First off, I have to say this:
AUGH, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!
There is something seriously screwed up in the heads of some of the people who nominated works like “Wakulla Springs” for a sci-fi/fantasy award – because works like that ARE NOT FANTASY! Just like “Water from Nowhere” the only bits that could possibly make it sciffy are there as window-dressing, which Does. NOT. COUNT. Nominating non-fantasy, non-sci-fi works for a sciffy award offends me. Who the heck let all these lit fans into our sciffy territory? Shun the non-believers! Shun! /sarc
Anyway, on to the reviews.
First up, “The Chaplain’s Legacy” – a sci-fi tale that borrows motifs from Ender’s Game and its Speaker For The Dead sequels, and manages in one novella to pull off the religious themes far more gracefully while simultaneously addressing how technology and perception intersect. Of all the shorter-than-novel works, I think this one stands out as the best.
The Butcher of Khardov comes in as a close second; it’s well-written and solidly sci-fi, and I enjoyed it despite my complete unfamiliarity with the originating franchise. Unfortunately I wasn’t that fond of the ending; the last half-page kind of ruined it for me. (I won’t say exactly why, since that would be a pretty huge spoiler.) Thus second place.
“Wakulla Springs” won’t be appearing on my ballot because it’s an impostor attempting to be a work of fantasy, when in fact it’s actually a work of historical fiction. It’s a good work of slice-of-life historical fiction, though; I actually read about a third of it, put it aside to read the other novellas, and then went back to finish it because I’d enjoyed it. (The window-dressing that serves as its pathetic excuse to be present in this competition doesn’t appear until you’re 90% through the story. And the story itself has absolutely nothing to do with those fantasy elements whatsoever. Aaaaaaaaaargh.)
“Equoid” – this one is definitely science fiction; it’s sort of a Lovecraftian fanfiction? I think? Based on those ideas, at any rate. I got halfway through this one before I decided that despite being eligible, the work doesn’t meet my personal requirements for a Hugo Award (something that can represent sciffy to non-fans) due to excessively graphic body-horror (YMMV) and a really weird “let’s recap the first half of this novella”(?!) thing in the middle. Whut? Is this a two-episode TV show or something? Anyway, I was concerned that the author was going to get excessively graphically horrific again later on, and let me tell you, having had all of one body-horror nightmare in my life, I’m soooooooooo not setting myself up for any more, thanks. If you like that sort of thing, go on and read it, but I’m not gonna go there myself.
Six Gun Snow White – this one is legitimately fantasy, in that Snow White, in this case, is actually Cinderella (heh) and her evil stepmother is a witch. It’s an interesting blend of the Snow White and Cinderella tales at first, but the work has MAJOR pacing issues. I got about 2/3 of the way through it, and Snowy is still running away from Evil Stepmom, at which point I stopped caring and decided it was off the ballot and it was time for me to move on. Sarah Hoyt talks a bit about the Rincewind plot here.
Of course, now this means that I have to go tackle the novels next. Unless I stall by poking around the other categories; I’m planning to take a gander at the pro and fan artists even though I might not blog about those. I’m also kind of curious to see what they put in the packet for the editors – I mean, how do fans evaluate editors and pick which ones they like best? By what works the editors have edited? That seems a little luck-based to me, you know, right person right place right time to pick up a popular work. Although since editors are fairly well known for passing on things that later became huge (Harry Potter, iirc) I guess it DOES take editorial skill to choose well!