renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (i love being awesome)
[personal profile] renay posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
I am venturing back into the dubious world of Hugo commentary; send hugs, not bombs! I thought about doing everything as reviews, but it turns out I'd rather watch questionable genre television with my friends and weep forever over Dean and Castiel. The time investment here, anyway. Wow.

Instead of reviews, I have tossed down some initial feelings and my votes. Reading the Hugo Award finalists is hard if you're a completist. It's level-grinding with categories. "Only a few more AP and I'll reach level 80!" which is honestly about where I quit when it comes to running around killing enemies.

The Hugo equivalent to this is to spend a month blankly staring at categories I have zero ability to assess. Best Editor? I don't even know how to begin to deliberate on this, mostly because I'm not a professional editor and don't know what I should be looking for. Same with things like, Best Semiprozine, or Best Related Work. I am so clueless. Maybe knowledge comes with time? Or is it really just a situation where we play favorites. If so, maybe I should vote for Best Semiprozine! I'm biased now!

Sometimes I wish I was still an awkward, star-struck kid, brushing my thumb over the Hugo medal on the cover of my worn (and stolen, whoops) copy of Speaker for the Dead, wide-eyed and impressed with the idea of the award — it must be a big deal, right? Everything I could find about the Hugo in the 90s, before the Internet hatched out Google, made it seem so important and prestigious (even though I somehow missed it was a popular award; #CROL). Or maybe that was childhood. No awards seem very prestigious these days.

The reality of the Hugo Award is...different. The more I learn, the more it feels like a really young award still even given its history, like the best for it is yet to come if they can figure out how to embrace advancing technologies and appeal to people in more diverse groups. Outreach to diverse communities is hard, says the OTW staffer.

Last year I did some nominating, but not any voting because I got hit by the Life Bus. This year has been a learning experience. I have definitely become one of those people who believes you should pick the categories you care most about and go hog wild within them and leave everything else. Otherwise: madness, lack of sleep, and feeling like you're punishing yourself as you pass up all the non-Hugo reading people on your Twitter feed won't stop gushing about. I took on too many categories this year while juggling paid writing, moving, a volunteer gig, and a full time job, so here I am, shoving everything into my face in the last month. Next year, I will probably organize my time much better. Next year, I may be buying Jodie an e-reader so I can have someone to weep on.

I really can't overstate how impossible this would have been if awards committee, publishers, and authors hadn't supported the Voter's Packet again this year. I see a lot of people mention the Voter's Packet like it's a given, but I am too nervous to get that comfortable. Seeing as how without it I would no longer be able to participate in the short fiction categories and a good chunk of the novel category (the awards seem to catch half the novel slate each year re: my library's holdings, but no more!), it's an integral part of my participation. The amount of work we get more than makes up for the upfront cost, and I've discovered some really awesome new authors to follow and support financially, which is super rad. So yeah: thanks to everyone who works on the Voter's Packet!

My one critique is: Orbit, I don't know why in a project that is one of goodwill and generosity, you chose to forgo all sense of accessibility and trust (of, I assume, a membership who has not yet gotten the packet and gone directly to The Pirate Bay with it, since it's still being offered) and institute a password gate on the files you included. Maybe they worked for other people who didn't mind entering the password every time they opened the file, but for me, someone who uses a non-standard e-reader (my phone) as well as a nook, it was pretty much impossible to read your books while away from my computer where I could just leave the file open at all times. That's a deal-breaker, because maybe you noticed since you published it, but 2312 is a huge ass book. I wanted the files to be accessible across platforms. I wanted it to be like every other file, which was: no password gate. Or at the very least, I wanted it to not want me to enter the password every single time I wanted to read on a fifteen minute break, or in a line that was going to take me a few minutes. Yeah, I read like that. I read in all those little nooks and crannies of life because I am a busy person.

