Update on the Dragon Awards and Me

First, read this, from Andrew Liptak at the Verge, and make sure you stick around for the M. Night Shyamalan-like twist at the ending, featuring a shocking statement from me!

Also, here is the Dragon Awards’ own statement, re: Alison Littlewood departing from the ballot.

Read them? Okay, then let’s get to the questions.

So, wait, you were going to withdraw from the Dragon Awards but now you’re not?

Yup, that’s basically right.

Why did you change your mind?

Mostly because the administrators asked if I would reconsider.

How did that conversation go?

Me: I’d like to withdraw.

Them: We’d like you to stay. Please?

Me: No.

Them: What if we say, pretty please?

Me: No.

Them: What if we say, pretty please with sugar on top?

Me: Oh, fine.

More seriously, and as noted in the statement I gave to the Verge, the folks at the Dragon Awards suggested they were willing to put in some work to listen and learn, and the honoring of Ms. Littlewood’s withdrawal request and their commitment to rethink aspects of their process was a good first step. Enough that I was willing to reconsider withdrawing from the ballot.

But what about the dudes ginning up the whole “culture war” angle? You said you just couldn’t even with those dudes.

They’re still there and they’re still tiresome, and I’m not really looking forward to that nonsense, but, you know what, fuck it. Here’s the deal: Did you enjoy reading my book? Enough to vote for it over the other works in my particular category? Groovy. Then vote for it. Otherwise, don’t vote for it, please. Repeat with every other work in my category, and so on in the other categories. This is not actually complicated.

(Incidentally, and in case it’s not clear, please don’t paint every other finalist with the “I’m just here for the culture war” brush. I don’t. You can tell which ones are around to gin up a culture war. They’re pretty obvious about it.)

I JUST THINK YOU’RE HELLA INDECISIVE, SCALZI

Seems reasonable and I accept your judgment.

I still have issues with the Dragon Awards.

That’s fair. They’re new and still figuring this out, which is not an excuse but is an explanation. In my discussions with the folks running them, my sense is that they really do want to make the awards something that is viable and useful (and fun) for fans of the genre. They have a lot of work to do (this is, I suspect, in the nature of awards in general). Hopefully they’ll get there. As I noted, some of the steps they’re taking now indicate to me they want to get it right. Your mileage may vary. In the meantime, with this as with anything, you’re perfectly within your rights to have issues and criticism. Fire away.

So are you going to the awards ceremony now?

Nope, I’m still counter-scheduled in Washington DC that weekend.

What if I was going to vote for you but you said not to and I voted for something else?

I mean, that’s on me, isn’t it? So that’s fine. If you voted for something you enjoyed, that’s good enough. I’m okay with other people winning awards I am also up for. I’ve won my fair share over time. It’s nice to win, but it’s nice to see other people win, too. I’ll be no worse off. And then someone else has to worry about how to ship a trophy home. That stuff adds up.

If I wanted to vote, how do I do that?

Here’s the link to register. Anyone with an email address is eligible. And here is the full, updated ballot.

I gotta warn you, I might not vote for you.

Well, you know. I still have to read some of the finalists in my category. If I like them better, I might not vote for me.

Withdrawing From the Dragon Awards, 2017

Update, 8/10/17: I’ve decided to stay on the ballot. Here’s the reasoning.

The other day I announced The Collapsing Empire was a finalist for the Dragon Award in the Best Science Fiction novel category, which was neat. Today, I notified the Dragon Award administrators and let them know I was withdrawing The Collapsing Empire from consideration for the award.

The reason is simple: Some other finalists are trying to use the book and me as a prop, to advance a manufactured “us vs. them” vote-pumping narrative based on ideology or whatever. And I just… can’t. I don’t have the interest and I’m on a deadline, and this bullshit is even more stale and stupid now than it was the several other times it was attempted recently, with regard to genre awards.

My plan was to ignore it, but on further reflection (and further evidence that this nonsense was going to continue through the finalist voting period), I decided this was the better course. To the extent this bullshit manufactured narrative is centered on me, well, now it’s not, as far as these awards are concerned. I’m delighted to be able to chop it off at the knees by removing myself from consideration. I wish the progenitors of this narrative luck; now they will have to compete with the other finalists on the basis of the quality of their work instead. They’re going to need all the help they can get with that.

(Mind you, what I expect is the “us vs. them” folks to try to shift their target to someone else. Because that’s the only trick they know, bless their hearts.)

To be clear, the problem is not with the Dragon Awards or their administrators, the latter of whom have been unfailingly gracious in my communications with them. I wish them all the best with their awards. I encourage people to vote for the awards and for the finalists whose stories move them.

And once more thanks to the folks who nominated The Collapsing Empire for the Dragon Award. I do appreciate the nomination, and the novel making the finalist list. You all made me happy.

The Collapsing Empire a Finalist for the Dragon Award

Which is an award given out at DragonCon. It’s a finalist in the category of Best Science Fiction Novel, which makes perfect sense, really. Here’s the full ballot (there’s more than a dozen categories), and if you’re inspired to vote in one or more of those categories, here’s how you register to do that. As long as you have an email address, you’re eligible to vote. You can vote through August 28th, and the awards will be given out at the convention.

This is actually the second time I’ve been a finalist for a Dragon Award, as I was on the ballot last year for The End of All Things. I declined the slot because I was taking a year off from awards generally, but it’s nice to know my work was remembered again this year. The award has existed for two years, so now my work is 2-for-2 for getting on the ballot. Can’t complain about that.

Thanks to the folks who nominated the book! I’m glad you liked it.

Declining My Dragon Award Nomination

Earlier in the year DragonCon announced they would inaugurate the Dragon Awards, a fan-voted award covering science fiction and fantasy literature, games and media. Last night, the list of nominees was sent out to people who had signed up to nominate and vote for the awards (you can see the full list here) and it turns out that The End of All Things is a nominee in the category of Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel.

I have two thoughts on that:

1. Awesome! I’m thrilled to be nominated and happy enough fans liked the book enough to make it a finalist in this, the inaugural year of the award. That’s very cool, and I am, of course, deeply honored.

2. I have emailed the folks at the Dragon Awards via their Web site requesting to decline the nomination, because as I said in November, I’ve decided to withdraw my 2015 work from award consideration, and The End of All Things was originally published in 2015.

As the Dragon Awards are a new award, I don’t know what their policies are for withdrawing a finalist work; it may be that it’s not possible. If that turns out to be the case, this is me saying I hope those of you who vote for the Dragon Award in that category will consider the other eminently worthy finalist works and authors. There’s good stuff to choose from.

I want to stress that this request for withdrawal should not be construed as an intended slight toward the Dragon Awards — I made my policy about my 2015 works before the Dragon Awards even formally existed. In another year, with another work, I’d be happy to be nominated again for this award. I hope the Dragon Awards are successful this year and enjoy a long run highlighting excellent works in the genre.

To all the other people and works on the finalist lists: Congratulations and the best of luck to you! And to fans: If you’d like to vote for the other finalists for the Dragon Awards, in any category, here’s the link to the award’s home page, where you can sign up to vote. Enjoy!

Shadow War of the Night Dragons Wins Tor.com’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Award

I’m delighted to say that my overt and tasteless vote-mongering campaign involving kittens worked the people have spoken, and they have graced my short story “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” with the laurel of the Tor.com 2011 Readers’ Choice Award, in the category of short fiction. It joins Pat Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear, which strolled away with the Novel category win (Fuzzy Nation, I’ll note, finished in the top ten, which is nice) and other winners as well. Congratulations to all.

And before you ask, no, I will not be employing the Kitten Strategy™ elsewhere. There’s a fine line between silly and obnoxious. The Kitten Strategy™ in this case? Silly and fun. Elsewhere? Obnoxious. If “Shadow War” pops up on any other slates, it will have to do so entirely kitten-free. And you know, I’ll be okay with that.

The 2010 Nebula Awards Nominees

Here’s our official press release. Feel free to post it and otherwise share it.

SFWA Announces 2010 Nebula Awards Nominees

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
P.O. Box 877
Chestertown, MD 21620-0877 

http://www.sfwa.org/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 22, 2011

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is proud to announce the nominees for the 2010 Nebula Awards.

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of SFWA. The awards will be announced at the Nebula Awards Banquet (http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-weekend/) on Saturday evening, May 21, 2011 in the Washington Hilton, in Washington, D.C. Other awards to be presented are the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Science Fiction or Fantasy for Young Adults, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Solstice Award for outstanding contribution to the field.
Short Story

  • ‘‘Arvies’’, Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine 8/10)
  • ‘‘How Interesting: A Tiny Man’’, Harlan Ellison® (Realms of Fantasy 2/10)
  • ‘‘Ponies’’, Kij Johnson (Tor.com 1/17/10)
  • ‘‘I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno’’, Vylar Kaftan (Lightspeed Magazine 6/10)
  • ‘‘The Green Book’’, Amal El-Mohtar (Apex Magazine 11/1/10)
  • ‘‘Ghosts of New York’’, Jennifer Pelland (Dark Faith)
  • ‘‘Conditional Love’’, Felicity Shoulders (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 1/10)

Novelette

  • ‘‘Map of Seventeen’’, Christopher Barzak (The Beastly Bride)
  • ‘‘The Jaguar House, in Shadow’’, Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 7/10)
  • ‘‘The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard van Oost and Oludara’’, Christopher Kastensmidt (Realms of Fantasy 4/10)
  • “Plus or Minus’’, James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine12/10)
  • ‘‘Pishaach’’, Shweta Narayan (The Beastly Bride)
  • ‘‘That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made’’, Eric James Stone (Analog Science Fiction and Fact 9/10)
  • ‘‘Stone Wall Truth’’, Caroline M. Yoachim (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 2/10)

Novella

  • The Alchemist, Paolo Bacigalupi (AudibleSubterranean)
  • ‘‘Iron Shoes’’, J. Kathleen Cheney (Alembical 2)
  • The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
  • ‘‘The Sultan of the Clouds’’, Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 9/10)
  • ‘‘Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance’’, Paul Park (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 1-2/10)
  • ‘‘The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window’’, Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine Summer ’10)

