The short fiction categories are probably the hardest Hugo Awards to nominate for, if only because of the immense body of work that is published each year. It also doesn’t help that, while I read what I consider a good amount of short fiction, it’s by no means anywhere near even a representative section of what is out there. I only habitually read a handful of magazine issues and whatever free work I come across by authors that I already know and like or that sounds interesting (vague criteria for choosing what to read, I know). To make a long story short the reason it’s taken me until now to get this list out is simply because it’s taken me this long to cram a bunch of extra reading in, and it’s still not as much as I would have liked—and, at the same time, far too much, because now I have just a couple of days to whittle each of these lists down to just five.
Best Short Story
I read a bonkers number of blogs and so on, so you’d think I might have a ton of opinions about these categories. However, now that I’m to the point of actually working on filling out my ballot, I don’t have as many opinions as I thought I would. I won’t be nominating anything at all for Best Fancast, actually, since I have only recently started listening to more than the occasional one, and I’ve only got one nomination for Best Related Work: Adam Whitehead’s History of Epic Fantasy over at The Wertzone, which was a superb piece of work and great reading.
For Best Fan Writer, I will be nominating some number of the following:
Aliette de Bodard
Best Semiprozine and Best Fanzine are another weird couple of Hugo categories that can be a little confusing if you don’t read much online content. However, if you do read a lot online, you can easily find yourself with a ton of options for both of these categories. On the bright side, at least there’s a fair amount of information available as far as eligibility and so on, so it’s not too hard to sort out the category placements once you decide who you want to nominate.
For me, Best Semiprozine is the toughest category because there are just so many amazing publications to choose from. I’ve been making a real, concerted effort to read more short fiction in the last year, and the first quarter of 2016 has partly been spent playing catch up so that the possible nominees for this category are all very fresh in my mind. Here’s my thoughts so far:
- Black Gate consistently publishes quality content, and I read something there almost every day. However, Black Gate also published Jay Maynard’s ill-advised and much-mocked proposal for an SF Storytelling award.
- The Book Smugglers is another site I visit almost daily, and I have been enjoying watching them expand into short fiction publishing. Of their three short stories published in 2015, one is firmly on my shortlist for Best Short Story.
- The Sockdolager is relatively new, but they are doing an excellent job of discovering first-time authors. I’m also a huge fan of shorter short fiction, and most of their published pieces are in to 2-5k word range, which is perfect for light reading.
- Uncanny is wonderful and only seems to get better as it becomes more established.
- A few others in the running: Crossed Genres, Pornokitsch, Podcastle, Daily Science Fiction, Fantasy Café.
Best Fanzine is a little easier, though it’s still a crowded category that I haven’t made any final decisions on just yet:
- Mark Reads/Mark Watches, because Mark Oshiro is a constant delight. He recently finished reading all of Tamora Pierce’s work, which I love, and he’s currently watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and DS9. He publishes an enormous amount of great content and is also just a very cool person.
- SF Mistressworks is one of the best resources around for reviews and information about women SFF writers, which is relevant to basically all of my interests.
- Lady Business is great, although they are slightly more interested in fan-work than I tend to be.
- nerds of a feather, flock together is one of my most trusted review sites…
- As are Fantasy-Faction and Fantasy Literature.
- Finally, File 770 is a regular source of excellent news and information on fandom stuff.
The Hugo Awards for editors, long form and short form, are both somewhat difficult to nominate for. Here’s why:
- Best Editor (Long Form): This is the first of the person categories, so the Award is given for the work that person has done in the year of eligibility. To be eligible the person must have edited at least 4 novel-length (i.e. 40,000 words or more) books devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy in the year of eligibility that are not anthologies or collections.
- Best Editor (Short Form): To be eligible the person must have edited at least four anthologies, collections or magazine issues devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy, at least one of which must have been published in the year of eligibility.
