I've only got one surefire nominee this year--Kameron Hurley's God's War. I'm also considering nominating Genevieve Valentine's Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti (already a Nebula nominee), a novel that I found flawed on a first reading (see my review at Strange Horizons), but whose strengths have lingered more strongly in my memory since then. If it weren't so obviously a shoe-in for a nomination even without my help, I'd consider nominating China Miéville's Embassytown, but unlike Mechanique my ambivalence about that novel hasn't faded enough for me to give it my vote.
Other novels that I'm hoping to read before the nomination deadline: Osama by Lavie Tidhar, Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, By Light Alone by Adam Roberts. Other potential nominees that I'd like to read, but probably won't get to, include Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi, and The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers.
I've neglected this category until now, mainly because I can't shake the feeling that the field for works of this length has narrowed so much in recent years that the category is starting to lose its value. Online magazines don't tend to print novella-length works, and print magazines have been cutting down on them. Most novellas these days are published as standalone volumes, which creates a fragmented readership whose nominations reflect--even more than in other categories--a preference for certain authors rather than a comprehensive view of the field. This year, there are several novellas that have been garnering a lot of attention--"Silently and Very Fast" by Catherynne M. Valente, "The Man Who Bridged the Mist" by Kij Johnson, and "The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary" (PDF) by Ken Liu (all three of which are Nebula nominees). I plan to read them all, but with such a narrow consensus it's hard not to feel that the decision has already been made for me.
- "Six Months, Three Days" by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com) - A man who can see the future meets a woman who sees all possible futures. They begin to date, as they've both foreseen, even though they both know that the relationship is doomed to failure after six months and three days. The characters' respective powers naturally raise the question of free will vs. predestination, which Anders does some interesting things with, but she also draws on the their powers to create a believable, and believably dysfunctional, romantic relationship whose unravelling is ultimately deeply painful.
- "The House of Aunts" by Zen Cho (GigaNotoSaurus) - It's hard to suppress a groan at Cho's premise--a teenage vampire romance. But the vampire is not a vampire but a Malaysian monster, and the setting of a Malaysian village changes many, though not all, of the conventions of the teenage characters' lives. More importantly, however, the central relationship between the protagonist, Ah Lee, and her aunts, is wonderfully drawn--the aunts are, at points, loving, overbearing, uncomprehending, fierce, and gentle, and Ah Lee's interactions with them turn from infuriating to hilarious to touching on a dime. Add to that a romance that is neither cloying nor too dominant in the story, and you've got a definite winner. Cho is a new writer, and one to watch--as well as nominating this novelette I plan to nominate her for the Campbell award.
- "The Vicar of Mars" by Gwyneth Jones (Eclipse Four) - The consensus seems to have settled on Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Tidal Forces" as the standout story from Eclipse Four, but though I liked that story, I was more engaged by Jones's, which is darkly amusing and creepy. It's a rather perfect distillation-cum-deconstruction of the classic 19th century ghost story, transplanted to Mars and starring an alien, atheist priest. Though it's set in Jones's Aleutian universe, the story stands quite well on its own, and has stayed with me in the months since I read it.
Best Short Story:
In this category, there's only one story that I'm absolutely certain is going to be on my ballot, Catherynne M. Valente's "The Bread We Eat in Dreams," from Apex Magazine, about a demon who settles near an early American settlement. It's a very funny story which seems more interested in the settlement's growing pains--particularly the squabbles between Puritans and Catholics--than in the demon, but it brings her in at opportune moments to stir the pot and take the town in a fantastic direction.
Other stories that I'm considering nominating include: "Pack" by Robert Reed (Clarkesworld), a weird story that I nevertheless found strangely compelling; "The Last Sophia" by C.S.E. Cooney (Strange Horizons), a story about a girl forced to carry the children of fairies with an interesting and refreshingly cynical narrative voice; "Her Husband's Hands" by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed), an affecting story about about a returning veteran and his wife that I found somewhat manipulative; "Shipbirth" by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov's, February 2011), an expansion of her Aztec alternate history into space; and "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld), a story that anthropomorphizes the two species in its title in a way that allows them to play out campaigns of competing political theories in the space of a single season.
Best Related Work:
No idea what to nominate here. It feels a bit inappropriate to nominate the Science Fiction Encyclopedia since a) I'm a contributor, and b) it's still in beta, but I might still do so.
Best Graphic Work:
Not only do I have no idea what to nominate here, I'm not very interested in the category. Avram Grumer has an interesting list of potential nominees over at Making Light, however.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:
- Melancholia, dir. Lars von Trier
- Source Code, dir. Duncan Jones
- X-Men: First Class, dir. Matthew Vaughn
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:
- Community, "Remedial Chaos Theory" - There's a sense in which nominating this episode feels like a way of sneaking in a beloved, geek-friendly, but nevertheless entirely non-genre show under Hugo's radar, sort of like the knots that some fans are tying themselves in trying to justify a nomination for Sherlock. But "Remedial Chaos Theory," in which the same story plays out in seven different ways according to the result of a die toss, is an episode that casts Community's prevailing concern with its core group and their relationship in genre terms, showing how each member contributes to the group, and how their absence changes it and creates different outcomes to the same situation.
- Being Human (UK), "The Longest Day" - The strongest episode in the show's generally strong third season, this episode sees Herrick, the first season's vampire antagonist, returning to plague the main characters as a seemingly helpless amnesiac, sparking a bitter, complicated dispute about the rights and wrongs of this situation that touches on the show's core issues and shows off the characters' strengths and weaknesses. Given the somewhat disappointing turns that the show has been taking in its fourth season, this is probably the best that Being Human is ever going to be.
- Misfits, Season three, episode two - There are problems with this episode, mainly a cheerful willingness to retcon a lot of character development from the show's previous two seasons in order to make its plot work, and a tendency, when discussing the realities of the female experience, to go to the rape well too often. But despite these issues, the episode, in which superpowered youthful offender Curtis explores the implications of his ability to turn into a woman, is one of the most deft, respectful, interesting explorations of gender identity and sexuality I've ever seen, parlaying the show's infamous crudeness into a refreshing frankness about sex and bodily functions. It's a shame that the rest of the season drops this storyline and its implications for Curtis, but the episode itself is nevertheless laudable.
I don't have much to write about the other categories, most of which--except for the Campbell, which I feel too woefully under-read to nominate in this year, except for the previously mentioned Zen Cho--I don't care much about anyway. I'll probably post a more coherent, finalized version of my ballot closer to the nomination deadline. Until then, your comments are welcome.