In Which I Ramble On About Hugo Nominations

The nominating period for the Hugo Awards ended on Tuesday. Last year I made a point of posting my initial and final nominating ballots, but this year I’ve been silent here, although I tweeted about the process plenty. It’s too late now to offer recommendations, and I doubt posting my ballot would be all that interesting now. Instead I thought I’d just talk about it generally.

The big difference between this and last year is that I was making nominations in the short fiction categories – novella, novelette, short story. I’ve never read a whole lot of short fiction, but this year I tried to save anything I saw recommended, and I read something like 50 stories in those categories. There were a whole lot more I didn’t get to.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t always have a lot of awareness of what venues have published the stories I’m reading. I save everything to the Pocket app, and read them in there. So Sunday, when I started on my ballot, involved a lot of googling the story titles and a little cut and pasting into Word to find out wordcount. As it turns out, a lot of good stories came from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a couple of which ended up on my ballot.

Picking 5 to go on a ballot is not easy. I had only read 3 novellas, it turned out, so there wasn’t much to do there. I’m mainly wondering if Benjanun Sriduangkaew will make the Novella cut, and what kind of drama will ensue. The rest of my reading was split evenly between short stories and novelettes. There’s a reason these categories have a hard time getting enough nominations on the ballot: there are way too many good stories for everyone to have read, and the choice of what to nominate is very subjective. My ballot changed several times in the last few days of nominations, including the addition of stories I only read on the last day. There are a few I wish I’d found time to read.

I don’t know if it’s possible to predict what will make it onto the short story or novelette ballot. I saw Aliette de Bodard’s The Breath of War mentioned in a few places (one of two Bodard stories on my ballot), and Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Devil in America seemed popular – but who knows what will have come to voters’ attention, and what will fall afoul of the 5% rule. Votes get spread very thin in short fiction. Kelly Link published a story last year, I Can See Right Through You, and that perhaps is the only thing I’d be willing to place a bet on.

Best Novel was a little unusual this time. I did something some people don’t like, and nominated two complete trilogies on my ballot (Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach and Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky). It’s within the rules, and precedent was set by Wheel of Time last year, but I’m still not sure if it was the right choice. Ancillary Sword got on there too, and I’m expecting it’ll make the final ballot. Like last year, I wasn’t entirely confident in my last picks, but everything I put on was good enough. Again, I failed to read everything I’d hoped to in time: I haven’t read Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, or Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem, both seemingly strong contenders.

Beyond the writing categories, my ballot wound up a little thin. Dramatic Presentation: Long Form is too predictable this year. Short Form I failed to really come up with anything for – Legend of Korra is getting buzz, but they haven’t even released season 3 on DVD over here yet, so I’m two seasons behind. I’m sure Doctor Who will be on the ballot as always (“Listen” will be the top pick, and maybe the Christmas special), Game of Thrones will have “The Mountain and the Viper”, and who knows, maybe Agents of SHIELD will make the cut. I couldn’t pick anything, so the only thing I nominated was an episode of Orphan Black.

Graphic Story is the only other category I made a full set of nominations for. Saga is all but guaranteed a spot on the ballot at this point; the rest will be interesting to see, as this was a very good year for comics. Ms Marvel is a title I’d be happy to see make it. Some posts elsewhere have me wondering if Sex Criminals will appear on the shortlist. I don’t know if any Doctor Who related comics were published that could steal a spot. Who fans are nothing if not committed to the cause, and they managed it last year.

Whatever the results, we’ll find out in a few weeks. All I know for certain is that there’ll be drama on social media come Easter weekend.

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