific things; I’m a writer, a student, a researcher, a historian, a reader, a viewer, a participant in a variety of conversations; I have been (and will be again) a martial artist, a climber, a teacher.

But as an abstract descriptor, the fan that the Hugo Awards refers to seems to me to be part of a historical and cultural continuum, a culture of “fandom,” about which I feel ambivalent at best.

I accepted the nomination: of course I did. I think my work is of good quality, and to do otherwise than accept would dishonour the people who also believe in its quality. But I don’t do that work for love: I do it because I’m paid.

I don’t make enough money from writing about science fiction to live on, but the money did make up roughly 1/9th of my total income last year. (I’m the holder of an Irish Research Council postgraduate scholarship for a two-year period, which is public information. The amount of the scholarship is also public information, available on the IRC’s website: you can see for yourself what the other 8/9ths amount to, if you’re curious.) I wouldn’t write so much without that financial inducement: it is work, even though it’s work I mostly enjoy.

I don’t believe in working for free unless I’m getting more enjoyment out of it than the effort I put in.

And I put quite a bit of effort into this kind of work.


There are far more people who read science fiction and fantasy, or consume science fiction and fantasy related media, than there are people who are actively involved in the conversation about science fiction and fantasy: than are part of the community of discourses, or care about awards.

There will be perhaps 5,000 people attending the London WorldCon this year, of which over 3,500 will be from Anglophone countries. If we say that they represent 10% of the population of Anglophone persons seriously engaged with conversations, and communities, specifically surrounding science fiction and fantasy published in book form, that gives us a figure of 35,000 Anglophone persons who have more than a passing stake in that conversation.

(For comparison: there were 17,000 votes tabulated in David Gemmell Legend Award this year.)

Let us be more generous and even less realistic, and say they represent 5%. That makes 70,000 Anglophone persons.

I think this figure is far too high. Nonetheless it is only a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who have read A Song of Ice and Fire or one of the books of the Wheel of Time, or who like to read a science fiction novel, or a fantasy novel, along with the other novels they might pick up on occasion. (It is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to SFF television or movie fandom, or comic book fandom, although – of course – the Venn diagram overlaps.)


I still find being part of the conversation rather odd.

Until I was in my late teens and read a library copy of Niven and Pournelle’s wish-fulfillment nonsense Lucifer’s Hammer Fallen Angels, I had no idea that people discussed science fiction and fantasy or felt any more sense of community around it than, say, the aficionados of detective mysteries. Niven and Pournelle’s outing didn’t encourage me to think highly of the in-group of rose-coloured-glasses’d nostalgists they portrayed; it wasn’t until I was leaving school and interacting with the internet as a would-be-writer* of the genre that I found interesting people who were making interesting points.

I signed up for a Livejournal account to be able to leave comments. I made friends through the medium of the internet – this startled me, because I had never been very good at friends, and I still find myself suspicious and distrusting of the phenomenon.

Some years later, one of those friends asked me to contribute reviews to Ideomancer.com. Later, I pitched a series of articles to Tor.com because a)I wanted to prove to myself that I could and b)I needed some pocket money. The same for my first reviews for Tor.com and Strange Horizons.

The internet fell on my head once or twice, but only in a middling fashion. And then after a couple of months running where I’d left a comment on a Tor.com “Booksellers’ Picks” post pointing out the disparity of female names to male, I received an email from a lovely person at Tor.com** asking if I’d contribute a female-focused column.

I didn’t dream of turning the offer down.

(I’m still waiting for them to realise they’ve made a terrible mistake and change their minds.)


In the last couple of years, since 2011, the nature of my participation in the conversation has changed. I know more people, by name and by reputation; I talk to more people, especially on Twitter. I no longer quite think of myself as peripheral, an observer, someone who doesn’t belong in any of the conversations. Just barely, I’m learning that I can claim the space to have opinions.

There are sets of overlapping discourses. Call them “fandoms,” if you like. I’m not happy with the word “fan” applied to myself, because it doesn’t reflect my self-perception. But I’m really glad to be able to participate in the conversations around science fiction and fantasy, and to have encountered so many interesting, marvelous people in the course of those conversations.

