The Hugo awards are consider the most prestigious sci-fi awards, but it has been marred by controversy for the past two years. Two regressive groups exploited the weaknesses of the voting system to dominate the majority of the nominees despite commanding less then 15% of the total votes (you can read more on George R.R. Martin blogpost [here]). This year only the most extreme of the two groups used slating, but their nominations still dominated the finalist list, and their picks include their favorite stories, as well as stories added to vilify the award (including erotic stories and my little pony TV episodes). They also added a couple of already popular stories and included them in their slates hoping to damage them by association (“poison pill” slating). As a result of the controversy some authors declined their nomination and new ones were added in their place.
This post is intended to help you navigate this mess, and I will constantly update it to reflect the current nominees. I hope you’ll find it useful. Comments are welcomed, but please keep it civil!
This category was almost entirely nominated by rabid puppies slate, and as a result, the overall quality is not as high as in previous years. I was saddened that other very deserving authors were pushed out from the finalist. This said, there is some work that may make the cut above “no awards”.
And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead
by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015)
This cyberpunk action story is extremely fast paced, impossible to put down, and fun to read. The main character, Rhye, is an artificial woman, created, used, and discarded by “regular” humans. Her hard upbringing made her somebody you would not want to mess with. She is a rough, violent, foul mouthed machine, but her meeting with Rack, a hacker, is going to profoundly affect her life.
Hugo worthy? Yes.
Was it part of a slate? No, this is the only story that could stand up and made it to the finalist on its own merit.
Buy: [free on-line] or [Amazon]
by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
Despite being a finalist because of its inclusion in a slate, the work is not only enjoyable, but also novel and interesting. I found quite interesting to read a book written by a Chinese author, to see the (current and future) world through the eyes of a different culture. The population and economic growth of modern China, its economic inequalities, and its technological and engineering marvels are central to Folding Beijing.
In a claustrophobic overpopulated future, Beijing is rebuild to be three cities at once, each folding into each other, so that only one at a time is up and awake on the surface, while the other two are folded and sleeping. Time is divided across each section according to the “rank” of its inhabitants, so that the best gets to enjoy 12 hours of sun, while the poorest gets just a glimps of dawn.
A dystopian vision of our future, with a very thin and feeble ray of hope mixed in.
Hugo worthy? Yes. This is my #2 choice.
Was it part of a slate? Yes. The author has not commented on her inclusion into the slate.
Buy: [free on-line] or [Amazon]
by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
I liked many stories written by Stephen King, and while I was young, I devoured his books. Obits is not one of his best work. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, but there is nothing deeply original or peculiar to set it apart from many other stories. The plot is relatively straightforward: a journalist specialized in writing funny and offensive obituaries, discovers that he can cause the death of living people writing their obits. He will have to learn on how to use his power while learning how to navigate the politics at work and to deal with women.
Hugo worthy? Maybe. This is my #3 choice.
Was it part of a slate? Yes, even if Stephen King would have probably made it on its own. He has made no comment on his inclusion into the slate.
What Price Humanity?
by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
The story is enjoyable to read, but it is not very original: many plot elements have been seen before, and they are not presented in a novel way. The characters are not that memorable either.
The story begins with a (space) soldier coming back to consciousness in a virtual reality simulation. He believes to be kept there while his body is being regrown or repair, but his contacts from outside are mysteriously not telling him anything. Soon he gets to meet, always in VR, many of his former colleagues, including a dead girlfriend. I’m not going to say more, to avoid spoiling the story (even if I can bet you can already seeing where this is going).
P.S. As other reviewer have noted, when Southpark called the only African American character “token” was a funny critic to our society. In here the joke does not work as well.
Hugo worthy? No
Was it part of a slate? Yes. Author said he does not consider himself a member of any puppy or kitty group (see: [SF kittens]).
by Cheah Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
In this story, the United States of America have control of Titan, and who controls it, controls the energy supplies for the entire human race. The People Republic of China tries to gain control of it through strategy and military action, but on its way is a Japanese star-warship, equipped with some new weapons.
I did not like the story. While fast-paced and at times entertaining, it is mainly a war story with a very thin plot, few plot holes, and some racist slurs. For example, why would the Japanese army risk all their strategic asset to protect an American possession without getting anything out of it? Is it just because of ethnic hatred of the main Japanese commander for the Chinese? I was left with the impression that the author may have strong xenophobic views, and those tainted the story.
Trigger warning: racial slurs.
Hugo worthy? No
Was it part of a slate? Yes, the author is a strong supporter of the rabid puppies slate (see: [his blog]).
- Official Hugo Awards 2016 announcement: [hugo awards official page]
- Official Hugo Awards 2016 voting page [MidAmeriCon II page]
- The Hugo finalists: why the sad puppies can’t take credit for Neil Gaiman’s success [Los Angeles Times]
- Four Things About the Hugo [Scalzi’s Whatever Blog]
- The Puppy Wars Resume [George R.R. Martin Blog]
- Hugo Withdrawal [George R.R. Martin Blog]
- 2016 Hugo Finalist Review Roundup [File 770]
- Happy Kittens voting guide [SFKittens]