Monday, April 09, 2012

Initial Thoughts on the 2012 Hugo Nominees

So, the Hugo Awards.  I have thoughts.  This isn't so much an argument with everyone griping or expressing basic satisfaction with the awards as it is my general thoughts based on what I've read and what I think.

The short version is that I'm generally satisfied with the lineup.  There are things I'd change (given that I did submit a nomination ballot), but as a whole it's solid.  I do think that, overall, the Nebula Awards has a more interesting shortlist, but this isn't bad.  I'll post more about some of the individual categories when I have the chance to read all of the nominees. 

Best Novel
  • Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)
  • A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
  • Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

The only one of the five nominees I’ve read is Among Others. It was my favorite novel published last year and I believe it is going to take something special to supplant it as my number one choice in a couple of months when I vote. The trouble for me here is that even though I’ve already read the first four novels in A Song of Ice and Fire, I had planned to do a gradual series re-read before stepping into A Dance With Dragons. Thus far, I’ve only re-read the first book. Do I want to push through A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast of Crows in the next three months just to read A Dance With Dragons? Or, do I want to go in fairly cold and deal with the novel with imperfect memories of what came before?

Likewise with Deadline, my plan is to read Feed first. I’ve already requested it. My opinion of Feed will definitely shape whether I wish to continue on with Deadline. I’ll step into the other two nominees as well.

    Best Novella

    I haven’t read Countdown or “The Ice Owl”. For the rest, I think that “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” may be the strongest on the slate. Granting that I was left completely baffled by Catherynne Valente’s story, “The Man Who Ended History” is the most inventive story and is one of a series of excellent stories published by Ken Liu last year – it was excellent and would be a worthy winner, but it left me a touch cold even with the personal aspect of the documentary storytelling. I admire the craft of the story, but part of what I look for is a connection. I had that more with the consistently excellent Kij Johnson.

    Best Novelette
    • The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s July 2011)
    • Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
    • “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog December 2011)
    • Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (
    • “What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011)

    I’ve raved about Charlie Jane Anders’ “Six Months, Three Days” and continue to recommend it. Go read it. Otherwise, I’ve only read Rachel Swirsky’s “Fields of Gold”. I liked it, but right now Charlie Jane Anders is going to be the class of the field. That was also the case in a strong Nebula category. Yes, I understand that I’m stating this while still needing to read three of the nominated stories.

    Best Short Story

    I still need to read the Resnick and Scalzi. The other three nominees: excellent! Each of those were on my ballot for very good reason. Whether he pulls it off this year or not, Ken Liu is going to have to deal with the fact that very soon people are going to start throwing awards at him. I suggest plate mail as a viable defense. Or a force field. “The Paper Menagerie” is a heartfelt quiet story with regret and heartbreak and it’s a beautiful piece. The problem is that Nancy Fulda’s “Movement” is likewise beautiful that touches on the challenge of raising a child with a form of autism AND the hidden worlds of what may be going on in the mind of such a child and what occurs in those spaces between inadequate responses. E. Lily Yu’s “Cartographer Wasps…” is a powerful work of imagination and I really hope to see a lot more from Yu. I love this category.

    Best Related Work
    • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)
    • Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies by Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic Books)
    • The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers (Abrams Image)
    • Wicked Girls by Seanan McGuire
    • Writing Excuses, Season 6 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jordan Sanderson

    I have no idea. I’ll have the chance to browse through the Encyclopedia and listen to a few of the Writing Excuses podcasts, but I’m not at all familiar with.

    Best Graphic Story
    • Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
    • Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
    • Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
    • Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
    • The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

    Fables and Schlock Mercenary continue to be nominated for the fourth consecutive year. The Unwritten is on its second year and I wasn’t a fan of its first collection of comics. I’ve been a bit sketchy on how the eligibility cycle works and since I don’t read single issues, I can only consider collections as a single entity – which is fine, but I think the category is in a time of growing pains as readers try to figure out what they liked best out and recognize work for excellence. But, with such a limited nominating pool, if folks don’t read widely in comics, it’ll be all too easy to see the same ongoing series nominated and winning again and again and again (see the Doctor Who Award for Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form, or happily, the changing of the guard in the Locus Award for Best Semiprozine). Luckily, Girl Genius was not nominated this year – and whether they didn’t have an eligible collection or they declined the nomination, I don’t know. But four years of Girl Genius winning would be a bit much. And, admitting my bias, I don’t know that I really consider it to be the best work out there. But then, I could also read more widely.

    And with all of this said – Locke and Key. That was an excellent book.

    Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
    • Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
    • Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
    • Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
    • Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

    Can I just assume Game of Thrones? I think it’ll happen. Captain America wasn’t that good of a movie. Harry Potter 7.5 was fine, but far better than Captain America. Haven’t seen Hugo or Source Code. Or, as a whole, I don’t care about this category.

    Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
    • “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
    • The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
    • “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
    • “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
    • “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

    I need to double check a couple of Doctor Who episodes, but I think “The Girl Who Waited”. That was an excellent and moving episode. I’m not going to begin to get into the consistent nominating of Doctor Who to the near exclusion of everything else. I don’t watch enough SFF television. Hell, I watched an episode of Swamp People last night and despite my horror, I couldn’t look away. So maybe I’m to blame for this mess. The interesting nominee here is “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech”, which has to be one of those most weirdly recursive nominations of all time. If you watch it (and you should, it’s really short), it’s obvious how meaningful that moment and that win was to Christopher Garcia. It’s a fantastic moment, though I’ll admit to being somewhat uncomfortable watching it. Should it have been nominated? I don’t know, but better that than a fourth episode of Doctor Who.

    Best Semiprozine

    Lightspeed had an excellent year, but I didn’t read Apex or Interzone last year (except for the one story Elizabeth Bear had published in Apex – good story, by the way). I don’t subscribe to Locus, though I find great value in its forthcoming fiction list. So, Lightspeed.

    Best Fanzine

    SF Signal! I think this is a very important nomination because I very firmly believe that blogs are where the heart of the modern fanzine lives today. There is still a small but strong community built around the old style mimeographed fanzines of yesteryear, the most prominent of which are still being published and launched online at e-fanzines (and possibly still existing in print), but so many more fans are gathering online and writing blogs, commenting on others, contributing, and engaging in meaningful conversations in a way that builds fandom. Yes, small islands exist in this online fandom, but I believe that small islands always existed with the old style fanzine.

    If the fanzine category should exist (and why shouldn’t it), I think it should continue to grow and reflect the times of the day – which is what the inclusion of SF Signal reflects. I think and hope that we will see more blogs involved in this category. I’ve several in mind which I can see from my little island, but as fandom shifts and flows, we’ll likely see others nominated which I had never considered because I’m not part of that corner. That’s more than okay, it’s awesome.

    I’ve read File 770 in the past and have enjoyed what Mike Glyer does. I’m not so familiar with Banana Wings, The Drink Tank, or Journey Planet. If they exist in an online format (beyond a PDF at e-fanzines), I’ll have to check them out.

    Best Fancast

    I’m not at all part of this community and haven’t engaged with podcasts much at all, so I have nothing to say here.

    Best Professional Editor — Long Form

    You know what I’d like to see? Some sort of centralized database or listing where you can look at an editor’s output for a given year. What did Lou Anders edit from the 2011 slate? Well, with Pyr, I believe it would be everything. But that’s not the case with Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Tor published a LOT in 2011. How much awesomeness was Liz Gorinsky responsible for? Honestly, if you’re not checking the editor of every book you read (assuming that information is even available inside the cover), making a list, and compiling it throughout the year – how do you really get a sense for it?

    Best Professional Editor — Short Form

    There are two ways to look at this category. 1) Find your favorite ‘zine and nominate the editor responsible for it (Ann Leckie at GigaNotoSaurus, I love what you’re doing even if you didn’t get nominated this year). 2) Look at who published some awesome anthologies and nominate accordingly. It’s a solid lineup this year, even if Ann Leckie wasn’t nominated. I don’t subscribe to Analog or Asimov’s and while I tend to appreciate Asimov’s nominated fiction, when I had previously subscribed to, I didn’t find Asimov’s to be a consistently engaging publication. The highs were high. Everything else was just okay but not enough to make me re-subscribe. This statement is based on a one year subscription from several years ago. For me, this is between John Joseph Adams and Jonathan Strahan. (And Ann Leckie!)

    Best Professional Artist

    Due to various reasons, I didn’t engage with the genre art scene as much this year as I would have wanted to. I’ll spend some time working through the various catalogs of our nominees. I hope to do a much better job looking at and talking about the professional artists this year, even if I don’t know how to talk about it beyond instinctive response to a cover. Also – do we only consider cover art when we think of this category. If not, what do we consider?

    Best Fan Artist

    I am not engaged at all in the fan art community. I have no idea what’s going on there.

    Best Fan Writer 

    Whenever someone links to Jim C. Hines I am always struck by how smart the man is and how well he thinks through his arguments. And yet, I still haven’t read his books. But, this is about his fan writing, not his professional writing. I’m not familiar with the others.

    John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
    E. Lily Yu! Actually, I haven’t read the other four, but it appears to be a strong lineup this year. By “strong lineup”, I mean to say that I’ve heard of the writers and, correspondingly, have heard good things.


    Journey Planet said...

    WHy beyond a PDF on eFanzines? In the case of Journey Planet, there's print and the PDF form, and there's The Drink Tank only as a PDF on eFanzines (and, usually). Is is an aversion to the PDF format itself?

    Joe said...

    Chris: No, that's pretty much it. I don't like to read at length on my computer and I don't have a tablet reader. So, the thought of a full PDF (or Word Doc or anything else) doesn't appeal to me.

    The ability to pull an RSS feed of something and digest it in small bites or one article at a time - I like that. I know that I could do the same with a PDF, but not with the same level of comfort and ease for me.

    That's the short version, anyway.