Monthly Archives: July 2015

Voting for the Hugos

I’m saving my final Hugo ballot here as a reminder for myself of how I voted and a handy collection of links to all my separate posts about the finalists. What this is not is a call for other voters to vote the same way I did.

Some preliminary remarks:

  • There is a No Award option, and I intend to use it in many categories, either as the first choice or somewhere down the preferential steps. I think that if there’s something on the ballot I feel isn’t good enough to be year’s best in SFF, it should be placed under No Award or left off completely (in that case No Award should be the last thing you vote for).
  • There has been (and there probably will always be) some confusion about how the No Award option actually works when you write something under it and leave something off the whole ballot, and what is the best way to vote under this somewhat wacky (although undoubtedly very fair and robust) tranferable votes system. The details can be discussed at lenght (and Kevin Standlee is the man to go to if that interests you), but the best solution is to always assign a number for all the finalists. That maximizes your influence, even though the order of the last couple of candidates seldom makes a difference.
  • I’m not going to write all Rabid and Sad Puppy nominees below No Award, which would have been the solution that people like Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories, Deirdre Saoirse Moen and countless other big genre names have been advocating. I respect their reasoning but I can’t push myself to do that to Lego Movie, no matter what. I think that the best way to send the anti-slate message is supporting the E Pluribus Hugo rule change. Only attending members can vote for it in the Business Meeting though, so all I can do at the moment is rave about it in the Internet. Which is what I’m doing here.

Best Novel

  1. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  2. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
  3. The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  4. Skin Game by Jim Butcher
  5. No Award
  6. The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson

Ancillary Sword ended slightly ahead of Goblin Emperor due to the intelligent space opera sensawunda. Addison’s novel was a treat as well, even though the passive protagonist seemed to succeed in everything a little too easily. It’s a well-written feel-good book, whereas I — the sinister person that I am — would have wanted to see some feel-bad as well. The Three-Body Problem by Chinese author Cixin Liu was an interesting and enjoyably alien read, but the hard SFnal technical expositions were at times a little too much. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novel Skin Game is in every way adequate but not a memorable book. I don’t mind seeing any of the first four finalists win, but The Dark Between the Stars was too tedious and, frankly, badly-written, in my opinion.

Best Novella

  1. No Award
  2. “Big Boys Don’t Cry” by Tom Kratman
  3. “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr.
  4. “The Plural of Helen of Troy” by John C. Wright
  5. “One Bright Star to Guide Them” by John C. Wright
  6. “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright

It’s a pity I didn’t have the time to write about these monuments to human achievement before the voting deadline, but I may go back and do that.

Best Novelette

  1. No Award
  2. “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt 6/10
  3. “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra 4.5/10
  4. “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart 4/10
  5. “Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner
  6. “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn 1/10

It was a tough call between No Award and Olde Heuvelt, but in the end I didn’t feel like he earns a Hugo only because the rest of the ballot was taken over by mediocre-to-weak Puppy works. There are so much better novelettes out there, even though “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” is superior compared to the other finalists.

“Championship B’tok” post seems to be missing, but that was just another case of a novel excerpt packaged as a novelette. Sheesh, why bother nominating something like that for Hugo?

Best Short Story

  1. No Award
  2. “Totaled” by Kary English 5/10
  3. “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond  3/10
  4. “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli 2.5/10
  5. “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa 2/10
  6. “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright 0/10

Best Related Work

  1. No Award
  2. Letters from Gardner: A Writer’s Odyssey by Lou Antonelli 2/10
  3. “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside 1.5/10
  4. “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts 1.5/10
  5. Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright 0/10
  6. Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson 0/10

This was an awful collection of unrelated and uninteresting texts. In other categories (even the ones where I’m ready to leave the award on the shelf this year), I still feel that I got something out of the reading experience. Not here.

I seem to have contradicted myself when I first described Wisdom from My Internet as “the shittiest unrelated drivel in the history of Hugo Awards” and later Transhuman and Subhuman as “the crappiest Hugo Awards nominee I’ve come across so far”. It’s a close call, but Williamson takes the Worst prize.

