Thoughts on this year’s Hugo finalists

The Hugo Award finalists were announced yesterday, and you can find the list on the official website. Congratulations to those who deserve to be on that list!

If some of the categories look a little odd, I’ll give you three guesses why (and the first don’t count): frothing small canines (RP) struck again.

At the end of this post, I have put in a few links to various commentaries, notes, and posts of analysis on the impact of the canine-related campaigns. Feel free to skip straight to those if you wish (ETA: another link added). Make up your own mind about how you want to respond to all of this, if at all. What follows are my own thoughts, on the list and on how I’ll be voting this year. As I said with nominations, there’s really only one thing we can do: vote with our hearts, in the way our hearts dictate. If that means you’ll No Award all slate items regardless, that’s fine. If you’ll ignore all slate discussions and never use a No Award, that’s fine, too. Nobody should ever tell you how to vote.

For me and my feelings?

It’s a confusing clusterfuck because VD got really smart with his RP slate this year. Instead of producing a slate that’s 100% stuff that should never see a ballot, he included a few mainstream works that would have made the ballot anyway, and thus, he made this way more difficult than last year. I didn’t look at any slates before I nominated, so I had no idea that a couple of the works I listed (and a couple of my longlist potentials) were RP picks, too. That’s the kind of intelligence that went into this.

The other 90% of what he picked is either awful or outright offensive. Just take a look at the titles in the related work category–some of those are only there as a giant fuck you slap in the face at certain sections of the fandom. A couple of the short stories are like that, too.

This is an intelligent tactic because it means he’ll feel he’s won no matter what. If everyone No Awards even the good stuff that they would normally have voted for, he’ll declare victory. If any of his picks win–which isn’t impossible–he’ll declare victory. Even if none of his picks win but many of them finish above No Award, he’ll call it a win. It’s a lose-lose situation on that front.

I am angry for the people who got knocked off the ballot because of the RP tactics. I’m particularly frustrated for the Campbell candidates who will never have another shot at that award because they’re out of time. Andy Weir was an RP pick, and I’m pretty sure he would have made it on the ballot anyway, but there are still three RP picks who are on that list and probably wouldn’t have been otherwise. Three slots that are denied to great writers who may never get another shot, because someone is playing silly games with the system.

I’m frustrated that seeding the RP ballot with a small number of works that would have been nominated anyway adds new kinds of dilemmas for many voters. Angry that many good works got bumped by crap VD was pushing. If you need any proof that his campaign has nothing to do with which works he thinks are genuinely good, take a look at some of the titles he picked, or look at what he said about one of the novels he chose (Seveneves).

Last year, after a lot of consideration, I voted No Award to all the puppy-related picks because I couldn’t condone slate nominating tactics. I still can’t support them.

But this year, if I do that, I’m also punishing works and writers who would have been nominated anyway, and I can’t make myself do that. Hell, I can’t No Award something I nominated–Bujold’s novella, The Martian–because that also makes a mockery of the process.

So this year, I’ll do this: I will make a good faith effort to sample everything on the ballot that I haven’t previously read/watched/listened to if it is accessible. I do not promise to finish everything, or even to go past the first page of anything completely offensive. I will not spend money on accessing RP picks, so if it’s not in the voting packet, available for free online, or available through my library, I won’t sample it.

If I cannot access something, I won’t vote for it (that means no ranking or No Award, straight no vote because how can I judge something I can’t read?).

If I sample something and conclude that it should never have been on the ballot, I will No Award it.

Everything else, I’ll rank as usual, regardless of its status as an RP pick.

On a cursory glance at the list, I anticipate a certain amount of No Award-ing. For example, I tried to read the Safe Space as Rape Room essay when it was first being discussed, and I had to give up before my brain exploded. Incoherent arguments and circular logic abounded. I can’t imagine a second attempt will improve my opinion or make me less likely to No Award it. But I won’t be No Award-ing every RP pick, only the ones that I read and feel really didn’t deserve to be there. I really liked The Aeronaut’s Windlass, for example, and it was on my long list of potential works. I’ll rank it, because it deserves to be there and I suspect it might have been there without an RP slate.

And while I’m doing that, I’ll encourage everyone who possible can to vote in favour of E Pluribus Hugo in the business meeting at MidAmericon II this year, so that this is the last year we have to deal with slate nominating fuckery.

Further reading


4 thoughts on “Thoughts on this year’s Hugo finalists

    1. I don’t think it’s too hard to work out who I suspect did not get there without a hefty push from the RP contingent, but here goes.

      Andy Weir would have made last year’s finalists if the RP block hadn’t knocked him out (from here Based on this and a general sense of his popularity, I’m pretty confident that his presence on this year’s finalist list wasn’t solely down to the RP slate.

      The consensus is that the Sad Puppies had very little impact this year, so Alyssa Wong’s presence on the list isn’t problematic for me. She got there because a whole lot of people thought she should be there.

      Brown, de Castell, and Niemeier appear to have come from way outside the general chatter, and they were on the RP slate. If the numbers are broken down in August and it turns out that they would have made it there without the slate, I’m prepared to eat my words. But right now, from here, those are the three slots that maybe should have been occupied by writers who didn’t have a slate pushing them forward.

      As promised, I’ll sample their work. If I conclude that any of them are better than Alyssa Wong–one of my nominees, so the benchmark for me in this category–I’ll declare them worthy and wonderful and vote for them. If they don’t…I’ll stand by my conclusion that there are three great new writers out there who should have Campbell nominee on their CV, and a slate has taken that from them.


  1. Hi Katherine,

    Thanks very much.

    One of those three is an author that I genuinely think is worthy of the nomination. I’ll have to get familiar with the rest of them so that I can cast an informed ballot.

    And I hope you can forgive a contarian thought, but I believe the field is large enough that good works/authors can be overlooked. There are probably over a dozen of deserving authors out there that may not get any attention just because people can’t read everything that is out there.

    “The chatter” probably has a reasonable batting average at finding good work, but that doesn’t mean that they have a perfect record of finding only good work and always excluding only bad work.

    Harper Lee came out of no where to write “To Kill A Mockingbird”. It was her one and only published work for decades and it has been a part of American schooling for most of that time. Hugh Howey is another example that comes to mind as someone that was worthy of being in the conversation (in general, not specifically the Campbell) but was largely overlooked until a couple years after Wool was published.

    IMO, Sebastien de Castell is the best new author that I’ve seen in decades.

    In either case, thanks again for your thoughts.


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