Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My 2010 Hugo Ballot

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Just for the curious, here are the works I nominated for the Hugo. There's some overlap with what actually made the ballot, though perhaps not as much as I would prefer.

Below is my ballot, in rank order of how I voted. Brief category commentary follows. I've linked to what reviews I managed to write up.

Best Novel
1. Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest (review)
2. The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
3. Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente (review, sort of)
4. Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer
5. The City & The City, by China Mieville
6. Julian Comstock, by Robert Charles Wilson

I loves me some Cherie Priest. Big fan of Boneshaker and of Priest. I can flip-flop Bacigalupi and Valente's novels and be okay with that decision, too. Both are ambitious novels that didn't quite connect with my reader-brain to get excited by, but they are quality. Palimpsest, in particular, may be more rewarding on a second or third read, which makes me wonder if my vote should have gone the other way. I actually "enjoyed" Wake more than the Bacigalupi or Valente novels, but at the same time, it wasn't as "good" as either. That's more than a bit vague, but it'll do. I think it makes sense. I wish I had read the Mieville novel because I think I would have rated it higher, possibly as high as #2 (Boneshaker is tough to beat). I don't wish I had read Julian Comstock. I've read the original story and am fairly disinterested in an expansion.

Best Novella
1. The God Engines, by John Scalzi (review)
2. The Women of Nell Gwynne's, by Kage Baker (review)
3. "Palimpsest", by Charles Stross
4. "Act One", by Nancy Kress (review)
5. Shambling Towards Hiroshima, by James Morrow (review)
6. "Vishnu at the Cat Circus", by Ian McDonald

If I had to guess, I would say that Kage Baker will win this category. It's a combination of the story being quite good and Baker's passing earlier this year. I just don't think it is as good as what Scalzi did - and The God Engines was Scalzi stretching beyond his familiar writing style and still nailing the landing. Stross surprised me here. I'm not a big fan of his work, and how the prose connects to the storytelling is unremarkable, but Stross's "Palimpsest" (no relation to Valente's) has ideas that really draw the reader in. Alternate history and time travel has been done before, and the possible futures has, too, but it's just so damned interesting and smartly conceived.

Best Novelette
1. "It Takes Two", by Nicola Griffith
2. "Eros, Philia, Agape", by Rachel Swirsky
3. "One of Our Bastards is Missing", by Paul Cornell
4. "The Island", by Peter Watts
5. "Overtime", by Charles Stross
6. "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast", by Eugie Foster

Griffith and Swirsky are far and away ahead of the class here. Nicola Griffith is mostly known as a novelist, but I would very much like to see more short fiction from her. Swirsky is on the cusp of winning a crapload of awards and is one of the best emerging writers working today. The only thing preventing Swirsky from gaining wider recognition is that she has been working exclusively in short fiction - but a Swirsky story is worth seeking out.

Best Short Story
1. "Spar", by Kij Johnson (review)
2. "Bridesicle", by Will McIntosh (review)
3. "Non-Zero Probabilities", by N.K. Jemisin (review)
4. "The Bride of Frankenstein", by Mike Resnick
5. "The Moment", by Lawrence M. Schoen

"Spar" is not the sort of story that one gets excited about and exclaims how much one "loved" it. It's uncomfortable and there is a level of squick involved. But, it is one of the best short stories published in 2009 and it is very, very good. "Bridesicle" doesn't quite hit the mark like "Spar" does, but it is conceptually fascinating and well executed.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
1. Moon
2. Up
3. District 9
4. Star Trek
5. Avatar

Part of me wanted to put Up as #1 based solely on the first ten minutes of the movie. Those ten minutes were good enough to win an Oscar, let alone the entertaining rest of the movie. Squirrel! I thought of this category in the sense of the actual story and storytelling, and not just the visual and visceral responses I had. Avatar was a marvelous experience, but if you actually think about the story - it's kind of weak. Moon is minimalist, but is an outstanding movie with a well-written and well thought out story.

