Wed
Jul 23 2014 10:30am

Voting the Categories: A Guide to the 2014 Hugo Novelette Finalists

Hugo award nominees 2014 novelette The Hugo ballot is officially open, and the time has come to perform the laborious task of deciding among excellence. And, while much of the attention of the voting community tends to concentrate on the Best Novel finalists, we at Tor.com all felt that this year’s short fiction field was exceptionally strong. I’ve decided to help guide readers through the short story, novelette, and novella finalists in preparation for voting.

This week I discuss the novelette category. While there are a number of very strong candidates on the novelette ballot, the inclusion of one story has made it controversial. I cannot claim that this will be a complete look at the category, as I have not and will not read one of the candidate stories.

Please keep in mind that I am an acquiring editor at Tor.com. While I didn’t acquire any of Tor.com’s Hugo finalists this year, I do possess an inherent bias. I will try to mark that bias as best I can, but you should take my suggestions for what they are.

 

“The Exchange Officers”
Written by Brad Torgersen
Published by Analog

While Torgersen writes a convincing action sequence, “The Exchange Officers” didn’t succeed at engaging me. I didn’t find myself caring particular for the characters or the plot. Perhaps it was the fact that the main characters were projecting into robot bodies that prevented me from feeling the stakes of their situation. I can only recommend that you read this story for yourself, and see if it does more for you than it did for me.

 

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars”
Written by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by Tor.com

The novelette that will not be put down! “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” was a finalist for this category in 2013, but it was disqualified at the last moment due to a peculiarity in the rules. You see, in 2012 “Lady Astronaut” was published as an audiobook anthology. Because it had no print publication, and because that script included stage directions, it was ruled ineligible for the novelette category. Tor.com subsequently gave it an official ebook publication, and it has now found its way back onto the ballot.

While that’s a lot of history to have to deal with, I can say gladly that Mary Robinette Kowal’s quiet but powerful story of an aging astronaut with one last chance at space exploration is more than strong enough to make the ballot twice. Kowal displays an unflagging mastery of her character’s voices, and the conflict her protagonist feels between once more fulfilling her life’s passion and staying with her husband through the final years of his terminal illness is devastating and enduring.

 

“The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”
Written by Ted Chiang
Published by Subterranean Magazine

While this is my first Ted Chiang story (please don’t throw eggs), I’ve long been aware of this titanic figure in the short story scene. Across his fourteen stories he’s received four Nebulas, three Hugos, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Locus awards, and many more. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” is his first story since 2011. In it his main character attempts to write a thinkpiece about an emergent technology that might completely replace organic episodic memory with technological memory, paralleled by a story of the adoption of writing by the Tiv, an ethno-linguistic group in West Africa.

The first time I sat down to read “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling,” I bounced off it. While Ted Chiang’s prose is compelling, I wasn’t in the mood to read the protagonist’s self-satisfied ludditism in regards to this potentially useful technology. Had I read a page or two further, I would have reached the emotional hinge of the story, and been fully captivated. Chiang takes his story in surprising and intriguing directions, while skewering a certain brand of weary-making tech journalism. I’m glad I returned to “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling.” Its journey is well worth taking.

 

“The Waiting Stars”
Written by Aliette de Bodard
Published in The Other Half of the Sky, by Candlemark & Gleam

“The Waiting Stars” has already won the Nebula for Best Novelette, making it a strong successor to “Immersion” her Nebula-winning and Hugo-nominated short story, and On a Red Station Drifting, her Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella. All three works are set in her Xuya universe, an alternate history in which China and the Aztecs become serious imperial powers. “The Waiting Stars” examines the life of Catherine, a young Dai Viet girl who was institutionally raised in a Galactic (Western) orphanage. De Bodarduses her two backgrounds to show a culture clash. While I at first found the Galactic claims on Catherine’s sympathies unmoving, I was surprised and convinced by her reluctance to leave this adoptive prison home.

“The Waiting Stars” is an excellent entry to the Xuya universe. Having seen these cultures in conflict, showing us that neither is a perfect monolith of good or evil, it is easy to want to engage more fully with the world. Aliette de Bodard is establishing herself as a constant presence on award lists.

