Books. Tea. Cats. Scribbling.

What I’m Voting for in the 2016 Hugo Awards

2015 Hugo Award statuette. Design by Matthew Dockrey and photo by Kevin Standlee.

2015 Hugo Award statuette. Design by Matthew Dockrey and photo by Kevin Standlee.

Today’s the final day to vote for the 2016 Hugo Awards. If you’ve left things to the last minute, like I have, you may be still figuring out which works will get your vote. In case you’re in that boat, here’s a look at what I’m voting for this year, and why — maybe my choices will be helpful to you.

Best Novel

  1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin — As I mentioned when I read and reviewed this book last yearThe Fifth Season blew me away. I’m so glad this one ended up on the ballot. Jemisin’s writing is lyrical and her willingness to put her politics front and centre in her stories is great.
  2. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie — My review of this book will be posted in the near future. In the meantime, I think that, although the conclusion wasn’t as explosive/revelatory as I imagined it would be, Ancillary Mercy contains a very clear thematic throughline. Leckie’s playing a different game here than I expected, and I like it.
  3. No award.

I was right in guessing a while back that Uprooted by Naomi Novik would also be a Best Novel nominee. I’m sure that I would have enjoyed this book, but I didn’t have enough time to source my own copy, and didn’t like the fact that the voters’ packet contained only an excerpt. So I haven’t read it yet, which means that I don’t feel comfortable voting for it.

I HATE when I get excerpts only.

Anyways.

I had no interest in reading the other two nominees, since I’m pretty sure they were Puppy picks. Besides, I’ve never been a big fan of Jim Butcher’s work.

Best Novella

  1. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – I included this on my nominating ballot and I also reviewed it last year. Of all the Best Novella nominees I read, this was the only one that I felt accomplished anything new or different.
  2. No award.

I read a few of the other nominees in this category even though they were Puppy picks. This was because the authors were relatively well-known enough on their own that it seemed unlikely they were there solely because of the Puppies’ political leanings. However, the other choices were rather meh: the protagonist of Penric’s Demon was a Mary Sue living in a generic medieval fantasy setting, Perfect State was a stale Matrix retread with a weak ending, and Slow Bullets started out strong but petered out quickly.

Best Novelette

  1. “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander
  2. “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu
  3. No award.
  4. “Obits” by Stephen King

Brooke Bolander’s work was the only one not supported by the Puppies in this category, and its vicious, gleeful tone is amazing. Although “Folding Beijing” was supported by the Puppies this year, I think this was one of the choices where they were trying to co-opt a story they would ordinarily hate to make a point; I generally have found Liu’s translations to be not my thing, but the ideas in “Folding Beijing” are worthwhile. “Obits”, even though it got Puppy support, has a very interesting premise, but King’s impressions of social media and millennial culture are kind of hackneyed. I didn’t even bother to read the other nominees because they came from Castalia House, a Puppy stronghold.

Best Short Story

  1. No award.
  2. “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer

This was a hard category for me to rank. “Cat Pictures Please” is a cute story, and it’s the only one on this section of the  2016 Hugo Awards ballot that got there on its own merits, rather than as a result of a Puppy slate. However, reading it, it just feels…slight. It’s a cute story with a good sense of humour, but I don’t really think of it as the best/most innovative story of 2015. However, if a story had to win, this one would be good as any other.

Also, while I appreciate Chuck Tingle’s ability to out-troll the Puppies, I’m too much of a prude to take a parody title like “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” seriously. My fingers hurt just typing the title out on the keyboard.

Best Related Work

  1. No award.

I didn’t want to touch any of the nominees in this category with a 10-foot pole.

Best Graphic Story

  1. No award.

I wasn’t very familiar with any of the nominees in this category outside of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Unfortunately, the voters’ packet contained only an excerpt instead of the full Sandman book, so I just avoided the category entirely.

Seriously. If I’m paying $50 USD for the privilege of voting in these awards, I WANT TO READ THE FULL WORKS. I can’t judge the quality of the completed work by the first 20 pages. Why is this so hard to understand? This is particularly galling because the exchange rate between Canadian and US currency is very unequal. In Canadian dollars, I paid approx $65, rather than $50. I don’t want the publishers to half-ass it if I’m paying that much.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Ex Machina
  3. The Martian
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This was one of the toughest categories of the whole thing. The only “meh” nominee was Age of Ultron. Everything else, listed above, was just plain, solid entertainment. Ultimately, I gave Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina the top two spots because MM:FR is just a relentless watch, while Ex Machina is an excellent examination/takedown of tech-bro culture. In a different year, The Martian would have made the top of my ballot easily.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  1. No award.