Best Editor, Short Form
1. Jonathan Strahan
2. Ellen Datlow
3. Sheila Williams
4. Gordon Van Gelder
5. Stanley Schmidt

Call this Jonathan Strahan and company. Jonathan Strahan's name on a book is enough for me to take notice and often, buy a copy. Datlow consistently produces quality work. Williams, Van Gelder, and Schmidt? The editors of the Big Three? When you highlight one story or another, they are able to identify some of the best work of the year. But I can do that with a number of other editors who aren't on this ballot, too. When I look at their magazines as a whole, I'm disinterested. They don't publish enough fiction that I want to read. I've subscribed to Asimov's and let it lapse. I've done several trial issues of F&SF and it doesn't work for me. Stanley Schmidt is the one getting a slightly raw deal here, though. I'm not familiar enough with Analog to be able to speak about it, but I also did not want to throw a "No Award" in front of Schmidt.

Best Editor, Long Form
1. Lou Anders
2. Juliet Ulman
3. Liz Gorinsky
4. Ginjer Buchanan
5. Patrick Nielsen Hayden

This was one of the more difficult categories to vote for. Ulman edited some excellent novels in 2009, but Lou Anders IS Pyr and for its size, Pyr is publishing some of the best work year in and year out. 2009 was no exception. Gorinsky's best two or three books for Tor last edged out Ginjer Buchanan's books from Ace. While I would have considered Neilsen Hayden for Editor, Short Form (Tor.com is excellent), if the list I found is at all accurate, most of what he edited in 2009 was paperback reprints of previous Tor hardcovers. It's stuff that he already acquired and published and would have been a stronger list on first publication. PNH is a fine editor (again, love what he's doing with Tor.com's fiction), but this wasn't a Hugo year.

Best Professional Artist
1. Daniel Dos Santos
2. Stephan Martiniere
3. John Picacio
4. Shaun Tan
5. Bob Eggleton

Thanks be to the Hugo Voters Packet for highlighting the 2009 work of each artist. I admire Picacio's work and am always happy to see a new Picacio cover (his work on the Chadbourn editions from Pyr is outstanding), and I think that he is very much due to pick up a Hugo very soon, but I thought (in my uneducated fan perspective) that the 2009 work from Dos Santos and Martiniere was just a touch stronger. The Warbreaker cover from Dos Santos, especially, was a year's highlight.

Best Semiprozine
1. Weird Tales
2. Clarkesworld
3. Interzone
4. Locus
5. Ansible

I like the fiction 'zines. What can I say? Weird Tales and Clarkesworld consistently publishes some of the finest fiction you're likely to find, and if there was a "Best Prozine" category (Editor Short Form, I know), I would honestly put Ann VanderMeer and Neil Clarke above any of the Big Three editors. I probably should have put "No Award" above Ansible.

Best Fan Writer
1. Frederik Pohl
2. James Nicoll
3. No Award

This is the first of the categories for which I wonder if I did the right thing. I'm familiar with the work of Pohl and Nicoll, and I think they are deserving of the slots, but I never familiarized myself with the other three nominees. Are they really worse than a No Award? Probably not, but I didn't feel comfortable ranking them, either.

Best Fanzine
1. File 770
2. StarShipSofa
3. No Award

Here you can repeat much of what I said for Fan Writer, except that the whole concept of a "Fanzine" I think is a touch outdated. I don't know if File 770 still publishes a print edition, but I follow it like a blog. StarShipSofa runs a podcast, and I think that's a perfect example of what the modern fanzine is.

Best Fan Artist
1. Brad W. Foster
2. Dave Howell
3. No Award

Unlike Fan Writer and Fanzine, my vote perfectly reflects how I feel about the nominees. Foster's work is head and shoulders above the other nominees and Howell's design of the Hugo Award base is outstanding. The other three? Honestly, they shouldn't be on the same ballot.


