Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2015 Hugo Voting - Roundup and Review

Voting for the 2015 Hugo Awards closes on July 31st, at 11:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time. That is this Friday. If you are eligible to vote and haven't done so, you should make sure to do that before the deadline.

I am a supporting member of Sasquan, which is the location of this year's World Science Fiction Convention. Because of this, I am eligible to vote in this year's Hugo Awards. I have now cast my votes. I have already reviewed several of the nominated works, and have set out explanations for some of my votes. I won't be able to review all of the remaining material before voting closes, but I'm going to continue to post reviews and explanations of my voting after it does. I am probably also going to go back and fill in my voting and reviews for the 2014 Hugos that I didn't get to last year.

Obviously the story of this year's Hugo Awards has been the Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy slates that dominated the ballot. When Brad Torgersen announced the slate, I pointed out that the 2014 Sad Puppy slate was comprised entirely of works that were terrible. With the usual arrogance displayed by the Sad Puppy organizers, Torgersen told me I would be very embarrassed when I read the slated Sad Puppy works for 2015 and saw how good they were. Well Brad, I've read all of the nominated works from the Sad Puppy slate, and they are terrible. The people who should be embarrassed are Brad Torgersen, and the rest of the authors who pushed for this miserable material to get on the Hugo Award ballot. Collectively, the Puppy nominated works and people are the worst set to be placed on the ballot in Hugo Award history.

Overall, the best of the Puppy nominated written fiction works were Skin Game by Jim Butcher, and Totaled by Kary English, but even they were merely mediocre. From there, the Puppy picks run down to Lovecraftian horror levels of incredibly awful. Some of the Puppy driven Best Related Work nominees were not merely badly written, they were aggressively offensive as well. The worst thing that could have happened to the reputations of many of the Puppy-promoted authors is that people would read their work, and once they were placed on the Hugo ballot, that is exactly what happened. The Puppy picks in the Dramatic Presentation categories were, by and large, not terrible, but they did put Interstellar on the ballot, which I found to be a fairly stupid snooze-fest of a movie.

I'm using the balance of this post to list my votes for this year's Hugo Awards in the categories for which I don't intend to do an individual post about my voting. Many Hugo voters have stated that they will place "No Award" above the nominees from the Puppy slates to show their dislike of the use of slates as a tactic. Others have said that the only way to be fair is to read all of the works and honestly assess them based upon their quality regardless of how they got onto the Hugo ballot. Having read all of the materials nominated, I can state that I find there to be almost no functional difference between "No Awarding" the Puppy picks because they were put there by slate-driven bloc voting, and "No Awarding" the Puppy picks on the basis of their quality.

I employed No award quite a bit in my voting, because most of the Puppy nominees were bad enough that they shouldn't have been on the Hugo ballot to begin with, and certainly not good enough to merit a victory. Any nominees who I have listed here who fall behind No Award were simply left off of my actual submitted ballot, and their relative rankings are only given as a thought exercise for the purposes of this post. My votes in these categories (and my rankings of things I left off my ballot) were as follows:

Best Professional Editor: Short Form:

1. No Award (actual finish 1st)
2. Jennifer Brozek (actual finish 3rd)
3. Mike Resnick (actual finish 2nd)
4. Bryan Thomas Schmidt (actual finish 4th)
5. Edmund R. Schubert [nomination withdrawn] (actual finish 6th)
6. Theodore Beale (actual finish 5th)

This category was populated entirely by Sad and Rabid Puppy slate picks, none of whom were good enough to vote above "No Award". I considered placing the Puppy picked editor Mike Resnick above "No Award", but on balance I decided not to. The nomination for Resnick seems a little odd given that one of the stated primary goals of the Sad Puppy slate was to promote individuals who the Hugo voting community had previously overlooked, and Resnick has been far from overlooked by the Hugos. In fact, Resnick had been previously nominated for a Hugo Award three dozen times and has won five times. This year, However, there doesn't seem to be anything about Resnick's work this year that would recommend him for the award, and he was apparently the voice that motivated Torgersen to put the mediocre and forgettable Totaled on the Puppy slate, which in my mind wipes away any benefit of the doubt Resnick may have been entitled to. The rest of the field ranged from merely average down to Theodore Beale, whose sample of editing work (in the form of Wright's short fiction and the collection Riding the Red Horse) was so awful that even calling him an editor at all seems to be a misnomer. Even Edmund R. Schubert, who chose to withdraw his name from the ballot, should rank higher than Beale.

