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2016 Hugo Awards: “So join. Read. Vote.”

I’ve been reading fantasy and sci-fi for as long as I can remember[1], but this is the first time I’ve ever become a member of the Hugo Awards voting pool. (A voting membership costs $50, and members also get to make nominations for the 2017 Hugo Awards.)

My faithful Kindle Paperwhite (paid link) is already getting a good workout, with plenty more to come!

I wish I had 10 heads and 20 hands

I’m a voracious reader, but rarely a focused reader. I usually have at least a dozen books — a mix of fiction, gaming, comics, and sometimes non-fiction — in various states of “on the go” at any given time. Right now I’m reading (all paid links) Seveneves, GURPS Time Travel, Playing at the World, The Colossal Conan, Stormbringer, Blood Rites, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, Blood Meridian, The Burning Land, and the Bible, and rereading Jonathan Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four.[2]

Right now, that means Seveneves and GURPS Time Travel. But I’ve got a bookmark, be it physical or virtual, in all of the titles on that list — although in some cases, I’ve been “in the middle of” them for a couple years or more.

This makes becoming an informed Hugo voter a task that’s both exciting, because I love fantasy and SF, and daunting, because holy shit there’s a lot of reading that has to happen before the July 31 deadline.

Just the novels, ma’am

Considering only the five nominees for Best Novel, which are (all paid links):

. . . and using only the rough metric of “how many pages Amazon lists for the edition I looked at,” that’s 2,864 pages of reading I need to do. Granted, Best Novel is the category I expect to involve the most reading, but there are oodles of other categories in addition to this one.

The only category for which I rode in fully prepared is Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form, because I’ve already watched all of the nominated films. (Choosing one, though? That’s going to be tough!)

Still, no complaints here. “Oh no, I have to read a bunch of interesting books!” doesn’t carry a lot of water, as complaints go. I’ve ready plenty of Butcher and Stephenson, but Leckie, Jemisin, and Novik are all new to me. I’m excited to read their work — and many other nominated works, as well.

Time, horseshit, and Rabid Puppies

Will I be able to read 100% of the Hugo nominees? Realistically, probably not. I’ll do my best in the time I have, though.

I vote in the ENnie Awards every year, and I don’t even attempt to read/play every nominated work — doing so would entail giving up too much of my time. Instead, I play/read the stuff that interests me, and vote for stuff I feel familiar with. Unlike the Hugos, the ENnies don’t offer up a voter packet, but I make a point of visiting nominated blogs and checking out nominated free products.

I also don’t feel obligated to read every Hugo-nominated work, because fuck the Rabid Puppy agenda. I have a horseshit filter, and you know what? It didn’t stop working when I became a Hugo voter.

If a nominated work stands on its own merits, like Seveneves does, I don’t care if it also appears on the Rabid slate. If a slated work doesn’t stand on its own, or if it advances or supports Rabid Puppy horseshit, it’s going below No Award on my ballot.

I like, and agree with, John Scalzi‘s take on this topic:

If you vote your own conscience, there is no wrong way to vote for the Hugos. There is, simply, your vote. It’s your own choice. Think about it, take your vote seriously — and then vote. No one can or should ask you to do anything otherwise.

I have no stake in how anyone else votes; I’ll be voting my interests and conscience.

The bigger picture

I’ve learned a lot by reading different takes on slates, Puppies, Hugo voting, and all things Hugo-related over the past couple of months.

File 770‘s list cross-referencing nominees with the Rabid Puppy slate is going to come in handy, and the site’s ongoing Hugo commentary and links have been a great read. Gay dinosaur erotica-author Chuck Tingle, nominated by the Rabid Puppies to troll the awards, is a fucking national treasure, and he’s doing a delightful job of trolling them right back.

At least one other “troll nominee,” My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, is an excellent nominee in its own right, and I’ll be fascinated to see how it does. Chuck Wendig said some excellent things about last year’s Hugo mess that are pertinent this year, too. Ditto Brandon Sanderson, in his post about this year’s awards.

