Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Belated Hugo Awards rundown

The Hugo Awards are fan-voted recognitions of the best writing, art, and related work in science fiction. As a member of LoneStarCon3, the 71st Annual World Science Fiction Convention held in San Antonio, Texas, over Labor Day Weekend, I was eligible to vote for the 2013 Hugos, and did so. I took notes while reviewing the nominated works, meaning to post about them, but never got around to it. Partly that was because I wanted to go back and read through the categories I hadn't had time for before, but that didn't work out due to the job and life and stuff.

This week, nominations are opening up for the 2014 Hugo Awards, to be presented at LonCon3, i.e. Worldcon in London. I won't be attending that con unless I win the lottery, but I'm considering getting a supporting membership anyway because that will give me access to electronic versions of most of the officially nominated works, which is a great value.

Regardless, I can submit nominations now for the 2014 awards because of my LoneStarCon3 membership. And before I start thinking about that, I want to finally clear away my thoughts about the 2013 Hugos.

First off, I was a bit irritated by how much the Hugo materials assumed knowledge by the voters. It took me a couple of efforts to find the complete list of nominees (here's a list from Tor), and I didn't find any description of criteria to be used in voting until too late, so I just winged it.

I started off looking at the Campbell Award (not a Hugo) nominees for best new writer. However, at least one writer's work was sent only in epub and mobi versions. I don't have an ebook reader, so I couldn't read that, so I decided not to vote in that category. Mur Lafferty ended up winning, and I've enjoyed listening to quite a few of her works in podcast form, so I was happy about that.

Next, I looked at the Best Fan Writer category. Several writers had mildly interesting articles, but I felt that far and away the best was Tansy Rayner Roberts. She had the most compelling articles on the most compelling and timely topics. Here's one of her essays ("Historically authentic sexism in fantasy. Let's unpack that"). She won my vote and the Hugo.

I skipped the Fanzine and Semiprozine categories, since I don't generally read them, but I was happy to vote on Best Fancast, since podcasts are a big part of how I try to keep up with short stories and fan news.
I did not vote for sfsqueecast.com, even though it's one of my favorite podcasts, because the participants are published writers such as Elizabeth Bear and Paul Cornell. They're obviously fans as well as pros, but I couldn't call that a fancast.
One of my other favorites is the SFSignal podcast. I don't listen to every installment, because sometimes they're talking about a book I haven't read yet, and I don't want spoilers, but the discussions tend to be pretty interesting.
Galactic Suburbia didn't interest me, and the Coode Street podcast suffered severe audio problems. I did consider StarShipSofa, which had an interesting article about airships and a nice interview, but I voted for SFSignal as the known (to me) quantity. Having listened later to several other StarShipSofa segments, I'm glad of that.
SFSqueecast won, as it did in 2012. Kudos to the ensemble for removing the podcast from consideration for future Hugos.

Graphic Story:
Locke&Key Vol. 5: Clockworks is an amazing piece of work, bringing a slight note of sympathy to a character who previously was merely hateful, and continuing to deepen the characters we already cared about, and strong art that really enhances the story instead of just illustrating the plot; however, I think a Hugo winner should be able to stand by itself, and I think a newcomer would be pretty confused by this volume alone.
Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia was considerably more entertaining than Grandville Bete Noire, but neither struck me as particularly special.
Saucer Country, Vol. 1: Mexican-American governor of Arizona running for president believes she was abducted by aliens, and sets up a secret team to investigate this threat to national security.  This had some credibility problems, but it did get me involved enough to wonder what would happen.
Saga Vol. 1: Interesting new story (trans-species Romeo & Juliet on the run), occasionally moving panels, nice interplay of art and dialogue. The TV-head species bothers me, since their depiction keeps taking me out of the story.
I don't remember which one I voted for, and I can't seem to find my final ballot. Saga won.