One slightly amazing omission from the Hugo ballot in this category is Trevor Quachri, the current editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. The Sad Puppy slate nominated four works drawn from Analog this year, and yet somehow neglected to nominate the editor responsible for acquiring those works for the magazine. This seems like a fairly remarkable oversight on the part of the organizers of the Sad Puppy slate.

Best Professional Editor: Long Form:

1. Sheila Gilbert (actual finish 3rd)
2. No Award (actual finish 1st)
3. Anne Sowards (actual finish 4th)
4. Toni Weisskopf (actual finish 2nd)
5. Jim Minz (actual finish 5th)
6. Theodore Beale (actual finish 6th)

This category is the only one other than the Dramatic Presentation categories in which I ended up placing a Puppy nominee above "No Award". Gilbert's listed of work for DAW is truly impressive, and she is clearly worthy of a Hugo Award. The other nominees are a mixed bag. Based upon Weisskopf's response in the Hugo packet, it is impossible to figure out exactly what editing she did for Baen in 2014, and given what Baen as a whole says about their "team editing" practices, it is impossible to figure out exactly what Minz edited either. If every editor at Baen is responsible for editing their work as a whole, then none of them is worthy of an individual award. Sowards' resume just isn't quite good enough to merit consideration for the Hugo Award - most of the works she lists fall into the category of "competent but uninspiring books", and competent but uninspiring is not the stuff from which Hugo Awards are made. Beale, once again, has no business even calling himself an editor, let alone being on this ballot.

Best Professional Artist:

1. Julie Dillon (actual finish 1st)
2. No Award (actual finish 2nd)
3. Kirk DouPonce (actual finish 3rd)
4. Nick Greenwood (actual finish 5th)
5. Alan Pollack (actual finish 4th)
6. Carter Reid (actual finish 6th)

The Best Professional Artist category has a single non-Puppy nominee, and four picks drawn from the Puppy slates. Julie Dillon is a brilliant artist, and is well-deserving of a first place nod. The other artists nominated are competent professionals, but nothing really seems to recommend them as being the best in the field.

Best Semi-Prozine:

1. Lightspeed Magazine (actual finish 1st)
2. Beneath Ceaseless Skies (actual finish 3rd)
3. Strange Horizons (actual finish 3rd)
4. No Award (actual finish 4th)
5. Abyss & Apex (actual finish 5th)
6. Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine (actual finish 6th)

Lightspeed and Beneath Ceaseless Skies are, alongside Clarkesworld (which isn't eligible in this category), the best sources for short fiction that one can find online, while Strange Horizons is a mere half-step behind them. The remaining nominees are not bad, but they aren't in the same league as these three, and are not good enough to place above "No Award".

Best Fanzine:

1. Journey Planet (actual finish 1st)
2. No Award (actual finish 2nd)
3. Tangent Online (actual finish 4th)
4. Elitist Book Reviews (actual finish 5th)
5. The Revenge of Hump Day (actual finish 6th)
6. Black Gate [nomination withdrawn] (actual finish 3rd)

This is another category that has a single non-Puppy nominee and four Puppy picks. Journey Planet is a pure expression of fannish love, and as a result, easily gets my vote for first place in this category. Tangent Online isn't absolutely terrible, but David Truesdale cost the magazine all credibility due to his frothy and dishonest screeds related to the SFWA Bulletin controversy. Black Gate decided that being the darling of Theodore Beale wasn't a position they wanted to be in and withdrew their nomination from the ballot. The other nominees in this category are simply not nearly good enough to be on the Hugo ballot to begin with, let alone good enough to be deserving of a vote.

