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Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Hugo Votes

Back in June, I posted my Hugo Nominees. Suffice to say, almost nothing I nominated made the final ballot. That was disappointing, particularly because what was ultimately nominated hardly represents the best work done in 2011. But, as a Chicon 7 Supporting Member, I have a vote and I used it. Below are the categories I voted in, who I voted for, my predictions, and my justifications. I also include the work I thought should have been nominated (and won).

Best Novel Nominees

Among Others by Jo Walton
A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Deadline by Mira Grant
Embassytown by China Miéville
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

I find China Miéville to be one of the most hit or miss writers in genre today. In The Scar and The City & The City he nailed it. I consider both to be some of the finest work of the 21st century. He's consistently brilliant, but his ambition too often out kicks his execution. I found that to be true in Perdido Street Station, Railsea, and to some degree in Embassytown.

The early parts of Embassytown are a jumble, lacking clarity of language and purpose. They begin to resolve as the novel progresses, coming together in an exceptional ending. In this case, the sum is far greater than the parts. Breaking it down, I see a flawed novel. Compare it to the other nominees though and Embassytown stands alone for its ambition, an awkward nerd making a pass at the cheerleader captain. She eventually says yes, maybe out of pity, maybe out of some genius piece of verbiage. The process is painful, forever ingrained in the young man's head, but despite his troubles remembered for the glorious result--a date.

I admit to not finishing Among Others. The subject matter didn't grab me. I hope to read it one day. Deadline and Leviathan Wakes fall into similar categories for me, entertaining and well written, but lacking in any kind of underlying substance that would separate them. Deadline in particular has no business being on the list, inferior in every way to her previous novel, Feed.

The novel as yet unmentioned, A Dance With Dragons, has a good chance to win this year. Martin's on the tip of every tongue since HBO rolled out Game of Thrones. Additionally, the lack of a Hugo Award for the A Song of Ice and Fire series is a gross oversight that deserves to be corrected at some point. It should have happened with A Storm of Swords ten years ago as the best fantasy novel I've ever read. If his most recent novel, and worst in the series, wins the award this year I'd be perfectly happy with it as a make-up and lifetime achievement award for fantasy's favorite son. Had Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes or Kameron Hurley's Infidel or Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus made the list, I'd probably be more inclined to outrage at a Martin win.

My choice: Embassytown
Predicted Winner: A Dance With Dragons
Should Have Won: The Heroes

Best Short Story Nominees

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu
The Homecoming by Mike Resnick
Movement by Nancy Fulda
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue by John Scalzi

I did a long write-up of my thoughts on the stories in this category earlier this summer. Long story short, I thought the category was much too reliant on cheap emotions (or sap if you prefer) outside of E. Lily Yu's story and what I consider to be a throw away nomination of John Scalzi's April Fool's joke. That said, Movement resonated with me and received my vote. Yu's story, while technically superior, lacked something I couldn't put my finger on. Perhaps it's the lack of character (literally) or an ending that left me a little cold, but it was enough to keep me from voting for it.

None of these stories are anywhere near as good as the three original short stories published this year by Maureen McHugh in her Small Beer Press collection After the Apocalypse. The final story in that collection of the same name was a real achievement and not only deserved to be on the list, but to be recognized as the year's best.

My choice: Movement
Predicted Winner: The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees
Should Have Won: After the Apocalypse (McHugh)

For Best Editor (Long Form)

Lou Anders
Liz Gorinsky
Anne Lesley Groell
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Betsy Wollheim

It seems this category is often a lifetime achievement award as opposed to who did the best work this year. I've been a big proponent of seeing Jeremy Lassen's listed for the editorial direction he's taken Night Shade Books over the last two years. His exclusion is a shame and I worry it has more to do with Night Shade's financial troubles and reputation than their work product. I hope I'm wrong and Lassen will appear in this space next year. 

In the meantime, I think it's time to recognize Betsy Wollheim's work. She's been an icon in genre fiction forever and 2011 was a great year for DAW. I don't think Lou Anders had a particularly good year, and I can't forgive Groell for not editing A Dance With Dragons a little more. I wasn't into Gorinsky's 2011 work, and Hayden is her boss (technically?) who has in year's past removed himself from consideration. He did some great work in 2011, but I had to go with Wollheim.

