The 2015 Hugo Awards: Initial Thoughts

The nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards were announced yesterday, and the entire world is losing their shit because the Sad Puppy campaign has pretty much run away with the slate. Assorted thoughts below:

  • My ballot faired quite poorly indeed! Not counting the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category (because it’s a pretty mainstream category, though I’ll have some additional thoughts on this below), only one nominee made it to the official ballot, and that was a (mostly accidental) overlap with the Sad Puppy campaign. In fairness, Ken Burnside’s The Hot Equations (in Best Related Work) is a worthy nominee with an endearing nod to SF right in its title. I find my lack of success here mildly amusing in that this is what the majority of Sad Puppy nominators must have felt in years past, but what most of the Sad Puppy opposition is feeling right now (even if I don’t particularly subscribe to either side in the battle).
  • When I first saw the Sad Puppy slate (and Rabid Puppy slate), I thought the dramatic increase in suggested works would result in a decrease in concentration amongst the choices, thus spreading out the voting and yielding relatively few successes. I was incredibly wrong in this prediction. It appears that the Puppy campaigns were remarkably effective this year, with 61 nominees appearing on at least one of the lists (only 24 of the nominees did not appear on either list, and many of those were in categories that the Puppies did not bother to include in their ballots). I predict widespread panic, bleating, and protest voting (“No Award” will be deployed with reckless abandon). Then again, I’ve been pretty wrong about everything else, so who knows?
  • Personally, while I don’t really identify as a Sad Puppy, I never bore them ill will and their notion of emphasizing fun storytelling over boring literary fiction conventions was attractive to me (my nominations for the fiction categories had no overlap with the Puppy ballots, but I suspect many Puppies would enjoy them). That being said, I can’t help but feel like the pendulum has swung too far in their direction. If I were running Sad Puppies next year, I would focus on encouraging participation rather than posting a list of approved works. I don’t expect this to happen, but as I’ve amply demonstrated, I’m the worst and am often wrong.
  • The whole kerfluffle comes down to assumptions of bad faith. The Puppies assume that people nominate things according to political merit rather than quality and rebel against that notion, the anti-puppies assume that the puppies are just blindly nominating the suggested slates (without having read the stories, etc…), again for political reasons. This is why people decry the inclusion of politics in previously non-political arenas. My assumption is of good faith, and as with last year, I’m just going to read the nominated works and vote accordingly. I’m already pretty sick of all the digital ink being spilled about the politics of all this stuff, and don’t expect to have much more to say about it.
  • Let’s take a closer look at the Novel category:
    • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie – Sequel to last year’s unstoppable winner, Ancillary Justice, this is one of the few non-puppy nominees to become a finalist and the only nominee that I’ve already read. Alas, I was not as big a fan of this one as the first book in the series.
    • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson – A puppy nominee, this looks to be a standalone (or start of a trilogy) set in the context of a larger setting. My only experience with Anderson was his not-so-great Star Wars Jedi Academy trilogy. Timothy Zahn basically reignited Star Wars fever in the early 90s with his Thrawn Trilogy (the first and to my knowledge, best of the modern expanded universe stories) and Anderson quickly doused it with his trilogy (at least, for me). But it’s been, like, 20 years, and this book seems like it could work well enough, so there is that. I actually have a modest amount of hope for this one.
    • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – The other non-puppy nominee, a well regarded fantasy novel that seems like it could be a lot of fun. Looking forward to this one.
    • Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos – Appears to be a military SF story, the second in a series. The whole series this is always kinda annoying, but these do seem up my alley and they appear to be short page turners. Definitely looking forward to this one.
    • Skin Game by Jim Butcher – Of the Sad Puppy nominees, I was most expecting this one to win. Butcher’s Desden Files series is immensely popular. I suspect the reason that none of the previous books were nominated is that urban fantasy is just not something that normally does well with Hugo voters. I’m decidedly mixed on the Dresden Files books. I’ve read the first three, enjoyed two of them and hated one (the second one, with the werewolves). That being said, it’s not really one of my favorite series. This being the 15th book in the long-running series, I also find myself wondering how standalone it would be (but I’m not going to read the intervening 11 books just to come up to speed).

    This is actually a pretty good mix of sub-genres here. Two space operas (one trending more literary than the other), one mil-SF, one straight-up fantasy, and one urban fantasy. Obviously, I still have to read 4 of the nominees, but I actually think this slate is more attractive to me than last year’s…

  • The Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form list is decent enough, I guess, but I always find it odd that the Hugo for best movie always seems to be mostly mainstream blockbusters and not the little indie SF movies (which are often much better at capturing the sensawunda of written SF). For instance, I was really hoping that Coherence and The One I Love would get some love and heck, even the dreaded Vox Day included Coherence in his Rabid Puppies list, but alas, we get 5 blockbusters. But they are actually very good blockbusters, so there is that. Update: There is speculation that Coherence was left off because IMDB marks it as a 2013 release and thus would not be eligible for a 2014 award. Dooks.

Comments are still borked right now, so if you have any comments, feel free to email me at mciocco at gmail or hit me up on twitter @mciocco (or @kaedrinbeer if you’re a lush). Apologies, I am the worst. Will have to make a more concerted effort to fix the problems with comments in the near future.

So there you have it. I don’t think I’ll be spending much time on the whole political war going on with this stuff, but I suspect it will be unavoidable in some places. Expect some link roundups in the near future, followed by reviews. I will still try my best to let the works speak for themselves though. It may be a few weeks before I finish off my current reading, so I probably won’t get to any reviews until May-ish.

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