Today is the last day to nominate works for this year’s Hugo Awards to be presented at Worldcon in Helsinki in August.
With the E Pluribus Hugo system in place and after a couple years of being highly mocked public failures (I mean, yikes! How embarrassing!) the Sad Puppies seem to have finally given up this time around. Almost-Nazi and actual garbage monster Vox Day has got a Rabid Puppies list that is exactly the mix of laughably poor taste, feeble attempts at trolling and self-serving picks that I’ve come to expect from him. The Rabids always were more successful than the Sads in affecting the Hugo finalist list, but in light of the rules change–which makes it slightly mathematically advantageous to nominate fewer titles/people–their list this year focuses on just one or two slots per category with the goal of having a “seat at the table.”
Whatever. That doesn’t seem nearly as fun as participating in lively discussions with other fans about what they liked this past year and then nominating a ballot full of work they genuinely enjoyed, but different strokes. Some people just really like paying $50+ to participate in a groupthink exercise they think is gonna piss off liberals, I guess.
In the interest of lively discussion, here’s what I’m nominating:
John W. Campbell Award (Not a Hugo)
Too Like the Lightning is an incredible book, unlike almost anything else being written right now to the degree that I’m honestly kind of amazed that it got published by a major publisher (thanks, Tor!). It’s a book that I know, rationally, isn’t for everybody; almost no one seems to love it as well as I did, but it’s something really special.
I discovered Cae Hawksmoor’s stuff when I did that huge read-through of fiction by all of last year’s Campbell-eligible writers, and they’ve quickly become one of my favorite writers of long-ish short fiction. Check out their stories “Y Brenin” and “The Stone Garden” at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
Sarah Gailey is awesome in every way, and her Tor.com novella about feral hippos in America is one of my most-anticipated new releases this year. Before that, however, she also wrote the excellently funny “Bargain” and “Haunted.” This is her last year of eligibility for the Campbell, but I can’t wait to see what she does next.
This is a new Hugo category being tested this year, and I’m not totally on board with it, to be honest. It seems likely to end up awarding series work that wouldn’t normally be considered Hugo-worthy, and I’d much rather see a new category for anthologies and story collections instead. We’ll see how this goes, though.
Xuya by Aliette de Bodard
This has been confirmed by the author to be eligible for nomination, which is great because this is the part of De Bodard’s work I’ve always liked best. You can find an introduction to and full bibliography for the series on the author’s website if you haven’t heard of it before.
Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
This series was actually my first exposure to Valente’s work years ago when I picked up The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making to read to my daughter at bedtimes. Unfortunately, Sylvia finally quit letting me read aloud to her a couple of years ago, but I basically credit with Catherynne Valente with getting story time to last until Sylvia was 11. The most recent and final installment of the series is last year’s The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, and if it’s not as wonderful as the first book it’s still a perfect ending to the series.
Best Fan Artist
Sadly, I just don’t follow enough art anymore to have strong opinions about who to nominate, but I’m looking forward to seeing who shows up on the final ballot this year.
Best Fan Writer
It turns out I just really like Sarah Gailey, okay? Check out “In Defense of Villainesses” and “Do Better: Sexual Violence in SFF” at Tor.com. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, also don’t miss her series on the Women of Harry Potter.
Bogi reviews books and writes about diversity and other stuff at Bogi Reads the World.
Foz blogs at Shattersnipe: Malcontents & Rainbows.
I’m not a huge listener of podcasts, but when I do it’s one of these.
This category is packed with amazing publications, but here’s what I’ve been mostly reading in the last year. All of these publications offer at least some free content on their websites, and they are all great in their own way. Whether they are on your ballot or not, I can’t recommend each of these enough.
Best Professional Artist
While he doesn’t always do covers for my favorite books, Richard Anderson’s cover art is always gorgeous.
Did the covers for A Taste of Honey and Cloudbound last year. Amazing work.
Best Professional Editor, Long Form
Navah Wolfe at Saga Press
Edited Borderline, which is an amazing find, and A Criminal Magic, another excellent pick. Plus, she co-edited The Starlit Wood, which is a really superb anthology that there isn’t a category for.
Best Professional Editor, Short Form
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
This husband and wife team is consistently finding and publishing some of the freshest new sci-fi and fantasy around at Uncanny. Their commitment to literary excellence, diversity in the genre, and progressive ideals is evident in every issue they publish, and several of my favorite stories of the year first appeared in Uncanny.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Black Mirror “San Junipero” – Netflix
I finally watched Black Mirror in 2016 when the new season came out on Netflix, and this is hands down the show’s best episode. In fact, this story of two women finding love with the aid of a technological marvel in the near future is the finest episode of anything I watched in 2016.
The X-Files “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” – Fox
The best episode of an otherwise mediocre season of one of my favorite shows ever, this one is funny and smart in the mode of some of my most-loved episodes from the original run of the show.
iZombie “Salivation Army” – The CW
iZombie is a pretty solidly written show in general, and the season two finale was fantastic.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Not technically science fiction, but if Apollo 13 can be nominated, then this much more worthy and well-written story ought to be, too. It’s a great movie about a part of history that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
This may be my all-time favorite Star Wars movie despite its flaws.
Based on a story by Ted Chiang, Arrival is a memorable first contact story.
