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Handicapping the Hugos, Part the Second

August 16, 2015

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Continued from last rock. My thoughts and predictions for this year’s Hugo Awards.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM. Which is pretty much “Best Television Episode,” though in theory various other types of “short form” are eligible. In certain years it has actually been the “Best Doctor Who Episode” category. Last year, for instance, episodes of GAME OF THRONES and ORPHAN BLACK went up against no fewer than four (4!!) DOCTOR WHO episodes. (GAME OF THRONES beat them all, and in the UK no less. No one was more shocked than me. Before the ceremony, I’d told David Benioff and Dan Weiss that we didn’t have a chance of beating the Doctor on his home turf. Which might be evidence that I am really rubbish at predicting these races, but there you go). This year the ballot is considerably more diverse. Episodes of DOCTOR WHO, GAME OF THRONES, and ORPHAN BLACK have been joined by the pilot from THE FLASH and an episode of GRIMM. This may be the first time since this category was created that five different series were represented, which I see as a good thing. FLASH, GRIMM, and GAME OF THRONES were all part of one or the other slates. ORPHAN BLACK and DOCTOR WHO were not. The relationship between the three “slate” picks and the Puppies is all one-sided, I promise you; no one at HBO has the vaguest notion who Teddy Beale and Brad Torgersen are, and I figure the same is true for the producers and directors of THE FLASH and GRIMM. Nonetheless, the followers of the “Puppy-free ballot” are crossing all three shows off their list, leaving only DOCTOR WHO and ORPHAN BLACK. GAME OF THRONES has actually won three Hugo Awards in a row, and might have a good shot at taking a fourth here… but I think the Whovians (still annoyed at losing last year), the Puppy-free voters, and the Loncon voters will swing the balance. I think DOCTOR WHO bounces back and wins here. Of course, I would be happy to be proved wrong, as I was last year. (And of course I cannot hope to be objective here, since I do have a horse in this race. If GAME OF THRONES wins, HBO has asked me to accept for David and Dan and the show).

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM. Three nominees from the slates — INTERSTELLAR, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and THE LEGO MOVIE — against two that were un-slated — CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER and EDGE OF TOMORROW. All pretty good to excellent movies, and one that I thought was great. (I voted for that one, but don’t think that it will win). Any of them would make a worthy Hugo winner. (So would PREDESTINATION, which sadly did not make the ballot). This category, more than any other, demonstrates the folly of those voting the “Puppy-free ballot.” I am quite sure that Christopher and Jonah Nolan, the folks at Marvel, and the Lego team have never heard of the Puppies, of either stripe; they may not even heard of the Hugo Awards. To throw their work aside, just because the Puppies put it on their slate, is as unjust as it is moronic. You don’t want VD and Brad Torgersen telling you who to vote for, so why in the world would you let them tell you who NOT to vote for? Me, I voted for the movie I liked best, and I hope you all did the same. I think GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is going to win, though THE LEGO MOVIE could upset. If WINTER SOLDIER takes it, it will be mostly because of the blowback against the slates. The Pups will likely try to claim a GUARDIANS Hugo as a victory for them, but it’s a hollow boast; their backing is irrelevent.

BEST GRAPHIC STORY. One Puppy nominee, a zombie story. Four finalists from fandom. From the comments I have seen on Puppy blogs, a lot of Puppies will be No Awarding this category. The Puppy nominee is the weakest here, in both story and art; the Puppy antipathy to the other finalists seems to come down to “they’re not ours” and “they are more of that social justice shit.” I know that many Sads claim they have been unfairly characterized as bigots, and sure, maybe so… but there are certainly bigots AMONG them. How else to explain their hatred of MS. MARVEL, which is a sweet, charming, entertaining superhero story, distinguished only by the fact that the hero is a sympathetic young Muslim girl? No, the comic wasn’t WATCHMEN or DARK KNIGHT, it broke no new ground, but it was well-told, well-drawn, fun to read, funny in places. Sure, you could argue SAGA was better, or RAT QUEENS… but the negatively about MS. MARVEL is way disproportionate. In any case, I liked several of these, but I think SAGA will win.

BEST RELATED WORK. Hoo boy. What can I say that dozens of reviewers have not said before me? This will be the first NO AWARD of the evening, I think… and deservedly so. The nominees are all Puppies. Two are simply undistinguished. Lou Antonelli’s LETTERS FROM GARDNER is more a short story collection than a “related work” and really should not have been eligible (and I have to wonder, if it wins, does Gardner get a rocket too for providing those letters?). And the last two nominees are… well, one is erudite and ugly, and one is stupid and repugnant. To get this chaff on the ballot, the Puppies crowded off Jo Walton’s WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT and the second volume of Patterson’s biography of Robert A. Heinlein, among other things. Even one of the Puppy nominees is urging a No Award vote here, in his own category… probably so that he can then claim victory when it comes to pass. If No Award does not win here, it won’t win anywhere.

