The end of May is traditionally the time when we Sidewise Judges have to go through and release our nominations cut of short stories and novels for the award - which means that dreadful dozen stories that you haven't gotten to that look like prime stinkers are mandatory reads - along with the other stuff that 'life its ownself' have caused to be backed up in your reading queue. In my case, that backup is about to topple over on me.
One reviewer I know well is quite unfailingly *nice* in his thoughts on the stuff he reads; so much so that I have to choke a little on the flowers and bunnies and sunlight in his review prose. Granted, something that starts out with 'this reeking bit of whoredung' won't be quoted by too many people, but I'm always easily tempted to the 'call a spade a freakin' shovel' side of the force and punchem inna face. It's my mean streak in an otherwise sweet tempered nature, I guess.
In the case of any award, each judge has their internal tastes and values. I deal well with military themes, with the extraordinary and the obscure, and choke over plotless meanderings.
A good sign this year is that the diversity of the plot lines is higher. No ten thousand numbingly similar Steampunk extravaganzas, complete with trips over the Reichenbach Falls or Balmoral with half-clockwork bad men and duplicated detectives with deerstalker hats that play Rule Britannia at noon every day. This is, indeed, progress.