For all the differences in the discourses, it’s still a surprisingly closely-linked set of conversations.


I’m not happy with the toxic trolls and troll-sympathisers – Correia, Day, and Torgersen – who are on the ballot this year. I’m going to judge their work by their behaviour: I don’t need to give them any more attention than they’ve already received.

I don’t need to spend any time reading the works of people who behave like assholes unless I’m being paid for the privilege.


Tor Books, by the way, have announced they’re offering the entire Wheel of Time series in the electronic Hugo Voters’ Packet. The HVP was started in 2006, on a purely voluntary basis, by John W. Campbell Best New Writer nominee John Scalzi: it still operates on a purely voluntary basis, with the rights-holders making their work available to the voters at their discretion.

The rights-holders, in this, don’t actually get paid for what they offer in the HVP, which makes Tor Books’ decision a pretty generous one.


*I got better. Mostly. These days I stick with nonfiction. One day, maybe, I’ll have time to have a real hobby again and consider writing a space opera for my own amusement…

**I won’t mention names, because I haven’t asked if that person minds being named.

Sleeps With Monsters: How About Those Hugos

I forgot to mention this yesterday, but I have a column up at Tor.com too about the Hugo Award list.

The John W. Campbell list this year, quite frankly, delights me. I haven’t read anything by Ramez Naam and Wesley Chu (I’ve heard good things about them both, although second-hand opinion indicates that I’d probably enjoy Chu’s work more than Naam’s), but Max Gladstone and Sofia Samatar and Benjanun Sriduangkaew, who has been nominated in her first year of eligibility on the strength of her short fiction? HELL YES. Gladstone’s work is innovative and exciting (and Two Serpents Rise and Full Fathom Five are barefaced challenges to naysayers in the diversity stakes), and Sriduangkaew’s short fiction that I’ve read consistently blows me away. Samatar’s work doesn’t give me the same kind of emotional reaction, but I understand why other people love it: her talent and technical skill is obvious, and on the strength of the last two years, she bids fair to mature into an important, influential voice in the field.

On the Campbell slate as a whole, in fact, Kameron Hurley may have said it best: “Welcome to the fucking future.”

Hugo Award Nominations List

Find the complete list of nominees in any number of places, including here.

I’m a Hugo nominee! In the Best Fan Writer category, a slate which is filled with too many other brilliant people.

There’s a lot to like about the Hugo list this year, and a lot not to like: we have Ancillary Justice – which is a very good debut, and a novel I loved – in the novel category, but we also have The Wheel of Time, which is a saggy-albeit-entertaining monstrosity. The nonfiction categories have a better gender balance, I think, than almost any other year – and the fiction categories aren’t terrible at it, either.

On the other hand, there’s evidence for a concerted campaign to game the nominations, indications of organised bloc voting, which I find rather petty and sadly against the spirit of the awards, and the name of one of the nominees in particular leaves a vile taste in my mouth. I think I will be deploying NO AWARD quite happily in a couple of the award cases, although I will do my best to be fair-minded about everyone who is not a gleeful racist shitstain.

As Renay said on Tumblr:

I will die on the hill of authors being able to self-promote for this award, to let their fans know they’re eligible, and to encourage people to get involved, but what these two authors did was unacceptable and shameful. The difference between authors who encourage their fans to take part, to nominate what they like the best whether its work by themselves or other creators, and what Correia and Day did is stark to me. One is about love: of genre, of fans, of fans being passionate about things they love. The other is about malice and jealously. If the only way you can be celebrated for your work is by gaming the system, fellas, I gotta say, you’ve already lost.

Maybe it’s not about malice and small-mindedness. Maybe.

But let’s focus on the positives. ANCILLARY JUSTICE! THE BOOK SMUGGLERS! PORNOKITSCH! ABIGAIL NUSSBAUM AND KAMERON HURLEY AND FOZ MEADOWS! JULIE DILLON! And the Campbell slate is an excellent slate if ever I saw one.

Hugo Award Nominations 2014. Part IV.

I’m attending the 2014 Worldcon, and that means I get to nominate for the Hugo Awards. And, because I’m the kind of shy retiring flower who hesitates to share her opinions, I’m going to tell you all about my nominations!