 

The three stories I most strongly recommend are each excellent of examples of different kinds of stories. I suspect that voters will find themselves voting purely on preference. If you favor science fiction that is still in love with exploring the vastness of space, pitting human concerns against the wonders of the infinite, than you cannot fail to be satisfied by “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.” If you want a gripping space opera battle for a soul caught between two cultures, “The Waiting Stars” is the story for you. If what you prefer in your science fiction is a carefully wrought contemplation on the impact of technology on the human soul, a story that plays effortlessly with memory, language, and culture, then Ted Chiang has once again delivered with “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling.” This is truly a ballot that shows the heady variety of the science fiction genre.


Carl Engle-Laird is an editorial assistant at Tor.com, where he acquires and edits fiction both for the Tor.com Originals program and for Tor.com: The Imprint. You can follow him on Twitter here. If you ask nicely he might even tell you how to find his Brooklyn Nine-Nine podcast.

38 comments
Ralph Feldhake
1. feldhake
"The Lady Astronaut of Mars" has my #1 vote, edging out "The Waiting Stars." Both are very strong stories, but retro-futurism has a special place in my heart.

"The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" is a step below for me, a nice essay but not nearly as coherent a story.

Got fed up with the other two stories and didn't finish them, so they go below "No Award."
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
Here are my Novelette choices:
1. “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal -- I enjoyed The Lady Astronaut of Mars quite a bit. I rather liked the Oz parallel and the writing style was grade A.
2. “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang -- The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling was well done and I enjoyed it although there was, for me, a bit of a feeling of disconnection from the story. I think that may have been on purpose as a subtext to the paralleling of writing and digital memory.
3. “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard-- The Waiting Stars was also nicely done although it didn’t appeal to me quite as much as the previous two.

I did not include either of these on my ballot:
“Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day -- I did not find Opera Vita Aeterna to be well written. The plot manages to both meander and rush. The writing style is clunky and the philosophy trite. This work is not at all at the level I expect from a Hugo candidate.
“The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen-- The Exchange Officers could have shaped up to a decent enough piece of action fluff with some good editing. As it stands, the writing was awkward enough to detract from the story flow.
Michael Grosberg
3. Michael_GR
I guess I had a different reaction to _The Lady Astronaut of Mars_. I didn't like it very much, probably for the same reasons others did. It has an atmosphere of old-timey frontier spirit and nostalgia, while I'm more of a future-oriented type of reader.

...Which is why I loved The Waiting Stars so much. An honest-to-god posthuman space opera story. This is the kind of story I love, and a nice one to read just after Ancillay Justice. I'd like more of that in my SF please!

But my #1 spot is still Chiang's _The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling_. It's not just good SF. It's not just a good character study. It's relevant, and it's important. it sheds light on an aspect of our lives we've taken for granted until now, the ability to forget and reinvent our past, an aspect that will soon be gone from the world. This is the kind of story SF was invented for.

The exchange officers: The evil Hanused their stealthed spaceship to attack the G.I. Joe space station because Obama, and our intrepid heroes (including officer Chesty! who's a female!!) are heroically fending them off (from a thousand miles away using an X-box controller or something). This story rubbed me the wrong way on so many levels, with its low stakes plot, its stupid politics and its bad science.

As for Opera Vita Eterna, I have no idea what Vox Day was getting at. If there's a message or point to the story (except "elves love Jesus too") it escapes me.
GavDoy
4. GavDoy
"...I have not and will not read one of the candidate stories."
I'm confused by the meaning behind this mysterious statement. Oh... wait. Just looked it up. Carry on.
GavDoy
5. bookworm1398
This was the most difficult category for me to rank, a lot of good stuff. And each story was so different in tone - it made it hard to compare.
GavDoy
6. RDNinja
I agree in large part with the author's assessment of most of the stories, but "Truth" failed to grip me. The characters were too passive, and had little in the way of goals or obstacles. The whole piece was just a platform for Chiang's philosophies on memory and technology.

And even though "Opera Vita Aeturnum" was easily the most poorly constructed in terms of prose, I felt engaged with Day's characters in a way that Chiang and Torgerson failed to accomplish. Day's characters felt like real people with real motivations, where Chiang's and Torgerson's were just along for the ride in service to the author's goal (in Chiang's case, in service to his philosophizing, and in Torgerson's case, in service to action scenes).
Alice Arneson
7. Wetlandernw
Carl, I think you (and many other in your company) do yourself a disservice by refusing to read one of the stories; it's also clear that many who did "read" it were biased by their prejudice against the author and did not evaluate it on its own merits.

