I'm eligible to vote for the Hugos this year, as a paid-up member of Anticipation. As such, I got the free packet of nominated works that they put together for the voters, and have started working my way through the short fiction (I've read all the novel nominees that I'm going to). Whether you're eligible to vote or not, you can get links to most of the nominated works here.
I've only read the Short Story nominees so far, and I have to say, I would vote for "No Award" five times if it was a choice between that and "Article of Faith" winning. I really could've sworn that this vein of crap was played out back in the 80's, when I was a teenager and already getting sick of this sort of story. And yet, this kind of stuff keeps ending up on the ballot-- I warned Kate off it by describing it as a crying robot tale, because it's awful in the same way. And, in fact, it's by the same author.
At this point, I'm seriously considering skipping Resnick's novelette nominee entirely. There's really only so much maudlin crap I can take at this point in the academic year.
I've read the other four nominees, all of which are pretty slight, but better than "Article of Faith." Still, if this is the best short fiction the field has to offer, then maybe the death of SF magazines isn't such a tragedy after all.
More specific comments:
"Exhalation" by Ted Chiang is, well, a Ted Chiang story, with a really detailed look at a different universe, working through the implications of his imaginary physics in a rigorous way. It's a little too obviously about entropy, in the end, but probably the best of this lot.
"26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss" by Kij Johnson is probably the second best of the nominees. It's a quirky story in a Kelly Link sort of vein, and I enjoyed reading it. It's pretty close to the Chiang, really.
"Evil Robot Monkey" by Mary Robinette Kowal is a very short anecdote that doesn't really go anywhere. It reads kind of like she had the idea for the title, and wrote a short story to go with it.
"From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled" by Michael Swanwick is really good, sketching out an interesting alien society, interesting future technology, and with a good and interesting plot. And then it just... stops, with an abrupt and arbitrary ending that seems sort of like he needed to wrap it up before the word count exceeded the "Short Story" category.
I had pretty much the same thoughts you did, although I haven't actually read the Johnson story yet...my doc reader on the iPhone renders the text in Japanese for some reason. I quite enjoyed EXHALATION, but thought the Swanwick and Resnick stories were trying too hard and not hard enough, respectively.
I just read it. It reminds me of Resnick's For I have Touched The Sky. That story still angers me. This one looks like a rewrite of that one but this time with God. He must be getting old.
Thank you for saying it so clearly! I don't know what to say to people who actually liked Resnick's story. His other one is not as bad, that one is readable and even likable. This robot story was contradicting itself in every second sentence -- I hate it when a story does not even try to be internally consistent.
I think Chiang's story was a bit too cold and distanced (although polished as usual with his writing), so I will put Swanwick before that one.
Why is it a problem that the Chiang story is obviously about entropy? That's kind of what I liked about it; it made entropy accessible to people who don't get it.
In addition, I felt it was also about one being's reaction to entropy and the inevitability thereof. In any case, I liked it best of the five.
I completely agree with you about the Resnick story. It was nothing but irksome and I'll be really disappointed if it wins.
Optimum solution: publish your own science fiction stories and get them nominated for Hugos and Nebulas. Surprising how that changes one's outlook. All is Relative.