2014 Campbell Nominees

A quasi-Hugo post, as the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer is awarded through the same process but is Not A Hugo.

Wesley Chu. [*] I tried to read his first novel, The Lives of Tao, and gave up after, let’s see, four chapters. It was competently written but I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. Chad told me about it and yeah, it’s basically the Goa’uld and the Tok’ra all over again: sentient aliens that require hosts to live, share humans’ brains with them, and can use humans like meat puppets—except not even the nominally good ones in Chu’s novel ask for permission first, and they can’t be removed without killing the human. And from the four chapters I read, and what Chad told me, no-one takes the ethics of that at all seriously! Plus I am seriously over male geek wish-fulfillment fantasies; and when even positive reviews note its “[e]ye-rolling male gaze” and how the women are “all there to serve the male-driven plot”? No thank you.

[*] Initially I had a brain-glitch and conflated him with John Chu, who has a short story nominated for a Hugo. I got their names right in the entries and even the tags, and then just . . . glitched. Horribly sorry, and thanks to Caroline for pointing it out in comments.

Max Gladstone. Really liked his first book; meh about his second.

Ramez Naam. I stopped reading Nexus in the fourth chapter, when the clumsy exposition got to be too much. I hadn’t been enjoying myself much to begin with there, either—I’m pretty sure that the first chapter, which shows a guy using a seduction program and then a porn program to get a woman into bed, is supposed to show that he’s a bad guy, but being in his POV was seriously offputting—and then I realized that I’d already read works by multiple other authors on the ballot that were more technically accomplished, and closed the file.

Sofia Samatar. A Stranger in Olondria is really good; “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” is growing on me.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew. Short fiction only so far. Two of the three stories in the voter packet are online: “The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly” (Mythic Delirium) and “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” (Clarkesworld). (The other is “Fade to Gold.”) These were all very good. Sriduangkaew’s prose is a little on the ornate side for my tastes, but I’d comfortably put these up against anything else on the short fiction ballot.

(This is as good a place as any to note that many of the stories on the ballot this year are about identity in the face of technological changes to memory: the two Sriduangkaew stories linked above; “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”; “The Waiting Stars”; and of course Ancillary Justice.)

My ballot is probably 1) Samatar; 2) Sriduangkaew; 3) Gladstone; 4) No Award.


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  1. I think Jon Chu of the nominated story & Wesley Chu of the campbell nomination are different writers unless I’m misunderstanding something (which is entirely possible.)

  2. Oh WOW how embarrassing, thank you so much I will edit that immediately.

    *head. desk.*

  3. It happens! I’ve appreciated your reviews throughout the categories.

  4. As I said over on the “Stranger” entry, I had a decision to go into with the Campbell.

    The bottom of the list, I could fill out easily. Chu was competent, yeah, and I enjoyed it well enough even though I knew it was no great shakes and very derivative; Naam, I liked the book more than you did and I’ve had some interesting exchanges with him on Twitter but I could see his limits; Sriduangkaew I bounced off of hard.

    But with Samatar and Gladstone, I faced a choice. I enjoyed Gladstone’s writing a lot more, even _Two Serpents_. But to some extent, I want to see more writers like Samatar and recognize their achievements, and even if I couldn’t engage with the story I could recognize the talent.

    I ended up voting Gladstone over Samatar, but some part of me wants Samatar to win more.

  5. Well, then, perhaps one of us will be happy regardless!

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