(Side note: for an award that is supposed to identify "the best SFF has to offer" these awards have become rather hotly politicized... which makes it extremely funny - for a certain definition of the word - when people complain about the popularity of a given work. But that's a whole 'nother essay.)

I found "Opera Vita Aeterna" both interesting and well written. With no previous experience in that world, I found the world-building sufficient for a novelette; while it was clear that there was much more to the world, what was given was enough to provide setting for the story being told.

For anyone with insufficient Latin to manage a rough translation of the title, the main point of the story would be lost; however, with the resources on the web, "insufficient Latin" translates pretty directly to "too lazy to bother." I don't have a lot of patience with that, for some odd reason.

The title begs a question, the story touches it repeatedly from many angles (sometimes obviously and sometimes subtly), and the ending leaves the answer to the individual reader and his beliefs. It's well worth reading, if you can be open-minded enough to read it.

Re: the category as a whole, I was relieved to see that it was much better stuff than the Short Story category. I've got to think hard about what order to put things in for places 3-5, but at least I don't have to put "No Award" on this vote.

ETA: The only author in this category that I'd previously read or been exposed to in any way is Kowal; maybe that helps to have a less biased view? Since no one hardly anyone else on this site seems inclined to evaluate "Opera" on its own merits, there's a different view for you.

FWIW, I agree with the comments that "Truth" was well enough written, but a bit heavy-handed on the philosophizing. "Officers" was enjoyable, but its low stakes (hey, it's only money and enemy lives!) took any real sting out of it. "Stars" and "Lady Astronaut" were both well-written and interesting. In the former case, the conflict between philosophies of life and the failure to communicate set up an interesting scenario. In the latter, a much more internal, personal dilemma, brilliantly written, set up a heart-wrenching decision.

All five are good stuff, and all worth reading. All, IMO, worthy of the short list. No matter which one wins, I won't have any complaints about it.
Steven Halter
8. stevenhalter
I evaluated Opera on its own merits to the best of my ability. I found it to not be well done.
Anyone with some Latin can tell that "Opera Vita Aeterna" isn't particularly well formed. I have seen that according to VD it isn't actually Latin but is rather a mashup of Italian and Latin. If that is the case, then it is a mashup of Italian and incorrectly formed Latin.
But, in any case, the hint is supposed to be something like "the works of an eternal life". The problem that follows, for me, is that the hint doesn't mesh with the story.
Ralph Feldhake
9. feldhake
For the Hugos, I read each work until it wasn't fun anymore; sure, I may miss out on stuff that redeems itself on a full reading, but nobody's paying me to do this (on the contrary, Hugo voters are paying for a Worldcon membership), so I'll do as I please, thank you.

Ironically, the work I quit on for "political" reasons wasn't "Opera Vita Aeterna," (that lost me because I found the prose too turgid and couldn't find any reason to care about the characters or what was happening to them) but rather "The Exchange Officers." "Chinese Communist hordes" = instant exit ramp for me. Red-baiting sci-fi is not my kind of retro, and I make no apologies for voting according to my tastes. If yours differ, please feel free to vote as you like.
GavDoy
10. mutantalbinocrocodile
For the sake of completism, I did force my way, with great pain, through "Opera Vita Aeterna". A certain amount of nervous laughter made this a little easier. Here are some highlights from my reading notes:

1. The philosophy in this story resembles Aristotle. . .only in the PROSE STYLE. Anyone who has read Aristotle will understand why this is a joke.
2. The attempted Latin is painful. It's not just that, as @8 mentions, that the title is an incomprehensible mashup of Latin and Italian. Throughout the story Vox Day only remembers that Latin has case endings about 30% of the time, and with no consistent pattern. That's worse than not using them at all--maybe I could give him the benefit of the doubt and call it language evolution. But at any rate--WHY ON EARTH ARE ELVES SPEAKING LATIN ANYWAY???!!!
3. The story is unbelieveably didactic, to the point of lacking identifiable characters and practically lacking plot.
4. Except in the philosophical parts, the prose has gone way past purple into ultraviolet and beyond.
5. As I found in a worrying number of the political nominees, which I did make myself read, there was an awful lot of stealing. Not intertextuality, which is artistic. . .stealing. Basically this read like Vox Day took bits from the first canto of The Faerie Queene, "Athrabeth Finrod e Andreth", a bad game of D&D, and The Secret of Kells and threw them all together with zero understanding of the artistic merits of any of them, let alone making something new and worthwhile out of that weird stew. It's not even good Christian apologetics. (If you want GOOD Christian apologetics, run over to the retro-Hugo packet and read Out of the Silent Planet.)