Basically, the eligibility rules are written in a way that disadvantages small press editors of novels, who may not work on many projects in a year, and excludes first-time or new editors of anthologies and magazines altogether. This is further complicated by the fact that many readers just aren’t aware of who edits the work they read, and for novels in particular, this information is often not readily available. In practice both of these categories have functioned almost as lifetime achievement awards, and they tend to be dominated by the same handful of nominees and winners year after year.
I feel like most of the editors that I like right now are newish to the scene, so they may all be longshots, but it would be nice to see some new and different faces on the finalist list this year. There are a couple of people whose eligibility I’m not sure of, or who I’m fairly certain are not eligible, but I’m going to list them anyway because I like them and think more people should know who they are.
Best Editor, Long Form
- Marco Palmieri – Tor. We have Marco Palmieri to thank for a couple of last year’s best debut novels, The Traitor Baru Cormorant and Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard.
- Anne Lesley Groell – Bantam Spectra and Random House. She brought us Uprooted.
- Anne Perry – Hodderscape. Responsible for bringing The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet to a broader audience after it was originally kickstarted and self-pubbed by the author.
- Betsy Wollheim – DAW. In 2015, gave us The Book of Phoenix.
- Joe Monti – SAGA Press. Edited The Grace of Kings.
Best Editor, Short Form
- Silvia Moreno-Garcia – She Walks in Shadows
- Ann & Jeff VanderMeer – Sisters of the Revolution
- Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas – Uncanny
- Neil Clarke – Clarkesworld
- Liz Gorinsky – Tor.com
- John Joseph Adams – Lightspeed
Probably not eligible because of the rules, but wish I could nominate and might put on my ballot anyway instead of a couple of the usual suspects that show up almost every year:
- Nisi Shawl & Bill Campbell – Stories for Chip
- Walidah Imarisha & Adrienne Maree Brown – Octavia’s Brood
These have been some of the most fun categories to research, as I don’t read a ton of comics and had to spend a good amount of time googling the artists for some of my favorite book covers from last year. Then, I got to fall down the internet hole that is fan art, and there’s an incredible amount of good work out there to peruse. One thing that is nice about these categories, as well, is that because these aren’t parts of fandom I’m particularly active in, I don’t feel like my decisions are heavily influenced by anyone else’s opinions. It means my thoughts about these categories are all very uncomplicated, but it also means that these are probably all categories that I won’t fill up my ballot for.
Best Graphic Story
- ODY-C Volume 1 by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
This seems to have been a sort of love it or hate it book, and I am firmly on the love side. It’s a gorgeously illustrated, ambitious project unlike anything else out there right now.
- Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth by Kurtis J Wiebe, Roc Upchurch and Stjepan Sejic
While I was skeptical of this book to begin with—I’m a little distrustful of overtly feminist work by men, to be honest, because they usually mess it up somehow—I quickly fell in love with it. It’s smart and funny and full of badass women, with a minimal amount of male-gaze-y artwork.
- Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This is a book that I actually bought for my daughter after she couldn’t put it down at the bookstore. When I read it for myself, I could definitely see why. It’s wonderful.
- Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine DeLandro, Taki Soma, and Robert Wilson
Bitch Planet is the feminist comic book I’ve been waiting for my whole life.
- Monstress #1 by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
This isn’t my favorite comic I read last year, but it’s hands down the most beautiful to look at. Every page from cover to cover is filled edge to edge with some of the most sumptuous illustration I’ve seen in a comic in ages. It’s just stunning.
As you might be able to tell, I don’t really do super heroes, as a general rule. I did read some of The Wicked + The Divine last year as well, but didn’t care for it, and I read the first issue of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur when that came out. It was cute, but I didn’t go back to it when new issues came out. I’m actually really looking forward to reading whatever makes the finalist list in this category this year.
Best Professional Artist
- Richard Anderson
Richard Anderson did cover art for several of my favorite books last year—The Builders, Sunset Mantle, Empire Ascendant, and The Dinosaur Lords (which I actually hated, but it had a rad cover)—and I can’t get enough of his style. While he works with a somewhat limited palette, heavy on grays and browns, all of Anderson’s illustrations are full of remarkable energy.