Best Related Work
Best Graphic Story
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
John W. Campbell Award

The Hugo for Short Form aside, these are the categories I semi-regret not voting for (as far as true regret goes for something like this). I'm a big fan of the John W. Campbell Award. I think it's a great way to recognize some of the Up-And-Coming or Newly Arrived talents. Except for maybe a couple of stories, I haven't read these writers. It's a shame, but I can't vote for what I don't know.

Likewise, I think the Best Graphic Story is a wonderful category that I made sure to familiarize myself with enough to nominate - but I've only read Fables: The Dark Ages and it wasn't good enough to actually vote for it blindly. Despite having the Hugo Voters Packet, which includes all of the nominees, I just never got around to reading them. Alas.

8 comments:

SARAH said...

Wow, great post. I really need to read "City and the City." There's a lot on your list I haven't read that I need to get to.

Anastasia said...

I voted today as well. I hadn't read all the works, unfortunately. My biggest question mark was on the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer. I shamefully admit I voted for someone whose work I haven't read yet - Saladin Ahmed. BUT his story was in Clockwork Phoenix, which is reliably awesome, and he just got a trilogy deal from DAW based on that one short story in an anthology that sold maybe 100 copies from an micro-small press. 2nd choice was Felix Gilman, since I liked Thunderer. Rest - ? I wasn't impressed with the sample from Gail Carringer.

Novel: Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente with both arms, pretty much the sole reason I registered to vote this year. Can't believe it was nominated, it's such a weird novel. And yes, it's much better on the 2nd read. City & the City was my 2nd choice. Priest 3rd. Windup Girl was disappointing but ok. I hadn't read the other two novels but I'm familiar with the authors' other works and eh.

Novella: Kress, Kager, Morrow, then the rest. A bit of an anti-vote: I hated the fact that it was an all-male crew in God Engines and the only women we meet are either prostitutes (holy prostitutes!) or in the process of being violently graphically killed. Palimpsest by Stross also would have been a very good story if not for the "the teacher's so hot, I can't hear anything she's saying" in the very beginning which ruined my enjoyment; and I have issues with Stross from other books. (Like Glasshouse, of which L Timmel Duchamp did a withering review on Strange Horizons.)

Novellette: After Novel, this was the easiest category. Rachel Swirsky, omg, totally, all the way. Then Griffith. Then Foster - middling story, intriguing setup but very disappointing and mundane resolution. Then the rest. Is it wrong to be biased against an author based on their previous works? Doesn't matter in this case, b/c I loved Swirksy's story.

Short Story: Bridesicle for #1. It had it all - neat scifi, imaginative, scares, emotional resonance. I near teared up at the end. Schoen is a distinct last place because that was utterly unreadable. And I tried. I regret those 10 minutes of my life.

Best Editor, Long form: Easy! Juliet Ulman, editor of Valente's Palimpsest. Then Liz Gorinsky, who edited Priest's Boneshaker, and a few of Valente's past and future books.

Professional artist: Stephan Martiniere, by a margin. Daniel Dos Santos next, but his drawings are too sexualized.

Fan writer, Fanzine: No award. I don't care, and didn't like any of the submissions (dutifully read all the fan writers) and it's a BS award.

Other stuff, like movies and TV - didn't vote.

Related work: no idea! I promised myself to read up in the next 2 days. I skimmed the works, and the Joanna Russ piece looks very interesting. That, or the Feminist Cabal, if only because it's by Aqueduct Press.

Anastasia said...

I voted today as well. I hadn't read all the works, unfortunately. My biggest question mark was on the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer. I shamefully admit I voted for someone whose work I haven't read yet - Saladin Ahmed. BUT his story was in Clockwork Phoenix, which is reliably awesome, and he just got a trilogy deal from DAW based on that one short story in an anthology that sold maybe 100 copies from an micro-small press. 2nd choice was Felix Gilman, since I liked Thunderer. Rest - ? I wasn't impressed with the sample from Gail Carringer.

Novel: Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente with both arms, pretty much the sole reason I registered to vote this year. Can't believe it was nominated, it's such a weird novel. And yes, it's much better on the 2nd read. City & the City was my 2nd choice. Priest 3rd. Windup Girl was disappointing but ok. I hadn't read the other two novels but I'm familiar with the authors' other works and eh.