Novel

  • The Native Star, M.K. Hobson (Spectra)
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit UK; Orbit US)
  • Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • Echo, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
  • Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)
  • Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis (Spectra)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Despicable Me, Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud (directors), Ken Daurio & Cinco Paul (screenplay), Sergio Pablos (story) (Illumination Entertainment)
  • Doctor Who: ‘‘Vincent and the Doctor’’, Richard Curtis (writer), Jonny Campbell (director)
  • How to Train Your Dragon, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders (directors), William Davies, Dean DeBlois, & Chris Sanders (screenplay) (DreamWorks Animation)
  • Inception, Christopher Nolan (director), Christopher Nolan (screenplay) (Warner)
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright (director), Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright (screenplay) (Universal)
  • Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich (director), Michael Arndt (screenplay), John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, & Lee Unkrich (story) (Pixar/Disney)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
  • White Cat, Holly Black (McElderry)
  • Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press; Scholastic UK)
  • Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, Barry Deutsch (Amulet)
  • The Boy from Ilysies, Pearl North (Tor Teen)
  • I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett (Gollancz; Harper)
  • A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
  • Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster UK)

For more information, visit http://www.sfwa.org/
Postal queries to: P.O. Box 877, Chestertown, MD 21620-0877

About SFWA

Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Since its inception, SFWA® has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers’ organizations in existence, boasting a membership of approximately 1,800 science fiction and fantasy writers as well as artists, editors and allied professionals.  Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

2017 Top Ten Whatever Posts + Social Media Stats

It was an interesting year on Whatever, in terms of visitorship. As I noted in early July, visitorship to Whatever — as in people actually clicking through to the front page of the site — has undergone a collapse this year. I speculated as to why at the link, so if you’re interested in that, check it out there, but the relevant bit now is that I estimated in July I would end up with about 4 million visits to the site in 2017. As of right this minute (6:18 am, 12/28/17), Whatever’s visitorship for the year is: 4,110,902. Right in line with my expectations (also, to be pedantically clear, “visits” here means page views, not unique vistors).

Am I worried? Well, no. One, four million visits in a year to a personal site is still nothing to sneeze at. Two, many of the people who would have visited the site directly are now having the content being served to them via other means, including 28,500 who follow me on WordPress, 12K or so on Feedly, and so on. The reach of the site’s content still appears to be chugging along nicely — how people get it seems to be changing considerably, here in these late days of 2017.

The drop in direct visitors to the site also means that the most visited pieces on the site were not new pieces, but archived posts; only one of the top ten most visited pieces from 2017 was from this year: “2017, Word Counts and Writing Process.” This is very unusual. Usually the top ten is roughly half new stuff, half archives.

With that said, here are the top ten pieces written in 2017:

I will note that there is a very high correlation between the most visited pieces on the site this year and my linking to it on other social media, most notably Twitter. Twitter and Facebook are also consistently the top non-search-related sites (by far) for referrals to my site. This strongly suggests something I’ve long suspected, which is that Twitter and Facebook have at this point largely consumed and digested the former blogosphere, enough so that at this point, I wonder if I should even call Whatever a “blog” anymore. The name is beginning to get a fusty smell to it. There’s irony here, as I for many years resisted calling Whatever a “blog” at all. I would be okay with simply calling it my “site.”

(I still strongly believe creative people should keep their own sites as a way of controlling their own content, and to have a place online that’s not directly predicated on someone else mining it just to sell things to you and everyone else. But no need to get into that in detail right now.)

Speaking of Twitter, while Whatever is and will always be my home, Twitter is currently where I have the largest reach. I have 133,760 followers, up 22,431 from this time last year, and my tweets there garnered 268.9 million impressions, which is up rather substantially from last year’s 177.5 million (I tweeted 17,059 times, some two thousand fewer tweets than last year). I will miss it when it is gone and sold for parts, which at the rate it is going should be sometime in 2018. My Facebook fan page is also up, to 20.5k (from 18k), so that’s nice too. But really, for me, Twitter is where it’s at, social media-wise.

My goals for 2018? For Twitter, it’s mostly to keep doing what I’m doing over there; it seems to be working for me just fine. For Whatever, my plan here is to post maybe a little more. I posted 452 entries here this year, but a lot of them were Big Idea and “New Books” posts, which while popular and informative, aren’t really precisely from me. Personal pieces were fewer this year, I think mostly because I was in a bit of a writing funk (part of being in a general funk, of which I will speak more in a later post). Being in a bit of a writing funk wasn’t a good thing for me in general. Writing more usually improves my mood. So maybe writing more here will be a thing I do. I like Whatever having more whatever. We’ll see.

Gum on the Shoe of History, or, Why the Hugos Are Still Not Destroyed

Before I get into the post-mortem of 2016’s Hugo Awards that I promised, let me first say that the award that made me happiest was Naomi Kritzer winning the Best Short Story Hugo for “Cat Pictures Please.” Naomi and I go waaaaaaay back — if she was not actually the first person I knew in science fiction genre circles (and I think she was), then she’s certainly one of first three or four. She’s always been one of the best of people, to me and to others in the field, and a consistently wonderful writer. We came up in the field together, and to see her work get recognition makes me immensely happy, and even more happy for her. As you can see, she looks pretty pleased herself. And, well. She deserves to be. Good story, great person.

Now, for some other stuff about the Hugos, and this year’s set of nonsense.

As you may recall, once again this year Theodore Beale (aka “Vox Day”), in his guise as the ringleader of the Rabid Puppies, tried to hijack the Hugo Awards via slates dictated by him, nominated by minions. Last year Beale, along with Brad Torgersen, who administered the Sad Puppy variant of this nonsense, engaged in simple cronyism and/or favor-currying, with a couple of unwitting human shields thrown into the mix. That didn’t work out so great for them, so this year Beale asked himself “what would Xanatos do” and came up with a three-prong strategy:

a) Put people and works that were already popular on his slate so he could claim credit for their success when they won, regardless of the fact those people/works would likely be on the ballot anyway;

b) Comb through the Locus recommended reading list for the year and nominate people Beale suspected the people he hates would want to vote for, i.e., more human shields, just a slightly different strategy;

c) The usual cronyism of pals and/or work and people he published through his personal micro-press.

Plus there was homoerotic writer Chuck Tingle, whom Beale slated for the lulz.

(The Sad Puppies, the originators of the nonsense Beale sucked himself onto like a tick, were largely a non-factor this year, which is probably better for them in the long run. They’re now all in for the brand-new Dragon Awards, administered by DragonCon, and you know what? Good for them. I wish the Dragon Awards every possible success, and independent of that, if the Sad Puppies want to focus on them instead of the Hugos, I wish them absolute joy in the work.)

So, how did this particular strategy work for Beale? Well, of course, poorly. The stuff that was obvious cronyism mostly ended up below “No Award” in just about every category, again, for the third year running. In the cases of the human shields and the already popular nominees, Hugo voters simply ignored the fact Beale slated them. In the case of the latter, no one sensible believes that folks like Neil Gaiman, Andy Weir or Neal Stephenson would willingly associate themselves with a minor racist shit-stirrer, and in the case of the former, Beale’s obvious assumption that the people he classifies as SJWs would explode with cognitive dissonance when he put people/work on his slate that they’d otherwise want to vote for (“I want to vote for it! But I can’t now because it’s on a slate! Nooooooooo!”) is predicated on the idea that these folks are the strawmen he’s created in what passes for his mind. They’re not; they knew what was up, and they largely decided to ignore his master strategy.

And then there was Chuck Tingle, who, when he found out what was going on, trolled Beale so long and so hard and with such obvious glee that it became an enduring thing of joy. Rather than being appalled that Tingle had been nominated, the Worldcon community largely embraced him (or whoever Tingle is; no one is really sure). Here was someone who was nominated by a bigot to antagonize other people, who instead allied himself with those folks and was appreciated by them in return.

Did stuff on the slates win? Yup: The stuff that could have won anyway, and the stuff that had merit despite Beale’s cynical attempt to make other people run away from it. Nothing that won, won because it was on his slate. At best (for Beale) it won despite being on his slate, an assertion we can infer from the performance of everything on the slate that fit into category c); again, nearly every crony nomination finished below “No Award” in the voting. An active association with Beale is, bluntly, death for your Hugo award chances. I mean, it takes a lot for someone as esteemed in the field as Jerry Pournelle to finish below “No Award” in Hugo voting, and yet, there he is, sixth in a field of five in the category of Best Editor, Short Form.

But that’s a sign of bias! It most certainly is. For three years Beale, with or without assistance, has been placing mediocre to awful work on the Hugo ballots; for much longer than that Beale has been a racist, a sexist, and a homophobe. The Beale brand, earned through time and repetition, is “graspingly untalented bigot.” And of course Beale knows this, the poor bastard, which is why he tried to drag down actually talented people and their good work by attempting to associate his brand with them. That didn’t work (because again people aren’t stupid), but if you actually intentionally attach yourself to the Beale brand? Then, yes, “associates with a graspingly untalented bigot” is now part of your brand, too. If it’s powerful enough to drag down Jerry Pournelle, a man of no uncertain talent and accomplishment who does in fact deserve better than to finish below “No Award,” think what it’ll do to you.

Beale has stated, in a pathetically grandiose fashion that belies the limit of his actual ability to affect the world at large, that his intention is to “destroy the Hugos.” He’s failed spectacularly three years running. In the years of his effort the Hugos winners have, in point of fact and entirely independent of his efforts, highlighted the immense diversity of talent currently operating in the field. Beale publicly flatters himself, as he publicly flatters himself in all things, as somehow being a prime mover in these events. What Beale is really doing at this point is trying to mitigate his own inability to have the status and influence he assumed would be his, by pathetically attempting to shoehorn himself into the history of others who have done more, and better, than he has. If he can’t be the hero, and at this point it’s become clear he can’t, then he’ll settle for being the footnote — the gum on the shoe of someone else’s long walk to esteem.