But I’ll do it in more than one blogpost, because the Hugo Awards have a lot of categories. And one may nominate up to five items in each category.

First post here. Second post here.

Now, let’s talk about the final category: Best Novel.

The sheer size of the field means it’s impossible for any single person to read every novel published in it, much less every novel and a good proportion of the short work, and the related work, and grasp at least some of the art – rather like Jonathan McCalmont and Martin Lewis and Ian Sales, I’m pretty convinced the Hugo Award has too many categories. (But we run with the award we have, not the one we wish we had.)

So when it comes to the novels I read that were published in 2013, let’s not pretend it isn’t a more limited field than the field as a whole. And while I’m going to be picking the best of that, let’s not pretend that technically-best isn’t going to be playing up against favourite-things-best.

So, caveats aside, what novels did I find best of 2013?

Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY JUSTICE tops the list. A debut novel, it is polished, powerful, doing interesting things with space opera, and kicked me in all the narrative squids.

Elizabeth Bear’s SHATTERED PILLARS comes second. It is an incredibly well-written book, and I really think its predecessor, Range of Ghosts, should have made more award lists last year.

Marie Brennan’s A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is also on the list. I really like the world, the voice, and the narrative conceit of it, even if the pacing can be up-and-down.

Nicola Griffith’s HILD. I don’t care if it is fantasy, magical realism, or “merely” straight historical fiction. It is ON THIS LIST, because it belongs here.

I am torn over fifth place on the list. Nalo Hopkinson’s SISTER MINE? Roz Kaveney’s REFLECTIONS? Something else I haven’t got to read yet? Feel free to convince me in comments.

Hugo Award Nominations 2014. Part III.

I’m attending the 2014 Worldcon, and that means I get to nominate for the Hugo Awards. And, because I’m the kind of shy retiring flower who hesitates to share her opinions, I’m going to tell you all about my nominations!

But I’ll do it in more than one blogpost, because the Hugo Awards have a lot of categories. And one may nominate up to five items in each category.

First post here. Second post here.

Now, let’s talk about:

Best Novella (17,500 to 40,000 words)

Best Novelette (7,500 to 17,500 words)

Best Short Story (up to 7,500 words)

Best Related Work

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not A Hugo)


Best Novella

Elizabeth Bear, Book of Iron, Subterranean Press
Beth Bernobich, “Thief of War,” Tor.com
Greer Gilman, Cry Murder! In a Small Voice.

Again, I haven’t read widely in this category. I liked these novellas, but I am far from certain that if I’d read more widely I wouldn’t have different opinions.

Best Novelette (7,500 to 17,500 words)

Don’t know. Won’t nominate.

Best Short Story (up to 7,500 words)

Benjanun Sriduangkaew, “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade”, Clarkesworld.

Again, I haven’t read widely enough. I was blown away by this short story, but I only read it because everyone, practically, linked me to it.

Best Related Work

“‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative,” by Kameron Hurley, at A Dribble of Ink.

“Gender Parity and Cover Art,” by Justin Landon, at The Book Smugglers.

Steeleye Span, Wintersmith, album.

Kathryn Allen, ed., Disability in Science Fiction.

Here, again, I haven’t read widely enough to nominate a stronger slate.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo)

Max Gladstone, author of Three Parts Dead and Two Serpent Rise.

Django Wexler, author of The Thousand Names.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew, whose short fiction is appearing all over the place and is, from what I can see, very damn good.

Sofia Samatar, whose work I do not personally like but which is, nonetheless, very good.

I’m open to persuasion as to slot #5, but I don’t think I’m going to find another writer I really want to nominate this year.

Hugo Nominations 2014. Part II.

I’m attending the 2014 Worldcon, and that means I get to nominate for the Hugo Awards. And, because I’m the kind of shy retiring flower who hesitates to share her opinions, I’m going to tell you all about my nominations!

But I’ll do it in more than one blogpost, because the Hugo Awards have a lot of categories. And one may nominate up to five items in each category.

First post here.

Now, let’s talk about:

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

Best Fancast

Best Graphic Story

…Although this time I won’t spend a lot of time explaining my choices.


