Tag Archives: Hugo Awards

Many Thank Yous and Rad Vibes (Plus Some Hugo Finalist List Reactions)

So, first off, SF Bluestocking is now a TWO TIME Hugo Award Finalist in the Best Fanzine category, and I am over the moon, you guys. It truly is an honor just to be nominated, and once again I find myself in good company. John Scalzi insists that being a finalist never gets old, and it’s early for me (hopefully!), but I’m inclined to agree. So many, many thank yous to everyone who put my name on their ballot during the nomination process, and all the rad vibes and very best wishes to my fellow finalists.

And now for some commentary on the rest of the list (excluding the Retro Hugos because I have no opinion of those one way or the other).

2018 Hugo Awards Finalists
Best Novel
  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
  • The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Only one of these titles (The Stone Sky) was on my own nominating ballot, but I have actually read all of them but Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140. As usual, in spite of an overall exciting group of finalists on the total list, the Best Novel category is a little ho-hum, skewing towards the mainstream and popular rather than celebrating what’s fresh and original in the genre. Which, whatevs. That’s fine. The mainstream-ness of Best Novel is somewhat made up for in the short fiction categories. Perhaps what’s most interesting to me about this category this year is how dominated it is by science fiction. Only The Stone Sky is fantasy, and even that has strong sci-fi elements and themes. This isn’t the list of books I thought were best last year (which was fantasy-heavy), but it’s a solid selection. Of the books that made the cut, I’d most like to see N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky win. The Broken Earth is a superb trilogy, and this was a strong finale to the series.

Best Novella
  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “And Then There Were (N-One)” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)

I thought for sure that this year would be the year that we’d start to see Tor.com’s stranglehold on the Best Novella category start to loosen, but I see it is not to be. I’m very disappointed that none of the Book Smugglers’ novellas made the list–not even the excellent (and, as of today, Aurealis Award-winning) Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts–but I am happy to see that “And Then There Were (N-One)” is on here. It’s the first novella published in Uncanny; I said early last year, when I first read it, that it would be among the year’s best; and I still stand by that, although I expect All Systems Red and The Black Tides of Heaven to give it a run for its money when it comes to the final round of voting.

Best Novelette

Personally, I would love to see the novelette length get the kind of renaissance that novellas have been enjoying in recent years. I always feel like there just aren’t that many of them, and very few of them ever manage to make it into my eyeballs (for whatever reason). That said, I have read four of this year’s six finalists, even though none of them were among my favorites of 2017. “Extracurricular Activities” is a fun, if slight, story set in Lee’s Hexarchate universe and featuring a popular character from the series, so I’m not surprised to see it on the list. Likewise, Aliette de Bodard’s “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” is in the same setting as her current book series. Vina Jie-Min Prasad is nominated for the Campbell, so it makes sense to see her show up here as well, though “A Series of Steaks” isn’t as superb as her nominated short story. If I had to guess at the outcome of this category, my money would be on “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” for the win. Uncanny knocked it out of the park all last year with their short fiction selections, and I expect to see multiple winners from that publication come August.

Best Short Story

“Fandom for Robots” and “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™” are the obvious standouts in this category, and both were on my own nominating ballot, so of course those are the stories I’m most pulling for to win. “Sun, Moon, Dust” was a fine, exemplary piece of Ursula Vernon work, but I’m honestly a little surprised to see it on here; Vernon herself has written better stories, and this one is definitely not up to the quality level of the rest of the finalists here and its inclusion seems more a testament to Vernon’s general popularity than to any particular virtue of the story itself. I haven’t read the Yoachim or Nagata stories, and I don’t recall much of the Fran Wilde one, though I know it was much buzzed about when it came out. I’ll be rereading all of these stories before making my voting decision, and there are enough excellent options here that I hesitate to predict what will win.

Best Related Work
  • Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoe Quinn (PublicAffairs)
  • Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), by Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press)
  • A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press)
  • Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Liz Bourke (Aqueduct Press)

Luminescent Threads is what probably ought to win here, but with Ursula K. Le Guin’s recent death it seems likely (and, let’s be real, not inappropriate) that her final collection of essays is what will win.

Best Graphic Story
  • Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Marvel)
  • Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)
  • Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

I’m not a great reader of comic books, but I do love Monstress. I like Saga, though I don’t think Volume 7 is the best of the series, and I haven’t caught up on Bitch Planet yet. I kind of despise Paper Girls and never got into the book after it kicked off its first issue with a rape threat against a child, so I couldn’t care less about its appearance on this list (except for a mild sense of annoyance that it seems to be popping up on here every year now). This is another category I hesitate to predict, but I’d say Monstress has a good chance at a second win.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form
  • Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
  • Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
  • The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
  • Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)
  • Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)

I’m so happy to see Get Out on here, and disappointed to see that the full first season of The Good Place didn’t make it. Let’s be real, though; it’ll be Blade Runner 2049 or The Last Jedi for the win.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form
  • Black Mirror: “USS Callister,” written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow)
  • “The Deep” [song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)
  • Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,” written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios)

What the Long Form list lacked in The Good Place is almost made up for by the inclusion of two episodes here, but the most exciting thing about this list, for me, is the lack of Game of Thrones episodes. Thank fuck for that. It’s also cool to see Clipping nominated again, this time for a song, but I’m thinking “USS Callister” or “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” (both hands down the best episodes of their respective seasons of Black Mirror and Star Trek: Discovery) will win in the end.

