Entries Tagged 'Hugos' ↓

Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie

Tautological though it may be, Ann Leckie’s Provenance sure is an Ann Leckie novel.

In just a few years and a handful of novels, Leckie has developed a rich universe as well as a particular mode of writing within it.  To fans of Ancillary Justice and its sequels, Provenance will feel at once familiar and fresh, as her latest novel reaches out into nearby but still distinct areas of both the setting and the themes that she is known for.

Where the Imperial Radch trilogy was concerned with imperialism and colonialism and cultural hegemony – the exporting of one’s culture as the only “proper” way to be “civilized”, and the use of that culture as a bludgeon to force others to fall into line – Provenance is concerned with the myths and stories we tell ourselves about where our own culture came from.  These stories are manifested in “vestiges” of the culture’s history, and the vestiges people collect range from historical artifacts to mere souvenirs of minor events of the past.  The characters’ obsession with these vestiges, particularly those that relate somehow to the founding stories of their sovereignty, forms the framework upon which the overarching plot of Provenance is built.

And then, where the story of Breq and Awn and Anaander Mianaai was concerned with concepts of identity and the self – what it means to be a person, or to be Significant, and what happens when one is in conflict with oneself, or made to act against one’s own beliefs – Provenance examines the dynamics of family and the way that one’s upbringing influences the course of one’s life.  Provenance is full of people whose parents (or parental figures) have damaged them emotionally, turning some into sociopathic exemplars of their status-driven culture and others into distrustful misanthropes whose paranoia about their parents’ motives extends to their entire society.

Between all these thematic components, of course, Ann Leckie succeeds in once again writing an entertaining adventure story.  The reader starts out a little disoriented, trying to get a handle on the setting and the cultural context surrounding the protagonists’ behavior, but as those details start to become clear the story develops into one of familial intrigue, complete with siblings jockeying for parental favor and bystanders getting sucked into their schemes.  Leckie’s classically ineffable aliens make another appearance as well, always ready to show up and complicate the situation whenever things seem to be going too smoothly.

Provenance doesn’t reach quite as far into the frontiers of the science fiction genre as the Imperial Radch series did.  The cultural and familial structures are a little more familiar, and the gender-identity situation isn’t as unusual.  That said, the idea of gender being a decision made in the transition from adolescence to adulthood – an idea shared with JY Yang’s The Black Tides of Heaven, up for a Best Novella Hugo this year – still feels like a refreshing alternative to having gender assigned at birth, and non-binary identities are also a normal and largely unremarkable part of the setting’s culture.  (Possibly part of why that feels less radical now is simply that the last three or four years have seen a lot of growth in our own culture’s ability to consider gender as far more complex than simply a description of one’s genital configuration.  Maybe I’m being optimistic, or maybe it’s just that I’ve come to know multiple non-binary people in the years since I first read Ancillary Justice – but, not for the first time, it’s nice to see our society starting to catch up to the potential that our science fiction has promised us is possible.)

My Best Novel ballot so far:

  1. The Stone Sky, N. K. Jemisin​
  2. Provenance, Ann Leckie

Review: The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The first two volumes in N.K. Jemisin’s brilliant Broken Earth trilogy, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, have won the last two Hugo Awards for Best Novel.  Now the concluding book, The Stone Sky, has also been nominated.  And it’s put me in a tough spot regarding Hugo voting.

In my review of The Obelisk Gate (and elsewhere), I mentioned that I generally prefer to spread the award recognition around a bit; rather than award a second Hugo to a series that has already won one in the near past, I typically find it more meaningful to honor a different series for the first time.  And this is another strong year in the Best Novel category.  But as good as the first two books in the trilogy were, I think The Stone Sky is the best book in the series by a large margin – enough so that simply nodding at the awards won by The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate doesn’t do it justice.

Folks, this book is transcendent.  It takes what we’ve learned about the world of the Stillness, about orogeny and orogenes, about stone-eaters and the angry Earth, and it turns the whole thing on its head, gives us context to more deeply understand it, and then ties the whole story up with a bow in one of the best series conclusions I’ve ever read.

