Home » Color My Finger Blue! I Voted for the Hugo!

Color My Finger Blue! I Voted for the Hugo!

logo1I have voted for the Hugos for the first time in my life.

For those of my friends who aren’t geeks, the Hugo is a fan voted award (think ‘People’s Choice Award’) given to the best works in science fiction and fantasy for the year. Given that the works are nominated and voted on by any fan willing to cough up $40 for a membership, it would be more accurate to say that the Hugo is given to the most popular works, but we’ll leave that discussion for another time.

Right now, I’m going to talk about the works I voted for, and why; I’ll also share why I didn’t vote for some books. One quick note before I start; the Hugo voting scheme includes something called ‘No Award.’ The purpose of the ‘No Award’ is to give voters the opportunity to actively vote against works that they do not believe are worthy of the award, by whatever criteria they choose to use. In my case, I’m going strictly by quality of the work based on how much I liked it and measured against the truly classic works of science fiction and fantasy. Does it rise to the level of ‘Dune,’ or ‘Stranger in a Strange Land,’ or ‘I have No Mouth and I Must Scream.’ These are works that set the Hugo bar where it should be, almost unattainably high. A Hugo winner should be able to stand the test of time; it should be a great story, told well, and have a certain amount of staying power. So I use ‘No Award’ in a category as soon as the level of work falls below that mark.

Second note, I’m not going to rank all the works in order of my ballot. I’ll name my first place, and mention the others, along with a brief note of why they didn’t make it to number one. And in the two instances where I used ‘No Award,’ I’ll discuss why.

So, let’s get on with it.

Best Novel

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is a character that develops with each story, and that’s what sets him apart from most other urban fantasy heroes. Even better, Butcher develops his supporting characters with the same attention to detail, allowing them to grow right along with Harry.  Despite the number of books in the series, you never get the impression that the series is formulaic because Butcher lets the characters and the plot drive the tale.  Yes, there’s going to be monsters and a major battle. But that’s not what the books are about. They’re about friendship, loyalty, integrity, honor, and courage, not to mention a little faith on the side.

I put Skin Game at the top of my list, not just because of the body of work that went before, but on it’s own merits as well. Butcher started the series as a competent writer; he has grown to be a master of his craft and it shows in this book.

The Dark Between the Stars is every bit as good, but my personal preference was for Skin Game. The Goblin Emperor was an entertaining read, but I found very little depth to it. As for The Three Body Problem, I had a huge problem with one of the main sequences in the book. I just didn’t buy that a woman who had experienced the harsh reality of the Cultural Revolution in China would decide to bring in another race to ‘save us from ourselves’ when all evidence she had pointed to that race being just as aggressive and authoritarian as the worst of the Reds. It just didn’t make sense.

This is one of two categories where I used No Award, in this case placing it ahead of Ancillary Sword. It just wasn’t good enough for a Hugo. Yes, the previous novel won, but apparently, Leckie suffered from a sophomore slump with this one.

Best Novella

One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright

Sometimes, putting childish things away is not a good thing. We lose that sense of wonder, and the ability to believe in the fantastic. John C. Wright reminds us that even though we must grow old, we don’t have to grow up. At the same time, he shows us that an adult who sees with a mature perspective, but has the faith of a child can accomplish great things, including guiding the next generation of children. What is so great about this story is Wright does this without lecturing, without hectoring, and in the guise of a fairy tale.

Wright had two more stories nominated, and both of them were good, but One Bright Star stood out for me. “The Plural of Helen of Troy” came a close second, particularly due to its unique structure. I admired the skill needed to tell a story in reverse. Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman was a good read, but a bit too predictable. “Flow,” by Arlan Andrews was interesting, and I really liked the world building, but too open ended for me; I didn’t feel a sense of resolution.

Best Novelette

The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale by Rajnar Vaja

It was a close call between this story and “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium,” by Gary Rinehart. I went with “Triple Sun” out of personal preference; this story was just a bit more fun to read. Both stories were strong and I’ll be happy to see either of them win. The remainder of stories in this category were flawed, some more than others. “The Journeyman: In the House of Stone” by Michael F Flynn was a good read, but there was nothing to elevate it above that. The other two stories in this category escape falling below No Award, but just barely.