Best Editor – Short Form
  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Lee Harris
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams

In the absence of Brian White, Tor.com’s excellent Lee Harris has my vote here, but it’s honestly anyone’s game. All of these editors have distinctive editorial aesthetics and publish excellent work.

Best Editor – Long Form
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Joe Monti
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

Diana M. Pho and Navah Wolfe were my picks here, and I stand by them, but as with the Short Form Editor category, these are all good options.

Best Professional Artist
  • Galen Dara
  • Kathleen Jennings
  • Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Sana Takeda

It seems safe to say that Bastien Lecouffe Deharme made the list following his public tiff with well-known garbage person Terry Goodkind, but Deharme’s oeuvre (outside of the Goodkind cover art he’s done) is quite good. It’s actually refreshing to see a finalist list without Julie Dillon (wonderful as she is) on it, and my personal favorites here are Galen Dara and Victo Ngai.

Best Semiprozine
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
  • Escape Pod, edited by Mur Lafferty, S.B. Divya, and Norm Sherman, with assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney
  • Fireside Magazine, edited by Brian White and Julia Rios; managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry; special feature editor Mikki Kendall; publisher & art director Pablo Defendini
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Kate Dollarhyde, Gautam Bhatia, A.J. Odasso, Lila Garrott, Heather McDougal, Ciro Faienza, Tahlia Day, Vanessa Rose Phin, and the Strange Horizons staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios; podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

The Book Smugglers deserves the win. Probably it will be Uncanny again, though.

Best Fanzine
  • File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
  • Galactic Journey, edited by Gideon Marcus
  • Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
  • Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
  • SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

Hey! This is my category!

I wish I could say that I’m surprised to see Rocket Stack Rank on here after their well-documented cissexist bias was publicly called out, but I feel like there’s never not going to be people willing to defend and stand up for the right of people to have the worst sort of garbage opinions regardless of who those opinions hurt.

Best Fancast
  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts; produced by Andrew Finch
  • Sword and Laser, presented by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt
  • Verity!, presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Fangirl Happy Hour is the only fandom podcast I regularly listen to, and Renay and Ana are the best. That is all.

Best Fan Writer
  • Camestros Felapton
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Mike Glyer
  • Foz Meadows
  • Charles Payseur
  • Bogi Takács

Bogi Takács and Foz Meadows both provide valuable perspectives, but Sarah Gailey continues to be a rising star in genre-related writing. The dark horse on this list, however, might be Camestros Felapton, who pays attention to Vox Day et al. so the rest of us don’t have to, which is surely Good Work for which he deserves to be rewarded.

Best Fan Artist
  • Geneva Benton
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Likhain (M. Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

I’m so disappointed that FIYAH Literary Magazine didn’t make the list for Best Semiprozine, and I’m genuinely surprised that none of their stories made the short fiction categories (although they’re admittedly at a disadvantage versus the free-to-read publications), but I am super excited that FIYAH‘s Year One cover artist, Geneva Benton, is nominated here.

Best Series
  • The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells (Night Shade)
  • The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
  • InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan (Tor US / Titan UK)
  • The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson (Tor US / Gollancz UK)
  • World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Voyager / Spectrum Literary Agency)

The only one of these series I’ve read any of at all is Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent books, of which I’ve read and enjoyed the first two or three. There’s no universe in which I’ll read even a representative sample of all the rest before voting time, but this has definitely bumped Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Divine Cities a little farther up my TBR.

2018 Associated Awards (not Hugos) Finalists
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
  • Katherine Arden
  • Sarah Kuhn
  • Jeannette Ng
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad
  • Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Rivers Solomon

I won’t even speculate about this list because I’m so excited about it. Vina Jie-Min Prasad and Rebecca Roanhorse were my nominees, but Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun was on my Best Novel list, and Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine books were some of the most fun books I read in 2017. Katherine Arden is fine, and I haven’t read Rivers Solomon yet, but I wouldn’t be mad about any of these writers winning, and it’s great to see such a diverse list representing the future of the genre.

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Award for Best Young Adult Book
  • Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking)
  • The Art of Starving, by Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen)
  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman (Knopf)
  • In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Big Mouth House)
  • A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK / Harry N. Abrams US)
  • Summer in Orcus, written by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), illustrated by Lauren Henderson (Sofawolf Press)

This list is just a reminder of how completely out of the loop I am when it comes to YA fiction. I haven’t read a single one of these. Let me know in the comments if there’s one that you think I definitely need to make time for, though.

Hugo Ballot Time!

Listen. I have been super flaky the last couple months, what with starting a new day job and being exhausted and busy with that (plus a nasty cold over the last couple of weeks that has only exacerbated the situation), but I finally managed to get my Hugo Awards ballot filled out and submitted today. Here it is, with thoughts on the categories.

