In voting for the 2014 Hugo Awards, I set out to apply my Modified SPUNARPU method. As I began reading/looking/listening, I soon found that my sanity required me to amend my rules slightly. Here, then, is my method, with the amendments to my rules added in bold.
- Slush-peruse (read, watch, listen until I’ve had enough) all nominated works and artists included in the Hugo Voting Package and, if written material, legible on my Kindle, except the ones slated only by Vox Day and his Rabid Puppies.
- Vote for the works and artists I believe are Hugo-worthy in order of how much I think of them.
- If voting slots remains, put No Award in.
- If voting slots still remain, vote for the works and artists I believe are not Hugo-worthy below No Award, in order of how little I think of them.
- Regardless of whether voting slots remain even after this exercise, leave the Rabid Puppies nominees and the works not included/legible off my ballot*.
Here, then, is my ballot, with a paragraph or two of motivation per category.
- The Goblin Emperor
- The Three Body Problem
- Skin Game
- The Dark Between the Stars
- NO AWARD
To me, this is a clear showdown between TGE and TTBP. Skin Game is a hell of a fun romp, but as far as I could tell, no more than a fun romp. And I just could not get into TDBtS at all.
While The Three Body Problem is an awesome novel, wide in scope, gripping, and ambition, I had some trouble getting into it on my first tries, and I found some of the writing somewhat clunky, with overly liberal use of infodumps. The Goblin Emperor may be less surprising as a whole, but in a final reckoning, I deem it the better novel for its writing and consistency of style and quality. In fact, the only flaw I find with TGE is that I can’t see why the characters need to be Goblins and Elves: they seem to be humans with expressive ears and various complexions.
Ann Leckie’s sequel was entirely illegible on my Kindle.
- NO AWARD
Two novellas were nominated by the Sad Puppies only; the other three bored me. One Bright Star to Guide Them deserves special mention for its boredom coefficient: the novella seems to be little more than an As You Know Bob version of Narnia.
- The Day the World Turned Upside Down
- Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium
- NO AWARD
As far as I’m concerned, these were the only two worthwhile novelettes on the shortlist. It was a tough call choosing the winner, but in the end, TDtWTUD surprised and touched me more than AtA, DtD, EtA, however moving the latter may be. I can’t exclude the possibility that I was prejudiced by Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s nationality–we’ve even co-organized and co-judged a local contest–but I think I’m letting my “objective” opinion prevail.
Best Short Story
- NO AWARD
Turncoat and The Parliament of Beasts and Birds were on the Rabid Puppies slate only, so those are off my ballot. Of the others, On A Spiritual Plain bored me from the start, and A Single Samurai, while well-written, just didn’t hold my interest; I guess it’s more of a story for Japanese monster lovers. Fortunately, I was very impressed with the character-driven, emotionally intense storytelling in Totaled.
Best Related Work
- Why Science is Never Settled
- Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth,
- Letters from Gardner
- NO AWARD
Roberts is saying nothing new in his essay on the scientific method, but I’m putting him in the winning slot for three reasons: one, that his point cannot be restated often enough; two, that he states it so eloquently; and three, that it’s simply a better related work than the others.
John C. Wright is a language virtuoso, unabashedly opinionated, and apparently rather full of himself. He seems to write his essay from a broad background and firm education, and makes his points strongly. While I often disagree with his points, and at times find them actively offensive, he is a skilled essayist. Roberts’ piece is better though.
Letters From Gardner, however well-written and meaningful, failed to grab my attention.
The other two are, in my opinion, not Hugo-worthy at all. There may be a lot of value and meaning to The Hot Equations, but to me it comes across as rather rambling and pedantic, stylistically uneven and failing to come to any kind of detectable point. And Wisdom From My Internet may actually have worked on Williamson’s Internet, where this shapeless collection of frat-boy oneliners originated. As a collected works, not so much.
Best Graphic Story
- Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick
- Saga Volume 3
- Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
- NO AWARD
- Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery
With storytelling and structuring reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Sex Criminals stands firmly alone in its bizarre and funny premise, its almost too clean drawing style, and its real-life protagonist.
Saga is interesting, with gorgeous artwork and some funny in-jokes, but the story here didn’t grab me quite as firmly as Sex Criminals. Ms. Marvel takes too long to get to the speculative stuff, and is generally too long-winded for my taste, though it’s way better than my first impression suggested.
And Rat Queens just takes waaaaay too long to get started, introducing the four Rat Queens with pomp and ceremony like that makes them real characters to the reader. It’s a shame, because once the story gets started, there really is a story there. (And a tremendous amount of blood.)
Zombie Nation was not included in the package.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
- Edge of Tomorrow
- The Lego Movie
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This was a very hard category to vote on, since I’ve seen and loved all five of these movies, and they were all great. In the end, I had to go with Interstellar. It may not have brought any new ideas–or indeed, plot elements or characters–to the screen, but it was so extremely well-done I can’t but conclude it deserves this year’s Hugo.
2nd place is a toss-up between The Lego Movie and Edge of Tomorrow. I’m choosing the more serious of the two, since I feel that is more appropriate to the Hugos. Other than that, I’m having a hard time coming up with clear differences, from the cool plot, to the consistent execution, to the awesome production value, to the computer game sensibilities.