Best Short Story

Totaled by Kary English

This story was maybe my easiest choice out of all the categories; it packs an emotional wallop that blew me away. Head and shoulders above the rest, which, considering that there were no slouches in this category, is saying something. John C Wright’s “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” and Steven Diamond’s “A Single Samurai” were both worthy contenders in this category.

Best Related Work

Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright

Mr. Wright’s essay, “John C Wright’s Patented One-Session Lesson in the Mechanics of Fiction” taught me more about writing fiction than I learned in 4 years of high school and two years of college. It was clear, easy to follow, and made perfect sense. This single article made me want to read the rest of the book.

“Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts and “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside were both excellent reads and worthy of their nominations. Wisdom From My Internet by Michael Z Williams is an odd duck in this category. Ecerpts from Williams’ blog, it’s certainly a related work, but it doesn’t carry the weight of the other entries in this category. However, it is a blast to read!

Best Graphic Story

Saga Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

This was the toughest category for me.  I went with Saga for one main reason. When I was done, I wanted more. Even though it started in the middle of the story, leading to a fairly steep learning curve, the story caught me up and carried me along. The artwork was good, and unlike some of the other entries, I never struggled to figure out which character was involved in the action. Rat Queens was a fairly close second. I found Ms. Marvel to show flashes of adequacy, but it felt manipulative rather than groundbreaking. I wanted to like Sex Criminals. The first section conveyed the loneliness and isolation of a teen first discovering their sexuality in a powerful way. Unfortunately, the book abandoned depth for edginess, and devolved into a craptastic mess.

Best Drama Long Form

Interstellar

When I came out of the theater with my wife after seeing this movie, I said to her “If Stanley Kubrick had a heart, this is the movie he would have made instead of 2001.” It wasn’t perfect; but it was certainly good enough for the Hugo. Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy were fun to watch, and there was some depth to the stories, but neither was deep enough to merit serious discussion.

Best Drama Short Form

The Flash:Pilot

This category was pretty easy as well. I ranked the shows in the order that I liked them and The Flash came out on top followed by Grimm. At one point Grimm had the edge, but it has devolved into too much soap opera. The nominated episode, “Once We Were Gods” is good overall but suffers from the soap factor. “Will the plucky police officer not go crazy? Will Adelind escape the Royals with her baby? Will Rosalee and Monroe ever get married?  Tune in next week!  Oh, there’s a mummified vesen to deal with.”

This category represents my second use of No Award, dropping Game of Thrones. Quite frankly, I detest the books and so have not watched more than one or two episodes of the series. GRRM glorifies the worst aspects of human nature and I don’t buy into that.

Best Editor Short Form

Jennifer Brozek

I sampled stories from both the included anthologies and found them to be high quality, entertaining reads. Brozek has a good eye for what makes a story work, and for knowing how to assemble them in a way that flows throughout the anthology. Mike Resnic placed highly as well, based on his work on Galaxy’s Edge. He has a knack for getting the best out of established authors, and finding and nurturing new talent like my pick for Best Short Story, Kary English. My only other selection was Vox Day. Say what you want about the man; he’s published some of the best short fiction and short non fiction on the market today.

Best Editor Long Form

Toni Weisskopf

She publishes Larry Correia AND Lois McMaster Bujold.

Best Pro Artist

Kirk DouPonce

My selection here was very straightforward. Looking at each author’s work, which book would I be most likely to buy based purely on the cover.

Best SemiPro Zine

No votes since I don’t regularly read any of the nominated zines. (Not No Award. Just no selections made.)

Best Fan Zine

The Revenge of Hump Day by Tim Bolgeo

It’s the only one on the list that I read regularly. That’s not enough to vote for it; the combination of humor, newsletter, and science articles is entertaining and informative. And that is enough to cause me to vote for it.

Best Fancast

No votes

Best Fan Writer

Cedar Sanderson

She can be funny, serious, warm, studious, and/or informative. Her blog is always an interesting read.

Best Fan Artist

No votes

Joseph P Campbell Award

Kary English

The rest of the nominees are all worthy of their nominations, but Kary English simply had the best story by far.

So, there you have it; my ballot. I didn’t go into a lot of detail for the rankings because this really was about my opinion of the top of each category.

 

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