Saturday Waffling (September 7th, 2013)
I’ve just finished the Human Nature/Family of Blood post. Those who enjoy when I play absurd structural games will be happy. Those who find me unbearable when I do that will probably find September 18th a somewhat disappointing experience. Or, at least, the part of September 18th where they check my blog. I don’t want to suggest that, like, if they go out for ice cream the scoop will fall off their cone or anything.
So, the Hugo Awards happened. I am oddly fascinated by the Hugos, or, at least, the three categories in which I feel like I have any right to have opinions, which are the Dramatic Presentation awards and the graphic story award. They’re the perfect mix of actually recognizing quality and being utterly idiosyncratic. And so I am going to opine on them.
Doctor Who lost Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) for only the second time since the 2006 awards. The three Moffat episodes for 2012 were nominated, along with an episode of Fringe and the actual winner, the Game of Thrones episode “Blackwater.” This is on balance probably fair, though I’ll happily defend the virtues of The Snowmen. “Blackwater” was a really bloody good piece of television.
At this point what I’m really interested in is the 2014 awards. Dramatic Presentation is at times little more than a “whose fandom is bigger” award, which is why it was possible to guess the 2012 winner as soon as Neil Gaiman’s episode of Doctor Who was even announced. Game of Thrones frankly had an undistinguished 2013 run. One assumes “The Rains of Castamere” will get nominated, although the field is fairly open if it wants to do what it did in 2012 and compete in Long Form as a full season. But I’m skeptical that it deserves to win. Doctor Who will surely be in with both the 50th Anniversary and Christmas specials. For all that Neil Gaiman seems unbeatable, I doubt Nightmare in Silver will get nominated (though if he doesn’t win for Ocean at the End of the Lane, something went wrong). And, of course, we’ll have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which offers Joss Whedon, who beat Doctor Who with Dr. Horrible in 2009. So Doctor Who vs Joss Whedon vs Game of Thrones. It’ll be, I think, the most exciting year for the category in a long time.
Clearly the award should go to Welcome to Night Vale. You do all listen to Welcome to Night Vale, right?
In Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) we have an interesting category. The original Lord of the Rings films were bulletproof at the Hugos, to the point that in 2004 the acceptance speech they did for the MTV Movie Awards featuring Gollum won out over the season finale of Buffy and two episodes of Firefly in what is surely the single stupidest Hugo award ever. But The Hobbit clearly didn’t do nearly as well. The Hunger Games also lost out, which is less surprising. And of course one of the two Joss Whedons was going to lose, and it was always going to be Cabin in the Woods. But for The Avengers to beat out Looper, which was a terribly good proper sci-fi movie is, if not surprising, somewhat disappointing. Back in 2010 Moon, another sci-fi film that was striking in its engagement with golden age-style storytelling pulled off quite a coup, beating Avatar, District 9, and Star Trek. That Looper failed to do so feels like a real shift in the order of things, although, realistically, The Avengers was probably unbeatable.
And then there’s graphic story, where what’s strangest is usually what’s nominated in the first place. The award has been around for five years. For the first three Girl Genius held off everything, which was… strange, in many ways. For comparison, Girl Genius has never won an Eisner, which is the major comic award. Admittedly, not everything eligible for an Eisner is also eligible for a Hugo, but the disparity is strange. Last year the winner was Ursula Vernon’s Digger, which is absolutely fantastic – Vernon is wonderful, and Digger is one of the best things ever. It’s a choice I cannot argue with, but it’s an utter dark horse candidate – its victory is just mind-wrenchingly unlikely. But oh so justified. The whole thing is free online, by the way, and if you’ve not read it, you’re terribly wrong.
This year it was Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples’s Saga, which has been cleaning up every significant award to speak of, and deservedly so. But the stuff it won over is, as usual, a completely bizarre and idiosyncratic list. This is an award I reliably just stare at and fail to even understand the logic of.
So, thoughts on the Hugos? Picks for what should win in next year’s ceremony? Comments on the categories I didn’t talk about? Griping about how TARDIS Eruditorum and I should have been nominated? (No, I didn’t really expect that anyone would complain about that. Least of all me.)
September 7, 2013 @ 12:20 am
Girl Genius winning the first year, and arguably the first three, doesn't seem strange at all to me. For one thing, Girl Genius is a wonderfully fun and well done comic. For another, and perhaps more importantly, Phil Foglio was already a Hugo Award Winner. I figure that got the series a lot of votes from people who were otherwise unfamiliar with the nominees.
