Hugo Awards LogoI might be late to the party here, but a few people have asked for my thoughts on this year’s Hugo ballot. A similar article last year inspired much conversation, particularly with regards to “Best Fanzine” and “Best Fan Writer.” So, then, here goes:

Bold is my choice of winner
Asterisk (*) indicates that they were included on my ballot

Best Novel

  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
  • Deadline by Mira Grant
  • A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin*
  • Embassytown by China Miéville
  • Among Others by Jo Walton*

I’m happy to see Leviathan Wakes on the list. It didn’t make my nominations, but only because of the last minute addition of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (which I’m sorry, but not surprised, to see miss the final ballot). It’s a fun science fiction adventure with noir undertones. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck are both great guys and I’m excited for the work they’ve been doing recently. I wouldn’t be upset to see this win, despite it just missing my own ballot. Also interesting to note is that before Leviathan Wakes, Franck was best known as the personal assistant of George R.R. Martin, who also has a novel on the list. Has there ever been a case of an author and their PA being nominated in the same category at the Hugos? I’d love to be at breakfast the morning after the awards if “Corey” wins the award. Talk about awkward. ;)

I was confused last year when Feed made the list (and almost won) and equally bemused/curious to see its sequel, Deadline, appear on the short list this year. I can’t speak to the quality of the novel (and people seem to love Mira Grant/Seanen McGuire), but no one, in any of the circles I wander through, seemed to talk about Deadline before these nominations. There was little buzz when it was released and it didn’t really have an impact on the discussion of SFF throughout 2011, despite my watching very closely for its presence due to my curiosity surrounding Feed‘s inclusion last year. All this suggests, though, is that the world of the average Hugo voter is very different from the world of online fandom that I find myself in. I do find it delightfully ironic that, for two years in a row, a novel about bloggers can get nominated by a group of people who often seem so reticent to admit that we exist in SFF fandom (though this year we seem to have seen the first of those bricks fall.)

A Dance with Dragons is a funny one. It made my ballot, despite some of the obvious reservations I had about and its quality when stacked up against some of the earlier volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire. Still, with my sky high expectations stripped away, A Dance with Dragons was a tremendous novel that I feel deserves recognition for its accomplishments. I also expect that A Dance with Dragons is to Martin as The Departed is to Scorsese (who, oddly, is also among this year’s Hugo nominees); it might not be his best work, but it may be recognized by voters in an attempt to make up for the fact that A Storm of Swords (the finest Fantasy released since the turn of the century, if you ask this blogger) was robbed by one of J.K. Rowling’s more mediocre novels. I won’t vote for it due to the issues I had for it, but I’m happy to see it here.

Embassytown I have no opinion of. It’s Mieville, so everyone who’s ever come within a breath of SFF fandom knew it would be included here. From what I gather it’s not even one of his better novels (something I just excused Martin for in the previous paragraph), though probably closest of the nominated novels to the template that’s long found success with this award.

My vote will be going to Among Others. I’ve seen some criticism levelled against the inclusion of Among Others on the ballot, suggesting that its nostalgic road-trip through SFF fandom in the early ’80s panders too directly towards the older, long-in-the-trenches Hugo Voters. This might be true, but as a voter who wasn’t even born yet when Among Others was taking place, I can’t can’t blame nostalgia for my immense enjoyment of it. Among Others is a sweet book about fandom and escapism, about magic, family and recovery. There’s wonderful imagery and characterization in the novel and its melancholy is often tempered by a nice sense of humour and discovery. It’s a beautiful novel and I would be thrilled to see Walton walk away with the silver rocket.

Best Novella

I haven’t read any of these, but will do so, and review each of the stories (if available) before I cast my final vote. I’m particularily looking forward to the contributions from Kowal and Liu.

Best Novelette

See above. I’m most interested in Swirsky’s story. Curious about Torgersen, given his appearance on the Campbell ballot.

Best Short Story

The inclusion of Scalzi’s story seems a little glib, but, in all, it seems like a solid list. As with the above two categories, I will read and review this before the final vote. Liu and Yu have best caught my eye.

