Hugo 2014: Best Novella

The Novella category has some good nominees and one probable example of ballot-box stuffing. My first place vote goes to “The Chaplain’s Legacy” by Brad Torgersen. This was the only one of the group I’d read before the nominees came out. It’s solid, post-Vietnam, military SF. It’s a really good story and worth the nomination. Usually I don’t remember 90% of what’s published in the magazines two months after I’ve read them, but I remembered this one.

Second place goes to Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente. It’s fantasy, but well done. There are a lot of good ideas here, though it’s a little too precious for my tastes. Still it’s an enjoyable and memorable read.

Third place goes to “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages, which has been picking up lots of awards. It is by far the best written of the group, and I’ll probably remember it long after all the others have faded into the general category of space opera and fantasy, but I drop it to third because it’s arguably not speculative at all. There are, in fact, exactly three maybe speculative elements in the entire 90 page story. One can be written off as a random thought with no basis in reality. One is perhaps a dream. And the third, at the very end, seems to be just a bit of a literary flourish with no actual impact on the story. It’s a very strong story, but it isn’t SF.

“Equoid” by Charles Stross might be a stronger novella than all of these, but I left it out because I don’t read the Laundry Files. The ideas are too close to some things of my own I’m working on, and I don’t want to be influenced. Don’t worry. The Hugo voting system is such that you can just leave out works you haven’t read without hurting anyone.

The final story is The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells. Holy shit was this bad. Utterly, unreadable, drek. Perhaps even a self-parody? This is a Warcraft novel, and probably snuck in when a lot of Guilders stuffed the ballot box. Wells did the best he could with bad source material, but the fact remains that what works as a video game is truly awful when translated to the printed page. It does strike me that the modern Hugos are sorely missing an interactive fiction category to cover SF like Warcraft, but that’s no excuse for letting crap like this through the front door. It degrades the whole award if this is a nominee.

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