Last September, in the wake of the 2013 Hugo Award announcements, I decided to put together an early draft ballot for 2014, a look ahead at what I’d already enjoyed in 2013 and hoped to see awarded at the next WorldCon. Now, with nomination period open, I am revisiting that list, with revisions.

Below are the writers, books, movies, videogames and other SFF-related goodies that, if I were filling it out today (I won’t be, I’ll fill it out in March, after I’ve had time to digest more work), would appear on my ballot. Tell me why I’m right (or, more likely, wrong), and let me know what is going to make your ballot (or would, if you’re not a WorldCon member.)

Note: New additions to the list have been marked with a red asterisk, like so *.

So, onto the awards.

Best Novel

  • The Tyrant’s Law by Daniel Abraham (REVIEWBuy) – Another addition to a series that proves Abraham is one genre’s (he publishes a fantasy, science fiction, and urban fantasy novel each year) most consistent and prolific authors. On top of that, The Dagger and the Coin fills a perfect niche between the sprawling politically-charged fantasy of Martin and the adventurous, 80s-throwback fantasy of Brooks.
  • Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear (REVIEWBuy) – Seriously. You like fantasy? You want fantasy to be more than a cliched, quasi-medieval broken record? Go read this series.
  • The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (REVIEWBuy) – Lynch still has it. A big step up from Red Seas Under Red Skies, and proof that he knows how to the evolve the series beyond the heist-a-book style that it appeared to be through the first two volumes.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Buy) – I’m still thinking about this one weeks after finishing it. As beautiful, melancholy, and nostalgic as anything Gaiman has written.
  • Ancillary Justice* by Ann Leckie (REVIEWBuy) – A progressive and thoughtful space opera that toys with reader preconception and engagement. Stick through the early pages (I found them difficult to adjust to), and the payoff is mighty fine.

Also/maybe/are these good?

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay, Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh, The Golen and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord.

Best Professional Artist

(As always with this category, it can be difficult to tell exactly when artists are producing their work. If they finished a painting for a book cover in 2012, but the book is released in 2013, does that count?)

  • Julie Dillon – Hhngggh.
  • Olly Moss – Double hhngggh.
  • Yeong-Hao Han – I discovered Yeong-Hao Han through Magic: The Gathering and fell in love with the creativity, texture and emotional resonance of his work. His art for Millstone is particularly striking and thoughtful. More of his art can be found on his CG Hub page.
  • Lauren Panepinto – Call me crazy, because Panepinto is, officially, the Art Director at Orbit Books, and not a ‘Professional Artist’ in the same sense as the other folk on this list, but Orbit features some of the most striking and unique covers these days and Panepinto creates many of them herself through composite imagery and photoshop trickery. I think the artistry of her contributions to the look of genre (hooded dude be-damned) deserves some recognition. Panepinto explores her process in several posts on the Orbit Books blog.
  • Galen Dara* — I’m fairly new to Dara’s work, but when I came across this tumblr post about her 2013 eligible work, I knew she had to be on my ballot.

Also/maybe/are these good?

Todd Lockwood, Marc Simonetti*, Richard Anderson*, Joey HiFi*.

Best Fan Writer

  • Kameron Hurley – Can I direct you to this article? Is that too on-the-nose?
  • Foz Meadows – You might recognize her from her writing here on A Dribble of Ink. You might also recognize her from her work on Shattersnipe. What can I say? When I like a writer, I try to publish their work.
  • Justin Landon – Like Foz, I surround myself with people I think are great writers. From his work on Tor.com’s re-read of Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law, to his dismantling of the Hugo Awards, to his coverage of the Nightshade fiasco, Justin’s been doing fine work of late.
  • Liz Bourke – She makes me think about genre, its greatness and its failures, more than anyone else in fandom. Read this, for example.
  • Myke Cole – I’m not sure if he writes prolifically enough to earn a place on the ballot, but his piece on PTSD and its relationship to military science fiction/fantasy is poignant and important to the continued growth and maturation of the genres.

Also/maybe/are these good?

