2015 Hugo Best Novelette Ballot

Can we please let the best novelette category die?  Of the five nominees, three are or appear to be part of a serialized story.  Of the other two, one or both is really just a slightly longer short story.  The speculative fiction market for stories in the short story-novel gap just isn’t what it used to be, either quantitatively or qualitatively.  A proposal to merge the novelette and novella categories proved to be short-lived though.  Notably, the criticism of the proposal had little to nothing to do with the merits of the stories being written or reader preferences.

 

  1. The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale by Rajnar Vajra

Review here.

Analog Cover

Weak sauce.

 

  1. The Day the World Turned Upside Down by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated by Lia Belt

Review here.

Lightspeed Magazine Cover

Advantaged by being a short story in disguise.  Disadvantaged by reminding us how lame and self-centered we all were when we were young.

 

  1. Championship B’tok by Edward M. Lerner

Review here.

 

Championship B’tok suffers the most from serialization (and the author appeared in the comments to my review to confirm that this is part of a larger story).  It’s well written and crafted but just too complex a story to work in so thin as slice.  And unlike a nominated novel that is part of a series, it’s often no simple task to pick up the preceding volumes.

 

  1. Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium by Gray Rinehart

Review here.

Intergalactic Medicine Show

Ashes is another work that, if it isn’t part of a larger story, would work better if it were.  I was also thrown off because I thought it was a different sort of story at first.

 

  1. The Journeyman: In the Stone House by Michael F. Flynn

Review here.

Analog Cover

This is the only nominated novelette-ized story I plan to track and finish in full.  That’s the strongest praise I can give.

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About H.P.

Blogs on speculative fiction books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday.
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4 Responses to 2015 Hugo Best Novelette Ballot

  1. Cirsova says:

    I can’t help but wonder if the Novelette category suffers from misuse or misunderstanding. I don’t think that a serialized novel should fall into the Novelette category, otherwise the category ends up looking like “best random-ass chapter of some book you’ll never read”. If it’s getting filled with serials, shorter standalones should be merged into short while serialized novels get bumped into novel or novella. Or have a separate category for serials and keep actual novelettes in the novelette category. On the other hand, I can’t say for myself that this is what’s happening or needs to happen, since I half read Championship B’Tok and the Day the World Turned Upside down, got bored and haven’t read any of the non-comic Hugo noms since.

    I’ve done a dreadful job of shirking in my responsibilities as a worldcon voter. But between hating to read digital text and acquiring a huge stack of Vance, Leiber, & Brackett paperbacks an several issues of Astounding, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Planet Stories from the 40s and 50s, this year’s Hugo field sank really low on my reading list. >_>

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      As I understand it, there simply isn’t much being published at that length besides slices of serialized novels, hence the argument that the categories no longer reflect the market. E-books may be leading to a renaissance among novellas though. Cordova’s kaiju books, for example, may all fall into the novella range, and Tor.com is releasing a number of novellas that sound promising.

      I’m hardly the best person to comment on modern short spec fic, because why read it when you can read old Vance or new Ron Rash? The new short spec fic really doesn’t begin to compare in my experience.

      Like

      • Cirsova says:

        Yeah, old Vance has been blowing my mind. I haven’t had much of a chance to start digging into my older pulps yet, but the “Novelettes” from the 70s F&SF I have have all just been stand-alone stories that are slightly longer (20-30 pages instead of 6-12 pages) than the other stuff in the issue. But if the slightly longer stuff like from Lin Carter’s Flashing Swords! collection still fall into the novelette category, all of those – even the ones that were later worked into novels or were explicitly stated to be part of an upcoming novel (such as the Poul Anderson Merfolk story and the Michael Moorecock Elric piece) – worked as stand-alone stories, rather than as part of serials.

        I may have made a mistake in pushing the short story I’m working on to novelette length, if there’s no market for it. Not that I expect there to be much market for sword & planet cheese these days anyway…

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  2. Pingback: On the Hugo Awards Controversy | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

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