Best Semiprozine

Strange Horizons

Tor.com

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Clarkesworld

I haven’t read anything else enough to feel like nominating it, and I’m not even completely certain I should be nominating in this category, since I haven’t read widely enough.

Best Fanzine

Pornokitsch

The Book Smugglers

A Dribble of Ink

Again, I don’t think I’ve read enough, and I don’t feel certain enough of this category to want to nominate other things. (I almost feel like nominating Martin Lewis‘s and Jonathan McCalmont‘s blogs, but… maybe not.)

Best Fancast

I haven’t listened to a single podcast in months. I don’t have time. So I won’t be nominating in this category.

Best Graphic Story

With the exception of Gail Simone’s Batgirl, I haven’t read anything eligible for this category, and thus won’t be nominating.

Hugo Award Nominations 2014. Part I.

I’m attending the 2014 Worldcon, and that means I get to nominate for the Hugo Awards. And, because I’m the kind of shy retiring flower who hesitates to share her opinions, I’m going to tell you all about my nominations!

But I’ll do it in more than one blogpost, because the Hugo Awards have a lot of categories. And one may nominate up to five items in each category.

So, in this first post, let’s talk about:

Best Dramatic Presentation “Long Form” (more than 90 minutes)

Best Dramatic Presentation “Short Form” (less than 90 minutes)

Best Editor Short Form

Best Editor Long Form

Best Professional Artist

Best Fan Writer

Best Fan Artist


Best Dramatic Presentation “Long Form” (more than 90 minutes)

1. Tomb Raider. It’s a brilliant game: it integrates character, narrative, design and gameplay really well. And it plays like good story. Really sodding tense, driven story.

2. Pacific Rim. It is visually amazing, has some solid performances, and is an immense amount of fun.

3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It’s a flawed film, and a flawed adaptation – but on the other hand, the fact that it’s not perfect doesn’t mean that it isn’t really good. And I really like the fact that Katniss is the stoic silent pragmatic one who finds it hard to express emotions, and Peeta is the sensitive one with all the feelings.

I did not encounter anything else this year that I would like to nominate in this category, although all things considered it probably would not actively hurt if Thor: The Dark World made it onto the ballot. I haven’t seen Frozen, or Gravity although I hear they’re good – and none of the other videogames I played approach Tomb Raider‘s commitment to doing good story.

Best Dramatic Presentation “Short Form” (less than 90 minutes)

I did not watch any SFF television from 2013 – certainly nothing that stands out as memorable.

Best Editor Short Form

I don’t follow the short form of the genre scene all that well. I don’t feel I have enough appreciation of who has edited (or acquired) which excellent stuff consistently well to make a nomination.

Except your man Neil Clarke from Clarkesworld. Clarkesworld always seems to publish real gems.

Best Editor Long Form

An industry award, and one that always seems to me to be slightly odd on an award given by popular vote. How does one judge a “Best Editor”? By the strength of the novels they work on? (But I don’t know who edits even half the books I read.) By how much better they make novels that are submitted to them? (But I don’t know what the novels look like before they come from the presses.)

So this is another one I have to leave blank.

Best Professional Artist

1. Julie Dillon. Her work is brilliant – especially her work with Kate Elliott on The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi-Barahal.

2. Todd Lockwood. I like dragons. I especially like his cover art and interior sketches on Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons.

Best Fan Writer

In this category, I am considering only people who are best known for their work as commentators, rather than as writers of fiction. This is a bit limiting, but – the field’s really wide as it is.

1. Abigail Nussbaum. Incisive, detailed, eloquent.

2. Foz Meadows. Frequently, brilliantly, breathtakingly, wittily furious. Incisive when it comes to books and culture alike.

3. Justin Landon. My favourite post of his is actually the one he wrote about cover art at The Booksmugglers. I still think he’s frequently wrongheaded about books, but he’s always interesting.

4. Aishwarya Subramanian doesn’t seem to have written as much this year as was my impression in 2012, but what she has written, particularly at Strange Horizons, is really good.

There are a bunch of other interesting people writing about science fiction: Paul Kincaid, Stefan Raets, Renay, Thea James and Ana Grillo, who write at the Booksmugglers, Jared Shurin… and those are just people I’ve read on a semi-regular basis. I can’t choose between them for slot #5.

