Hugo Finalist Highlights – Best Short Story and Best Novelette

This week I’m looking at the Best Novelette and Best Short Story category finalists, yes, including Dr Tingle’s work. Both categories have a large increase in nominating ballots, with Best Short Story more than doubling from 1174 ballots in 2015 to 2451 this year; while Best Novelette didn’t quite manage to increase that much, going from 1031 ballots to 1975 this year.

Best Novelette

  • “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015) – Honestly, this piece didn’t appeal to me in the least. It reads as an attempt to be edgy and something or other without giving me anything I could identify with. Yes, as always, your mileage may vary.
  • “Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House) – It’s a shame this work has a bit of a slow start, because it builds to a powerful story. Personally, I’d have started it about 1/3 of the way in, and Heinleined the Weber-esque details of the way the weaponry and space warships worked, but obviously a lot of people disagreed.
  • “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015) – This story was interesting enough, but it didn’t really leave much of an impact. The main idea isn’t all that original (Dayworld was I think the first to play with this), and there’s something underlying the piece which leaves a bad taste – although I will say the author’s perspective isn’t exactly what one would call approving of the kind of government that implements a solution like the one in the story.
  • “Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner) – Stephen King shows why he is Stephen King – this piece is creepy, intriguing, and covers a whole lot of dark aspects of humanity in a way that’s never too overt.
  • “What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House) – I have to say I didn’t find this story that interesting, but the payoff was worth following it. Like the other piece in this category from There Will Be War Volume X, it’s a worthy but flawed submission which raises some interesting questions without managing to rise to the kind of standout piece I’d want to see. Since none of the other entries did either, I’m not sure which way I’ll vote.

Best Short Story (2451 nominating ballots) (1174 in 2015)

  • “Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015) – This story is cute and quirky, but ultimately forgettable. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there also doesn’t seem to be much that really pulls one in.
  • “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015) – Another cute piece, but with a liberal side of “hmm” that kept me thinking after I’d finished. This is one of my personal contenders for this category.
  • “If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015) – As an unabashed parody, this work is skating the edges of eligibility, but then, so did the story it parodies (yes, yes, you may append “in my opinion” to everything I say in all these posts). I honestly don’t see this as being worth a Hugo, but I’m all of one voter.
  • “Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House) – This story is my other personal contender: it’s interesting from the start, told largely from the perspective of a protagonist who most readers here would consider “the enemy” and makes a number of damn good points about where national interests and ethics collide.
  • Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services) – Well. First up, this work isn’t shameless or unrepentant porn. That would imply the possibility of shame or repentance. It’s positively gleeful porn dancing around the room shaking its booty at you, while still being a moderately respectable science fiction piece with some interesting perspectives on isolation and the tricks one’s mind can play in such circumstances. Frankly, with a pretentious title it would probably get more than a few literary types all hot and bothered. I can’t say if it’s good porn because I don’t read enough porn to judge (nor do I intend to rectify that shortcoming – because I’m already reading multiple entendres into everything I write).

Next week – assuming I don’t lose what passes for my mind in the interim – will be Best Novella and Best Novel. Possibly with an option on Worst Kitten Wakeup Call at 5 AM Damn It.

And, as always, read all of them yourself and make your own decisions.

22 Comments

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22 responses to “Hugo Finalist Highlights – Best Short Story and Best Novelette

  1. Given the speed at which they both write (Chuck’s already got a story out based on Pokemon Go), are we sure that “Chuck Tingle” isn’t a secret pen name of John Ringo’s?

    • Kate Paulk

      How can we be sure of any such thing? I wouldn’t put money on either option there.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Ringo’s porn would be straight porn. I assume that Dr. Tingle is just really prolific. Also, his “books” are apparently very short.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      John’s probably businessman enough that Tingle’s income probably isn’t worth the opportunity cost for Tingle’s public persona.

      Tingle’s public persona seems a calculated comment about those who present themselves as spokesmen for gays. Or some such, I don’t entirely grok the message. At a guess, the person behind Tingle is either gay, extremely disenchanted with the ‘gay community’ or both. John’s opinions in the past do not seem to make him an extremely likely candidate to have enough emotional investment for the time invested.

  2. Christopher M. Chupik

    I confess: I’m kind of rooting for a Space Raptor win. I know that makes me a bad person, but I can’t help it. 🙂

    • Kate Paulk

      Space Raptor is both better written and more honestly genre fiction than If You Were a Dinosaur… Scant praise, I know, but it’s worth saying.

  3. Thomas Wicklund

    Asymmetrical Warfare is probably a first for Hugo finalists. It was originally published in a scientific journal (Nature), not an SF magazine.