I get it. It's "free". What I should have done is just gone to the library before someone scooped up the only hard copy they had, but I was still giving the password thing the benefit of the doubt. I do know you have to worry about your bottom line. But maybe next time when you're considering all the things that led to this decision, also consider that most people invested enough in the Hugo Award are not the type of people to pay for the privilege of ripping off those being generous and kind enough to compile this packet. Give a thought to the accessibility issues -- we live in a mobile, fast-paced world, and if I have a few minutes to read, I want to read; I don't want to be hunting around my device for that password I saved to unlock a file—oh hell, time's up, lost that chance. The packet is integral to my participation in this award. When it is hobbled by useless, annoying, insulting DRM, my participation is impacted in a negative way.

Okay, sorry, I just had some feelings about those freaking passwords. I'm done now.

All the 2013 Hugo nominess are available on the Hugo website.

Best Novel

Immediately out was Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance because I'm working on that series, but "working on" and "ramming down my literary gullet in three months" are two different things. Maybe if I hadn't started mainlining Supernatural, didn't have a job, or a position in the OTW. Since I do have all those things, it wasn't going to happen. I do want it to happen eventually because as soon as it does it means I get to dive into Vorkosigan fandom. There's so much fic! Excitement.

2312 is not here, because I am legit out of dollars (I bought the second volume of Saga before I realized what a problem the password gate was for reading away from home! I'M SORRY) and I don't think the library copy will be returned in time for me to finish reading it, and the next week or so is packed with appointments and meetings. If I do manage it finish, it will either be before or after Redshirts (probably before, unless I despise it). We'll see. :/

3. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed: I understand why everyone loved this, but I didn't get the tone of the novel. I kept getting embarrassed, and it's really, really hard for books to hit my humiliation trigger compared to film or television. I appreciate that it's doing something outside mainstream white medieval fantasy, which is why it's still on my list, but otherwise I just didn't get it and couldn't bring myself to finish it. :( Sell me romance and adventure, book. Make me yearn for it. I'll do the rest for you, promise.

2. Redshirts by John Scalzi: Honestly, I loved the codas more than the book (AWKWARD), but would sort of rather read John Scalzi write either the sequel to The Android's Dream or Kirk and Spock adventures. I reviewed this title, in case anyone likes tl;dr. It made me have thoughts and fond emotions about fandom history (Kirk/Spock history and how awesome all the ladies were making vids with freaking VHS tapes, JFC) and how I engage with fandom. But nothing is going to usurp my top vote, not even my Scalzi idolatry. :D

1. Blackout by Mira Grant
Probably after he saw this, Justin just had to go harf up everything he's eaten for the last six weeks. :D

This series is on its way to becoming my favorite series of the year. I blew through Feed and Deadline (I loved Feed more, but that's because I loved all-George-all-the-time rather than Shaun in Deadline). Blackout was a great finish (it sort of went full-on buck tradition there, wow), and I got near the end and I was like HELL YES I TOTALLY CALLED IT I WIN and cried over the commentary on power and influence and fear and generally just loved the hell out of all of it. Jodie, please expect a review full of capslock to edit for all of these books, and Susan, Feed should be winging its way to you soon!

Best Novella

5. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson: I loved the premise of this and the main character, but the writing left something to be desired. No fire! No energy! This piece was Korban Dallas's radio persona, seriously.

4. "The Stars Do Not Lie" by Jay Lake: Well. Um. I was interested in the relationship between the two members of clergy, and then... So then I was interested in the pirates, but, uh... This piece felt like it should have been much longer, less coy about where it was going (it was obvious where it was going!), and spent more time developing the relationships rather than hobbling toward the ending with overly heavy prose. Once it ended, I realized I was much more interested in either the adventures of Ion and Bili when they were younger or whatever happens with the ships. Sigh.

3. San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant: This was heartbreaking, but for me, most effective in the present-day scenes, not the past. With no survivors, it makes sense to set it up that way, but I still found the Comic-Con characters a little too distant. I felt terribly for them, but there was a barrier of emotion between us, because I didn't get to spend much time with them. I would, however, love more stuff of a World War Z stripe with Mahir as the narrator? Yes, please!

2. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress: This story would have been #1 if not for On a Red Station, Drifting taking a literary baseball bat to my soul, spiked with lady feelings. As it is, I love all the things this story touches on: our climate, how we treat our world, the impact of stress on a body (relevant to both Earth and human bodies), being a caretaker, being a mother, and being young/ignorant or even old/knowledgeable in a world that seems incomprehensible.

1. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard: Ugh, so many emotions about this piece. There's a depth to this story that really struck me: a huge expansive world made up of this culture that I'm also very unfamiliar with that requires you to go all in or go home. It was both familiar and alien, but alien in two ways for me, both in the sense of the far-flung future, and the culture that inhabits that future that's so divorced from my own history. Ugh, it's fascinating and so different and I want more just like it, please.

Best Novelette

Throughout this process, I've discovered that this length of fiction (although I suspect I will never be a writer of anything less than a novella) is my sweet spot for quick reading. I have trouble slowing down when I read; I read too fast, and so when faced with short stories I bust through them and then get frustrated when I miss the point, and don't like having to repeat a piece over and over to find it. I'm an impatient person.

5. "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt: Of all the stories, this is the one I understood the least; I feel like I'm still guessing at it. It had some really beautiful imagery, and it felt like casual reminder that we're both more and less breakable than we perceive ourselves to be when we choose to love one another, regardless of who we are or what we're made of. Finally seeing that part of ourselves is an aspect of growing up and moving on we simply can't escape.

4. "Rat-Catcher" by Seanan McGuire: I read "In Sea-Salt Tears" before this, and I'm glad I did because it provided really useful context about one of the characters. Nothing at all big enough to hurt the story itself, but it gave it an extra depth of world building and horror. Oh, lord, the scene at the theater with the men? When Rand returns for his father? I basically sat at my keyboard and wibbled when I finished this.

3. "Fade To White" by Catherynne M. Valente: Wow, the things this story reveals about its world are chilling — gender relations, fertility, the loss of the West, and the parts of ourselves we all choose to hide. The biggest disconnect I had with the story was often the McCarthy bits because I have forgotten all my studies there, and the asides in the ads, which felt modern in a way that the other modernization in the narrative did not. It was all clever, sure (the part about boy/girl colors was a delight to find) but I was still more invested in the characters of the world. It's an interesting set-up; you want everything to end happily for these kids, but by wishing them there you're wishing them into a closed loop. It's like time travel without the actual time travel.

2. "In Sea-Salt Tears" by Seanan McGuire: Ana, this is a selkie story, and I need you to read it ASAP and talk about it with me. In exchange I will BUY The Brides of Rollrock Island (why whenever I type this do I try to type Bridges of Rockroll County? Come on, self, that's just humiliating.) and do a proper trade. No review involved! JUST READING. Everything I want to say about this is spoilery as hell, so if you've read it tap me in comments and weep with me over the ending to this fucker. MCGUIRE, JUST STOP ALREADY (by which I mean, no, please, punch me in the soul more, I like it.)

1. "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan: There's a lot of great gender commentary jammed into this piece, both implicit and explicit, but I really lack the tools of gender theory to dig in deep to what I think is happening here. There's a story about how space is unrelenting and changes those who spend any length of time there in ways that are beyond comprehension to those left behind. Then there's the political and representation issues underlying Arkae's story — several times throughout I thought, "why am I getting a Supreme Court nomination vibe off this piece?" That probably won't scan for anyone but me (and probably because I have the Supreme Court, specifically the antiquated dudebro sector, on the brain) but it was a nice parallel at the end when Arkae explains all the fallout. Plus, the language here, the slang with half-meaning, the slang that I am not sure it's possible to pick up even with context. The immersive view of this story really owns that Arkae is not human, and hasn't been for a very long time, is wonderful. Eight tentacles up.