Best Graphic Story

  1. Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick 9/10
  2. Saga Volume 3 9/10
  3. Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal 8/10
  4. Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery 5/10
  5. No Award
  6. The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate 4/10

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

  1. Interstellar
  2. The Lego Movie 9/10
  3. Edge of Tomorrow 8/10
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy 7/10
  5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4/10)

I never came around to reviewing Interstellar — a great movie I saw last year and have only vague but extremely fond memories of — but I guess everybody has seen it and has an opinion already, so another Interstellar review is just a waste of web space. I think it’s probably the best science fiction movie of all time.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

  1. Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” 8/10
  2. Doctor Who: “Listen” 8/10
  3. Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” 8/10
  4. Grimm: “Once We Were Gods” 6/10
  5. The Flash: “Pilot” 5/10

This was a terribly close three-way race for the first place, but this time I decided to root for Orphan Black.

Best Editor: Short Form

  1. No Award
  2. Jennifer Brozek
  3. Bryan Thomas Schmidt
  4. Mike Resnick
  5. Vox Day

Too many important names are missing and that’s why I’m voting No Award.

Edmund R. Schubert has withdrawn, so I left him out. Brozek and Schmidt are first here because they had interesting things to say in an interview on Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast. I don’t know much of author Mike Resnick’s editing chops, but I imagine he is not on the ballot because of them but due to what happened with the SFWA Bulletin some time ago.

Best Editor: Long Form

  1. Sheila Gilbert
  2. Anne Sowards
  3. Jim Minz
  4. Toni Weisskopf
  5. No Award
  6. Vox Day

Ranking novel editors feels a bit absurd, but here we go.

Best Professional Artist

  1. Julie Dillon
  2. Nick Greenwood
  3. No Award
  4. Alan Pollack
  5. Carter Reid
  6. Kirk DouPonce

Dillon is last year’s Hugo winner and very good at what she does. Greenwood’s work wasn’t bad.

Best Semiprozine

  1. Lightspeed Magazine
  2. Strange Horizons
  3. Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  4. Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine
  5. Abyss & Apex

All well worth reading, in my opinion. The first three are extremely good and on another day their order could have been different.

Best Fanzine

  1. Journey Planet
  2. Tangent SF Online
  3. Elitist Book Reviews
  4. No Award
  5. The Revenge of Hump Day

Journey Planet is easily the most interesting of these publications. Black Gate would have been able to put up a fight here, but they chose to withdraw because of Puppy-related embarrassment.

Tangent SF Online and The Revenge of Hump Day were probably on the Puppy ballots as a sort of payback for, respectively, the public outcry following Tangent’s umm… let us say fatherly review of the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed and the disinvitation of Tim Bolgeo (the guy behind The Revenge of Hump Day) as a Fan Guest of Honor in Archon after accusations of racism. However, I chose to place Tangent second and well above No Award, because I think all venues in which short SFF fiction is discussed are important.

As far as I can see, Tangent’s short fiction reviews are quite good, even if the editor’s attitudes smell a bit aged. Take a look at their 2014 Recommended Reading List, for example. Tangent lists noteworthy stories in four categories (0, 1, 2 and 3 stars), and I couldn’t resist counting that together all the 14 Puppy finalists get four mentions and one star. In contrast, the five short story nominations I made myself (none of which made the final ballot, obviously) collect three mentions and eight stars. The Tangent seems like a useful resource for finding the sort of fiction I’d enjoy, and I plan to take a look at some of the three-star stories I haven’t read yet.

There was nothing terribly amiss with Elitist Book Reviews either, even though they seem to generally like books that I don’t and I found their practice of discussing recommended age and levels of offensive language, violence and sex amusingly over-protective. You don’t really have to be 16 to be able to read a curse word, do you? However, they’re number three.

