What really jumps out at me in this category is how much it leans towards old-fashioned, straight-laced sf. It’s like we’ve gone back to before the New Wave. Hell, “Eight Miles” is back with Jules Verne. The one exception is probably “The Jaguar House, in Shadow.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it also hangs behind a set of stories that I otherwise really liked. To be fair to de Bodard, it was also the story that I had the highest expectations for, and that may have played a role. I was pleasantly surprised by everything else, but I wanted more from an Aztec-themed alternate history.
As we get into the next decade’s worth of Hugo winners, I’ll have some things to say about the state of science fiction. Certainly, hard sf and space opera have looked kind of sickly from both a sales and an awards perspective. I think that perhaps what those genres need are more straightforward stories like these, which focus on character, plot, and relevance, rather than a parade of showy ideas stacked precariously on top of each other.Anyway, other than “Jaguar House,” this is virtually a four way tie. I think, my vote will go like this (but I might change it at the last minute):
"Emperor of Mars"
"Plus or Minus"
then, "Eight Miles"