Uh, can you tell I REALLY REALLY hated this story? However, the Chiang was extraordinary, wedding a near-future scientific premise to an utterly plausible gut-punch character implication. The de Bodard and Kowal were also excellent, though there was something missing from the Kowal that made me love it less than some readers. Maybe the specificity of the Oz references felt like it was going somewhere but it didn't gel? Maybe just unquantifiable taste?
GavDoy
11. mutantalbinocrocodile
@9, with you on the red-baiting (and anti-intellectualism--why all the snide PhD-baiting??) of "The Exchange Officers", though I did finish it. But on top of those bits of unpleasantness, I just thought it was super boring. O.V.A. was at least SO bad that I kept reading to see if it could really, really be that much of a disaster all the way through. "The Exchange Officers" was more, "Are we there YET???"
Alice Arneson
12. Wetlandernw
Steven @8 - While I'll agree that the phrase isn't good Latin construction (at all!), the entire story, from title to ending, begs the question: What does it mean to "live forever"? The two main characters have vast differences, but their relationship revolves around that question. Depending on the viewpoint of the reader, one or the other succeeded - or maybe both did. Or, for a real cynic, neither.

One of the best things about the story is that the author didn't answer the question, but left it to the reader. Maybe he should have been more blatant about asking the question, or something... but that's the problem I have with some of the other works: they're too blatant. I don't tend to like obvious navel-gazing in my SFF - so whether it's "well done" is always a matter of opinion. Which is why there can be such a range of nominations - or, for that matter, such a wide range of work published under then general heading of SFF. We don't all like the same thing. This is good.

I find it deeply disturbing, though, that for all the noise about "judge each work on its own merits!!!!!!" there are a lot of people who refuse to read something based on their opinion of the author's politics. If you begin to read something and are totally put off by the writing or the content, fine - IMO that's enough reason to quit reading (or in the case of the Hugos, down-vote it). There are a number of Hugo nominees (past and present) and even Hugo winners that I have refused to finish, on the grounds that I don't need that crap in my head.

In terms of general reading, if I know from experience that a particular author's writing style irritates me, I tend to not bother to pick up his or her books. But if I'm going to claim to be a responsible Hugo voter, I think it carries a responsibility to at least give every work a chance, even if that means quitting after the first two pages. And that means, IMO, not refusing to even open a work based on political prejudice. From what I've read, there are a fair number of people who are determined to punish Day for his politics by refusing him a place on their ballot - which, as far as I'm concerned, is far more a perversion of "the spirit of the Hugos" than any of the complaints I've heard about the WoT or the "sad puppy" controversies.
GavDoy
13. RDNinja
@10: I heard the Oz reference inTLAoM was due to the requirement of the anthology that all the stories use the same first line.
Liz Bourke
14. hawkwing-lb
I'm all for "The Waiting Stars," myself.

Regarding politics and works, it may be worth comparing Alice Arneson's point here:
"And that means, IMO, not refusing to even open a work based on political prejudice. From what I've read, there are a fair number of people who are determined to punish Day for his politics by refusing him a place on their ballot - which, as far as I'm concerned, is far more a perversion of "the spirit of the Hugos" than any of the complaints I've heard about the WoT or the "sad puppy" controversies."
to these views, aired back in April:
It's as though it's expected I'll read the work and say, "That story was only a little bit bigoted, and not the complete bigotfest requiring eyeball bleach that I imagined, so let's give him some cookies." This isn't happening. I don't give out baked goods to someone who is toxic about my very existence, on the basis that they were slightly less toxic today. I don't think the bar can actually get lower than that.
But what if the work managed to somehow avoid all that? It's unlikely, but even if that is the case, I'm supposed to pretend I don't know the author is someone who is actively dangerous to me? Who'd be perfectly happy to see me killed? Who is going to write like that in their body of work, even if they managed to avoid it in a short fiction piece they wrote one time?
- Polenth Blake
and
So that we know that a man who has publicly called the shooting of Malala Yousafzi justified can, because he wants to, take up that amount of brain space, of history book space, of people having to deal with him. I'm writing a post involving him right now! Because he made it so I have to think about him when I consider my Hugo nominations, in case I might have forgotten that somebody out there hates me. I've seen people say that he's trolling. He is. He has already successfully trolled. He is hurting people. That is the point. He is wasting people's time. That is the point.

