Oh, I had such plans. As a member of Anticipation (even if it’s not certain that I’ll actually be attending) I get to nominate in the Hugos; given that, why not wait until I nominate before writing any kind of best-of-2008 list? I get a couple of extra months to catch up on 2008 books and stories that I missed, and plenty of time to write a detailed summary of my reading.
Well, so much for that idea. Instead, here’s my Hugo ballot, mere hours before the nominating deadline, with some abbreviated commentary.
Flood by Stephen Baxter [discussion]
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway [review]
Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin
Song of Time by Ian R MacLeod [review]
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell [review]
I am nothing if not quixotic. I thought it might be hard to fight the temptation to nominate books I liked but also thought had a chance of getting enough nominations to be shortlisted; I also thought I’d have a much harder time actually narrowing it down to five books, because my overall feeling is that 2008 was a year with many good genre novels, but few if any great ones. As it is, the process was relatively straightforward. These are books that (a) I want to read again, and (b) I want other people to read, even if the result will only be that more people tell me Dreamers of the Day isn’t really a fantasy, and even if only Lavinia is a real shortlist prospect (Flood might have a shot next year, I suppose, because the US edition will be out). Ironically, I’m actually pretty ambivalent about Lavinia; I only finished it today, but the problem might be that Cecelia Holland and Gary Wolfe are both right, which I didn’t reckon on being possible. But like my other nominees it’s a book that provokes me to think about it, and that at least is a good thing.
“True Names” by Cory Doctorow and Benjamin Rosenbaum (Fast Forward 2)
Gunpowder by Joe Hill (PS Publishing)
“The Surfer” by Kelly Link (The Starry Rift) [review]
“Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, October/November 2008)
Distances by Vandana Singh (Aqueduct)
This category, on the other hand, I thought would be a struggle, and it was, although in the end I’ve got five nominees I’m happy with. The standout, though, is “True Names”, which as Abigail says combines its authors’ strengths to brilliant effect.
“The Gambler” by Paulo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
“The Ice War” by Stephen Baxter (Asimov’s September)
“The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm” by Daryl Gregory (Eclipse 2)
“Special Economics” by Maureen F. McHugh (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy) [review]
“Legolas does the Dishes” by Justina Robson (Postscripts 15) [review]
As for novella, I have a clear favourite here — “The Gambler” — but unlike novella, winnowing myself down to only five nominees was tricky.
Best Short Story
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse 2)
“The Goosle” by Margo Lanagan (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy) [review]
“An Honest Day’s Work” by Margo Lanagan (The Starry Rift)
“The Small Door” by Holly Phillips (Fantasy Magazine)
“Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment” by M. Rickert (F&SF October/November [review]
I spent quite a while going back and forth between “An Honest Day’s Work” and “The Goosle”; I’ve read enough good short stories this year that I felt I should only nominate one by any given author. But in the end I decided that was a silly rule; they both deserve their nominations.
Best Related Book
Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon (McSweeny’s) [review]
The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr (Wesleyan)
What it is we do When we Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon)
Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan)
I’m missing a book in this slot, and in fact these are the only four books of related non-fiction I read in 2008; but they all deserve nominations.
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
Mongol is only just touched by the fantastic; Hellboy 2 is beautiful but flawed; and I’ve watched Wall-E three times. (And The Dark Knight isn’t science fiction or fantasy.)
Best Dramatic Presentation — Short Form
Battlestar Galactica, “The Hub” (4×09), by Jane Espenson
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog by Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon
Pushing Daisies, “Frescorts” (2×04), by Aaron Harberts, Gretchen J. Berg, and Lisa Joy
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, “Alpine Fields” (2×12), by John Enbom
The Middleman, “The Sino-Mexican Revelation” (1×03), by Javier Grillo-Marxuach
There’s a certain amount of closing my eyes and sticking a pin in it going on here. Let’s see: I think Galactica‘s fourth season was a big step back up in quality, and wanted to recognise that, but those first ten episodes are essentially serialised; so I’ll go for the one with the big space battle. I haven’t caught up with Pushing Daisies, and all the episodes I’ve watched so far have been good, but “Frescorts” is probably the best, narrowly. And there are half a dozen episodes of The Middleman I could have nominated, but this was the one that fully won me over to the show. “Alpine Fields”, though, I feel pretty sure about; although Sarah Connor had a lot of good episodes, that’s the one I feel works best as a showcase, and aside from the pilot, it’s the one I’d pick to show someone why they should watch.
Best Editor (Long Form)
Pete Crowther (PS Publishing)
Jo Fletcher (Gollancz)
Simon Spanton (Gollancz)
Alas the SF Editors wiki isn’t even close to being up to date. So Fletcher and Spanton get nods because I think Gollancz had a good year, and Crowther gets one for publishing Song of Time.
Best Editor (Short Form)
Lou Anders (Fast Forward 2)
Ellen Datlow (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
Susan Marie Groppi (Strange Horizons)
Jonathan Strahan (Eclipse 2, The Starry Rift)
Sheila Williams (Asimov’s)
As ever, short fiction editors are easier to judge. Most of these follow on from my short fiction nominations; the exception, Susan Groppi, gets a nod because what I read of the Strange Horizons fiction this year was good, even if none of it made it to my ballot.
Interzone, ed. Andy Cox et al.
The New York Review of Science Fiction, eds. David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer and Kevin Maroney
Foundation, ed. Graham Sleight
Strange Horizons, ed. Susan Marie Groppi, Jed Hartman and Karen Meisner
Interzone had a definite uptick in quality in 2008 compared to the previous couple of years, I thought, so I’m happy to give them a nod; and the other two were reliably good. Locus misses out on a nomination for the way they handled their awards, and a couple of other bits of bad behaviour.
Asking the Wrong Questions by Abigail Nussbaum
Banana Wings, ed Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Coffee and Ink
The Antick Musings of GBH Hornswoggler, Gent
The Internet Review of Science Fiction, ed. Stacey Janssen
Best Fan Writer
These two categories go together, for obvious reasons. With the exception of Antick Musings and IROSF (which does say it’s a fanzine, for now), they’re also stuffed with people I know personally as well as admire. I make no apology for that; fan writing, so far as I’m concerned, is to a large extent about personal connection, and most of the people I’ve nominated are people I know either first or best (or both) through their writing. But, you know, they put out some damn good writing last year.
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo)
J. M. McDermott
This one, thankfully, does have an up-to-date website to help you out, although of course it’s not fully comprehensive. Annoyingly, I believe that Mr Harkaway’s eligibility got burned by a couple of stories published in Interzone in the mid-nineties (although Interzone is no longer a qualifying market, it was then).
And that’s your lot (except that I’ll also be nominating Stephen Martiniere for Best Professional Artist). Tomorrow: 2009 begins.