2020 Hugos: Best Novelette

Today I’m looking back at the Best Novelette finalists for the 2020 Hugos.  Two of my five nominations made the ballot, and I had two more I needed to read after the finalists were announced.

“The Archronology of Love” by Caroline M. Yoachim was also nominated for the Nebula and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial awards.  Yoachim was previously a Hugo finalist for Best Short Story.

This was on my longlist.  The protagonist leads a team on an investigation into the deaths of a group of colonists which included her own life partner.  They do so with a technology which allows them to physically enter a record of the past events.  I found the story very touching with an intriguing concept.

“Away With the Wolves” is Sarah Gailey’s third Hugo nomination for her short fiction.  They previously won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer, and they were a finalist for Best Related Work as well.  Gailey was also a past finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer (formerly known as the John W. Campbell Award).

This was one of my own nominees.  The main character is a werewolf who deals with chronic pain while in human form.  But in her wolf form, she’s causing problems that the other villagers are getting tired of dealing with.  What I really loved here was the beautiful depiction of friendship between the protagonist and her best friend, between the friend and the protagonist in wolf form, and finally between two wolves.

“The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye” by Sarah Pinsker was also nominated for the Nebula, the Locus, and the World Fantasy awards.  Pinsker has three previous Hugo nominations for her short fiction.

When this showed up on the Nebula list, I was surprised I had forgotten about it because Pinsker’s stories are often favorites.  I had to skim back over this one to remember how it went.  A mystery writer stumbles onto a murder mystery while in a remote location trying to avoid distractions from finishing her next book.  The atmosphere is impressively creepy, but I found the resolution unsatisfying because it was so unexpected.

Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin was also a finalist for the Locus Award.  This is Jemisin’s seventh Hugo nomination including her historical three consecutive wins for Best Novel.

This was one of the two I still needed to read after the finalists came out.  I borrowed it through Kindle Unlimited which gives you access to both the ebook and audio narration by Jason Isaacs.  Written in second person, you are on a mission to retrieve a resource from Earth guided by an AI implanted in your brain.  The AI is astonished to see that Earth is recovered from the ruin that was left behind and is especially disgusted by the people of diverse races, genders, and abilities.  The second person point of view was enhanced by listening to the audio version, but I was more than ready to get that obnoxious AI out of my head long before it was over.

“For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll was also nominated for the Nebula, the Locus, and the World Fantasy awards.  This is Carroll’s first Hugo nomination.

This was the other one of my own nominees that made the ballot.  A cat living in asylum is determined to protect a poet from the Devil and his demons.  The characterization of our main cat character is an absolute delight.  I love the story even more after finding out it’s inspired by the real life of the poet Christopher Smart.

“Omphalos” by Ted Chiang is one of eleven total Hugo nominations including three wins that Chiang has received for his short fiction.  It has already won the Locus Award and is a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.  He is a previous winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer and is on the ballot this year in the Best Novella category as well.

This was the other novelette finalist that I had yet to read when the finalists were announced.  In a world where there is significant empirical evidence for divine creation only a few thousand years ago, an expert in these studies comes into knowledge of an astronomical discovery which shakes her faith in God.  I liked this one more than Chiang’s nominated novella, but I wasn’t really wowed.

The first two spots went to my own nominees.  I loved both of them, but the wolves edged out the cats.  I enjoyed the concepts in the next two.  But the first of them didn’t quite make my ballot, and the second wouldn’t have either if I had read it in time.  Surprisingly two of my favorite authors wind up in the last two places with stories that just didn’t work for me this time.  Here’s how I ranked them:

  1. “Away With the Wolves”, by Sarah Gailey (Uncanny Magazine: Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue, September/October 2019)
  2. “For He Can Creep”, by Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com, 10 July 2019)
  3. “The Archronology of Love”, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed, April 2019)
  4. “Omphalos”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador))
  5. “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, July-August 2019)
  6. Emergency Skin, by N.K. Jemisin (Forward Collection (Amazon))

Will the first time finalist creep in on little cat feet and win this one over names more familiar to Hugo voters?

 

2020 Hugos: Written Fiction Works

CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, has announced the finalists for the 2020 Hugo Awards, the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.  You can watch a video of the announcement on CoNZealand’s YouTube channel or view the complete list on the Hugo Awards website.  JJ at File 770 has put together a post on Where To Find The 2020 Hugo Award Finalists For Free Online.

This will be the first of four posts with my initial thoughts.  I’m dividing the nineteen award categories into written fiction works (novel, novella, novelette, short story, young adult book), other individual works (related work, graphic story, long form dramatic presentation, short form dramatic presentation), people categories (short form editor, long form editor, professional artist, fan writer, fan artist, new writer), and serial categories (series, semiprozine, fanzine, fancast).

Best Novel

  • The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
  • Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (Saga; Angry Robot UK)
  • A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (Tor; Tor UK)
  • Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)

Four of these were on my nomination ballot, and I only have one left to read.  The one I’ve read but didn’t nominate was The City in the Middle of the Night.  I went in with high hopes since I loved All the Birds in the Sky.  There’s some interesting worldbuilding, but the main character frustrated the heck out of me.

