The Short Story category isn't one of those difficult cases. It's my personal judgement that four of the five finalists had little support outside the slate, and owe their places on the ballot entirely to that sponsorship. File 770 held a survey of its own readers to ask who they had nominated, and the top listed short stories were:
“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (21)
“Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon (18)
“Damage” by David D. Levine (13)
“Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon (13)
“Hello, Hello” by Seanan McGuire (7)
“Monkey King, Faerie Queen” by Zen Cho (7)
“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker (7)
Apart from “Cat Pictures Please”, the only one of the actual finalists mentioned on File 770 was “Asymmetrical Warfare” which one person reported having nominated. File 770 doesn't represent the whole of fandom, of course, but it is none the less a fairly broad spectrum.
My own nominations were:
1941 Retro Hugos:
“John Duffy's Brother”, by Flann O'Brien
“The Stellar Legion”, by Leigh Brackett (Finalist)
“The Piper”, by Ray Bradbury (as Ron Reynolds)
“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, by Jorge Luís Borges (Finalist)
“Quietus”, by Ross Rocklynne
"Caisson", by Karl Bunker
"The Shape of My Name", by Nino Cipri
"Madeleine", by Amal El-Mohtar
"Summer at Grandma's House", by Hao Jingfang, tr Carmen Yiling Yan
"The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill", by Kelly Robson
I was pretty much out of sync both with the combined wisdom of File 770 readers and with the actual ballot.
For these write-ups in general, I've excerpted the second paragraph of each story which in most cases is a fairly good insight into the style of the whole (with the exception of Chuck Tingle's story, which swerves into porn two thirds of the way through). Here are my votes:
6) “Robbie” by Isaac Asimov
She craned her neck to investigate the possibilities of a clump of bushes to the right and then withdrew farther to obtain a better angle for viewing its dark recesses. The quiet was profound except for the incessant buzzing of insects and the occasional chirrup of some hardy bird, braving the midday sun.I'm sorry, but I just hate cute robots, and this is the archetypal cute robot story.
5) No Award
I can live with any of the others winning.
4) “Martian Quest” by Leigh Brackett
Rikatva and Tchava, the Martian Reclaimed Areas. The Tri-Council—great minds of three worlds—had poured money into them in an effort to give the unwanted overflow of a crowded civilization a chance to get off the public charity rolls. Water, brought in tanker ships from wetter worlds; Venusian humus, acid phosphate, nitrate nitrogen, to make the alkaline desert fruitful; after that, crude shacks and cruder implements, scrimped together with what was left from the funds wrung so hardly from resentful taxpayers.It's basically a Western on Mars, but it's passionately done.
3) “The Stellar Legion” by Leigh Brackett
The metal door clanged open to admit Lehn, the young Venusian Commandant, and every man jerked tautly to his feet. Ian MacIan, the white-haired, space-burned Earthman, alone and hungrily poised for action; Thekla, the swart Martian low-canaler, grinning like a weasel beside Bhak, the hulking strangler from Titan. Every quick nervous glance was riveted on Lehn.This actually got one of my nomination votes, and I can't quite remember why; I think it's better than the other Brackett story on the ballot, but not that much better.
2) “Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein
Second paragraph (counting Robert Louis Stevenson's epitaph as part of the first paragraph):
These lines appear another place — scrawled on a shipping tag torn from a compressed-air container, and pinned to the ground with a knife.I wavered on this one a bit; but in the end, the story of someone achieving their lifetime's desire in their dying moments is a rather moving story, even if the protagonist is an old rich white man (as I too hope to be some day).
1) “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges
The following day, Bioy called me from Buenos Aires. He told me he had before him the article on Uqbar, in volume XLVI of the encyclopedia. The heresiarch's name was not forthcoming, but there was a note on his doctrine, formulated in words almost identical to those he had repeated, though perhaps literally inferior. He had recalled: Copulation and mirrors are abominable. The text of the encyclopedia said: For one of those gnostics, the visible universe was an illusion or (more precisely) a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable because they multiply and disseminate that universe. I told him, in all truthfulness, that I should like to see that article. A few days later he brought it. This surprised me, since the scrupulous cartographical indices of Ritter's Erdkunde were plentifully ignorant of the name Uqbar.It's rare that Hugo voters have a chance to honour one of the great works of world literature, and I hope they will take that chance this year.
There's a bit of a quality contrast, to put it mildly, between the 1941 Retro Hugos and this year's Hugo nominations. My votes for the latter are as follows:
6) “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris
If you were a Hugo®, then I would become Taller, Stronger John Scalzi so that I could spend all my time with you. I’d bring you raw chickens and live goats, if you were into that kind of thing. I’d make my bed right under the trophy case, in the basement where my wife lets me sleep. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d sing you lullabies.Offensive and vacuous, and deliberately so.
5) “Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao
The damned hei ren were going to get him replaced, he thought bitterly. If he was fortunate. In the event General Xu decided that the growing gap between the region's quarterly objectives and the actual results achieved was the consequence of excessive greed rather than Zhang‘s inability to make the natives work, his family would be receiving a bill for the price of the bullet used to execute him before long.Interesting concept, but poorly told and actively racist in the telling.
4) “Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon
How I wish I could be in their place right now, to see the cosmic battlefield with young eyes.I just didn't feel there was any there there.
3) Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” I tell him with a slight smile.First part is actually quite fun before it gets gratuitous.
2) “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer
I want to be helpful. But knowing the optimal way to be helpful can be very complicated. There are all these ethical flow charts—I guess the official technical jargon would be “moral codes”—one for each religion plus dozens more. I tried starting with those. I felt a little odd about looking at the religious ones, because I know I wasn’t created by a god or by evolution, but by a team of computer programmers in the labs of a large corporation in Mountain View, California. Fortunately, unlike Frankenstein’s Monster, at least I was a collaborative effort. I’m not sure what it would do to my self-image to know that my sole creator was a middle-aged woman who dyes her hair blue and plays tennis, or a recent college graduate with a hentai obsession. They’re both on the programming team. And of course I know about the hentai. (By the way, I’ve looked at every sort of porn there is, and just so you know, Rule 34 is not actually correct; there are quite a few things no one’s made porn of yet. Also, I’m really not sure why so many humans prefer it to cat pictures.)Last year I accepted Matt Foster's point (in a now-deleted blog post) that if there was only one story in a category that did not owe its place to a slate, it is better to vote No Award than to allow the winner to be, in effect, determined by the slate. I still think there's merit to that, though this year it will need to be refined a bit. But in any case I was one of the very few who didn't much like “Cat Pictures Please” in the first place. When I first read this, I thought it was the kind of story that wins a Hugo despite my not really liking it; that's even more likely now, given the circumstance of its being the only non-Puppy nominee on this year's ballot.
1) No Award
The first, but I fear not the last of my No Award votes this year. However, unlike last year, I will vote my preferences allt he way down in most cases.
Let's hope for better times to come.
Best Novel (1941/2016) / Best Novella (1941/2016) / Best Novelette (1941/2016) / Best Short Story (1941/2016) / Best Related Work (2016) / Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (1941/2016) / Art categories (1941/2016) / John W. Campbell Award