Best Fancast

  1. Galactic Suburbia Podcast
  2. Adventures in SciFi Publishing
  3. Tea and Jeopardy
  4. Dungeon Crawlers Radio
  5. No Award
  6. The Sci Phi Show

The Australian Galactic Suburbia Podcast is the most interesting podcast here and I’ve listened to it occasionally since I discovered it last year. I like the opinionated hosts and sheer geek enthusiasm — may they live long and prosper. Adventures in SciFi Publishing is more like an actual radio news program and it covers a lot of ground with different guests. It’s quite professional thing for a fan effort. Other podcasts I don’t have much to say about and I don’t really enjoy listening to that sort of stuff, but I don’t hold that against Tea and Jeopardy or Dungeon Crawlers Radio. The Sci Phi Show is shameless Christian propaganda.

Best Fan Writer

  1. Laura J. Mixon
  2. Jeffro Johnson 6/10
  3. No Award
  4. Cedar Sanderson 3/10
  5. Dave Freer 1.5/10
  6. Amanda S. Green 1/10

I discussed this category in the Mixon post.

Best Fan Artist

  1. Ninni Aalto
  2. Elizabeth Leggett
  3. Steve Stiles
  4. Brad W. Foster
  5. Spring Schoenhuth

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  1. Wesley Chu
  2. No Award
  3. Kary English
  4. Jason Cordova
  5. Rolf Nelson
  6. Eric S. Raymond

Wesley Chu is great author, and the only Campbell-worthy person in this bunch.


Evils Under Dr. Who’s Bed & Wrapping Up the Dramatic Presentation: Short Form Category

Category: Dramatic Presentation / Short Form
Slates: None

The Dr. Who episode “Listen” is a third finalist that I rather like in this category. Well, there’s always a Dr. Who episode that people rather like in this category, if you check the history.

Doctor and Clara time travel between Clara’s messed up date, the end of the universe (where a future descendant of the guy she is dating has stranded) and various locations where there is something frightening hiding under the bed.

It’s a lovely mixture of a TV show for all ages and horror elements that are enough to frighten a fair deal of adults that I know (and to whom I’d like to show this episode to see if it works). Peter Capaldi’s grumpy Scottish Doctor is more to my liking than Matt Smith’s, David Tennant’s and Christopher Eccleston’s takes on the character. Especially Smith and Tennant who have doctored the show for the last ten years were so nice guys that it’s easy to get something interesting and different going on when you focus on the edge that the current Doctor brings to the show.

As a series of one-shots, it’s quite impossible to honestly compare Dr. Who with Orphan Black and Game of Thrones that are a huge, sprawling tales lasting season after season. I liked them all more or less equally, but now that I have to make a decision about the final vote, let’s say Dr. Who takes the second place after Orphan Black.

Score: 8/10

There, that’s a wrap-up of the category:

  1. Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” 8/10
  2. Dr. Who: “Listen” 8/10
  3. Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” 8/10
  4. Grimm: “Once We Were Gods” 6/10
  5. The Flash: “Pilot” 5/10

Once More With Feeling and Gore — Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”

Category: Dramatic Presentation / Short Form
Slates: Rabid Puppies

I watched the Hugo-nominated Game of Thrones episode last year, so my memories of it are a little sketchy.

Game of Thrones is one of those things that makes you incredibly immersed in the storyworld when you are watching it, but afterwards it’s hard to say was it really that important or relevant.* It’s hard to even remember what is it that exactly happened in the series.

Off the top of my head, I can only remember one single event of the last season: the duel between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane which takes place in this episode. It’s a cataclysmic event in the story and I remember how out-of-breath I was afterwards. For me, it worked maybe even better that the Red Wedding of the third season, perhaps because the duel was coming for a long time and the people doing the show know how to build up suspense.

On the other hand, killing off characters is quickly devalued as as means of generating drama in Game of Thrones, because there’s so damn much of it. I just finished the fifth season and watched a mind-numbing atrocity after a mind-numbing atrocity, but none of what happened there really rose to the same level of significance than this and last year’s Hugo-finalist episodes. There’s nothing there that I believe I’m voting for next year, even though I’m sure something will be nominated.

