1.) Andy Weir, of course, was an obvious pick. As I wrote in my 2014 review of The Martian: "[I]t helps that Weir's protagonist is a really likable guy. Most of the story is told using Watney's personal logs, and the voice that emerges is one that, in a way, reminds me of my own father's. Like Dad, Watney primarily uses gallows humor to battle his fear. When he's not ruminating over his "Mark Watney Doesn't Die" project, he's musing about the Cubs, bitching about his mission commander's poor taste in entertainment, or complaining about his boring diet. And yes -- I laughed. Despite Watney's constantly being in mortal danger, I laughed out loud at the first person passages and the way certain things were phrased. [...] [O]verall, I found Weir's view of humanity deeply inspiring. Beyond Watney's resourcefulness and pluck, we also see people on Earth - and on the Hermes - drawing on what is best in themselves and accomplishing great things. [...] I won't spoil the story and tell you whether these efforts succeed; I will tell you, though, that the level of cooperation involved actually made me cry." Weir has demonstrated that you can write diamond-hard science fiction without jettisoning the human element. For this contribution, I was more than happy to nominate him for the John W. Campbell Award.
2.) Chuck Gannon, meanwhile, got a vote for the depth of his sociopolitical space opera. Full disclosure: Chuck tuckerized me in a later chapter of Raising Caine -- but I assure you that is not the reason I've been putting him on my Hugo ballot for the past three years. I've had the great privilege to see, in several presentations, how Chuck has put the universe in the Caine Riordan series together, and the profundity of the thought behind said universe richly deserves recognition. His extrapolation into the future of Earth is eminently credible, and his alien cultures are terrifically conceived.
3.) I also joined my fellow Puppies in nominating Megan Grey's "Tuesdays with Molakesh the Destroyer." Generally speaking, I prefer SF to fantasy, but this particular short story is simply irresistible. Why? It's nice. Instead of emphasizing the negative, it searches for something deeper and more true. Instead of dwelling on anger, it chooses mercy, assuring the reader that today's trials are transitory and not worth seeking feral vengeance.
So, readers: What did you vote for? What excited you this season? Let me know in the comments, please. I want this thread to be devoted to a pure celebration of our favorite works!