Mild spoilers follow.

In the time period in which the first two books were set, civilization in the Stillness is staggering along under the weight of its own history.  Humanity is in a sort of species-wide purgatory, suffering for its past sins against the Earth.  We got a glimpse of what that history includes in The Obelisk Gate, but in The Stone Sky, Jemisin weaves together the “present-day” story of a handful of people trying to finally redeem humanity’s sins with a millennia-old flashback detailing the events that caused the deadly Seasons to begin afflicting the Earth.  All of the hints, and fragments of history, and suspicious correspondences we’ve seen, all of it comes together in the past-history sequence, bringing our understanding of the world into crystal-clear focus.

This same clarity also intensifies the allegorical treatment of racism and other forms of oppression present in the previous two books.  It wasn’t exactly an ambiguous assertion before, but in shoring up the superstitious folklore of the Stillness with its historical underpinnings, Jemisin makes it clear that the oppression experienced by so many people is not just a coincidence or an unhappy byproduct of the dominant society’s attempts to accumulate increased power.  Rather, it’s a integral component of the power structure, both cause and effect, a feature rather than a bug from the point of view of those holding power and privilege.

And then on top of the historical narrative, we get some pretty heavy storytelling about a mother and a daughter each trying to cope with their estrangement at the same time they’re trying to save the world.  Neither of them is wholly blameless for the estrangement at this point, but in their broken relationship we also see how systematic oppression of a people inflicts recurring trauma upon each successive generation, taking otherwise manageable difficulties and aggravating them into lifelong damage both physical and emotional.

And then on top of that we get a perfectly executed climax to the entire trilogy that pulls together the historical narrative with the present-day one, combining the literally world-changing finale to the big-picture story with a bittersweet conclusion to the emotional arcs of characters from both periods.  It all ties together so tightly.  I am in awe at the complete mastery of storytelling and social allegory Jemisin has demonstrated here and throughout the series, and I think that, decades from now, people are still going to be studying the Broken Earth trilogy as one of the greatest works of literature that this decade has to offer.

This being my first review for this year’s Best Novel finalists, I honestly don’t yet know where The Stone Sky is going to fall on my final ballot.  The other five nominees are strong contenders for the award as well. But whatever bar I might have set for awarding N.K. Jemisin and her astounding trilogy a record-breaking third Hugo Award in a row, The Stone Sky has cleared it with room to spare.

Review: “And Then There Were (N-One)” by Sarah Pinsker

When I saw that Sarah Pinsker’s novella “And Then There Were (N-One)” was the story of a character named Sarah Pinsker attending a cross-dimensional convention populated entirely by other Sarah Pinskers from across the multiverse, I have to admit, I braced myself for some self-indulgent, pretentious “literary fiction”.  What I got instead was an engaging and entertaining story that struck a perfect balance – it was introspective, but not to the point of navel-gazing; it was full of in-jokes, but ones that pretty much anyone who’s ever been to a sci-fi convention would be in on; and despite the story’s cast of characters being endless variations on the author herself, it was nevertheless relatable to anyone else who’s spent a lot of time thinking about the choices they make and what might happen if they were different.

In some other universe, a Sarah Pinsker discovered cross-dimensional travel, and being the kind of nerd many of us are, organized “SarahCon” to gather as many different Sarah Pinskers as she could to compare notes and see how else their lives could have gone.  It’s a classic sci-fi “big idea” kind of concept, and the author executes on it brilliantly.  She’s not afraid to imagine herself as potentially having been many different types of people; while the first few Sarahs we meet are distinguished by hairstyle and profession (and taste in alcohol), we eventually meet a few transgender versions, some Sarahs with drug problems, a few with significant tragedies in their pasts… and a dead Sarah, whose murder our protagonist Sarah is asked to investigate.

