Archive for the ‘awards’ Category
Every year I have good intentions of reading lots of short stories, identifying some real gems and then nominating them for the BSFA Awards. Most years I fail. So I am very pleased that the BSFA have now introduced a two-stage voting process where members can vote on a longlist of nominations. Given the size of the field and the difficulty of achieving blind consensus on the best short fiction published through nominations (witness the 2013 Hugo short story shortlist only having 3 nominees that had the minimum of 5% of nominations) this is a sensible change but on a personal level, it is hugely welcome because it allows me to re-engage with the field.
There are 41 stories on the longlist and I’ve read 34 of them. On that basis, my votes are:
- ‘A Day In The Deep Freeze’ by Lisa Shapter – Set in an anonymous mid-Twentieth Century America that hides something truly horrific, this is a remorseless novella that is completely unique and penetrates bone deep. This is the only one of my selections that isn’t available for free but you should buy it now.
- ‘The Game of Smash and Recovery by Kelly Link – It is a Link story and it is a very good Link story and it is science fiction. What more do you want?
- ‘Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space’ by Sam Kriss – Combatative, creative non-fiction that is like nothing else on the longlist.
- ‘Elephants and Corpses’ by Kameron Hurley – One of only two secondary world fantasy stories, this is typical exuberant, inventive Hurley which is something this rather mannered longlist needed.
If I had four more votes, they would be for:
- ‘Fabulous Beasts’ by Priya Sharma – There are quite a few stories on the longlist that are essentially family sagas sharpened by the intrusion of the fantastic and this is the pick of the bunch.
- ‘Wooden Feathers’ by T Kingfisher – Like ‘Fabulous Beasts’, this does something relatively simple but does very economically and effectively.
- ‘Liminal’ Grid by Jaymee Goh – Most of the family sagas are fantasy but this story gains a lot more purpose by moving into the future.
- Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers’ by Alyssa Wong – Raw and a bit clumsy but also quite powerful.
My votes sort of accord with those of Nicholas Whyte but I’m looking forward to seeing what stories other people are going for. And I’m hoping to write more about the stories on the shortlist itself once it is announced.
As a break from writing, the art categories. Let’s start with Best Fan Artist since it is traditionally the worst category in the Hugos and even in the era of the Puppies when it has stiff competition, it is still pretty fucking bad.
1) Elizabeth Leggett – I hate the fan/pro distinction and think it should be abolished. I’m not clear why Leggett is a fan rather than a pro but regardless, she is the only artist in the category.
2) No Award
3) Spring Schoenhuth – A Finding Nemo/Dr Who mash-up and some average jewellery.
4) Steve Stiles – Shitty fanzine cartoons.
5) Ninni Aalto – A cartoon of Jeff VanderMeer as a mushroom. Nuff said.
6) Brad W Foster – Every single year. What the fuck?
And now Best Professional Artist which is better but not as much as you might hope:
1) Julie Dillon – Again, the only really artist here and also the only one to show any creativity at all (see my favourite image from here above). I’m not her biggest fan but she wins this by a country mile.
2) No Award
3) Nick Greenwood – Competent generic imagery.
4) Kirk DuoPonce -The Derek Zoolander of SF art.
5) Alan Pollock – A teenager’s sketches for a crap action movie.
6) Carter Reid – No contribution to the voter package.
After Best Fan Writer, we turn to my votes for Best Short Story:
1) No Award
2) ‘A Single Samurai’ by Steven Diamond
3) ‘Totaled’ by Kary English
4) ‘Turncoat’ by Steve Rzasa
5) ‘On A Spiritual Plain’ by Lou Antonelli
6) ‘The Parliament Of Beasts And Birds’ by John C Wright
As always, a line break indicates Double No Award and an asterisk indicates it isn’t even bloody eligible for the award. If you want to read more about my thoughts on the stories, Strange Horizons have just published my review of the shortlist:
This year, however, saw the return of organised slate voting under the banner of Sad Puppies—spearheaded by 2014 Hugo nominee, shit writer, and dumbass Brad Torgensen—and Rabid Puppies, spearheaded by 2014 Hugo nominee, shit writer, and total fucking scumbag Vox Day. In contrast to last year’s limited Sad Puppy success, this year their campaigns swept the board. There is only one non-Puppy story out of fifteen, and that story is only there because the Puppies managed to nominate an ineligible story from 2013 that was subsequently removed.
