Aaron's Ballot for Best Novella:
1. NO AWARD
2. Tom Kratman - Big Boys Don't Cry
3. John C. Wright - Pale Realms of Shade
4. John C. Wright - The Plural of Helen of Troy
5. John C. Wright - One Bright Star to Guide Them
6. Arlan Andrews, Sr. - Flow
Starting from the bottom, "Flow" is yet another novel excerpt appearing here thanks to Puppies who didn't care to take the time to find five actual novellas to stuff onto the ballot. The piece is part of an ongoing serialized story, with no beginning, no ending, no point. Events happen and characters pop up for no apparent reason, because the pay-off will be in a forthcoming section. If you think Arlan Andrews is an underrated writer (which I don't dispute), it does him a great disservice to push this obviously inappropriate story fragment onto the Hugo ballot. And of course, it's insulting to anyone who published an actual novella last year.
This brings us to the John C. Wright show. The Puppies have struck a blow for diversity on the Hugo ballot by jamming three novellas by the same author (all published by the contemptible Vox Day) into the same category. Luckily, they don't all read the same.
"One Bright Star to Guide Them" is Wright at his most annoying. The story's characters are adults who took part in a Narnia-style adventure as children. I loved stories like that as a kid, didn't you? But as far as I can gather from this narrative, Wright has nothing but contempt for such tales. Certainly this piece has none of the sense of fun and adventure one expects in a YA-style fantasy.
"The Plural of Helen of Troy" is Wright at his most sloppy. The voice changes jarringly, as the narrator forgets whether he's a poet or a Depression-era private eye, and the narration is filled with nonsensical lines like how a character "looked young for his age, which I pegged somewhere between forty-five and fifty." The story is peopled with historical figures, and these little mistakes kept me from believing in any of them — e.g., do not invoke Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to Jack Kennedy, and then speak without irony of how well she hits the high notes.
"Pale Realms of Shade" is Wright at nearly his most tedious (it doesn't quite reach the standard of "Parliament of Beasts and Birds"), as what starts out as an amusing story of a ghost who's kind of a jerk turns into a dry theological piece about a jerk seeking redemption from the Lord. John C. Wright has written good work in his career, and has received legitimate nominations for major awards, including a Best Novel nomination for the Nebula. Hopefully everyone understands the Puppies are a joke, so they don't hold this year's sham nominations against him in evaluating his career.
After reading so many slow, message-laden Puppy nominees, in a way it's refreshing to read "Big Boys Don't Cry" by Tom Kratman, which actually is the kind of story the Puppies claim to like: an action-oriented military SF adventure in which a futuristic battle tank reminisces about all the planets it's helped bomb into submission. Unlike many of the Puppy nominees, I don't believe the writing in this story is objectively bad. But for me, a little of this kind of thing goes a long way:
Meanwhile, the Ratha's secondary armament, a 75mm KE cannon, electrically driven and coaxially mounted, plus two similarly mounted 15mm Gauss Guns, the twin gatlings in the bow, the three on the cupolae atop her turret, and the top deck-mounted AP/AF guns, kept busy, whirring out a nearly continuous stream of smaller, hypersonic projectiles, eviscerating Slugs and blasting their sleds into wicked, black clouds of fragmented metal.I can't support giving this one a Hugo, for fear that some unsuspecting reader looking for award-worthy fiction might stumble upon this nearly continuous stream of pseudomilitary jargon, eviscerating their eyes and blasting their minds into wicked, gray clouds of fragmented brain. But I'm glad somebody's still writing this stuff, in case one day we all simultaneously lose our copies of Hammer's Slammers.
That brings us to . . . nothing. There's nothing else here to choose from. *Sigh.*
I'm voting No Award in this category because none of the nominees was nominated legitimately. But even if I were inclined to overlook that and vote on the stories' merits, the only one that comes anywhere close to award-caliber is the Kratman story. But it's pretty hard to muster enthusiasm for an author who has publicly proclaimed, "I want the Hugos utterly destroyed." If you take SF/F seriously, there's not really any alternative to No Award for novella.