m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Last Day of Hugo Voting

We bought staff memberships for Sasquan, this summer’s World Science Fiction Convention, back before the nominating season. Due to the summer’s unexpected expenses we are no longer planning to attend, but we haven’t sold them yet so I get to vote on the Hugo awards.

Peter, my personal canary in the Hugo mines, informs me that people are posting about the Hugo-nominated stories as voting draws to a close, including how (allegedly) horrible some of them are. I’ve found a few technical demerits among them, but nothing unusual for the genre. I’ve been surprised at the variety of stories more than anything else; I have voted in other years and don’t remember quite such a range of sub-genres. Maybe Peter and I don’t need to start Sad Werepuppies after all.

Novellas

My morning dilemma is how to rank the novella category, which is full of stories of comparable quality but incommensurable styles. Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman is military sci-fi chopped up into episodic bits of the unreliable narrator’s mechanical memories interspersed with more standard (though not necessarily more reliable) historical records. “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. is more like the novelette nominee “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn: an engaging low-fantasy adventure from the point of view of the tribes at the technological bottom of a world generally fallen into an Iron Age or so from forgotten high-tech heights.

John C. Wright’s One Bright Star to Guide Them is interesting both genre-wise as a life-after-Narnia story, and craft-wise: despite being the only work ever written about the protagonist’s Narnia-style adventures, it incorporates the background information so much more smoothly than the various volumes and outtakes from existing series appearing on the ballot. (I’m looking at you, “Championship B’tok”, “The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, and The Dark Between the Stars.)

Wright’s other two novellas, “Pale Realms of Shade” and “The Plural of Helen of Troy”, are quite similar in setting and (noir) feel, although genre-wise the former is paranormal fiction and the latter sci-fi. I read all of Wright’s stories back during nominations, which makes it ever harder to rank them now. But my tie-breaker in these situations is to pick the page-turner, and the novella that kept me up latest was… Big Boys Don’t Cry.

Novelettes

I had less trouble with the Novelette category; my page-turning top place went to the novelette “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra. “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart was engaging if somewhat technically flawed. I have already mentioned the sequels “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn and “Championship B’tok” by Edward M Lerner; as such neither one had a particularly satisfying ending, though the latter was by far the worse cliffhanger.

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt was an excellent story, but I don’t think that magical realism alone raises a work out of the conventional genre of literary fiction into any of the speculative genres for which Hugos are awarded—especially not when the protagonist is so much more interested in his recent breakup than in the novum.

Short Stories

I had only a bit of trouble with the Short Stories: “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa and “Totaled” by Kary English seemed the best of the lot, and although the subgenre of “Totaled” was closer to my heart, “Turncoat” won on technical merits of plot and disembodied character. The other three stories had interesting nova but did not quite rise to page-turningness; of them “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright and “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond rose above “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli on technical merits.

Though I may vote on them, I am not planning to review Novels or any of the other categories, so that’s all for the 2015 Hugos. Maybe next year…