But this one last time I will let myself be excited enough to like Game of Thrones, because it’s a good and ambitious show that is making history, regardless of its shortcomings, and it’s based on a book series that was and is a game changer in heroic fantasy literature. With most fantasy series, I’ve always had the feeling that a healthy dose of gritty realism would make the world more credible, but maybe Song of Ice and Fire and the Game of Thrones TV show are there to prove that there’s such a thing as an overdose.

Score: 8/10

* I think I’m paraphrasing somebody in this sentence. Not sure who.

Nations of Zombies and TV-Heads — Wrapping Up the Graphic Story Category

Two more comics left to review. Let’s start with Zombie Nation.

Category: Graphic Story
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies

Zombie Nation by Carter Reid is a horror-themed gag strip webcomic. The information about what strips are actually included in the Hugo-nominated collection Reduce Reuse Reanimate is nowhere to be found, so I took a look at some random strips that were published last year.

Judging by the reactions I have seen elseweb, many Hugo-voters — especially those unhappy with the Puppies — are giving Zombie Nation the cold shoulder. And now that I checked, Vox Day himself is doing the same thing: he tells on his site that he is going for No Award in the Graphic Story category and has placed Carter Reid last in the Professional Artist category, below the only artist not on his preliminary slate.

Reid is truly out of supporters, it seems, so let me say a few kind words for Zombie Nation. It’s actually not that awful.

Zombie Nation is a gag strip, so you can’t expect an elegant storyline or the sort of a satisfying dramatic arc that’s possible in long form comics. There has to be one joke per strip and you have to deliver it in three or four panels. Gag strips are a hard to do, and amusing gag strips are infinitely harder.

Some jokes make me smile, most did nothing and only few are embarrassingly bad (many are just weird, which is better than bad). Technically, most punchlines are delivered decently, and the rhythm and timing usually work. That is all that I can realistically hope for when reading a gag strip. Zombie Nation is no match for the other comics on the ballot and it shouldn’t be there in the first place, but it is not a bad comic of its kind.

Score: 4/10


Next: Saga Volume 3

Category: Graphic Story
Slates: None

The first volume of the science fantasy series Saga won a Hugo award two years back, and the second volume nearly managed to do the same thing last year. Now we have here the third collection and the third Hugo nomination.

During the summer, I reread the whole series after getting my hands on the nice hardcover omnibus that collects volumes 1-3, and I ended up liking the series even more than I used to. It’s an extraordinarily good comic full of engaging characters, lying cats and weird worlds. Occasionally, the action takes some melodramatic turns, but I can’t help loving it.

It’s hard to put my finger on the reason I like Saga most for, but it may have something to do with the subversive feel or quirky tone of the storytelling. The TV heads and various things that slip on their screens, the virtual reality slash interactive theatre form of entertainment, the protagonists’ baby as an extra narrator and countless other delightful details add to the impression that Saga is saying lots of complex and interesting things in imaginative ways. Even though it’s a war story of sorts and terrible things do happen, the comic manages to stay cheerful and fun. What mad scripting skills Brian K. Vaughan has.

The third volume ties up neatly all the story threads of the first two volumes, and I guess that the series is going to take a new direction now that the protagonists have dealt with all the immediate threats. I’m pretty certain I’ll stay reading.

Score: 9/10


That wraps up the graphic story category:

  1. Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick 9/10
  2. Saga Volume 3 9/10
  3. Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal 8/10
  4. Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery 5/10
  5. No Award
  6. The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate 4/10

Rabid & Sad Factoids — Wrapping Up the Related Work Category

It’s a mystery to me why the Puppy crowd chose to nominate two short pieces of nonfiction, “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts and “Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside.

Category: Related Work
Published in (Roberts): Baen website [part1] [part2]
Published in (Burnside): essay and short story collection Riding the Red Horse, edited by Vox Day and Tom Kratman
Slates: Rabid & Sad Puppies

Why pick a somewhat dry exploration into the scientific method and a physics-heavy account of thermodynamics and military science fiction? They seem to be fine as far as dry explorations and physics-heavy accounts go, but it feels quite weird that suddenly a legion of Hugo nominators pretend that they are enthusiastic about these tedious things.

