Tag Archives: worldcon

2017 – Looking Forward

As Hugo Award season begins with the opening of nominations, I’m thinking about my plans for the year ahead – which include attending Worldcon for the second time (after Loncon3 in 2014), where I’ll get to see the Hugos given out first-hand.

I don’t travel much, but 2016 was a bigger year for me than usual – I spent a week in Norway, I attended Nine Worlds Geekfest in London (which was a really good con, that I wish I’d managed to write something about here), and I took my usual trip to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. In 2017 things are looking similar – I’ll be heading to Scandinavia again, this time to attend Worldcon 75 in Helsinki – unfortunately that doesn’t leave me much time for sightseeing, but I’m going to hang around an extra couple of nights to see the city. I’ll be going back to Nine Worlds, because it really was that good last year. And I’ll probably be going to Edinburgh yet again.

Of course, there’s one issue with these plans: They’re all in August. That is going to be one long and expensive month, which is why I’m not 100% certain about the Edinburgh Fringe this year. The rest of my year will be uneventful, I expect. The first few months of 2017 I’ll be trying, as usual, to get as much Hugo-eligible novel reading done as I can in time for nominations (nominating for the Hugos is a big deal if you care about the results, by the way – in the past categories have been swept by a small handful of voters, though this year there are new rules in place to help with that), which I’m further behind after my shorter-than-usual 2016 reading list.

As for the rest of the year, well. I’ll keep reading, keep gaming, keep watching great films and TV, and maybe even get around to writing about some of it here. More often than last year, at least.

My Hugo Award Nominations, 2016

Today is the last day for submitting Hugo Award nominations, and I’ve been working on finalising my ballot. Below, you’ll find all the works and people I’ve nominated, plus some other bits where there were close calls. I’m making this post mostly as a record for myself of the stuff from 2015 that I liked enough to nominate.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the works I’ve nominated, I believe everything in the Short Story and Novelette categories is freely available online, as is one of the novellas.

Best Novel
– The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu
– Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
– Uprooted, Naomi Novik
– The Fifth Season, N K Jemisin
– Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace

This was tough to winnow down to 5 nominations. Also in the running were:
– Black Wolves, Kate Elliott
– Radiance, Catherynne M Valente

Best Novella
– Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
– Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Kai Ashante Wilson
– The New Mother, Eugene Fischer

Technically, Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is above the length requirements for this category at 43k words, but the rules have some allowance for works that are close to the limits and fit the category better.

Best Novelette
– The Oiran’s Song, Isabel Yap
– Ballroom Blitz, Veronica Schanoes

This was a difficult category not because there were a lot of things to choose from, but because I looked at the list of short fiction I’d liked from 2015 and found only one novelette on that list. There’s a surprisingly small amount of fiction published at this length. I managed to catch up and read the Isabel Yap story today, which was recommended on a few other people’s lists, and it immediately went onto my ballot.

Best Short Story
– The Shape of My Name, Nino Cipri
– Madeleine, Amal El-Mohtar
– The Half-Dark Promise, Malon Edwards
– Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight, Aliette de Bodard
– Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, Alyssa Wong

There are a bunch of other short stories I wanted to read, but I never made time to catch up on all the links I have saved. These five, however, are all deserving of their spot on the ballot, so I don’t feel bad about not seeing all the other options. Also under consideration were:
– Elephants and Corpses, Kameron Hurley
– The Language of Knives, Haralambi Markov
– Planet Lion, Catherynne M Valente

Best Related Work
SFF in Conversation: Foz Meadows – Thoughts on Fanfiction

I don’t keep up with a lot of stuff that fits this category, but I thought this essay by Foz Meadows on fanfiction was excellent, a very in depth exploration of the subject.

Best Graphic Story
– The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 1
– The Wicked + The Divine vol 2
– Bitch Planet vol 1
– Saga vol 5
– Nimona

There are always lots of good comics. Some that didn’t make my ballot this time:
– Ms. Marvel vols 3-4
– Rat Queens vol 2
– ODY-C vol 1

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
– Mad Max: Fury Road
– Star Wars: The Force Awakens
– Marvel’s Jessica Jones
– Sense8
– Ex Machina

Fury Road all the way. Please don’t lose this to Star Wars. (The others are also good, though I think I’m less excited about Ex Machina.)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
– “Cut Man”, Marvel’s Daredevil
– “AKA Sin Bin”, Marvel’s Jessica Jones
– “What Is Human?”, Sense8
– “4,722 Hours”, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I’m not all that enthused on this list. They’re decent episodes, but a lot of the TV I’m watching these days works best as single long works.