BEST SHORT STORY. All Puppies, but a stronger lineup than Related Work. Kary English has a real shot here with “Totalled.” Of all the slate nominees, that’s the one that the non-Puppy readers and reviewers have found the most interesting. The Steve Diamond story was a late addition after Annie Bellet withdrew; straightforward adventure, and from a major house (Baen), it could be a dark horse. The two Castalia House stories have a shot only if there are a lot more Rabids among the new voters than anyone dreamed. So… English has a decent shot, but in a fairly close race this one goes NO AWARD.

BEST NOVELETTE. “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is pitted against four Puppies. The Heuvelt slid onto the ballot only when a John C. Wright story was disqualified as ineligible. The Moens and others opposed to the slates will all be voting for it on those grounds, I guess, but it is not as strong as standard bearer as might be hoped, and if it carries the day it will be mostly because of backblow against the slates rather than its own innate literary quality. The four Puppy nominees range from “meh” to “not too bad,” in my opinion. I don’t see any of them as Hugo calibre. Three of them are from ANALOG, however, and ANALOG still has the highest circulation of any of the print magazines. One of those might emerge, as the others are eliminated and the ANALOG votes cascade. But I think this category goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVELLA. All Puppies. FOUR Castalia House stories, three of them by John C. Wright. If the Puppies have been winning earlier, if lots and lots of those new voters are Puppy supporters, maybe one of the Wrights will emerge. But the fifth nominees, “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, is from ANALOG, which is much more widely read than anything by Castalia House, and Andrews has not antagonized nearly as many fans as Wright and Kratman have. He may even get some non-Puppy votes. Enough to win? Likely not. Novella goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVEL. Aha. “The Big One.” Last award of the evening. Two finalists from the slates, against three that came out of fandom. This will be an interesting contest. There are, I think, four strong contenders. SKIN GAME is hurt by its association with the slates, and by being part of a long-running series, and by being urban fantasy, never a popular subgenre with Hugo voters. That’s three strikes right there… but it would be a mistake to count Jim Butcher out. He’s a very popular author, a megaseller with millions of fans, and one should NEVER underestimate someone like that (as I learned at Millenium Philcon, when I got schooled by Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling). Internet fandom has been fighting the Puppy Wars for months now, and we assume the whole world is aware of them, but that’s far from true. A certain percentage of the Hugo voters may be entirely unaware of all of this, and many of them may vote SKIN GAME, a fast-moving and entertaining Harry Dresden. I think Butcher is the strongest candidate the Puppies have for a major win… though Butcher himself is not a Puppy, and has stayed entirely above this fray. That being said, his competition is pretty strong. I don’t think Anne Leckie will win for ANCILLARY SWORD. She took the big one last year with ANCILLARY JUSTICE, and — unlike the artist categories — it is very rare for the same writer to win twice in a row. (Orson Scott Card did it, with ENDER’S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, but he’s the only one I can recall). THREE-BODY PROBLEM and GOBLIN EMPEROR are very different books, but both them have real strengths. Here’s the thing, though: although THREE-BODY was not on the Puppy slates, some of the Puppies have praised it afterward, so if and when the Puppy nominees are eliminated in successive rounds of the Australian ballot, some of their votes will shift to Cixin Liu, enough to put him over the top. I think THREE-BODY PROBLEM wins a Hugo for China (but I won’t be too shocked if GOBLIN EMPEROR or SKIN GAME scores an upset). No Award has no chance here. (Oh, and for what it’s worth, Emily St. John Mandel’s STATION ELEVEN remains the best novel I read last year, and I am going to be very curious to see how many nominations it got, and whether it came close to making the ballot).

And there have them. My picks.

Let me close with this. Winning is winning. Losing is losing. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. If I am wrong, and the Nuclear voters or Deidre Moen’s Puppy-Free crowd prevail, I will be unhappy and sad, but I will be the first to admit that I lost. If it turns out those 2400 new voters were all Beale fans, and John C. Wright and VD emerge clutching rockets, I will be disgusted and sick to my stomach, but I will also tell the truth and say, “We lost. Bad.”

But if the vote goes the way I am predicting, with a mix of slate and non-slate victors and a few No Awards where they were earned, I will applaud that as the best result we could have hoped for, and a victory for worldcon, fandom, and the Hugos themselves.

I hope at least a few of the more honest Puppies will have the integrity to admit the same.

Win, lose, or no award, I intend to have a great time at the con with my fannish friends.

See you all in Spokane.

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