Site Stuff: Friday Fives, Fiction, Jurassic
Fiction: "Saga's Children" by E.J. Swift

Some 2014 Hugo Recommendations

I'm not giving my entire ballot, but that's because I don't have it yet. 

When the shortlists come out, I'll probably do another activity like this, but, for now, here are a few selections and, in case it is helpful, some of the reasoning behind why I'm voting the way I will.

Best Novel:

I'll jump right in with what is, by far, my most controversial choice.

The awards-related scandal of the week is the fact that this enterprising columnist has discovered that the entire Wheel of Time series somehow qualifies as a single "Best Novel".

I'll be voting for it.

For two reasons:

  • I find this wonderful - I'm always supportive of bureaucratic subversion and this is genuinely hilarious: a case of more rules = less sense. I don't mind using one of my 4 nominations as a protest vote.
  • This is utterly stupid, but, if it is allowed - and it is, I think there's a case to be made. Is the Wheel of Time good? No. It is awful. Is it one of my favourites? No. Much the reverse.

But the Hugo Awards don't ask about either of those things - they ask for 'Best', which is the worst and woolliest word in all awardsdom. And, for a certain definition of "best", that is "important and influential", Wheel of Time more than qualifies. It may be rubbish, but it is rubbish that inspired and influenced most of contemporary fantasy. Will we be able to say that about many of the other contenders? Will Ocean at the End of the Lane be as influential in 10, 20 years? Will Doctor Sleep reinvent (or, at the very least, crystallise) an entire genre? Etc. Etc.

Anyway, I've now spent 200 words defending the last and least of all my votes. My other "Best Novel" selections will be more seriously made. I'm not sure what they are yet, but I'm juggling books like The Violent Century, Fangirl, American Elsewhere, The Shining Girls, Gun Machine, The Golem and the Jinni, Life After Life, More Than This... I'm not a Kitschies judge, so I haven't read my normal swathe of 150+ recent titles, but I've still read 50-odd 2013 books that I can choose from.

Many more categories below the jump...

Best Novella:

I have no idea. Did I read any? I'm not certain I did. Normally I have a K.J. Parker Subterranean book to plug in here, but no such luck.

Best Novelette*:

I'm fairly sure that novelettes have snuck into some of my favourite anthologies from this year...  

A few great stories that I'm almost positive are the right length:

  • Pat Cadigan's Chalk (This is Horror)
  • Joseph D'Lacey's Roadkill (This is Horror)
  • Lola Robres' "Deirdre" (from Terra Nova)

All of which are exceptional.

Best Short Story*:

So many. Here are a few that I've really enjoyed:

  • Lisa Allen-Agostini - "A Fine Specimen" (Mothership)
  • Maurice Broaddus & Kyle S. Johnson - "The Electric Spanking of the War Babies" by  (Glitter & Mayhem)
  • Maria Dahvana Headley - "Such & Such Said to So & So" (Glitter & Mayhem)
  • Stark Holborn - "Nunslinger" (Nunslinger)
  • China Miéville - "The Ninth Technique" (The Apology Chapbook)
  • Shweta Narayan - “The Arrangement of Their Parts” (We See a Different Frontier)
  • Lavie Tidhar - "Dragonkin" (
  • J.Y. Yang - "Old Domes" (We See a Different Frontier)

If you're low on short stories, and are keen to find great work from outside the usual suspects, I highly recommend these anthologies, as well as pretty much anything from Stone Skin Press (cross-over bonkersness), NewCon (SF) or Solaris (horror). Plus many others - the UK has a great short fiction scene (see below).

Best Related Work:

I'm going to break my * code and pitch a Jurassic work: Speculative Fiction 2012. This isn't "my" work any more than it is Justin's - we were just the two slobs who got to play at "editor" and pick 50 of the best articles from the interwebs. It was surprisingly easy/hard (take your pick): we could've chosen 100, or 2,000 or... The reason I think SpecFic is important is because it represents the idea that online criticism is important, valid, noteworthy... choose your word. We set out to "embiggen the blogosphere", and I think we succeeded.