Best Fan Writer
– Foz Meadows
– Abigail Nussbaum

I don’t keep up with a lot of fan writers, but these two I do are consistently good.

Campbell Award for Best New Writer
– Alyssa Wong
– Sunil Patel
– Isabel Yap

I’ve not read a whole lot of work by these three, but what I have has been strong.

The following categories were left blank, because I don’t really know what to do with them:
Best Editor (Long Form)
Best Editor (Short Form)
Best Semiprozine
Best Fanzine
Best Fancast
Best Fan Artist

Hugo Award Results 2015

The Hugo Award winners were announced in the middle of the night (from my perspective, at least), and it looks like the anti-slate ballots won out. No Award prevailed in the all-Puppy categories, and Puppy nominees lost even in Dramatic Presentation: Short Form, where I’d expected Game of Thrones to take another award. I guess that episode being on the slates was just enough to tip the balance in favour of Orphan Black.

There’s only one results I have much of a disagreement with, as I don’t think Laura J. Mixon’s report on Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s history merited a Best Fan Writer award, but other than that the results are about as good as they could’ve been. (I also gave my reasoning in a previous post as to why I voted No Award above Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s novelette, but I’m more okay with that win.)

The detailed voting breakdowns were also released, letting us see exactly how the votes fell, and also the numbers on all the nominating ballots. There were almost 6000 total ballots cast for the awards, and from my first glance it looks like nearly 3000 people were No Awarding the Puppy slates in the major categories. By contrast, the Puppies swept the nominations with around 300 nominating ballots – most non-slate nominees got less than 100 votes. I see the gap between voting and nomination numbers as a big problem with the Hugos – while the voters on the final ballot tend to pick quality in the end, the works they’re choosing from are put on the shortlist by a relatively tiny minority, and it is incredibly easy to steal a category. In short fiction, the Puppies could have swept with only a third of the ballots they got.

The Puppy controversy got a lot of people to sign up to vote in the final awards this year, and I’m very interested now to see what happens to the nominations for next year. I suspect a lot of people don’t bother because they feel like they haven’t read enough; I’d encourage anyone who can to nominate works they enjoyed anyway. It’s easier to get a nominating membership than a voting one – you only have to be a member of one Worldcon to get nominating rights for three years (you can nominate the year before and the year after your membership); you have to buy membership every year to vote.

*

In other, more exciting news (for me, anyway), Helsinki won the vote to host Worldcon 75 in 2017! I intend to attend this one, my second ever Worldcon after Loncon3. I’m happy to see another European Worldcon not just because I can attend, but also because the Worldcons tend to spend the majority of years in the U.S., which is great for American fans (and yes, they remain the majority of Worldcon attendees), but not very good for the “world” part of Worldcon. Next year the convention is in America for the 5th time in 6 years, and the bids for 2018 are all American so far – a win for the main alternative, Washington D.C., most likely would have meant 8 U.S. Worldcons in a decade.

So, congratulations to the Helsinki in 2017 bid, I look forward to visiting Finland in a couple of years.

How I Voted on the Hugos

Here’s how my final ballot looks, with a few comments on my decision making.

Best Novel
1. Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie
2. The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison
3. The Three-Body Problem – Liu Cixin (trans. Ken Liu)

Personal taste making a lot of difference here. A lot of people have praised the Three-Body Problem highly, but it just didn’t quite do it for me.

Best Novella
1. No Award

Best Novelette
1. No Award
2. The Day the World Turned Upside Down – Thomas Olde Heuvelt

This was an odd one for me. I read Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s story, and while it wasn’t bad, I just couldn’t say it was as good as or better than the works I nominated for this category. If I had read it prior to nominating, I don’t think I would have considered it. So it goes under No Award.