Best Related Work

  • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)
  • Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies by Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic Books)
  • The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers (Abrams Image)
  • Wicked Girls by Seanan McGuire
  • Writing Excuses, Season 6 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jordan Sanderson

I have no real comment here. I love Writing Excuses, so it’ll probably get my vote, but The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is also important.

Best Graphic Story

  • Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
  • Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
  • Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
  • The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Again, no comment.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

  • Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
  • Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)*
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)*
  • Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
  • Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)*

I’m not thrilled with this list. Shocked not to see Super 8 on here, and disappointed that Midnight in Paris and The Adjustment Bureau were missed, especially with the inclusion of Captain America. I chose to nominate individual episodes of Game of Thrones, rather than the series as a whole, but it will certainly get my vote.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

  • “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
  • “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
  • “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
  • “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)*

So incredibly thrilled to see “Remedial Chaos Theory” on there, I didn’t expect it even had a chance to make the ballot; too bad it’ll lose to Gaiman’s episode of Dr. Who. I’m utterly baffled by the inclusion of Garcia and Bacon’s acceptance speech. If the Hugo voters couldn’t see how much of an “old boy’s club” they were before this, it’s certainly clear now. I’d just like to point out that this acceptance speech garnered more votes than “Baelor” (Game of Thrones), which is one of the finest television episodes I’ve watched in years. Weird.

EDIT: In the comments section below, Kevin Standlee, who has had long ties with the Hugo Awards administration and knows the rules inside-and-out, explains how the inclusion of Game of Thrones in the Long Form category make it impossible for single episodes to appear in the Short Form category:

You have no way of knowing that until the final figures are released after the Hugo Awards ceremony this September. Once the Administrator ruled that Game of Thrones Season 1 was a single serialized work and had enough nominations to make the Long Form ballot, none of the individual episodes, regardless of how many nominations they received, were eligible for Short Form. If you think this isn’t fair, imagine a novel serialized over a period of several months, and imagine you nominating both the novel as a novel and one of the serialized pieces as (say) a novelette. Generally speaking, a work can’t be in two categories simultaneously, and this is one of those cases. For all we know, “Baelor” got more nominations than anything else, but since it’s part of the longer work, it’s not eligible on its own.

Which makes sense to me, so I’ll wait with some curiousity to see the final nomination statistics later this year. Though I chose to vote for individual episodes, and kept the show off my Long Form nomination list, for, essentially the same reasons as above, I’m happy to see the show being recognized regardless of category.

Best Semiprozine

Lightspeed is the only of these to make my own ballot, so, by default, it gets my vote. Still, a strong list and I’m generally happy with it. Would have liked to have seen Beneath Ceaseless Skies get a nod.

Best Fanzine

I had some fun at their expense earlier, but I’m absolutely chuffed to see SF Signal on the ballot. I’ve spent the last couple of years campaigning for the blogosphere to get the recognition it deserves for its growing place within the overall discussion of fandom (seriously, SF Signal has over 14,000 subscribers, it’s huge) and SF Signal making the ballot is a great step in that direction. Congratulations to John Denardo, all the writers at SF Signal (of which I am one, though fairly infrequently) and the Hugo voters for seeing that this happened. Well deserved. Hopefully this helps open the door in future years for single-author blogs to gain attention from the voters. I am disappointed not to see a blog like Pornokitsch on here, especially with the double-nomination for Bacon and Garcia, but I will take small victories as they come. Joe Sherry has some smart things to say about this award, all of which I agree with:

I very firmly believe that blogs are where the heart of the modern fanzine lives today. There is still a small but strong community built around the old style mimeographed fanzines of yesteryear, the most prominent of which are still being published and launched online at e-fanzines (and possibly still existing in print), but so many more fans are gathering online and writing blogs, commenting on others, contributing, and engaging in meaningful conversations in a way that builds fandom. Yes, small islands exist in this online fandom, but I believe that small islands always existed with the old style fanzine.

Also, I would be remiss not to congratulate File 770 for its 29th nomination for the award. Too bad the world ending later this year will hold them back from lucky number thirty. Maybe then, in whatever era is ushered in by the end of the Mayan Calendar, some fresh blood will have a shot at getting on the ballot.

If you’re interested in learning more about Fanzines and their history, check out Christopher J. Garcia’s recent article about subject, “Ma Vie En Zines,” right here on A Dribble of Ink.