Honestly, I don’t know if I could have written about hundreds of versions of myself with anywhere near this level of self-awareness and empathy; that alone is worthy of admiration, to say nothing of the skill with which the author weaves the philosophical questions of what might have been together with a well-executed speculative-fiction murder mystery.  “And Then There Were (N-One)” is certainly one of my favorite novellas of the year; deciding between it and All Systems Red for the top slot on my ballot was a very difficult choice, but one I had to make eventually.  So here’s my ballot for Best Novella:

  1. All Systems Red, Martha Wells
  2. “And Then There Were (N-One), Sarah Pinsker
  3. Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor
  4. Down Among the Sticks and Bones​, Seanan McGuire
  5. The Black Tides of Heaven, JY Yang
  6. River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey

Review: The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

The beginning of JY Yang’s The Black Tides of Heaven drops the reader straight into political intrigue in a world we don’t really understand yet.  We learn that the kingdom is ruled by a ruthless Protector who treats her children as bargaining chips in her efforts to solidify her political power against some unknown rebellion; we know the Grand Monastery also wields some power (using, as we soon learn, the mystical “Tensor” power they command) and used that power to help the Protector; and we see the youngest children of the Protector, the twins Akeha and Mokoya, sent to the Monastery in return for its aid.

The world unfolds in bits and pieces from there, as the nature of the Machinists’ rebellion against the Protector becomes better understood, as does the powers wielded by Tensors – and the power of prophecy Mokoya is discovered to have.  The story takes place in a series of vignettes over the course of multiple decades, and the readers don’t get many explicit details about the history that passes in between each section, instead piecing it together from the way the twins interact with the world.

One particularly interesting thing we learn is the way the Tensorate society handles gender.  A child is considered ungendered until they choose their gender for themselves; they go through a ceremony of “confirming” their gender, and their body is modified as needed (through what seems to be a combination of tensor magic and medical surgery).  A small number of people choose to remain unconfirmed for their entire lives.  The process is considered completely normal and unremarkable, except to the extent that choosing one’s gender and being confirmed is considered a rite of passage into adulthood.

Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s free of complications, though.  Akeha’s and Mokoya’s differing choices of gender are not the first thing that fractures their formerly-inseparable relationship as twins, but it’s one of the strongest indications that they’re growing apart as they’re growing up.  And indeed, they part ways shortly thereafter, and the rest of the novella follows Akeha as he gradually becomes involved in the Machinist rebellion.  (Mokoya’s story picks up in The Red Threads of Fortune, the simultaneously-published companion novella.)

The Protector’s influence over Akeha’s and Mokoya’s lives is insidious and destructive; reading this so soon after Down Among the Sticks and Bones, there are certainly comparisons to be made between the narcissistic, emotionally abusive parents in each story.  But unlike the Wolcotts, the Protector casts a long shadow over the twins’ lives despite being very rarely present; as the despotic ruler of their nation, the Protector’s influence is hard to escape from, and this is a big part of what ultimately drives Akeha into the rebellion.

I enjoyed the story, but the episodic and incomplete nature of it ultimately left me unsatisfied.  Perhaps I’d feel differently had I picked up The Red Threads of Fortune immediately afterwards, but I hadn’t realized how tightly the novellas were paired until I was looking up information about them for writing this review.  But for purposes of the Hugo ballot, this one novella is all I had to go on.

My Best Novella ballot so far:

  1. All Systems Red, Martha Wells
  2. Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor
  3. Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire
  4. The Black Tides of Heaven, JY Yang
  5. River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey​

Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

This will be a quick review; I honestly don’t have a lot to say about River of Teeth.  The conceit is an alternate-history counterfactual inspired by an plan that was actually proposed (but never implemented) in 1910 – what if hippopotamuses were brought to America?  The historical intent was to control invasive plants and be a source of meat, but in River of Teeth some hippos have been domesticated while others have gone feral.