And why did they decide to wreck the Hugos in this fashion? To redress a balance. To remove all the Politically Correct crap that has clogged up the award for so long and replace it with honest, hardworking, conservative, Christian fiction. As Torgersen so memorably put it: “Nutty Nuggets, Nutty Nuggets, Nutty Nuggets, Nutty Nuggets, Nutty Nuggets, Nutty Nuggets.” They have loudly proclaimed that the 2015 Hugo shortlists represent the very best fiction that this wing of fandom has to offer, so it seemed only fair to take them at their word. What unexpected delights would I find amongst this treasure trove of under-acclaimed fiction? If you’ve read anything that any of the Puppies have ever written, I think you can see where this is heading; I intended to read all three short fiction categories but I gave up after Best Story.
That isn’t quite true, I actually managed to read one of the Best Novellettes. At 7,500 to 17,500 words, the stories in this spurious category can be less concerned about economy which is just as well as Edward M Lerner isn’t at all concerned with economy. ‘Championship B’tok’ is structured as a mini-novel with 10 chapters that hop from viewpoint to viewpoint and those annoying infodumps dressed up as documents from the future (the cringe-inducingly named Internetopedia). After a few stretches of his fingers, I’m sure Lerner could type this stuff all day without breaking a sweat. In fact, this is the eighth story in his Interstellar Net space opera series and there are constant reference to previously described events and gaps where knowledge is assumed. So instead of a premise, we have plot – or rather pieces of plot from a megatext. Doughty human spy-spy Carl Rowland must outwit the inscrutably cunning Snakes, intern aliens who don’t know their place, whilst journalist-spy Corinne Elman is investigating a galaxy-spanning conspiracy. Are the two connected!? As the title suggests, it is a load of old arse. The first chapter is entirely unconnected to the following nine, the final chapter doesn’t resolve anything, really the story is only notable for Lerner’s touchingly misplaced faith in the rule of law.
You can see why a story as strenuously undemanding and casually conservative as this appeals to Puppy voters though. Not to mention parochial; as is so often the case, the imagined future is actually a projected mid-20th Century America is which Walter Cronkite (born 1916) is a relevant journalistic benchmark and impressionism (most prominent in the late 1800s) is considered outré. The central game of B’tok, which turns out to not be very important at all, is a recreation of the Battle of Midway. I am too young, too foreign, too interested in literature to be the audience for this work. So I take my hat off to Chance Morrison who is reading them all.
Now that the Hugo voter package is out, this is the first of a series of posts about how I am voting in this year’s Hugo Awards. Due to manipulation of the ballot by groups of idiots called Puppies things are a bit different this year and some people are only voting on the Puppy free shortlist. This is a totally legitimate approach but not one I am taking. If I was taking this approach, however, I would have only one person to vote for in this category: Laura Mixon. Instead, here are my votes:
1) No Award
2) Laura J Mixon – For reasons set out here.
3) Amanda S Green – Basically a stream of consciousness only tangentially related to SF that is randomly peppered with the letters SJW and GHH.
4) Cedar Sanderson – As above but with extra anti-feminism.
5) David Freer – As above (including literally published on the same blog as Sanderson) but actually insane.
6) Jeffro Johnson – No accessible contribution included in Hugo voter package and I’m not about to go and seek out Puppy work.
If you set out to find the worst fan writing available, you’d probably end up with something like this (and this pattern seems to hold true in Best Related). The Puppies think that not only is this writing not shit, it is the best published in the field in 2014. They are fucking jokers. And the biggest laugh comes from Freer’s advertorial introduction to his contribution to the package:
When I was told my name had been suggested for this I wrote – on Mad Genius Cloud – thank you, but really younger writers (not old professionals like me) needed to be considered, and would be helped by it, not me. As usual, nobody listened. Surprise. I am not their owner or master. They are adults who can make up their own mind, or not.