Best Novel

  • Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng
  • Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
  • Null States by Malka Older

I always feel like I read far more Hugo-worthy novels than there are slots on the ballot, and that was true again in 2017. My nominations this year are definitely fantasy-heavy, and Jade City and Kings of the Wyld are pretty far and away my favorites. The Stone Sky is an obvious choice, but it really is that good a book, the author has expressed a preference for folks to nominate the book rather than the series (for the Best Series Hugo), and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Jemisin win a third Hugo in a row. Under the Pendulum Sun is likely a (very) long shot for the Hugo, which tends to skew towards the more populist side of literary SFF, but it’s a fantastic and ambitious book that deserves to be recognized for its ambitious creativity. Null States is the only science fiction novel I’m nominating this year, but there were several others that I considered (Ann Leckie’s Provenance and Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes in particular). Ultimately, however, the best books I read in 2017 were mostly fantasy.

Of my picks here, I’m guessing only one or two are likely to make the finalist list–probably Jade City and The Stone Sky. Last year, I had read all of the nominated novels, which was kind of neat, but this year I’m seeing a good deal of buzz about a couple of books that I didn’t get around to (most notably Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous), so I expect to have some reading to do before this year’s final round of voting.

Best Novella

  • Gluttony Bay by Matt Wallace
  • And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
  • Girl Reporter by Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

I read an awful lot of novellas, so this category was the hardest for me to pare down to just five nominees. I said very early last year that I though Sarah Pinsker’s murder mystery novella (and the first novella ever published in Uncanny) about a convention of Sarahs from multiple universes was going to be my favorite novella of the year, and that might still be true. I adore it. However, it was an incredible year for novellas, and there are several very worthy titles (All Systems Red by Martha Wells, The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson, Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s Winterglass, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s self-published Prime Meridian) that I simply didn’t have room for here (though I fully expect to see one or two of those on the finalist list).

What I’m most excited about this year, RE: Novellas, is the likely end to Tor.com’s absolute dominance of the category. Sure, they’re still publishing great work that benefits from a formidable marketing apparatus, but I’m very happy to see so many other publishers (and self-publishers!) getting in on the novella game.

Best Novelette

  • “Cracks” by Xen
  • “Chesirah” by L.D. Lewis
  • “Down and Out in R’lyeh” by Catherynne M. Valente

Sadly, there weren’t many novelettes I was particularly passionate about this year. I found these two stories from FIYAH Literary Magazine‘s first year to be impressive, though, and Catherynne M. Valente’s Lovecraftian story is a delight. If only the novelette length could get the sort of renaissance that we’re seeing in the novella these days (hint, hint, publishers).

Best Short Story

  • “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” by Tobias S. Buckell
  • “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience” by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • “Fandom for Robots” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
  • “The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant” by Rachael K. Jones
  • “Home is Where My Mother’s Heart is Buried” by Wole Talabi

The obvious standouts here are “Fandom for Robots” and “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience,” both of which have been widely shared and buzzed about. “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” is my favorite story from my favorite anthology of the year, the John Joseph Adams-edited Cosmic Powers: The Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies.

Best Series

  • Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya
  • The Crimson Empire Trilogy by Alex Marshall

I’m still not sold on the whole idea of a Best Series award, to be honest, but I have been following Aliette de Bodard’s Xuya work for some years now and think it deserves to be recognized. I also have really enjoyed Alex Marshall’s grimdark pastiche trilogy; it’s smart, funny and queer as heck.

Best Related Work

I suspect that this year’s Best Related Work will go to Ursula Le Guin’s final collection of essays, which I haven’t actually gotten around to reading yet.

Best Graphic Story

  • Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood
  • Victor LaValle’s Destroyer

I’m not a great reader of comic books, but these were the ones I read and liked most last year. I don’t expect Destroyer to make the cut, however, since the trade of it only just came out this week.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • The Shape of Water
  • The Good Place (Season 1)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • The Expanse (Season 2)
  • Get Out

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • “USS Callister” Black Mirror
  • “Twenty-Sided, Die” iZombie
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets‘ Opening Credits Sequence
  • “Rocket Man” music video by Majid Adin

I predict that the only overlap between my nominations and the actual finalist list is going to be the Black Mirror episode, but I am telling you, “Twenty-Sided, Die” is an amazing bit of television. Also, I want every single person who is still nominating episodes of Game of Thrones to explain to me what exactly they think is Hugo-worthy about that garbage show at this point.

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

  • Navah Wolfe
  • Diana Pho

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  • Lee Harris
  • Brian White
  • John Joseph Adams
  • Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas

I’d like to see Brian White’s work at Fireside get recognized. Lee Harris edits almost all my favorite Tor.com novellas. John Joseph Adams is probably the individual editor of short fiction whose tastes most often overlap with my own, and he edited a near-perfect anthology in 2017 (Cosmic Powers! Read it!). And the Thomases are consistently responsible for great content in Uncanny.

Best Professional Artist

  • Richard Anderson

Best Fan Artist

Skipped, because I don’t actually follow fan art enough to know anything about it.