  4. Ben Yalow

    And a reminder that the Retros also have works eligible in these categories.

    I’m not going to provide any recommendations, except to say that I’ve been familiar with many of these works for many years, and have greatly enjoyed them, in general. And, in these categories, the finalists are:

    Best Novelette (310 nominating ballots)
    “Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction,
    Sept 1940)
    “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates (Astounding Science-Fiction,
    Oct 1940)
    “It!” by Theodore Sturgeon (Unknown, Aug 1940)
    “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding ScienceFiction,
    June 1940)
    “Vault of the Beast” by A.E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science-Fiction,
    Aug 1940)
    No Award

    Best Short Story (324 nominating ballots)
    “Martian Quest” by Leigh Brackett (Astounding Science-Fiction, Feb
    1940)
    “Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction, Jan
    1940)
    “Robbie” by Isaac Asimov (Super Science Stories, Sept 1940)
    “The Stellar Legion” by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, Winter 1940)
    “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges (Sur, 1940)
    No Award

    The 1941 Hugo packet has some of these works, but it’s harder to make the necessary arrangements when the authors of all these works are dead. Fortunately, many of them are still in print in various collections.

  5. “Asymmetrical Warfare”: As Kate notes, this one is utterly forgettable. The basic concepts have been done before, and better.
    “Cat Pictures Please”: Hmmmmm. Let’s just say that this *definitely* is not one of the best stories of that year.
    “Seven Kill Tiger”: Brilliant! I really loved this one. The only Short Story I liked, actually.
    “If You Were an Award, My Love”: Terribly unfunny in-joke.
    “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”: Okay… All the chuckling and ribbing aside, the story is everything that a story named “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” could be–and nothing more.

    Considering that 2015 was a year of stories such as “Today I Am Paul” or even “Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destroyer”, I think it’s a shame Vox chose to burn two entire Short Story slots on troll entries.

    “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead”: Here’s where I disagree with you. Okay, I admit the story’s “edginess” and vulgarity may be a turn-off, but on the other hand it’s very well-written and has a characteristic, enthralling style.
    “Flashpoint: Titan”: I don’t even remember if I finished this one or not. It was pretty boring. I guess straight-up stories which can be summarized solely as “A fights B” aren’t my cup of tea.
    “Folding Beijing”: This one had an intriguing premise but ultimately didn’t do much for me.
    “Obits”: This was perhaps the best and most interesting of the lot. It’s a pity the ending fizzles out.
    “What Price Humanity?”: Dull, and once again I had a feeling that I’ve read stories with this particular premise before, and done better.

    I must say, I was pretty disappointed by the quality of the two “There Will Be War” novelettes. Once again, I suppose I’m not a fan of straight-up military fiction, but even then… Vox Day postulates that the right-wing authors are being unfairly overlooked, but if “What Price Humanity” and “Flashpoint Titan” are the best (according to him) they’ve got on offer, then my enthusiasm for the Rabid Puppies campaign is way, way down.

    • Huh, I’ve confused “Seven Kill Tiger” with a different story entirely (“Fly-By-Night”, also from There Will Be War X). “Seven Kill Tiger” is pretty disappointing, dull and never really goes nowhere.

  6. So it hit me whose writing Chuck Tingle reminds me of: James May. I wonder if it’s him.

    • But then wouldn’t it have to be radical lesbian porn?

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      He has been pretty quiet lately. That does seem at least as plausible as some of my other theories.

      Chuck Tingle’s twitter account does not show quite the same style I’m used to with May/Burton. Tingle repeats a lot of phrases, perhaps as a way of establishing character. ‘Love is real’, ‘get hard’, ‘skinless reverse twin’ and so forth. May/Burton tended to express similar ideas with new language every time. Except for mainly using the KKK as an example of a bigoted hate group. I also got a sense of sincere outrage from him.

      That said, different purposes.

      • I began to suspect when I read SRBI’s sequel, “S. R. B. Redemption,” and the protagonist defended SRBI by asking “Have you ever heard of Andy Kaufm-” and quoting Chuck Buckarooski, “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way, an artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”

        But it had not occurred to me until just now to Google for James May’s review of SRBI. It was left as a comment on Lela Buis’s blog. She says:

        I can’t pin anything down, but this nomination seems to have elements of parody aimed at Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur My Love.”

        He replies, in part:

        Our social justice crusaders have shown time and again they don’t understand satire and parody. If they did they wouldn’t be social justice crusaders and Swirsky never would’ve written such an inadvisable piece of trash in the first place, nor now claim BRSI is fan fiction of her story…

        Tingle aside, the nomination of this story was meant as a pointed insult at a story which the author laughingly claims is anti-violence, when in fact it is a part of the repetitive droning in that community that straight white males are moral and spiritual degenerates in need of a LBGT-avenging raptor.

