My thoughts on the Hugo Nominations

Leckie_AncillarySword_TPB-300x450

Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword is one of the few bright spots on an otherwise ugly Hugo Awards ballot.

When I was younger and discovering science fiction, one thing I looked towards for guidance was the Hugo Award. I used the award lists to plot my reading and discover what had been judge the best by sci-fi readers. I decided last year when I started this blog that I would take an active role in fandom and bought myself a voting membership for the Hugo Awards. I was excited to participate in an award that had honored so many of my favorite novels. And diligently read, hoping that some of my picks would make the list.

I also looked over the recent nominees – looking for titles that piqued my interest, and I admit I was puzzled by some of the nominees last year.  But I figured fans voted for them, and the cream always rises to the top. As it did, with Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.

I didn’t know that a subset of sci-fi authors were attempting to game the system to promote their own political agenda (or to mock and deny others’ political agenda). As I read more about the “Sad Puppies” I immediately saw the holes in their arguments – claiming it was about parity while using their posts to denounce the politics of the winners, claiming shadow conspiracies where none existed.

And this year, the year I proudly filled out my first ballot in hopes that the best sci-fi I read this year would be nominated, they succeeded in breaking the system.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a case of simple fans voting for their favorite works, this is an organized movement from a specific ideology with the intent of promoting its own agenda, or at least trolling the awards for LULZ.

One of the nominees, a racist, misogynist fucktard living in tax exile, even trolled me because I dared to say that a novel about prostitutes and transgender characters could actually be a fun story.

What a way to make my first foray into participatory fandom…

I’m honestly torn. There are some authors I respect that managed to get onto the Sad Puppy slate, and I’m not sure how I’m going to approach their nominations. And I don’t want to give the impression that everything is crap in this year’s ballot. There are some amazing works, like Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, and G. Willow Wilson’s reinvention of Ms. Marvel. But in general, my reaction towards the nominations veers towards Hannah’s , from the nominated comic Rat Queens. 

Hannah's on the right.

Hannah’s on the right.

I want to be clear, I fully believe everyone, and that includes gamergaters, MRAs, racists and homophobes, have the right to nominate and vote for whatever they want.

But I do take issue both in the way the nominating process was framed as a political struggle for the heart and soul of sci-fi fandom, and frankly because I believe that most of the voters for the Puppy slates did not actually read the works they nominated. I can’t prove that one, but I know how long it took me to read and pick the works I chose, and I find it suspicious that they were able to read a full slate in six weeks.

For a more detailed analysis of the impact of the Sad and Rabid Puppies on the Hugos, I recommend Jason Sanford’s blog. He has several detailed posts that break it down nicely. I won’t link to the frothing rants supporting the Puppies, you can find those on your own.

EDIT Here are a few other links with more background and analysis of the nominations. I am updating these as I find them:

Anyway, here are the nominations, just remember that you can vote for No Award. After I read the awards packet I likely will be.

Best Novel

Best Novella

  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy” by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Best Novelette

  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
  • “Championship B’tok” by Edward M Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)
  • “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)

Best Short Story

  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge magazine, July 2014)
  • “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Best Related Work

  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
  • Wisdom from my Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

Best Graphic Story

  • Ms. Marvel Vol 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)
  • Saga, Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo ((Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow; RatPac-Dune Entertainment; 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, as Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO System A/S, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW; Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves ((HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods” written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC; GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)

Best Editor (Short Form)

  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Best Editor (Long Form)

  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist

  • Julie Dillon
  • Jon Eno
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid

Best Semiprozine

  • Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Bursztynski
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief

Best Fanzine

  • Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steve Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris and Helen Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent SF Online edited by Dave Truesdale

Best Fancast

  • Adventures in SF Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman & Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer

  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson

Best Fan Artist

  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

  • Wesley Chu *
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English *
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric. S. Raymond

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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19 Responses to My thoughts on the Hugo Nominations

  1. There’s been a political struggle (again!) in genre fandom for years now, and often explicitly framed as such (eg regarding the SFWA controversy a few years back). The only difference now is that the other side is fighting back, and being more organised about it (naturally – minorities always have to be more disciplined to be heard; it’s a privilege of the majority to be natural and disorganised, just as amateurism in sport was an affectation of the rich). So it’s one thing to complain about the way they’re approaching voting (though nothing in the rules says that you have to avoid voting in ways that give your favourites the best chance), but I find the political outrage over their political outrage over the other side’s political outrage (etc) rather disingenuous. You don’t think terms like “racist misogynist fucktard” and “gamergaters, MRAs, racists and homophobes” is mocking and denying THEIR political agenda!?

    There is of course a valid issue about people voting without having read what they’re voting for. But I think anyone who talks to Hugo voters knows that that’s been going on for… well, probably for ever.