Here’s the thing about that. See my friend Naomi up there? She was nominated for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award along with the Hugo. At no point does the story of Naomi Kritzer — her talent, her ability, her recognition for her work — rely on Beale in any way. If he didn’t exist, she’d have been on the ballot anyway. At no point does the story of Nnedi Okorafor, who won the novella Hugo, rely on him either. Or Andy Weir’s. Or Neil Gaiman’s. Or Ellen Datlow’s or Shelia Gilbert’s or N.K. Jemisin’s — Jemisin, who Beale has repeatedly targeted for blatant overt hatred because of who she is, and who has accomplished so many things he hasn’t and is likely never to — all without reference to him. Nora, her talent, her work and her recognition, exist without him, thrive without him, impress without his approval, don’t need him and never will.

Five years from now, few people will remember, and even fewer will care, about the nonsense Beale and his pals kicked up; hell, last year, the crest of the Puppy nonsense, is already mostly remembered with rolled eyes and a “well, that happened” mutter. Ten years from now, only academics and true Worldcon nerds will think about it at all. But Naomi and Nora and Nnedi and Neil and everyone else who won a Hugo this weekend will still have had their moment of deserved recognition, and god willing will still be at it, making work and finding their audiences. They will continue to create and build and make science fiction and fantasy a genre worth reading and thinking about, and will probably do so for decades.

And none of it will be about Beale at all.

The 2019 Hugo Award Finalists

Here they are! I have a ton of friends in here, and I’m thrilled for them all. I hope I will see them in Dublin this August!

Best Novel

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
  • Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Novella

  • Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press / JABberwocky Literary Agency)

Best Novelette

  • “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
  • “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com, 11 July 2018)
  • “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, 19 September 2018)
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)
  • “When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)

Best Short Story

  • “The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
  • “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
  • “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
  • “STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)
  • “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)
  • “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)

Best Series

  • The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)
  • Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)
  • The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)
  • Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work

  • Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
  • Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee (Dey Street Books)
  • The Hobbit Duology (documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan (YouTube)
  • An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953- 2000, by Jo Walton (Tor)
  • http://www.mexicanxinitiative.com: The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 (Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, John Picacio)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon (Tin House Books)

Best Graphic Story

  • Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)
  • Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden (First Second)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Annihilation, directed and written for the screen by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer (Paramount Pictures / Skydance)
  • Avengers: Infinity War, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Studios)
  • Black Panther, written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler (Marvel Studios)
  • A Quiet Place, screenplay by Scott Beck, John Krasinski and Bryan Woods, directed by John Krasinski (Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night)
  • Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley (Annapurna Pictures)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate,” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Penguin in a Parka / Alcon Entertainment)
  • Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab,” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs (BBC)
  • Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning (Wondaland Arts Society / Bad Boy Records / Atlantic Records)
  • The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)
  • The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy,” written by Megan Amram, directed by Trent O’Donnell (NBC)
  • Doctor Who: “Rosa,” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai (BBC)

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Lee Harris
  • Julia Rios
  • Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
  • E. Catherine Tobler

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Anne Lesley Groell
  • Beth Meacham
  • Diana Pho
  • Gillian Redfearn
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Jaime Jones
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Yuko Shimizu
  • Charles Vess

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • Fireside Magazine, edited by Julia Rios, managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, social coordinator Meg Frank, special features editor Tanya DePass, founding editor Brian White, publisher and art director Pablo Defendini
  • FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, executive editors Troy L. Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders, editors L.D. Lewis, Brandon O’Brien, Kaleb Russell, Danny Lore, and Brent Lambert
  • Shimmer, publisher Beth Wodzinski, senior editor E. Catherine Tobler
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, Vanessa Rose Phin, Vajra Chandrasekera, Romie Stott, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons Staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine

  • Galactic Journey, founder Gideon Marcus, editor Janice Marcus
  • Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
  • Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay & Susan
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, editors Joe Sherry, Vance Kotrla and The G
  • Quick Sip Reviews, editor Charles Payseur
  • Rocket Stack Rank, editors Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

Best Fancast

  • Be the Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, hosted by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, hosted by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
  • Our Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show, produced by Jen Zink and Shaun Duke, hosted by the Skiffy and Fanty Crew

Best Fan Writer

  • Foz Meadows
  • James Davis Nicoll
  • Charles Payseur
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist

  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Meg Frank
  • Ariela Housman
  • Likhain (Mia Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth

Best Art Book

  • The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press /Gollancz)
  • Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon, by Julie Dillon (self-published)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer (Ten Speed Press)
  • Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, ed. John Fleskes (Flesk Publications)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The Art of the Movie, by Ramin Zahed (Titan Books)
  • Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, ed. Catherine McIlwaine (Bodleian Library)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Katherine Arden (2nd year of eligibility)
  • S.A. Chakraborty (2nd year of eligibility)
  • R.F. Kuang (1st year of eligibility)
  • Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Rivers Solomon (2nd year of eligibility)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)
  • Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)
  • Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
  • The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)
  • Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)

The Big Idea: Alethea Kontis

In When Tinker Met Bell, Alethea Kontis is working in the universe of another author. How does she do it? As it happens, she drew inspiration from another universe entirely, one she visits once a year.

ALETHEA KONTIS:

In 1996, fresh out of college with a Chemistry degree and absolutely no idea what to do with the rest of my life, the manager of the Waldenbooks where I worked convinced me to accompany her to my very first SF convention. It was called “DragonCon.”

Jennifer Kelley changed my life that year.

There, among the misfits and geeks from all walks of life, I found my tribe. Publishers, authors, artists, actors, and everyone in between—our common ground was that we just loved being fans. As DragonCon grew, I grew with it, evolving from t-shirt wearing fangirl to tiara-wearing professional. Every Labor Day weekend, Atlanta, Georgia is my home away from home. There, I am Katniss. I am the Anarchy Cheerleader. I am the Princess. I am Wonder Woman.

Fast forward to 2015. My friend, neighbor, and fellow writing group member Kristen Painter has this series called Nocturne Falls. They are sweet (read: no sex), funny paranormal romances, set in a small town in Georgia where it’s Halloween 365 days a year, to mask the fact that vampires and werewolves and witches really exist. (The first book—The Vampire’s Mail-Order Bride—is permafree across all platforms, if you’d like to check it out.) The first handful of Kristen’s books sold so well that she just couldn’t write them fast enough to satisfy her fans. So she set up her own publishing company and graciously selected a few authors to play in her universe.

I was one of the chosen few.

Now, I’ve worked in other worlds before. The Dark-Hunter Companion I wrote with Sherrilyn Kenyon hit the New York Times list back in 2007…and then the Dark-Hunters got so tangled up in movie contracts and rights grabs that I wasn’t able to work with Sherri again until a decade later. Last year, I dipped my toe into the Kindle World IP of another local writer, Roxanne St. Claire. The contemporary romance novella I set in her Barefoot Bay was so good, my editor told me to change nothing. (This never happens.) But the book released last October, right before the election, and subsequently got buried.

I would be an idiot to try this again, right?

Only…I know Nocturne Falls. Once a year, I essentially live there.

I know what it’s like to get up every morning and put on a costume and glitter and go to work. I know the pain of the ill-fitting tiara and the 12-hour corset. (I know to never sacrifice your feet, no matter how cute the shoes are.) I have hosted sideshows and walked in parades. I know how it feels to have a crush on someone in costume, without any idea who they are in “real” life. I know how freeing it is to dance your face off at a rave while standing between a fairy, a stormtrooper, and a guy in BDSM gear.  I know how easy it is to almost step on a camouflaged Carpet Commando, and how jealous I am of every person who gets to drive Ecto-1.

And because I was raised at DragonCon, many of the staff and volunteers and track directors are like family to me now. The microcosm of ODCers (Original DragonCon) has much of that small-town vibe about it. We follow each other on Facebook, mourn pets, see children start new years at school, and exchange holiday cards. We hug each other when we can at con, exchange gifts, and then go to work entertaining the tourists and looky-loos. We name awards after each other when we die.

I know these things. And everyone tells us that we’re supposed to write what we know. So I accepted Kristen’s offer.

The Truth About Cats and Wolves debuted in the first Nocturne Falls Universe launch. I made sure a few of Kristen’s characters appeared as cameos, but mostly I stayed in my wheelhouse. I kept the characters YA, because I will always be YA at heart. I made my heroine a Greek girl whose magically-inclined parents work at the best diner in town. Again, not so much of a stretch for me. And then I gave Kai a best friend named Bellamy Larousse, a happy-go-lucky, over-the-top southern belle cheerleader who also happened to be a barista…and a fairy with giant wings.

I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted my follow-up book to be called When Tinker Met Bell. Happily, my first book performed well enough to get me invited back.

R.L. Stine is the only other author I know who comes up with a title before plotting out any of the book. But I did have a few other tidbits in mind. Like, Bellamy was a terminally optimistic fairy, so Tinker would have to be a pessimistic goblin. And despite the fact that goblins and fairies can’t be friends, Tinker and Bell make it work anyway. My story would feature large helpings of Shakespeare (star-crossed lovers, you know), Dungeons & Dragons, and Labyrinth. But unlike Sarah, Bellamy would get her Goblin Prince, come hell or high water.

Because that is what we nerds do when we get the chance: we rewrite history.

Well, my history, anyway, the one with Yule Balls and Robot Wars, parades and masquerades. Because this is the world I know. And in my world, everyone—every misfit, misplaced geek who comes to town—deserves a happy ending.

Even more, we deserve to have one heck of an adventure getting there.

—-

When Tinker Met Bell: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo

Hear an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

The 2016 Audie Award Finalists for Fantasy

The Audie Awards are the big award in audio books, celebrating both the words of the author and the performances of the readers. Having won this award myself with Wil Wheaton, I can assure you it’s a thrill to be a finalist with your audiobook reader and even more fun to win.

This year I’m delighted to announce the Audie Award Finalists for 2016 in the category of Fantasy. That’s right! You’re reading it here first!

If for some reason you can’t read the graphic above, the finalists are:

  • Ascension: The Trymoon Saga, by Brain K. Fuller, read by Simon Vance
  • The Cycle of Arawn, by Edward W. Robertson, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin, read by Robin Miles
  • Nice Dragons Finish Last, by Rachel Aaron, read by Vikas Adam
  • Son of the Black Sword, by Larry Correia, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds

Winners will be recognized at the Audies Gala in Chicago on May 11, 2016.