The one I still need to read is Gideon the Ninth.  I’ve seen a lot of buzz, but it didn’t really sound like my sort of thing.  Although I liked her story “The Deepwater Bride” enough to nominate it a few years ago, and I wouldn’t have thought that was my sort of thing either.  I decide to wait and see if it made the ballot and here it is!

Of the four I nominated, my favorite is The Ten Thousand Doors of January.  I also went into this with high hopes from “A Witch’s Guide to Escape,”  and my expectations were exceeded.  The other three are going to be really tough to rank.  I remember thinking I was glad I didn’t need to for nominations.  Now I’ll have to decide.

Best Novella

  • “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador))
  • The Deep, by Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga Press/Gallery)
  • The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Saga Press; Jo Fletcher Books)
  • To Be Taught, If Fortunate, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager; Hodder & Stoughton)

Of these, I’ve read five and nominated two.  McGuire’s Wayward Children novellas continue to delight me, and this one probably stands on its own the best so far.  I loved To Be Taught, If Fortunate as much as her Wayfarers books, although it’s unconnected to that series.  I’m leaning toward the later, but I may have to flip a coin to decide between them.

The Deep very nearly made my nomination ballot.  I feel like I wanted to like it a little more than I did, but it’s definitely thought-provoking.  The Haunting of Tram Car 015 was good but didn’t stand out from the other novellas I read.  I would love to see more in that setting though.  This Is How You Lose the Time War seemed like it was probably a ton of fun for the authors to write, but it just didn’t do it for me.  I know I’m in the extreme minority here.

The only one I haven’t read is “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom.”  Right now I’m number 123 on the waitlist for the six digital copies of Exhalation at my library!  Here’s hoping that this and the Best Novelette finalist from Chiang’s collection are included in the Hugo Voters Packet because I doubt I’ll get it in time.  I also put a hold on the physical copy, but that will depend on when the library is able to reopen.

Best Novelette

  • “The Archronology of Love”, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed, April 2019)
  • “Away With the Wolves”, by Sarah Gailey (Uncanny Magazine: Disabled People Destroy Fantasy Special Issue, September/October 2019)
  • “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, July-August 2019)
  • Emergency Skin, by N.K. Jemisin (Forward Collection (Amazon))
  • “For He Can Creep”, by Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com, 10 July 2019)
  • “Omphalos”, by Ted Chiang (Exhalation (Borzoi/Alfred A. Knopf; Picador))

Here I have two more nominees and two more to read.  It’s dogs vs. cats between my nominees “Away With the Wolves” and “For He Can Creep.”  Sorry cat lovers, I’ve always been more of a dog person.  Really great characterization in both though.

“The Archronology of Love” was on my longlist.  It was moving and has an interesting premise.  “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye” was fun, wacky, and horrifying!  But didn’t stand out as much for me as Pinsker’s stories have in previous years.

I still need to read “Omphalos” if I can get my hands on Exhalation.  Fortunately I’ll be able to access Emergency Skin through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Best Short Story

  • “And Now His Lordship Is Laughing”, by Shiv Ramdas (Strange Horizons, 9 September 2019)
  • “As the Last I May Know”, by S.L. Huang (Tor.com, 23 October 2019)
  • “Blood Is Another Word for Hunger”, by Rivers Solomon (Tor.com, 24 July 2019)
  • “A Catalog of Storms”, by Fran Wilde (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2019)
  • “Do Not Look Back, My Lion”, by Alix E. Harrow (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, January 2019)
  • “Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, by Nibedita Sen (Nightmare Magazine, May 2019)

I’ve read all of these except the one from Nightmare, but none were on my nomination ballot.  Of the five I’ve read, my favorite is “Do Not Look Back, My Lion” with some fascinating worldbuilding.  They’re all good, but rather brutal.  I look forward to reading the story by Nibedita Sen since she is also a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • Catfishing on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen)
  • Deeplight, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
  • Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee (Disney/Hyperion)
  • Minor Mage, by T. Kingfisher (Argyll)
  • Riverland, by Fran Wilde (Amulet)
  • The Wicked King, by Holly Black (Little, Brown; Hot Key)

I nominated four of these, and I have two left to read.  It looks like Deeplight won’t be available here in the US until next week.  I really liked T. Kingfisher’s previous Best YA Book finalist in the first year of the award, so I imagine I’ll enjoy Minor Mage too.  It will be hard enough to rank the ones I nominated here, and I don’t think adding these two will make it any easier.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?

2019 Hugo Finalists: Best Novelette

In Best Novelette, there are four first-time Hugo finalists, one four-time Hugo finalist, and a previous Hugo winner.

“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” by Zen Cho is her first Hugo nomination.  Cho’s debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, was a finalist for the British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel and the Locus Award for Best First Novel.  It also earned her the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer.  She was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2013.