Best Short Story

3. "Mantis Wives" by Kij Johnson: I feel no shame is saying that this is too experimental for me. I just don't get it, or find it very interesting. Although I've read a lot of critiques and theories for possible readings, the more experimental a story is, the more it's likely to leave me cold. This was also the story I liked the least in At the Mouth of River of Bees, Johnson's short story collection, which is really amazing.

2. "Mono no Aware" by Ken Liu: This story is so sad and yearning. :(

1. "Immersion" by Aliette de Bodard: I nominated it and it made it. SUCH a fabulous execution. PS can I have more work in this universe poured directly into my eyeballs immediately? THANKS. \o/

Best Graphic story

I'm choosing not to rank three of these: Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia and Grandville Bête Noire. The first: maybe if I had started sooner? The second: I'm not, and probably never will be, a fan of the anthropomorphized animal trope. Saucer Country I skipped because I couldn't get through the first volume, but I have no idea whether it's the material or just my utter comic fatigue post-Locke & Key. Another good lesson for me about starting early and mixing up what I read from the categories I choose to vote in.

2. Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: I really, really loved all the volumes before this; this volume was more revelatory re: characterization than the previous version (which was really fantastical and gorgeous, wow). So much of what makes this series work for me is the humanity of the kids, who struggle, do things right and wrong, hurt themselves and other people, fight viciously among themselves, but have so much love and affection for one another, and they weren't really here in this volume. Overall, though, it's a really superb idea. The comic is wicked smart with absolutely excellent writing, and has been from the very first volume rendered with art that picks your emotions apart piece by piece and then wrings out the remains, leaving you a quietly weeping mess at the misery of it all. Tears of blood, dudes. A++ will collect whole set. Endnote: when I asked my local comic guy about these, he got EXPLOSIVELY happy and tried to sell me all the volumes right there. NOW I CAN GO BACK AND FLAIL WITH HIM.

1. Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples: Even though I love Locke & Key, my top vote goes to Saga because space and SF > horror for me. I really don't care overmuch who wins, because I think Saga is going seriously awesome places in the future, and Locke & Key is about to close up shop on the awesome places its been, so hey, whatever way it falls. Saga has politics and family and surprisingly, a lot of domesticity between the running and the blood baths. The villains here are also closely drawn, and there's emotional resonance for them, even in the context of their search for the baby that should have never had a chance to be born, and her parents, for daring to love.

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

5. The Cabin in the Woods: I just don't get it. I don't like much visual horror, so anything deconstructing visual horror is not my bag. I'm the wrong audience for horror meta.

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Dear Peter Jackson: okay, so maybe you're into edging, but this was just going too far and going on way too long and the climax at the end wasn't even worth it. The only thing I got out of this was my newfound love of Thorin and Bilbo as bros (hence my ranking it at all, seriously, this vid is fabulous, Bilbo/Thorin FTW), and a bladder infection because this nonsense was so stupidly stretched out (skirting No Award, seriously). I hope everyone enjoyed paying for Peter Jackson's $200 million dollar orgasm. On award night I'm sure I'll be sitting at my computer screeching at the ceremony livestream when it wins (who's coming to my livestream party to engage in capslock with me/mock me relentlessly?).

3. The Hunger Games: I have vomited enough words about why I didn't like the first book, but I thought the movie improved a lot on a closed perspective narrative to add a lot of useful depth to Katniss's story on all fronts. It was a rocking good time and the emotional gut-punches were absolutely, perfectly brutal. I may not read the second/third books, but I will definitely see the films.

2. Looper: I don't think Looper holds up to deconstruction very well with regards to the time travel, but I am still really pleased with what it is: standalone piece of science fiction art that creates something new. That probably seems hypocritical since my top vote is going to a movie in an inevitable trilogy, propped up and referencing a pre-existing franchise which is itself a reboot of pre-existing comics canon. I know, I know. I KNOW, OKAY. STOP JUDGING ME. Anyway, time travel movies are great for long, intense fights discussions. Jodie reviewed this for LB recently, too, and there's some alternate readings in the comments.