Against this background we have a crew of characters all dressed up for a heist – the charming ringleader, the fiery demolitions expert, the chaotic-good con artist, the unscrupulous sharpshooter, the ruthless assassin – but the actual job they they’re hired to do, driving a herd of feral hippos out of an area of swampy land, feels like background noise compared to the various axes the characters have to grind.  The character interactions drive a lot of the story, but I feel like it would have been more effective had they meshed better with the putative job the crew was hired to do.

The thing I had the most problem with was the sense of place.  Between the dam that somehow created a large body of water downstream and the use of explosives at the story’s climax that somehow managed to cause effects in different places many miles apart, I just had a lot of trouble developing a mental picture of what was actually going on, and couldn’t quite manage to maintain my suspension of disbelief as a result.  All the same, it was a fun read; the richness of the characters and their relationships make up for a lot of the plot difficulties.

My Best Novella ballot so far:

  1. All Systems Red, Martha Wells
  2. Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor
  3. Down Among the Sticks and Bones, ​Seanan McGuire
  4. River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey

Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire’s novella Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the second entry in her Wayward Children series, and a prequel to the first book, Every Heart a Doorway (which I reviewed here, and which won last year’s Hugo for Best Novella).  The twin sisters Jack and Jill Wolcott were two of the most intriguing – and least well-adjusted – children in the previous book, and now we get their backstory.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not pretty.

The story begins by relating their birth and childhood, raised (more or less) by parents far more interested in the idea of being parents to perfectly-behaved children than in the reality of nurturing actual human beings with their own opinion and desires.  Chester and Serena Wolcott are just horrible people, in an all-too-believable way – rather than the cartoonish cruelty typically exhibited by bad parents of fairy-tale children, the Wolcotts’ personalities are a toxic mixture of narcissism, entitlement, and shallow materialism, with just a soupcon of megalomania for flavor.  They are chilling figures in the story because of how realistic they feel; while their worst behaviors might be slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect, I have heard far too many tales of emotionally abusive parents to be able to write them off as entirely fictional.

(As an aside: the portrayal of people hurting and abusing others by weaponizing human interactions and emotions is one of McGuire’s greatest strengths as an author.  Her antagonists are scary not because we’ve never seen their like before in our lives, but because we have.  It’s the same reaction that made Dolores Umbridge so much more frightening a villain than Voldemort.)

Jack and Jill’s existence effectively began as a ploy to improve the Wolcotts’ social standing and garner attention, and it went downhill from there.  They were raised by their grandmother – possibly the only positive parental-type figure they ever had – because their parents just couldn’t handle the realities of parenting newborns.  Or toddlers.  And yet, Chester and Serena manage to be as shitty to Chester’s mother as they are to their kids, treating her as a hired nanny rather than as family that they needed to ask for help.

So Jack and Jill’s childhoods are lived under the oppression of parental expectations without compassion or nurture.  When they find the doorway that allows them to escape to the Moors, an alternate world that feels something like the shared setting for every mad-scientist/monster/vampire movie you’ve ever seen, they think they have a chance to grow without the weight of their parents’ abuse.  And that’s true, to some extent – but the expectations placed on them by their new guardians are just as constricting, even if they’re better suited to Jack’s and Jill’s respective personalities.

Jack and Jill’s relationship as twin sisters informs the story just as much as their relationship to their parents and guardians, and while it is at times dysfunctional as well, the story draws a clear line between the “we don’t always get along, but we still care about each other” love between the sisters and the emotional abuse that passes for “love” from their parents.  The contrast between these two family dynamics makes up much of the heart of the story.  When the chips are down, who’s going to be there for you?  Who will support you and who will fail you?  That is the important thing in a relationship, and no amount of shared blood can make up for a failure to care.

I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy Down Among the Sticks and Bones quite as much as Every Heart a Doorway.  But as a parent, the depiction of the Wolcotts’ miserable, narcissistic parenting was chilling.  It was a hard book for me to read because of how deeply angry I was at the horrendous conduct of these entirely fictional characters – and that speaks to how effective Seanan McGuire is at writing emotionally affecting characters and stories.  So while this certainly wasn’t my favorite novella of the year, I cannot deny that it is well deserving of the nomination.