Congratulations and good luck to all of the finalists!

Final(ish) Notes on Hugos and Puppies, 2015 Edition

(Warning: Hugo neepery, possibly the last of the season. Avoid if you don’t care.)

It’s late, and I’m experiencing a bit of insomnia, so, hello, now that I’m home, here are some disjointed thoughts about the Hugo results and the post-award freakout about them that the Puppies appear to be having at the moment.

1. What did the 2015 Hugos teach us? Well, basically that slates are the fucking kiss of death, Hugo-wise. If you create them, it kills your credibility with the voters; if you’re on them, it kills your chances of winning — indeed, it kills your chances of winding up above “No Award,” unless you happen to be a movie that grossed $775 million worldwide. The moral of the story really is: Slates! Not even once!

Have the various Puppies learned this very simple and obvious lesson? Apparently not, since the response from those quarters appears to be “We just didn’t slate hard enough! We’ll be back next year and we’ll slate even harder!” Which, well, you know. Bless their hearts.

The Puppies’ problem is that, inasmuch as everyone now knows being on a slate is a hard and fast ride south of the “No Award” line, it will be very difficult for them to find anyone who is genuinely award-caliber who would want to be on their future slates. My understanding is the Sad Puppies, at least, plan to solve this problem by not actually alerting their future sub-No Award victims that they’re going to be on the slate before the slate is announced. Given what we know of the results of slating at this point, if they go ahead and follow through on this plan, it’ll be a monumental asshole move on their part.

2. The Puppies continue to appear genuinely flummoxed that the Hugo voters rejected everything and everyone they slated (except Guardians of the Galaxy, which as previously noted they can hardly take credit for), arguing on one memorable occasion that if The Three Body Problem, the eventual best novel Hugo winner, had been on the slates, it would have finished below “No Award,” thus proving the bankruptcy of voting for “No Award” in the first place.

This is a bit like saying that if the person who didn’t get on the bus you then proceeded to drive off a cliff were on the bus, they would probably be dead now — it’s trivially true, but misses the point that you drove the bus off the cliff. The Puppies knew that slating was anathema to the large mass of Hugo voters — they had a dry run the year before, proffering a limited slate with Sad Puppies 2, and saw their nominees largely finish in fifth place or below “No Award” — but they did it anyway and now want to be shocked, shocked that their antics predictably resulted in their nominees doing very poorly indeed.

The going line in those quarters at the moment is that the blanket “No Award” just proves the Hugo Awards are corrupt. Well, no, that’s stupid. What the blanket “No Award” judgment shows is that the large mass of Hugo voters don’t like people trying to game the system for their own reasons that are largely independent of actual quality of work. In the Sad Puppy case the reasons were to vent anger and frustration at having not been given awards before, and for Brad Torgersen to try to boost his own profile as a tastemaker by nominating his pals (with a few human shields thrown in). In the Rabid Puppy case it was because Vox Day is an asshole who likes being an asshole to other people. And in both cases there was a thin candy shell of “Fuck the SJWs” surrounding the whole affair.

The shorter version of the above: You can’t game the system and then complain that people counteracting your gaming of the system goes to show the system is gamed. Or you can, but no one is obliged to take you seriously when you do.

3. And did the Puppy nominees deserve better than to be consistently slated below “No Award”? Surely some of them did, in my opinion. I myself put several slated nominees above “No Award” because, consistent with my stated philosophy on these things, I thought they were deserving nominees and I didn’t want to penalize them simply because they were (largely) being used as unwilling pawns by jerks. But as I’ve also said elsewhere, voting against all the slated nominees was a perfectly valid action, if you believe slating is in itself inherently inimical to the Hugo awarding process. It turns out a lot of people decided that was a thing they needed to do.

And yes, that sucked for a number of nominees who got put on the slates either unawares or not fully briefed on the heavily-politicized aspects of the slate (not to mention the fact that they would also in many cases be unwittingly associated with the bigoted shitheel who used the Sad Puppy slate like a parasitic wasp uses the hollowed-out husk of a tarantula). They deserved better than to be used, and I hope many of them realize that their ranking below “No Award” was not a reflection on them personally, but was instead a referendum on the mechanism of slating for the award. Many of them deserved to be Hugo nominees for their work, and I suspect they will be again, although hopefully not on a slate.

(But then there were the ones who didn’t deserve to be Hugo nominees, in my opinion, and/or the ones who were just assholes regarding the awards, the people voting for them and the entire process. With regard to these folks, fuck ’em. I didn’t have a problem in the slightest ranking them below “No Award,” and I won’t have a problem doing it again, should they ever slime their way back onto the ballot.)

4. With the exception of Vox Day and a few of his pals, who were just straight-up assholes, I feel a small bit of pity for the Puppies. I don’t think they actually knew what they wanted out of this whole mess, and I still don’t think they know. Yes, they can vomit up astounding amounts of wounded verbiage about SJWs and conspiracies and blue collar cracking good tales with their nuggety nugget-ness or whatever. But their love-hate act with the Hugos and everyone one else voting on them was just incoherent. It didn’t help that pretty much every argument they offered for their slating action was shoddily-constructed and easily disprovable, based largely on conspiracy thinking or assertions that could have their feet kicked out from under them by a trip to Wikipedia. Which didn’t keep them from offering them over and over. Epistemic closure was not the Puppies’ friend.

In the end, the meat of the Sad Puppy argument was “Brad wants to nominate his friends so let’s fix that and we do mean fix,” and the meat of the Rabid Puppy argument was “Ha ha ha fuck you and also buy Castalia House product oh God I’m still a failure in life aren’t I.” These arguments were painfully obvious, and not easily swept aside by the interrelated Puppy camps’ poor arguments or resentment-laden rhetoric. This is why, aside from the fundamental problems with slating, which were considerable, very few people outside the Puppy camps were persuaded by them.

5. And also, you know. The Puppies acted like jerks the whole way through, which is another, uh, questionable tactic. Look: even if the Puppies weren’t largely slating friends and/or work from their own publishing houses, and then trying to justify those choices by creating a conspiracy of liberals arrayed against them, the fact that largely every bit of rhetoric coming out of their quarters could best be described as “high screech attack” was not going to make them friends with the general Hugo voting electorate, and isn’t making them friends in the aftermath, either.

What’s the deal? Vox Day is a grasping sociopath, in my opinion, so that’s that. But the rest of them? It’s been suggested that in the case of Brad Torgersen, at least, this is an intentional career move, being unpleasant to “liberals” (which in this case seems to mean anyone outside the Puppy camp) to help lock in a conservative audience. And, I guess, maybe? But I know a lot of conservatives — no, really — and as a class they have no higher percentage of jerk among them than does any other political stripe. Catering to the conservative jerk audience seems like aiming fairly low. And in any event, I don’t see the Puppy phenomenon as really being about conservatism so much as being about other things, with conservatism (or reactionary nonsense) thrown on top to mask and/or justify the actions.

But other people were jerks to the Puppies! you might say. Well yes, many people were. But those people were not attempting to argue for the validity of slating or of specific nominees to a vast number of voters. Leaving aside the schoolyard logic of “they were mean too,” it’s not actually smart, when you are trying to convince people to take your slate and nominees seriously, to shit all over them and the awards they care about, for months on end. They should try not doing that. That’s, like, basic marketing.

6. That said, I think it’s too late to change the Puppy brand. This was the third year of the campaign and the second year that it incorporated Vox Day, bigot — and the year that Vox Day actually ended up controlling the Puppy brand and using it for his own goals, much to the unconvincing, backtracking “he’s not with us” surprise of the Sads. Now when the general population thinks of “Puppies” in the context of the Hugos, sad or rabid, they’re thinking of bigoted self-promoters pushing questionable work. Is that fair? It’s totally fair to some of the Puppies, not to others, and far less fair to the people who might be put on the slates in future years without their knowledge or against their will.

And again: Who on Earth at this point would choose to be on a Hugo slate? Either people who crave a nomination by any means necessary, which is tantamount to admitting one cannot get on the ballot any other way, or people who want to get on the slate only to block other people from being on the slate. In other words: The talentless and the assholes. Anyone who wants an actual shot at the award will do their damnedest to stay off a slate — any slate, but especially a Puppy slate, which now has a certain whiff of anger, resentment and most of all failure about it.

7. Will the primary Puppies suffer for their participation in slating? In terms of selling books, I suspect not. The vast majority of book readers neither know nor care about the inside pool of the Hugo Awards and apparently contrary to some beliefs, no author has sole claim over their readers. The overlap in readership between me and Larry Correia, for example, is probably not trivial, and it would be silly for either of us to claim those readers as “ours” exclusively, or to expect them to know or care about any of this. Likewise the very silly attempt to paint Baen and Tor as opposing camps, which again most readers don’t know about and wouldn’t care about even if they did (also, the recent attempt by the Puppies to claim Dragon*Con as their home turf seems, well, ambitious). Will Brad and Larry lose readers who might otherwise have given them a shot? Sure. And so will I, and as will a few other writers too. We’ll also gain some readers. Overall it’ll be wash.

Reputations among fandom? Well, it’s pretty clear that the fandom that votes for Hugos, at least, is not pleased with the Puppies. But in this matter the Puppies are correct: The Worldcon-attending fans are only a small slice of fandom in general. There is lots of fandom, and audience, to go around. Contrary to some heightened rhetoric out there, it seems very unlikely that anyone’s being run out of town on a rail, no matter how much being run out of town might fulfill their persecution complex.

8. So what happens next year with the Hugos? Well, the Puppies have already declared that they will be back, so there’s that. The difference between next year and this last one, however, is the nearly 6,000 people who voted for the Hugos, only a small minority of which are Puppy-affiliated. If next year’s Worldcon folks are doing their job, they’ll attempt to make sure a sizable portion of this year’s voters will nominate next year as well, in all categories. The more people who nominate, the less successful slating by anyone will be, including the Puppies. And I expect people are motivated to nominate next year in any event.