1. The Avengers: Predictably, I am top-voting the movie that gave me the most happiness and joy since it was released in theaters. From Natasha hoping a ride on an alien hovercraft and saving the world, to Semaphore by [ profile] DevilDoll (I seriously should start doing fic recs again), which led me down the rabbit hole into Avengers fandom, to science bros, Avengers has pretty much had my heart the longest, and with the tightest grip (I've been wanting some awesome Natasha & Bruce fic. I wonder if that exists?). It may actually get me into superhero comics....?

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

My knowledge of this category begins and ends with Doctor Who episodes because SFF fandom doesn't seem to watch very much trashy genre stuff in mass to get it on the ballot. SFF fandom! That's where the best stuff is happening.

Anyway, I'm emotionally compromised by Matt Smith leaving, because I consider Matt Smith to be my Doctor, and I cannot handle the future without his precious face. So I have ranked these for votes, noting the criminal lack of "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", by how much I screamed internally while watching them, from "MOST SCREAMING" to "dubious".

3. Doctor Who, "The Snowmen"
2. Doctor Who, "The Angels Take Manhattan"
1. Doctor Who, "Asylum of the Daleks"

Next year, Supernatural should be here. #opinions

Best Professional Artist

I'm so thrilled Julie Dillon is a finalist. There's so much talent here! It was hard to decide the other four slots.

5. Chris McGrath
4. Vincent Chong
3. John Picacio
2. Dan dos Santos
1. Julie Dillon

Best Fanzine

I have one vote in this category, and it's SF Signal. I don't read the other blog at all, and sort of want something besides reviews to really consider it a fanzine...? I'm so fickle.

When I got into SF fandom, I remember that SF Signal was everywhere, inviting me into what it was doing and making it extremely accessible and providing an array of wide opinions (ha ha ha, I was so young and impressionable). I spread out by using SF Signal, because there was a market for what they were doing and they were good at spreading their message and getting viewers involved and finding content and promoting it. I would have had no chance of locating so much stuff that influenced me on my own. Its daily link round-ups are indispensable and complement my addiction to [community profile] metanews nicely.

The three more traditional fanzines here I didn't know of until they were mentioned in the context of the Hugo Award, and that to me suggests a problem with outreach and inclusiveness. I think of fandom as emphatically enthusiastic endeavor in which we share what we love by reaching wide and bringing in new people to build up our communities. So maybe they're doing something interesting! I'm not opposed to reading zines at all. But if the only time I'm hearing about a zine is when award season rolls around? That's an issue to me, and one I can't get past.

Best Fancast

Not ranking: SF Squeecast. They won last year, which was great (ladies!) but listening to them since, they do describe themselves as "science fiction and fantasy professionals". I just feel really weird about voting for a podcast marketed that way in a fan category, especially since they've already been recognized. Maybe No Award would be better to use in this case? But I don't care if other people vote for them/they win. I just feel weird about doing it myself because I'm ornery about fan categories. News at 11, Renay is a weirdo.

2. SF Signal Podcast: Last year was a really great year for this podcast discussion-wise. I learned a lot and got tons of recommendations; I spent a lot of time listening to all the panels (less with the interviews, although I hit one here and there). :) However, I will be really happy if I never have to hear "I totally invited ladies but they couldn't make it!" when there's an all-male panel again, because it makes me want to flip a goddamn table.

1. Galactic Suburbia Podcast: The audio production here sometimes drives me bonkers because of the echo chamber effect (especially when they get louder). This is pretty funny since I fail at audio 100% of the time on my OWN podcast, houses, etc. Other than that this was my favorite podcast last year, although they are way more hardline on their feminist issues than me and I sometimes feel vaguely bad for not going all-in in the ways they do. Unfortunately, I'm just not giving up reading sexy fanfic about white dudes any time soon or giving money to movies/TV shows that are super problematic because I like to poke at things and sometimes just like those things, so vague guilt feelings are here to stay. On plus side I'll gain a better knowledge of the SFF field outside my country. It's an okay trade-off.