“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly was also a finalist for the Nebula and Locus awards.  It is Connolly’s first Hugo nomination.  She has been a finalist for the World Fantasy and Andre Norton awards as well.

“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory was also a finalist for the Locus and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial awards.  It is Gregory’s first Hugo nomination.  He has previously received the World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards.  His other nominations include the Nebula, John W. Campbell Memorial, and Philip K. Dick awards.

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander has already won the Nebula and Locus awards, was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson and Theodore Sturgeon awards, and is also currently a finalist for the World Fantasy and British Fantasy awards.  Bolander’s short story “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” is a Hugo finalist this year as well.  She has two previous Hugo nominations for short fiction.

“The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer is her second Hugo appearance.  In 2016, Kritzer’s short story “Cat Pictures Please” won the Hugo and Locus awards and was a finalist for the Nebula Award.

“When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller was also a finalist for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.  It is Heller’s first Hugo nomination.

“When We Were Starless” was my own nominee, and the world-building impressed me enough to nominate Simone Heller herself for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  Since this was her final year of eligibility for that and she didn’t make the ballot there, I was very pleased to see her story here.  I didn’t manage to read Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing until after Hugo nominations closed.  But I would definitely have nominated it if I had.  Although I had read the others and found them memorable and touching, they weren’t ones I chose for my nomination ballot.

Here’s how I voted on the final ballot:

  1. “When We Were Starless” by Simone Heller
  2. The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
  3. “The Thing About Ghost Stories” by Naomi Kritzer
  4. “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” by Zen Cho
  5. “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” by Daryl Gregory
  6. “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly

Will Bolander’s novelette complete a Triple Crown of SFF awards?  Will one of its fellow finalists from other awards come out ahead here instead?  Or will the winner be one of those that the other awards missed?  Any thoughts?

2018 Hugo Finalists: Best Novelette

Today I’m looking at the Best Novelette finalists.  All six of them were also nominees for at least one other award this year.

“Children of Thorns, Children of Water” by Aliette de Bodard is part of The Domain of the Fallen series.  It was also a nominee for the Locus Award.  De Bodard has four previous Hugo nominations for short fiction.  She was a 2009 finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

“Extracurricular Activities” by Yoon Ha Lee is a prequel to The Machineries of Empire books.  Lee’s Raven Stratagem is also a finalist for Best Novel this year.  Both were nominees for the Locus Awards as well.  The first novel in the series was a Hugo finalist last year.

“The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer was also a finalist for the Sturgeon Award.  This is Palmer’s first Hugo nomination.

“Wind Will Rove” by Sarah Pinsker was also a nominee for the Nebula and the Locus Award.  Pinsker’s “And Then There Were (N-One)” is a finalist for Best Novella.

“A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad was also a nominee for the Nebula and the Sturgeon Award.  Prasad’s “Fandom for Robots” is a finalist for Best Short Story.  She is one of this year’s nominees for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” by K.M. Szpara was also a finalist for the Nebula Award.  This is Szpara’s first Hugo nomination.

I had read all these before the announcement of the finalists.  Pinsker and Palmer’s stories were my own nominees.  “Wind Will Rove” is a lovely story about stories and music.  “The Secret Life of Bots” was a cute and clever story about an outdated but innovative bot.

Although de Bodard and Lee’s stories are part of their respective series, they both stand on their own.  “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” makes me want to explore more of that world.  I was happy to see a familiar character in “Extracurricular Activities.”

I didn’t nominate “A Series of Steaks,” but it impressed me enough to nominate Prasad for the Campbell.  Szpara’s “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” was original and funny, but too dark and explicit for me.

We have one previous Best Novelette finalist, two first-time nominees, and three who made the ballot more than once.  Here’s how I ranked them on my final ballot:

  1. “Wind Will Rove” by Sarah Pinsker
  2. “The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer
  3. “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
  4. “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” by Aliette de Bodard
  5. “Extracurricular Activities” by Yoon Ha Lee
  6. “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time” by K.M. Szpara

These are all available online.  So go read them if you haven’t!  Then tell me your thoughts.

2018 Hugo Awards: Best Novelette

The third category on the Hugo ballot is Best Novelette:

A science fiction or fantasy story between 7,500 and 17,500 words that appeared for the first time in 2017.

A few years ago, there was some discussion of consolidating this category into the other short fiction categories, but the idea was pretty quickly rejected.  So I don’t see any changes being proposed here.

 

I’ve done a fair amount of reading at this length, so I’ve tentatively filled four of five slots on my ballot:

 

To find a contender for that final slot, I plan to take a look at some of the novelettes in the following sources:

  • Cosmic Powers edited by John Joseph Adams
  • The Book of Swords edited by Gardner Dozois
  • Infinity Wars edited by Jonathan Strahan
  • Asimov’s stories on the Locus Recommended Reading List

Any other suggestions?

 

One resource I use to find short fiction is Rocket Stack Rank.  Not only do they give their own reviews, but they highlight stories recommended by other sources and provide a lot of related information.