Renay, Jared Shurin, Niall Alexander, Abigail Nussbaum, Adam Whitehead*, Tansy Rayner Roberts*

Best Fanzine

Best Semiprozine

Best Related Work

  • Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary*, edited by Jared Shurin and Justin Landon — It’s funny to be nominating a collection full of 2012 work for a 2013 award, but Shurin and Landon’s work at collecting the best that the online community has to offer is a vitally important piece the growing genre discussion.
  • “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative”* by Kameron Hurley — Kameron’s essay on women fighters was one of the most widely read and discussed pieces in fandom this year. Several other Hugo voters have suggested it be nominated in this category, and I’d be a fool to disagree. If you haven’t read it yet, well… get to it. You’ll learn something.
  • Tor.com* — It’s too big to be a Semiprozine, but it’s impact on fandom is undeniable. I’d love to see Irene Gallo an co., and all the writers at Tor.com, awarded for their ongoing contributions.

Best Fancast

Best Editor (Short Form)

  • Neil Clarke – Does he need an introduction? It’s worth also pointing out Gardner Dozois and Sean Wallace for their work as editor and reprint editor at Clarkesworld. Kate Baker does wonderful work, too, but she’s the non-fiction editor, which probably doesn’t count here.
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Liz Gorinsky, Ann VanderMeer, and Ellen Datlow – Though they’re slow as molasses in January (I figure it’s only suitable to use cliches in a conversation about editors), it’s hard to argue that the Tor.com editorial staff aren’t publishing some of the strongest and most consistent short fiction digitally or in print. Too bad it’s difficult to determine who acquired which stories.
  • Jared Shurin and Anne Perry – Can you nominate a duo? The Lowest Heaven is a sublime collection.
  • Brit Mandelo, Julia Rios, and An Owomoyela – Strange Horizons continues to treat SFF fandom with more respect than any other venue, as something to be explored, treasured and analyzed, and to aid in the celebration of SFF’s diversity. Their fiction is no different and these three editors continue to published some of genre’s best stories.

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  • Bioshock Infinite – Yeah, the gameplay is a little tired, especially the combat, but the exploration, art direction (!) and story are stick-with-ya-like-a-ladle-full-of-cinnamon.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness – Somehow manages to be bigger, more energetic, smarter and more fun than its predecessor. Also, many fewer plot holes. From the opening scene, it felt like falling into good company and old friends.
  • Game of Thrones (Season Three)* — It just keeps on getting better.

Secret Hugo for Best Novel not Published in 2013, but, damnit, go read it anyway!

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger — Good golly. This is one of the best novels I’ve read this decade. I should’ve listened to my wife when she suggested it a few years ago.

Discussion
  • Justin January 15, 2014 at 8:41 am

    I think Myke’s written some great non-fiction, but I’m not sure how much of it is what I’d call fannish writing. It’s more… biographical? Dunno. I think maybe the Author D&D game needs to be nominated for Best Related though!

  • Aidan Moher January 15, 2014 at 8:43 am

    My take on Myke’s writing, and the article I linked to in particular, is that it engages very heavily with a lot of the popular/important themes and elements in genre fiction. His PTSD article might be a reflection of military life, but it’s also integral to a set of genres that often feature an intense amount of warfare, death and trauma.

  • Justin January 15, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Eh, just reread the PTSD piece. I withdraw my statement and may need to squeeze Myke on my ballot.

  • Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) January 15, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I hadn’t and don’t think of Myke as a fan writer. Is the strength of a couple of pieces (albeit and admittedly strong) make Myke a worthy nominee versus a body of work? Quantity vs. Quality?

    Series books have a disadvantage at the Hugos, which is a shame, since a Hugo ballot SHOULD have Shattered Pillars and Tyrant’s Law on it.

    IS Damien Walter, who has been thinking and writing on genre stuff in the Guardian, a fan writer? Not sure if that would disqualify him because he gets paid.

    That said

  • Aidan Moher January 15, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Is the strength of a couple of pieces (albeit and admittedly strong) make Myke a worthy nominee versus a body of work? Quantity vs. Quality?

    Fair question. I like to purposely include a few low-quantity/high-quality writers (N.K. Jemisin, for instance) on my ballot. One terrific article/essay can have ten times the impact on the genre compared to 10 fluffy pieces.