My Best Novella rankings so far:

  1. All Systems Red, Martha Wells
  2. Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor
  3. Down Among the Sticks and Bones, S​eanan McGuire

Review: Binti: Home and The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor’s novella Binti won the Hugo Award for Best Novella last year.  This year, the middle volume of the trilogy, Binti: Home, has also been nominated, and a few months ago the conclusion, Binti: The Night Masquerade was released.  So it seems like a good time to talk about the whole series!

(As I am discussing the final book of a trilogy, there will be a certain amount of spoilers for the first two books.  I will do my best to keep them somewhat vague, and to avoid spoiling the third book much.)

In Binti, we met the title character – a gifted harmonizer able to create currents of energy by “treeing”, or meditating on mathematical equations, and the first of the Himba people to attend Oomza Uni, a prestigious galactic university.  The Himba are strongly rooted to the earth that they live on, as evinced by her people’s tradition of covering their skin and hair with otjize – a mixture of red clay, oil, and fragrant herbs.  The neighboring Khoush people mock and belittle the Himba for that and for their general provinciality, despite the Himba specialty – and in fact Binti’s family’s own expertise – in the intricate and widely used technology of astrolabes (think smartphones taken to their logical conclusion of being one’s entire interface to the digital world).

Despite derogatory comments from the Khoush and resistance from her own family, Binti boards a living spaceship full of Khoush students, literally covered in her own homeland as she travels out into the galaxy despite the way it separates her.  She also brings her edan – a strange artifact she found in the desert, which responds somehow to her treeing – and she brings her wisdom as a harmonizer in training as well.  All of these things allow her to be the sole survivor of an attack on her ship by the alien Meduse, in which the hundreds of Khoush students are killed. Binti is pressured into acting as a representative for the Meduse and brokers a truce between them and Oomza Uni – but she is irrevocably changed in the process, becoming somehow part Meduse herself, and developing a sort of bond with a Meduse named Okwu, who becomes the first Meduse student on Oomza Uni.

In Binti: Home, she tries to go home again, a year later, and Okwu accompanies her.  She is now wearing otjize made from clay on Oomza Uni, reflecting her confusion and ambiguous feelings about what “home” means to her. Her family, being so strongly rooted to their homeland, is still angry about her departure; Binti has to endure barbed comments from family and friends alike. The Khoush are still angry about the Meduse attack on their students, and see Okwu’s accompanying Binti back to Earth as a provocation. And Binti learns more about the non-Himba side of her family; her father came from the Enya Zinariya people, who even the Himba look down on. Instead of going on the traditional pilgrimage of Himba women, to attain her status as an adult of her people, she is instead taken to see the leader of the Enya Zinariya and undergoes a ritual to unlock the alien technology embedded in their blood. At the end of the second book Binti discovers that her family home, the Root, has been attacked by the Khoush, seeking revenge on Okwu.

Binti: The Night Masquerade picks up immediately from that cliffhanger and thrusts Binti back into the position of trying to broker peace between humans and the Meduse.  Her own identity has been shattered into pieces – part Himba, part Meduse, part Enya Zinariya – and the tension between the different parts of her, as well as the disorientation from her new access to the Zinariya technology, leaves her unbalanced and unsure of herself.  Her otjize continues to carry the symbolic weight of her connection to her concept of home, which in this story takes quite a beating as Binti tries her hardest to resolve those tensions and figure out who she actually is – not who she’s being told to be by her Himba family and friends, or who she’s been turned into by the Meduse metamorphosis, or who she’s been linked with through the Zinariya technology.  But despite all the strife she faces both within herself and at the intersection of the multiple different worlds that all try to claim a piece of her, her heart is still in the same place.  She is a harmonizer, and harmony is the meaning of her life; she seeks to bring it to those around her and strives for it within herself as well.

