Out with the old …

Oh, I had such plans. As a member of Anticipation (even if it’s not certain that I’ll actually be attending) I get to nominate in the Hugos; given that, why not wait until I nominate before writing any kind of best-of-2008 list? I get a couple of extra months to catch up on 2008 books and stories that I missed, and plenty of time to write a detailed summary of my reading.

Well, so much for that idea. Instead, here’s my Hugo ballot, mere hours before the nominating deadline, with some abbreviated commentary.

Best Novel

Flood by Stephen Baxter [discussion]
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway [review]
Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin
Song of Time by Ian R MacLeod [review]
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell [review]

I am nothing if not quixotic. I thought it might be hard to fight the temptation to nominate books I liked but also thought had a chance of getting enough nominations to be shortlisted; I also thought I’d have a much harder time actually narrowing it down to five books, because my overall feeling is that 2008 was a year with many good genre novels, but few if any great ones. As it is, the process was relatively straightforward. These are books that (a) I want to read again, and (b) I want other people to read, even if the result will only be that more people tell me Dreamers of the Day isn’t really a fantasy, and even if only Lavinia is a real shortlist prospect (Flood might have a shot next year, I suppose, because the US edition will be out). Ironically, I’m actually pretty ambivalent about Lavinia; I only finished it today, but the problem might be that Cecelia Holland and Gary Wolfe are both right, which I didn’t reckon on being possible. But like my other nominees it’s a book that provokes me to think about it, and that at least is a good thing.

Best Novella

“True Names” by Cory Doctorow and Benjamin Rosenbaum (Fast Forward 2)
Gunpowder by Joe Hill (PS Publishing)
“The Surfer” by Kelly Link (The Starry Rift) [review]
“Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, October/November 2008)
Distances by Vandana Singh (Aqueduct)

This category, on the other hand, I thought would be a struggle, and it was, although in the end I’ve got five nominees I’m happy with. The standout, though, is “True Names”, which as Abigail says combines its authors’ strengths to brilliant effect.

Best Novellette

The Gambler” by Paulo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
“The Ice War” by Stephen Baxter (Asimov’s September)
“The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm” by Daryl Gregory (Eclipse 2)
“Special Economics” by Maureen F. McHugh (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy) [review]
“Legolas does the Dishes” by Justina Robson (Postscripts 15) [review]

As for novella, I have a clear favourite here — “The Gambler” — but unlike novella, winnowing myself down to only five nominees was tricky.

Best Short Story

“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse 2)
“The Goosle” by Margo Lanagan (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy) [review]
“An Honest Day’s Work” by Margo Lanagan (The Starry Rift)
The Small Door” by Holly Phillips (Fantasy Magazine)
“Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment” by M. Rickert (F&SF October/November [review]

I spent quite a while going back and forth between “An Honest Day’s Work” and “The Goosle”; I’ve read enough good short stories this year that I felt I should only nominate one by any given author. But in the end I decided that was a silly rule; they both deserve their nominations.

Best Related Book

Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon (McSweeny’s) [review]
The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr (Wesleyan)
What it is we do When we Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon)
Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan)

I’m missing a book in this slot, and in fact these are the only four books of related non-fiction I read in 2008; but they all deserve nominations.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Hellboy 2
Mongol
Wall-E

Mongol is only just touched by the fantastic; Hellboy 2 is beautiful but flawed; and I’ve watched Wall-E three times. (And The Dark Knight isn’t science fiction or fantasy.)