Lucifer – Season 1
Without having any particular standout episodes that I wanted to nominate for short form, Lucifer was probably the biggest surprise of the year for me in television. It’s a very loose adaptation of the Lucifer comics, re-imagined as something like a police procedural with cosmic familial drama, and it’s a concept that doesn’t sound all that appealing. However, it’s for the most part smartly written and genuinely funny with a great cast. Tom Ellis, in particular, is a perfect fit for the titular role, with his good looks and charm making up for the show’s few stumbles in the first season. It’s by far the most fun thing I regularly watch.
The Expanse – Season 1
This is the best sci-fi show since Battlestar Galactica. It’s well-written, based on a popular book series, and has a great cast and excellent production values.
Best Graphic Story
Faith, Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine
I’m not usually into superhero comics, but I loved this one.
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening
Monstress is the most beautiful comic I’ve read in years. Brutal and poignant.
ODY-C, Volume 2: Sons of the Wolf
I don’t know anyone else who likes this book as much as I do, but I adore it.
Best Related Work
The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
Fireside’s report on the state of black authors in SF is a must-read.
For the Love of Spock
I miss Leonard Nimoy.
Best Short Story
“The Super Ultra Duchess of Fedora Forest” by Charlie Jane Anders
I guarantee this is a very long shot, but this retelling of “The Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage” might be my personal favorite story of 2016. Honestly, I just love knowing that it exists at all. You can read it in The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales.
“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar
First published in The Starlit Wood and reprinted in Uncanny, this is a wonderful fairy tale romance.
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander
This story has been pretty universally acclaimed, and it fully deserves all the hype. Also, I get a kick out of how much they hated it over at Rocket Stack Rank. LOL.
“Red Dirt Witch” by N.K. Jemisin
People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy was an issue full of superb fiction, and this story was the best of the lot. I literally wept through the ending, and it’s a story that’s stuck with me ever since.
“Black, Their Regalia” by Darcie Little Badger
Also from People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy, this one is about a group of Native youth surviving in the midst of an apocalyptic plague.
“Coral Bones” by Foz Meadows
Part of a series of novelettes and novellas based on the works of Shakespeare, “Coral Bones” is about Miranda from The Tempest.
“Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik
Novik rehabilitates the story of Rumplestiltskin, re-centering the old vaguely anti-Semitic story around a clever and interesting Jewish heroine.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
I’m not totally loving the current trend of endless Lovecraftian retellings in mainstream publishing, but I loved this title. “The Horror at Red Hook” is one of Lovecraft’s more famously racist stories (spoiler: the “horror” is black and brown people and immigrants), and LaValle has responded by basically retelling the story from the point of view of one of the othered people that Lovecraft had such a pathological fear of. It’s a great story in its own right that has plenty to say in conversation with the work of a such a well-known and vile racist.
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
Gorgeously imagined story from start to finish.
The Convergence of Fairy Tales by Octavia Cade
The first novella published by The Book Smugglers, and they and Cade hit one out of the park. It’s a rage-filled and viscerally disturbing examination of the roles of women in several classic fairy tales (Sleeping Beauty, the Snow Queen, Snow White, the Frog Prince, and Rapunzel) by weaving the stories together as the tale of a single woman who is raped, impregnated, and abandoned to survive on her own.
Runtime by S.B. Divya
A tightly plotted and fast-paced story of a young woman participating in a harrowing cyborgs-only race in the hope of securing her future and that of her family.
Lustlocked by Matt Wallace
Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour novellas are always a joy, and this one is nearly perfect. The Sin du Jour crew is catering a goblin wedding when things go hilariously and disastrously awry. It’s heavily implied that David Bowie is actual goblin royalty, which sounds legit. I read this book the day I found out about David Bowie’s death, and it has a special place in my heart because of that association, but it’s also a great book in its own right.
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
This isn’t the book I had the most fun reading in 2016, but it’s the 2016 book that makes me most excited for the future of the genre. It’s bold and fresh and full of challenging ideas.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
All the Birds in the Sky was one of the first books I read last year, and I said at the time that I didn’t think anything else would top it before the end of the year. While this didn’t quite turn out to be the case–frankly, you just can’t predict a debut novel like Too Like the Lightning–it’s still easily among my favorite reads of the year.
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
The Obelisk Gate is at least as good as its predecessor, The Fifth Season, which I’ve said many times ought to, if there’s any justice in the world, achieve Tolkienesque levels of influence on the fantasy genre. On the one hand, N.K. Jemisin seems intent on earning a rocket or two every year from now on, and I can’t say she doesn’t deserve every one. On the other hand, I like to see these types of awards spread the love around a little. Plus, I think The Stone Sky is going to be a masterpiece when in comes out later this year, so I fully expect Jemisin to be at the top of my nomination list this time next year.
The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
This novel was a pleasant surprise, the rare second installment in a series that is unequivocally a far better book than the first in its series. I liked The Grace of Kings quite a lot, but The Wall of Storms is next level amazing. Whereas the former had a unique and interesting setting, this second foray into it is compelling and unconventional in ways that its predecessor was not.
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
I fell in love with Yoon Ha Lee’s work several years ago when I read his short story collection, Conservation of Shadows, and “The Battle of Candle Arc” was one of that book’s most memorable stories. I was thrilled when I heard that Lee was revisiting that setting and the character Shuos Jedao in novel length, and Ninefox Gambit was everything I hoped it would be.