Best Fan Writer

  • James Bacon
  • Claire Brialey
  • Christopher J Garcia
  • Jim C. Hines*
  • Steven H Silver

Though I’m disappointed that again we’re left with no prominent writers from the blogging community, I’m happy to see Hines on the list. Christopher J. Garcia recently contributed here at A Dribble of Ink, which I’m very grateful for and excited about, and hopefully that won’t be the last time I help to introduce some of the readers in the blogosphere to the writers that appear on this list year-after-year.

Best Fancast

  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan & Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts (presenters) and Andrew Finch (producer)
  • SF Signal Podcast, John DeNardo and JP Frantz, produced by Patrick Hester*
  • SF Squeecast, Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente
  • StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

SF Signal will get my vote. John, JP and Patrick do a great job week-in-and-week-out on it and I’m thrilled beyond belief to see such good friends make it on this ballot. I should also note that I’ve appeared on the SF Signal podcast on a few occasions. In all, a very strong ballot. I also quite enjoy The Coode Street podcast and what I can understand of StarShipSofa.

Best Professional Editor — Long Form

  • Lou Anders*
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Anne Lesley Groell
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Betsy Wollheim*

Both Wollheim and Anders were on my list, which is cool, though I’m not sure which of the two I’ll vote for. This is a tough category, because, while I respect both Groell and Wollheim greatly, they are both editors of the two novels from last year that I felt could have used, well… a firmer hand in reining in their authors: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s often difficult to tell how an editor has affected a novel (as we rarely see early drafts) and so this award, I presume, is meant to be more indicative of the work acquired and published by editors in a given year. Just writing this out, it looks like I’ll be voting for Lou Anders.

Best Professional Editor — Short Form

  • John Joseph Adams*
  • Neil Clarke
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Adams is the only of the nominees on my original ballot, so he’ll get my vote. That said, I was under the impression that Clarke had pulled his eligibility, otherwise he would have been on my ballot. I guess that was just Clarkesworld that wasn’t eligible this year.

Best Professional Artist

  • Dan dos Santos
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Michael Komarck
  • Stephan Martiniere
  • John Picacio

None of my nominees made this list, which is saddening. It’ll be a toss up between Dos Santos and Picacio for me. Picacio’s work on the A Song of Ice and Fire calendar is particularly strong.

Best Fan Artist

  • Brad W. Foster
  • Randall Munroe
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Maurine Starkey
  • Steve Stiles
  • Taral Wayne

No real comment other than to point out that Wayne said some very silly things in this conversation about the Fanzine and Fan Writer awards. Also, I don’t consider Randall Munroe to be a Fan Artist. I will look into the work from these artists before casting my votes.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Mur Lafferty
  • Stina Leicht*
  • Karen Lord
  • Brad R. Torgersen
  • E. Lily Yu

Since reading her debut, Of Blood and Honey (REVIEW), I’ve been openly enthusiastic about my love for her fiction. She’s my clear vote here and I urge everyone to read Of Blood and Honey.

I would also like to point out that E. Lily Yu, whose “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” is nominated for “Best Short Story,” is only 21 years old, which is a wonderful story and certainly works against the idea that the Hugo voters are entirely impenetrable to new writers. At only 21, Yu seems to have a very bright, very exciting future ahead of herself.

On the flip side, Justin Landon, of Staffer’s Book Review, has some interesting thoughts about this category that I think deserve some discussion.

My first thought on this list are that only two eligible novels have been published by authors on it — one each for Leicht and Lord. Lafferty will have a novel out in 2013, well past her continued Campbell eligibility (and Torgersen has one in the works). I know this award is for short fiction as well as novels, but Yu and Laffery have only one story each that qualifies under the award. Torgersen at least has several, now in his second year of eligibility. The take away from this list is that several thousand words are enough to make you the Best New Writer of 2011. I feel like the floor should be a little higher. At least in Torgersen and Yu’s cases, their stories are also nominated for Best Novella and Novelette respectively, giving some hope that despite the scarcity of their work, what they’ve had published is of exceptional quality.