Best Dramatic Presentation — Short Form

Battlestar Galactica, “The Hub” (4×09), by Jane Espenson
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog by Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon
Pushing Daisies, “Frescorts” (2×04), by Aaron Harberts, Gretchen J. Berg, and Lisa Joy
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, “Alpine Fields” (2×12), by John Enbom
The Middleman, “The Sino-Mexican Revelation” (1×03), by Javier Grillo-Marxuach

There’s a certain amount of closing my eyes and sticking a pin in it going on here. Let’s see: I think Galactica‘s fourth season was a big step back up in quality, and wanted to recognise that, but those first ten episodes are essentially serialised; so I’ll go for the one with the big space battle. I haven’t caught up with Pushing Daisies, and all the episodes I’ve watched so far have been good, but “Frescorts” is probably the best, narrowly. And there are half a dozen episodes of The Middleman I could have nominated, but this was the one that fully won me over to the show. “Alpine Fields”, though, I feel pretty sure about; although Sarah Connor had a lot of good episodes, that’s the one I feel works best as a showcase, and aside from the pilot, it’s the one I’d pick to show someone why they should watch.

Best Editor (Long Form)

Pete Crowther (PS Publishing)
Jo Fletcher (Gollancz)
Simon Spanton (Gollancz)

Alas the SF Editors wiki isn’t even close to being up to date. So Fletcher and Spanton get nods because I think Gollancz had a good year, and Crowther gets one for publishing Song of Time.

Best Editor (Short Form)

Lou Anders (Fast Forward 2)
Ellen Datlow (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
Susan Marie Groppi (Strange Horizons)
Jonathan Strahan (Eclipse 2, The Starry Rift)
Sheila Williams (Asimov’s)

As ever, short fiction editors are easier to judge. Most of these follow on from my short fiction nominations; the exception, Susan Groppi, gets a nod because what I read of the Strange Horizons fiction this year was good, even if none of it made it to my ballot.

Best Semiprozine

Interzone, ed. Andy Cox et al.
The New York Review of Science Fiction, eds. David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer and Kevin Maroney
Foundation, ed. Graham Sleight
Strange Horizons, ed. Susan Marie Groppi, Jed Hartman and Karen Meisner

Interzone had a definite uptick in quality in 2008 compared to the previous couple of years, I thought, so I’m happy to give them a nod; and the other two were reliably good. Locus misses out on a nomination for the way they handled their awards, and a couple of other bits of bad behaviour.

Best Fanzine

Asking the Wrong Questions by Abigail Nussbaum
Banana Wings, ed Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Coffee and Ink
The Antick Musings of GBH Hornswoggler, Gent
The Internet Review of Science Fiction, ed. Stacey Janssen

Best Fan Writer

Claire Brialey
Graham Sleight
Abigail Nussbaum
Mark Plummer
Micole S.

These two categories go together, for obvious reasons. With the exception of Antick Musings and IROSF (which does say it’s a fanzine, for now), they’re also stuffed with people I know personally as well as admire. I make no apology for that; fan writing, so far as I’m concerned, is to a large extent about personal connection, and most of the people I’ve nominated are people I know either first or best (or both) through their writing. But, you know, they put out some damn good writing last year.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo)

J. M. McDermott
Patrick Ness
Gord Sellar

This one, thankfully, does have an up-to-date website to help you out, although of course it’s not fully comprehensive. Annoyingly, I believe that Mr Harkaway’s eligibility got burned by a couple of stories published in Interzone in the mid-nineties (although Interzone is no longer a qualifying market, it was then).

And that’s your lot (except that I’ll also be nominating Stephen Martiniere for Best Professional Artist). Tomorrow: 2009 begins.

25 Responses to “Out with the old …”

  1. cofax Says:

    I think nominating Abigail and Micole for best fan writer is a wonderful idea.

    Sadly, I’ve read almost none of the rest on your list.

  2. Liz Says:

    We really should have co-ordinated on Pushing Daisies episodes, and I am kicking myself that I forgot Hellboy 2. And I used up a Campbell slot on Nick Harkaway – are the IZ stories under a different name?

  3. gordsellar Says:

    I’m absolutely flattered! You made my day! Thanks!

  4. Abigail Says:

    We really should have co-ordinated on Pushing Daisies episodes

    Problem is, I find all of Niall’s choices baffling. As I said in my Hugo noms post, I suspect fans of PD, Middleman and Sarah Connor will end up splitting their votes between different episodes and leaving those shows out in the cold.

