Shadow War’s Hugo Chances

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.

32 Comments on “Shadow War’s Hugo Chances”

  1. I laughed till I cried twice. First for the story and then for Mark Orshiro’s reading – best Dramatic Presentation indeed. Congrats for being nominated!

  2. I’d love to see more of The Shadow War…I thought it was priceless, John. It was SO bad that it was fun to read…sort of like the entries to The Best of Bad Hemingway. I can appreciate the hard work that goes into writing something like that. If anything, it’s probably harder to write than well-written prose.

  3. I would feel a little sorry for the other nominees if it won. I say that because it sounds like it was a throw away joke?

  4. John, it wasn’t my first choice, but I did vote it higher than “No Award” (and I’m one of those people who DOES vote No Award at least once a year).

    I’d like to see more of it, and would also want to see Mike read it.

  5. It’s not exactly a measure of quality, but Shadow War of the Night Dragons is just about the only thing that’s made me want to write proper fan-fiction. I read it and I remember thinking “Oh, I know exactly where the next 50,000 words go,” even when it was clear that it was an April Fool’s gag.

  6. It would be awesome if the next 50,000 words did come, a few thousand from each author nominated for a Hugo this year.

    I don’t have a clue how you’d organize that, but you run SFWA, right? You have minions and supreme secret powers of office n’ shit, right?

    (awesome if only for the length of the nominated writers list for the complete work next year…)

  7. It has a lot in common with Leviathan Wakes. Only, you know, Leviathan Wakes is a giant doorstop of pretty good writing that’s hundreds of pages of set-up that, in the end, makes me want to know what’s next for the characters (unlike Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour, a thousand pages of set-up that turned me off of Anne Rice forever).

    This? It’s a tiny bit of clichéd prose exhibiting the worst of fantasy stereotypes that, in the end, makes me want to know what’s next for the characters (the ones who weren’t eaten by a politically expedient dragon myth, it’s obvious what’s next for the ones who were).

  8. “Oh, yeah, remember to make it funny. Because that’s not hard, either.”

    The key is, wave a dead chicken over your had while salsa dancing before writing your story. In the past, I recommended waving a live chicken over your head while dancing until I tried it. As it turns out, live chickens do not like to be waved over one’s head while dancing or not. It is uncertain how the dead chicken feels about this, they are surprisingly non expressive.

  9. I used to participate in a ‘bad poetry’ contest. Some people could simply write a poem and stink, but to do it deliberately is an interesting challenge.

    You made the finals, that’s way cool.

  10. Andy:

    Caliban’s War is already out, and the author(s) have signed for at least two more novels. Read now, and avoid the 2013 Hugo Rush.

  11. I’m reading (and enjoying very much) Leviathan Wakes now. Caliban’s War will probably be bought next month. I thought it was supposed to be a trilogy. Has it expanded beyond that?

  12. Yeah, Leviathan Wakes/Caliban’s War (“The Expanse” series) has gone up to five novels and…I don’t remember how many more novellas. FWIW, I don’t think it was ever meant to be a series with a closed ending at Book 3. I seem to remember one of the authors saying they would be happy for it to go even longer than that because they’re having so much fun with it. Which would be okay with me!

  13. I don’t want to come off as a troll, but I don’t think Shadow Wars should get a Hugo. I think these awards should go to real short stories that people wrote seriously should get the nod. No offense to John, but I think he got nominated due to his popularity from other books and his blog.

    For those of you talking about Leviathan’s Wake, the pen name for the author is actually for 2 people. One of them is Daniel Abraham. He has some outstanding (and very different) fantasy novels.

  14. Thanks Dave – that’s good to hear. I’m guessing it’s selling pretty well, which is not a surprise since it’s been a fun book to read. It’s also good to hear that there are some novellas planned too. After reading the page or so about Fred Johnson, I remember thinking to myself that it sounded like there was more to his story, and then lo and behold, I noticed that there is a 9000 word short story out there covering the events at Anderson Station

  15. “some people seem disproportionately annoyed that I have a career at all”

    Some of us are even shallower, and are disproportionately annoyed that you haven’t yet topped the cat baconing…

    I really wonder WTF is wrong with me sometimes, as this is not a just or reasonable opinion, but in my dark heart I want more. More what, exactly, I’m not sure.

  16. Truly, Mark’s reading of that delightful piece is stupendous. I think you and he should come on the next JoCo Cruise. You could do an interpretive dance while Mark reads it.

  17. Guess –

    In what way was Shadow War not a “real” short story? In what way is the author’s popularity irrelevant for popular awards (which the Hugos are)?

  18. Maybe not the Hugo, but definitely the Theis .

    And I want the whole trilogy. All 12 books of it.

  19. Humor really is difficult to write. Everyone underestimates it because, when you write humor well, it looks effortless.

  20. Guess:
    “I don’t want to come off as a troll, but I don’t think Shadow Wars should get a Hugo. I think these awards should go to real short stories that people wrote seriously should get the nod. No offense to John, but I think he got nominated due to his popularity from other books and his blog.”

    Shadow Wars is a real short story. It’s got the proper number of words and was written by a real author. Is there some other definition of a real short story that I’m unaware of? (Also, as a bonus, it was written as a serious, if humerous, exercise in writing for a real publication for real money.)

    And my brain is leaking out my ears trying to get around the idea that there’s some kind of problem about a story winning a Hugo due to the author’s “popularity from other books and (a) blog.”

    Does that mean that A Study in Emerald should not have received a Hugo in 2004 because Gaiman was popular and had a popular blog? What about Even the Queen? Willis is arguably one of the most popular writers at WorldCons. Granted she doesn’t have a blog. Funny stories shouldn’t win? But Even the Queen is also an hysterical story.

  21. I voted for it, despite the fact that there are other outstanding stories nominated in that category. Why? Because I think of all the stories in that category, it best accomplished what it appeared to be trying to do. This is not to insult the other stories, which I also believe are very good. It’s just that I appreciate how much craft goes into making something look so vapid and cliched on the surface while actually being funny, very controlled, and even thought-provoking (admittedly, there are points in the story where my thought was along the lines of “how did he DO that?”). And when it came time to vote, it turned out that I valued that craft highly enough to give the story my nod.

    I don’t expect it to win, because there are very good reasons for voting for the other nominees, and I imagine that these reasons may be higher in other voters’ sets of priorities than they were in mine. Which is sort of the point of having a whole bunch of people voting, instead of asking me to assign the awards according to my (most likely) eccentric preferences. (of course, the thing got nominated, so maybe I am not all that eccentric after all . . .)

  22. [Deleted. Sour Tipton, I understand you think you’re being clever, but it’s also clear you’re not thinking very well on the topic of what is clever. The next time you go into the ban queue and you’re not coming out — JS]

  23. Hey John, 5 words: Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny! ;-)
    Looking forward to your acceptance speech!

  24. TSWOTND:BO:TDC:P was a fun read, but after reading the other short stories you linked to in that other post, “Paper Menagerie” would have my vote if I had one. It was an amazing story.

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