The 2014 Hugo Awards: Initial Thoughts

I started this year with a goal of reading the fiction nominees for the Hugo Awards and casting an official vote. The nominees were just announced yesterday, so it's game on for the Kaedrin Hugo run. Today, we'll give some initial thoughts on the Best Novel slate, as well as some general thoughts on the rest of the nominations. Let's get to it:

Best Novel (1595 nominating ballots)
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie - No surprise here, and I gather that this is the favorite to win the award as well. I've already written a review of this one, but I'll say that this seems like an eminently worthy nomination and I could certainly see myself voting for this if none of the other nominees grab me.
  • Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross - A frequent nominee, Stross has yet to actually win the Best Novel award (though he has taken home a couple Novella awards). My experience with Stross is limited, and I genuinely disliked Accelerando (I did not finish, but that says something in itself, since I can count the number of books I've not finished on one hand), but I do enjoy his blog from time to time, and a lot of his books do sound interesting. This one is apparently a "follow up" (but not a sequel) to 2008's Saturn's Children. It is positioned as a standalone novel though, so I'll only be reading this one. Of the nominees I haven't read, this one seems the most up my alley.
  • Parasite by Mira Grant - Another frequent nominee, Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) made waves with her trilogy of Zombie novels. I'm not a big fan of zombies, so I did not read those. This book looks to be the start of another series and has a premise that I find interesting. Assuming this book is self-contained enough to stand on its own, I could certainly see myself enjoying this.
  • Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia - This appears to be a controversial nomination, as Correia has made a hobby of whining about liberals, political correctness and, in particular, the frequent nominations (and wins) of John Scalzi (who won for last year's Redshirts). There is a lot of speculation that this is a protest nomination that happened more for political reasons than for the quality of Correia's work. Not having read anything by Correia, I cannot say, but I'm not immediately endeared to him because of his antics. I'm also a little annoyed that this is the third book in a series. I'll have to look into this further, but I'm guessing I need to read all three books (and they're all of moderate length).
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson - Holy hell, I thought this was a joke. Not having read the books, I can't speak to their quality, but the fact that a 14 book, 11,000+ page, 4.4+ million word work has been nominated makes this a pretty impractical nominee. It hinges on a relatively obscure rule that says if no individual work in a series is nominated, the entire series can be nominated once it concludes. When this possibility was raised earlier this year, I thought it was pretty funny, but now that the work has made it to the final ballot, I'm a little unsure of what to do here. 11,000 pages is around how much I read in a year, and I don't have that long (not to mention all the other stuff I want to read). If I want to be honest in this process, I'll need to read at least some of this... and if I really enjoy it, that will be a problem, because voting for something that I haven't finished seems rather dishonest. If I hate it, I can at least say I made the effort and read at least a couple entries in the series, but even that rubs me the wrong way. I guess we'll see how this goes.
Other assorted thoughts:
  • The series thing bugs me. It's always been a tricky proposition, because even if they had only nominated the final Wheel of Time book, wouldn't I have to read all the others to truly understand what's going on? This has always been something of a turnoff to me when I looked at the shortlists of previous years. Heck, the Correia nomination might force me to read two additional books, and if I don't like the concept of "Grimnoir" (which I don't find particularly inspiring by itself), that's going to be a slog. Last year, Mira Grant's zombie series had the same issue. The year before, the latest in the Song of Ice and Fire series book was nominated (which would also mean thousands of pages of catchup, etc...). Bujold's Vorkosigan series at least consists of somewhat standalone novels, though I'm guessing that fans who've read the whole series are getting the most out of the recent books. And so on. I don't know what the real solution is here, except, I guess, to quit my job and start reading full time or something.
  • The politics thing also bugs me. There are two works that seem to be on the ballot solely to jab a finger at a certain liberal element of fandom, which strikes me as rather boorish. I'm really not down with the whole politicization of everything that seems to be happening in our culture these days, and that goes for everyone, not just these two writers (I expect a lot of people will try to make something big out of these nominations, which will of course only feed the fire and cause more annoyance and frustration than is needed. I'm already seeing people claim that this year's awards are tainted by these two nominations, which I find a bit ridiculous, and it's exactly the sort of attitude that gets these protest nominees on the short list in the first place. We need a way out of this negative feedback loop that politics has put us in...) That being said, I will take these works on their face and judge them as I would anything else. I could see myself enjoying Correia's books, and I know nothing of Vox Day, except that he appears to be an ass (he's nominated for a Novelette). So it looks like I'm taking the Scalzi approach to this.
  • Speaking of Scalzi, no Scalzi on the ballot. I was a little surprised by this, but my guess is that while he is a popular guy and has garnered all sorts of noms over the past decade or so (including almost all of his novels, and several shorter works), no one saw The Human Division as a cohesive novel (it being a series of loosely connected Novellas and Short Stories), and that because there are 13 different eligible stories, any sort of votes for Scalzi got spread out amongst the eligible stories (i.e. there was no clear favorite).
  • There are some categories I won't be voting in at all. I'll leave the more specific complaints about the structure of categories for a separate post, but I can't see myself voting for the Best Editor awards (Seriously? How I am I supposed to know how good they are as an editor, I'm only seeing the finished work...). And the notion of "Zines" is.... I don't know, it's 2014, they seem quaint and not very relevant (though it looks like some are at least online). I'm not sure what to make of the Artist awards
  • Best Fan Writer looks to be an interesting category, as all the nominees are online (apparently, this was not so in the past) and some are writers I already read. They also represent a "terrifying flood of girl cooties" (to borrow a phrase from Cheryl Morgan from last year).
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form is an interesting list, but the best SF film from last year is missing (that would be Upstream Color). This is one of the few things I would have nominated for, since I'm pretty up to speed with SF and Fantasy movies, so I regret not submitting the nomination (I'd guess my vote wouldn't be a deciding one, but still, it's the principle of the thing).
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form is a consistently weird category in which fully half the nominees are from a single show (Doctor Who)... This is not a new thing (and usually the proportions are even worse), but in this case, I'm hit with the same series problem from above. I've been slowly wading my way through the early seasons of the recent run (i.e. starting with the Christopher Eccleston Doctor), so do I need to watch more before I watch these three? They seem to be particularly focused on continuity, so I'm not sure what to make of that. Otherwise, I've already seen Game of Thrones and really want to get onboard with Orphan Black, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see what's going on there...
So it begins. I'm in the process of finishing off two books right now (should be done within a day or two), then I start in on the Hugo reading. I'm sure many posts will follow.