  5. Martin Says:

    (And The Dark Knight isn’t science fiction or fantasy.)

    Fair enough and the debate about this is going to get real boring, real quick. It is taking the piss to exclude this and include Dreamers of the Day though.

  6. Niall Says:

    I think Nic nominated mostly different episodes again than either of us, so you’re probably right.

  7. Niall Says:

    I was thinking of you when I did it, Martin.

  8. chance Says:

    I hate the threaded comments.

  9. chance Says:

    Flood might have a shot next year, I suppose, because the US edition will be out

    Why would Flood get another shot? Were you planning on sitting through the business meeting to get its eligibility extended?

  10. Niall Says:

    My understanding is that there’s usually a blanket extension passed to cover books getting their first US edition (unless they’ve already been nominated off the back of an edition published elsewhere in the world).

  11. Niall Says:

    Yeah, they’re not really working, are they? I’ll go and turn them off. And hope that it’s clever enough to sort this thread into flat response order, rather than just reordering all the comments by timestamp…

  12. Niall Says:

    rather than just reordering all the comments by timestamp

    Well, so much for that hope. It’s not too incomprehensible, though.

  13. chance Says:

    My understanding is that there’s usually a blanket extension passed to cover books getting their first US edition (unless they’ve already been nominated off the back of an edition published elsewhere in the world).

    Hmm, there wasn’t the year we got the eligibility for Margo Lanagan’s story extended. (I have no idea what the usual is, I was basing my comment off that experience.)

  14. Nick H. Says:

    “I suspect fans of PD, Middleman and Sarah Connor will end up splitting their votes between different episodes and leaving those shows out in the cold.”

    That’s probably going to be correct. Don’t watch PD or Middleman, but for T:TSCC I would’ve gone for 2×08, “Mr Ferguson is Ill Today” over “Alpine Fields” – indeed, I had to look up which episode “Alpine Fields” was first. Not a great sign.

    I hold out some hope that an episode of Chuck manages to get nominated, though I fear that if any ever were they’d fall into the split vote thing mentioned above too.

    Regarding the long form, I’ve never heard of Mongol before. Is it any good?

  15. Niall Says:

    To be honest, I couldn’t match most of the SCC episodes to titles — without checking a guide I have no idea which one “Mr Ferguson is Ill Today” is, for instance. I happened to know which one “Alpine Fields” was because I read a lot of discussion of it after it first aired, but I don’t always do that.

  16. Rich Horton Says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve listed my Hugo nominations (and near misses) in my blog, here.

    I’m surprised how little we agree … (“Truth”, “The Surfer”, “The Small Door”, and “Exhalation”, plus of course nominating Abigail for Best Fan Writer) … and I found yet a third Margo Lanagan story to nominate. Even without my nomination ballot looking that much like yours, yours is full of first rate stories, I will say!

  17. Niall Says:

    Rich, I’ve edited your comment to fix the HTML. As to the differences in ballot: part of that, I’m sure, is down to the fact that I read less short fiction in 2008 than I did in the few years before that. I did a lot of cherry-picking, yet I haven’t read “The Art of Alchemy”, for instance, or that Lanagan (though Kij Johnson’s story was on my near-misses, and I did think about the Galchen). And I was a little surprised to find myself not nominating “The Hob Carpet”, but in the end other stories won out. But perhaps we also do disagree more than usual this year? I wasn’t terribly fussed about “The Ray Gun: A Love Story” or “Five Thrillers”, though I think both have probably got a very good chance of making the ballot.

  18. Nick H. Says:

    Niall:

    “Mr Ferguson is Ill Today” is the one where they all go down Mexico way. Or, as I recall, the last one shown before the Christmas break.

  19. Jonathan M Says:

    Who is Micole S?

    I suspect that the BDP, LF short list might well look like :

    * Dark Knight
    * Wall-E
    * Ironman
    * Hellboy 2

    Bubbling Under you’d probably have The Orphanage and two-parters from one of those TV series that everyone seems to enjoy (the love for Pushing Daisies is genuinely surprising). Are the BSG movie-spin-off-things eligible this year?

