Reactions to the 2012 Hugo Shortlist: Continuing Chronicles of the Hugo-Snatcher

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The Hugo Shortlist is out, gentlemen, gentlewomen and gentle-people-of-non-normative genders. And I have many, many strong emotions about the nominees. Remembering, of course, that I’m pretty damn passionate about the Hugo Awards, full stop. I am, after all, the girl who got dressed up to watch the Hugo livestreaming last year. So it should come as no surprise (not to repeat myself) that I have many, many strong emotions about the nominees.

I may (or may not) have screamed in (happy, happy) shock when I got to best fancast. I may (or may not) have hollered in appreciation when I saw how many times Ken Liu, Catherynne Valente and Seanan McGuire were nominated. I may (or may not) have rolled my eyes when I saw certain nominees. I may (or may not) have yelled at the computer for a good three minutes when I realized certain crucial works had not received nods.

But since my incoherent yelling has never helped anyone, let’s go through the nominees, shall we? I’m going to list each category, and post my thoughts. Warnings: All Caps will be used. Frequently. For reference (if you’re interested), here’s my original ballot.

Best Novel:

  • Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
  • A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
  • Deadline, Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • Embassytown, China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
  • Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

I can’t help feeling a disappointed at this shortlist, despite the fact that it contains three of my five picks. It’s just so… expected. I mean, I am pleased as punch to see Among Others, Deadline and Embassytown on there, don’t get me wrong! I’m ecstatic to see Mira Grant get another nod, because damn, that woman can write. And thank the voters that Among Others is on there – it’s a stupendous piece of work. But I have to admit, these five novels have a lot of in common with each other.

I like to think of it as a menu. Classic science fiction and fantasy is chocolate cake, and who doesn’t like chocolate cake? But at the same time… do we want five pieces of chocolate cake? Because that’s what this shortlist feels like. Leviathan Wakes, Embassytown and Among Others are all nostalgic novels, throwbacks to “classic” science fiction. Now, in reading Embassytown and Among Others, I thought both re-vamped the style of “classic” SF in really interesting ways… and yet. They might be chocolate cake with unexpected filling, but they’re still chocolate cake. A Dance with Dragons isn’t classic SF, but it’s classic Epic Fantasy. My impression – having read neither book, but having read a fair amount of reviews for both – is that A Dance with Dragons is the fantasy equivalent of a Leviathan Wakes. It’s comfort food – again, chocolate cake, albeit chocolate cake with swords rather than spaceships.

Deadline is the closest thing to a truly innovative novel here – it’s a postmodern zombie story that melds horror and SF. I don’t think there’s anything like Deadline on the market today. It stands on its own. I’m so glad the series is receiving continued recognition – it does all kinds of fascinating, provocative things with fear and science and family relations, things that take real guts and talent to pull off. The fact that it’s so popular speaks well, I think, of the tastes of the Speculative Fiction reading public. But it’s also an expected choice, in the sense that the first novel in the series, Feed, almost won the Hugo award last year. So Deadline isn’t chocolate cake, but it’s still chocolate. Chocolate mousse, maybe.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with chocolate cake (and mousse). But only chocolate cake? When we have an entire menu of options to choose from? It feels a bit restrictive. Where is the love for people who took real narrative risks and pulled them off? Where is the recognition for authors who whipped up a batch of peanut-butter-kiwi-upside-down-cake and managed to make it delicious despite the terrible name?

To me, the three most innovative novels of the year (that I read) were Catherynne Valente’s Deathless, N.K. Jemisin’s The Kingdom of the Gods and Kameron Hurley’s God’s War. I would have given up a slice of chocolate cake for some Raspberry Souffle (Valente), an Irish Coffee (Jemisin) or a big chunk of Baclava (Hurley). I think those culinary shocks are necessary to keep the genre fresh. Remember when Catherynne Valente’s Palimpsest landed on the Hugo ballot two years ago, and the community exploded with shock and horror? Where’s THAT reaction? I see a lot of people in the blogosphere who are disappointed, but there’s no real outrage. Give me some outrage.

(astute readers may note that I did not nominate Catherynne Valente’s Deathless, and so I shouldn’t complain about it not showing up on the Hugo Ballot. This is a perfectly valid point. However, I hadn’t read it by the deadline, and although I suspected I would love it with a passion, I couldn’t in all honesty nominate it without having finished it. I did love it).