“So join. Read. Vote.”

The quote in the title of this post is George R.R. Martin‘s advice to potential Hugo voters, drawn from an excellent blog post he made after the nominations were announced, The Puppy Wars Resume.

It’s good advice, and I’m taking it.

I wish it didn’t cost $50 to take, though. $50 is a lot depending on one’s circumstances, and I bet there are plenty of folks interested in the Hugos for whom that $50 is a barrier to entry. But the sentiment is sound.

I’m still reading, listening, and finding my feet as a Hugo Awards voter, but it’s a responsibility I take seriously — and no matter what happens, I’ll get to read some good books, and the awards themselves will be interesting.

[1] The two earliest fantasy and SF books that I read were, respectively, The Hobbit (paid link) in second grade and Tunnel in the Sky (paid link) in fourth grade. I might be forgetting something earlier in either case (or both), but I have “time stamps” for those two.

[2] My to-read stack, physical and virtual, is hovering around 130-150 books, and has for at least the past five years. I try to spread my unread books across multiple shelves so that they can’t gang up on me.

Categories
Books

Seveneves is roaring through my brain

I’m currently reading Neal Stephenson‘s Seveneves (paid link), and it’s blowing my mind.

(This post is spoiler-free.)

The larch

Stephenson is one of my favorite authors, and Cryptnomicon (paid link) is both my favorite Stephenson book and one of my favorite books period. Quite apart from “just” being fucking amazing in every way, it sparked my interest in cryptography, convinced me I could learn enough HTML and CSS to be dangerous, and deepened my interest in WWII history.

When Crypto came out, I was already fully aboard the Stephenson train — at that point, I’d buy whatever he wrote, sight and reviews unseen. But Quicksilver (paid link) brought me to a screeching halt. I made it a little ways in and gave up, which was rare for me a decade ago.[1]

The rest of the Baroque Cycle looked like more of the same, so I figured Stephenson had stopped writing books I liked, and hey, no worries. More power to him for following his heart.

But then Reamde (paid link) came along, and it looked different. I sampled it, and it was different. I read it, and dug it, and although I didn’t love it as much as Crypto — a high standard! — but it was a fun ride.

Seveneves, though? It looked overlong and overly complex — like another Quicksilver — and I passed on it. Until a few days ago, when a friend recommended it to me.

I mentioned hating Quicksilver, and my friend said he’d hated it too — but that Seveneves wasn’t anything like the Baroque Cycle. He knows I hate spoilers, but he dropped an intriguing hint that put some of the bad press I’d heard about the book in perspective. I put a lot of stock in his recommendations, so I picked it up.

And now for something completely different

Seveneves is amazing.

If, like me, you took an extended “Stephenson break,” come back for this one.

It does more in the first 50 pages than lesser books do in their entirety. It’s teaching me all sorts of stuff about space and orbital mechanics, and at every turn it’s surprising me. I love being surprised, particularly by books.

Seveneves reminds me a lot of Cryptonomicon. Different, obviously, but there’s a common spark. It’s written from one geek to another, but accessibly enough that my fuzzy memories of physics and childhood dream of being an astronaut are getting a workout and a fresh coat of paint. It’s full of big ideas, expressed adroitly, and even when I can see something coming it doesn’t arrive in the way I expected.

It’s got me in its grip, and it’s not letting go. I’m not done reading it yet, but I’m so excited about it that I wanted to share that excitement here. Give Seveneves (paid link) a look, especially if you haven’t read any Stephenson in a while.

Update: all finished now

I finished Seveneves today (May 29), and holy shit. I heard mixed things about the second “portion,” including advice to stop before that point. I couldn’t disagree more.

Staying well clear of spoilers, Seveneves stayed 100% gob-smackingly awesome the whole way through for me. If I read no other Hugo nominees, I’d vote for it in a heartbeat.

So good.

[1] It’s less rare now, but Kindle samples make it easier for me to avoid stuff that I might likely stop reading, so it probably balances out. Life’s too short to read books I don’t enjoy.