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The 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist: An Imaginary Judgement

The 2013 Hugo Shortlists: An Imaginary Ballot

HugologoThe point of this isn't to beat a dead horse. I think Jonathan McCalmont and Chris Gerwel have both written very good posts summarising aspects of the discussion surrounding this year's Hugo Awards, and I recommend reading those. Although Jonathan's post was slightly derailed by the comments, I think the ultimate conclusion of his post was a surprisingly inspiring call to action: register, read, vote and discuss.

Last year I found the Hugo so demoralising that I didn't bother to vote this year - despite having every intention of going to the upcoming London-based Worldcon. Which means, by absenting myself, I am as much a part of this year's result as everyone that did vote. The system is troublesome in a lot of ways, but in this one aspect - having a say in the 2012/2013 results - I could have had a (tiny) impact... and I didn't. I feel surprisingly bad about that, and it has influenced my contribution (or, more importantly, lack thereof) to the ongoing debate.

Next year, I'll be registering, reading, voting and discussing. To quote the Emperor Kuzco: "Bring. It. On."

But, the shortlists are done, whether or not I had a say in them. I'm going to pretend I did do the right thing and vote, which means I've got my imaginary ballot to fill out. So, because I am a very serious imaginary voter, I'm going to try and follow best practice: I can cast votes for what I've actually read, I can only consider 2012 (especially important for the zine categories), I won't vote tactically or simply for my friends and I'll try to be thoughtful about what 'best' means in each category.

Let's see how that goes, shall we?

(Please note, there's a difference between 'No Award' and 'leaving it blank'. The former is "nothing should be given the title of Best", the latter is "dunno/don't mind".)

Best Novel:

  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Blackout, Mira Grant
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed 

I've read four of the five (apologies to Ms. Bujold). 

I think 2312 can qualify for a few "best"-like adjectives: it has ambition, stature, grandeur. It is a big sprawly book with a lot of problems, but, if I squint a bit, it has a sort of majesty to it. I'm not sure if it is actually the 'best' of any of those things, but I'd accept it into the discussion. The others? I can't come up with a rational interpretation of the word "best" that would include them in the definition. They're not bad, they're just not The Best Book of the Year.

My ballot: 2312, No Award.

Best Novella:

  • "After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall", Nancy Kress
  • "The Emperor’s Soul", Brandon Sanderson
  • "On a Red Station, Drifting", Aliette de Bodard 
  • "San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats", Mira Grant 
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake

I've not read any of these. Were I a non-imaginary voter, I'd have some reading to do. But for now, I can leave my imaginary ballot blank.

Best Novelette:

  • “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  • “Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente 
  • “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan
  • “In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire
  • “Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire

As above. No vote. Democracy is easy!

Best Short Story:

  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson 
  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu

Mmmm. I've read "Mono no Aware" and "Immersion" and would, of the two, pick the latter. I'm not wildly in love with either, honestly. I wish some of Aliette's other work had gone viral instead (her story in Smoke is particularly amazing, I add, self-servingly, but c'est la vie), but I certainly wouldn't mind an "Immersion" win.

I'll imagine-vote "Immersion" and leave the rest of the ballot blank.

Best Related Work:

  • The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn
  • Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them, Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis
  • Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who, Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles
  • I Have an Idea for a Book … The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg, Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers
  • Writing Excuses Season Seven, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

I don't understood this category, but I'm guessing it is for reference works and non-fiction, which means, rather cruelly, I feel I can judge it on the "best [to have around]". So, despite not having read anything, I can imagine-vote based on hypothetical value. The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature would be incredibly handy. Chicks Dig Comics sounds fun. And I'd never touch the Greenberg bibliography, Doctor Who book or writing guide.

If I were feeling particularly strict, I'd go Cambridge Companion, No Award, everything else. I mean, as a reference, it seems head and shoulders above all the others as a useful thing that will be functional for a long, long time. But... that's a very narrow definition of 'best' and Chicks Dig Comics sounds kind of great.