The other thing that makes me call the list restrictive is the race and gender stuff. Because I am your humorless feminist social-justice crusader, and I must complain about these things. Unless I’m making a terrible mistake with Leviathan Wakes, all five novels are set in either North-America or a Western-derived landscape. Yes, Leviathan Wakes occurs in space, but it doesn’t seem to be God’s War or Firefly, which take place in a non-western outer-space. All the authors are white. Excluding A Dance with Dragons, which has no central protagonist (as far as I know), three of the four protagonists are white men. The heroine of Embassytown has no stated race (as I recall), but the default assumption is that she’s white. Not to beat a dead horse, but… I mean… speculative fiction is the literature of alienation (at least according to China Mielville. And me). And we can’t even alienate ourselves away from North American settings and heroes?

Okay, complaints done. On the other hand, there are no duds (again, I haven’t read A Dance With Dragons or Leviathan Wakes, so I may change my mind about this). This isn’t 2010, when The Windup Girl got a nod despite being a terrible sandwich of cultural appropriation with rape fantasies as the amuse-bouche (fortunately it didn’t win…oh, wait). I can appreciate a lack of duds. I just wish there was some pizzazz.

I’m reviewing the short fiction sections as a group, since I know far less about them:

Best Novella

  • Countdown, Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • “The Ice Owl”, Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
  • “Kiss Me Twice”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s)
  • “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”, Kij Johnson (Asimov’s)
  • “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary”, Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
  • Silently and Very Fast, Catherynne M. Valente (WSFA)

Best Novelette

  • “The Copenhagen Interpretation”, Paul Cornell (Asimov’s)
  • “Fields of Gold”, Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
  • “Ray of Light”, Brad R. Torgersen (Analog)
  • “Six Months, Three Days”, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)
  • “What We Found”, Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)

Best Short Story

  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”, E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Homecoming”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s)
  • “Movement”, Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s)
  • “The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue”, John Scalzi (Tor.com)

If you consult my Hugo ballot, you’ll note that I didn’t have a whole lot of nominations for the short fiction field. Mostly because it’s not my field of expertise. I’m working on it! That said, I’m ecstatic to see some of my favorite authors on the list. Ken Liu, my short-fiction crush of 2011, is on there twice. Catherynne Valente gets a nod for her first major work of science fiction, which – yes. I say Yes, and I add “Please, sir, can I have some more?” Science Fiction needs Catherynne Valente desperately (let us note that I haven’t read Silently and Very Fast, so I might…change my mind. But I doubt it). My favorite novella of 2011, “Kiss Me Twice” is also front and center (ah, Mary Robinette Kowal). And Geoff Ryman and Rachel Swirsky, two authors I adore, are both nominees.

If anything, I’m excited by all the incredible short fiction I’m going to get to read in the next months. I’m thrilled that I finally have a good excuse to read John Scalzi, whose non-fiction work I adore. And apparently, the short story he wrote was an elaborate April Fool’s Joke, so I know I’m going to love it. All of this quells my slight disappointment at not seeing Karen Joy Fowler’s fantastic “Younger Women” or Catherynne Valente’s “The Bread we Eat in Dreams” get a nod.

(There’s also a lesson here: the less I know about something, the less likely I am to complain about it).

Best Related Work

  • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)
  • Jar Jar Binks Must Die…and other Observations about Science Fiction Movies, Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic Books)
  • The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature, Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers (Abrams Image)
  • Wicked Girls (CD), Seanan McGuire
  • Writing Excuses, Season 6 (podcast series), Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jordan Sanderson

Best Graphic Story

  • Digger, by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
  • Fables Vol 15: Rose Red, by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
  • Locke & Key Volume 4: Keys To The Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
  • The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan, created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely; directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
  • Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss;
    written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
  • Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
  • Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Doctor Who, ”The Doctor’s Wife”, written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
  • The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech”, Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
  • Doctor Who, ”The Girl Who Waited”, written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who, ”A Good Man Goes to War”, written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
  • Community, ”Remedial Chaos Theory”, written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

I know absolutely nothing about the Best Related Works and Best Graphic Story shortlists, but I’m, as ever, looking forwards to discovering them as I make my final selections. I can’t say I’m that excited about the Best Dramatic Presentation shortlists (either of them) although I think it’s fantastic that Game of Thrones got nominated as an entire series – I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. Given it’s popularity, I think it might give even Harry Potter a run for it’s money. I’m also quite happy to see that Community got a nomination, because I just started watching, and I absolutely love the series – even if it’s not “traditional” science fiction (well, it’s not science fiction at all. But that’s not the point).