So, while I expect slating, I don’t expect slates to dominate categories like they did this year. I suspect we’ll see a couple of nominations in each category being slate nominations, with the rest hitting the ballot by normal means. I likewise expect that slated nominees will continue to be punished, although possibly not to the extent of this year. I imagine at least one of the “anti-slating” proposals will be enacted for 2017, which should cut down on this specific nonsense, but don’t kid yourself that it will reduce gaming the system entirely. I expect the Puppies will continue to grump about how awful everyone else is to them, because they like feeling, evidence to the contrary, that they are being persecuted for something (aside from being jerks, that is).

Which is not to say people should relax about this. Hell, no. If you have a the ability, then nominate, damn you. In every category.

9. On a personal note, it’s been observed that if the Puppy slate nominees had not been around, my novel Lock In would have made the Hugo ballot this year. People have been curious if I feel like I was cheated out of a rightful spot in the limelight.

In a word: No. For one thing, I’m not sure you can say that if there was no Puppy campaign that all the categories would have sussed out exactly as they would if you simply eliminate the Puppy nominees. Also, I think it’s possible that some Puppy nominees could have gotten onto the ballot on their own steam — in the novel category Chuck Gannon has been nominated for a Nebula two times running, so I think he could have had a decent chance at the Hugo. Likewise Annie Bellet and Kary English I think might have made splashes under their own power (as examples). So I don’t see it as a given I would have been on the final ballot, regardless.

For another thing, dudes, I already have a Best Novel Hugo. One of the nice things about having one of those is that it takes the pressure off, you know? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t mind getting some more Hugo nominations, and it’s always nice to take home the hardware. But if I never win another Hugo in my life I am fine. I have three, including the one (fairly or unfairly) considered “the big one.” I’m good.

Note my sanguine feelings about not making the ballot are not necessarily shared by others who finished under the cutoff, who might feel that otherwise they’d have been nominees. But for myself, meh.

10. As a final note, while I am opposed to slating, and I think the whining and self-justification and more than occasional spite that foamed out of the Puppy camp was and is childish and silly, I am 100% behind the idea that people who believe that the type of science fiction or fantasy they love is not represented at the Hugos, should participate in and vote for the awards. They should do it like everyone else does, which is to say, by voting their own choices, not the choices of someone else who has constructed a slate of nominees for reasons.

If every Puppy did that rather than voted a slate, you’d not hear a peep out of me. Their ballots would reflect their own individual tastes, which might not be mine (although you never know!), but you know what? That’s fine. Honestly, it is.

Ditch the slate, vote your taste. Really, it’s just that simple.

Human Shields, Cabals and Poster Boys

I’m awake too early to leave for the airport but too late to go back to sleep, so as long as I’m up, some additional thoughts on the recent Hugo-related drama.

* I’m feeling increasingly sorry for the nominees on the Hugo award ballot who showed up on either Puppy slate but who aren’t card-carrying Puppies themselves, since they are having to deal with an immense amount of splashback not of their own making. And to this you may say, well, but the Puppies maintain that everyone on their slate was notified, so they knew what they were getting into. But as it turns out, we know that at least some of the people on the Puppy slates weren’t contacted before the nominations came out — see Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Magazine on this — so this is not a 100% sure thing.

Also, let me suggest that when Brad Torgersen (or whomever) went off notifying people of their presence on the slate, he probably did not lead with “Hi, would you like to be part of a slate of nominees whose organizers whine darkly and incessantly about the nefarious conspiracies of the evil social justice warriors to infiltrate all levels of science fiction, and which will also implictly tie you and your work to at least one completely bigoted shitmagnet of a human being?” Rather more likely he played up the “we’re trying to get stuff on the ballot we think is cool that doesn’t usually get on it” angle and downplayed, you know, that other stuff.

And you might think, well, how can you miss that other stuff? The short answer to that is that, as difficult as it might seem, not everyone actually spends a lot of time following the Hugo and the controversies therein. It was, until very recently, kind of an insider sport. So it’s possible to have missed this stuff and/or not fully grasped the implications of it until after the awards came out. Not for me, clearly, and possibly not for you. But it is possible.

It’s difficult to miss them now, of course. But this increases my sympathy for these nominees. The whole reason the Puppies are so transparently covetous of the Hugos is that they are a big deal in a (relatively) small community. So imagine being part of this community, being told that you’ve gotten a Hugo nomination, and then finding out that there’s this metric load of toxicity around it, manufactured by the people who got you the ballot — or at least claim that they did.

It’s easy to say, well, they should just withdraw. Speaking as a past Hugo nominee, I’m here to tell you that the emotions around that decision are likely not to be that simple, especially because at least some of that work and some of those people are (in my opinion) deserving of the sort of recognition the Hugos offer.

Thus the irony of this being an excellent year not to be on the Hugo ballot, because you get to pass on the entire shitshow around it. To be clear, some of the nominees affirmatively signed up for a shitshow, hoped for a shitshow and are now reveling in the shitshow that’s happening. That’s their karma. Give some thought to the ones who didn’t sign on for it, or might have not fully realized that it was coming. I think of them as the human shields of the Puppy campaigns. Personally, I’m cutting them a bit of slack.

* Matthew Foster, husband of the late and missed Eugie Foster, has a nice two-part recap of the Puppies situation (1, 2) and the personalities involved on the Puppies lists, and makes a cogent observation about the Puppy assertion of a SJW cabal, which is that it’s complete nonsense:

Eugie and I were acquainted with, or friends with most of the people the Puppies point out as leftist leaders. We were both directors at Dragon Con, just about the biggest genre convention around, and know the organizers of many other conventions. Eugie was a Nebula winner, female, and Asian American. Trust me Puppies, if there was an organized society or just a clique working against you, we’d have been in it.

Yes, this. The entire paranoid theory of a social justice warrior cabal is predicated on the rather narcissistic hypothesis the Puppies have that those they see having opposing political and social view spend countless hours thinking of ways to thwart politically conservative writers and keep them off award ballots, for reasons.

Speaking as someone who the Puppies have a rather disturbing hate-boner for (yeah, I know, think how I feel about it) and who is certainly a high poobah of whatever cabal they imagine: Honestly, who has time for that? I’m busy enough! Thwarting the careers of people I don’t know or care about is not actually high on my list of things to do, be they conservative or otherwise. The idea I am going to take any time out of my schedule to do that is ridiculous. I barely have time for people I like.

But look at these statistics that show — show! — that Scalzi and Charles Stross gamed the Hugos! (Yes, this is an actual thing.) Dudes. You give me soooooo much more credit for personal industry, and also, you don’t know how to read the numbers. I mean, I get it: When you want to do something obnoxious in furtherance of your own personal agenda, you want to be able to say other people did it first; when you want to front a slate of nominations with an explicit sociopolitical goal, you want to assert that you’re just doing what other people have already done. You want to posit bad behavior to rationalize your own, as if other people being assholes excuses you being one, too. But there is no SJW cabal, and this is on you.

Saying there’s no cabal is just what a cabal member would say! Well, yes.

* Continuing the personal aspect of this, it’s been noted by several that the Puppies have a rather unseemly interest in me: I’m accused of creating my own slates (I didn’t), of gaming the Hugos in some manner (I haven’t) and Redshirts is used as an example of how the SJW cabal is secretly controlling the Hugo voting, because how else could a bestselling, widely-liked book by a well-known author who had nine previous Hugo nominations and a Campbell Award possibly have taken an award in a popular contest? It beggars the mind, people. The idea that this particular book, by a straight white male, that might not even pass the Bechdel Test, is somehow the perfect vehicle for an SJW cabal Hugo win is its own case study in just how poorly constructed the logical underpinnings of the “SJW Cabal” hypothesis really are.

These accusations are generally accompanied by a rather lot of spittle, enough so that people are beginning to mock the Puppies for it; the best joke of this I’ve seen comes here, in a comment on a File 770 post (the post, appropriately enough, speaking of paranoid hypotheses having no relation to reality, about a Puppy assertion that Terry Pratchett never being nominated for a Hugo shows how the system is gamed being undermined by Pratchett turning down a Hugo nod in 2005):

Q: How many Sad Puppies does it take to change a light bulb?
A: 100, one to change the bulb and 99 to say, “Gosh, I hope this makes Scalzi’s head explode!”

I think it’s pretty evident why I’m a poster boy for Puppy hate: The primary drivers of the Puppies (Beale, Correia and Torgerson) don’t think warmly of me for their own personal reasons, I have politics and social positions they oppose, and I strongly suspect the fact I have a successful career in science fiction confounds them, which is, among other things, why they and other Puppy partisans spend so much time trying to assert that I don’t actually sell any books, and so on.

I’m a useful target for them, in other words, and someone they can use to whip up their partisans: Scalzi’s the problem! There’s no way Scalzi could be successful without a shadowy conspiracy! He’s been doing what we’re doing all along! A victory for the Puppies will make Scalzi weep salty tears! And off they and their lackeys go, to the comment threads and to Twitter, to use me as justification, in so many ways, for the stupid and tiresome things they do. Not just me and not just my work, mind you. The Puppies have a full enemies list. But on that list, I’m top five, easy.

I have no control over this, although I do find the Puppy version of me interesting. He appears to simultaneously live in a volcano lair, evilly stroking a cat whilst planning the next SJW pogrom against the valiant writers of pure and true science fiction, and also lives on the streets, giving handjobs for a nickel and raving how he used to be somebody. I should like to meet this John Scalzi; I would give him a hot cup of soup and a warm jacket, and then ask him if I could borrow his laser cannon.

Be aware that me writing about their obsession about me will be viewed as proof that it is really me that has the obsession, hah ha! I’m also aware that some people think this is a thing where the Puppies and I are two sides of a coin. Again, not much I can do about that, except to say I didn’t make the coin or be asked to be put on a side. If I’m on the enemies list, fine. Just ask why it is I’m on the list, and for what reasons. And ask what that says about the Puppies.

First-Pass Oscar Predictions, 2015

In a past life I was a full-time film critic and still keep up with the field. So every year when the Oscar nominations come out, I predict what will win in the six major categories, first fresh out of the gate, then again just before the ceremony, to factor in changing circumstances. The awards were just announced, so let’s dive in, shall we?

