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The 2017 short fiction Hugos - how I voted

More for my own records than anything else, these were my votes in the short fiction categories. I did not keep good notes of the two shorter categories but can say a bit more about Best Novelette.

Best Short Story

1. "That Game We Played During the War", by Carrie Vaughan - came third (narrowly missed second) in the actual vote, would have missed the ballot completely had there been only five finalists.
2. "The City Born Great", by N.K. Jemisin - placed second by the voters as well as by me.
3. "Seasons of Glass and Iron", by Amal El-Mohtar - won the award.
4. "A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers", by Alyssa Wong - also placed fourth by the voters.
5. "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies", by Brooke Bolander - by some way the most popular at nomination stage, but placed fifth by the voters as well as by me.
6. No award - also placed sixth by the voters.
7. "An Unimaginable Light", by John C. Wright - also placed seventh by the voters.

"Things with Beards" by Sam J. Miller was within one vote of making the final ballot.

Best Novelette

1. "Touring with the Alien", by Caroline Ives Gilman - placed third by voters, would have missed the ballot completely had there been only five finalists.
2. "The Art of Space Travel", by Nina Allan - placed fifth by the voters.
3. "The Tomato Thief", by Ursula Vernon - won the award.
4. The Jewel and Her Lapidary, by Fran Wilde - placed fourth by the voters as well as by me.
5. "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay", by Alyssa Wong - way ahead at nominations stage, but placed second by voters
6. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock - not a bad example of dinosaur erotica, instrumentalised by the slaters; voters put it seventh.
7. No award - placed sixth by voters.

Best Novella

Almost as soon as we opened nominations, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire established an early lead, which it maintainwed throughout the process. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Then the eight-year-old walked into the room.
I am on record as having bounced pretty thoroughly off Seanan McGuire's work before (and likewise bounced off the October Daye books on the Best Series ballot), but this one worked very well for me - a brilliant story of a school for children who have had otherworldly excursions, and a detective story. Got my top vote and won the award very comfortably.

My second preference went to Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. Second paragraph of third chapter:
He’d used the time as well as he could, canvassing the lower town across the Linnet River where merchants and caravans stopped, and where the inns, taverns, smithies, saddlers, liveries, and other businesses catering to the trade of travelers were congregated. The docks and quays servicing the lake traffic were growing quieter with the advancing season, although the lake had not yet frozen over. But in neither venue was he able to unearth any sure report of a lone traveler matching his quarry’s description.
I actually thought that the third Novella of this sequence, Penric's Mission, is the best so far, but it was not eligible in this category on length grounds. However, I am really enjoying the unfolding story of young scholar and ancient witch cohabiting in the same body and navigating the dangers of inter-realm politics, and this one scores very well on detail. Voters placed it third rather than second. If there had been only five finalists this year, it would not have made the ballot.

My third preference went to The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson. Second paragraph of third chapter:
It was ten minutes later. The Dean had ordered Hust to return to bed, but Vellitt saw a flicker of a bright shawl above them as they descended the stairwell: Angoli, lurking on the landing. Never mind. Hust would need comfort, and Angoli as well: the Inseparables separated forever now, and for such a reason.
I loved this reworking of Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath from the point of view of one of the women so completely absent from the original. Sometimes a fresh glance at a classic text becomes something remarkable in itself, and this was one of those times. Voters placed it second rather than third.

My fourth preference went to The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Now Tommy Tester led his father out of their building and down the block. He’d returned home from the encounter with Robert Suydam, with Malone and the private detective, and felt himself in need of a night out. It took time to convince Otis to step out. Otis never left the apartment, hardly left his bedroom. He’d become like a dog gone into the dark so he could die alone, but Tommy had different plans. Or maybe he needed his father too much to let him go easily.
Again a partial Lovecraft homage, but this time set firmly in New York of the 1930s; a historic urban fantasy with elements such as race and class that urban fantasies sometimes seem to gloss over. Nicely done. Voters also placed it fourth.

Fifth, A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. Second paragraph of third chapter:
Aqib sat up in the sheets. “No, come to bed. I was waiting for you.”
I thought this was a decent enough fantasy story, with the added wrinkle of a same-sex relationship as a key narrative strand, but I was rather put off by the graphic violence and it didn't seem to me to be breaking very new ground. Voters also placed it fifth.

The only finalist that I really bounced off was This Census-Taker, by my fellow Clare College Cambridge alum China Miéville. Second paragraph of third chapter:
‘What did you see, boy?’ they asked. ‘What happened?’
I must have missed something, but I didn't actually see what was sfnal about it at all, and I found it difficult to engage with the characters - the narrator spends much of the story trying to work out what is going on, but I did not really care. Nor did the voters, who placed it sixth. Although it had slate support, I am inclined to think it would have made the final ballot anyway.

Still, it's a good array - the Hugos often bring out the strengths of the Novella format. I thought both this category and the Best Novelette category were very strong this year.

NB that I have set this to post while I am on a business trip to Africa and may not be able to respond quickly.


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