Well. It’s an interesting year for the ballot, isn’t it? I confess I’m rather disappointed to see indications of organised bloc voting in the fiction categories: it strikes me as not entirely in keeping with the spirit of the matter. (It is entirely understandable, even at times inevitable, in anything awarded by popular vote, and yet it still disappoints the idealist in me.)
Yet set the fiction categories aside for the moment, and we see an awards shortlist reflecting a decidedly newer, and in many cases—like the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (which is not, as is constantly repeated, actually a Hugo, despite being voted on during the same process)—a more diverse vision of the SFF community than has often been the case.
I suppose I should mention here that I have the honour to be nominated in the Best Fan Writer category, in a slate that includes Abigail Nussbaum, Foz Meadows, Kameron Hurley, and Mark Oshiro. The only thing I have to say about this slate—apart from the fact that it may be the most international and is certainly the most female in the category’s history—is that these people do excellent work and I find it difficult to believe I’m in their company. To comment further on the category would be inappropriate—but fortunately, I’m not part of any other category,* and can thus inflict my opinions on you with a clear conscience.
*I have an essay in Speculative Fiction 2012, but that’s not quite the same thing.
The John W. Campbell list this year, quite frankly, delights me. I haven’t read anything by Ramez Naam and Wesley Chu (I’ve heard good things about them both, although second-hand opinion indicates that I’d probably enjoy Chu’s work more than Naam’s), but Max Gladstone and Sofia Samatar and Benjanun Sriduangkaew, who has been nominated in her first year of eligibility on the strength of her short fiction? HELL YES. Gladstone’s work is innovative and exciting (and Two Serpents Rise and Full Fathom Five are barefaced challenges to naysayers in the diversity stakes), and Sriduangkaew’s short fiction that I’ve read consistently blows me away. Samatar’s work doesn’t give me the same kind of emotional reaction, but I understand why other people love it: her talent and technical skill is obvious, and on the strength of the last two years, she bids fair to mature into an important, influential voice in the field.
On the Campbell slate as a whole, in fact, Kameron Hurley may have said it best: “Welcome to the fucking future.”
The Best Fancast category is seven names long this year, and it’s an international (albeit Western, Anglophone) list. I don’t listen to any of them regularly, alas, so I’m not competent to comment on them—any more than I can really comment on the Artist categories. (The only thing I know for sure about the Artist categories is that Julie Dillon does AMAZING work, and Picacio has been around for a while.) Likewise, the Best Graphic and the Best Dramatic Short Form: I haven’t read or watched any of the relevant material. I am happy to see Pacific Rim, Frozen, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on the Best Dramatic Long Form list, and I’m looking forward to seeing Gravity when I finally get my hands on a DVD. That makes three films on the list with female protagonists, inarguable female protagonists, and one film with a major female character who isn’t white. This is a development that warms the cockles of my cold, cold heart.
(It’s still not good enough in terms of intersectionality, but neither is Hollywood. Small victories are better than none at all.)
The Best Related Work is filled with a rather gloriously disparate set of nominees, including the first ever blog post, two very different collections, a book, and a podcast. The Best Fanzine has The Book Smugglers in it, whom I regularly read, and Pornokitsch, which I read whenever I have a spare spot of time to catch up. The Fanzine category appears to have switched over to being dominated by blogs, as Journey Planet is the only old-style ’zine appearing this year: in terms of greater accessibility for readers and representing a wider variety of participants in fan culture(s), I’m very happy to see this change.
Not least because the internet is where I personally find connections with the community of discourses that make up the SFF genre.
“The community of discourses” is a natural segue to a discussion of the fiction categories. I’m not well-read in the short fiction field, but it is fairly clear that this year, with Best Short Story excepted and Best Novel as a marginal case, the fiction categories are cleft by very different views of what represents the best in that community of discourses. Best Novella and Best Novelette this year present a snapshot between a neoconservative American perspective on the field, and the competing perspectives of everyone else. (As an Irishwoman, a feminist, and a card-carrying socialist, it probably goes without saying that my views on what is best are deeply unlikely to align with neocon American ones. The personal is always political—and so is fiction.)
I’m very happy to see Six-Gun Snow White and “The Waiting Stars” in their respective categories, however: normally my tastes in short fiction don’t line up with award lists at all.
As for the Best Novel category... Well, regardless of what I think of its inclusion (it is an entire cold buffet set against cheeseboards: perhaps we need a Hugo category for Best Series now?), The Wheel of Time likely has the popular backing to win. I’ve read it, with the exception of A Memory of Light: it is certainly a very interesting work in its ambitions, but for me, its execution leaves something to be desired. As for Larry Correia’s Warbound—I haven’t read it. (I did try to read the first novel in that series, but gave up after twenty pages. I doubt I’ll fare better with #3.)
But I’m extremely happy to see Ancillary Justice make the cut: I think it’s the best novel of the list. While Stross is an excellent writer in general, and Neptune’s Brood is solid old-school Big Idea SF, it doesn’t stick its dismount. On the whole it’s less ambitious, I think, than Ancillary Justice. And Grant’s Parasite is, to my mind, a weaker contender than the previous novel of hers which made the ballot. Ancillary Justice, however, is perhaps my favourite space opera novel to date, and I am especially thrilled to see a debut novel—and one that is engaged in such an interesting conversation about gender, perception, personhood, and colonialism—achieve a place on the Hugo ballot.
The list of the David Gemmell Legend Award finalists was published on the same Saturday as the Hugo Award final ballot, and consequently has been rather overshadowed. The Legend Award finalists are also chosen from a shortlist by popular vote, and I am extremely disappointed with the voters this year.* There is not one female person on that list.
* I voted. Clearly I should have gone back to vote many more times.
Legend Award voters, don’t any of you even read epic fantasy by female authors?