    Like

    • Oh, I don’t deny I’m mocking their agenda. Just like they mocked Elizabeth Bear and myself with the 100s of comments about my review. But I have talked to a few nominees, and I’ve read their online posts regarding the nominations, and I haven’t seen anything with the scope of the Sad Puppy slate. If the “Scalzi/Kowal” contingent, for lack of a better term, were as organized as Torgersen and Correia are claiming, they would not have been able to game it so easily.
      I agree there isn’t anything against the rules in what they did, but it does fly in the face of spirit of the awards, and my research has shown no evidence of such widespread gaming of the system – this isn’t just Seanan McGuire’s fans getting her on the ballot for everything, or Wheel of Time fans getting that nominated, this is virtually the entire nominating slate being determined by what appears to be about 250 people.
      I don’t know what the solution will be, but this doesn’t bode well for the future of the award, because I do not want to see it devolve into simple opposing voting blocs, and I fear that is what’s going to happen.

      Like

      • “But they started it!” is rarely an appealing line of defence for bullying.

        I’m not sure why it’s against the spirit of the rules to want your favourites to win, and to vote in such a way that they do (or at least ‘win’ nomination). That seems to me to be the point of having a vote.

        Party systems are merely reflections of the interface between an electoral system and a system of social cleavages.
        If people on both ‘sides’ insist on there being two discrete and non-overlapping ‘sides’, with those on the other side considered ‘fucktards’ whose votes are in some way illegitimate, then there will be opposing voting blocs. Blaming one side for that is like blaming water for flowing into the hole you just helped dig: voting will flow to represent the reality of preferences. Both sides are digging the hole, and blaming the other side while digging faster and faster will not actually improve the situation. Only understanding and mutual respect can do that – and yes, that DOES require respecting people you don’t think are respectful (because they won’t respect you either until you are).

        Of course, having the nominations rely on bloc voting (I mean the voting system – the system is technically known as ‘bloc voting’, precisely because voting blocs are all but inevitable and the system is designed to favour the most organised bloc) is INSANE. If they used STV or something instead, this problem would not have arisen. It is not created by the Sad Puppies: they are flowing into the hole that the Hugo rules have dug. Yelling at SPs will do nothing; yelling at the Worldcon people to adopt a sane voting system would eliminate the problem entirely.

        They should use STV for nomination, and then either STV again (ie AV/IRV) for the winner (which they currently do) or perhaps Borda Count or something.

        Like

      • Who am I bullying, the racist who sent hundreds of his followers to my website then sat back and laughed about it?
        Again, if these voters were genuinely voting for their favorites then fair play, but I do not believe that happened. I can’t prove it though.
        And I do think there needs to be some changes at WorldCon, although I don’t know what those changes would be – perhaps increasing the nominees and decreasing the number of nominations one person can make, thus ensuring a wider ballot with less collusion? I dunno. There are some genuinely interesting works buried in the puppies slate, and there is also one author who decided to take 3/5ths of the nominations in one category (something that to me appears kind of a dick move – and also a way to guarantee you won’t win) .
        We’ll see how this plays out.

        Like

  2. Rabindranauth says:

    I can imagine what’s going on on Twitter. Thank god I ditched my account there. This year’s Hugo slate just reinforces my decision to distance myself from online fandom and focus on the reason I started blogging in the first place; finding and discussing good books.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My problem is that at my heart I’m a journalist, and I’m opinionated. As much as I enjoy discussing books, I also enjoy ferreting out stories and interviewing interesting people. So I’m looking for this shit, and I kind of get off on writing about it. We’ll see what comes up in discussion with Mary Robinette Kowal in a few weeks when she passes through.
    And yeah, Twitter is blowing up over this, or at least my corner of Twitter. Probably hasn’t even registered in the mainstream at all.

    Like

  4. So I think my biggest takeaway is that I need to read more short fiction. I’m sure a lot of voters didn’t feel qualified to nominate due to not having read enough, and not having a handy list provided for them of works the should nominate.

    Like

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  6. raventracks says:

    Michael, there are some nominees who were not contacted by these people – at all. We, at Andromeda Spaceways, had never even HEARD of them before last Friday. Now, we’re in damage control. We publish a great magazine and have launched some careers of people who have been shortlisted in Hugos, Nebulas and World Fantasy Awards and now, for months, there are going to be people who will think “no smoke without fire.” We will be tainted with this, win or not. What would you do if it was you?

    Like

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  8. Ravi says:

    On the subject of nominating things you haven’t read here’s a quote from an update on one of the blog posts promoting Sad Puppies 3 ( http://monsterhunternation.com/2015/01/26/sad-puppies-3-the-ensaddening/ ):

    “Hello to the GamerGate readers who’re stopping by because of Nero’s plug. To clarify, normally all supporting members get a packet of ebooks consisting of all of the nominated works, so they can read them before judging. So the membership is $40, but you normally get way more than $40 worth of reading material (and if we get our way, it won’t all suck!).”

    Put aside the explicit courting of GamerGate for a minute. Note instead that they’re being asked to buy memberships because they’ll get more than their investment in reading material and it “won’t all suck” if the Sad Puppies get their way. Except… if they’re reading everything they nominate, why would anyone voting the Sad Puppies slate think that any Sad Puppies nominee counts towards their $40 worth of reading material?

    Now there will be edge cases. People who borrowed what they read and now want their own. People who will buy memberships and deliberately not nominate, but will read for and vote on the award itself. But let’s be real: This is an argument designed to persuade people sympathetic to the Sad Puppies to vote the slate without reading it made by one of the most prominent figures in the movement. That may not be a smoking gun, but it is at least strong circumstantial evidence.

    Like

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