Best Semiprozine

  • FIYAH Literary Magazine
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • The Book Smugglers
  • Uncanny
  • Fireside Fiction

Personally, I think FIYAH is doing some of the most important work in the genre right now, debuting over 20 black authors just in their first year of publication, but this is a really competitive category.

Best Fanzine/Best Fan Writer

These are the categories that SF Bluestocking (the blog) and I (the writer) are eligible in, so I feel weird talking about my nominations and speculating publicly about how the categories will go. Let’s just say that I did nominate myself as well as some other great folks.

Best Fancast

  • Fangirl Happy Hour

Because, let’s be real, I only regularly listen to this one podcast. Renay and Ana are great.

Best Young Adult Book

  • The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

I didn’t read much YA in 2017, but this book was wonderful.

The John W. Campbell Award 

  • Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad

It’s Hugo Ballot Time!

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)

Ada Palmer
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.

Cae Hawksmoor
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
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.

Best Series

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

Sarah Gailey
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 Takács
Bogi reviews books and writes about diversity and other stuff at Bogi Reads the World.

Foz Meadows
Foz blogs at Shattersnipe: Malcontents & Rainbows.

Best Fancast

I’m not a huge listener of podcasts, but when I do it’s one of these.

Fangirl Happy Hour

Cabbages & Kings

Midnight in Karachi

Best Fanzine

Lady Business

nerds of a feather, flock together

Black Girl Nerds

The Fandomentals

Best Semiprozine

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.

Uncanny Magazine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Fireside Fiction

The Book Smugglers


Best Professional Artist

Richard Anderson
While he doesn’t always do covers for my favorite books, Richard Anderson’s cover art is always gorgeous.

Tommy Arnold
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

Hidden Figures
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.

Best Novelette

“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.

Best Novella

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.

Best Novel

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.

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
  • 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



Let’s Read! Up and Coming: Part 12

Reading Up and Coming, even though I feel like it’s been a frantic and sometimes frustrating pace, has been totally worth it. This final group of authors has produced some of my favorite stories in the collection, and made for an altogether pleasant last day of reading.

Nicolas Wilson

Nicolas Wilson starts things off with “Trials,” which I mostly liked very well. It’s a very Star Trek-ish novelette with some fascinating aliens and a mostly compelling plot in which a man travels to a dangerous ice planet and has to negotiate a treaty with the people there. Though it’s somewhat (if not entirely) corrected by the ending of the story, the only serious issue I had with “Trials” was the narrator’s motivation being “earning” a woman’s love so he could steal her away from someone else. It’s not romantic or interesting; it’s infantilizing and unattractively obsessive, and that he transfers his affections so easily to the alien woman he meets only serves to reinforce that the narrator sees women as interchangeable objects rather than as people with agency of their own.

Wilson follows this up with “Multiply,” a cute piece of odd couple romantic comedy about a pair of AIs traveling together. It’s not bad, but it’s a fairly pedestrian premise with an execution that doesn’t really rise above workmanlike. I chuckled a couple of times, but the banter between the characters became grating about halfway through the story.

Alyssa Wong

I read and loved Alyssa Wong’s “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” last year when it first came out, and if anything I loved it more the second time around. It’s definitely a story with several shades of meaning and multiple layers of genius to explore. “The Fisher Queen” is a similarly marvelous story about a young woman who finds out that her mother might be a mermaid of the sort that her people usually eat as fish, and in “Santos de Sampaquitas,” a young woman must deal with a god in order to protect her family. The beauty of Alyssa Wong’s language makes all three of these stories compulsively readable and highly enjoyable without distracting from the richness of her settings and the resonance of the themes she explores. Going into this project, Alyssa Wong was one of the writers I was almost certain I would nominate for the Campbell, on the strength of “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” alone, and her other stories here only made me more sure of that choice.

Eleanor R. Wood

“Fibonacci” has an interesting structure and a lovely cadence to its storytelling, but very little plot and not much in particular to say about its subject matter. Still, I liked it the best of the three stories Eleanor R. Wood offered here. “Pawprints in the Aeolian Dust” has a premise that I enjoyed at first, but it moved along so slowly and methodically that I found myself bored and losing focus about halfway through. “Daddy’s Girl,” about a woman whose father is an android in need of repairs, is fine, but nothing particularly special, and its sweetness turned cloying at the end.

Frank Wu

I wanted to love Frank Wu’s “Season of the Ants in a Timeless Land,” but it’s another story that I, sadly, just found my mind wandering throughout. The romance, such as it was, was unconvincing, and none of the characters were compelling enough to keep my attention very long. I also found the religious allusions and the mysticism of the ending off-putting.

Jeff Xilon

From Jeff Xilon come “H,” a very short stream of consciousness in which a drug is used to make soldiers into a sort of hive mind and “All of Our Days,” about a man who misses out on a chance at immortality when he takes too long enjoying having a body. Neither of these were awful, but neither one stands out as very accomplished either.