Why, then, should we make his trolling more successful by putting any time and energy into reading his work? He already got a huge chunk of what he wanted. Let's not give him any more.
Or, to sum up: Don't feed the troll. Acting as though his work is on the ballot for reasons having anything to do with its quality, as opposed to its author's ability to mobilize people around his politics, is feeding the troll. Feeding the troll? Does not help. I wouldn't be doing it by writing this post if I hadn't seen basically no mention of the fact, not just that reading VD's story could be harmful to those aware of his hatred towards them, but that some amount of harm has already occurred.
- Rush-that-speaks.

Everybody gets to decide their own limits. It's not "punishing" someone "for their politics" to decide that the odds that you'll get hurt by reading their work outweigh any pleasure or value you might somehow find in their art.

It can be a political decision, yes, but it can also be a decision that your responsibility to take care of yourself outweighs any putative responsibility to such an abstract and conflicted notion as the "spirit" of a set of awards whose values may or may not reflect your own.

tl;dr: The personal is always political, and vice versa, and everybody gets to draw their own lines and limits.
Deana Whitney
15. Braid_Tug
I read them all.
Learned the Vox Day story was nominated because of a strong organized efforts of the guy's fan base. I found the story free of his views, free of women, because it's setting.
But it just seemed an old tired story that I've seen before.
Chaing's story was moving. My first written reaction was "Ouch." In part because I totally understand that type of father/daughter dynamic and can see technology going that direction. But in the end, it's 4th on my list.

Guess I liked Officers more than most. It was just a fun story.

But yes, I had to debate Kowal's & de Bodard's for a while before I picked my #1. I did not know there was more from de Bodard's world, so will look it up now.

@Carl: are you going to be addressing the "Best Related Works" at any point?
Carl Engle-Laird
16. CarlEngle-Laird
@15. I will not be addressing the Best Related Works category. It would be a vast stretch for me to sell myself as any kind of expert in that subject.
Deana Whitney
17. Braid_Tug
@16, so any plans of Tor.com to have someone else address the section?
Or the Graphic Stories?
GavDoy
18. mutantalbinocrocodile
Best Related Works. Now THAT is a hard category this year, with some major apples-oranges issues. But some really rewarding content.
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
For Best related work I had:
1. “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
2. Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It, Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)
3. Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)
4. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image)
5. Writing Excuses Season 8, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson

On a given day, 2-5 could probably change places. As croc@18 says, there's some good content out there and hard to compare. I really liked that particular post of Kameron Hurley's and so it was my clear #1.
Alain Fournier
21. ALF
This one is a no brainer for me I am voting for “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”. The story stayed with me quite a while after I finished reading it. Michael_GR on comment three pretty much nails it.
Next would be The Waiting Stars. I thought the story was very well constructed and gripping. An excellent, concise space opera that wets my appetite for the genre and momentarily satisfies my craving for it. I don't recall reading Aliette de Bodard previously and now I want to seek out everything she has written.
Next would be “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” which I thought was ok. Not sure what I was supposed to make of the OZ reference and the character of Dorothy.
Next no award.
The Exchange Officers felt like someone describing a video game they played. Considering it was an action piece it lack any dramatic tension and from the start the ending felt like it was a foregone conclusion. Not sure why this was nominated in the first place and would be my last place vote.
I was unaware of the controversy surrounding Vox Day or even recognized the name until I read the comments here. So I googled him which led me to the Bleeding Cool article and suddenly the penny dropped. That’s the dude that tried running for the SFFWA presidency against Steven Gould and started a troll war where he slandered John Scalzi. Anyway another name to add to the list of guys which I will avoid supporting financially.
The story I thought was interesting enough although it could have used some editing to shorten it. *spoilers* I did enjoyed the implication that one of the pivotal religious text of the religion address in the story was auhored by a bored, atheist Elf.
Steven Halter
22. stevenhalter
Wetlandernw@12:I didn't really feel that the story did capture the viewpoint of an exceptionally long life span vs a short life span.

