Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A first look at the Hugo Shortlist, 2017

A first look at the Hugo Shortlist,

By Rich Horton

The Hugo Shortlist for 2017 has been announced, and I thought I’d give the off the top of my head comments on it. First, let me sincerely congratulate all the folks on the shortlist – you did good work, and I’m happy for you. That said, I obviously don’t agree 100% -- or even 50% -- with the shortlist, as a look at my earlier nomination thoughts will reveal. Of course, that’s hardly unusual – in fact, it’s common. In most cases, my complaints – such as they are – merely mean that I think a good story was chosen over a better one. So – I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade! But I do want to say what I really think.

Best Novel
All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

So, anyway, I really don’t have any complaints in this category! Partly, perhaps, that’s because I haven’t read as many novels as I should have. But in reality, I think this shortlist looks very impressive indeed. I had already read All the Birds in the Sky and Too Like the Lightning before my previous article, and I had suggested that I’d nominate All the Birds in the Sky (which I did). I also praised Too Like the Lightning, but suggested that I wanted to see its completion (which looks like it will take two more books!) before I was sure of it. Still, I liked it, and I’m happy to see it here. Since then I’ve gotten to Ninefox Gambit, and I very enthusiastically support its nomination. (I’m working on a review post about it.) Ninefox Gambit is complicated Military SF, which sort of teaches you how to read it as you go along. It’s got a fierce moral core, which is slowly revealed, and it opens up beautifully at the end, so that I don’t think the second book in the trilogy will be a “middle book”. And – this novel is reasonably speaking complete in itself.

I haven’t read the other three. But everything I’ve seen about A Closed and Common Orbit suggests I’ll like it – and also suggests that I really need to get to Chambers’ previous novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. The other two novels are sequels to the past two Hugo winners, and I have no reason to doubt their quality as well. This is probably the Best Best Novel shortlist in at least 5 years.

And, hey, three first novels! Is that the first time that’s ever happened?

Best Novella
The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (Tor.com publishing)
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com publishing)
Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)
Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com publishing)
This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

I don’t have serious problems with this shortlist either. There is one serious snub, in my view: Lavie Tidhar’s “The Vanishing Kind” seemed the second best novella of the year to me. But the best novella of the year is here, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe. Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom is a strong novella too, as I noted in my previous post. I was less pleased with Penric and the Shaman, which to me is the weakest Penric story so far. But it’s at least enjoyable.

I didn’t get to A Taste of Honey nor Every Heart a Doorway until after they made the Nebula final ballot, but I have read them since. I really enjoyed A Taste of Honey – it will probably end up second on my Hugo ballot. (I’d still rank it behind “The Vanishing Kind”, mind you, and in the same range as Suzanne Palmer’s more adventure-oriented “Lazy Dog Out”.) But it’s a lovely story, and very original, if somehow sort of small-scale – but that’s not really necessarily a bad thing. Every Heart a Doorway, however, didn’t really work for me. I expected to like it a lot, but it really dragged – I thought it significantly too long. Some nice ideas, however.

As for This Census Taker, I haven’t yet read it. (I chose to read Mieville’s other book-length novella from last year, The Last Days of New Paris, on the recommendation of a friend who really liked it, and who thought This Census Taker an interesting failure.)

Best Novelette
Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
“The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan (Tor.com , July 2016)
“The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, by Fran Wilde (Tor.com publishing, May 2016)
“The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
“Touring with the Alien”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)
“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

No comment on the Hiscock story, a Rabid Puppy recommendation that seems very unlikely to be worth reading – though I dare say I’ll give it a look to be fair. Aside from that, there are three stories I liked a lot. One of them is “The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, which I mentioned in my nomination thoughts as a potential entry for my nomination ballot. I didn’t mention either the Allan or the Gilman stories, but both are really very good, and while I miss the stories I had on my list, these are worthy nominees.

As for “The Tomato Thief” and “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, these strike me as well-written stories, solid work, that didn’t wow me. That, really, didn’t interest me that much. Very possibly the fault is mine. I will reread them, to be sure. But in all honesty, on almost every ballot there are going to be a couple stories in this category – stories I think are nice work, that I can see how other people chose to nominate, but that just don’t stand with my personal favorites. I dare say that’s a feature, not a bug.

