My Final Hugo Ballot and a Bunch of More or Less Wild Speculations

Now that the Hugo nomination period is over (or will be in a couple of hours) it’s time for sharing ballots and wildly speculating about what we think is going to make the cut for the finalist list. My nominations and speculations about the categories I’m most interested in are below; I’d love to see yours in the comments.

Best Novel

  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
    I knew as soon as I finished The Fifth Season that it was going to be the best book I read in 2015, and nothing else really came close to it. It’s just a superb book, one of the most original fantasy novels I’ve read in years, and one that I think is likely to be influential in years to come, especially if the rest of the series holds to the same high standard as this first installment. I’ve seen this book getting a good amount of buzz among people who I usually agree with about these sorts of things, but that probably doesn’t mean much.
  • Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen
    Sadly, I think this title is a long shot even for the Hugo shortlist, in spite of its making the Nebula shortlist, which is actually what triggered my reading it. Because it was released so late in the year (12/28, I believe), I had actually been thinking of it as one of the first 2016 books, not a part of 2015 at all, and I suspect that a lot of other folks were under the same misconception.
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
    Ken Liu’s first novel is equal parts very familiar and very fresh. It’s an epic fantasy, but it’s far more influenced by literary epics than by mainstream fantasy, which seems to have prevented it from having the type of broad appeal I think it deserves. In an age where heavily character driven stories are extremely popular, The Grace of Kings isn’t, really, but it makes up for any failures of character development by having an excelling plot and superb worldbuilding.
  • The Just City by Jo Walton
    This little book has, I think, almost the opposite problem that Barsk has to overcome. The Just City came out early last year, and it’s such a sort of understated masterpiece that it might be very easy for it to be overlooked in favor of something more commercially popular, and I don’t expect to see it on the finalist list in a couple of months.
  • Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
    Sorcerer of the Wildeeps was published of part of Tor.com’s novella line, but it’s over the word count for that category and I haven’t seen any official word on its eligibility. My understanding, though, is that the folks who tally the votes will shift stuff like this into the proper category if necessary. Unfortunately, I don’t see this being competetive in the Best Novel category if that’s where it ultimately ends up, but there was no way I was going to leave it off my ballot.

Best Novella

  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
    This one is a story that grew on me; I like it better and better the more I think about it, and just the fact that I find myself thinking about it so much after so long speaks to it being something very special.
  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky
    I think The Builders is going to be hugely popular when the first round of votes are counted. It’s highly entertaining, just great fun to read, in addition to be extremely well-written.
  • The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Djinn by Usman T. Malik
    I adored this novella, but it may be a little too grounded in the real world for a majority of Hugo voters to agree. Judging by the number of recommendation lists I saw it on, I expect it to have a good chance of making the final ballot, but I doubt it will win.
  • Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente
    Catherynne M. Valente is probably my favorite writer working today, and Speak Easy is marvelous from its gorgeous cover to every word on its pages.
  • The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard
    Definitely my choices generally skew pretty heavily towards fantasy, but Aliette de Bodard writes some of the most beautiful space opera I’ve ever read. This may be a common nominee from the loves-Asimov’s-hates-Tor.com crowd, but I expect it’s a little cerebral for the folks who prefer books that are mostly full of spaceships and square-jawed Kirk-types. That said, I know the author was giving the story away for awards consideration, and that might have a big enough impact to ensure her a spot as a finalist. Alternatively, Tor.com’s new novellas could split the vote enough that it lowers the threshhold for finalists. With a dozen possible entries from Tor.com, it’s going to be an interesting year in this category.

Best Novelette

  • “The Oiran’s Song” by Isabel Yap
  • “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • “Another Word for World” by Ann Leckie
    This is the only story in this group that I think is a shoe-in for the category. Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy was well-liked and a solid finish to her trilogy, but I think it’s unlikely that it will get much traction for Best Novel. “Another Word for World”, however, is in a relatively sparse category to begin with (not many folks writing at novelette length), is by a popular author, and is available in a free anthology of mostly hard sci-fi.
  • “Follow Me Down” by Nicolette Barischoff
  • “Y Brenin” by C.A. Hawksmoor

Best Short Story

  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong
    I will be very surprised if this story doesn’t make the finalist list considering the amount of buzz it’s gotten, especially with Alyssa Wong also on a lot of short lists (mine included) for the Campbell.
  • “The Lily and the Horn” by Catherynne M. Valente
    I just really love Cat Valente, okay?
  • “Of Blood and Brine” by Megan E. O’Keefe
  • “The Robot Who Couldn’t Lie” by Sunil Patel
    This one’s a bit of a tearjerker, but I could see it having broad appeal, being at the intersection of human interest and hard sci-fi concepts. If it makes the finalist list, I’d say this would be a smart bet to win.
  • “Archana and Chandni” by Iona Sharma