Best Picture

“American Sniper” Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers
“The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
“Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
“The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
“Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

The Academy can nominate up to ten films a year in this category; eight made the cut this year. At this point I usually throw out the films that don’t also have a director nominated as well, because it’s very rare for a film to win Best Picture when the director is not at least nominated. This year, that would leave out Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, Selma and American Sniper. I do think we can chuck out Whiplash and Theory, so out they go. However, I think it would be foolish to entirely discount Sniper this year; it has several other high-profile nominations, and I think people know who Clint Eastwood is as a director (he’s already got two director Oscars). Selma I would have ranked higher but a quick scan tells me it has two nominations total (the other being in Best Original Song), and I think that means it’s done.

I would toss out Budapest next, for the simple fact it’s a comedy and comedy statistically has a rough road to victory in the category. Birdman is also nominally a comedy, but I think its chances are better. For lack of a better way of putting it, it’s fresher than Budapest, which is, essentially, Wes Anderson doing what we all know Wes Anderson does (note: this is not a complaint. I loved Budapest).

At the moment I think four nominees have a decent chance at the Oscar: Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood and Imitation. If I had to rank their chances at the moment, I would do it thusly: 4. Birdman; 3. Boyhood; 2. Sniper; 1. Imitation. I rank Imitation highest not for any special fondness for the film, but because it’s a Weinstein Company film, and if the Weinsteins know anything, it’s Oscar campaign trench warfare. But I don’t think any of these films is out of the running.

If the Oscar were mine to give, I’d probably go with Boyhood, because it’s a marvelous stunt of a film (it was filmed over a dozen years with the same cast) that will likely never be done again, and it was also better than its stunt. That’s worth an Oscar to me.

But yeah, this category I’ll definitely be revisiting later.

Will win: The Imitation Game

Should win: Boyhood

 

Best Director

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

Miller out first, on account that Foxcatcher isn’t nominated for Best Picture, and a director’s odds are not good at all when that happens (in fact I can’t recall off the top of my head a director winning when their film was not nominated for Best Picture; if it happened it was long long ago).

After that it gets tricky. Tyldum has a chance, and historically the Academy likes to tie in the director and picture awards, and I am nominally giving Imitation the lead in that race at the moment. However, particularly in the last several years the Academy hasn’t been shy in splitting director and picture, and the rest of Tyldum’s resume consists of little-seen (in Hollywood) films in other languages, and there are other people in the category I suspect the Academy might want to award. So I’m hedging my bets on Tyldum.

I think Anderson’s out next, although I suspect there’s a very good chance he’ll be walking away with a different Oscar, which I will detail in a bit. I think, then, it’s going to come down to Iñárritu and Linklater, and of the two, I would put my money on Linklater. As noted before, he’s done something as a director no one else has done; also he’s been nominated for Oscars previously, and it might just be his time. I think he’s got it this year.

Will win: Linklater

Should win: Linklater

 

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

Let me just make this one short and say I will be very surprised if Moore doesn’t take it. She’s been nominated for Oscars four times before (twice in both acting categories), she’s great, it’s her time, and the competition is between two women who have won Oscars already (Cotillard and Witherspoon) and two first-timers (Jones and Pike). This, to me, is an easy call. If Moore doesn’t get it, I’d put money on Jones, followed by, in order, Witherspoon, Cotillard and Pike.

Will win: Moore

Should win: Moore

 

Best Actor

Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”

With the exception of Redmayne, who I think should probably be happy just to be here, I have no idea how this category will go. Carell has a very good chance by playing against type in a dramatic (and creepy) role and doing a universally acclaimed job of it; Cooper has been previously nominated and this could be Sniper’s big Oscar pickup; Keaton is giving the performance of his career and is the legitimate comeback kid of this crowd; Cumberbatch is as hot as an actor can be at the moment and may benefit from an Imitation Oscar snowball effect. It could go any of these ways. I just don’t know. Someone who tells you they know, or that there’s an easy choice here, is lying.

For the moment, I’m gonna give the edge to Cooper, for no other reason that of this whole crowd, he’s the one closest to the standard idea of a leading man, and yes, that’s an utterly shitty reason, but look, I told you this is a tough category. If the award was mine to give, I’d give it to Keaton, who takes a role that could have been mere parody — Keaton playing an actor who played a superhero, trying to escape that legacy! It’s so meta! — and made something better out of it.

Will win: Cooper

Should win: Keaton

 

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”
Laura Dern in “Wild”
Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”

Oh, look, here’s Streep’s annual nomination. They just gave her an Oscar in the lead category; she’s not gonna get this one. I’m not quite feeling it for Stone or Dern, either, although I approve of the nominations in both cases, and if either wins, I think it will say positive things about their filmmate’s chances in the lead categories. I think this will come down to Arquette and Knightley, and of the two I would give edge to Knightley, because of her previous nominations and because of the Weinstein ability to craft Oscar juggernauts. But if Arquette takes it, it could be an early signal of good things for Boyhood generally.

Will win: Knightley

Should win: Arquette

 

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”

Oh, I don’t know. I’m historically bad at guessing this category and this year is no different. My gut tells me that Duvall’s on the slate because Robert Downey Jr., did some campaigning for him, Simmons is in the Richard Jenkins “Guy you know from TV gets a shot” slot, Hawke’s gonna get slighted again, and then Ruffalo and Norton are gonna basically slap fight for it from there, and Norton taking it because it’ll be Birdman’s nod for the year. But I have to tell you, my gut could be really high.

I want them to give it to Hawke, I know that much; for a dude who currently makes most of his income from Screen Gems horror/sci-fi films that show up in the off-brand months of the cinematic year, he sure shows up at the Oscars at lot (two screenwriting nominations and now two supporting nods), and if anyone deserves it this year, it’s him, unless you think doing the same role for a dozen years and making it work is easy.

Yeah, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I think Boyhood should pretty much win all the Oscars this year. Anyway.

Will win: Norton

Should win: Hawke

 

Other notes:

Screenwriting Oscars are the unofficial “compensatory Oscars” for directors — just ask Orson Welles or Quentin Tarantino — so I think there’s an excellent chance this year that Original Screenplay will go to Wes Anderson, for Budapest (and also as a bit of a career award). If it doesn’t go to Anderson, I expect it to go to Linklater, also nominated in the category. Adapted Screenplay? Maybe the other director named Anderson (Paul Thomas, for Inherent Vice), and it wouldn’t be a bad pick, although Inherent only has one other Oscar nod this year (Costume Design). I suspect Imitation will vacuum up Adapted, via its juggernaut powers. In Animated Feature I expect How to Train Your Dragon 2 will prevail, although Big Hero Six might correct me on my math.

On the science fiction front, Interstellar was nominated in no major categories (unless you count Original Score as a major category), but still racked up five nominations; I would be surprised if it doesn’t at least win Sound Design.

And finally, as a dark horse in the Original Song category, I’m gonna push my chips onto Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” because if you think a musician’s final song, about how Alzheimer’s is slowly robbing him of the memories of the woman he loves, isn’t going to push every single button the Academy has, well, you think differently about the Academy than I do.

Your thoughts on the Oscar nominees this year? Share them in the comments.

Every Award-Winning Book Sucks (For Someone)

As part of my occasional and hopefully instructive series of entries in which I try to make the point to writers that negative reviews are part of the territory and ultimately not something to get too worked up about or to let scar one’s psyche, I would like to present you excerpts of one star Amazon reviews of every single Hugo-winning novel of the last ten years (of which there are eleven, due to a tie in 2010). I would note that while I quote only one for each novel, in every case, there was more than one to choose from.

In chronological order:

2004: Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold:

I hate it when I see an awesome author seem to get worse as they move on and write other series. I pushed through the first one, and did finish this one, but had to complain about the writing and slowness at least once per reading session.

2005: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susannah Clarke:

I just stopped reading this book on page 721. That’s right I stopped with only about 60 pages to go, after having read every footnote and every word up to that point. Why? I just couldn’t spend another hour of my life on this book.

2006: Spin, Robert Charles Wilson:

This book was boring and without a doubt a great waste of time. I stuck with this because I felt that just around the corner, or next page, a something of consequence would happen. No, nothing happened, page after page after page of nothing.

2007: Rainbow’s End, Vernor Vinge:

It’s just one of the most bland, uninteresting books I’ve read in a long time. The future world state is mildly interesting, but it’s nothing compared to the future worlds that Vinge has created in his other novels. And the character development and storyline is just atrociously uninteresting.

2008: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon:

I found the book to be completely nonsensical, overbearing and tedious. I nearly put this book down several times, but felt compelled and determined to finish. In the end, I didn’t think it was worth the time; it was an extreme disappointment.

2009: The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman:

I am amazed that this book has won awards — I wonder about the judges who voted for this completely unsuitable book. The book revolves around graveyards, murder, ghosts and a child called Nobody. Being called nobody certainly would not improve self esteem. This is a horrible, highly negative book.

2010: (tie) The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi:

I can’t recommend this book. It was one of the worst I have ever read. The only character in this book that I cared the least bit about was Mai and she wasn’t even in it very much at all. I felt sorry for her but I really could have cared less if the rest of them died.

2010: (tie) The City and The City, China Mieville:

I thought this book would be amazing, instead it was tedious and boring. What was an interesting murder mystery story was wrapped up in a boring, vague, repetitive story. I understood, the cities were geographically together but politically separate. Interesting in theory, but would never work in practice. But I didn’t need to be reminded of it every 5 sentences.

2011: Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis:

This is very little reward for a long and tedious read. The three main characters are all very like, tiresomely guilt-ridden and apparently unable to think new thoughts very quickly, even when their lives depend on it. I would not drop this lot off in a mall parking lot far from home and expect them to live. 

2012: Among Others, Jo Walton:

Most of the book is filled with angsty recollections by a teenager caught in a (mildly) unpleasant situation, and pages and pages and *pages* of tepid one-line reviews of every golden-age sci fi and fantasy writer. I don’t know why I read this book to the end–it kept promising something interesting, but never delivered. 