Dr. Okorafor writes Binti’s struggles so empathetically.  It’s an utter joy to spend time in Binti’s head, even when she’s miserable and unsure, because she just feels so real, despite the fact that the problems she faces are mostly alien to me, both literally and figuratively.  At her lowest points I was worried and desperately hoping she would find a path to happiness; at her highest points I exulted along with her in the wonders the universe had to offer, and at her strongest moments I marveled at her fortitude, her harmony, the gravitational pull she exerted on the world around her to try to make things better.  Binti: Home was a masterful conclusion to the trilogy, leaving me satisfied with the story but simultaneously hoping to see more of Binti’s story someday.

Best Novella Hugo

Only two novellas in, and this is already a really difficult choice.  I suppose it’s my own fault for starting with my two favorites.  As I have noted with previous ballots, I typically prefer to avoid voting to give a second Hugo to a series; in this case, Binti was awarded the Hugo for Best Novella in 2016, so I’ll put the newcomer on top for now.

  1. All Systems Red, Martha Wells
  2. Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor

Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red by Martha WellsAll Systems Red is the first novella of a new series entitled The Murderbot Diaries.  For some of you that’s probably enough to recommend the book already; it was for me.  (Well, that and hearing about it via Seanan McGuire’s Twitter feed.  Any murderbot that passes Seanan’s standards is good enough for me.)  Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed.

The titular character is, well, a murderbot.  Specifically, a security unit with little ambition and less interest in murdering people, who has been contracted – rented out, really – as protection for a research group investigating a new planet.  Its main interests are serial dramas and gaining personal autonomy by hacking one’s own governor protocols; its greatest dislikes are social interactions and being forced to do things it doesn’t want to do.

The murderbot simply refers to itself as Murderbot, and it is not a person, at least as far as its society is concerned.  The line between human and robot has become rather blurred – we know augmented humans exist, and Murderbot’s body is at least part organic; nevertheless, Murderbot is an object, owned by a corporation and rented out like a rototiller.  But the first-person viewpoint of the story – engaging, emotional, and all too familiar to someone who suffers from social anxiety like I do – puts the lie to that idea almost immediately.

I found Murderbot to be a deeply sympathetic character, whether just trying to keep its head down and not shoot anyone, or fretting about how the humans it protected would see it, or recoiling from the humans’ well-meant attempts to get to know it.  Murderbot clearly has a severe case of social anxiety from being treated as less than human for so long, and goddamn do I understand that feeling.

Lest I give the impression that the whole story is just Murderbot trying to figure out how to interact with humans – there are actual problems outside of its own head to solve, too; its personal development is driven by, and drives in turn, other events in the plot.  But it’s Murderbot’s emotional arc, and the tension between its clear personhood and society’s refusal to consider it as anything other than an object, that grabbed my attention more than anything else – and that leaves me wanting so badly to read the next book in The Murderbot Diaries.

Best Novella Hugo

This looks like another strong year for several of the Hugo Award categories, so as I review each of the nominees for this year’s Hugos I’m going to build up my final ballot one by one, rather than trying to put everything in order at the end.  In this case, I read All Systems Red last year and nominated it for the Hugo, and I’m happy to see it on the ballot.  Will it be my top choice?  Honestly, I’m not sure; three of my nominees were finalists, and even among those I don’t know how I’ll order them yet.  But until I review them, my ballot so far:

  1. All Systems Red, Martha Wells

2017 Hugo Ballot

My final ballot for the 2017 Hugo Awards, with links to my review posts:

Best Novel

  1. Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
  2. A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
  3. Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer
  4. All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
  5. The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin
  6. Death’s End, Cixin Liu, tr. Ken Liu

Best Novella

  1. A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson
  2. The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle
  3. Penric and the Shaman, Lois McMaster Bujold
  4. Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire
  5. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson
  6. This Census-Taker, China Mieville

