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The nominees for John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer submitted a diverse portfolio of work for voters to consider last year - five novels and five short stories between the five candidates. This year it is even more diverse and overall a little sparser: one long novel, one short novel, three short stories (twice) and one short story. It is therefore very difficult to make an objective judgement based on the material we have in front of us, and I suspect most voters won't even try. Some may of course have read other work by some of the writers; many, I suspect - myself included, as I will explain below - will allow their votes to be influenced by their personal knowledge of the candidates, rather than solely by an objective assessment of their writing. (Actually the award itself is a bit ambiguous - it is for "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", not for the author of the best work by a new writer to published in a professional publication in the previous two years, which may or may not be significant). Utterly subjectively and a little unfairly, then, my votes are as follows:

1) Karen Lord. Redemption in Indigo is a brilliant piece taking a different culture and telling a credible story about it, as I just said. If there is any justice (and, an important proviso, if her other work which I have not raed is as good as this) she should win the award easily.

2) Stina Leicht. The author was kind enough to consult me on the Northern Irish aspects of ...And Blue Skies from Pain, the sequel to Of Blood and Honey which is the book included in the Hugo pack, and I appreciate that attention, even though Martin McGrath has thoroughly and mercilessly catalogued the deficiencies of the setting. It's an honest if imperfect effort to write urban fantasy in the unlikely setting of 1970s Belfast, and I'll give the author my second place.

3) E. Lily Yu. This is a vote on (paucity of) quantity as much as quality; three very short stories are actually rather difficult to rate against two novels, and although all three are pretty good, there's a part of me that wants to reward the authors here for the total enjoyment they have given me; and 14 pages just isn't the same as 200 or 300.

4) No Award. I explain my methodology below.

[no vote] Brad Torgersen. Torgersen has submitted three stories, including one which I had already read as it was on one of the Hugo shortlists, and I didn't much like any of them. They are all about a troubled male character after the Earth has been destroyed reassessing his relationship with the woman of his life (in one case his daughter, in another his wife, in another his adoptive mother), and all could have been written (and in some case were written better) in the 1950s. One of these lucky ladies is described as "literally flowing with stories and spunk". Maybe not literally literally. And maybe not the same kind of "spunk" that leapt to my mind, though that may be a dialectal variation - an unexpected ejaculation, perhaps.

[no vote] Mur Lafferty. This is a slightly different matter: While E. Lily Yu submitted only 14 pages, at least they were of three different stories so one feels able to make some kind of overall assessment. Lafferty has submitted a single 7-page story, and I simply don't feel that I have enough evidence to judge her ability. I was originally going to simply leave her off the ballot and vote down to Torgersen, but then realised that that raised the awful possibility that my vote might count for Torgersen against Lafferty. So the only sensible course is to leave them both out.

I suspect it's between Torgersen and Leicht, judging by their respective followings on-line, so if my vote ends up being tallied for Leicht I am not at all displeased.

See also: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist | Best Fan Writer | Best Fan Artist | Best Fancast



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 9th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
Mur Lafferty is actually quite a good writer. Based on my own personal experience with the Hugo-packet-assembling process, I can't help but wonder if she wasn't a victim of unclear instructions based on poorly-considered assumptions.

This whole Hugo-packet thing has gone from being a cool little idea to being a gigantic big deal in what seems to me like no time at all, and judging from Chicon, Worldcon committees are hugely behind in thinking through the language of the boilerplate requests they send to nominees. Speaking for myself, Chicon's request basically felt like "Congratulations on your Hugo nomination! Now please send us proof that you deserve it. PS: You'd better comply if you know what's good for you."
Jun. 9th, 2012 05:39 am (UTC)
I'm glad that the Hugo Packet has expanded as it has done. It has certainly changed the way I vote, which used to be simply for the written fiction and dramatic presentation categories, with the odd vote elsewhere for candidate who I knew. It does mean that nominees will suddenly have to be more strategic about presenting their work to the voter, where previously it was allowed to speak for itself. I am sure that some will be uncomfortable with that.
Jun. 9th, 2012 12:10 pm (UTC)
Well, it's certainly a way to push the "body of work" Hugos toward becoming awards for aptitude in "being more strategic." Whether that's a good thing overall is another question. It's definitely not something that's been discussed by the Worldcon's democratic governing body, and I think it probably should be.
Jun. 9th, 2012 09:18 am (UTC)
If you want to get a better idea about Lafferty's work as a writer, she has released all her works that don't count towards the Campbell as free downloads. You can find out more here.
Jun. 9th, 2012 11:08 am (UTC)
I think that's all the stuff that does count towards the Campbell?
Jun. 9th, 2012 11:10 am (UTC)
Not sure what you mean, but she addresses why none of it is in the packet in that link.
Jun. 9th, 2012 11:20 am (UTC)
OK, now I get it - the 7-pager is in fact her only professional sale, so the only thing that could go in the Hugo packet.

If I had time to chase through her other writing, that would of course raise the question of whether one's assessment of a writer's suitability for the Campbell award should include their non-pro writing as well as their pro writing, given the explicit emphasis on pro sales in the award rubric.

I don't have time, however, so it remains an academic question for me.
Jun. 9th, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
(Sorry for anonymous post; I'm no longer a LJ user)

Thanks for those who have made clarifications. Yes, I was told to submit my pro sales which currently includes only that one story (and a forthcoming novel from Orbit, which, alas, does not yet count -- and my publisher probably wouldn't want me to, come to think of it!)

Campbell eligibility is odd in that your "Campbell clock" starts "ticking" the moment you make that first sale, whether it's a book or a 1500 word short story. That's why I put my existing body of work on my site for free download.

I just wanted to clarify that I certainly would have submitted more samples of published work, had I been allowed to do so.

Mur Lafferty
Jun. 10th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I certainly didn't intend any criticism of you personally, and hope you did not take it that way. (If you did, your reply is a masterpiece of tact!)

I look again at the letter of the rules, and I think you have a legitimate grievance. The phrasing is that the award is for "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", but there is no instruction to the voters to consider only professionally published work. The first professional publication triggers eligibility for the award, but the wording is clear that nominees are to be judged purely as a "science fiction or fantasy writer", not as a "professionally published science fiction or fantasy writer". I would say that your other work, in so far as it contributes to your reputation as a science fiction or fantasy writer, is relevant material for voters to consider.

I still don't promise to read it before the voting deadline, I'm afraid!
Jun. 10th, 2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
>> And maybe not the same kind of "spunk" that leapt to my mind, though that may be a dialectal variation - an unexpected ejaculation, perhaps<< I've noticed that there is a distinct difference both across the Atlantic and up and down the UK in what is meant by 'spunk'.
Jun. 22nd, 2012 08:22 pm (UTC)
Lafferty is offering all her published fiction as a free download because the packet only included her one "pro" publication.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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