- Cynthia Sheppard
In 2015, Cynthia Sheppard illustrated covers for Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory and A.M. Dellamonica’s A Daughter of No Nation. She’s another artist who works with a somewhat monochromatic palette, but it makes the occasional flashes of bright color in her work that much more striking.
I am probably going to just stick to these two nominations, since I don’t have a ton of strong opinions on particular artists. Tommy Arnold has some amazing cover artwork coming out this year, but that’s no good for this round of awards, and I always love Julie Dillon’s work when I see it, but she just won the Hugo last year and I’m looking forward to seeing some different people get attention.
Best Fan Artist
- Megan Lara
It’s been done to death, but I never get tired of art nouveau style illustrations. Ever.
- Octavi Navarro
Pixel art has also been done, but not like this.
This is another category where I doubt I’ll fill my ballot. There’s just so much that I like and so much that is good that it’s tough to make any final decisions, especially when I’m so bogged down with trying to cram some more short fiction reading in over the next few days.
All that said, if you have a recommendation, put it in the comments and I’ll check it out!
The Hugo Awards’ Best Dramatic Long Form and Short Form categories are probably the ones that I’m most ambivalent about, to be honest. However, they are also the categories in which I think I’ve probably consumed the highest proportion of eligible work. When I look back over the last year, I have to admit that I’ve watched an awful lot of television, and I’ve seen all of the Hugo-eligible films that I’m likely to enjoy. It’s probably too late for most folks to actually sit and watch however many hours of material I’m about to recommend, but here’s what I think was the best of the genre film and television I watched in 2015.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
- Crimson Peak
There is almost no way this is going to even make the shortlist for the Hugo, but it might be my favorite film of last year. It’s got gorgeous costumes, Tom Hiddleston’s butt, and a badass knife fight between two women wearing big billowing nightgowns and ridiculously long wigs in the snow.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
This two-hour long car chase with ecofeminist messaging is also near the top of my list.
This film made the rounds of some festivals and stuff, but it never got a wide release. Instead, it went straight to Netflix, where it’s still available to watch. It’s a beautiful meditation on aging, motherhood, and the sacrifices women make in order to survive in late-stage capitalism and secure a future for their children.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It’s just like A New Hope, but better. I wasn’t that excited about a new Star Wars movie, to be honest, but this one was surprisingly wonderful and an objectively good film.
- The Martian
The Martian isn’t as good as the book that it’s based on, but it’s one of the better film adaptations I’ve seen in recent years. Matt Damon is tolerable in the lead role, and the supporting cast is excellent. I also have a deep appreciation for optimistic humanist science fiction, and this example of it stands out in the best way in a genre landscape that has been trending towards dark and gritty for at least a solid decade now.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
No television adaptation could ever be as marvelous as Susanna Clarke’s novel, but this one comes close.
- Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Season One)
By far the best Marvel adaptation to date, Jessica Jones is a feminist masterpiece.
- Into the Badlands (Season One)
I often feel as if no one else loved this show the way it deserves to be loved, but it just got officially renewed for a second season. The first season starts off a little rocky, but by the end of its six episode run, it gets great. It also delivers some of the finest martial arts choreography ever to appear on the small screen.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
- Doctor Who “The Husbands of River Song”
My interest in Doctor Who has been pretty steadily waning since Steven Moffat took over the show, but I loved last year’s Christmas Special so much. It was a perfect send-off for River Song. Moffat created her and ruined her, but in this episode he mostly managed to finally do right by her. That final scene at the Singing Towers of Darillium was swoon-worthy, for sure.
- Marvel’s Jessica Jones “AKA Smile”
I’m thinking about nominating the whole show, but if I had to pick a favorite episode, it’s the final one of the season. It’s amazing and delivers on every promise of the episodes leading up to it.
- Minority Report “American Dream”
I don’t think this show was overall good enough to be nominated as a whole, no matter how much I kind of loved it in spite of its many flaws. However, this is the episode that came closest to actually realizing the full potential of what this series should have been all along.
- The Expanse “Dulcinea”
By far the best sci-fi show on television since Battlestar Galactica, and this episode started the series of strongly.