    IS Damien Walter, who has been thinking and writing on genre stuff in the Guardian, a fan writer? Not sure if that would disqualify him because he gets paid.

    I’d say that direct pro-level payment for his work (above token level payments) disqualifies him. I consider payments by Tor.com ($25, I beleive) to be token-level.

  • Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) January 15, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Got cut off.
    That said, Liz and Justin were already on my nomination ballot, I am glad to see my instincts confirmed.

  • Andrew Liptak January 15, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Star Trek Into Darkness? There were a lot of better SF films than that one!

  • Aidan Moher January 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I had a ton of fun watching STID, which I can’t say for a lot of other movies last year. I actually went into the theatre with low expectations, after some disappointments with the early release trailers, and left pleased and surprised.

    That said, I watched an admittedly low number of new release films last year.

  • Dave Thompson January 15, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    For me the top books would be:

    Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice
    Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane
    Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere
    Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep
    Joe Hill’s NOS4A2
    Holly Black’s The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
    Gene Wolfe’s The Land Across

    But there are a bunch of books I haven’t yet read or listened to that I plan on doing soon: The Tyrant’s Law (I know! This is the next one HONEST!), The Shining Girls, A Stranger in Olondria, Love Minus Eighty, Shaman, Life After Life, and The Best of All Possible Worlds. And the Bear trilogy. There was just so much good stuff this year!

  • Ian January 15, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Myke’s piece on PTSD was very good and coming from someone who also struggles with this day to day very accurate. Though you mark the lack of politicization of his piece please understanding that Myke is a public figure and a commissioned officer in the US Coast Guard. As a public figure he has a lot of reach to people to inform them of issues they may not have knowledge off, but as a commissioned officer (or member of the coast guard period) his free speech is greatly restrained by his oath and the regulations (willfully) put upon him

  • Carl V. Anderson January 16, 2014 at 5:09 am

    I honestly wish they would somehow divide the ‘fan writer’ category to differentiate “professional” fans, i.e. published authors, from other fan writers. And for me the reason is purely selfish: I like discovering people with interesting opinions. It is very easy to discover authors who write great fan pieces, we already know their work and if we like it seek out their blogs and other writing venues. But there is a lot of great work being done out there from those one only discovers from randomly stumbling across them, from links on popular sites like yours, and from nominations for this award.

    I suspect both Ancillary Justice and Ocean at the End of the Lane will make the short list. I am going back to Ancillary Justice right now because of that. I did give up, at least initially, after my first foray into the book as it wasn’t connecting with me.

    Love Minus Eighty will definitely be on my nomination list, as will The Best of All Possible Worlds.

    I haven’t read A River of Stars but wanted to and may try to squeeze it in before the nominations are due.

  • Leo Doroschenko January 25, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I’d like to suggest four items for the Best Related Book Hugo: 1) THE ALLURING ART OF MARGARET BRUNDAGE (Vanguard Books, 2013) and 2) Three volumes which compose one long study of John “Ted” Carnell’s / pre-Michael Moorcock British magazine science fiction, all by John Boston and Damien Broderick– STRANGE HIGHWAYS (about SCIENCE FANTASY and IMPULSE), BUILDING NEW WORLDS 1946-1959: THE CARNELL ERA, VOLUME ONE, and NEW WORLDS BEFORE THE NEW WAVE, 1960-1964; THE CARNELL ERA, VOLUME TWO (all BORGO PRESS, 2013), an important study of ignored sf history.

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  • Thomas M. Wagner March 5, 2014 at 10:06 am

    River of Stars is masterful and elegant, and it’s a perennial embarrassment that Guy Gavriel Kay doesn’t get more love at award season than he does.

  • Aidan Moher March 5, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I’m an enormous fan of Kay’s work, and agree entirely with your assessment on his omission from many of these award ballots. Are you nominating for the Hugos? That’s the best way to help your favourite books/works make the final ballot.

    That said, I’ve (shamefully) not read River of Stars.

  • Ellen Datlow March 24, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Each acquisition for Tor.com is credited to its acquiring editor. :-)

  • Aidan Moher March 24, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Thanks, Ellen. That’s helpful to know. :)

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