hawkwing-lb@14:Exactly. From the privilege of my position, I felt safe enough to undertake reading OVA without worrying about it hurting. This is not a state that is shared and everyone has to draw their own lines.
Alice Arneson
23. Wetlandernw
ALF - it may have been edited by the elf, but it was originally written by Waleran based on their discussions.
Alain Fournier
24. ALF
Thanks for the correction Wetlandernw . I must have misinterpreted the last few pages which makes the story less amusing and interesting for that matter.
GavDoy
25. Matthew Austern
The big problem I had with "The Exchange Officers" wasn't the uninteresting characters, the tired plot, the politics (which I don't share, but which is no clumsier than the politics in some works I do enjoy), or the lack of dramatic tension. It was just the poor use of language on a sentence-by-sentence level. I haven't read Analog much for a while, but I was genuinely surprised to see that this level of writing appeared in a major magazine.
Sean Tabor
26. wingracer
Carl, you ruined my day. I have been waiting to see this catagory just to read what you had to say about the Day and all the stuff surrounding it and all you give me is a will not mention.

I'm not criticising you for it, I completely understand but I was looking forward to it.
GavDoy
27. mutantalbinocrocodile
@20, I loved "We Have Always Fought", but I just don't know that it's such a world-altering piece of criticism that it can be judged better than the anthologies (especially Speculative Fiction 2012, which included many of the same arguments by Hurley but so much more as well). Definitely cemented my vote for Hurley as Best Fan Writer, but I just can't put it at #1, especially given its lack of footnotes and decorative rather than scholarly illustrations (give me pictures of those Viking graves!) in a work of nonfiction criticism which relies on some paradigm-shifting evidence; that stuff needs better footnotes.

I did on the whole find Speculative Fiction 2012 more consistently high quality than Queers Dig Time Lords, which had some exceptional writing but also some padding and repetition (and one or two tasteful but not very insightful sexual fantasies about characters). Given the intensity of the theme of bullying/maturation that runs through the anthology, I wonder if a stronger, more varied collection could have been made, once submissions started coming in, of changing the focus and opening it to at least some submissions looking at Doctor Who and childhood/adolescence/self-actualization from a straight perspective as well? Less catchy title, but perhaps a more consistently powerful book in the end?

No clue how to rate Writing Excuses or Wonderbook. How on Earth do you judge practical advice for writers against literary criticism? (Plus there's the issue that, IMHO, "The Five(ish) Doctors" should have been in here too rather than in Dramatic Short Form, as it's not a speculative short film but a parody in filmic form. Imagine the mess then!)
GavDoy
28. Mimmoth
As it happens, I did read _Opera Vita Aeterna_. I was hoping for another _Eye of Argon_, which I am assured is so bad that it passes out of the back side of badness and emerges solemnly into hilarity.

Alas, OVA is only a masterpiece of boredom. It was never quite boring enough so I could quit and spare myself the rest of the boredom, thus delivering a maximal dose of boredom with a degree of fine-tuning that would suggest intelligent design if I were not well aware that very unlikely things can happen with no magic, and indeed no intelligence, required.

"Elf seeks God for meaningful relationship; never finds him though." It was like _Waiting For Godot_, only less interesting. There is no character worth caring about (unless your sympathy is aroused by someone simply *being* an elf, or simply *being* a priest.) All the action takes place offstage. The promised deep theological insights are one brief exchange on "incorruptible" (never defined) things having to be "eternal" (with no explanation of why that would have to be so, let alone any proof.) The prose is unrelentingly purple, and the Latin, presumably intended to make the world feel real and the author seem learned, is mangled.

I recommend against saying people shouldn't judge it without reading it--their judgement is likely to be kinder if they don't read it than if they do. Also, given that it looks very much as if more Sad Puppies *nominated* OVA than actually *read* it, complaining about people judging things without reading them comes across as the most remarkable double standard.
Steven Halter
29. stevenhalter
mutantalbinocrocodile@27:Best related work is an odd category all right.
GavDoy
30. Difficat
The Related Works category has been a lot of fun, but really, really hard to judge. I'm still enjoying the last few episodes of Writing Excuses, and learning a lot of things along the way. But it was hard to compare that to, say, Queers Dig Time Lords, which I also liked but was so totally different in every way. I don't think there is a bad option in the category, though I found Wonderbook a bit smug for my taste. Gorgeous, though.