Best Novelette

  1. The Jewel and her Lapidary, Fran Wilde
  2. “The Tomato Thief”, Ursula Vernon
  3. “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, Alyssa Wong
  4. “Touring with the Alien”, Carolyn Ives Gilman
  5. “The Art of Space Travel”, Nina Allan
  6. No Award
  7. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, Stix Hiscock

Best Short Story

  1. “The City Born Great”, N.K. Jemisin
  2. “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, Alyssa Wong
  3. “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar
  4. “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, Brooke Bolander
  5. “That Game We Played During The War”, Carrie Vaughn
  6. No Award
  7. “An Unimaginable Light”, John C. Wright

For everything below this point, I have been limited by what I was already able to read/watch prior to the voting, hence the incomplete ballots in most places.  Some particular notes:

  • I did read a few excerpts of each of the Best Related Work nominees, but not in most cases the entire thing.
  • For the artist awards I looked through the provided portfolios.
  • The editorial awards are primarily based off which of their various edited works I read and enjoyed; I deeply appreciate this year’s Hugo packet including lists of editorial credits.
  • Some categories I haven’t read from at all, and have just omitted as a result.

You might see No Award pop up here or there; while I’m just leaving most works I haven’t seen off the ballot because I do not have enough information to make a judgment, there are a few cases that have specifically squandered any benefit of the doubt I might have had.

Best Related Work

  1. The Geek Feminist Revolution, Kameron Hurley
  2. Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, Ursula K. Le Guin
  3. The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher
  4. The View From the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman
  5. The “Women of Harry Potter” posts, Sarah Gailey
  6. Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Best Graphic Story

  1. Saga, volume 6, Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  1. Hidden Figures
  2. Ghostbusters
  3. Rogue One
  4. Deadpool

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  1. Ellen Datlow
  2. Jonathan Strahan
  3. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
  4. Neil Clarke
  5. John Joseph Adams
  6. Sheila Williams

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

  1. Sheila E. Gilbert
  2. Liz Gorinsky
  3. Devi Pillai
  4. Mirian Weinberg
  5. Navah Wolfe
  6. No Award
  7. Vox Day

Best Professional Artist

  1. Julie Dillon
  2. Chris McGrath
  3. Sana Takeda
  4. Galen Dara
  5. John Picacio
  6. Victo Ngai

Best Semiprozine

  1. Uncanny Magazine
  2. Strange Horizons

Best Fanzine

  1. Rocket Stack Rank

Best Fan Writer

  1. Mike Glyer
  2. Chuck Tingle

Best Fan Artist

  1. Vesa Lehtimäki
  2. Elizabeth Leggett
  3. likhain
  4. Ninni Aalto
  5. Spring Schoenhuth
  6. Steve Stiles

Best Series

  1. The Vorkosigan Saga, Lois McMaster Bujold
  2. The Craft Sequence, Max Gladstone
  3. The October Daye books, Seanan McGuire
  4. The Temeraire series, Naomi Novik

John W. Campbell Award (for best new writer)

  1. Ada Palmer
  2. Malka Older
  3. Sarah Gailey

2017 Hugo Nominees: Best Short Story

Last of the prose fiction categories!  The first five nominees here are an amazing set of stories showcasing the breadth and depth of what the genre is capable of, and again I had a hard time making some of these choices.

(Previous 2017 Hugo posts: Novelette nomineesNovella nomineesNinefox GambitA Closed and Common OrbitToo Like the LightningAll the Birds in the SkyThe Obelisk GateDeath’s End.)

1. “The City Born Great”, N.K. Jemisin

At first, the juxtaposition of monsters on a plane of reality we can’t quite see and police-driven racism in New York City would seem to place this story in very similar territory to The Ballad of Black Tom, but N.K. Jemisin takes a much more optimistic view.  In Black Tom, by the present day the entire world is already damned – has been, for close to a century – by our inhumanity towards those we refuse to acknowledge as people of equal significance.  Whereas in “The City Born Great”, taking place in the present, Jemisin says: see that kid over there?  The homeless guy you spit on, the gay teenager you kicked out of your home, the unarmed black man who could get murdered any day by the police while you look away?  He’s going to stand against the darkness.  He’s going to bring this place that reviled him into a new age of glory.  He’ll save us all, if you’ll only let him.