J.Y. Yang

I loved “A House of Anxious Spiders” so, so much. J.Y. Yang’s imagery of people fighting with spiders that live in their mouths and then losing their voice until a new one hatches is clever and powerful, but never cutesy, and Yang doesn’t shy away from an insightful examination of the ways in which even people who love each other can hurt each other deeply. Sook Yee’s and Kathy’s cruelties to each other will feel almost too familiar to anyone who has argued about something real with a person who knows you well. In “Temporary Saints,” a woman prepares the bodies of children who were briefly able to perform miracles, and “Song of the Krakenmaid” finds a woman dealing with an interesting cryptid and a cheating girlfriend.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I’ve never come across any of J.Y. Yang’s stories before since they are relevant to basically all of my interests, but you can be sure I’ll be keeping an eye out for them in the future.

Isabel Yap

I didn’t love “Milagroso” in spite of its interesting ideas, and “Good Girls” was at times actually unappealing to me, but I love “The Oiran’s Song” passionately. It’s brutal and sad, but it’s also remarkably beautifully written, and Isabel Yap has a distinctive voice that I look forward to reading more of.

Jo Zebedee

I read just enough of this excerpt from Inish Carraig to send me over to Goodreads to find out more about the book, which confirmed that it is not one for me. However, though it only has a few reviews, they all seem to be very positive so far. If you like post-alien invasion stories, this one might be one to pick up.

Jon F. Zeigler

On the one hand, I love an original fairy tale, and “Galen and the Golden-Coat Hare” is a well-conceived and nicely written one. On the other hand, I dislike the deeply conservative message of this one, which frames poverty as a virtue that should be preserved and justice as the upholding of a fundamentally unjust status quo. Zeigler plays with some interesting fairy tale conventions, and there’s a clever conclusion to the story, but I just can’t bring myself to consider the ending a happy one.

Anna Zumbro

I know it’s only a quirk of alphabetical chance, but I was a little disappointed that the last two stories in Up and Coming weren’t more impactful. “The Pixie Game” and “The Cur of County Road Six” are both extremely short stories about kids being kind of awful to each other, and “The Cur” is a particularly ugly.

Final Verdict:

Alyssa Wong, of course, is definitely on my Campbell ballot, but Isabel Yap and J.Y. Yang are strong contenders for the couple of slots that I still haven’t sorted out yet.

Let’s Read! Up and Coming: Part 11

Second group of authors of the day!

Joseph Tomaras

I actually have no idea where to start with any substantial analysis or review of Joseph Tomaras’s work. All I can say is that, without being an expert on critical theory and being white myself, it seems as if Tomaras chooses to write about a lot of experiences that aren’t his in a way that seems appropriative and voyeuristic. “Bonfires in Anacostia” was fine, if somewhat pessimistic, but “Thirty-Eight Observations on the Nature of the Self” asks the reader to empathize with a pedophile, which I just don’t have it in me to do today. “The Joy of Sects” is Tomaras’s weirdest story in this collection, and follows a trans woman as she infiltrates a sex cult as part of a Marxist conspiracy to suppress religion, another thing that my splitting allergy-induced headache prevented me from entirely wrapping my head around.

Vincent Trigili

Vincent Trigili’s “The Storymaster” is a bland, derivative piece with a long, dialogue infodump for an ending, which is my least favorite type of story. There are a lot of dragon story tropes strung together here, but not in an interesting way, and the infodump at the end neatly dispelled anything like mystery or tension within the story.

P.K. Tyler

Whereas Joseph Tomaras’s work was mildly troubling, P.K. Tyler’s novelette, “Moon Dust” just made me absolutely fucking furious. It’s a truly disgusting piece of internalized misogyny that only made me feel progressively enraged the more I read. Reading about a young woman being kidnapped, raped, impregnated, escaped, punished by her family and society, and then being expected to read her decision to keep and love the baby that is a product of her rape as a positive, edifying thing, made me want to vomit. That P.K. Tyler went to some lengths to frame Nilafay’s rape as consensual sex is just the cherry on top of this sundae of awfulness. I skipped Tyler’s second story altogether.

Tamara Vardomskaya

Both “The Metamorphoses of Narcissus” and “Acrobat Duality” were technically excellent stories that I just didn’t care for. “Acrobatic Duality” was somewhat the better of the two, but most of what turned me off was the author’s seeming disdain for fine art in “The Metamorphoses of Narcissus,” which framed art as frivolous and wasteful in contrast to the main character’s work as a nurse during a war and the fulfillment she finds as a wife.

Leo Vladimirsky

I’m always surprised that late stage capitalism isn’t more fertile ground for SF authors, but I was glad to see Leo Vladimirsky making use of it as a dystopian backdrop for the story in “Collar.” Unfortunately, “Dandelion,” about a couple who don’t share the gene for immortality, doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the previous tale.

Nancy S.M. Waldman

In a group of mediocre writers, Nancy S.M. Waldman stands out as the most consistently excellent, and I loved all three of the stories that she submitted for this anthology. “ReMemories” is a little scattered in terms of what ideas it wants to focus on, but it’s a strong piece with a good amount of emotional impact, some interesting technology ideas, and a hopeful ending. “And Always, Murder” has a fantastic cast of uplifted animals who have integrated themselves into human society with varying levels of success. “Sound of Chartreuse” is a little fussy and high-mindedly intellectual to be purely enjoyable, but it’s a smart bit of family history and the ideas about synesthesia and communication could stand to have even more development. I would definitely read a book about Carinth.