I generally don’t watch a lot of TV, so I’m woefully under-informed about this category.

Best Editor, Short Form

  1. John Joseph Adams
  2. Neil Clarke
  3. Ellen Datlow

I am nowhere near unbiased here because I’m a slush reader for Lightspeed, John Joseph Adams’ flagship short fiction publication. Neil Clarke and Ellen Datlow have a lot of name recognition too, and for good reason.

Best Editor, Long Form

  1. No award.

This was another category I either didn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole (because of Vox Day) or felt uninformed about (everyone else).

Best Professional Artist

  1. No award.

This was yet another category I didn’t feel informed enough to make a decision about.

Best Semiprozine

  1. Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
  2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  3. Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, A. J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons staff

All three of these magazines produce amazing stuff. If I could give each of them an equal rating on the 2016 Hugo Awards ballot, I would — they are that close. Ultimately, I went with Uncanny in the top spot because they’re the only magazine I’ve actually subscribed to. BCS was my second pick because I want to give them a little bit of notice for just passing the 200-issue mark. Strange Horizons is third because that’s just the way things roll out — I still think their lit-crit book reviews are the most amazing thing ever.

Best Fanzine

  1. File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
  2. No award.

File 770 has played a central role in curating SF/F fan news from across the web, linking to pretty much every post of consequence and providing write-ups really quickly.

Best Fancast

  1. No award.

As with some of the other categories, I’m pleading ignorance here.

Best Fan Writer

  1. Mike Glyer
  2. No award.

This is for Glyer’s work in managing File 770.

Best Fan Artist

  1. No award.

Another category of which I know nothing about the nominees.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  1. Alyssa Wong
  2. Andy Weir

Alyssa Wong’s stories have a richness and darkness to them that I’m in awe of. Her interrogation of cultural identity and willingness to discuss and deconstruct queer narratives is what gets her the top spot in my book. As for Andy Weir, he gets kudos for writing a book (The Martian) that not only became a best-seller and Hollywood hit, but also celebrates the value of science. We need more books that just make science fun!

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3 Comments

  1. Chris

    While only the first half of Uprooted was in the. voter package, the rest could be accessed by writing the publisher. I did and finished it. It really is fantastic in so many ways, it absolutely deserves to be read in full. And I specifically include its politics in that. I found choosing between it and The Fifth Season for Best Novel to be painful. I settled on The Fifth Season as #1, Uprooted as #2, on tone. Uprooted was ultimately more hopeful, less apocalyptic. That makes it a more pleasant, less harrowing read, but also less in tune with the spirit of 2015/2016. Nihilism v. indigenism. Those really are the two poles of my own politics and, while I rationally endorse indigenism over nihilism, this past and current year really cry out for a nihilist response.

    After that, things get easier. Binti and Penric’s Demon, which actually strike me as being very similar stories, if told in completely different styles, settings and characters: this is what solidarity means. No award for short story, related work, editor long form, fancast, fan writer, and fan artist. Strange Horizon and BCS for semiprozine. I think I’m going with Lady Business, File 770, and No Award for fanzine. And, yes, Alyssa Wong, Andy Weir, No Award for the Campbell. I’ve blanked (rather than No-Awarded) some categories where I don’t feel able to make a choice, based on what I’ve read/seen. I may still put in a vote on editor short form and on novelette (in the latter case, mostly to make sure No Award beats anything by Castalia House).

    Thanks for sharing, Christina!

  2. David Goldfarb

    You do realize that not one penny of that 50 USD actually goes to the publishers, right? (Or for that matter the creators.) Their only incentive not to “half-ass it” is the advertising value — which I don’t think matters a whole lot to Warner Brothers and DC Comics.

    Up until about a decade ago, there wasn’t any packet, period: all you got for your money was the right to nominate and vote. It was up to you as a voter to track down the nominees yourself. There’s really no inherent reason why you should get anything more than that even now.

  3. Hi Christina,

    I am next year’s Hugo administrator, and I’m gratified to see your engagement and analysis with this year’s awards! I just wanted to clarify the situation with the $50 fee and the voter packet. They are not in fact directly related. $50 gets you a Supporting Membership of this year’s Worldcon, and therefore a vote in the Hugos (and nomination rights, but not a vote, next year).

    The packet is actually quite a recent development, in the last ten years; until then you paid your Membership fee and bought the books etc yourself. It is entirely voluntary, and while some publishers and authors decide that it’s better to include entire works, others don’t (and it’s unclear whether this makes much difference to the chances of winning). The publishers don’t see any of the $50 supporting membership fee. So it’s not really fair to blame them for not delivering value for it. You paid for your vote; the voter packet is an extra frill.

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