I will pop up as feminist commenter 101 to point out that ALL the best Long form dramatic nominees (except Game of Thrones, which doesn’t have a central protagonist) have male heroes. And that none of them (again, excluding Game of Thrones) pass the Bechdel Test. Harry Potter does if you squint sideways, and count a conversation as a woman saying something to another woman for three seconds and receiving absolutely no reply. I don’t.

(By the way, if you want to argue with me about the Bechdel Test, you must watch this video first, because it explains the definition I follow)

But I shall move on from the Bechdel test (sigh). Especially since next year, we’ll have Prometheus. There are women in the trailer for that movie. Hopefully they will talk to each other. Hopefully the movie will be nominated for a Hugo. Oh, and we’ll have The Hunger Games, which passes with flying colors. Which will also (hopefully) be nominated.

Although it is sad to see the continuing dominance of Doctor Who – not because Doctor Who is a bad show, don’t get me wrong – but because there are other great SciFi shows that deserve to be nominated. Fringe, anyone? Individual episodes of Game of Thrones? The British version of Being Human? Doctor Who is not the only player in the field, but you wouldn’t know that from the ballot. And especially when Fringe has been so consistently mind-blowing… and is a science fiction show about a woman… which would get me to shut up about gender equality for thirty seconds…

Oh, and as someone who watched The Hugos live last year, may I just say that Christopher Garcia’s Acceptance Speech absolutely deserves to be on the shortlist? Because it does. I might even vote for it.

Best Semiprozine

  • Apex Magazine, edited by Catherynne M. Valente, Lynne M. Thomas, and Jason Sizemore
  • Interzone, edited by Andy Cox
  • Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams
  • Locus, edited by Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, et al.
  • New York Review of Science Fiction, edited by David G. Hartwell, Kevin J. Maroney, Kris Dikeman, and Avram Grumer

Best Fanzine

  • Banana Wings, edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
  • The Drink Tank, edited by James Bacon and Christopher J Garcia
  • File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
  • Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, et al.
  • SF Signal, edited by John DeNardo

Best Fancast

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

I don’t really have much to say about best Semi-prozine. I am shocked that Clarkesworld, which has won for the past two years, wasn’t even nominated, but I’m wondering if the magazine didn’t withdraw itself from consideration like Girl Genius did. Anyone know? Oh, and I’m ecstatic to see Catherynne Valente nominated for her work on Apex – she did a fantastic job, and it’s a much-needed magazine in our field.

I have absolutely nothing to say about fanzines – I’m not even going to wade into the “are blogs fanzines” debate, because I’m just not informed enough.

However.

This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

GALACTIC SUBURBIA WAS NOMINATED FOR BEST FANCAST OH MY FREAKING GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE IT, GALACTIC SUBURBIA AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA! YEs!

YES!

YES!

YES!

YES!

(congratulations to all the other nominees, by the way)

Galactic Suburbia and Cake

Also, they make cake. They understand the importance of what is Culinary.

YES! GALACTIC SUBURBIA FOR THE WIN!

I actually let out a loud WHOOOP when I saw Galactic Suburbia on there. I hoped beyond all hope they would get a nomination, but because they’re a feminist Australian podcast, I didn’t think there was any way they would. The fact that they did – that they got this kind of recognition – makes me absolutely ecstatic. I hope the nomination brings them even more visibility; they deserve it. They bring us news and recommendations, but they do it with that little extra something – and with that feminist analysis – that makes me want to listen to them all day. They’re also just damn fun – you wouldn’t think three women analyzing gender issues in speculative fiction would be a barrel of laughs, but I laugh so hard when I listen to them. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s addictive, it’s brilliant. Whenever I listen to other podcasts, I always end up thinking “I wonder what Tansy, Allysa and Alex would say about that?”

I’m so FREAKING HAPPY they got nominated. To me, it makes up for all the disappointments in all the other categories.