        On it’s own merits I suppose one could link BRSI to the old circa 1969 underground comix stories of R. Crumb and S. Clay Wilson which are satirical but also over the top x-rated for the sake of the sheer vulgarity. The humor of course lies in the fact Crumb and Wilson were using a comic panel format and art style that for decades had been used in a child and family-friendly way. At the time it was rather shocking to see that format not so subtly subverted.

        https://lelaebuis.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/review-of-space-raptor-butt-invasion-by-chuck-tingle/

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Space Raptor Butt Trilogy came out recently. The description of book three includes a thinly veiled mention of Vox Day and Rapid Puppies. Depending on the kind of person you think Vox is, that might be evidence for or against the idea that Vox is behind Tingle.

        • Huh. So I just read the third one in the “trilogy.”

          At the risk of giving away… ah what the heck I might as well just give away the ending. SPOILER ALERT! 🙂

          You’re not a super villain; you’re just… a sad, self-hating man who likes to bother people. I understand that you like to act as though being a bad guy is some kind of thoughtful counter argument to happiness and inclusion, but it’s not.

          This is James May’s stated position on Vox Day:

          And in case any of these morons are wondering why I’m not lighting up Vox Day, I’ll tell you exactly why. If there were 100 of Day that were part of a embedded culture in SFF, including webzines, publishers, conventions, the presidency of the SFWA and Nebula award winners and nominees, I would. Day is an anomaly… These essays are about people and their involvement and credibility within, and access to, SFF’s mainstream institutions, not just people. Take away that institutional aspect of it and I have nothing to write about. I am not worried about individual hate speech per se; it will always be there.

          http://www.jamesmaystock.com/essays/Pages/MainstreamingBigotry3.html

          Not terribly far apart.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Tingle’s twitter noise seems to me carefully calibrated to give the impression of a self-impeaching loon.

            Take ‘love is real’. There are meat puppetists who might claim love is an illusion. There is also the flavor of writer who denies love by writing stories devoid of beauty or positive human qualities. On the surface, Tingle does not seem to be addressing those, but instead the culture wars. As a tool in the culture wars, ‘love is real’ comes off as a strawman or the result of an appeal to the choir that has passed through many rounds of ‘Telephone’.

            Look at ‘some kind of thoughtful counter argument to happiness and inclusion’. Does it not seem like it could have been carefully written to fall apart under inspection? Do ‘happiness’ and ‘inclusion’ need much of a counterargument if they are simply asserted by rote?

            I have some specific policies in mind that I suspect we could agree would be a bad idea to implement, and proper to oppose. I can also make a semi-credible argument that implementation would make me happy. Would ‘happiness’ be a reason you must support such policies if I made such assertion? Would ‘inclusion’ be a reason you must associate with me if I was openly advocating such policies?

            Under this model of Tingle, May is probably not a super great fit.

          • Do you mean Vox Day is behind the Tingle persona? No, I wouldn’t think so. It’s just someone who thinks that all the pointing and shrieking about puppies over the past year was uncalled for.

  7. Thomas Wicklund

    Short Story:

    My personal preference for short story would have been The Commuter by Thomas A Mays, but he withdrew his nomination.

    I liked Asymmetrical Warfare, reminded me of Asimov’s “What Is This Thing Called Love.” I don’t think it’s good enough for the award though. I also liked “Cat Pictures, Please”. Seven Kill Tiger was good but not great and the basic premise has been done before. The other two finalists needn’t be mentioned.

    Novelette:

    And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead — Brooke Bolander said the feedback she got was people either really loved the story or it wasn’t their thing. Neither the gritty future or the profanity are my thing, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if it won.

    Obits — Quite good, I liked it and will likely vote for it.

    Folding Beijing — Ok but nothing special.

    What Price Humanity — I had it figured out almost immediately and spent the rest of the story wondering when it would finally end.

    Flashpoint: Titan — Ok hard SF but didn’t do a lot for me.

  8. I thought “What Price Humanity” had the potential to be a really good story, but destroyed it at the end.

    **** Spoiler warning *****

    1: Earth getting destroyed, and humanity on a downward spiral at eh end really sucks.

    2: There’s no reason at all for them to use those AI “brains” only once.

    After a successful attack they should have had a big party where the pilots got to watch their successful attack, celebrate, then go out for their next run.

    Moral dilemma? Hell no! The pilots get to go out time after time, and never “die” (because a copy stays back to be used again).

    AS it was, it was way too “gray goo” for me.

  9. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Welcome home Kate.