Best Fan Artist

What do I know about fan art and its artists? I don’t know enough about the people who qualify for this category and their bodies of work to make an informed decision. Blank again!


And that, dear readers, concludes Part I: The Easy Part.

Linky is still talking about the Hugos

Jonathan McCalmont, How To Fix (Discussion of) The Hugo Awards:

I know full well that the Hugo Awards will never recognise either my tastes or my values and I realise that, even if they did, I would still feel intensely uncomfortable about the idea of belonging to such a large and cohesive social institution as Worldcon (remember what I said about being torn?). However, as alienated as I feel from both the awards and the convention that supports them, I still recognise their potential and want that potential to be within the grasp of as many people as possible. I want a Hugo Award that is socially, politically and culturally inclusive but I feel that the debate, as it is currently conducted, is not exactly helping anyone to bring this future about.

Renay at Ladybusiness, Hugo Thoughts and Friendly Fan Spaces:

I used the word “silence” to discuss how I was feeling, but after a short discussion and after hearing his definition of the word, I revoked my comment and apologized, because while I used “silenced” on the fly, what I meant was “scared, and therefore afraid to speak”. In this context, “scared” is a better term, because it encompasses silence without all the skeevy power dynamic issues. His tweet made me feel scared and disappointed that a professional author I admired was buying into a trend I find problematic. I wasn’t scared of him in particular, but of the aforementioned trend that this specific tweet allowed me to sort of solidify into a position. It summed up a lot of my fears: to speak on these topics, to have feelings, to be disappointed, to say I’m disappointed, to be told my disappointment doesn’t matter unless I’m also doing X or Y, to be called bitter, or be accused of insulting the opinions of other fans. But most of all, it makes me afraid because I worry about having my expression of disappointment turned into an attack on creators, which is the last thing I want to do.

This is my second year formally involved with the Hugos. Although I’m aware that most people passionate and invested in the Hugos don’t intend to frame this space as one that is very rigidly policed, that’s what it looks like to me, personally, as a new member of this specific fandom, on the outskirts. That it might be better for your safety and reputation to just sit down and be quiet.

Paul Kincaid, A dyspeptic view of awards:

More than that, as the field grows so that no-one can possibly be aware of its entirety, so popular becomes at best a partial term. People will vote for what they know in their own cantonment within the federation of sf, because that is the science fiction they know. But they may be totally unaware of what is happening in the next canton; they may have no interest in those happenings; developments in canton B might be the most exciting things that have ever happened in science fiction to the inhabitants of canton B, but to the inhabitants of canton A they are of no relevance whatsoever. To put it another way, the bigger the voter universe the more likely people are going to feel discontented with the award because it is not addressing their own particular part of the sf spectrum.

On top of all that we have the impact of the internet, which has made it easier for people to promote their own work or to log-roll for others. As the nominating window opens for the Hugo Awards in particular (but for other awards as well), places like Facebook and Twitter become almost impossible to navigate because of people proclaiming: this is what I have done that is eligible. What it indicates, of course, is that the field is so diverse that people are terrified that their own work is going to disappear in the mass. What actually results is that those people with a more dominant web presence are consequently more likely to be noticed and hence attract nominations and votes. This is not a hard and fast rule, there are plenty of examples that count both for and against this suggestion, but it is part of the confusion of what is meant by ‘popular’ in a popular vote award.

Maureen Kincaid Speller, Making an Emotional Investment – surviving the announcement of the Hugo Award shortlists:

Given that I now find myself as part of a loose online community that regularly discusses sf, including topics such as the Hugo awards, I’ve found myself thinking about them again. The arguments go back and forth about the point of the Hugos, especially whether they’re a popular vote for the author rather than a recognition of a story’s intrinsic merit. It is probably impossible to provide empirical data to show that, for the novel at least, it is an author-driven rather than text-driven award, but my sense is that this seems to be so, not least because the same authors so often seem to appear on the shortlists.

…On the other hand, I also have the impression that Hugo nominators are drawing on a very limited set of resources for their nominations (except perhaps in the short story category this year, which is just bizarre) which is why the same names seem to resurface so much, especially in the novel. Last year I noticed one or two people flagging up interesting things that ought to be nominated for Hugos, though less so this year (although I have been rather distracted these last few months so many have missed it this year).