Best Short Story
1. No Award

Best Related Work
1. No Award

Best Graphic Story
1. Sex Criminals vol. 1 – Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
2. Ms. Marvel vol. 1 – G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona & Jake Wyatt
3. Rat Queens vol. 1 – Kurtis J. Weibe & Roc Upchurch
4. Saga vol. 3 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
5. No Award

The best category on the ballot. This was a tough call, as all four of the above are great. I think my personal hype for Saga has died off a bit, so ultimately after a little thought I placed it below the other three. Ms. Marvel is one of the best titles coming out from the “big two” publishers right now, and Rat Queens is a lot of fun, but I had to give the edge to the excellent and hilarious Sex Criminals.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Edge of Tomorrow
4. Interstellar

Another category that was tough to call. Guardians got the top because it’s one of the only films I’ve enjoyed so much I went back to see it a second time. (Bring on next year, when I’ll be championing Mad Max: Fury Road all the way.)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
1. Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”
2. Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”

This is more a nod to the show Orphan Black than the episode itself, which maybe contradicts my voting strategy in other places. I nominated the penultimate episode, and thought the finale was a bit dumb. Oh well.

Best Semiprozine
1. Beneath Ceaseless Skies
2. Lightspeed Magazine
3. Strange Horizons

I don’t understand why this category exists, when “Best Prozine” doesn’t. Anyway! Three fiction venues I’ve read a helluva lot of good stories from in the past year.

Best Fan Writer
1. No Award

Best Professional Editor (Long and Short Form), Best Professional Artist, Best Fan Artist, Best Fanzine, Best Fancast, John W. Campbell Award
I did not vote in these categories, generally due to not being familiar with the nominees.

Some thoughts on the Sad Puppy Hugos

I wasn’t intending to write about the Hugo Award controversy directly on this blog, but I hit upon something this morning that led me into a brief twitter rant, and decided I had something to say after all.

Whatever is being said about the politics of the sides involved, whatever the accusations being thrown around; regardless of my own distaste for many of the nominees, and regardless of the well known fact that Vox Day, 2014 Sad Puppy nominee and creator of the Rabid Puppy slate, is a racist, sexist bigot, the one fact that remains important in this whole mess is that the Sad Puppy campaign stole the Hugo Awards nomination process.

This really became clear to me when I was once again reading defences of the Sad Puppy slate that talked about how they were open, they asked for suggestions, they created a list more diverse than their previous ones, that they wanted to create a slate based on meritocracy… It’s been in my mind the last couple of days that if they really were seeking more democracy and meritocracy in the Hugos, all they had to do was encourage their followers to nominate. This defender of the Sad Puppies was literally describing the purpose of the Hugo voting process itself. Instead, what the Puppies did was to hold their own nomination process, pick their own ballot, and encourage their followers to vote the slate as curated by themselves. Aware as they were of how few nominations it takes to get onto the ballot, they created a situation where the nomination process for the Hugo Awards was, at least in part, taken out of the hands of the WSFS and given to Brad Torgersen and Vox Day.

I should emphasise that nothing they did was against the rules. I can also believe that Torgersen and the others involved in the Sad Puppies did not anticipate just how skewed the final ballot would look; they did not actually list a full slate of 5 works in each category. What complicated things there is that Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies slate piggybacked on their own, filling in the gaps with works from Day’s own publishing house, and seemingly encouraging a large number of people from outside the usual Hugo voting fandom to take part in order to stick it to “SJWs” in fandom. It’s not clear to me whether there was any real connection between Torgersen and Day’s slates, or if Day simply copied their list.

The fact remains, however, that the Sad Puppies gamed the nomination process – they knew very well how few nominations it takes to reach the ballot. An organised campaign of voting has a huge advantage when all the other votes are uncoordinated.

And that brings me to a second point, which is that those involved in the Sad Puppies slate will often justify their campaign by claiming that this is something that already happens, that people have been campaigning (often they’ll bring up “backdoor deals”) for certain works to make the ballot, and that the more diverse Hugo Awards ballots of recent years is nothing to do with quality and all about these campaigns. It is true that the short fiction categories are notorious for being a broad field with low numbers of nominations and, in the Short Story category particularly, often struggling to place 5 works on the ballot because of the rule that nominees must receive at least 5% of the total nominations – in other words, it doesn’t take many votes to get in. But the very fact that it is so easy for a campaign like the Sad Puppies to flood these categories demonstrates that no such coordination on that scale is being done by other groups. The reason they were successful is precisely because other voters are uncoordinated, their votes spread out based on their own tastes. By succeeding on this scale, I’d argue they’ve proven their own arguments false.