My choice: Betsy Wollheim
Predicted Winner: Betsy Wollheim
Who Should Have Won: Jeremy Lassen

For Best Professional Artist

Dan dos Santos
Bob Eggleton
Michael Komarck
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio

dos Santos and Eggleton are great artists, but their styles don't connect with me. Picacio has moments of brilliance and then times I don't get it. Martiniere and Kormarck on the other hand consistently catch my eye. Martiniere, more known as a science fiction landscape artist, and Komarck more known for his fantasy figure work, provide a great comparison point. My vote went to Martiniere. His art has such a unique style that I can look at one of his covers and say... that's a Martiniere.

The one glaring oversight is Kekai Kotaki. who is, in my opinion, the best genre artist around. I hope to see him nominated in the future.

My choice: Stephan Martiniere
Predicted Winner: John Picacio
Who Should Have Won: Kekai Kotaki

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Mur Lafferty
Stina Leicht
Karen Lord
Brad R. Torgersen
E. Lily Yu

My biggest complaint, and it's a theme of this year's Hugos (and not Hugos), is who's not on the ballot. Robert Jackson Bennett is passed over for a second time, and T.C. McCarthy and Teresa Frohock, two of my favorite 2011 debuts, are also sitting on the sidelines unrecognized. Generally speaking, this seems a pretty poor year for the Campbell with many of the best debut novelists either not eligible (Kameron Hurley, Doug Hulick, Bradley Beaulieu) or outright evasive about eligibility (Mark Lawrence).

Among the short list, only two have eligible novels -- Leicht and Lord. Lafferty will have a novel out in 2013 (Orbit), well past her continued Campbell eligibility. I know the award includes short fiction, but Yu and Laffery have only one qualifying story. Torgersen has several, now in his second year of eligibility. The take away is that several thousand words are enough to make you the Best New Writer of 2011. I feel like the floor should be a little higher.

As a result, my decision making immediately excluded Lafferty and Yu from consideration despite enjoying both of their qualifying stories. Torgersen's style isn't one that immediately appeals to me, although quite popular among Hugo voters, thus eliminating him.  Between the remaining pair, Leicht, whose Of Blood and Honey would have been a worthy inclusion on the Best Novel ballot, got my vote. Lord, with Redemption in Indigo, is a worthwhile choice and a very close second.

My choice: Stina Leicht
Predicted Winner: Brad R. Torgersen
Who Should Have Won: Robert Jackson Bennett


That's it! I also voted on a few other categories I had personal favorites in, but not enough of an informed opinion to talk about it here. I'd love to hear from my readers about who they voted for, or how I got it wrong. Hope everyone attending WorldCon has a blast. I'm not ruling out a last minute appearance, but it seems unlikely at this point.

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At August 2, 2012 at 10:24 AM , Anonymous Jared the Bitter said...

Per usual, agree with you on most everything. We transferred our WorldCon tickets (and thus our right to vote on the final ballot), but I suspect my ballot would look a lot like yours. (In hindsight, we should've transferred earlier, as no non-Embassytown *anything* we voted for made the final ballot).

I'm sorry that no UK editors made the finalists, but that's only one on a long list of things I regret about the Hugo. Anything besides Embassytown winning Best Novel would be a shame - the other books range from the ok to the downright mediocre.

I have a horrible feeling it'll either go to Jo Walton's fanporn in an "upset" over GRRM's lifetime achievement award (I do agree it is a shame that he's not won one for ASOIAF to date, but that still doesn't make DwD the year's "best" book). I'm also a little disappointed in, well, everyone (myself included) for not making it clear that ZOO CITY was eligible this year.

No Hurley or Bennett is a crying shame, although I'm afraid I'm not familiar with most of the authors on the Campbell list. So I can't weigh in too noisily. (Yet.)

I can't wait to learn which repeat winner picks up another "best zine" trophy!

At August 2, 2012 at 10:44 AM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...

Thanks, Justin.

I feel more comfortable discussing my votes after the results are announced, if at all. I'd hate to hurt any feelings. Not my style.

At August 2, 2012 at 7:58 PM , Anonymous redhead said...

I need to reread Embassytown. I drowned in that book, and never wanted to come up for air. No pun intended, but Mieville speaks my language. maybe upon reread i'll notice the flaws that are some bothersome to a number of reviewers.

Leviathan Wakes was very fun, and I share your thoughts on the Jo Walton. haven't read DWD or Deadline.

At August 6, 2012 at 6:35 PM , Blogger Elfy said...

Only one of my nominations made the ballot, too. I'm with you about The Heroes. I don't know Abercrombie needs to kill to make the list, but he deserves to be there at least. I have to admit that I adored Among Others, but was unable to finish Embassytown, it just didn't connect with me.

At August 11, 2012 at 4:38 AM , Blogger Buniyad Real Estate Services said...

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