RogerBW's Blog

Hugo 2017: Campbell Award 11 July 2017

These are my thoughts on the Campbell Award-nominated authors (yes, I know it's not a Hugo) based on the material provided in the voter pack. If you're planning to vote, you may wish not to read these notes until you have done so.

Sarah Gailey: a short story, Haunted, which is competent and workmanlike but doesn't sparkle. (And a bunch of links - in a PDF file, bizarrely - to other short fiction which nobody can be bothered to put into an ePub. Even though it's rather easier for them, presumably with the original word processor files, than for me, with just the prettied-up HTML.)

J. Mulrooney: provides a novel, An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity, which loses me on the first page and dipping in later doesn't appeal either.

Malka Older: provides a novel, Infomocracy, which I may read at some point, and several pieces of short fiction: The Rupture (interesting worldbuilding and psychology, weak character); The Black Box (technical and character aspects never meet); Tear Tracks (first contact story in which the humans are far stupider then the reasonably alert reader).

Ada Palmer: no additional material provided, and I didn't like Too Like the Lightning though many people think it's wonderful and she will probably win.

Laurie Penny: The Killing Jar is one I'm pretty sure I've read before, though I don't remember where; serial killing is an art form, as long as you can get an Arts Council grant for it and volunteer victims. Small and vicious and perfect. Everything Belongs to the Future looks at how anti-aging technology can break society (especially when it's kept artificially expensive), and the ethics of undercover police infiltrating protest groups. Perhaps a little over-long but it works well. A splendid neologism: "gerontoxin". Blue Monday makes cat videos big business; thoroughly downbeat but well executed. Your Orisons May Be Recorded has useless angels and demons working in a call centre, pretending that prayers might be answered. Again downbeat, but reasonably well done.

Kelly Robson: Waters of Versailles shows a fascinating Ancien Régime where plumbing is the Great Marvel that one artisan can produce… because he has a nixie helping him. There's a hint at murder mystery that comes to nothing, but mostly it's a gradual realisation that horrible people are horrible. Works pretty well. The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill is Hal Clement's Needle writ very small; there's nobody interesting here. Two-Year Man has a well-shown caste system and the industrial slog of the baby factory, but the reason why the main character suddenly decides to wreck his life is never explored and Robson doesn't even seem to be aware that there is anything odd going on.

For me Penny is very far out in front of the pack. I'll be interested to see how the final numbers come out.

Voting order:

  1. Laurie Penny
  2. Kelly Robson
  3. Malka Older
  4. Sarah Gailey

See also:
Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer

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