My Hugo Awards Ballot

The voting for the 2010 Hugo Awards closed last night. I sent in my ballot yesterday, but I'm trying to limit my computer time this weekend, so I didn't post about it until today.

The following lists are my votes, with miscellaneous commentary. The Hugos use a complicated vote-counting scheme, including a "No Award" option to distinguish between works you wouldn't mind seeing win, even if they're not your first choice, and works you consider so bad you would rather see them cancel the award than win.

Best Novel

  1. The City and the City by China Mieville
  2. Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson
  3. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
  4. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  5. Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
  7. Wake by Robert Sawyer

Comments: This came down to a mental coin flip between the Mieville and Wilson, more or less. I enjoyed the Wilson more, but I went with Mieville because the central idea of The City and the City was more original. Both are good books that seem a little on the show-offy side-- a little bit of "look at what I can do!"

Boneshaker was an entertaining read, but no more than that. It's a steampunk zombie novel, which is intrinsically kind of goofy, and it doesn't do anything surprising with that premise. Palimpsest and The Windup Girl are both more ambitious, and probably better books, but they're both unpleasant enough that I didn't finish either (I got about 70 pages into the latter, and decided I didn't want to read more about those characters), so they drop below Boneshaker.

I didn't read the Sawyer, but nothing I've read suggests it would hold any interest for me.

Best Novella

  1. "Palimpsest" by Charles Stross
  2. "Act One" by Nancy Kress
  3. "Vishnu at the Cat Circus" by Ian McDonald
  4. "The Women of Nell Gwynne's" by Kage Baker
  5. "The God Engines" by John Scalzi
  6. "Shambling Toward Hiroshima" by James Morrow

Comments: I was sorely tempted to put "NO AWARD" after either the Kress or McDonald, but ultimately decided that my irritation at the works below that point wasn't strong enough to disqualify them. "Palimpsest" wins because while both of the top two were kind of obvious about where they were headed, I enjoy grand space opera more than personal melodrama.

I came very close to "NO AWARD"-ing the Morrow, on the grounds that if you can't carry a funny satirical treatment of WWII all the way through to the end, you probably shouldn't start writing a funny satirical treatment of WWII. I decided not to in the end, but if I were voting again, I'd go through the whole argument again and it might come out differently.

Best Novelette

  1. "It Takes Two" Nicola Griffith
  2. "Eros, Philia, Agape" by Rachel Swirsky
  3. "Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast" by Eugie Foster
  4. "One of Our Bastards Is Missing" by Paul Cornell
  5. "The Island" by Peter Watts
  7. "Overtime" by Charles Stross

"It Takes Two" is the strongest story in any of the short fiction categories, I think. It's certainly the clear choice of this batch. The Swirsky comes second despite being a crying-robot story, because the rest of the category is a muddle. "Sinner, etc." is so high-concept that it remains almost totally abstract, with no real connection to the characters. Cornell's story feels like it's missing crucial context, and Watts's story, while certainly inventive, is so overwrought that it becomes almost comical, sort of like the Smiths (the Mojo Nixon cover of "Girlfriend in a Coma" nails my reaction to pretty much Morrissey's entire career).

"Overtime" is a fucking Santa Claus joke, and annoyed me enough that it nearly cost Charlie the top spot in the Novella category.

Best Short Story

  1. "Non-Zero Probabilities," by N.K. Jemisin
  3. "The Moment" by Lawrence Schoen
  4. "Bridesicle" by Will McIntosh
  5. "The Bride of Frankenstein" by Mike Fucking Resnick
  6. "Spar" by Kij Johnson

Comments: "Non-Zero Probabilities" is kind of a nothing story, a minor slice-of-life thing in a sort-of-cool setting. It gets the top spot here because it's the only story on this part of the ballot that doesn't fill me with rage.

"The Moment" is a cloying piece about time tourists visiting the Moon landing site because humans are Just That Cool, "Bridesicle" is just creepy, I will never again read or vote above "NO AWARD" any story by Mike Fucking Resnick after the crap he's landed on the ballot the last few times I voted, and "Spar" is so awful I want to bleach my brain to get it out.

Bleagh. What a mess.

After that, I haven't really read or seen enough to fill out complete ballots in a sensible manner. I put in a couple of votes for long-term editor and fan writer (Fred Pohl ahead of James Nicoll), and that's about it.

So, there are my votes in the fiction categories. Comments are welcome, as are suggestions of stuff that I ought to be reading this year to nominate for next year, so the next ballot isn't quite so full of crap. I have a few thoughts on stuff I would rather have seen on the ballot than what's actually here, but I'll save those for a separate post.

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Isn't it a bit harsh -- malicious, indeed -- to put the Sawyer book, which you haven't actually read, below two books you couldn't finish and even No Award?

Under Heaven is a 2010 book, and thus not eligible for the Hugos (which go to books published last year). Transition wasn't terrible, but is kind of pointless. While it's got some cool scenes, it doesn't really go anywhere, and the unreliable narrator is too unreliable.

As for the NO AWARD-ing of Sawyer, he's in the Mike Resnick category of "People Who Keep Getting Nominated for the Hugo for No Discernible Reason." Last year's Worldcon being in Montreal may have played a role, through an increase in the Canadian fraction of the nominating population. I wish they'd adopt Karl Schroeder instead, as I actually enjoy his work.