Mar. 14th, 2016

stdesjardins: (Steven)
Since my last post, I've read most of the Asimov's Reader's Choice nominees, most of the special Queers Destroy Science Fiction! issue of Lightspeed magazine, and some of the Nebula nominees and the new fiction in the Stories For Chip collection.

I've added the novelette "Jamaica Ginger" by Nalo Hopkinson and Nisi Shawl (from Stories For Chip) to my ballot. The Molenstraat Music Festival, one of the Asimov's Reader's Choice finalists, is also going on my novelette ballot, although it's a pretty shaky fifth place. In general, I felt like the Asimov's stories suffered from blandness: they seem to be stories written for an audience that wants stories like they've been reading in Asimov's for the last thirty years, whereas I'd much rather encounter something novel and unexpected.

There were also several good stories from Queers Destroy Science Fiction!Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar, "How to Remember to Forget to Remember" by Rose Lemberg, and "The Astrakhan, The Homburg, and the Red Red Coal" by Chaz Brenchley, which might have made my ballot if I'd liked the ending more—which I at least considered for my ballot. At this point I've found at least six stories for each of the fiction categories (Dramatic Presentation excluded) that I'd be happy to put on my ballot, so it's getting harder and harder for stories to even make it to the consideration stage.

In the Graphic Story category, I've added The Wicked + The Divine vol. 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McElvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles to my ballot. (Volume 3 is also eligible, but I think Volume 2 is a bit stronger.)

I've given a bit of thought to the criteria I've been using to nominate stories. I've considered tactical voting—dropping works like Ariah, a novel which hasn't gotten much attention, and "Jamaica Ginger", a story from a respected but not hugely read anthology, which have no chance of making the ballot, in favor of works that I think are strong, deserving works that do have a chance—and rejected it. Maybe I might drop a fifth-favorite work with no chance in favor of my sixth-favorite work when I have just a very faint preference, but in practice I've had a pretty firm gut feeling which works belong at the top of my list, and I'm not going to go against that instinct.

I've also observed a preference for stories that seem to prefer kindness to brutality. The world of Ariah is as ugly as the world of And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead (a Nebula finalist by Brooke Bolander), but the characters of Ariah are trying to create pockets of peace and virtue in an unjust world, while the characters in the Bolander story are just trying to be better at killing people than the people who want to kill them. I don't object to stories set in bleak backgrounds, but I do want there to be forces in that world acting towards progress, even if only in the scope of their own personal influence.

Incidentally, one of the perks of backing James Nicoll's Patreon is that I can occasionally suggest books for him to review. He recently posted a review of Ariah.

(First part of my Hugo thoughts here.)
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