On the other hand most activity of this sort seems to be people drawing attention to the eligibility of their own work, again as Jonathan noted, rather than to that of other people. It seems to me that one thing I can at least do is to flag up material I come across, not just before the nomination process closes, but all through the year, to keep the issue firmly in people’s minds. If there is to be a genuine investment in making the Hugos ‘our’ awards, the way so many people seem to think they should be then this also needs to be part of the process. It may not achieve immediate results, and it’s certainly not enough on its own but it might help to push the argument beyond the usual expressions of horror at this time of year. And frankly, that would be welcome.

I don’t self-identify as a fan in SFF spaces, now. I enjoy being part of the conversation, and I enjoy the sense of community that arises in critical discussion of works of SFF literature and visual media. (I’m a participant in fandoms, perhaps.) But the handful of times I’ve attended conventions have been among the most alienating experiences in my life – and I’ve had a whole bunch of alienating experiences.

I’m happy to talk about the books and works shortlisted for any award, juried or popular. And have an opinion on the selection processes – having an opinion is my stock in trade, almost. But the Hugo awards come out of a particular fan culture that is in the main alien to me, so I do not care to engage with the process.

Aliette de Bodard, On political and value neutral:

I remain puzzled by the assumption that some literature can be value-neutral, as if that were ever possible. It is not. Every single piece of literature/art is embedded in the culture/sub-culture that gave rise to it. I’m not doing cultural existentialism here–it’s not *because* something was produced in, say, France, that it will have X and Y and Z; but something produced in France by a French writer will be infused with *some* degree of French cultural background; same for US productions, etc. Every single piece of literature bears the assumptions and the worldview of its creator, who in turn bears the assumptions of the culture they’re part of (and, to some extent, the work bears the assumptions of its reader, who might interpret it through different filters than the creator).

There is no such thing as meaningless fluff, because even the “shallowest” of fluffs carries an implicit value of what makes fluff; of what doesn’t challenge the majority of readers; of what kinds of escapism are efficient and “don’t engage the brain”

Linky has been doing the devil’s work (idle hands)

At Tor.com, Amal El-Mohtar is talking about How To Read Poetry:

Part of me is perpetually astonished that I need to explain to people why they should read poetry. The mainstream perception of poetry in the anglophone West is fundamentally alien to me. Over and over I encounter the notion that poetry is impenetrable, reserved for the ivory tower, that one can’t understand or say anything about it without a literature degree, that it is boring, opaque, and ultimately irrelevant. It seems like every few months someone in a major newspaper blithely wonders whether poetry is dead, or why no one writes Great Poetry anymore. People see poetry as ossified, a relic locked away in textbooks, rattled every now and then to shake out the tired conclusions of droning lecturers who have absorbed their views from the previous set of droning lecturers and so on and on through history.

Cora Buhlert on Hugo Nomination:

Odd. I’d have thought that this year’s Hugo shortlist was pretty much uncontroversial. I mean, we have a healthy representation of women and writers of colour, most of the nominations went to works and writers that are popular or at least talked about, there are very few “What the Fuck?” nominees compared with other years (e.g. last year’s nominees included a filk CD and a Hugo acceptance speech from the previous year). Sure, there still are issues, particularly with certain categories, but there always are issues.

Which is why I was surprised to find that this year’s Hugo slate is apparently considered highly controversial in certain corners of the SFF community.

Everything Is Nice on Clarke Award Data:

Unfortunately, we can’t compare submissions historically but we can compare with the shortlists. So, in the first 10 years of the award 30% of nominees were female, 50% of winners were female and there were three years when there were as many women as men on the shortlist. Whereas in the last 10 years 22% of nominees were female, 20% of winners were female and men made up the majority of the shortlist every years.

So the record of the Arthur C Clarke Award is getting worse. I think this has to reflect the worsening situation for women in British science fiction publishing over this period. The fact that this year’s shortlist is made up entirely of men is a symptom of this and we need to address the root cause.

There’s a lot of talk about Night Shade Books’…thing.

Kameron Hurley, Deal/No Deal.

Tobias Buckell, Night Shade Sale Summary.