Guardians of the Galaxy was an incredible lot of fun! However, it didn’t quite strike me with its sweeping brilliance as much as the above three did. Like I said, it’s a tough call, but when all is said and done, this is a fairly familiar plot, a fairly familiar group of adventures thrown together by fate, a fairly familiar bad guy, a MacGuffin to boot, executed admirably, but not quite enough Wow factor for me.
The Winter Soldier: Yes, great movie. But, few real surprises. One of the better superhero movies out there, but still a superhero movie that doesn’t venture too far outside its superhero movie template.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
I’ve not seen any of the nominated episodes, so I can’t in good conscience vote on this category at all.
Best Editor, Short Form
- Jennifer Brozek
- Bryan Thomas Schmidt
- Mike Resnick
- NO AWARD
- Edmund R. Schubert
My votes above NO AWARD simply reflect my opinion on the works in the Voter Package. I’ve listed Schubert below NO AWARD, because though he has indicated he does not want to be considered for a Hugo at all, I feel that if the award does not go to the first three, it would still be better if the Hugo goes to Edmund than to Vox Day.
Best Editor, Long Form
- Sheila Gilbert
- Anne Sowards
- NO AWARD
- Toni Weisskopf
- Jim Minz
Best Professional Artist
- Nick Greenwood
- Julie Dillon
- Alan Pollack
- NO AWARD
- Carter Reid
Once I’d looked through all submitted artwork in the voter package, it was obvious that Greenwood is the only real candidate for the Hugo. Dillon and Pollack are technically skilled, but their artwork lacks soul, wants for life, emotion. Greenwood, though, produces artwork that screams, cries, ducks, burns. His crashing, burning dragon is the most remarkable of the pieces I’d love to hang on my study wall and be disturbed by.
For her wonderful piece Beneath The Surface, Dillon beats Pollack by a length in my opinion. Other than that, her work strikes me as a tad too nice, too friendly, and too not-quite-real, artificial. A competent artist, Pollack loses my vote for first or second place because it’s all too air-brushed, too artificial. I’m sure his art is technically impressive, but the pieces lack life, emotion, movement.
- Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine
I’ve always loved ASIM, and feel they deserve the Hugo.
- Tangent SF Online
- NO AWARD
- Black Gate
- The Revenge of Hump Day
- Journey Planet
- Elitist Book Reviews
As far as I’ve been able to determine, and to my taste, Black Gate and Tangent are the only two Hugo-worthy nominees, in terms of writing quality, subject matter appeal, and outward focus (as opposed to editorial navel-staring). That says it all, both about my ranking Tangent first, and about putting Hump Day and Journey Planet below NO AWARD. There was no sample included in the voting package for the EBR.
Black Gate has withdrawn for publicly stated reasons; but if Tangent doesn’t get the Hugo, I’d still prefer that Black Gate gets it instead of the others.
In the spirit of keeping my sanity, I’m not voting for these.
Best Fan Writer
- Jeffro Johnson
- Laura J. Mixon
- NO AWARD
The sample piece Johnson submitted for the voting packet is a wonderfully insightful and well-written piece on the Vancian origins of the ADD magic system. Full of clever thoughts and interspersed with beautiful and applicable quotes, this is exactly the kind of related work that should be rewarded with a Hugo.
Mixon did an incredible job documenting the various and numerous online misdeeds of one Requires Hate. But should she get a Hugo for it? Methinks not. It’s a cool piece of investigative reporting, but it feels to me like it’s outside the scope of what the Hugos are about, less about speculative fiction than about online misbehavior and mental illness, albeit misbehavior and madness within the specfic community. Also, I’m not too impressed with the structure of the piece, which seems intended more to be complete than to be well-structured or optimally readable. So with kudos to Mixon, to me she’s not the winner.
The three other Fan Writer nominees failed to impress me in the least with their sample work in the voter package. Three writers apparently cut from the same cloth, Sanderson, Green and Freer submitted blog posts that actually manage to rant in a boring way. All three present reactive works within the contest of the Hugo/SJW/Puppies kerfuffle; all three come down on the side of the Puppies; all three fail to convincingly make their points. Most importantly, all three are of exceedingly narrow scope; it will be very hard to explain, even two or three years from now, what possessed anyone to award a Hugo to these time-bound articles that make no sense at all outside their context (something that is less true for Mixon, since she provides the background within her own piece).
Best Fan Artist
- Brad W. Foster
- Elizabeth Leggett
- Steve Stiles
- NO AWARD
- Ninni Aalto
- Spring Schoenhuth
Foster is the only fan artist on the ballot who demonstrates in his samples that he has different styles and techniques on his repertoire. Leggett’s work is technically well-done, but the subject matter is a bit too IKEA framed poster for my taste. Stiles has submitted nice fanzine illustrations, adequate but not too impressive.
Aalto’s simple color drawings just don’t do it for me. And Schoenhuth has submitted some jewelry, and a (wax/oil?) rendering of a Finding Nemo scene. I’m not voting an artist towards a Hugo based on this meagre offering.
I did not get around to reading the Campbell material, so have to leave voting on these to the other voters.