And I really really regret that magnificent work like, most especially, Genevieve Valentine’s “Everybody From Themis Sends Letters Home”, did not make the shortlist. But, hey, that happens every year.

Best Short Story
“The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
“That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
“An Unimaginable Light”, by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

OK, I haven’t read the John C. Wright story. As I’ve said before (the last time he got nominated!), he has done some very good work in the past. He has talent. I don’t think he gets the editorial attention he needs these days. And he has some obsessions that don’t match mine. But I can’t reject his work out of hand. So, we’ll see.

I really like Carrie Vaughn’s story, and indeed it was on my nomination ballot. So no complaints there. All the other stories strike me as – stop me if I’ve said this before! – nice work that isn’t quite Hugo-worthy. Again – maybe my fault. I just reread Brooke Bolander’s story, and it is pretty darn good, in a very short space. It probably stands second on my putative ballot right now. But I have more rereading to do.

I have less to say about the remaining categories. In many cases I’m just not familiar enough with all the works. Some of my nominees made the ballot – Traveler of Worlds in Related Work, Arrival in Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, pretty much the entire Best Editor Short Form ballot, Rocket Stack Rank in Best Fanzine,  Abigail Nussbaum in Best Fan Writer, and Ada Palmer for the Campbell. My only strong regret, really, is that Black Gate didn’t get a Fanzine nomination, and obviously I’m prejudice there. And the only other nomination (besides the Rabids) that really really annoys me is the Chuck Tingle nomination. Frankly, I think that’s a slap at the many many real fanwriters out there. (And, frankly, I don’t find Chuck Tingle all that funny. YMMV, of course.)

So I present the rest of the ballot for information purpose. And I apologize for the wonky formatting – I started by copying from io9, but they chopped off the list in the middle of Best Fancast. So I finished with the official list from the Hugo site – which is really where I should have started!

Best Related Work
The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)
The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)
Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)
The View From the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow / Harper Collins)
The Women of Harry Potter posts, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Best Graphic Story
Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)
Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)
Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)
The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)
Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)
Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)
Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)
Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)
Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)
The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)
Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)
Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

Best Editor – Short Form
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form
Vox Day
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist
Galen Dara
Julie Dillon
Chris McGrath
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by P. Alexander
GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith
Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff
Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

Best Fanzine
Castalia House Blog, edited by Jeffro Johnson
Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood
Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

Best Fancast
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
§  Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
§  Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
§  Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
§  The Rageaholic, presented by RazörFist
§  Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer
802 ballots cast for 275 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 80 to 152.
§  Mike Glyer
§  Jeffro Johnson
§  Natalie Luhrs
§  Foz Meadows
§  Abigail Nussbaum
§  Chuck Tingle

Best Fan Artist
528 ballots cast for 242 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 39 to 121.
§  Ninni Aalto
§  Alex Garner
§  Vesa Lehtimäki
§  Likhain (M. Sereno)
§  Spring Schoenhuth
§  Mansik Yang
Worldcon 75 has elected to exercise its authority under the WSFS Constitution to add an additional category for 2017 only:
Best Series
A multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, appearing in at least three (3) volumes consisting in total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the previous calendar year, at least one volume of which was published in the previous calendar year. If any series and a subset series thereof both receive sufficient nominations to appear on the final ballot, only the version which received more nominations shall appear.
Note that there is a pending amendment to the WSFS Constitution that, if ratified by the 2017 WSFS Business Meeting, will add Best Series as a new permanent category. The definition above is based on the wording of the proposed new category.
1393 votes for 290 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 129 to 325.
§  The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)
§  The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
§  The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)
§  The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)
§  The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Harper Voyager UK)
§  The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2014 or 2015, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)
933 votes for 260 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 88 to 255.
§  Sarah Gailey (1st year of eligibility)
§  J. Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility)
§  Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility)
§  Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility)
§  Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility)

§  Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility)


  1. It is indeed the first year there has ever been more than one first novel on the ballot.

  2. Thanks, Rich -- and Jo.

    Re: novels.
    I bounced hard off both BIRDS and , hrm, the Ada Palmer. Con'd

  3. OK, better. LOVED LOVED LOVED Raven Strat. YH Lee is really hitting his stride, IMO....