What category or categories would TARDIS Eruditorum be eligible for a Hugo in, for that matter? There's always next year…
September 7, 2013 @ 12:48 am
Oh was Looper a decent sci-fi film? I don't know why exactly but I kind of absorbed the notion that it wasn't worth checking out. See also – Oblivion (and possibly Elysium)? I'd be really interested to see a few Desert Island sci-fi DVD lists from you guys to gauge what I may have missed out on in recent years.
September 7, 2013 @ 1:33 am
But if we're playing "whose fandom is bigger", in 2010 Girl Genius beat Neil Gaiman. Granted, not one of his greater works (I liked it, but it wasn't Sandman) and it probably deserved it, but it's still surprising. Unless the Gaiman fans decided they couldn't approve of him writing a superhero book? That seems possible.
Phil (our Phil, not Foglio) probably eligable for Best Fan Writer. Except David Langford always wins that. (Actually, checking Wikipedia, I notice he hasn't even been shortlisted since 2009. Shows what I know.) Would a blog be eligable for Best Related Work?
I dunno. My awareness of the Hugos is mostly restricted to enjoying the Doctor Who victories, and bitching that Terry Pratchett has never even made the Best Novel shortlist. (At least until Terry withdrew Going Postal from consideration, so the stress wouldn't spoil his Worldcon.)
September 7, 2013 @ 1:37 am
I thought Looper was distinctly average. Whilst the narrative trick it pulls is rather good, it doesn't have even half the emotional power of Moon (hell, it's barely up there with Source Code or District 9), and there is an argument that it doesn't even handle the "hard magic" especially consistently (and that's quite apart from the macguffin premise…)
Mind you, I thought Avengers Assemble was distinctly average as well. Joss Whedon can't direct his way out of a paper bag. Honestly – about the best thing I can say about AA is that the action sequences are still comprehensible and watchable on an airline back-of-seat screen, which you can't say about Prometheus or Dark Knight Rises or almost any other Hollywood blockbuster. I will grant you that the dialogue is exceptionally good though. And it was still better than Dark Knight Rises.
I want to see a film directed by Chris Nolan, with a script (but not necessarily a story) by Joss Whedon and cinematography by Ridley Scott. Then we might get close to great. As it is, the "auteur" syndrome has reflected very badly on all of them (as it has on Neill Blomkamp as well.)
September 7, 2013 @ 1:39 am
Just occured to me, another possibility in the Best Graphic Story being won by webcomics four out of five years, might be that those who aren't familiar with comics and graphic novels can check them out for free without too much effort?
September 7, 2013 @ 2:16 am
Ah, the Hugos. As presented this year by… yes, Paul Cornell. Everything on TARDIS Eruditorum eventually connects back to him…
My main reaction to this year's awards was "Redshirts? WTF?"… Redshirts being John Scalzi's novel whose premise is "the characters on (we've changed the name, but's obvious that we really mean-) Star Trek figure out they're living in a TV series". I read this thinking it would be fun to see Scalzi make something of the dire sounding premise, only to find that it was just as dire as the premise made it sound…
Next year? The only eligible novel I've read is Christoper Priest's excellent "The Adjacent", which I'd hope to see nominated at least.
September 7, 2013 @ 3:25 am
IMHO, Looper was very good, Avengers was better, and neither was as good as Moon.
September 7, 2013 @ 5:31 am
"I've just finished the Human Nature/Family of Blood post. Those who enjoy when I play absurd structural games will be happy."
Hmm… does it involve turning into a review blog for most of the length of the post?
September 7, 2013 @ 5:48 am
I am….concerned for intern Dana.
All things considered, Phil could be nominated for one of the print editions of Eruditorum (or, for that matter, Paradise Dungeons) in Best Related Work, or under Best Fan Writer, but at this point it is unlikely he could be nominated just for the blog. Even writers like John Scalzi who primarily won the award based on their blogging still had the award tied to a print collection (cf "Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded", Subterranean Press)
(I also suspect that WTNV is more likely to eventually win a Stoker award than a Hugo, simply because I think a lot of voters would classify it as a horror story than a SF one.)
September 7, 2013 @ 6:29 am
Okay, have I actually fallen into Night Vale or something? I used to listen to this sort of podcast all the time, but when I moved three years ago, my commute got short enough that the effort-of-loading-my-ipod to commute-length ratio tipped (it makes no sense to me that itunes struggles so to handle a library of a hundred thousand files, given that the whole point of the ipod is that you can put an obscene amount of data on it. Also, you can't connect a modern ipod to a computer running linux and expect anything other than disappointment), so I hadn't heard of it.
Then a couple of weeks ago, Fred Clark mentioned it on his blog, then three people I know IRL mentioned it independently, then NPR did a piece on it, two people I know on the internet, and now our gracious host. This is spooky.