I also want SpecFic to be nominated so that every blogger that's in the collection ever gets to be part of a "Hugo nominated series". And I really, really want it to win so that Justin can make a Hugo speech that's a bit like this. I'll even bust out my Mathletes jacket.

That said, this category is so woolly and broad that there are really a lot of things I like:

  • "Visions of the Universe" at the National Maritime Museum - sadly, this has closed. But, wow. A wall of high resolution Mars video, images of galaxies and deep space that seemed unreal, a look into the heart of the Sun... it was so utterly spectacular, it brought me (and many others) to tears. If you'll pardon the cheese, it was the sort of eye-opening, jaw-dropping, brain-expanding wonderful that drew us all to science fiction in the first place. Here's a review. Here's another.
  •  "Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film" - the British Film Institute's astounding run of film and online content related to the origins of horror in cinema. 

On a slightly jingoistic note, it is amazing how Britain has so much collaboration between its cultural institutions and its genre community. A lot of people, on both sides, work really hard at this, and the results are something that we should be extremely proud of.

And two more traditional suggestions if that's all too wacky:

Best Graphic Work:

Not my area of expertise, but I did pick up a few volumes that I really enjoyed and will happily rationalise as genre interest:

The two comics publishers represented above - SelfMadeHero and Markosia - are fantastic, and are doing brilliant things. (Teenytinysaurs is from Walker, who are also lovely, but mostly do book-books.)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):

No idea. I saw nothing last year. Thor 2?

Best Dramatic Presentation (Doctor Who):

As above. 

Best Editor (Long Form):

My normal rant about Hugo injustice has two pillars. I'll get to one below, but the other is that the UK editorial scene is ridiculously underrepresented on ballots.

Editors are naturally hard to identify, and their contributions are often intangible (at least, to the readers). My hunch is, the great editors are especially difficult to spot because they're busy making sure their authors get the glory. And, a great editor is more than an author factory - he is or she is the the unsung hero of genre - moving it forward, establishing trends, bringing in new readers.

With that in mind, here are a few of my favourites:

  • Anna Gregson (Orbit) is the guiding force behind many of my favourite authors, including Simon Morden, Mike Carey and Kate Griffin.
  • Tim Holman (Orbit) is behind Jesse Bullington and KJ Parker. Which, right there: awesome.
  • Gillian Redfearn (Gollancz), is the person behind, amongst many, many others, Joe Abercrombie and Joe Hill and Patrick Rothfuss and Elspeth Cooper and Chris Wooding and... (the list goes on and on). Her importance to genre - especially the rocket-like growth of contemporary fantasy - goes far beyond just a few names. 
  • Ruth Tross (Mulholland Books) published Warren Ellis, Joe Lansdale and Austin Grossman this year. Hell, she's brought the Saint back this year. She has amazing, bonkers and utterly trustworthy taste: if Ruth publishes it, I'm pretty I'll love it.

And that's a very, very slim selection. There are dozens more that belong on this ballot. If nothing else, I strongly suggest taking a few minutes to look at the blog of your favourite author's publisher, and reading up on who the people are behind the scenes. 

Obviously I'm a little biased towards the excellence of the Hodder & Stoughton team as well, but I can understand if you don't want to take my word for it.

Best Editor (Short Form):

A tricky one, as I don't really read magazines. On the anthology front, however:

  • Irene Gallo for I mean, geez. Enough of an obvious pick that I'm even setting aside my shameless regional bias.
  • Jonathan Oliver for Solaris: I left Jon off the list above, as I think his contributions are even more pronounced here on my ballot here. As well as being Britain's finest Weird and horror editor, Jon's also leading from the front when it comes to finding new and diverse authors. If you pick up one of his collections, you'll find a fantastic, international table of contents that combines 'big names' and new voices.