Best Fan Writer

I am only ranking two of the people on this list! I am lacking any and all context for the other three and the packet sort of...didn't help.

2. Mark Oshiro: I haven't followed Mark for awhile, but I loved him back when I did. It's so exciting to see him here!

1. Tansy Rayner Roberts: So here is where I become a hypocrite, I guess, because Tansy is a professional, apparently? Which I have managed to continuously miss as a fact up until right after I nominated her for this award. This is a trend with me. Oops! But whatever, all my interactions with her work have been non-fiction and non-paid (I assume, I got them for free) up until this point, so I'm holding my ground and will know better for next year.

Is there anyone who is just a fan anymore? Are there fans like me out there who are like "HECK YEAH ORIGINAL SFF!" and sort of poke at original fic while feeling like an imposter while dreaming about their next Derek/Stiles soulbonding epic or the fic where Castiel and Garth are BFF?

Best Fan Artist

I think I have a skewed perception of what's meant by "fanart". I blame Ira.

5. Brad W. Foster
4. Steve Stiles
3. Spring Schoenhuth
2. Maurine Starkey
1. Galen Dara

Now all that's left is the submission of votes, the endless wait, and the inevitable drunken sobbing at my computer (happy or sad or both at the same time; regardless, it will probably happen). Then we'll get to do it all over again next year. :D

Voting is open for the 2013 Hugo Award until Wednesday, July 31, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. CDT.

Date: 2013-07-22 10:47 am (UTC)
alasen: tenniel's picture of alice adjusting her crown (Default)
From: [personal profile] alasen
while dreaming about their next Derek/Stiles soulbonding epic

haha, I can remember when meelie and I read tansy rayner roberts' books about an awesome lady pirate - we were 19 when the first was published and we were all "she's australian! and she's a YEAR OLDER THAN US". I haven't read them in years and am not familiar with her other writing but they were pretty great back then.

Date: 2013-07-22 03:45 pm (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
Thanks for writing this up. I feel better about my own erratic hugo voting now. (I think I liked nominating better than voting.)

Date: 2013-07-22 06:09 pm (UTC)
myfriendamy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] myfriendamy
aw yay! I'm glad you liked Mira Grant's books. Books we both like! I want to check out that selkie novelette. (which..I didn't even know was a term!) And you should definitely read The Brides of Rollrock Island (though the Bridges of Rockroll County sounds like an interesting parody....)

Date: 2013-07-22 08:47 pm (UTC)
nymeth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nymeth
RE: Selkie story trade: deal :D I'll let you know once I've read it!

Date: 2013-07-23 10:03 am (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Yay on the Newsflesh trilogy :D Also glad to see someone sharing my feelings about The Hobbit.

In all seriousness (because I know your plans often come to fruition) don't buy me an e-reader though. I would never use it. What I need to do is to try and set up a physical copy swap with someone next year I think.

Date: 2013-07-23 01:19 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lighterthanair
In terms of the actual novels, I've only read "Redshirts," and while it was a hilarious and creative novel, I'm kind of surprised that it was nominated where there are a load of others than I would have figured were better contenders.

I do intend to read "Throne of the Crescent Moon" and "2313" at some point. The other two don't really hold much interest for me, so I'll probably give them a miss.

And I rarely pay attention to the other categories when it comes to things like this. I don't know why. I'm probably missing out on some awesome novellas and short stories this way. And though I've seen a couple of the nominated movies, I'm so used to thinking of awards like as being purely a book-related thing that I'm often surprised by seeing movies there. Makes me do a double-take every time!

Date: 2013-07-25 02:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
God bless our Trekker foremothers.

I've heard great things about Mira Grant's series; perhaps I should pick it up, seeing as I'm dipping my toes into horror more and more these days.

When is award night? If I'm available, I'd love to livestream and roll my eyes at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Date: 2013-07-28 03:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, thanks for the heads up!

My schedule is currently wide open that day. :) I'll let you know if anything changes.

Date: 2013-08-04 02:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

It sounds great. Where is it collected?


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