I’ve been asked several times over the last few months if I thought “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue,” which has been nominated for a Hugo in the category of short story, had a chance of winning the category. My response has been that I would talk about it after the Hugo voting closed. Now the Hugo voting is closed, and here’s my thought as to whether the story will win:
No, I don’t think so. It’s a little weird and quirky and silly, and purpose-built to be an April Fool’s joke, and I think the combination of all those factors will ultimately work against it, coupled with the fact that there are several genuinely excellent works on the short story ballot this year. I’m happy to share the ballot with all of the nominees and will be happy to lose to any of them.
I was genuinely thrilled it was nominated, and when it was nominated, I decided that simply being on the ballot was an excellent reward for this particular story, and that it had been nominated for doing certain things well. I felt the same way when Zoe’s Tale was nominated for Best Novel; I was no illusions that on a ballot with works from Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross that I’d walk out with the rocket, but the nomination to me meant I was being acknowledged for getting something right (in that case, getting the voice of Zoe to be a believable one). With “Shadow War” I’m pretty sure I’m getting a tip of the hat for making a funny story that pokes at the genre affectionately rather than spitefully. Also, I think some people may have nominated the story just to mess with everyone’s heads. Which, you know, is fine, too, although in that case it’s one more reason for me not to exactly stress about its chances of winning.
That said, if it did win it wouldn’t be a travesty. As I’ve noted before, if you think writing a story that’s supposed to come across like it’s bad literature yet is still readable and stands on its own as a short story while at the same time formatted to work as a prologue chapter of a book that doesn’t actually exist is an easy thing to do, then by all means go ahead and do it. I’ll stand over here and watch. Oh, yeah, remember to make it funny. Because that’s not hard, either. It’s stunt writing, but stunt writing still needs to get the job done. The story works or it doesn’t, depending on personal taste, but on the level of structure and story telling, it gets over the bar well enough. I’m aware that some people seem disproportionately annoyed that the story got on the ballot, but some people seem disproportionately annoyed that I have a career at all, so: Oh, well. If the story wins, they will be annoyed further, I suppose. It’s not my problem.
In any event, I’m jazzed to have been nominated, not at all expecting to win, and will be delighted to be on stage at the Hugo ceremony (which I am the host for this year) when whoever does win gets to come up and take the trophy. They will have deserved it, and I’ll be very happy for them.
I will say this, however: Next year? I think this should get a nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.