Sunday, February 28, 2010

The 2010 Hugo Awards: My Draft Hugo Ballot

The deadline for submitting Hugo nominations is still two weeks away, but following in Niall's footsteps I thought I'd put my preliminary choices up as a way of encouraging others to give them a try and maybe nominate them as well, or to try to talk me out of them and into others.  I'm not quite done with my reading yet: there are several novellas I still want to get to, and in the best related book category my reading has been as paltry as usual, though I'm hoping to manage Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr.'s The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction and Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James's A Short History of Fantasy before the nominating deadline.  For other perspectives, you might want to take a look at ballots by Joe Sherry, Martin Lewis (1,2,3), Rich Horton, and Rachel Swirsky (1,2,3, though as these are Nebula nominations not all of her choices are eligible for the Hugo).

Best novel:
Of these, I suspect that the Miéville is a lock, and wouldn't be surprised if the Bacigalupi gets a nomination as well.  The Whitfield, about which I hope to write a bit later this week, strikes me as a longer shot, which is a shame because it's one of the more enjoyable and inventive books I've read in some time, and should especially appeal to the contingent of Hugo voters who are crossover historical fiction fans.  I'm debating replacing either Palimpsest of Yellow Blue Tibia with Stephen Baxter's Flood, but I think that I will end up sticking with those two (somewhat amusingly, given Valente's recent comments on Roberts's novel).  I liked Flood, but in a chilly sort of way, and as I am planning to nominate Baxter in the novella category I feel OK about giving it a miss here.

Best novella:
  • "To Kiss the Granite Choir" by Michael Anthony Ashley (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Oct 8-22, 2009)
  • "Earth II" by Stephen Baxter (Asimov's, July 2009)
I've read very few prospective nominees in this category, hence the short ballot.  In the next two weeks I'm hoping to read another Baxter novella, "Starfall," as well "Sublimation Angels" (PDF) by Jason Sanford, "Wives" (PDF) by Paul Haines, "Horn" by Peter M. Ball, and "The Language of Dying" by Sarah Pinborough.  I'd like to read Ian McDonald's "Vishnu at the Cat Circus," from Cyberabad Days, but I doubt I'll be able to get my hands on it before the deadline.

Best novelette:

Novelette is the category in which one usually makes painful concessions, but startlingly I found myself falling short of five beloved nominees this year.  I've written already about the Keeble, Griffith and Watts stories, but I'd be open to replace Eugie Foster's Nebula-nominated novelette, or the Kosmatka/Poore.  Both are impressive but not quite on the level of the other three.  One prospective replacement is "The Armies of Elfland" by Eileen Gunn and Michael Swanwick, from the April/May 2009 Asimov's (Gunn and Swanwick seem to have hit on a winning formula--their collaboration in Tor.com, "Zeppelin City," was also quite successful).  Another is "Kreisler's Automata" by Matthew David Surridge, from Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Best short story:
In this category, meanwhile, I'm pretty sure I have my final ballot.  I've written about the Stueart story already, and will have some more about the Jemisin and McIntosh next week in Strange Horizons.  Cashier had two interesting stories in Beneath Ceaseless Skies in 2009, but in the end I decided I liked "Hangman," a nicely done Western fantasy, the best of the two.  "Blue" is a darkly funny story about two astronauts on a dying ship, the last surviving members of their crew, who spend as much time sniping at each other as they do trying to keep from being swallowed by a black hole.  The personalities of the two characters are perfectly sketched.

Some thoughts on short fiction venues: Strange Horizons isn't as well-represented here as I would have liked, but for overall quality and breadth of genres and topics it remains the best magazine in the field, on- or offline.  Beneath Ceaseless Skies is nipping at its heels, though it's aided by its narrower focus on epic and secondary world fantasy.  I found Fantasy Magazine extremely variable--some of its stories were excellent, some barely publishable--and Clarkesworld, though a great deal more professional, not usually to my taste.  Tor.com is the big disappointment of the year.  I don't know whether the site reads slush or accepts unsolicited submissions, but there must be good money in publishing there, and yet the stories one offer are depressingly samey--literally so, as the site published its second Charles Stross Laundry story in two years in 2009, and two stories in a single year by Harry Turtledove, both about has-been baseball players in the first half of the 20th century.  So far its only real excuse for existing is having also published two Rachel Swirsky stories.  In print, Fantasy & Science Fiction did not have a good year.  The magazine switched to a bi-monthly format this year, and also, in celebration of its 60th anniversary, set aside a portion of each issue in order to reprint some of its editors' favorite stories.  A nice idea in theory, but in practice these stories tended to overshadow the already reduced original offerings.  Asimov's, meanwhile, improved on me quite a bit in 2009, with quite a few stories on my ballot and even more importantly, much higher overall quality.