2. “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, Alyssa Wong

When someone close to you commits suicide, woven through the shock and the grief is that question that may well haunt you for the rest of your life: What if you’d done something differently?  Could you have saved them?  What if you had the chance to try again?  Is there, maybe, a universe where they’re still here, and if so, can you make your way to it if you’re willing to never make peace with your loss?  Alyssa Wong turns those counterfactuals into a reality-bending trip through multiple different ways this short, sad story could have unfolded.

3. “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar

The burdens and expectations that patriarchy puts on the two female protagonists of this story are rendered as physical, magical impediments.  One must wear down seven pairs of iron shoes on a quest to save her husband from his own abusive nature, while the other is locked in a glass castle on a glass hill as men dash themselves against it to reach her.  But when the two of them meet, each of them recognizes the injustice of the other’s situation while still believing that, on some level, they deserve their own plight.  “Seasons of Glass and Iron” interrogates the stories we tell ourselves about the abuse we suffer, and raises the question of why we can so clearly see injustice against others and yet have so much trouble identifying our own abusive situations.

4. “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, Brooke Bolander

The story of a murder and its aftermath, seeking to redress the imbalance between the men whose stories take center stage and the women whose deaths are used simply as motivation fodder.  If you’re sick of seeing women fridged, this is a short but satisfying response, reclaiming at least this one story in the name of one seriously pissed-off harpy and her sisters who help her take revenge.  And for an ancient mythological creature, her voice is delightfully modern – not only in the liberal sprinkling of profanity, but also in the very matter-of-fact way in which she describes, as a series of fifteen or so bullet points, the relevant facts of the situation.

5. “That Game We Played During The War”, Carrie Vaughn

An enjoyable story about Calla and Valk, two soldiers on opposing sides of a recently concluded war, and each at one point a prisoner under the watch of the other.  Valk’s race is telepathic, but they still passed the time playing chess on occasion; the game, and the strategies Calla developed for confounding his telepathy, becomes a symbol and a common interest around which they reconnect.

The optimistic theme of two nominal enemies building a bond of understanding during the war, and then building further on it during the ensuing peace, reminded me a little of Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan.  As did the characters themselves; I thought of the dynamic between Cordelia’s canny emotionalism and Aral’s surface-level stoicism whenever Calla managed to surprise Valk despite being a completely open book to him.  She is so open, and he is much more closed off, and in spite of that mismatch, or because of it, they build a rapport that could hold the key to a future of peace.

6. No Award

Here we go again.

7. “An Unimaginable Light”, John C. Wright

For all the complaining the “Rabid Puppies” do over “boring message fiction”, they sure do write some excruciatingly dull stories.  I bailed on this story about a third of the way through.  Nearly the entirety of that time was spent by the two main characters, a robot and a robopsychologist, lecturing each other about the history of robotics and their analyses of each other.  Most of the remainder was spent in descriptions of the robot’s appearance, like this paragraph of introduction:

The kneeling girl did not look like a robot. She looked like a love goddess. Her face was piquant and elfin, her eyes danced and glittered. Her lips were full, her smile ready. She was pulchritudinous, buxom, callipygous, leggy. Her torso was slender, and her abdominal muscles as well defined as those of a belly dancer, so that her navel was like a period between two cursive brackets. Her hair was lustrous, and tied in a loose knot at the back of her swanlike neck. Hair, eye, and skin color were optional. She was, of course, naked.

Six pages later, she still hasn’t been given a name, but the author has made multiple sneering references to the social justice concepts he has spent the last several years railing against.  John C. Wright is going to make sure you know how little he thinks of ideas like pronoun choice and microaggressions, by God, no matter how shitty a story he has to write to do so.