The voting deadline is almost here for the 2022 Hugo Awards for the best of last year’s science fiction and fantasy–by the time this post goes live, it will be tonight: 11:59 PDT on August 11th. This year, I made an effort to read everything in what I consider to be the four main fiction categories: Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, and Best Short Story. But, unlike last year, I wanted to take a look at the rest of the ballot and add my voice wherever I felt it was appropriate.
So let’s take a look at the ballot. First off, I want to emphasize two important features about voting. First, because of the way the ranked choice system works, leaving a work off the ballot is equivalent to placing it behind everything on the ballot–it’s not a way to remain neutral relative to the ranked items. For that reason, if I’m not reasonably familiar with everything in the category, I’m only voting for things I absolutely loved–solid-but-unexceptional material will appear on full ballots or not at all. Second, the much-maligned Oops No Hugo clause is still in effect, meaning that any category left blank on more than 75% of ballots will by default go to No Award. The categories at most risk seem to be Fanzine, Fancast, Fan Writer, Fan Artist, and Long Form Editor, all of which were left blank on 69+% of ballots last year.
I enjoyed the Best Novel candidates this year, and there are three books that I’d be happy to see win. My vote will go to A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, but I posted a full ballot analysis here.
I also enjoyed every Best Novella finalist, but Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Elder Race remains a significant cut above. Again, I have a full ballot analysis here.
I found this year’s Best Novelette shortlist to be weaker than last year, but John Wiswell’s “That Story Isn’t the Story” was excellent and got my top vote in a landslide. Full ballot analysis.
There were a pair of short stories on this year’s ballot that I thought were fantastic, but Sarah Pinsker’s “Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” is the best I’ve seen published since 2019. Full ballot analysis.
Graphic Story or Comic
I don’t regularly read graphic novels and haven’t read any of the finalists, so I’ll be leaving this category blank.
I have read just two-thirds of one series–Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children–on this year’s list, and while I loved one entry and generally enjoyed most of them, it just wasn’t good enough to me to cast a vote against the other five sight unseen.
The first not-technically-a-Hugo award that is given out with the Hugos is the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Novel. I’ve read just two entries on this year’s list, Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow and Naomi Novik’s The Last Graduate, and while they both had elements to recommend them, neither was good enough for me to feel comfortable voting against the other four.
The second not-a-Hugo is the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, which might have given me more trouble than any other category on the ballot. I’d read just five of the six, so I was only voting for authors who really impressed me, but there were three who did, including my vote for last year’s Astounding Award, Micaiah Johnson, and the author of my vote for last year’s Lodestar, Tracy Deonn. Both wrote absolutely outstanding debuts, and both are in their last year of eligibility (new authors are eligible in their first two years of activity). I’m casting my vote for Johnson because she came so incredibly close to winning last year and it’d be a shame to see her fall heartbreakingly short two years in a row, but Deonn is a strong second choice and would be a worthy winner. I’ll also be voting first-year author Shelley Parker-Chan (also high on my Best Novel ballot) in third, before leaving the remainder of the category blank.
Best Related Work
“How Twitter Can Ruin a Life” by Emily St. James was excellent, but I don’t want to just vote for the shortest and most accessible thing on the list because it’s the only thing I read. I’d be happy to see this win, but I think that bias against the least accessible options is already a problem, and this category isn’t at real risk of Oops No Hugo, so I’ll be leaving it blank.
I have seen just one Long Form Dramatic Presentation (Encanto) and one Short Form (The Wheel of Time: The Flame of Tar Valon). I enjoyed both, but I’m not sure I was wowed enough to vote without having seen the other five things.
Professional/Semipro Editors, Zines, and Artists
I’m going to lead this category by saying that I am not plugged into the industry at all and have no idea how to evaluate the behind-the-scenes work done by editors, artists, or magazines. So I’ll do my best working with the information in front of me: the finished products.
Short Form Editor
I read a lot of short fiction, but I’ve still barely scratched the surface of the output of these six editors. But my vote will be going to Neil Clarke, a finalist for the tenth time whose Clarkesworld Magazine put out some tremendous work last year. I had just one Clarkesworld story on my nominating ballot (“The Last Civilian“), but “Homecoming is Just Another Word the for Sublimation of Self” was one of my last cuts, and I’ve read a full three more since then that I feel are award-quality. That’s five huge hits, from a magazine where I’ve probably read less than fifteen 2021-published works (I’ll be tracking publication for stories I read in 2022, I promise), an absolutely incredible rate of quality.