Thomas M. Waldroon

“Sinseerly a Friend & Yr. Obed’t” dealt with some country-ish folks and a lake full of alien sea monsters. It might be fine for the right reader, but I found it dull and uninspired.

Jo Lindsay Walton

I expected “It’s OK to Say if You Went Back in Time and Killed Baby Hitler” to be a funnier story than it was, just based on the title. However, I wasn’t disappointed with it, and Jo Lindsay Walton’s story of competing time travel companies is clever enough to deserve its title after all.

Kim Wells

Kim Wells’s “The Book of Safkhet: Chronicler of the Journey, Mistress of the House of Books” is a very weird mashup of science fiction (space ships), fantasy (dragons), and biblical allusions that just did not work for me at all. Sometimes an unlikely mix of story influences can fuse together into something great; this time, it’s just a big old confused mess.

Alison Wilgus

“King Tide” takes us into a relatively near future in which coastal areas have flooded due to climate change and gives the reader a peek into the life of a young couple living in the aftermath of it all. It’s a quietly reflective tale that, at the same time never gets too bogged down in sentiment. Alison Wilgus follows this up with “Noise Pollution,” which is an excellent piece of world building in which music provides the magic to combat noise. I love this idea and think it’s plenty good enough to carry a much longer work, but as a short story it feels a little overstuffed and underbaked.

Final Verdict:

My favorites of this group are Leo Vladimirsky and Nancy S.M. Waldman, by far, but Alison Wilgus is also an author who I’ll be keeping an eye out for, especially if she ever decides to expand upon the ideas she put forward in “Noise Pollution.”

Let’s Read! Up and Coming: Part 10

This is only the first of two posts for today, now that I’m finally caught up on reading. I had considered doing all twenty of today’s authors in one post, but decided it would just run far too long; I think most of these posts have run in the 1.5-2k word range and I think breaking it up into groups of ten has so far worked really well. This first group of the day has some stellar pieces that stand out against a backdrop of general mediocrity.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

“Edge of the Unknown” is a very silly story about how the girls at a finishing school for young witches react to Arthur Conan Doyle killing off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem.” I didn’t hate it, but I’m just not enough of a Sherlock Holmes fan to care that much about a story with this premise.

Daniel Arthur Smith

Daniel Arthur Smith’s first story, “The Diatomic Quantum Flop,” opens with four stoner college dudes, which I found immediately off-putting. I literally can’t think of a cast of characters whose stories could be less interesting to me, but I have a feeling this story is fine for people who can identify with its characters. Smith follows this up with “Tower,” a story that reads a bit like a disaster action film concept. The point of view character in this one is a war veteran who reads like exactly the sort of square-jawed action hero who bores me to tears just thinking about him. Again, the story itself is fine, I guess, but not at all the sort of thing I would ever pick up to read on purpose. I skipped Smith’s novella excerpt, which for some reason starts with chapter four.

Lesley Smith

Lesley Smith’s “The Soulless: A History of Zombieism in Chiitai and Mihari Culture” is an imaginative and moderately interesting meta examination of pop cultural zombie mythology. I like the idea of looking at zombies from the perspective of an entirely different and alien race, and Smith has produced a workmanlike piece that doesn’t overstay its welcome or overwork its concept.

William Squirrell

I didn’t care that much for either “Götterdämmerung” or “Fighting in the Streets of the City of Time,” though neither was particularly bad, just unmemorable. However, I adore “I am Problem Solving Astronaut: How to Write Hard SF,” a very funny—I laughed aloud more than once—piece that takes aim and fires at some of the more common hard SF tropes. It contains the wonderful line: “The future is a perfect meritocracy in which everyone is measured against the same standard: Problem Solving Astronaut.”

Dan Stout

Dan Stout’s “Outpatient” is one of my favorite kind of sci-fi stories, the kind that deal with scientific fuck-ups, and this one is a doozy that is also a nice bit of psychological horror. “The Curious Case of Alpha-7 DE11” deals with an entirely different kind of scientific fuck-up, and it’s told in a very clever fashion, as a voicemail complaint from a mad scientist who is having a problem with a golem that he purchased. What I appreciate most about this story is that it was smart and funny, but not self-consciously so. There’s very little that I dislike more than a clever story that is obsessed with its own cleverness, as it distracts from the actual story and often ruins the joke. Not so here.

Naru Dames Sundar

All of Naru Dames Sundar’s three stories are deeply powerful in their own ways. “A Revolution in Four Courses” deals with the destruction of culture in the wake of imperialism, and it ends on a bittersweet note with an act of resistance that may or may not be futile but still makes for a compelling story. Sundar’s descriptions of food are wonderfully evocative and help to bring his fantasy world to life. In “Infinite Skeins,” a bereft mother searches through numerous parallel universes for her lost daughter, unmindful of what else she might lose in the process. And “Broken-Winged Love” examines some of the often complicated feelings of a mother for a child that isn’t exactly what she expected or hoped for.