2013: Redshirts, John Scalzi:

This is an onanistic shallow and very disappointing book. Little or no character development. What should have been an interesting short story based on a somewhat interesting conceit has been puffed out to novel length and suffers hugely from the increased exposure. Don’t waste your time or money… The only interesting element was the coda about writer’s block which, I fear, seems to be very close to home for him as reflected in recent work.

And should you be of the opinion that all this means is that the quality of Hugo winning books has declined in the last decade, I’d note that just about every Hugo winner has its share of one star reviews, including Starship Troopers (“a VERY dry read with nothing to grab your attention”), Dune (“Prose that would make a Dungeons and Dragons novel blush”), The Left Hand of Darkness (“I cannot avoid the feeling of its uselessness”), Neuromancer (“tedious and pretentious writing, unnecessary to illustrate intellectual concepts.”), Ender’s Game (“Most likely the worst book I’ve ever read”) and The Diamond Age (“it drags on and on and on with little concern for plot or characterization”). We could likewise do this for every Nebula, Locus and Clarke winner, as well as every Booker, Pulitzer and National Book Award winner. Or, to be honest, just about any book nominated or winning any award, from any time, anywhere.

The point is: there has yet to be a book — no matter how well-regarded or awarded — that does not suck for someone. No matter what is nominated for an award or wins, there will always be someone aghast at its presence on the list or its author at the lectern. And as this is the case for the award winners — all the award winners, every one of them — you probably shouldn’t feel too bad when inevitably your book starts racking up negative notes.

Likewise, should your work be nominated for an award, and then you see someone huffing and puffing about how your presence on the ballot is bizarre/outraging/proof of the decline of humanity, you can recognize that this makes you just like every single other person who has been nominated for or won an award, ever, in the history of the whole world. And that’s a perversely comforting thought.

The 2013 Award Consideration Post

January 1st was the start of Hugo Award nominations, and for members of SFWA, the Nebula Award nominations are already underway. So for those of you nominating or thinking about nominating for these or other science fiction/fantasy-related awards, here are the works I have for you to consider for the 2013 nomination season:

Best Novel:

Redshirts, Tor Books, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, editor, June 2012 (Prologue and first four chapters available on Tor.com)

Best Short Story:

Dave and Liz and Chicago Save the World,” Chicon 7, May 2012 (subsequently published on Whatever, September 2012)

“Muse of Fire,” from the audio anthology Rip-Off!, edited by Gardner Dozois, Audible.com, December 2012

Best Related Work:

24 Frames into the Future: Scalzi on Science Fiction Films, Peter B. Olsen, editor, NESFA Press, February 2012 (Columns included in the book are available for viewing here)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:

Mark Reads Shadow War of the Night Dragons,” uploaded to YouTube, written by John Scalzi and Mark Oshiro, performed by Mark Oshiro, June 2012

Best Fancast:

Journey to Planet Joco,” John Scalzi and Jonathan Coulton

I think that’s it.

Notes on the above:

* Redshirts, the book, is actually comprised of a novel (Redshirts), a novelette (“Coda One”) and two short stories (“Coda Two” and “Coda Three”), which is the cause of the book’s subtitle “A novel with three codas.” However, I think the entire thing works better considered as a slightly oddly-formatted whole. So while technically the Codas could be nominated in the short work categories, if one were inclined to do so, I think it’s best to consider Redshirts, the book, as an entire work in the novel category. I bring this up because I have already had people ask me what I thought about them nominating the codas in the short form categories; this is what I think.

* “Dave and Liz” was written specifically for Chicon 7, last year’s World Science Fiction Convention, of which I was toastmaster. The idea behind it was to give folks who were coming into town a slightly-skewed travelogue of the city, and I think it did that well enough. There would be some irony in a story written specifically for one Worldcon being nominated for a Hugo at another; that would amuse me quite a bit.

* Regarding 24 Frames Into the Future, I am indebted to the folks at NESFA for making a book out of my movie columns for AMC/FilmCritic.com, since shortly after the book came out the AMC folks called me up to tell me they were revamping their Web presence and killing off all the columns, including mine (in other words, it wasn’t personal, which is actually nice to know). It’s nice to have a permanent record of the work I did over four years, and so handsomely put together as well (the book is silver! Seriously!). So thank you, NESFA, and particularly Peter Olsen, who edited the work. You all rock.

* I am dead serious that you should consider “Mark Reads Shadow War of the Night Dragons”  for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. Mark Oshiro’s reactions to the piece — which he was reading cold, with no idea who I was or what the context was for the story — are so funny I almost peed myself watching him be literally agog at some of the passages. It really is the definitive reading of that particular text, I have to say. So, come on, give it some consideration for your vote this year. Doctor Who doesn’t need another three slots on the ballot, people. It’ll do just fine with two.

* I checked to see if “Journey to Planet JoCo” was eligible for the Fancast category, and my reading for the requirements of the category (“any non-professional audio- or video-casting with at least four (4) episodes that had at least one (1) episode released in the previous calendar year”) says it is. It’s non-professional (neither Jonathan or I made any money from it, and it was recorded by me off my computer, not in a studio), there are thirteen episodes, each of which aired daily, and all of them were in 2012. And I am certainly a fan of Coulton’s (and he of me, or so he says, although he might just be trying to make me feel better about myself). So there you have it. Check it out if you have not already.

Not a bad year of stuff.

Note to other award-eligible authors/creators/editors: For the last couple of years I’ve opened up a thread here to let you suggest your own eligible works, and I’ll be doing that this year as well. Look for it to go up tomorrow morning.

The Hugo Winners, 2012

Here they are, stolen shamelessly from Tor.com. No, I didn’t win, but neither did I expect to, and frankly, it didn’t stop me from having one of my best Hugo nights ever, because as MC of the Hugo Awards I got to give so many Hugos to so many friends that it really was kind of crazy.

I will update more about the ceremony and Worldcon later in the week, after I’ve had time to recuperate. But suffice to say Chicon 7 has truly been fantastic.

Best Novel

  • Winner: Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)
  • A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
  • Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan UK / Del Rey)
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

Best Novella

  • Winner: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s September/October 2011)
  • Countdown by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • “The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction November/December 2011)
  • “Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s June 2011)
  • “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
  • Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente (WSFA)

Best Novelette

  • Winner: “Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)
  • “The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s July 2011)
  • “Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
  • “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog December 2011)
  • “What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011)

Best Short Story

  • Winner: “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011)
  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld April 2011)
  • “The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s April/May 2011)
  • “Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s March 2011)
  • Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (Tor.com)

Best Related Work

  • Winner: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)
  • Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies by Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic Books)
  • The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers (Abrams Image)
  • Wicked Girls by Seanan McGuire
  • Writing Excuses, Season 6 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jordan Sanderson

Best Graphic Story

  • Winner: Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press) 
  • Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
  • Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
  • The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Winner: Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
  • Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
  • Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Winner: “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
  • “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
  • “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
  • “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Winner: Sheila Williams
  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Jonathan Strahan

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Winner: Betsy Wollheim
  • Lou Anders
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Anne Lesley Groell
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Best Professional Artist

  • Winner: John Picacio
  • Dan dos Santos
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Michael Komarck
  • Stephan Martiniere

Best Semiprozine

  • Winner: Locus edited by Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, et al.
  • Apex Magazine edited by Catherynne M. Valente, Lynne M. Thomas, and Jason Sizemore
  • Interzone edited by Andy Cox
  • Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams
  • New York Review of Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell, Kevin J. Maroney, Kris Dikeman, and Avram Grumer

Best Fanzine

  • Winner: SF Signal edited by John DeNardo
  • Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
  • The Drink Tank edited by James Bacon and Christopher J Garcia
  • File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, et al.

Best Fan Writer

  • Winner: Jim C. Hines
  • James Bacon
  • Claire Brialey
  • Christopher J Garcia
  • Steven H. Silver

Best Fan Artist

  • Winner: Maurine Starkey
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Randall Munroe
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles
  • Taral Wayne

Best Fancast

  • Winner: SF Squeecast, Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan & Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts (presenters) and Andrew Finch (producer)
  • SF Signal Podcast, John DeNardo and JP Frantz, produced by Patrick Hester
  • StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Winner: E. Lily Yu
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Stina Leicht
  • Karen Lord
  • Brad R. Torgersen

Your Weekend Reading: The 2012 Short Story Hugo Nominees

As you may have heard, the nominations for this year’s Hugo Awards are out, and I am nominated in the Short Story category for my completely ridiculous April Fool’s tale “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue.” I am of course delighted. But there are four other stories that have made the cut, and they, too, are excellent. Have you read them? If you have, then congratulations, you are awesome. If you have not, well, let’s fix that.

So: Below, the links to all of this year’s Hugo Short Story nominees. Read them, enjoy them, and, if you plan on voting for the Hugo this year, consider how you’ll rank them for this year’s ballot. It’s going to be tough to pick a favorite, I know. But it wouldn’t be fun if it were easy.

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld April 2011)

The Homecoming” (PDF link) by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s April/May 2011)

Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s March 2011)

The Paper Menagerie” (PDF link) by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011)

The Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (Tor.com)

Happy reading!

The Hugo Award Nominees, 2012

Here they are. See if you can find me! More thoughts in just a bit (update: more thoughts here).

