2014 Hugo Nominee Ballot: Best Fan Writer

There are far too many amazing fan writers out there.  This list began with 20-30 names, which I whittled down to 8.  Then I flipped a bunch of 8-sided die to pick the final 5 (or something like that).

So, here's what I picked this year:
Kameron Hurley
One of the things I love about Hurley's writing is the way she uses personal anecdotes and analogies to address the issues throughout our genre, particularly as they relate to representation and gender.  She also writes about the writing world and much more, but I think her strongest work involves her critiques of our genre's representation problems, particularly this essay at A Dribble of Ink.

Foz Meadows
She is by far my favorite feminist writer in the sf/f world.  Her analysis of the SFWA fiasco last year, for example, is well worth reading, if not because you need persuading, then at least to bask in the intensity of her rhetoric and the profound analyses she provides.  Her "controversial" writing style probably works against her among certain circles, but I personally think she deserves to make it to the final ballot.

Paul Weimer

This is my only almost-traditional fanwriter selection.  I should note up front that Paul is a friend, so I'm a tad biased.  That said, there's something about Paul's all-encompassing involvement in sf/f that I think must be recognized.  He is everywhere, adding his thoughts on everything from books to commentary to sf/f history to his personal connection to genre.  He's like the singularity of the fanwriter.  He writes columns for multiple websites (including one of mine -- The Skiffy and Fanty Show).  He tweets more than any other human being on the planet (or close to it), reads and reads and reads and just shares his love for sf/f in a way that is exhausting, but also so endearing.  Genre loves Paul.  It must love Paul.

Abigail Nussbaum

Easily one of the best reviewers in the blogosphere, Nussbaum's detailed and well-reasoned posts are responsible for her inclusion on this list.  This review of Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria, for example, is a glorious piece of work.  Her many posts on films and literature are practically essential reading, so if you haven't checked out her blog, you need to do so now.

Justin Landon
Remember when Justin wrote some thing about the Hugos and pissed off a bunch of people?  Me, too.  And it was beautiful.  He writes about a lot of other things, too, such as books and what not, but I suspect he is best remembered for his criticisms of what he sees as the flaws or issues within our genre.  And he has this extraordinary ability to spark conversation, which I think is hard to come by sometimes.

And that's it.  So, what did you pick?

2014 Hugo Nominee Ballot: Best Novel

I feel like this is one of those categories where no matter what I do, I'll always miss something.  2013 wasn't a huge reading year for me, and that means there are just too many bloody novels I didn't have time to get to.  Thankfully, I got to read some exceptional books, even if they are only 1% of the things published in sf/f in 2013.

So without further delay, here's what I've chosen:

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
If there's one thing to be said about this book, it's this:  it sure doesn't pull any punches with its central conceit.  Right at the start, an entire people is nearly wiped off the proverbial map, with remnants of the population scrounging to figure out how to survive in a dwindling gene pool.  What follows is a fascinating examination of genetics, cultural clash, and...love?  I loved it.  Paul Weimer loved it.  You will, too (or else I'll cry).

Our interview on The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson
I'm biased.  I know.  But Sister Mine is the kind of urban fantasy that will keep me coming back for more every single time.  Hopkinson's characters are richly developed and beautiful in their eccentricities.  I also loved her attempt to incorporate the orishas of African "myth" into a modern setting, particularly as it assigned semi-divine status to the main character and her sister.

Our interview on The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Remember when Zoo City was the coolest thing Lauren Beukes had published?  Then she released The Shining Girls and destroyed our minds forever.  I loved Beukes' use of time travel and the pov of a serial killer to explore mortality and psychosis; attentive readers will discover all kinds of unique connections between the various details, too.  If you haven't read it yet, then you're missing out.

Our interview on The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar
In my humble opinion, this is the best sf/f book of 2013.  Tidhar's prose style, historical depth, and unique take on "superheroes" or "superpowers" absolutely blew me away when I read it earlier this year.  There's something haunting about this particular work, much like Osama (2011).  If Tidhar keeps it up, I'm going to have to dedicate an entire college-level course to his work...

Our interview on The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
I imagine this is the one book everyone expects to make it to the final ballot.  And it deserves to be there, too.  While sf has previously played with gender in ways similar to Leckie's take, there's something refreshing about Ancillary Justice.  Maybe it's the unique take on empire or the protagonist's past as part of a "collective" or simply the immediacy with which Leckie destabilizes the gender paradigms in the first chapter...whatever it is that makes this book so compelling, I loved it.

Our interview on The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

Now what am I missing?

2014 Hugo Nominee Ballot: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

I thought long and hard about this one.  You'll see a lot of things missing here:  no Byzantium (though I quite enjoyed it) or Iron Man 3 or Catching Fire (which was good until the last 5 minutes) or Upstream Color or The Hobbit 2 (the latter of which I think is utter garbage).

With that said, here's the list I came up with:

Pacific Rim
While I'd argue that there are films better than Pacific Rim in terms of style or depth, I also can't ignore just how much fun this movie was for me and how much it has remained part of the conversations I have with my sf/f geek friends (though some of my "geek in name only" friends hate this movie because they don't have taste -- there's snark in here).  I saw it more than once last year and loved the hell out of it from the start.  Giant robots + kaiju = potential for great fun!  Pacific Rim is the only blockbuster I saw fit to nominate based on its quality.  It's not a perfect film by any stretch, but it is an honest film, if that makes any sense.