Staffer’s Book Review, Night Shade Books: What Went Wrong?

Michael A Stackpole, The Night Shade Books/Skyhorse Publishing Deal.

Phil Foglio, Publish & Perish.

JABerwocky Literary Agent, The Night Shade Writers of America.

Shaun Duke of the Skiffy & Fanty Podcast invited me to join himself, Paul Weimar, and Stina Leicht to kvetch about the Hugos and the Clarkes. So that’s available over there. Apparently I can be counted on to go on, and on, and on at length.

(And also to do some research first.)

What I’d Nominate If I Could Nominate: the Hugo Awards

Nominations for the Hugo Awards close on March 10. I can’t nominate, since I’m not going to splurge on a supporting membership for 2013 – or for LonCon 2014, until I know what my finances will be like through the end of June. But if I could, here’s what I’d nominate:

Best Novel

Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts. It is the kind of epic fantasy I’d always wanted to read without until I read it, actually knowing: vast, brilliant, inventive, inclusive, mythic.

Leah Bobet, Above. Marketed as a Young Adult novel, Above ripped my guts out and put them back in different. Despite its categorisation, it’s a mature, powerful, inventive work.

Kameron Hurley, Rapture. Because the trilogy is one of the best and most provocative pieces of science fiction I’ve read: visceral, weird, inventive, brutal. And Rapture is the best book of the three.

Ben Aaronovitch, Whispers Under Ground. Because I think Aaronovitch is doing interesting things in the urban fantasy genre, and Whispers Under Ground is an excellent book.

Kari Sperring, The Grass-King’s Concubine. I’m pretty certain Sperring’s work will be overlooked. But in all truth it’s one of the most revolutionary approaches to fantasy of the year, and beautifully written.

Best Novella

Aliette de Bodard’s On A Red Station, Drifting. Because hell, wow. Brilliant science fiction, brilliantly written.

Best Novelette

Brit Mandelo, “Finite Canvas.” Tor.com.

Best Short Story

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, “Song of the Body Cartographer.” Philippine Genre Stories, June 2012.

Aliette de Bodard, “Immersion.” Clarkesworld, June 2012.

Best Related Work

Brit Mandelo, We Wuz Pushed: Joanna Russ and Radical Truth-Telling. Aqueduct Press.

Best Graphic Story

No opinion.

Best Dramatic Performance, Long Form.

Dredd – for the same reasons Jonathan McCalmont gives. It’s the best work of science fiction I’ve seen on the screen in forever.

The Hunger Games. It’s a brilliant adaptation of a hard-to-adapt novel, full of strong performances.

Best Dramatic Performance, Short Form

No opinion. Just don’t let Doctor Who win again.

Best Editor, Short Form

No strong opinion, but John Joseph Adams, Joselle Vanderhooft, and Ellen Datlow do interesting things.

Best Editor, Long Form

No opinion: not enough information to form one.

Best Professional Artist

No opinion.

Best Semiprozine

Ideomancer.com, because I think they do good work. But I’m biased here.

Strange Horizons.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone.

I’ve written for all of those – but that correlates pretty well with what I actually read, on a regular basis.

Best Fanzine

The World SF Blog.

SF Mistressworks.

Best Fancast

I only listen to the SF Squeecast and Galactic Suburbia with any regularity. And SF Squeecast won last year…

Best Fan Writer

Requires Hate. A vicious, insightful, and provocative critic.

Aishwarya Subramanian. Always interesting and lucid.

Abigail Nussbaum. Reviews editor at Strange Horizons, and an incredibly insightful critic.

Martin Lewis. Never less than interesting and articulate.

Best Fan Artist

No opinion.

John W. Campbell Award For Best New Writer (Not a Hugo)

I’m not sure of the eligibility for the people I’d like to see in this category. (I suspect a couple of them are past the two-year cut-off or otherwise ineligible?)

Max Gladstone
Karen Lord
Tina Connolly
Samit Basu


I’m informed that work done for pay is permitted for consideration under the Fan Writer category. Not sure that’s entirely fair: I, for one, wouldn’t do most of the work I do unless I was getting paid for it, although I enjoy my work. Not sure that fits with my idea of fan work.