Ariela's (Partial) Hugo Ballot

by Ariela

Logo of the Hugo Awards

Logo of the Hugo Awards

Voting for the Hugo Awards ends in a little less than a month. Terri and I are both supporting members and, when not attending Wiscon, prepping for other art shows, and working on new products, we've both been steadily working our way through as many of the works up for voting as we can.

I am by no means done, but here is my ballot for some of the categories that matter most for me, with some notes as to my thoughts and choices:

Best Fan Artist

Because the Hugos have not changed their criteria for Professional Artist since they were invented, the Fan Artist category is the one that most artists fall into, whether art is a source of income for them or not. So this is actually where most of my artistic colleagues are up for awards. I will be voting as follows.

  1. Likhain (M. Sereno)
    Mia is an astonishingly talented artist and if I could place her higher than first, I would do it. Her use of color is breathtaking. And I have an extra soft spot for her work because she occasionally incorporates calligraphy, and does it very well.
  2. Vesa Lehtimäki
    Vesa does some truly gorgeous photo editing. I do photo editing for my day job and know exactly how hard it is, so this blows me away. 
  3. Spring Schoenhuth
    Spring does some of the most beautiful geek-themed jewelry, and works at a size that increases her difficulty factor exponentially. While I see geeky jewelry at nearly every con, most of them are made from premade, mass-produced pieces. Spring is the only one I know who does this kind of work from scratch.
  4. Elizabeth Leggett
    Elizabeth is an extremely technically accomplished artist, but she doesn't rank higher for me because I see lots of similarly themed art around. For art to be Hugo-worthy for me, it needs to not only be technically skilled, but also original.
  5. Ninni Aalto
    I suspect I am missing the best parts of Ninni's work due to language barrier; the ones without language don't really do it for me.
  6. Steve Stiles
    Steve is an amazingly prolific artist, but since we are judging just based on output in the past year, I haven't seen anything from him in the past year that really grabbed me.

Best Novel

Novels are my favorite thing to read and what I read the most of. I had already read a number of the nominees before nominations opened, much less after they closed.

  1.  A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
    I adored The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which was an utterly delightful reading experience. But it lacked the emotional punch that the sequel delivers here. I'm a sucker for "what does it mean to be a person?" books, and this one comes at it from both ends in a devastating way.
  2. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee
    I will admit that I couldn't finish this one, which I started before award season. I bounced off it in much the same way I bounced off Ancillary Justice my first time around. Serious culture shock, working too hard to absorb the world to be able to sit back and enjoy the story. Though I finished AJ on my first attempt, it took me until my third readthrough to just enjoy it. I suspect it will be the same here. As is, I recognize the technical accomplishment already.
  3. Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer
    This is another incredibly rich worldbuilding work. I am impressed, but I suspect that the later books will bring more payoff. If this volume doesn't Hugo, I suspect the third book in the trilogy will.
    While I was impressed, I am also somewhat troubled by feedback I have heard from the trans and non-binary communities about some of the gender views expressed therein. I hope that the later volumes address this.
  4. The Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin
    I voted for The Fifth Season and was incredibly gratified when it won. While this volume is no less skillful, it suffers from middle-installment issues - we've already met most of the characters and we've been introduced to the world. While there are astonishing revelations (Sassun's sections broke my heart), it's all about building up to The Stone Sky.
  5. All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
    This book is skillfully written, but it just didn't wow me as much as everything above. Frankly, it wasn't my cup of tea, but it might be yours, so you should still check it out.

I didn't actually read Death's End by Cixin Liu. I voted for Three Body Problem, even though I didn't enjoy it at all, because I felt that it was both technically brilliant and extremely innovative, and that it made a significant contribution to the field of SF lit. However, there are limits to my dutifulness, and having not enjoyed either of the first two installments in the series, I'm not going to put myself through the third. So it is not on my ballot. Mind you, I am not voting it below "No Award," I am just leaving it off the ballot entirely, as I haven't read it and cannot rank it.

Best Novella

This is a partial list, as I have not yet finished reading everything in the category, and I do intend to.

  1. The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle
    This one blew me away. 
  2. Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
    Years ago I came to the reluctant conclusion that, though my friends love it, Seanan's writing is not my thing. This, however, really impressed me. It's a fresh take on the very tired trope of portal fantasies.
  3. Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold
    I adore everything Bujold writes, and though liking something isn't enough to make it award-worthy, in this case, I think it is. I am enjoying the exploration of the magical and theological issues Bujold is taking us through with this entire series.
  4. A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante
    This was well executed, but it didn't have the wow-factor of the works above it.

I haven't read The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe or This Census Taker yet. I do plan on reading them both, despite This Census Taker being on the Rabid Puppy ballot. I don't always dignify a Puppy nominee with reading, but Mieville doesn't seem to be wrapped up with them like, say, Wright is.

Best Series

Ah, the one-time category. Thank goodness I had read at least some of almost all of them before now, because if I tried to read them all in Award Season, I would have drowned in the attempt.

  1. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
    I mentioned my love of Bujold above, and the Vorkosigan Saga is where she has done almost all of her most innovative work. It is always one of my first recommendations to someone looking for new reading material in the SFF field. It also covers an astonishing breadth, from space opera to political intrigue to romance.
  2. The Temeraire Series, by Naomi Novik
    Again, I love "what does it mean to be a person" books, and Temeraire's struggle to get dragons recognized as people in Europe speaks deeply to me. Also, I happen to love Regency period stuff. A+ highly recommended.
  3. The Peter Grant/Rivers of London Books, by Ben Aaronovich
    I only started this series, but 2.5 books in, I am mostly enjoying it. I love Peter's constant efforts to approach magic scientifically, and I love that he is foiled not by magic being magical (or not just by that) but by his lack of access to resources, and sometimes by his own distraction. I'm less thrilled by his constant commentary on the women he meets; it gets really tiresome.

I haven't read any of The Expanse by S. A. Corey, and I don't expect to have the time to do so before the close of voting, but I will check it out later. October Daye was my first introduction to Seanan McGuire, and as I mentioned above, really not for me. I read the first two books and decided I didn't need any more. Likewise, I read 1.5 books from The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone and decided it wasn't my cup of tea. I will be leaving all three of these series off my ballot. Again, I am not voting them below No Award, I am just leaving them off.

So that's a partial look at my Hugo ballot. I am still working my way through the novelettes and short stories and have no idea when I will have a chance to watch Arrival, which is the last of the Long Form Dramatic Presentation nominees I want to watch.

What's on your ballot?