The Great Hugo Controversy of 2014

In just a few short days, the 2014 Hugo Awards Ceremony will take place at Worldcon, held this year in London. For those of you who don’t know, the Hugo is one of the top honors awarded to Science Fiction and Fantasy works. Unlike the Nebula Awards, which can only be voted on by members of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and the World Fantasy Award, which is awarded by a judges panel, the Hugos are the most populist of the major awards. Voters must have a membership to the current or most recent Worldcon, but since Worldcon always sells non-attending memberships (largely so people can vote), it’s essentially open to anyone wanting to pay the fee (which at the moment is $40 US). 

Things came to a head this year with a controversy over nominations. Larry Correia, author of the Monster Hunter series of novels, had alleged that Hugo voters were biased toward the left end of the political spectrum (Correia himself falls on the right). As a result, he encouraged his fans and others to vote for a recommended list of authors which included other writers on the right. So did conservative writer Vox Day, whom I mentioned in a previous column on SF controversy. Correia gives his side of the situation here.

Larry Correia...alleged that Hugo voters were biased toward the left end of the political spectrum... As a result, he encouraged his fans and others to vote for a recommended list of authors which included other writers on the right.

Their plan seems to have worked, as can be seen in the results further down in this post. Writers that Correia and Day recommended, including Dan Wells and Brad Torgersen, made the final ballot. 

Now it bears mentioning that what Correia and Day did was perfectly allowable by Hugo voting rules. Essentially they just exploited the normal nomination process. In fact, some people have said that this is what generally happens, just behind the scenes. Whether it’s appropriate or not is a matter of opinion. 

A second, more minor controversy arose with the nomination of The Wheel of Time as a single work. The series spans 14 volumes (not counting additional related works) and has been written by two authors (Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson). But apparently the rules of the Hugos allow for a series to be nominated as a whole if no single entry in the series has been nominated previously.  

This latter controversy pales in comparison to the first one mentioned if only because figures like Correia, and specifically Day, are polarizing figures in the genre. The fact that Vox Day repeatedly writes offensive things about women, other races,  and rape victims understandably fans the flames. 

I’m not going to weigh in too heavily with my personal views except to say that they line up pretty well with Kameron Hurley’s. But for a complete list of posts about the controversy (and there are an awful lot), check out this page, starting from the bottom.

One thing that should be noted, though, is that these nominations, for one of the most prestigious awards in the science fiction and fantasy world, were the result of less than 2000 ballots. And that’s for the Novel category. The other categories often had less than 1000 ballots. 

Here are the nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards (along with the ballot counts and any notes as taken from the official Hugo Awards site

Best Novel (1595 nominating ballots)

▪ Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)

▪ Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)

▪ Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)

▪ Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)

▪ The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books / Orbit UK)

Note: The Wheel of Time series was nominated as and ruled to be a multi-part serialized single work, as defined in Section 3.2.4 of the WSFS constitution.

Best Novella (847 nominating ballots)

▪ The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells (Privateer Press)

“The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)

“Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)

▪ Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)

“Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)

Best Novelette (728 nominating ballots)

▪ “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)

“The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)

“The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)

“The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

Best Short Story (865 nominating ballots)

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)

“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)

“Selkie Stories Are for Losers”,   Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”,  John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

Note: Category had only 4 nominees due to the minimum 5% requirement of Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.

Best Related Work (752 nominating ballots)

▪ Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It, Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)

▪ Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)

▪ “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

▪ Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image)

▪ Writing Excuses Season 8, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson

Best Graphic Story (552 nominating ballots)

▪ Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

▪ “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who”, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)

▪ The Meathouse Man, adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)

▪ Saga, Volume 2, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics )

▪ “Time”, Randall Munroe (XKCD)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (995 nominating ballots)

▪ Frozen, screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)

▪ Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)

▪ The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)

▪ Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)

▪ Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (760 nominating ballots)

▪ An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)

▪ Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)

▪ Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)

▪ The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)

▪ Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)

▪ Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Note: Category has six nominees due to a tie for the final position.

Best Editor, Short Form (656 nominating ballots)

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form (632 nominating ballots)

  • Ginjer Buchanan
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Lee Harris
  • Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (624 nominating ballots)

  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Daniel Dos Santos
  • John Harris
  • John Picacio
  • Fiona Staples

Note: Category has six nominees due to a tie for the final position.

Best Semiprozine (411 nominating ballots)

▪ Apex Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas

▪ Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews

▪ Interzone, edited by Andy Cox

▪ Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki

▪ Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Sonya Taaffe, Abigail Nussbaum, Rebecca Cross, Anaea Lay, and Shane Gavin

Best Fanzine (478 nominating ballots)

▪ The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

▪ A Dribble of Ink, edited by Aidan Moher

▪ Elitist Book Reviews, edited by Steven Diamond

▪ Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J.Montgomery

▪ Pornokitsch, edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin

Best Fancast (396 nominating ballots)

▪ The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe

▪ Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch
(Producer)

▪ SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester

▪ The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, and Stina Leicht

▪ Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newman and Peter Newman

▪ Verity! Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

▪ The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Note: Category has seven nominees due to a tie for the final position.

