I think it is fair to say that the most serious damage done to a Hugo category during the Puppy campaigns (both Sad and Rabid) was to the Short Story category. No Award won in 2015 when faced with a set of stories that at best rose to the level of mediocre. Upsettingly the choice in 2016 was on average even worse, only the single (and excellent fun) ‘Cat Pictures Please’ prevented No Award from winning again. Yes, other categories had similar troubles but the short story is an important element of Science Fiction as a genre and in the history of fandom.
The boast of the Rabid Puppies was that No Award winning meant the category had somehow been burnt to the ground. Painting themselves as vandals, there was much crowing about they had managed to get nominated in 2015 and 2016 (although Chuck Tingle’s nomination backfired on them). So to 2017 and what does the nearly-Puppy free scorched Earth of a category look like? Fresh, exciting and full of difficult choices. Why it’s almost like ‘burn the category down’ was confused delusional bullshit.
Tough, tough, job ranking five of these but I’ll try! User experience may vary and I can see me changing my mind on these.
In reverse order:
7. Won’t get on the ballot: John C Wright’s walking advert for the Three Stage Voting proposal. Bad even by John C Wright’s standards. Interesting how even Wright’s sycophants aren’t praising it.
6. No Award. Making a strong case for itself as there is still some trash to take out.
5. “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” Alyssa Wong.
I did enjoy this and it would be a worthy winner but…this is a competition and it has to fight off some excellent competition. The alternative-timeline snippets make the story hard to work as a short story and it may have worked better as a longer story.
4. “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” Bo Bolander
I nominated this punchy, super short revenge story. It does a lot of work with very few words but…the very nature of it means there is not much in the way of characterisation or plot development. The cruelty of having to pick between these stories forces me into finding fault when really this story does not NEED these things – it is great as it is and expanding it would undermine its sense of anger.
3. “The City Born Great” N.K.Jemisin
I really liked this story that takes the term “urban fantasy” literally and celebrates the freaky alien monsters that so much of humanity lives in and which we call “cities”.
2. “That Game We Played During the War” Carrie Vaughan
Not a story that was on my radar and a nice find in the Hugo Packet. Almost a textbook demonstration of an effective science fiction short story – setting, character, interpersonal relationship against which wider events (a war) and science fiction concepts (one side has telepathy, the other side doesn’t) but written with a fresh perspective.
- “Seasons of Glass and Iron” Amal El-Mohtar
It had a tough job against strong competition but I do think this one stood out. The story takes two elements from lesser-known fairy tales: a woman who has to live on top of a glass mountain and a woman who has to walk the earth in iron shoes until their soles are worn away. El-Mohtar captures the atmosphere of the stories but also turns them to her own purposes.
And what a great set of reads those five stories were!