Honestly, I think this film deserves to win.  It is easily one of the top 5 films of 2013 and definitely the strongest sf film, too.  Her is almost ambitious in a way, exploring what is a definitely science fictional conceit with careful attention to character detail and growth.  It's not every day we get to see a film where characters actually change in any real or serious sense.  Here, the change is profound, thought-provoking, and utterly engrossing.

I feel like I'm the only one that understood this movie.  I loved the film's dystopian imagination, particularly in its deep allegory about poverty and the "third world" and the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor in our own world.  That and I'm a sucker for Matt Damon...I don't expect this one to win, but I do think it deserves the nomination.

We covered it on The Skiffy and Fanty Show last year, in case you're interested.

The World's End
It's funny.  It's cute.  It has alien robots who take over a small English village.  What more could you want?  OK, so it also takes a stab at the looking glass of middle age, alcoholism, lost loves, and masculinity.  Really, you just need to see it.

We covered The World's End on The Skiffy and Fanty Show last year, too.

I don't think Gravity had the depth of Her or the larger interpretative frame of Elysium, but it was one of the most tightly-plotted, hair-raising thrillers of 2013 with visuals that would give wet dreams to Fritz Lang (maybe).  It's a stunning film, even if it is not the strongest of the 2013 lot.  Oh, and it won a bunch of Oscars, which is pretty cool.

We also covered this one on The Skiffy and Fanty Show.

And there you go.  What do you think?

2014 Hugo Nominee Ballot: Best Fancast

I love this category for entirely biased reasons:  I'm eligible for one and a lot of my favorite shows are eligible, too.  It's also a category which I think deserves to exist.  Podcasting is such a specific medium, so it really doesn't belong in Best Fanzine or Best Related Work or Best Dramatic Presentation (unless your podcast involves audio plays or audiobooks, of course).  So the fact that I get to vote in this category now is pretty awesome.

But you're here for my nominations.  So here goes (in no particular order):

The Coode Street Podcast
This remains one of my favorites, and the only "long time fans talking about the history of sf/f" podcasts on my list.  Gary and Jonathan always have something fascinating to say about whatever topic they're covering, and their endless knowledge of the field adds considerable depth to the conversation without making it unfit for a general audience.

The Writer and the Critic
I'm fairly new to this show (as in the last year-ish), but it was recommended to me by so many people that I couldn't ignore it.  And for good reason, too.  Their concentrated examination of individual works of sf/f is refreshing and informative.  Also:  it's Australian, which is pretty cool, right?  Mostly, however, I just think they are one of the best places to get in-depth analysis and discussion of sf/f works.

Galactic Suburbia
I came back to GS last year after a bit of a hiatus.  Originally, I didn't much care for the show because they spent so much time talking about "politics" (the word I'm using to describe the gender kerfluffles in our field).  They still talk about "politics," but I think I'm in a much different place today than I was in 2012, so either I don't notice it as much or I agree with their take more often than not or they've reduced the amount of time they devote to "politics."  I have a feeling it's the middle one.  Whatever the reason, I'm now a regular listener of this show for one simple fact:  their opinions on things happening in sf/f and the works we read are compelling and align with my own interests.

The Incomparable
Honestly, I have no idea if they're even eligible in this category.  But Fred Kiesche is absolutely correct:  if you don't know, nominate anyway and let the Hugo folks figure it out.  So I'm nominating The Incomparable, which is one of my favorite shows from last year.  Their insightful commentary and humor have kept me quite entertained since I started listening to them after Worldcon last year.  They are not unlike The Writer and the Critic in that respect.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show
I'm on the show.  I'm nominating it.  So sue me.  Why am I nominating it?  Because I think it's a good show.  We've improved so much in the last year, and with this whole new crew, things are just getting better.  Of course, I'm totally biased, so you can smack me around if you like.

And that's my list.  What am I missing?


Note:  I realize there are some big shows missing from the list (SF Signal, for example).  The main reasons for this are either that I didn't listen to those shows last year OR I didn't think they were award worthy (maybe perfectly serviceable shows, but without meeting my admittedly rigid standards for what I want in a show).

2014 Hugo Nominees Incoming: Criteria and Notes

A lot of folks have been sharing their nominees.  I'm going to do the same, but woefully late, such that all the information I'll provide will be completely useless to you in the end.  After all, you won't have time to read any of the books I nominate.  Oh well!

In any case, I do have criteria and notes to preface these selections:

  1. You may disagree with my selections, but I hope readers of this blog will understand that they are a reflection of a) what I was able to read/view/etc. from last year, and b) my personal taste.  There are enormous gaps in my reading.  However, if I missed a truly exceptional work, please share it with me!
  2. I will only nominate works that I believe were "the best."  I don't care how popular a book was in 2013; if it is not as good as a book that sold 1/100th the number of copies, then it will not get a nomination.  I believe the Hugos are an award to celebrate the best, not the most popular.
  3. Some of my sections will contain empty slots for various reasons, but the most obvious will be this:  I can only think of X number of things to nominate.  As I've noted above, I will only nominate works I consider to be "the best."  If I liked a work, but I don't think it's award worthy, then it's not getting a nomination.  In some cases, however, I may not have enough to nominate in a category.  As such, you're free to suggest something (there isn't much time, obviously, but I still appreciate the gesture).

    Some categories may be quite empty, such as fan artist.  Why?  Because I don't follow that particular field and haven't the foggiest what I should select anyway.  And I really don't have the time to go through the Internet looking, either...
  4. There will be no pissing and moaning about what others are nominating in the upcoming posts on this subject.  I'm sure I disagree with what others have on their ballots, but I'm really not interested in pissing all over other people's personal tastes this week.  That's for later (not really :P).
And that's it, really.  Let the games begin!