Best Novel (932 ballots)

Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)
A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

Best Novella (473 ballots)

Countdown by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction November/December 2011)
“Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s June 2011)
“The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s September/October 2011)
“The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse 3)
Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente (WSFA)

Best Novelette (499 ballots)

“The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s July 2011)
“Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
“Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog December 2011)
“Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)
“What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011)

Best Short Story (593 ballots)

“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld April 2011)
“The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s April/May 2011)
“Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s March 2011)
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011)
“Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (Tor.com)

Best Related Work (461 ballots)

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)
Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies by Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic Books)
The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers (Abrams Image)
Wicked Girls by Seanan McGuire
Writing Excuses, Season 6 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jordan Sanderson

Best Graphic Story (339 ballots)

Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (592 ballots)

Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (512 ballots)

“The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
“The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
“The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
“A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
“Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Best Semiprozine (357 ballots)

Apex Magazine edited by Catherynne M. Valente, Lynne M. Thomas, and Jason Sizemore
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams
Locus edited by Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, et al.
New York Review of Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell, Kevin J. Maroney, Kris Dikeman, and Avram Grumer

Best Fanzine (322 ballots)

Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
The Drink Tank edited by James Bacon and Christopher J Garcia
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, et al.
SF Signal edited by John DeNardo

Best Fancast (326 ballots)

The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan & Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts (presenters) and Andrew Finch (producer)
SF Signal Podcast, John DeNardo and JP Frantz, produced by Patrick Hester
SF Squeecast, Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente
StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

Best Professional Editor — Long Form (358 ballots)

Lou Anders
Liz Gorinsky
Anne Lesley Groell
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Betsy Wollheim

Best Professional Editor — Short Form (512 ballots)

John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Sheila Williams

Best Professional Artist (399 ballots)

Dan dos Santos
Bob Eggleton
Michael Komarck
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio

Best Fan Artist (216 ballots)

Brad W. Foster
Randall Munroe
Spring Schoenhuth
Maurine Starkey
Steve Stiles
Taral Wayne

Best Fan Writer (360 ballots)

James Bacon
Claire Brialey
Christopher J Garcia
Jim C. Hines
Steven H Silver

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (396 ballots)

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2010 or 2011, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Mur Lafferty
Stina Leicht
Karen Lord *
Brad R. Torgersen *
E. Lily Yu

*2nd year of eligibility

The Hugo Awards are the premier award in the Science Fiction genre, honoring Science Fiction literature and media as well as the genre’s fans. The Hugo Awards were first presented at the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia (Philcon II), and they have continued to honor Science Fiction and Fantasy notables annually for nearly 60 years.

The Oscar Prediction Post, 2012

As I do every year when the Academy Award nominations come out, I put on my film critic hat and try to guess which nominees are eventually going to walk away with Oscar gold. This year’s nomination slates are frankly wacky, so I can say without hesitation that I wouldn’t put a huge amount of stock in my guesses at the moment — but that’s fine since I usually do a follow-up right before the award ceremony in which I factor in everything that’s changed in the race. So, having hedged myself sufficiently, here are my guesses, right now.

BEST PICTURE
“The Artist” Thomas Langmann, Producer
“The Descendants” Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” Scott Rudin, Producer
“The Help” Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
“Hugo” Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
“Midnight in Paris” Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
“Moneyball” Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
“The Tree of Life” Nominees to be determined
“War Horse” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

After two years in which the Best Picture field had ten slots, the Academy instituted a new rule that allows for up to ten nominees, but all nominees must have at least 5% of the nomination vote (or something like that). This year apparently only nine films got more than 5% of the nomination vote. This still allows for a wide range of nominees, and this year’s Best Picture slate is commercially and artistically diverse. But who cares about that? We want to guess who will win.

First step: Toss out every nominee whose director is not nominated this year, since it is very rare for a film to win Best Picture without its director also being nominated (the last time it happened was 1988, with Driving Miss Daisy). So long Extremely Loud, The Help, Moneyball and War Horse.

After that I suspect Midnight in Paris is next off. Usually I’d say it’s because it’s a comedy and comedies don’t win Oscars (the last straight up comedy to win was Allen’s own Annie Hall, 35 years ago), but this year is different on that score. I don’t think it will win because even though this is considered Allen’s best picture since Hannah and Her Sisters, it’s arguable that it is as good as Allen’s films were in his heyday, and anyway, everyone knows he won’t come to the ceremony anyway. Next off from there is The Tree of Life; I think nominating Terrance Malick films is the closest thing the Academy members have to being hipsters, and that’s not enough to take home the statue.

After that things get wonky for me. Hugo has been having a hell of a run, and you can argue that even with awards for The Departed that the Academy still owes Martin Scorsese some Oscars; if Departed caught them up for Raging Bull, Hugo would catch them up for Goodfellas. But at the end of the day this is a family film, and that presents a problem. Not because a family film can’t be brilliant — please, don’t paint me with that brush — but because the last full-on family film to win the Best Picture Oscar (if you don’t count Slumdog Millionaire, and I don’t, because it wasn’t marketed that way) is Oliver! back in 1968. I think the Academy sees family films like it generally sees comedies: nice to nominate occasionally but not something you’d usually let win. The Scorsese name counts for something, but ultimately it’s not going to be enough.

So it comes down to The Artist and The Descendants, and why this is an unusual year: Both of them are comedies, with varying amounts of drama in them, and that’s kind of mindblowing (the Golden Globes put The Descendants in its Drama category, which suggests that those folks were more interested in their awars ratings than anything else). The question is which of these the Academy will choose. On one hand The Descendants has George Clooney at the top of his game, and Alexander Payne has been plugging away for years with films that are best described as “comfortably auteurish,” of which this film may be the very best example. So giving the award to this film would be something of a career award. On the other hand The Artist is genuinely novel (a silent, black and white film in 2011), is not just a stunt, which is something just short of a miracle, has a hell of a lot of momentum coming out of the Golden Globes and — this is not trivial — is distributed by The Weinstein Company, which means that Harvey Weinstein will be doing his thing of corralling Oscar votes. Given that Weinstein managed to jam Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan and The King’s Speech over The Social Network (as just two examples), if one of his films is a contender, you can’t count him out.

If I’m going to pick now, I’d go for The Descendants. But I have no confidence in that pick, and think Harvey Weinstein is perfectly capable of cutting enough balls to push The Artist over the top. Let’s check back just before the awards and see how I feel.

Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: The Artist

BEST DIRECTOR
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”

Allen out first; it’s not his year (and he’s got three Oscars anyway). Malick out next; I see him getting one of those Lifetime Achievement Oscars in the not-too-distant future. Of the three remaining it’s a toss up for me, since I think Scorsese has a tremendous amount of good will in the Academy, Payne is at the top of his form and Hazanavicius pulled off a silent, black and white film in the 21st century. Flipping a three-sided coin, I’m going to give it to Payne since I am nominally guessing The Descendants will win Best Picture, but again: No confidence and watch out for Hazanavicius getting a Weinstein boost.

Will Win: Payne
Should Win: Hazanavicius

LEAD ACTRESS
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

Rooney Mara is having a good year but it’s not going to extend all the way to winning an Oscar, especially with this lineup. After that, who knows? Normally I discount any Streep nomination because she’s seemingly nominated regardless, but this year she’s playing Margaret Thatcher and the extra historical personage tang might mean something (one disadvantage: Streep’s performance is generally seen as the best thing about the film). Michelle Williams is also playing a beloved icon — in this case Marilyn Monroe — but I wonder if she’s stuck doing time in what I used to call the Kate Winslet cage, i.e., everyone assuming she will win an Oscar at some point, but maybe just not yet. Close’s film has been little-seen but this would be a fine time to give her a career award. Any of the three could take it but in the what I think is most likely is that Viola Davis will, not just for her performance in The Help (which is by all indications worthy) but because, like Sandra Bullock’s win for The Blind Side, it will be the recognition that particular Best Picture-nominated film will get for all of its efforts.

Will Win: Davis
Should Win: Davis

LEAD ACTOR
Demián Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Ever heard of Bichir before? Neither have I. His nomination is fantastic, because it means the folks in the actor’s branch really are searching high and low for the best performances, no matter where they are and who performs them. I wish Bichir well and all future success. He has no chance. On the other side of the spectrum, it’s somewhat appalling to consider that this is Oldman’s first Oscar nomination — seriously, Academy voters, what the hell? — and aside from what is by all accounts a rock solid performance in Tinker, I would be inclined to give the man the Oscar as a career award. But this year may not be the year for that. Pitt I think has a good chance simply for being Pitt (i.e., a movie star who also is serious about the acting), but in the end I think it will come down to Clooney and Dujardin. Dujardin has the flashier performance (you try acting without talking for a whole film) but Clooney’s willingness to play a schlub despite looking like, you know, George Clooney, is probably going to count for something. I’m going to call it for Dujardin on the grounds that it’s unpossible that Clooney won’t be back here again (hell, he’s got a screenwriting nomination this year), but I also note that’s probably me projecting.

Will Win: Dujardin
Should Win: Oldman

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain in “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

Spencer out first; Nobbs is little seen and the spotlight there, I think, is on Close. Bejo out next, although like Ginger Rogers with Astaire, she’s doing everything Jean Dujardin is doing, backwards and in heels. I think there’s a fine chance that Spencer and Chastain will cancel each other out although of the two I could see Chastain pulling through, in part because of solid performances this year as well in Tree of Life and The Debt. But you know what? I think the Academy is going to want to give it to McCarthy, both for her performance and as recognition for Bridesmaids in general. And I would applaud such an award, personally.

Will Win: McCarthy
Should Win: McCarthy

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”
Jonah Hill in “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte in “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”
Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Wow, I have absolutely no idea about this category at all, except to suggest it’s probably not going to be Jonah Hill. Otherwise it’s Pick Your Favorite Woefully Overlooked Actor day. If we were going purely by most nominations, you’d have to give it to Branagh, since he’s been nominated four times before, twice as many as the next nearest (Nolte, who was nominated twice before). But then Plummer and von Sydow are both pretty damn old, and, sorry, that’s a factor in this category. On the other hand Nolte possibly has the oldest vital organs of any of them. Honestly, who can say. I do know that if Hill does win it, he’s going to get pummeled by senior citizens. I’m going to go with von Sydow for no other reason than that the power of Christ compels me, although personally I have a soft spot for Branagh (who is playing Laurence Olivier here to boot) so he’s probably who I would vote for myself.

Will Win: von Sydow
Should Win: Branagh

Other categories: I have a hunch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy might get a nod in Adapted Screenplay, while I wouldn’t be surprised the The Artist gets it in Original Screenplay, especially if it’s seen as a compensation Oscar for Michel Hazanavicius. I would likewise not be surprised if The Artist gets cinematography. I’d like to note that Cars 2 isn’t an Animated Feature Film nominee this year, which I think is correct; it’s the worst Pixar film by a considerable margin (which means, mind you, that it’s no worse than the average Dreamworks Animation feature). I’m going to guess Rango gets it this year because I suspect director Gore Verbinski is well-liked.

Your thoughts?