Best dramatic presentation, long form:
  • Moon
  • Up
This is the category I'm least interested in because the ballot is already so easy to guess.  Avatar, Star Trek, District 9 and Coraline are locks.  The fifth slot could go to either Moon, Up, or Torchwood: Children of Earth.  None of which would be terrible choices, though I'd obviously prefer Moon, but as I'm already a little depressed at having to choose between them in order to make room for Star Trek and Avatar, I'm choosing to think about the category as little as possible.

Best dramatic presentation, short form:

Lots of people I know are nominating Dollhouse's "Epitaph One," but even before my crushing disappointment with the show's second season, and particularly with "Epitaph Two: The Return," I wasn't planning to do this--taken on its own it simply wasn't a very good hour of television.  Not that most of these are much better.  The Sarah Connor finale was magnificent and I loved the Middleman table read, but the other three are compromise choices.  It simply wasn't a very good year for individual TV episodes.

Campbell award:
  • J.M. McDermott
  • Felix Gilman
  • Erin Cashier
  • Alice Sola Kim
  • Patrick Ness

7 comments:

Alexander said...

Interesting. So, it appears you liked Whitfield's second novel much more than you did her first. Be interesting to see your eventual extended thoughts on that. I'm also surprised that your first four picks are the same as mine, I'd have thought our respective judgments on 2009 books would be further apart, and in particular you seemed chillier on the Bacigalupi (while speculating you might nominate it regardless). The only variation is I went with The Red Tree in fifth slot (other close contenders were Ark and Julian Comstock). I liked Robert's latest, but didn't view it as nearly top tier.

Thanks for mentioning the Middleman table read, I hadn't realized that was Youtube available yet. Which means I haven't seen it, although if it's anywhere near as good as the first twelve episodes it should have a lock on my ballot.

Similar sense of desperation and futility with the dramatic presentation, really. Although having not seen Sarah Connor Chronicles or Ashes to Ashes I'd see the list of even acceptable options as being even more stunted. The 2009 Doctor Who specials were such duds that I can't really get up enthusiasm for a 'Well, it's better than Lost getting in' vote. I'd feel fine about nominating 'End of Time II' despite some problems, but that aired January 1, and I can't give a vote to something as horribly plotted as End of Time I.

And from the above it seems there's a number of short fiction items I might want to check up on. Kudos on a well thought out list, and for releasing it at this point.

Dr Plokta said...

I wouldn't consider either District Nine or Coraline to be locks, and wouldn't be at all surprised if Up and Children of Earth both end up on the ballot.

John Scalzi probably has a lock in the Novella category with The God Engines.

I couldn't bring myself to nominate The Windup Girl because while it's a very well-written novel, the background is so stupid as to blow away my suspension of disbelief.

themoniker said...

There's a 2nd Season of Ashes to Ashes? Cool, I'll check it out.

Raz Greenberg said...

Does this mean you're going to WorldCon this year too?
Also, I would have asked what "Into the Wild, Green Yonder" doing in the "short form" category (it went directly to DVD, but was 90 minutes long...) though I guess my real question is what it's doing in any category, period. Come on - the whole thing was such an overlong, unfunny snoozefest. Another insult in the (thankfully short) line of insults to the legacy of the original show.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Alexander:

Yes, I was stunned by the difference between In Great Waters and Benighted. Which is not to say that In Great Waters is without its flaws. I have reservations about every one of these books, but on the whole I think they make a strong list.

Dr. Plotka:

Given Worldcon's famous love for Neil Gaiman, I'd be surprised if Coraline weren't on the ballot, and District 9 has been so popular among genre fans in general that I think its place on the ballot is even more assured.

themoniker:

Yes, and I thought it was quite an improvement on season 1.

Raz:

Does this mean you're going to WorldCon this year too?

No. According to the Hugo rules, members of the previous convention can nominate (but not vote, unless they buy another membership) for the following convention's awards.

I liked Into the Wild Green Yonder. It certainly wasn't as good as the series, but it was the best of the films, pretty funny, and the characters felt like themselves for the first time. Nominating it for short form is iffy, as the rules state that a nominee must be 90 minutes or less (that's how two-parter episodes get in) and according to Amazon the DVD is 89 minutes long. At any rate, it hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of getting long form nomination this year, so I might as well give short form a try.

Dr Plokta said...

Into the Wild Green Yonder was 89 minutes, and the dividing line between Long Form and Short Form is 90 minutes, so Short Form is correct. But the administrator has discretion to relocate anything within 20% of the boundary.

Ee Leen Lee said...

it;s a shame that Dollhouse did not have another season

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