Best Fan Writer (521 nominating ballots)

  • Liz Bourke
  • Kameron Hurley
  • Foz Meadows
  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Mark Oshiro

Best Fan Artist (316 nominating ballots)

  • Brad W. Foster
  • Mandie Manzano
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles
  • Sarah Webb

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (767 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)

  • Wesley Chu
  • Max Gladstone*
  • Ramez Naam*
  • Sofia Samatar*
  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew

*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

1923 valid nominating ballots (1889 electronic and 34 paper) were received and counted from the members of LoneStarCon 3, Loncon 3 and Sasquan, the 2013, 2014, and 2015 World Science Fiction Conventions.

Some personal thoughts on the works

I  didn’t read everything on the Hugo list just because not all of it was freely available and some of it (The Wheel of Time alone) was just too long. But I did read all of the Short Story and Novelette categories. 

Short Story:

It’s a short category this year since a nominee must have at least 5% of the vote to be on the ballot and only four nominations qualified. The thing that struck me most about these stories is that the focus, in each of them, is on emotion and relationships. In Samatar’s “Selkie Stories Are For Losers,” it’s about a young girl’s relationship with her mother and a burgeoning romantic one. John Chu’s “The Water That Falls On You from Nowhere” deals largely with a young man coming out to his traditional Chinese family. “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” is a story of love and sadness and wishes and horror. Only “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” stands apart in that it's more of a meandering, and at times whimsical story, about a village and the wishes that its inhabitants send down the river. Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” won the Nebula award but I would give this one to Chu. 

Novelette: 

Like the Short Story category, the memorable stories in the Novelette category all evoke strong emotion, whether it’s the bond between an astronaut woman on Mars and her ailing husband in “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” or the impossible choice between love and family in “The Waiting Stars.” I generally love Ted Chiang’s stories, but while “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling” deals with the fascinating way in which we deal with language and memory, it felt a bit clinical to me compared to its ballot-mates. Likewise, Brad Torgersen’s “The Exchange Officers” felt like it lacked depth as it was more of a straightforward, plot-heavy tale about future drone-operators defending a space station from the attacking Chinese. The only one I wasn’t able to read was Vox Day’s “Opera Vitae Aeterna,” since the link that he provided on his website was no longer functioning. Since his was one of those considered controversial, I was interested in judging it on its merits but was unfortunately unable to do so. In this category I'm guessing the award will go to Kowal or Chiang, though I think Kowal's packs more of an emotion punch.

Those are all the stories I have read, though I will point out that I did a Bookshot for Mira Grant’s nominated novel, Parasite, on this very site.  I’ve provided links above to the works that are available to read for free. If you find yourself interested, I’d love to hear what you think of them. 

Have you read any of these works? Have any picks? Have an opinion on the controversy? If so, let me know in the comments.

The Hugo Awards will be given out August 17th at Loncon 3 in London. I’ll try to post the winners when they’re available in the comments. 

Image of Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch)
Author: Ann Leckie
Price: $14.26
Publisher: Orbit (2013)
Binding: Paperback, 416 pages
Image of Warbound (Grimnoir Chronicles)
Author: Larry Correia
Price: $7.99
Publisher: Baen (2014)
Binding: Mass Market Paperback, 624 pages
Image of The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1)
Author: Robert Jordan
Price: $8.09
Publisher: Tor Fantasy (1990)
Binding: Mass Market Paperback, 832 pages
Rajan Khanna

Column by Rajan Khanna

Rajan Khanna is a fiction writer, blogger, reviewer and narrator. His first novel, Falling Sky, a post-apocalyptic adventure with airships, is due to be released in October 2014. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared at Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in New York where he's a member of the Altered Fluid writing group. His personal website is www.rajankhanna.com and he tweets, @rajanyk.

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Comments

Darnell Coleman's picture
Darnell Coleman August 13, 2014 - 10:18am

How many votes usually happen with Hugos like how many votes were recieved in the 2013 Hugo awards.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life August 13, 2014 - 11:47am

That Vox... seems like a swell guy.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami August 13, 2014 - 4:00pm

Whether your politics are whatever, I don't get how that's relevant to nominations. (Just so you know, I'm politically liberal.)

But I have no interest in supporting such a business that supposedly doesn't allow candidates that have different politics of their own.

fortunewookie's picture
fortunewookie August 14, 2014 - 7:11pm

If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love was one of those stories that caught me off guard. One of the rare ones that I read and after recovering from the end wish I had wrote it.

Lily Holiday's picture
Lily Holiday from Seattle, WA is reading The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson August 16, 2014 - 8:48pm

It isn't about "allowing" candidates, or nominations. It's about what qualifies under the rules, which are nonpartisan. You pay your $40, you vote for whomever you want. They get enough votes, they're nominated. Boom. Apparently more liberals than conservatives have been voting in the past. Which isn't descrimination, just... the way the cookie crumbled, I guess. 

Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy's picture
Pretty Spry for... from I'd prefer it if you didn't know. So would you, only you don't know it. is reading whatever he makes time for this week August 17, 2014 - 11:48am

That Vox... seems like a swell guy.

I gagged several times while reading the linked articles and blog posts. I think I threw up a little.

Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy's picture
Pretty Spry for... from I'd prefer it if you didn't know. So would you, only you don't know it. is reading whatever he makes time for this week August 17, 2014 - 11:50am

I can see why Vox Day was nominated. He is clearly adept at presenting fantasy as fact.