Best Graphic Story

  • ODY-C Vol. 1: Off to Far Ithacaa
    I feel like basically no one else “got” this book, but I loved it almost beyond words. Probably it’s a long shot, but I’m not into super hero comics, so it’s not like it’s knocking something else off my list.
  • Nimona
    I only read this because my daughter did. She couldn’t put it down at the bookstore, and she finished it in an afternoon. I read it at least as quickly, and probably love it even more than she does.
  • Rat Queens Vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth
    Obv.
  • Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
    This is the badass feminist sci-fi comic I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I’m not sure I think it will have enough mainstream appeal to win a Hugo, but it definitely deserves a nomination.
  • Monstress #1
    This little book is stunningly beautiful, but again isn’t a mainstream choice. I have a feeling only one of my choices in this category will make the finalist list, and this isn’t it. (It’s Rat Queens. Calling that now.)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  • Crimson Peak
    There’s no way this will make the finalist list, but it’s probably my favorite movie of 2015, and I figured The Martian and Star Wars: The Force Awakens don’t need my help. 
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
    This is an obvious choice, and if it wasn’t for The Martian, I’d give good odds on Fury Road taking home a rocket.
  • Advantageous
    I’m guessing it’s very unlikely that this will even make finalist, but I just want everyone to go watch it on Netflix ASAP.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
    I’m not a huge fan of book-to-television adaptations in general, but this one is remarkably good, true to the novel without being a slave to its source material.
  • Jessica Jones Season 1
    I know I’ve said I’m not into super heroes, but I am into Jessica Jones.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

  • Into the Badlands “The Hand of Five Poisons”
    I almost nominated the whole first season of Into the Badlands in the Long Form category, but I don’t know if I can forgive it for ending on a cliffhanger and making me wait until 2017 for season two. That said, the episode in question is excellent, and the show in general has some of the best martial arts fight scenes ever put on television.
  • Minority Report “The American Dream”
    Sadly, Minority Report is dead, but it’s a show that I rather liked, and this episode came closest to living up to the show’s potential.
  • The Expanse “CQB”
    I’m not certain, but I think it’s highly likely that this is going to be this year’s winner in this category. Anyone who isn’t terrible loves this show, and this is almost certainly the best episode of the ones that aired in 2015.
  • Jessica Jones “AKA Smile”
    Best episode of the series, for sure.
  • Doctor Who “The Husbands of River Song”
    I was as surprised as anyone to like last year’s Christmas special, as I’ve long been a critic of Moffat-era Who, but it was quite good.

Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Becky Chambers
    The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was the only book I read twice last year, and Becky Chambers would probably be my first choice for the Campbell, but I would be thrilled for any of the authors I nominated to win.
  • Sunil Patel
  • Alyssa Wong
  • Iona Sharma
  • Isabel Yap

 

 

2 thoughts on “My Final Hugo Ballot and a Bunch of More or Less Wild Speculations”

  1. I have quite a few overlaps with your ballot, so much so that the things on yours that I’m not familiar with will have to go on my To Be Read/Watched pile. If The Fifth Season doesn’t win best novel I’m going to be terribly disappointed, and I also put The Grace of Kings on my ballot. I doubt either will make the ballot but I also had Andrea Philips Revision and Daniel Jose Older’s Half-Resurrection Blues. Binti and Sorcerer of the Wildeeps are in my novella category along with Matt Wallace’s Envy of Angels. I have to think the Tor.com novella line will do very well in that category. I have Alyssa Wong’s story on my ballot for short story too, but I put The Merger up for Sunil Patel for short as I’d like to see funny get more of a look come awards time. I also had “Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar and “Elephants and Corpses” by Kameron Hurley. I had Sunil Patel and Alyssa Wong on my Campbell list as well. I also had Andrea Philips, SL Huang, and Sara Gailey. Bitch Planet and Rat Queens made my Graphic Story ballot, but I didn’t know what else to add so I’ll definitely have to check out the other items on your list. Too late for me to nominate them, but looks like I might enjoy them.

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    1. I thought about “The Merger” myself, for the same reason–I love a good funny story, but I thought the other was more award friendly. “Pockets” and “Elephants and Corpses” were both on my list of possibilities as well. It’s so hard to pick for short stories because there’s just so much material published each year. I haven’t read Half-Resurrection Blues (though it’s on my TBR list), but I LOVED his YA novel, Shadowshaper.

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