Will Swardstrom

“Uncle Allen” isn’t the worst, but it’s too short a story to have the kind of inconsistencies I noticed while reading it, and it ends with a long info-dumping piece of dialogue that reveals information that isn’t particularly hinted at or supported by the story up to that point. Will Swardstrom’s other novelette, “The Control,” is only slightly better. Bek’s long journey through history is told, not shown, and “The Control” focuses on what, to me, is one of the least interesting parts of Bek’s story.

Jeremy Szal

I rather liked Jeremy Szal’s first story, “Daega’s Test,” a very short piece about advanced AIs testing each other, but things were downhill from there. “Last Age of Kings” is a ho-hum piece of sword and sorcery about a guy with a fridged wife, and “Skin Game” has something to say about government surveillance being bad, but it doesn’t do so very memorably.

Lauren C. Teffeau

Lauren C. Teffeau’s “Forge and Fledge” is a nicely written piece about a boy born on a penal colony in space, but I couldn’t for the life of me get into “Jump Cut.” There was some kind of sci-fi motocross and lots of cyberpunk-ish implanted technology, but the story just read like the plot of some kind of straight-to-Netflix space sports flick.

Natalia Theodoridou

Along with Naru Dames Sundar, Natalia Theodoridou is my favorite of this group of writers. “The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul” is a sort of castaway story that finds a man alone on a barren-seeming planet building robot animals in order to keep himself company after the death of the other people he was traveling with. “On Post-Mortem Birds” is a much shorter and significantly more fanciful story about the birds that have to be freed from the dead, and it’s lovely and charming in every way. “Android Whores Can’t Cry” is a total change of pace again, and deals with some relatively well-trod storytelling ground in a compelling way. Theodoridou’s idea of android nacre is fascinating, and it’s a wonderful symbol that she interweaves deftly throughout the narrative.

Final Verdict:

Obviously the standout writers of this bunch of Natalia Theodoridou and Naru Dames Sundar, and I’m definitely considering a Campbell nomination for Theodoridou, who is in her second and last year of eligibility. Lesley Smith, William Squirrell and Dan Stout also turned in some well-worth-reading pieces.

Let’s Read! Up and Coming: Part 9

So, the good news is that I still have time to finish this project by the end of the day on Wednesday. The bad news, of course, is that I had about a two-day-long funk last week that has put me pretty far behind where I’d intended to be by this point. This was compounded over the weekend by family obligations and the fatigue brought on by my allergies when I’m pretty sure literally every tree in my town bloomed at once. It’s pretty, and the whole town smells like flowers, but it makes me feel like I’m going to die. However, today I’ve got some non-drowsy allergy meds in me and I’m feeling productive, so I expect to get, well, not caught up, quite, but close.

I think my favorite thing about this project so far—though it makes it hard to really compare these authors to each other—has been that Up and Coming showcases an incredible number of ways of being good. There’s really no way that any reader is going to universally enjoy the stories on offer, and every group I’ve written about has been a mixed bag, but it’s always interesting.

Kelly Robson

I only read a page or two of the excerpt from The Waters of Versailles before I switched over to Some of the Best from Tor.com 2015 in order to read all of Kelly Robson’s novella. It didn’t turn out to be as superlatively excellent as I’d hoped, but it is a great read, perhaps enhanced by my having recently watched A Little Chaos, about a totally different project at Versailles, which had the setting fresh in my mind. Kelly Robson does a much better job than that film, though, of utilizing Versailles, and Sylvain de Guilherand is a much more interesting fictional character than Kate Winslet was, even if the stories do both deal with people who feel somewhat unhappy and displaced at the French court.

“The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill” is a weird story. It’s beautifully written and powerful, but it also includes an extremely brutal and graphic rape/murder that I wasn’t prepared for and it touches specifically on the sadly still-timely issue of the disappearance of First Nations women in Canada. On the author’s website, she does warn that the story is extremely violent, but it doesn’t seem to have been published with any kind of warning elsewhere, and I think that this is a case where a trigger warning might be necessary to give readers some advance warning.

I don’t think I quite get “Two-Year Man” as it’s a story with some weird messaging. It’s just as nicely written as the other Robson pieces included here, but the main character is very unsettling. While I finished the story, I found it to be a largely unpleasant read that left me with more questions than I like to have at the end of a short story. There’s something to be said, I suppose, for not tying everything up too neatly, but I don’t like it when I have questions about everything from world building issues to thematic concerns to character motivations.

Andy Rogers

Andy Rogers’ “The Doom of Sallee” is, I guess, a time travel story, or maybe some kind of alternate universe? It wasn’t terribly clear, and it wasn’t interesting enough for me to keep reading and rereading it to try and figure it out. I tried to read his novella, Brothers in Arms, but got about three pages into it before I couldn’t take anymore sci-fi soldier talk. That said, I don’t have anything bad to say about Andy Rogers. His work seems fine, just decidedly not for me.

Lauren M. Roy

“The Eleventh Hour” contemplates what one might do if given an hour—a literal, physical hour in this case, which is a moderately cool idea—to save the world. It’s a clever story, but not especially impactful or memorable aside from the idea of a physical representation of an hour that the main character has to decide how to spend.