You can read the entirety of Landon’s thoughts HERE. I respect the Campbell Award’s position to reward great writer’s of short fiction (I discovered one of my favourite writers, Saladin Ahmed, this way), but Landon makes an interesting observation about the low barrier to entry for making it onto this list. I don’t know enough about these writers, or the archaic eligibility rules for the award, to properly comment, but I encourage anyone with insight into the matter to please broach the subject either here or at Landon’s blog.

Finally, more Hugo reactions from friends and foes alike:

What are your thoughts on the nominations?

  • Joe Sherry April 10, 2012 at 3:35 am

    “The John W. Campbell Award is given to the best new science fiction or fantasy writer whose first work of science fiction or fantasy was published in a professional publication in the previous two years.” – Writertopia (where I find the the list of eligible nominees each year)

    I don’t necessarily disagree with Landon, but the challenge here is in actually discovering those writers who don’t start with the novel. Yu has four published stories, one of which is in a qualifying professional market. It would be awesome if she has a larger history of publication in smaller zines before her qualifying story because, then, we’d be able to get a better sense of her fiction. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a huge breakout year, but the one story that she did have was one that is stunning and fantastic. She’s somebody that people remember.

    So why not nominate her? It gets to that “work of exceptional quality” that Landon mentions.

    The problem is that you can have a single story published in a year where you don’t explode on the scene (like Ken Liu with a couple of professional sales in 2004 and 2007) and then really explode later. I think Ken Liu is the “Best New Writer” this year. He’s just not eligible because he sold to Strange Horizons and Polyphony 4 years ago.

    I think the Campbell tends to miss excellent writers who only have one or two “professional” short fiction sales because they don’t find an audience until years later when they start selling on a regular basis. So, I’m happy that Torgenson and Yu have found what audience they did. They may really break out in five years and we won’t have the chance to recognize them then.

  • Paul (@princejvstin) April 10, 2012 at 4:47 am

    Thanks, Aidan.

    I am going to hold off deciding what I am going to vote for (or even go through this in the comprehensive way you have) until I get the Hugo packet and endeavor to read everything on it. I admit that I have biases and opinions on the non-fiction categories (I suspect you know how I am going to vote on the Fanzine and Fancast categories, natch?). But as far as the rest, I am going to read them and then judge. For example, I’ve only read one of the novels (Embassytown) and own one of the others (Leviathan Wakes).

    I’ve got a lot of reading to do!

  • Rob B April 10, 2012 at 4:57 am

    Looks like we were thinking some of the same things Departed = ADWD.

    Regarding Grant’s FEED and DEADLINE I was praising them quite a bit last year, but not many other folks in my blogger intarwebs circles were mentioning them.

  • Justin April 10, 2012 at 7:05 am


    Good points Joe. I think, also, that the TWO YEAR eligibility window for the Campbell is expressly there for the short story writers. Torgersen was eligible last year, but hadn’t built enough of an audience. Now? He’s got another few stories to his name, one of which “Ray of Light” is being heralded. That makes a lot more sense to me.

  • Paul (@princejvstin) April 10, 2012 at 7:13 am

    That’s my feeling as well. Two years is to give enough time and exposure to the short form writers as opposed to the novelists.

    I also do see a pattern of “second year winners” in the Campbell, where people are nominated in year one, but generally win in year two.

  • Kevin Standlee April 10, 2012 at 8:13 am

    I’d just like to point out that this acceptance speech garnered more votes than “Baelor” (Game of Thrones),…

    You have no way of knowing that until the final figures are released after the Hugo Awards ceremony this September. Once the Administrator ruled that Game of Thrones Season 1 was a single serialized work and had enough nominations to make the Long Form ballot, none of the individual episodes, regardless of how many nominations they received, were eligible for Short Form. If you think this isn’t fair, imagine a novel serialized over a period of several months, and imagine you nominating both the novel as a novel and one of the serialized pieces as (say) a novelette. Generally speaking, a work can’t be in two categories simultaneously, and this is one of those cases. For all we know, “Baelor” got more nominations than anything else, but since it’s part of the longer work, it’s not eligible on its own.

  • Aidan Moher April 10, 2012 at 8:14 am

    I actually just stumbled across that fact elsewhere on the web, Kevin. Thanks for the clarification, do you mind if I amend the original post to include it?

  • Kevin Standlee April 10, 2012 at 8:19 am

    do you mind if I amend the original post to include it?

