This is my third time participating in the Hugo Awards and, despite last year’s… you know… I am enjoying it a great deal. Having a voice, even a tiny one among many, getting recommendations from like-minded people who have their own favorite sub-genres, and because of that, their own favorite books, is just wonderful. The Hugos are always a treasure trove full of book recs (with the exception of last year), and because I think it’s more important to nominate now than maybe ever before, I filled out my ballot with All The Stuff I Loved Last Year.
I always leave some categories blank, because I don’t know how to pick a best editor, or I haven’t read enough/anything for that category, or I just didn’t like anything enough to think it should get a Hugo.
But I will tell you about a few of the categories I did fill out this year – if there are things on there that can be read or listened to online, I’ll link to them. If you’re still looking for something to read or check out before nominating ends, maybe you want to take a look at these. They are my favorites, after all, and therefore the bestest.
- Naomi Novik – Uprooted
- Catherynne M. Valente – Radiance
- Laura Ruby – Bone Gap
- N. K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season
- V. E. Schwab – A Darker Shade of Magic
Uprooted was a no-brainer. There is a reason everyone adored this book. It swept me off my feet and charmed me with its language, characters, and fairy tale vibe. Valente’s Radiance is ambitious and epic and all sorts of other things I don’t have words for. It’s a book that can’t easily be described, it has to be tasted. Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap has no chance of getting on the shortlist, let alone winning. I know this for many reasons. It’s YA (WHEN WILL WE GET A YA CATEGORY?), it is heavy on non-SFF elements, and it just hasn’t got that “Hugo feel” to it. But I loved it so very much that if I didn’t put it on my ballot I would be lying. It was one of my favorite books of last year and that’s what this is about, right?
Here’s a confession: I’m still reading The Fifth Season but, my gods, that book is so brilliant!! I’ll be able to finish it before nominating ends, so if Jemisin somehow messed up the ending (which I very much doubt), I can take it off my ballot. But even the two thirds I’ve read are so amazing that I want to throw Hugos at N.K. Jemisin. A Darker Shade of Magic is the one book I’m going to swap if something better comes along in the next two weeks. I loved every page, but I don’t necessarily think it’s a Hugo-winner.
- Catherynne M. Valente – Speak Easy
- Nnedi Okorafor – Binti
- Paul Cornell – Witches of Lychford
- Angela Slatter – Of Sorrow and Such
- Matt Wallace – Envy of Angels
I have a full novella ballot! This has never happened before. My first year nominating, I left this category empty, the second year I put one, maybe two novellas on there, but last year, I read enough novellas to fill my ballot and have some to spare.
As can be easily deduced, this is mostly due to Tor.com’s awesome line-up of fantastic, varied, wonderful novellas. Speak Easy didn’t get much hype (it should have!) but it is one of Valente’s strongest stories, set during the Prohibition in the Hotel Artemisia, with its very own underworld. Binti is my favorite thing by Nnedi Okorafor since Who Fears Death and combines a fun space adventure with important themes such as leaving home, becoming someone new while holding on to your cultural heritage. It was beautiful. Angela Slatter is my author crush of last year and her novella Of Sorrow and Such came out just at the right time. It hit all my happy buttons and made me warm and fuzzy inside. Witches, women working together, getting over their past, there’s all sorts of awesome here. Matt Wallace’s Envy of Angels is pure fun. Funny books are often ignored because they come across as light or easy reads, but the Sin du Jour series gave me so much enjoyment and made me giggle non-stop, and in my book, that deserves recognition. Witches of Lychford surprised me. I’m not big on urban (or rural) fantasy and I only like a handful of witches (Granny Weatherwax, anyone?) but Paul Cornell’s story was lovely, just lovely.
Best Related Work
- Renee Williams, Shaun Duke – Speculative Fiction 2014
- Adam Whitehead – A History of Epic Fantasy (The Wertzone)
- Mahvesh Murad – Midnight in Karachi (Podcast)
- Justin Landon – Rocket Talk (Podcast)
I only have four nominations for this category. Speculative Fiction 2014 was wonderful, if heavy on the Captain America stuff. But – as someone who didn’t appreciate the Captain enough – it has given me great insight into parts of fandom that I otherwise am not active in. The two Tor.com podcasts Midnight in Karachi and Rocket Talk are very different, and I like them for different reasons. I generally prefer Mahvesh Murad’s interviews (and her voice is so soothing), but Justin also gets awesome guests and makes them talk about great stuff. The History of Epic Fantasy was my commute read for a while and I enjoyed every single post. I’d actually like a more in-depth approach to the subject but for the quick overview it was trying to give, it was pretty damn excellent.
Best Graphic Story
- Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples – Saga Volume 5
- Noelle Stevens – Nimona
I failed in this category this year. First of all, I read fewer comics in 2015 than I did before, secondly, some comics I did read just didn’t work for me. A lot of people love The Wicked + The Divine but I really couldn’t connect with that story on any level. But Saga continues to be the absolute best and Noelle Stevens’ Nimona surprised me in every way. I didn’t expect to like it and ended up almost crying, so there. I did like Rat Queens Volume 2 but compared to volume 1 it was much weaker and the change in artist – despite doing a good job – took me out of the narration a bit.
The Book Smugglers have been phenomenal for years but now that they are also publishers, they have taken their awesome up to eleven. And Uncanny always has a story or two that I really like plus podcasts and interviews with people that I love reading about. They also have the best covers of any magazine I can think of.
I know Chaos Horizon’s Brandon Kempner doesn’t want a Hugo and will recuse himself should he be nominated. But I’m still giving him a vote because, hey, a turned-down nomination is still a sign that people love what he does. And what he does is statistics! About SFF awards. And it’s really exciting (really, I swear)!
Ladybusiness continues to be great and makes my wishlist grow like crazy. I both love them and hate them for i – but mostly love. Fantasy Literature puts out reviews of books that I’m interested in and I mostly agree with their reviewers (I have a few favorites). So while it’s not doing anything super-inventive or new, it’s a great source for me personally that I can rely on when hunting for new books.
I’ve been nominating The Writer and the Critic for ever and until they stop doing brilliant, entertaining, insightful podcasts, I will continue to do so. Fangirl Happy Hour is Renay and Ana (of Book Smugglers fame) talking to each other and – without knowing me – totally getting me. How could I not love them?
Cooking the Books is another podcast I love partly for voice reasons. I could listen to Fran Wilde for hours and hours. And since she also does cool interviews, I’m really happy her podcast exists.
The Coode Street Podcast is one I don’t always listen to, but when I do, I really enjoy it. I mostly tune in for topics that interest me.
That’s all I’m willing to share for now. Maybe when I have some time I’ll let you in on my picks for Best Dramatic Presentation and the art categories.
One thing I want to say to anyone who stumbles across my little place on the internet:
If you’ve only read one book last year that you loved and you hold a supporting membership to last year’s, this year’s, or next year’s WorldCon – PLEASE NOMINATE. If you think your favorite novel has no chance of winning, nominate it anyway. If you only read short stories or only watched movies, nominate them and leave the rest blank. Every combination of blank/empty categories is allowed but every honest nomination helps make the Hugos a bit better and more representative of genre fandom. If you can, nominate!