O bold free thinkers!
So, as promised, let’s turn to the nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards. Lots has already been said and I’ve no wish to repeat it but here are some good pieces which summarise the issues. The upshot is that this year – as last year – I am going to use No Award a lot but unusually lots of other people might join me. This is why I don’t think the Sad/Rabid Puppies have killed the Hugos; it is easy to influence the nominations but hard to influence the vote as we saw last year with Vox Day placing below No Award. The effect will be massively multiplied this year and after a couple of fruitless attempts, I think the Puppies will just get bored. The question then is how do we get through those couple of attempts with our sanity intact and some works that aren’t irredeemable on the shortlist. To that end I was suggest everyone reads the excellent Plokta proposal:
The problem with the puppy slates is not that they’ve got stuff on the ballot. They’re members of the Worldcon, and they’re entitled to have the stuff they nominated on the ballot, regardless of their decision processes in making their choices. The problem is that they have kept off the ballot some other stuff that most voters would probably prefer to vote for. So what we should be doing is preventing a slate from forcing stuff off the ballot, not from getting stuff on the ballot. The voters can then use their alternative vote preferences to take care of the slate, as happened last year when the slate failed to completely dominate any categories.
I really hope something comes of this but, to be honest, weathering the Puppy storm is the easy bit. The harder part is having a conversation about how we, collectively, nominate works for the Hugos.
Honestly, after last year I never wanted to write about eligibility posts again. It was an important piece and I’m glad I wrote it (and that the editors of Speculative Fiction 2014 are reprinting it, despite disagreeing with it) but the discussion around it was so polarised and productive as to be draining. As I said when last year’s shortlists were announced, I do think there is a connection between author’s publishing their eligibility and the rise of nomination slates but I had no intention of being dragged into it all again this year, an intention only strengthen by seeing it play out again in exactly the same way. However, at the same time, I’ve been increasingly doing my own lobbying as well as mulling over Abigail Nussbaum’s increasingly militant line on awards recommendations:
Last year when the nominees were announced there were several attempts to distinguish between “good” and “bad” campaigning–to argue, for example, that Larry Correia’s Sad Puppies ballot (which gave us Vox Day, Hugo nominee), and the campaign to get all fourteen Wheel of Time novels nominated for Best Novel, were substantively different from, say, my posting my Hugo recommendations on this blog, or John Scalzi recommending me for the Best Fan Writer Hugo. I don’t believe that’s true.
I disagree with Nussbaum – I think there is a substantive difference – but I also think there should be more discussion of these issues. Recognising that this might be difficult, I’d like to propose a framework for this discussion. I’m not saying that this framework is right or definitive but I do hope it is at least helpful. First of all, I think there are three axes to consider: someone’s authority, the extent to which they direct others and their own self-interest. Secondly, the range of each axis is quite large:
1 – Some random person on the internet
2 – Someone with a social media network including Hugo voters
3 – Someone with a large social media network including Hugo voters or an author
4 – An author with a large following
5 – A superstar author
1 – Listing your nominations without comment
2 – Recommending multiple works to consider or posting your own eligibility
3 – Recommending specific works to nominate
4 – Actively campaigning for specific works
5 – Actively campaigning for a full slate
1 – No relationship with the person you recommend
2 – Acquaintance, colleague or part of social network
3 – Friend
4 – Yourself
5 – Yourself and your friends
Finally, the way in which the three interact means there is likely to be a large grey area in the middle. I’m going to suggest scoring six or less counts as ‘good’ behaviour and scoring 12 or more counts as ‘bad’ behaviour with everything in the middle up for discussion. So let’s consider two baseline case:
But what about less clear cases? As linked above, I used a BSFA Review editorial last year to encourage people to start thinking about their Hugo nominations as well as discussion some of the things I would be nominating. My strongest recommendation was for the Best Graphic Story category: “But if I could compel you to go out and read one piece of fiction it would be Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky.” If I’d posted this here my authority would be a 2, in a BSFA publication it is probably 3. I’d suggest my direction is also a 3. Compare this to George RR Martin’s recommendation of Laura J Mixon for Best Fan Writer: “So I’m nominating Mixon for Best Fan Writer, and I urge you to do the same.” Not only is his direction stronger, his authority is several orders of magnitude bigger.