So... Cambridge, Comics and no other votes. 

Best Graphic Story:

  • Grandville Bête Noire, written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot
  • Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
  • Saga, Volume One, written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples
  • Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton 
  • Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka

Lost in the noise is the fact that this category has actually gotten noticeably better over the past few years. I've read everything but Scholock Mercenary, so I'll leave it off the ballot. 

Ranking: Saga, Locke & Key, Saucer Country, Grandville. But I wouldn't be upset about any one of these four winning. Probably the best category of them all.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: 

  • The Avengers, Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard 
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson
  • The Hunger Games, Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross 
  • Looper, Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson

Another category with a good year, if you define "good" as "big and blockbustery", which, since I like my movies explodey, I'm good with that. Really wouldn't be so fussed about any of these five winning.

This is a fun one. Possibly because the Best Film category is a bit... I dunno. It feels less serious and more like genuinely being a fan - possibly because the actual nominees don't give a toss. (Also, I have higher standards for novels than films.)

I've only seen three through, so my votes: The Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers, The Hobbit

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: 

  • Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”, Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran 
  • Doctor Who, “Asylum of the Daleks”, Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran
  • Doctor Who, “The Snowmen”, written by Steven Moffat; directed by Saul Metzstein 
  • Fringe, “Letters of Transit”, Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle. 
  • Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”, Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Only seen Game of Thrones. But, in this one case, I'm happy to make a snap judgment based on the Doctor Who and Fringe that I have seen.

Vote: "Blackwater", No Award. 

Best Editor, Short Form:

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

I don't read magazines - online or off - which makes this a bit difficult. I've read 2012 anthologies by both John Joseph Adams and Jonathan Strahan that I enjoyed. Strahan also edited one of my favourite anthologies of all time - Swords and Dark Magic, but that wasn't this year. Of the anthologies I read, the one by Adams (Armored) was original, not reprint, so I'll give him the edge here.

Vote: John Joseph Adams, Jonathan Strahan. 

Best Editor, Long Form:

  • Lou Anders
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Toni Weisskopf

I'm not losing any imaginary sleep over this imaginary ballot. Best US Editor can go to whomever, I'm sure they're all lovely people, but I can't be bothered. Blank.

Best Professional Artist:

  • Vincent Chong
  • Julie Dillon
  • Dan dos Santos
  • Chris McGrath
  • John Picacio

Yes! A category I can judge based on Google results! (Hastily Googles.)

I don't mean to be a total barbarian, but are these five not all... kind of similar? No idea which pieces were done in 2012, but, whatever, let's assume the Google results are all equally skewed. All five artists are very good and very slick and shiny and colourful and filled with ripped sultry people with big guns and/or moody expressions staring out over lavish backgrounds. Vincent Chong's work stands out the most and has a dark edge to it (plus, dude does a good tentacle). I'm not sure which exact work he's done in 2012, though, but...

Actually, after all that? I think this really does need more research. No imaginary vote this year.

Best Semiprozine:

  • Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore and Michael Damian Thomas
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker
  • Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams and Stefan Rudnicki
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Jed Hartman, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Abigail Nussbaum, Sonya Taaffe, Dave Nagdeman and Rebecca Cross

The not reading magazines thing applies here too. I'm reading Lightspeed now, but I didn't actually know about it in 2012 'cause I live under a rock. People send me links to Clarkesworld occasionally and I buy Apex books. A skim of the site reveals that Beneath Ceaseless Skies looks pretty good, but I don't 'do' audio, so a lot of their content is of limited value to me.

Let me be frank: I disagree with 50-60% of Strange Horizon's reviews, I can't stand poetry and I never read the fiction. But it is on my RSS reader and I check it compulsively, because, whether or not they're saying something I like, they're always saying something worth reading. Smart, challenging, honest reviews - whether or not I agree with them - make it best in class.