I read We Have Always Fought on this site when it was first posted, and was very happy to see it nominated.

@27, I agree about Speculative Fiction being better than We Have Always Fought and Queers Dig Time Lords, even though the latter had an essay by Tanya Huff. Still Speculative Fiction appealed more to me.

Whichever one wins the category, I will nod and say that it deserved it.
Michael Grosberg
31. Michael_GR
FYI, the anthology Kowal's The Lady Astronaut of Mars was written for was an anthology in whcih all the stories cribbed their first sentences from other, more famous works.
Gerd K
32. Kah-thurak
For me, the Novelette category was the most rewarding to read so far. "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" was a beautiful and relevant story which is slightly better from my point of view than “The Waiting Stars”, which I had the feeling would have been even better as a longer story and “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, which was well done, but ignored important aspects of its proposed future technology (privacy mainly).

“Opera Vita Aeterna” was not really bad. It was not really good either though. It is generic fantasy without any special attributes. I dont really care why it was nominated, but it does not warrant an award.

“The Exchange Officers” was the worst of the lot in my opinion. A jingoistic war story with generic characters and senseless action.

Thus I will vote:
"The Lady Astronaut of Mars"
“The Waiting Stars”
“The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”
NO AWARD
“Opera Vita Aeterna”
“The Exchange Officers”
GavDoy
33. Sybylla
If you vote "no award," then you should not include any works below it. The nature of the voting system is that *every* title you include on your ballot has the potential to receive your vote.

If, hypothetically, you loved two of the works on the list and hated the other three, you should vote 1. Work A, 2. Work B, 3. No award. If you continue ranking them (4. Work C, etc.), then if neither work A nor B gets enough votes to win, your vote will be assigned to work C. If you really, really don't want works C, D, or E to get the Hugo, leave them off the ballot entirely.
Steven Halter
34. stevenhalter
Sybylla@33: Yes, good point. I just posted on this over on the general Hugo award post.
Gerd K
35. Kah-thurak
@Sybylla
As far as I understand the voting system, my vote would only count for Opera Vita Aeterna if everything I put above it has allready been discounted (inlcuding the no award option) - and if that was the case I would rather have "Opera" win than "Officers"...
Deana Whitney
36. Braid_Tug
Steven posted a really good explanation on the "Let's talk about the Hugos" list @66.
Don Barkauskas
37. bad_platypus
Sybylla @33: Actually, it's not clear from the Hugo voting page what happens with "short" ballots. If you rank A, B, No Award and leave off C,D,E, is your ballot still counted in the denominator after A, B, and N are eliminated? In other words, does 50% mean of the "50% of votes originally cast" or "50% of currently valid votes." In the real world, the latter is usually the interpretation since "None of the above" is not usually a valid voting option (although it is used in places), and if you use "50% of the original," then short ballots could cause it to be impossible to choose a winner.

Now, if it's "50% of the original," then you are correct that by ranking choices below "No Award" you could cause something to win that wouldn't otherwise. However, although it's probably less likely, it's actually the case that by not ranking them, you could cause something to win that wouldn't otherwise!

Similarly, if it is (as I suspect) "50% of currently valid ballots," then by ranking "No Award" ahead of C,D,E, you've already done almost everything you can. If neither A nor B wins, you've maximized the chances of C,D,E being eliminated via the "No Award" test at the end. But similarly to the other scenario, either ranking or not ranking the other three could cause one of them to win rather than there being "No Award." So it's complicated. See my post at #70 on the "Let's talk about the Hugos" for some cool weirdness that can happen in a preferential voting system.
Ian Gazzotti
38. Atrus
My votes went to The Lady Astronaut of Mars, The Waiting Stars, and Truth.
The first two I loved from start to finish. I liked the idea behind Truth and the writing is good, but I found the message a bit too preachy for my taste.

Exchange officers is "yellow peril in space". If the story was meant to be faux-retro, it definitely copied the wrong elements of old-time SF. If it's meant to be the future from now, why would the Chinese steal in space something that they probably built in the first place?

I didn't read Vox Day because I wouldn't have been able to value the story on its own merits. /s

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