As it turns out, both our picks made the shortlist. It is possible Mixon only made it because a member of the Sad/Rabid Puppy slate declined his nomination but it seems likely that Martin’s intervention had some effect whereas I’m pretty sure my own effect was negligible. But we’ve no way of knowing. Likewise, it seems likely that John Scalzi’s recommendations for Best Fan Writer last year had some effect: “Abigail Nussbaum is another excellent candidate for a win, in my opinion… These are just four people off the top of my head; there are many more.” However, the direction is even weaker than mine and spread across multiple candidates. I’d also suggest his authority is weaker than Martin’s but this is a good example of how my methodology does a good job of making the highly subjective seem more objective. Nonetheless, I do think this helps expose that there are different shades of grey here. Which finally brings us to eligibility posts. Here I think the picture for Scalzi is very different and, indeed, that is one of the reasons he has been so keen to use his platform to promote others. But, of course, most authors don’t have this platform.
So what does this all mean? Not much; re-label the points on the axes or change the shade of the radar charts and suddenly says something very different. This is very much one perspective. But I hope it does show that there is a continuum of behaviour here that we are all part of and that is it worth talking about the way we behave as a community since, after all, the Hugos are community awards.
- Europe In Autumn by Dave Hutchinson – 1/2
- Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel – 3/1
- The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August by Claire North – 3/1
- Memory Of Water by Emmi Itäranta – 6/1
- The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey – 9/1
- The Book Of Strange New Things by Michel Faber – 18/1
Incidentally, I reckon this is the best shortlist since 2011.
If you are a member of the BSFA, you have until 1 April to vote in the BSFA Awards. I had hoped to write about the shortlists but, as is increasingly common these days, I’ve run out of time. So instead I’ll briefly follow up my thoughts on nominating for the Non-Fiction Award.
The first thing to say is that I’m very pleased ‘The State Of British SF’ has been shortlisted. This was very much a team effort but it is also the first time I’ve ever been nominated for an award. Which is nice. (In other nice news, I’m also one of the contributors to Speculative Fiction 2014.)
Second, I’m also pleased to see one of my nominations, ‘Deep Forests And Manicured Gardens: A Look At Two New Short Fiction Magazines’, on the shortlist. Since nominating it, Ethan Robinson has posted this very interesting response to both ‘Deep Forests’ and ‘Short Fiction And The Feels’. I think Robinson’s piece is best when describing the latter because of the different political contexts of the two essays under discussion and the fact McCalmont only has a direct stake in one. I don’t think that he would disagree that he has a fondness for rhetoric and grandstanding; often, as in ‘Deep Forests’, I think that can be creative but in ‘The Feels’ it is more destructive. Or, as Robinson puts it: “In general the fact that oppression is something real and concrete that actual human beings have to deal with every moment of their lives, and not just an abstract “issue” for people unaffected by it to have fun opinions about, is something that McCalmont seems utterly unable to grasp.”
Finally, I’m a fan of Paul Kincaid’s criticism and had a quick skim of Call And Response before I sent it out for review so I’m pleased to see his collection on there too. But it does point to the continually problematic nature of the award. Not only do we have books competing with essays, here we have what is essentially a re-print collection competing with a brand new monograph. Meanwhile, Sibilant Fricative by Adam Roberts – which to my mind is essentially the same type of book as Kincaid’s – is ineligible. It is all a bit messy but then this award category always has been and my only solution I can come up with is to abolish it.