Monday, July 13, 2015

Hugo Reading - The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Best new writer, huh? I guess what I'm looking for is a powerful story that also indicates promise for the future. I don't know what to expect, but I'm hoping for a few works that demonstrate skill and some mastery of the craft, along with unique ideas.

  • Rolf Nelson
    Because there was nothing in the packet for this nominee, I went to his website at, which was a mistake. I immediately noticed that he supported the Tor boycott, which probably means he's a puppy, which likely means he's a slate nominee. *sigh* I would have preferred to not know. I checked out his book at the link from his site... it appears to be a script, not a novel. That is immaterial to this award, but does seem odd. Going a little further back in his posts, he mentions the Hugo packet and says one of his works is in the Related Works section in "Riding the Red Horse". It's a short story called "Shakedown Cruise", so I figured I'd give it a chance. The preview of the novel at Amazon didn't do much for me, but maybe the short story would be good enough to earn him a spot on the ballot...? Well, the story is smart enough, about folks running around having space battles, but the writing is odd. The tense changes almost randomly at times, which made it hard to read. The action bogs down a lot in the middle, although it was pretty snappy early on. There's certainly promise here, but best new writer? I doubt it. I don't see either a mastery of writing or unique ideas here.
  • Eric S. Raymond
    Another one that isn't in the packet... or is it? A search of his website shows that he also has a story, "Sucker Punch" in "Riding the Red Horse". There's also an interesting statement about his nominiation that, in short, says he doesn't think he deserves it but hopes people will judge the work and not the reasons why he might be on the ballot. I can live with that. He notes that "Sucker Punch" is his only published work in 2014... and that's one reason I cannot put him on my ballot. I enjoyed the story, overall. It's not bad and the writing does promise better things in the future. But it's only a single story about near-future technology, and I think we need a little more than this to go on. I hope he publishes more in the future and I hope to see more of it, but I can't rank him this year.
  • Jason Cordova
    There's a list of this guy's work on his website and two pieces in the packet. Upon reading the offerings in the packet, the first thing I noticed is that the writing is technically fairly poor. Under normal circumstances I would blame the editor for not catching some mistakes that look very much like simple errors that most writers make, but this is the Hugos. Writers should be putting their best works forward. In any case, based on "Hill 142" and "Murder World: Kaiju Dawn", this isn't a writer whose fits in the "best of the year" category. In addition, his work does not appeal to me in general anyway, so I can't put this guy on my ballot.
  • Kary English
    Thanks to her public comments, the fact that I've already read and judged one of her stories, and comments on her website, I know English is a slate nominee. I also know that she has a different view of the puppies than those of us who have only seen the results of their actions. She thought the group was about inclusiveness and not about creating a slate and running the nominations. I have stated before that I absolutely support the idea of encouraging more people to nominate and vote in the Hugos, and I think, from what she says, that's what she expected. But what she got was the slates, which are a step short of cheating (and certainly a dishonest method of deciding what to nominate). She's angry about being associated with the more extreme people on the puppy side: but like I've said before, she is the one who decided to associate with them and continues to associate with them. The more people learn about the puppy leadership, the less reasonable it is for anyone to continue to claim to be a puppy. That's all baggage I have to somehow fight while reading her stories, and knowing about that baggage is one reason I attempted to hide who was on the slates from myself before judging each category.
    Whew. With all that said, I have already read "Totaled" and mostly enjoyed it. That story alone puts her ahead of the first three nominees I've reviewed in this category. The packet includes two more short stories, "Departure Gate 34B" and "Flight of the Kikayon". Departure Gate is very short and bittersweet. It's very nicely done, but probably could've used another edit. Definitely a fine story. Flight is also good, and also could have used another edit. There were tiny technical issues that bothered me, but overall, it was a good read. The three stories together are very good, if mildly depressing and all on the same theme, and I have no problem putting her on my ballot, probably above "No Award". It helps her a lot that the first three nominees aren't nearly as good as she is, which is a direct result of the slate. Whether or not she intended it, she definitely has benefited from the puppies' dishonest slate nominating.
  • Wesley Chu
    Just a few pages into the packet sample and I knew who my top pick was. I mean, it's not even close. The others are ok, maybe promising in the future. This guy is the whole package. The writing is snappy and interesting and pushes the plot along. The characters are developed quickly and have depths to them that are hinted at first then explored. The central idea is not completely original, but I think the way he goes about it is entertaining and wonderful. I will be reading the first book and the next. Check out Chu's website for more on his works. I wonder if he'll be a contender for best novel next year?
Chu is on top of the ballot, no question. English is up second and the other three aren't going to be on my ballot. I can see all of these writers being great in the future, but Chu is definitely the best of the bunch. He's got the whole package, and is already producing new works that are getting a buzz. His work is head and shoulders above all the other nominees.

I would love to have a year in which all of the nominees are as good as Chu. I hope that will happen in the future while I'm still voting on the Hugos.