There's a fantastic small press scene in the UK, with a lot of people that deserve a space on the ballot. I'll also be looking at Ian Whates and Adele Wearing, amongst others, not only for their contributions as publishers of fiction but also as leaders of a lively, cooperative community. 

Best Professional Artist:

I could go on for ages, but four that will definitely be on my ballot:

I'm going to be sad when Joey Hi-Fi makes the ballot this year, as it'll ruin the other half of my  "greatest Hugo injustice" rant. Zelda Devon I discovered through word of mouth, and her work is just... my style. Ditto Fiona Staples, who is astounding. Vincent Sammy covers are now de rigeur in the horror and magazine scene, as they should be.

But the one I want to pitch at you, like, properly pitch, is Sarah Anne Langton. 

Sarah is, amongst other things, the in-house talent for Forbidden Planet, the unofficial creative director for at least four small presses, a children's book illustrator, web-site designer and the first-port-of-call for anything visual and geeky.

Which means if you live in the UK and you like science fiction or fantasy, you have encountered her work. It may be one of FP's foxy anniversary bags, a Joss Whedon posterthe logo for a major publisher's genre website, an event poster or a tube pass. Or one of, what I count, twenty covers that she produced in 2013.

Also, Zombie Attack Barbie.

She's the heart of British geekery. Or, at the very least, the skin. (That sounded creepy, sorry.) She works on dozens of projects at once: in stores, on screens, on posters and on covers. And our blossoming (and kind of amazing) science fiction scene simply wouldn't exist without her.

Best Semiprozine:

Strange Horizons.

(Ok, I don't really understand this category, but I remember this site was nominated last year and I like this site. More of my feelings about Strange Horizons here.)

Best Fanzine & Fan Writer:

I'm genuinely not sure about these categories and probably won't be until the last minute. I will, however, be voting on an agenda: picking bloggers and fans. I know professionals are allowed to win Fan Writer, and if folks like Kameron Hurley or N.K. Jemisin win, that's genuinely a great thing. 

But I'm personally subscribing to a definition of "fan" that means that the person has no professional relationship to SF/F at all and isn't paid for their writing in any way. Again, I don't begrudge authors for winning, but I need to do some sort of filtering to narrow down to a list of 10 for these two categories.

Similarly, I'm pro-blogger. I read blogs, I write blogs and right now, I think they're the dominant medium for reasonably-intelligent SF/F discussion.

According to my browser history, the two I check most often are The Book Smugglers and Staffer's Book Review. So they're definitely on my ballot. I also think both sites really raised their game this year - the Smugglers seemingly doubled the amount of work they were doing across all online platforms and Justin started what I joking call "investigative journalism". Posts like this are exceptional, and what we need in "fan writing".

Granted, I'm friends with them, but I hope I could say that about many bloggers. I like that they're bloggers that aren't afraid of tackling big issues head on. And, with both sites, I don't actually agree with all (or even that many of) their reviews, but I do like what they add to the discussion and how they add it.

Anyway, I follow a zillionty bloggers on Twitter and there are sixteendozenty sites that I check on a regular basis. So,... yeah. I have 8 spots left and no idea. 

Best Fancast:

I don't actually listen to podcasts. (Ok, before I sound rude, I've gotten to go on podcasts as a guest, which is incredibly flattering and I've loved it. And when I do that, I study up ahead of time on their work because that's polite and a reasonable expectation of how I should behave. But I don't consume them naturally and am not really someone that knows anything about this medium so I'm not even going to pretend. THE END.)

If you're not listening to Mahvesh Murad, you should. But she's a professional.

Best Fan Artist:

I'm totally drawing a blank here. I'm not even sure I see fan art? Am I getting the definition wrong? All suggestions welcome.

*In the interests of transparency, at least part of my ballot in this category will be spent on things published by Jurassic in 2013. We published six novelettes and a lot of short stories, and as well as being proud of them, I like them a lot.