What they’ve proven is that it is possible to steal the Hugo nomination process. They’ve also made it clear that they were the only ones trying to do so.

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.

The Hugo Awards 2014

So the Hugo Awards were handed out on Sunday, and I was there for the ceremony. Despite some of the controversy about the shortlist – which I’ve spoken about before but won’t go into now – the results were pretty pleasing.

Ancillary Justice continued its clean sweep of the major awards – it has now won Hugo, Clarke, Nebula, BSFA, Locus, and Kitschie Awards, was shortlisted for the Philip K Dick award, and made the Tiptree Award Honors List. It’s pretty much the most successful novel ever published in the genre in terms of award wins. And there’s a sequel out soon, so expect to see that making a pretty big splash.

I was very happy to see John Chu and Mary Robinette Kowal take home awards for their stories, but I was a little more surprised by the Stross win – Equoid was a good story, but in my mind the category was between Cat Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White and Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages’ Wakulla Springs, and the panelists on Friday’s discussion of the short fiction ballot at Loncon3 had suggested the same. Looking at the full voting figures, it turns out Wakulla Springs wasn’t even close.

Kameron Hurley was a big success this year, taking home Best Fan Writer and Best Related Work for her essay “We ave Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”. That essay may have also played a part in the victory of Aiden Moher’s A Dribble of Ink in the Best Fanzine category. As I said back in my post about my votes, I had been very uncertain of what the “best” work was in the Related Work category, because it’s so hard to compare the different things; but Hurley’s work is one I can get behind winning the award.

Going through the full statistics is one of the more interesting parts of the Hugo Awards announcements; it’s always enlightening to see the actual numbers behind the results. Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form was always going to draw my eye, as I like to spot where the Doctor Who votes go as each entry is eliminated. “The Name of the Doctor”, among the worst episodes (that nevertheless made it onto the ballot), received the fewest votes for 1st place and ultimately ranked 5th. Interesting to note that of the 83 who ranked it 1st, 50 ranked “The Day of the Doctor” 2nd, and 6 listed no other preference after this one episode. Most of the votes for “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot” similarly went to “The Day of the Doctor” or “An Adventure in Space and Time” when it was eliminated. The key here, though, is that it looks like almost as many people ranked Game of Thrones below their first choice Doctor Who item; that and the 2nd place votes of half the Orphan Black fans kept “The Red Wedding” in the lead.

The nomination details can be pretty interesting too; not only can you see what almost made it (The Shining Girls, Locke & Key, and Joey Hi-Fi were very close to the ballot in their respective categories), you also get to see just how low the bar is for nomination. While it takes about 100 nominations or more to get onto Best Novel, the Short Story that went on to win the award had only 43 nominations. All but one of the Best Graphic Story nominations received less than 40 noms (Saga was miles ahead with 164). And fully half of the Dramatic Presentation, Short Form list received less than 50 nominations. (The really awful Doctor Who Christmas special, “The Time of the Doctor”, was itself only 3 nominations short of the ballot, at 35.)

And looking at these numbers, I actually feel encouraged. Not because it’s a good thing they’re low, but because it means that the things that got onto the ballot that maybe weren’t very good, well, they actually weren’t that popular in the first place. It takes surprisingly little to get something on the shortlist, but once on there, it’s quality that tends to win out, as the wins for Ancillary Justice and “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere” show. So I find myself wanting to keep taking part, and to encourage others to do so. I want to be one of those numbers, to bring the numbers required upward, and in so doing maybe to help make what’s on the ballot better reflect what’s good in the genre*.

I have nominating rights to next year’s Hugos, as a member of Loncon3. I might decide to buy a supporting membership to Sasquan, so that I can vote on the awards and also for Helsinki to host in 2017. Whatever I decide, I will be taking part on some level next year.

* I realise I sound like I’m trying to prescribe what other people should like, here. I don’t intend to fault people for enjoying what they enjoy; I just think it’s possible, for example, to like Doctor Who while acknowledging that it’s pretty often badly written and not on the same level as other eligible works. I enjoy watching Doctor Who; I just don’t think it’s great television.