    All of which will make my second annual alternative BDP, LF shortlist that much easier to compile. Without going back and checking eligibility on a few cases whose year I can’t remember, there are three pieces which, in terms of quality, deserve to be on the list but (short of planetary alignment) probably won’t.

    One of my shortlist might sneak on but I’d be surprised if it did. It got a lot of discussion on film blogs but I suspect that this has only inflated my perception of its profile. One thing you can say about the BDP, LF is that it is consistently uncool. Short of a film being a complete dog’s dinner (as with the pirates films) the nominees tend to be well-hyped mainstream successes.

  20. Niall Says:

    Nick:

    I’ve never heard of Mongol before. Is it any good?

    I liked it a lot.

    Or, as I recall, the last one shown before the Christmas break.

    Er, that would be “Earthlings Welcome Here“. But now that I know which episode you’re talking about, I can say that I think it’s perfectly good, but eclipsed by what has come after.

    Jonathan:

    All of which will make my second annual alternative BDP, LF shortlist that much easier to compile.

    I look forward to it.

  21. Peter Wilkinson Says:

    chance – there wasn’t the year we got the eligibility for Margo Lanagan’s story extended

    The normal rule is for a blanket extension but, if I remember rightly, that year was an exception – the previous year, Worldcon had been in Britain and there had been an all-British Best Novel shortlist (including at least one novel that only got American publication). So apparently a number of people who would normally have voted for a blanket extension didn’t do so.

  22. Nick H. Says:

    Niall:

    Doh. I am a tit, and I mixed up “Last episode *I watched* before Christmas” with “Last episode *shown* before Christmas”. I’m really sorry for confusing you, but I don’t mean “Earthlings Welcome Here” after all. To be absolutely clear, and I’ll ROT13 this so I don’t spoil others, the episode I mean is the one where they xvyy pebznegvr.

    I shall be sure to watch Mongol when I get the chance.

  23. Abigail Says:

    Jonathan:

    There’s only been one BSG movie and that was eligible (and, inexplicably, nominated) last year. There’s another one either in production or slated to be aired this year, and of course at some point Caprica will see the light of day.

    I certainly found your alternate BDP ballot last year… interesting. I’m curious to see whether you’ll be able to top it for off the wall choices this year. I assume the possible point of overlap is Let the Right One In, and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it made it onto the ballot, if only because there have been so few mainstream genre films of note this year. I do note, however, that your choices last year veered more towards horror than fantasy or SF, and that’s a genre that’s not typically well-represented in the BDP category.

  24. Niall Says:

    Nick: we’re confusing each other now! When I looked up “the last episode before Christmas” I knew it couldn’t be “Earthlings Welcome Here”, because they don’t go to Mexico in that one. However, I think The One Where They Go To Mexico has, as I said, been eclipsed by what has come after. (If last Friday’s episode had aired in 2008, it would have been the one I nominated, I think.)

    Also, bah, I forgot to nominate Survivors.

  25. Jonathan M Says:

    Abigail,

    well the point of the list is to draw attention to the films that might never make it to a multiplex in the midwest but which are nonetheless at the very least interesting, if not important.

    Last year was very easy as the BDP, LF shortlist was really quite weak even in historical terms. I think this year will probably be a lot trickier. Not because I expect the Hugo voters to shuck off their fondness for literary adaptations but rather because, as you say, the genre pickings have been comparatively slim.

    I do have a fondness for horror. This is because as a cinematic genre horror is comparatively inexpensive meaning that a) there’s a lot of it out there and b) because the films cost less they can afford to be less conservative. Unfortunately, most of the notable horror films to appear recently have been non-fantastical in nature and I feel as though including mundane horror might be somehow cheating.

    I’ll definitely be interested to see if Let The Right One In makes it. I’m sure it’ll get votes but I think the comic franchises might well just edge it out. We shall see :-)


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