Yes, thank you very much. I will have that giant box of feminist cookies (Galactic Suburbia) and leave you to your cake. But as you can see above, they also have CAKE. So you should listen to it. For the Cookies. And the Cake.

(Yes, I am aware that I’m making no sense. I’m so pleased I can’t think straight)

Finishing up with the final categories:

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Lou Anders
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Anne Lesley Groell
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Betsy Wollheim

It is beyond me why Dev Pillai and Jeremy Lassen didn’t score nominations for their fantastic work on the NK Jemisin trilogy and the God’s War trilogy respectively, but I will refrain from comment, since I don’t know much about their competitors. I am pleased to see Anne Lesley Groell and Liz Gorinsky get nods, however.

Best Editor, Short Form

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

No comment!

Best Professional Artist

  • Dan dos Santos
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Michael Komarck
  • Stephan Martiniere
  • John Picacio

No comment except… you know what’s coming… five men, no women? Wow.

Best Fan Artist

  • Brad W. Foster
  • Randall Munroe
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Maurine Starkey
  • Steve Stiles
  • Taral Wayne

And still, I say, no comment! Except that I hope to discover their work soon.

Best Fan Writer

  • James Bacon
  • Claire Brialey
  • Christopher J. Garcia
  • Jim C. Hines
  • Steven H Silver

I only follow Jim C. Hines closely, but I’m pleased he got a nomination. His blog is fantastic. And hilarious. And he covers lots of feminist issues. If you want a great example of his work, try this one on book covers. 

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Mur Lafferty
  • Stina Leicht
  • Karen Lord
  • Brad R. Torgersen
  • E. Lily Yu

Really pleased to see Karen Lord on there, obviously, since I gave her first novel such a resounding YES MORE PLEASE of a review. And since I predicted she would show up on many genre award shortlists in the future. I do like to be proved right. I’m also glad to see E. Lily Yu on the list; I loved (and nominated) her short story The Anarchist Wasps and Cartographer Bees.

Again, I’m looking forward to discovering all of these authors’ works so I can vote for them properly.

So overall – well, I’m mixed. I’m ecstatic about some things – the multiple nominations for Catherynne Valente, Ken Liu and Seanan McGuire; the fact that Seanan McGuire broke the glass ceiling and became the first woman to ever be nominated FOUR TIMES (twice as her alter-ego, Mira Grant) for the Hugo; the nomination for GALACTIC SUBURBIA IS THE BEST THING EVER. I’m really excited over the prospect of discovering new fiction, art, essays etc. as I prepare to vote. But I am a bit disappointed that the shortlist for best novels feels so restrictive. It does seem like a step back from last year.

But there’s one thing I’m certain about. I cannot wait to be at the Hugo ceremonies. I’ll be the girl throwing herself under chairs rather than come within a ten foot radius of my favorite authors, many of whom have threatened to be there (famous people scare me). I’ll be the one freaking out because I just caught a glimpse of Catherynne Valente. I’ll be the one taking notes furiously. I’ll be the one clapping at people’s awesome fashion.  I’ll be the one muffling screams when my favorites win. I may even be the one with an awesome younger brother (if I can find a way to bring him with me, he’s coming).

I can’t wait.

Kaylee Dress Hugos

Already Choosing my Dress

Related Posts:

The Nebula Nominations are Wearing the Awesomepants

Invasion of the Hugo-Snatcher

Let the Djombi Eat Cake

Other Reactions to the Hugos:

Comments on the Hugo Shortlist by Staffer’s Book Reviews

My contribution to the Genre Meme

Quick (but not fast) analysis of the 2012 Hugo Award Nominees for Best Novel on The Of Blog.

Hugo Nominations Out: What Will You Wear? by Tansy Rayner Roberts

And Catherynne Valente’s Perfectly Reasonable Reaction to getting Three Nominations

Not to forget Seanan McGuire’s Response to getting FOUR Nominations and her followup post, with a plea for people to buy memberships and VOTE

Also, an important post on gender and fanwriting from Rose Lemberg: Best Fan Writers Hugo – And Women Writers

I don’t have time to do a gender and race breakdown of the nominees right now, although I will be posting one once school gets out. In the meantime, James Nicholl has published a gender breakdown