Pro artist:
Vincent Chong and Julie Dillon didn't particularly impress me.
Dan Dos Santos: I dug all these women but two really stood out: Asiatic women with sword and babies on a shore (I really wanted to know what her story was) and Mohawk woman with bullethole in leg, looking angry and determined.
Chris McGrath: Interesting-looking people with detailed, historical-looking backgrounds, from the buddy detectives(?) to the near-future female SWAT-style person to the black woman with a sword and microcircuitry in her arm.
John Picacio: The Creative Fire, woman in jumpsuit/overall with big gun and industrial background, looking tired but tough. I'd love this for my wall. Other illustrations also show quite a variety.
It was hard to choose between the portfolios, but The Creative Fire was my favorite individual piece, so Picacio won my vote. He also won the award.

I had already read Lois McMaster Bujold's "Captain Vorpatril's Alliance," which was fun, but not her best work.
John Scalzi's "Redshirts," as I expected, was a fun ride but pretty lightweight.
Saladin Ahmed's "Throne of the Crescent Moon" had a gripping opening with vivid language, quickly letting us know some of the worldbuilding. The story swept along, continuing with strong characterizations for a range of protagonists, and came to an unexpected yet satisfying conclusion.
Mira Grant's "Blackout" and Kim Stanley Robinson's "2312" failed to open for me, being differently encoded from the others and additionally password-protected. Perhaps I shouldn't have voted in this category, either, but I was irritated by the publishers not trusting the Hugo voters, so I went ahead and voted for Ahmed's book.
Scalzi's "Redshirts" won.

I did write a post back in August about my favorite Short Story, Mono No Aware.
The other nominees were
"Immersion" by Aliette de Bodard: The thought of sinking into the virtual world while e-helpers basically take you over has been written before, but this was very well done; and
"The Mantis Wives" by Kij Johnson: Icky but interesting. Destruction in the name of art, and the lies told about it, and preconceptions.

"On a Red Station, Drifting," by de Bodard. Of station-mind and family, empire and small rebellions, revenge and sacrifice. Thoughtful, poetic in places.
"The Last Stand of the California Browncoats," by Mira Grant was another password-protected PDF that I couldn't read.
"After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall," by Nancy Kress. I was irritated by bad police procedure by the beginning, asking leading questions instead of letting a witness tell a story; I know some police do that, and this is a mathematician rather than an officer, but they let her do it, and this is supposed to be a sympathetic character. But in the After part of the story, I'm interested by Pete's grudging sense of duty and McAllister doing the best she can to keep things going. I find the During part a bit incredible, with the coincidence of all the bad things happening at once, but the ending was pretty satisfying.
"The Stars Do Not Lie," by Jay Lake had quite interesting worldbuilding, fun plot, and a satisfying conclusion.
"The Emperor's Soul," by Brandon Sanderson: I loved the idea of Forgers who rewrite the past of objects to change their present; the magic system itself seemed to depend on a willing suspension of disbelief by the users! It reminded me slightly of David Brin's "The Practice Effect," but better explained and more enjoyable, and also of "The Romulan Way" (things matter). I also loved Shai's wit and boldness, and her commands to herself to Become someone who can deal with this. This won my vote and the Hugo.

Here's a complete list of winners. As you see, I only made it through about half the categories. I didn't buy my membership and tickets until I was sure that the new hire would work out so I could take vacation, and that gave me less than two weeks before nominations closed. It took some dedicated pushing to get myself through as much as I did! As I mentioned before, the supporting membership that allows you to look at Hugo-nominated work is a great deal; I have about a month to decide about LonCon3 before prices go up.


  1. Thanks for all the information. Haven't been keeping up with the latest science-fiction, most recent fiction was rereading William Gibson's 9/11 trilogy, Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. Next s-f may be Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.

    1. Coincidentally, I just read Ancillary Justice this week. I thought it was very interesting, what with the worldbuilding/culture and the group/singular perspectives, but the resolution seemed a bit too convenient. Still worth reading, but for me, it didn't quite live up to the enthralled reviews I had seen.

  2. Pro Artist Dan Dos Santos' cover depicting an Asiatic woman with sword and baby on a shore is likely the one for Jay Lake's Kalimpura, which I read and enjoyed, only realizing partway through that it was #3? in a series. Note that's the author of "The Stars Do Not Lie" you mentioned above. My review of Kalimpura: http://www.librarything.com/review/101154591

    1. Yes, that's it! Thank you! And the book looks interesting.


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