In second place, I’ll be voting Sheree Renée Thomas. Thomas doesn’t edit any of the free magazines, so I didn’t read any of her editorial work in 2021, but I’ve dipped into six or eight of her stories that were included in the Hugo packet, and they were pretty much all interesting, with “Lajos and His Bees” and “Spirits Don’t Cross Over, ‘Til They Do” standing out enough to tempt me into buying a subscription.
In third, I’ll be voting Jonathan Strahan, in his incredible twelfth year as a finalist, who did some excellent work with Tordotcom last year. He didn’t edit my two favorites from that publisher, but I did rate A Spindle Splintered (also on the Best Novella shortlist), In the Watchful City, and “Questions Asked in the Belly of the World” at 17/20, and there wasn’t anything I outright disliked.
Fourth, I have Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, who did excellent work pulling together an anthology of African speculative fiction. I’ve been trying to read a lot more African fiction, and I’ve found some absolutely outstanding shorts, including “Egoli” and “The ThoughtBox” from this anthology. But apart from those two, I wasn’t as wowed by the 2020 stories in this anthology as I was with so many that have been published since. It’s still great work, but great work is the price of admission when we’re talking about the best of the year, and it’s not enough for my top three.
I’ve also enjoyed short fiction edited by the remaining finalists, but nothing enough to really lean me toward one or the other, so I’ll be stopping my ballot at four.
Long Form Editor
This is a category at risk of Oops No Hugo, and it’s not hard to see why. I’ve heard a lot of great things about works by these editors, but I’ve read a grand total of two, and it’s hard to catch up on long form work. Fortunately, one of the two was a book I rated 20/20, and I will vote Patrick Nielsen Hayden for his work with Tor Essentials and bringing The Best of R.A. Lafferty to American readers.
I’m no art critic, but I love Maurizio Manzieri’s work, especially the cover of the November/December issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. A very strong second is Tommy Arnold’s fantastic Murderbot art, followed by Alyssa Winans, with art for The Nightsilver Promise and Fireheart Tiger.
Again, I read a lot of short fiction, but I’ve really just scratched the surface here. I’ve complained about Uncanny Magazine dominating the Hugo ballot this year, but also they published my favorite short story of the last three years and my choice for Best Novelette as well. That’s a pretty strong one-two punch and is enough for my top spot. In second, I’ll have FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, a paid publication that I hadn’t had the pleasure to read before their appearance in the Hugo packet. I only had a chance to read three of their short stories, but all three were good, and “The White Road, or How a Crow Carried Death Over a River” was easily good enough to have been on the Best Short Story ballot. The small sample size is my fault, but the hit rate is enough for me to be very impressed.
In third, I’ll be voting Strange Horizons, who always bring thought-provoking fiction, with “All Us Ghosts” being a particular favorite. They also publish Samovar, which is a special edition focused on translated fiction. I’m not sure if that counts under their entry (if it does, I’ll add “Scissors” to the stories I found exemplary), but either way, bonus points for the push to feature authors from outside the American bubble. In fourth will be Beneath Ceaseless Skies, who tend to publish adventure fantasy on the longer end of short, including one of the last novelettes I cut from my nominating ballot, “The Burning Girl.” But I can’t find much to distinguish the last two on the ballot, and I’ll be cutting at four.
I’m honestly only familiar with two, but both have done yeoman’s work in service of the genre. My heart and my vote is with Quick Sip Reviews, who has done such incredibly consistent work reviewing short fiction, but Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog is always worth a read as well. I’m sure the other four have done good work, but with the Oops No Hugo risk, I’m filling out this category, and I’m happy with my top two choices.
At this stage in my life, I don’t listen to podcasts at all. I am worried about Oops No Hugo, but I can’t bring myself to vote for something I’ve literally not listened to for a second. Please, others, vote in this category. I won’t be.
There are honestly a lot of writers in this category that I don’t feel I can fairly evaluate, since they cover parts of the genre that don’t especially interest me. That makes it tough to vote, but with the Oops No Hugo risk, I’ll vote Chris M. Barkley, who had some really interesting (and often disturbing) past Hugo stories.
I’m really impressed with the Small Gods series by Lee Moyer (oh wait, I recognize that name–that’s another Semiprozine candidate that I didn’t recognize three categories ago), who will take my top spot. But Nilah Magruder’s Uncanny covers make her a strong second. I’ll include Sara Felix third and Iain J. Clark fourth and stop there.