(Also, the Hugo is exactly phallic enough that I snicker a little when Hugo season leads to a flurry of pictures of well-dressed internet-savvy sci fi people waving them around while in formalware.)
September 7, 2013 @ 7:50 am
Basically, a couple months ago, it got the critical mass of people talking about it needed for cascading popularity. The snowball's still rolling.
September 7, 2013 @ 8:17 am
First, you'd have to get Nolan to refuse the services of David S. Goyer, which I don't think he'll ever be able to do, now…
September 7, 2013 @ 8:18 am
One hopes so.
September 7, 2013 @ 9:59 am
With regards to the graphic story award, Why there is only one award when the prose story awards have four split solely on story length? – you could easily have an ongoing (which could possibly be split into the web-comic & paper categories, although the lines could get blurred with digital download comics & the classic 'free to read, a page every few days' format)and single story/collection awards. I suppose I'm inured to the feeling of high dudgeon I get when comparing the treatment of comics to prose storytelling in our culture.
Whilst I've no complaints with the excellent Saga winning it would have been nice to see Godzilla: 50 Year War by James Stokoe get recognised too, which as a 5 part limited series has a beginning, middle & end all done within the year long qualifying period. (assuming it doesn't straddle whenever the cut off is). It really is a beautiful looking piece of work. With our culture's obsession with end of the world stories, it's nice to look at that through a giant monster prism rather than the inexorable aimlessly shuffling hordes that's all the rage. There's also a sublime examination of aging and getting replaced by the younger generation that Stokoe weaves into it's gorgeous looking pages. Also from a purely selfish point of view, if the award & recognition translates into more sales Stokoe could afford to get more Orcstain out.
As to possible contenders for next year, Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra's Manhattan Projects, and Brandon Graham, Simon Roy et al's Prophet, both continue to impress both story & artwise. Ales Kot & Morgan Jenske's Change mini-series and Kot & Riley Rossmo's Wild Children in terms of self contained narratives from what I've read. Looking forward, hopefully Paul Pope's upcoming Battling Boy will be a contender. (I'd also add Kieron Gillan & Canaan White's Über to the list if the art improves).
September 7, 2013 @ 10:00 am
While Looper, Oblivion, and Elysium all have their flaws, I think they're miles above (what has been) the average science-fiction movie, and are a sign that the gap between what sf movies are like and what written sf is like is gradually narrowing.
September 7, 2013 @ 10:05 am
Joss Whedon can't direct his way out of a paper bag.
Have you seen the original (unaired, but available online) Buffy pilot, directed by Whedon? The directing is truly dreadful. But I had no problem with his direction on Avengers. Guy's learned a few things in 16 years.
September 7, 2013 @ 10:10 am
Uber and Manhattan Projects both deserve serious recognition, yes. Actually, at this point any year in which Hickman fails to get nominated for a Hugo is a year where the ludicrousness of the graphic story category is demonstrated thoroughly.
September 7, 2013 @ 10:14 am
I'm terribly fond of Rian Johnson, the writer/director of Looper – I thought his previous two films, Brick and Brothers Bloom, were just wonderful. (I stumbled upon him when reading a roundup of people's picks of the best films in 2006, and he, quite astonishingly, actually picked correctly and named The Fountain and Tideland as the two best.) So yes, I recommend checking it out. It's his weakest movie, but that's because it doesn't sparkle quite as much as the other two, not because of any major flaws.
September 7, 2013 @ 10:35 am
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September 7, 2013 @ 12:38 pm
Nightvale sounds really interesting. Remind me of the weirdness of Alice's Wunderland http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkDxjjA7Upc
September 7, 2013 @ 4:42 pm
Do you think The Name of the Doctor is likely to be nominated?
September 7, 2013 @ 11:41 pm
"Why there is only one award when the prose story awards have four split solely on story length?"
I'd put it down to the Hugos being a set of prose fandom awards that have strayed into other areas (and I'd defend the four different prose awards as a way of recognising a broad spectrum of short fiction). The Eisners, by contrast provide a wide breakdown of different types of comic.
September 8, 2013 @ 7:33 am
"Why there is only one award when the prose story awards have four split solely on story length?"
I see the Hugos as being primarily a literary award — down the line, no one will care who won any of the categories apart from "Best Novel".
September 8, 2013 @ 3:40 pm
And now, the weather.
February 6, 2015 @ 8:25 pm
Forgive me if I'm a bit pompous: but you think Digger is excellent too? One of those things that just automatically slots itself into Works of Genius (well, it does to me, anyway.) I do so love it when people's opinions agree with my own.