Steve Ruskin

“Grand Tour” is a nicely structured piece with an interesting speculative element. Steve Ruskin’s story of a widowed artist with a magical camera lucida makes for an entertaining read, and it’s smartly bookended with complementary scenes that have unifying motifs. Séances (really, Spiritualism in general) don’t appear enough in fantasy, to be honest, and it’s good to see an author utilizing some of that history in a compelling way.

K.B. Rylander

“We Fly” by K.B. Rylander is a story with some interesting ideas, and Rylander speculates on an interesting possible dilemma related to the mind-uploading technology that she’s writing about. However, the devil is always in details, and there were some small things that I didn’t like, just casual mentions of unsettlingly authoritarian policies in the world of the story that make it feel dystopian in way that is both frightening and largely unexplored in the narrative. I did like Natasha’s gesture of resistance at the end, but I’m not sure if it matters. Then again, that could be the point. I would love to give this story to a classroom full of eighth graders and ask them what they think; it seems like a perfect story for that kind of analysis.

Hope Erica Schultz

Hope Erica Schultz leads with “Mr. Reilly’s Tattoo,” which I didn’t hate, though it was a bit too saccharine for me to truly like it. “The Princess in the Basement” is similarly sweet, and a little too heavy-handed with its messaging right at the end, but it’s a decent enough modern fairy tale.

Effie Seiberg

I vaguely remember something about the story Effie Seiberg had in Women Destroy Science Fiction! a couple of years ago, but I’m pretty sure that the three newer stories she’s included in Up and Coming are going to stick with me much longer. “Re: Little Miss Apocalypse Playset” is a story about corporate evil (and the apocalypse) told in the form of an internal email chain. It’s smart and funny, but not too precious. “Thundergod in Therapy” tells the story of a retired Zeus, and I liked it well enough that I can forgive it for not really delivering on the “in Therapy” part of its title.

The best of Seiberg’s three stories here, however, is hands down “Rocket Surgery.” Of these selections, it deals with the biggest ideas and has the most ambitious themes. It’s also the timeliest and most insightful as a piece of science fiction that can be read as a commentary on current trends in technology and society. Most importantly, when looking at Seiberg as a contender for a major award, “Rocket Surgery” works to show that the author has more range as a writer and depth as a thinker than is exhibited in her more humorous pieces. I’m not sure where Seiberg will ultimately end up when I make my final decisions on who to nominate for the Campbell Award, but “Rocket Surgery” is an early addition to my longlist for next year’s Best Short Story Hugo.

Tahmeed Shafiq

I’m very sad about the 2014 publication date for “The Djinn Who Sought to Kill the Sun.” If it had been published in 2015, it would definitely be a shoe-in for a Best Novelette Hugo nomination. It works wonderfully as a fairy tale and as a gorgeously imagined story about healing from grief and trauma by finding purpose and a way forward into the future instead of dwelling in the past. I can’t find that Tahmeed Shafiq has published anything else since this story, but if this is the quality of work he was producing at age sixteen(!), I am very excited to see what he might produce in the future.

Iona Sharma

This is the first time I’ve read anything by Iona Sharma, and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to find her. “Archana and Chandni” is the sci-fi lesbian wedding family dramedy I never knew I desperately wanted to read. It’s seriously a kind of perfect story. I didn’t love “Alnwick” quite so much, but it’s a well-executed blend of relationship drama and hard sci-fi that manages to do all of its ideas justice, even if it doesn’t have the sheer charm that “Archana and Chandni” possesses in spades.

Anthea Sharp

“Ice in D Minor” is a beautifully melancholy (though ultimately hopeful) piece about a composer tasked with writing music that will help to cool the warming planet. “The Sun Never Sets” is a first contact story set in Victorian England, which I was predisposed to love—especially when it opened with a young woman who is an amateur astronomer. Unfortunately, the story takes a weird, imperialist turn that, in hindsight, is telegraphed by the title, and isn’t as clever or amusing as I think it is intended to be. Sadly, my overall opinion of Anthea Sharp’s work isn’t improved by her final piece, “Fae Horse,” which starts with a young woman trying to escape being burned as a witch and finishes with that young woman sacrificing her identity and humanity in order to rescue a man. It’s finely written, but I would have liked it better if Eileen didn’t get such a raw deal in the end.

Final Verdict:

Iona Sharma and Effie Seiberg are new favorites, for sure, and I was disappointed that Tahmeed Shafiq doesn’t seem to have published anything in the last two years, but the majority of authors in this group were only okay. I’m sure I’ll be happy to read some of them again if I come across them in the future, but I doubt I’ll be seeking them out particularly.

Hugo Recommendations: Best Short Story and Best Novelette

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
Best Novelette

Hugo Recommendations: Best Fancast, Best Related Work, Best Fan Writer

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:

Foz Meadows

Mark Oshiro

Chuck Wendig

Aliette de Bodard

Alexandra Erin

Rhiannon Thomas

Philip Sandifer

Mike Glyer