Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Novelette

Thursday, June 18, 2015
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014) 
Championship B’tok by Edward M Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
The Journeyman: In the Stone House by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)
“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
"The Day the World Turned Upside Down", by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)

The John C Wright novelette was found to be ineligible after the ballot was announced, and was replaced by the Heuvelt story.

Unrelated to the actual work, this is one of the few categories on the Hugo ballot which I would like to eliminate. What the heck is a novelette, anyway?  It is for works of fiction between 7500 words and 17,500 words and fits in between "Short Story" and "Novella". If I were revamping the awards, I would increase the upper limit of short story to nearly where the novella is now, lower the bottom limit of novella just a touch and live with two short fiction categories.

But enough of my avoidance of the nominees, let's very briefly look at how I voted. 

Astute readers will note that while I have used No Award for previous categories and left nominees off of the ballot I did not wish to even consider for the Hugo Award, I have never used No Award and still ranked a nominee below it. Until now.  "The Journeyman" was the least interesting, least compelling Novelette nominee and one which I do not feel is strong enough to win the award. However, I do think the craft and writing was good enough that leaving it off of the ballot felt unfair. As such, I am using No Award in the sense that if No Award does not win, The Journeyman might as well win.  In the other instances, I am actively stating that I do not wish a nominee to win at all. It's all about how you use it.

Comparing to previous years, "The Day the World Turned Upside Down" was the better Heuvelt story I've read (this is his third nomination), but I'm just not a fan of his fiction - though I will say that the concept of Earth flipping its gravity was a fascinating one, but he didn't do enough with it, the story was really about a man who simply cannot deal with the fact that he was dumped by his girlfriend and whines about it. I'm simplifying, of course, but while it was better than "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" I wouldn't say that is a ringing endorsement.

The best of the bunch here is Rajnar Vajra's "The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale", though I'm really not sure what the "Golden Age" part of it is all about. Is it a suggestion that the story harkens back to the golden age of science fiction or is it part of a larger Golden Age milieu that Vajra is working in. If the second, I can't find any other Golden Age tales. Regardless, "The Triple Sun" is a story with some space exploration, adventure, sass, and all in all good fun. 

My Vote
1. The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale
2. Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium
3. Championship B'Tok
4. The Day the World Turned Upside Down
5. No Award
6. The Journeyman: In the Stone House

Standard 2015 Hugo Disclaimer:
In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and let my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such.

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote. 


Happy Turtle said...

Revamping the awards to eliminate the Novelette is actually up for consideration this year, along with adding a category for "Saga" - novels in series. You can see the details on the Sasquan New Business page here:

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