    Not at all. And thank you for not taking offense at my corrections. I know I come on a little strong sometimes, and I’ve had people get angry at me — and also get angry that the Hugo rules “allow” such things.

  • James Davis Nicoll April 10, 2012 at 10:06 am

    “no pure fan writers from the online sphere”

    Quests for purity of essence in SF fandom often end in tears.

  • Aidan Moher April 10, 2012 at 10:15 am

    You’re right, James. Poor word choice on my part. I’ve edited the original article to clarify/not sound like a douche.

  • Neil Clarke April 10, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Clarkesworld deliberately stepped back from consideration in the semiprozine category this year, but our editors remained eligible for editor short form. This is the first time that one of us has been nominated in that category and I’m absolutely thrilled to be in the company of such amazing editors.

  • Aidan Moher April 10, 2012 at 10:27 am

    @Neil — I’m sorry to have been misinformed about the situation, but glad to see that others weren’t. You (and Clarkesworld) would have been on my ballot had I better understood the eligibility. Many congratulations!

  • Christopher J Garcia April 10, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I find it interesting that the two groups that are least happy with our nomination in Short Form are the Forces of Blogs and The Old Boys Club membership! I find myself wondering who actually nominated us.

    On the matter of the two Garcia-Bacon joints on the ballot, they are very very different zines. Take a look at the average Drink Tank issue (other than 300) and the average Journey Planet (which is usually co-edited with some non-Garcia-Bacon entity, in the case of 2011 Claire Brialey, Yvonne Rowse and Emily McLey) and you’ll see that they are completely different. I think the stuff we do with Journey Planet is very good, with some great writing from great people, while The Drink Tank comes out really often.

  • Aidan Moher April 10, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Hey Chris,

    I didn’t mean my comment as a slight against Journey Planet or The Drink Tank, just that I like to see a variety of editors/writers/editorial groups nominated for the sake of the award being more inclusive and representing a wider swathe of those important to fandom.

    Re: The acceptance speech nom — That *is* a curiousity! Now, how are you two going to outdo yourselves if you achieve the impossible and unseat the Gaiman/Who goliath?


  • Christopher J Garcia April 10, 2012 at 10:54 am

    No offense taken at all! No one was more shocked than I to see that we had two noms in Best Fanzine. Journey Planet is the much better of the two. Also, we’re far from being the Doctor Who of the Fan Categories… I hope.

    Well, if we beat Dr. Who, I’ll be mostly crying about how Community lost! That was one of the few things I Had on my ballot that ended up on the final short list! It’s my favorite TV show!

  • Neil Clarke April 10, 2012 at 10:56 am


  • Aidan Moher April 10, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I love your opinion of The Drink Tank, Chris. Both refreshing and amusing.

    And, couldn’t agree more about Community. As I said in the post above, I thought I was being clever by nominating “Remedial Chaos Theory.” Never thought I’d see it on the ballot in a million years.

  • Katrina "Kat" Templeton April 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Oh, c’mon, Chris, just admit it. The Drink Tank *is* your blog. ;)

  • David H April 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Well, I for one am hoping that Howard Taylor finally gets a well deserved Hugo for Shlock Mercenary now that the creator of Girl Genius have stepped back from consideration. Also rooting for Stina Leicht, E Lily Yu’s short story and Jo Walton’s lovely, bittersweet Among Others. I loved it, even without a healthy dose of nostalgia (confession: haven’t read most of the books see lists off in it)

  • Joris M April 11, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I think there is a distinct possibility that the part of fandom that uses livejournal to communicate (rather than blogs or fora) is responsible for raising the awareness of some of the nominees that lack buzz elsewhere.

  • Aidan Moher Made Me Look « File 770 April 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    […] a comment about Aidan Moher’s Thoughts on the 2012 Hugo Award Shortlist at A Dribble of Ink, Chris Garcia confessed that his Hugo nominations have not been a source of […]

  • Steven H Silver April 12, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I’m a huge fan of Ken Liu’s “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary.” When I read it (prior to publication) I thought “This should make the ballots, but it may not get the exposure.” So I talked it up in my review and in other places. I was very pleasantly surprised to see it on both the Nebula and Hugo ballots.