Novella: Kress, Kager, Morrow, then the rest. A bit of an anti-vote: I hated the fact that it was an all-male crew in God Engines and the only women we meet are either prostitutes (holy prostitutes!) or in the process of being violently graphically killed. Palimpsest by Stross also would have been a very good story if not for the "the teacher's so hot, I can't hear anything she's saying" in the very beginning which ruined my enjoyment; and I have issues with Stross from other books. (Like Glasshouse, of which L Timmel Duchamp did a withering review on Strange Horizons.)

Novellette: After Novel, this was the easiest category. Rachel Swirsky, omg, totally, all the way. Then Griffith. Then Foster - middling story, intriguing setup but very disappointing and mundane resolution. Then the rest. Is it wrong to be biased against an author based on their previous works? Doesn't matter in this case, b/c I loved Swirksy's story.

Short Story: Bridesicle for #1. It had it all - neat scifi, imaginative, scares, emotional resonance. I near teared up at the end. Schoen is a distinct last place because that was utterly unreadable. And I tried. I regret those 10 minutes of my life.

Best Editor, Long form: Easy! Juliet Ulman, editor of Valente's Palimpsest. Then Liz Gorinsky, who edited Priest's Boneshaker, and a few of Valente's past and future books.

Professional artist: Stephan Martiniere, by a margin. Daniel Dos Santos next, but his drawings are too sexualized.

Fan writer, Fanzine: No award. I don't care, and didn't like any of the submissions (dutifully read all the fan writers) and it's a BS award.

Other stuff, like movies and TV - didn't vote.

Related work: no idea! I promised myself to read up in the next 2 days. I skimmed the works, and the Joanna Russ piece looks very interesting. That, or the Feminist Cabal, if only because it's by Aqueduct Press.

Joe Sherry said...

Stross is a tough sell for me. I enjoy his Laundry novels and occasionally the Merchant Princes, but...yeah. I was surprised I enjoyed his "Palimpsest".

No problem being biased against an author for previous works. I've attempted several McDonald short stories and have struggled with each. Have no interest in pretty much anything he does.

Fanwriter / Fanzine: HEY! I'd love to be nominated for Fanzine or Fan Writer!

Naru Sundar said...

I'm glad Valente is getting some attention, she's a marvellous writer and is original. Both Palimpsest and Mieveille's City impressed me this year both for their originality of ideas and for their prose. I don't remember quotes or lines from either book but I have this deep sense of the lushness of their words, even though the two books are widely different in style. I'll have to check out Boneshaker and Julian Comstock since everyone has it on their lists this year.

Aaron M. Wilson said...

Great list. I'm so behind on material published in the last couple of years. Perhaps, I'll start with yours - after I finish a few other things.

Anonymous said...

"I wish I had read the Mieville novel because I think I would have rated it higher, possibly as high as #2"

I really don't even understand how you can say that with a straight face. Seriously? You don't have any business voting in a category unless you care enough to read all the works in that category. Either read everything or leave it alone. Anything else is intellectual dishonesty.

Joe Sherry said...

"I really don't even understand how you can say that with a straight face. Seriously? You don't have any business voting in a category unless you care enough to read all the works in that category. Either read everything or leave it alone. Anything else is intellectual dishonesty."

Says "anonymous". I think you are wrong (and, well, hiding behind the internet. Did I piss on your favorite book this morning?)

The Hugo Awards website also disagrees with you.

Here were my two realoptions:

1. Vote exactly the way I did. I felt that it would be dishonest for me to place a novel I haven't read higher on the ballot than one that I have. However, in many cases, I felt that the work I haven't read was still stronger than No Award.

2. Rank vote only those which I have read and then drop in a No Award. Do you feel it would be more honest to No Award over the Mieville? I have experience with his work, I feel confident that this book was stronger than No Award and stronger than Julian Comstock.

 
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