Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

My vote for Best Novel

I thought I might start by looking back at the last 15 years, which is the period in which I have really paying attention to the Hugo process year on year. My strike rate at choosing winners has been rather poor.

2000: Best Novel award won by A Deepness in the Sky. I preferred A Civil Campaign.
2001: Best Novel award won by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I preferred A Storm of Swords.
2002: Best Novel award won by American Gods. I preferred The Curse of Chalion.
2003: Best Novel award won by Hominids. I preferred The Years of Rice and Salt.
2004: Best Novel award won by Paladin of Souls. I preferred Ilium.
2005: Best Novel award won by Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I voted for River of Gods.
2006: Best Novel award won by Spin, which I actually voted for.
2007: Best Novel award won by Rainbow's End, which again I voted for.
2008: Best Novel award won by The Yiddish Policemen's Union. I voted for Brasyl.
2009: Best Novel award won by The Graveyard Book. I voted for Anathem.
2010: Best Novel award won jointly by The Windup Girl and The City & the City. I voted for Palimpsest.
2011: Best Novel award won by Blackout/All Clear. I voted for The Dervish House.
2012: Best Novel award won by Among Others, which I voted for.
2013: Best Novel award won by Redshirts. I voted for Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.
2014: Best Novel award won by Ancillary Justice, which I voted for.
(And Retro-Hugo for Best Novel won by The Sword in the Stone, which I voted for.)

That's four out of fifteen years that the Best Novel Hugo went my way, though I've been doing better recently because I did support the winner two years out of the last three (and last year's Retro Hugo winner). I suspect everyone will agree that there are some poor choices in there - for me, those would be Hominids, Blackout/All Clear and Redshirts in particular, though at least the last of these is entertaining - and the fannish politics of every year's ballot can reasonably be queried and examined. The Hugos are not perfect, and I don't believe that anyone ever said that they were.

However, there are good ways and bad ways of addressing this, and we have seen bad as well as good recently. One of the good things that has come out of the nasty mess of the last few weeks is that a lot more people will be nominating next year, and I suspect that they will behave more like normal fans rather than following the lead of the slate organisers, both in voting this year and in nominating next year.

Matt Foster has made a good argument in favour of not only voting No Award above all slate nominees, but also voting No Award top in all categories where there are only one or two non-slate contenders, on the basis that the slate organisers have denied us a proper choice in those categories too. I find myself sympathetic to this line of thought. I was already planning to put No Award top in Best Novelette (because I was not impressed by the one non-slate finalist) and Best Fan Writer (because the one non-slate finalist has been nominated for a single piece of work rather than for a body of work over the last year), though in both cases I will rank the non-slate finalist second to minimise the chance of a slate win. 

I had been going to vote for Julie Dillon as the one non-slate finalist in Best Professional Artist, but I shall consider Matt Foster's's arguments carefully; if the choice is Julie Dillon or nobody, is that really a choice? I like her work in general, but I don't actually like the category anyway (which is a different argument for a different time), and this year's ballot is deeply flawed due to the intervention of the slatemongers. Again, she will get at least a second preference from me, to reduce the chance of a slate nominee winning. 

Anyway, for Best Novel these arguments no longer apply, since the honourable withdrawal of one of the (unwitting) slate nominees has given us three excellent books to choose from, each of which would be an acceptable winner in a normal year. Ranking them is difficult, but it's got to be done. My vote is as follows.

4) No Award. Two of the finalists in this category are on the ballot because of an organised campaign by a racist misogynist whose declared aim is to destroy the Hugos, rather than because of their ostensible literary merit. No blame attaches to the two authors in question for this situation, but I am not giving either work a preference Vote. I would add that one of the nominated works is the 18th novel in an ongoing series which I'm unfamiliar with, and I have to say that even if it had reached the final ballot legitimately I suspect I'd be unlikely to vote for it for that reason alone, though I did give a previous book in the series a decent ranking in the 2009 Best Graphic Story category (and also happily vote Vorkosigan). 

3) The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison [Sarah Monette]. This is an excellent Bildungsroman of a youth who unexpectedly becomes Emperor of a fantasy kingdom (though with more airships than magic) and has to deal not only with court intrigue and messy dynastic politics, but also with racism and homophobia, a neat revisiting of sword and sorcery tropes, well told. I don't think I had read much of Monette/Addison's work before but I will look out for it in future.

2) The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu. China is of course the coming nation in the global economy, and I think we'll be seeing a lot more Chinese SF in the years to come. (I also strongly recommend The Fat Years, by Chan Koonchung.) This is a novel about contemporary Chinese scientists dealing with alien contact, video games and the legacy of the Cultural Revolution. It's very neatly constructed and convincing. Ken Liu's footnotes on Chinese politics and history inform without intruding. It slightly lost me when the aliens actually appeared, but I still really enjoyed it.

1) Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie. This is the sequel to last year's multiple award winner, Ancillary Justice; I voted for it for the BSFA Award, which it won, and I'll vote for it for the Hugo as well. I actually liked it more than the first book in the series; it's self-contained and fuelled by righteous anger, forensically directed at planetary and sexual politics. It's several months since I read it as one of the Clarke submissions, but I think I still like it best of the three.

(Apologies for the length of this post. Since LJ has gone so quiet these days, I feel under less obligation to deploy cut-tags.)

2015 Hugos: Initial observations | Voting No Award above the slates | How the slate was(n't) crowdsourced | Where the new voters are
Best Novel | Short fiction | Best Related Work | Best Graphic Story | Pro and Fan Artist | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), Best Fan Writer, John W. Campbell Award
Tags: bookblog 2015, hugos 2015, sf: bsfa award, the slate, world: china, writer: ann leckie
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