Best Fan Writer:

1. Laura J. Mixon (actual finish 1st)
2. No Award (actual finish 2nd)
3. Jeffro Johnson (actual finish 3rd)
4. Dave Freer (actual finish 4th)
5. Amanda S. Green (actual finish 5th)
6. Cedar Sanderson (actual finish 6th)

Another category with a single non-Puppy nominee, Best Fan Writer pits Laura J. Mixon's exposé of the blogger known alternatively as Requires Hate or Winterfox (who turned out to be Benjanun Sriduangkaew) and a set of competitors who simply have no business being on a Hugo ballot in any capacity. There have been some people who are critical of honoring a writer based upon what is essentially a single piece of writing, and there is some merit to that, but the fact remains that unpacking the web of lies and vitriol that Sriduangkaew built around herself was an important contribution to the genre fiction community as a whole, and that should be recognized. The offerings provided by the remaining nominees in this category range from pedestrian and uninspired, such as the writing of Jeffro Johnson, to incoherent and incredibly stupid such as the writing of Cedar Sanderson and Amanda S. Green.

Best Fan Artist:

1. Elizabeth Leggett (actual finish 1st)
2. Brad Foster (actual finish 5th)
3. Spring Schoenhuth (actual finish 2nd)
4. Steve Stiles (actual finish 4th)
5. Ninni Aalto (actual finish 3rd)

Best Fan Artist is the one category entirely free of any Puppy-related nominees. Perhaps the Puppies didn't know any fan artists, which seems plausible since most people get to know fan artists through attending fan-run conventions, and the Puppies seem, by and large, to be uninterested in such gatherings. The choice here was not difficult. Elizabeth Leggett's work is absolutely brilliant and so much better than that of her competition that there is almost no real point in comparing them. Foster's work is cute, and Schoenhuth's jewelry is interesting, but neither artist's work holds a candle to Leggett's. The remaining two artists are decent, but not especially memorable.

Best Fancast:

1. Galactic Suburbia (actual finish 1st)
2. Tea and Jeopardy (actual finish 2nd)
3. No Award (actual finish 3rd)
4. The Sci-Phi Show (actual finish 4th)
5. Adventures in SciFi Publishing (actual finish 5th)
6. Dungeon Crawler's Radio (actual finish 6th)

For the second year in a row I have placed Galactic Suburbia at the top of my Hugo ballot. Simply put, Tansy, Alisa, and Alex are absolutely delightful to listen to no matter whether they are talking about the Hugo Awards, Veronica Mars, feminism and how the "fake geek girls" thing is bullshit, or cake. To be honest, I could sit and listen to these three women talk about the phone book, because they would find a way to make it interesting. Had podcasts like Verity or the Coode Street Podcast been nominated, I probably would not have put Tea and Jeopardy in the number two slot, but I would have ranked it, so it gets the second position by default. The remaining three nominees are all Puppy picks, and after listening to a selection of their episodes I concluded they were simply not worth bothering with as they are just not Hugo material.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer:

1. Wesley Chu (actual finish 1st)
2. No Award (actual finish 2nd)
3. Kary English (actual finish 3rd)
4. Eric S. Raymond (actual finish 4th)
5. Jason Cordova (actual finish 5th)
6. Rolf Nelson (actual finish 6th)

The one category in the Hugo Awards that is "not a Hugo" but which is still dominated by Puppy picks once again highlights just how weak the Puppy-chosen selections are. The lone non-Puppy, Chu is a promising and interesting writer with four novels under his belt, and easily gets my first-place vote. Kary English has a thin resume composed of works that are merely adequate, which ranks her well below "No Award" in my book. The remaining nominees are simply not very good and really should not be on the ballot at all.

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  1. I agree that No Awarding based on quality and No Awarding based on principled opposition to slate nominations gives roughly the same result. For me Totaled and Skin Game would probably have come out above No Award if they had reached the ballot honestly and if they had a full field of honest competitors to run against. Furthermore "The Day The World Turned Upside Down" was one I strongly disliked, but might not have No Awarded had it been facing a full field of honest competitors.

    1. @Cat Sittingstill: I read Skin Game right after reading The Goblin Emperor and The Three-Body Problem. The difference in quality between those books and Butcher's offering wasn't just apparent, it was painful. Skin Game is simply not even close to being in the same league as the non-Puppy works.

      I read Totaled while working my way through the nominees for the WSFA Small Press Award, and quite simply English's story was inferior to all of them. That, more than anything else, cemented my decision to leave Totaled off my ballot and vote "No Award" for the entire category.

      I also put The Day the World Turned Upside Down below "No Award", but that is simply because I didn't like the story very much.