Here’s an exemplary paragraph by Burnside:

The Space Shuttle Main Engine had an ISp of 470, and was a Rube Goldberg contraption pumping cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen past the engine to regeneratively cool it, running a little bit past the rated design spec. The cheaper to operate, but less efficient Falcon 9 has an estimated ISp of about 290 seconds. NERVA open core nuclear rockets using hydrogen as propellant had ISps of 1200 seconds with a thrust of around 400 milligees. The ion thrusters used by NASA’s probes to Pluto have ISPs of around 10,000 seconds with a thrust of around 4 milligees.

Roberts’s text isn’t even related to SFF, but let’s have a soundbite from that as well for fairness’s sake:

Accidents occur, and scientists are not immune from them. Hopefully, errors are caught in the review process; it has certainly happened to me, and I’ve caught many errors as a reviewer. Too much pressure to publish too often (or simply rushing the process), can lead errors that must later be corrected, either through published retraction, or simply by other lab(s) finding and reporting to differing results. No scientist truly wants to get a result published, and then find out later that the results were not valid due to a decimal point error…

What fun. What rip-roaring, swashbuckling fun.

Score for both: 1.5/10

This wraps up the very disappointing Related Work category that is going to look like this in my final voting ballot:

  1. No Award
  2. Letters from Gardner: A Writer’s Odyssey by Lou Antonelli 2/10
  3. “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside 1.5/10
  4. “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts 1.5/10
  5. Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright 0/10
  6. Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson 0/10

Laura J. Mixon & Wrapping Up the Fan Writer Category

Category: Best Fan Writer
Blogs on: Laura J. Mixon
Slates: None

It took me a while to decide whether I would vote for Laura J. Mixon in the Fan Writer category.

It’s clear that her Requires Hate / Benjanun Sriduangkaew report is an enormous service to the fan community and required a fair deal of hard work. On the other hand, people like Abigail Nussbaum and Kate Nepveau have made a case for voting for No Award and I find some of their reasoning convincing as well (not all of it, though, maybe not even most of it).

On the third hand, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (a post here + comments here), among others, has disagreed with Nussbaum with pretty convincing reasons of her own. Mixon has also written a series of followup posts. On yet another hand, awarding the report with a rocket for Best Related Work would have made more sense than awarding Laura J. Mixon with a rocket for being the Best SFF Fan Writer in 2014 which I don’t necessarily think she is, even though the report itself is valuable.

So, what should someone like me — who is most definitely not member of the underprivileged ethnic/cultural/whatever communities that are most affected by the things the report details — do? Not voting at all and letting others decide would maybe work on another year, but that’s another bad choice now that there are Vox Day’s troll hordes pushing for anti-feminist rant bloggers in this category and I have to register my wish to not give them an award in any case.

After some thought, my ballot looks like this:

  1. Laura J. Mixon
  2. Jeffro Johnson (6/10)
  3. No Award
  4. Cedar Sanderson (3/10)
  5. Dave Freer (1.5/10)
  6. Amanda S. Green (1/10)

Sure enough, Jeffro Johnson seems to be an uncritical sidekick of Vox Day, but I think his work that was included in the Hugo voter packet was reasonably good. That makes him stand apart from all other (save one) Puppy nominees in writing categories, who are going below No Award.

Edit 29/7/2015: Added some links to Mixon’s blog posts that should have been there.

Tired Superhero Shtick — The Flash

Category: Dramatic Presentation / Short Form
Slates: Rabid Puppies & Sad Puppies

Judging by the pilot episode, there’s pretty much nothing noteworthy about The Flash. The TV adaptation of the DC superhero is uninspiring and manages to cram so many tired clichés in the 45 minutes that it’s a feat in and of itself. There were no characters or plot points that I’m interested in enough to watch the second episode.

For some reason, it’s supposedly a well-received and popular series but I really can’t see the charm. For me, it’s the weakest finalist in this category.

Score: 5/10.