My imaginary ballot: Strange Horizons. I'd be ok with any of the other four, so I'll just stop there.

Best Fanzine 

  • Banana Wings, edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
  • The Drink Tank, edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
  • Elitist Book Reviews, edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
  • SF Signal, edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester

Imaginary ballot: SF Signal, Elitist Book Reviews, No Award.

This was close - Elitist (which I'd never read before the shortlist announcement) nearly got my imaginary first place slot over SF Signal (on my RSS reader, checked religiously). My personal taste is more towards bloggier blogs, composed largely of reviews (and it helps that we seem to have similar taste). Basically, Elitist is more like Pornokitsch. Which is a silly way to vote.

SF Signal is much closer to a portal - lots of original content in the form of recurring guest features, loads of news, reveals and information. I don't think of it as a blog or a 'zine of any sort, any more than I do, I dunno, The Bookseller or Locus. (I'd happily give SF Signal the nod in Best Related Work.) Since everyone has guest-posted/been covered by/referenced in SF Signal, it feels like a win for, well, the internet. (Which, given the history of this category, is no bad thing.)

And... if I had to choose a bloggy blog for this list, to represent the "best" in the field, would it be Elitist?  It looks pretty good, but probably not. Whereas SF Signal is unique at what it does - outperforming actual magazines when it comes to genre coverage (that's relevant to me, at least) - and it isn't fair of me to downvote it purely because it is a fan publication that I use as a professional one. So, hey, give 'em a trophy, they deserve it.

That said, just as Signal opened the door for non-mimeographed publications to win the award, I'd be happy if Elitist initiated an era of bloggy blogs. (I'm going to stop saying "bloggy blog" now.)

Pfew. I've lost a lot of imaginary sleep over that imaginary vote.

Best Fancast

  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
  • SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
  • StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

Don't listen to podcasts. Blank ballot.

Best Fan Writer

  • James Bacon
  • Christopher J. Garcia
  • Mark Oshiro
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Steven H Silver

Tansy Rayner Roberts and Christopher Garcia are both in Speculative Fiction 2012, so I've already implicitly endorsed their candidacy. I don't think I've read Bacon, Oshiro or Silver, at least, not that I know of.

Ultimately, it comes down to Roberts. If the only thing she wrote was the "Where the Wonder Women Are" series, she'd still make my own top five. It is an excellent run of well-researched, well-written, interesting, progressive articles.

Ballot: Roberts, Garcia.

Best Fan Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Maurine Starkey
  • Steve Stiles

To Google! In order: Cool, eh, eh, ack!, eee. That was easy.

My ballot: Galen Dara, No Award.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer 
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but basically is.)

  • Zen Cho*
  • Max Gladstone
  • Mur Lafferty*
  • Stina Leicht*
  • Chuck Wendig*

Hmmmmmmmm. I've only read Zen Cho and Chuck Wendig, although I've got the new Mur Lafferty sitting on my desk right now. I'm guessing this isn't just 2012, and is more of a lifetime achievement award (except at the start of one's career lifetime, which is weird).

I am so baffled by these shortlists. How can a debut novel - Throne of the Crescent Moon - be voted one of the best books of the year, but its author not be a candidate for best new writer? Why is Chuck Wendig on for his fiction (eek) and not his fan writing (yay)?

I have no answers. But I do have an imaginary ballot, which I'm casting for Zen Cho.

So... how was my imaginary Hugo voting experience? Surprisingly stressful. Next year, when I'm a real voter, I'll have a lot of reading to do - I certainly don't plan on leaving all the fiction and editor ballots empty, so I'll definitely be doing more research. I'm a little surprised that so many of the categories are so alien to me right now, but, as noted way above, the ballot has never seemed to reflect my own, er, perspective of the SF/F world. Next year, the British voters will skew it in a more familiar fashion, which will make this a little easier.

And, of course, next year, I'll be voting. And then I can complain properly.