- iZombie “Dead Rat, Live Rat, Brown Rat, White Rat”
The penultimate episode of season one is no longer the best episode of iZombie to date, but it is the best episode that is Hugo-eligible this year.
- Supergirl “Human for a Day”
I really like this show, but I’m not certain if any episode is strong enough on its own to merit a rocket. This one comes close, though.
- Into the Badlands “Hand of Five Poisons”
This show is definitely a grower, not a shower, and the final episode in its short run is definitely the apex of the first season’s quality. All the shit gets real in this episode, and it’s excellent enough that I can even forgive for ending on a cliffhanger before the show even got a second season confirmed.
I’m still working through some eleventh hour reading of short stories and novelettes from last year, so those recommendations will be coming later, but let’s kick things off with my short-ish lists (not my final ballot, which I haven’t 100% decided on, yet) for the big one—Best Novel—and for Best Novella, which is going to be interesting this year I think, with Tor.com publishing so many novella-length works.
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
This book is just incredible. Hands down my favorite book of 2015, it’s big and beautiful and simply marvelous on the technical level. It’s definitely Jemisin’s best book to date, and it stands head and shoulders above most of the competition.
- The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
I feel like almost no one loved this book as much as I did, probably because Liu’s combination of Eastern and Western influences make this novel a kind of strange read for folks who are used to more Tolkien-inspired, rather than actual epic-inspired, epic fantasy. I expect this title to be a long shot for making the final shortlist, but I could be wrong.
- Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen
I only read Barsk a couple weeks ago, and it’s the last 2015 novel I’m likely to read unless something that I haven’t read already makes the finalist list for the Hugos. I’m so glad I did. It’s a really excellent bit of science fantasy, and I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like it. 2015 was chock full of highly original SFF, and this title was among the most inventive books of the year.
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik
There’s very little new under the sun when it comes to reimagined fairy tales, but Naomi Novik found some of it and put it into this gorgeous standalone novel.
- Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
I will read literally anything Cat Valente publishes, and Radiance had me at “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery” and never let me go. It’s probably a little too experimental/literary for everyone to find it as delightfully fun as I did, but I’d love to see it get a Hugo nod, even if it doesn’t win.
- The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
I’m still not in love with the ending of this book, but it’s one of the most technically perfect books I’ve ever read. The whole thing just runs like clockwork, and it’s a masterpiece of story engineering.
- The Just City and/or The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton
I adored both of these, but I’d obviously have to pick just one if I decided to put one on my ballot. Probably it would be The Just City, though. You’ve got to love a book whose climax is a debate between Sokrates and Athena, and things got a little weird at the end of The Philosopher Kings.
I also loved The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy, but both of those are sequels to books that have already won, so I’d prefer to see the love spread around. Plus, the translation on The Dark Forest just wasn’t up to the same standard as that of The Three-Body Problem, and as much as I liked Ancillary Mercy, it wasn’t as good as Ancillary Justice.
- The Builders by Daniel Polansky
I would never have guessed that this would be my favorite novella of 2015, but it is. It’s basically like a Tarantino flick with cute little forest animals—a wild ride from start to finish.
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
I actually didn’t love this one when I first read it, but it’s grown on me since. The more I think about it, the better I think it is.
- Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
This was published as a novella, but it may be too long to technically fit into the category for award purposes. Either way, it’s a superbly original bit of sword and sorcery-ish stuff.
- The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik
I only got around to this title this week, but it’s another one that I’m glad I squeezed in before I sent in my ballot. It’s a great little book about identity and immigration and integrating the past with the future.
- The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard
If you read and enjoyed On a Red Station Drifting, you will love this return to that same universe. Writing in this setting is what Aliette de Bodard does best, by far.
- Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente
Zelda Fitzgerald meets “Twelve Dancing Princesses” meets something wiser and darker and more postmodern. Valente’s command of words is always impressive, and like everything else she writes, Speak Easy is gorgeous. Also, have you seen that cover? This book is the whole package.