Sunday, July 29, 2018

2018 Hugo Ballot, Part Three (Related Work, Dramatic Presentation, and More)

I've already submitted my votes for this year's Hugos for Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, and Best Short Story (see my ballots here and here).  But there are a lot more categories!  So ... many... categories.  You can see all the finalists in all the categories here.  There are more categories, honestly, than I can hope to vote for before the July 31 deadline.  I think I can manage a few more at least, so here's what I think about Best Related Work, Best Graphic Story, and Best Dramatic Presentation (Long and Short).  I'm not going to vote for Best Series because I haven't read any of them.  I'll probably also skip the editor categories because I don't feel as plugged into the professional side of science fiction as I feel like I ought to be to vote for those (although editing is a lot of work and deserves recognition, so I may change my mind there).  Hopefully I'll get to the other categories in Part Four!

Best Related Work

How can this category do this to me, pitting so many works about or by so many of my favorites against each other?  Butler, Banks, and Le Guin -- or their literary ghosts, anyway -- battling it out for a Hugo?  I prefer to think of them as engaged in polite conversation over a nice pot of tea.  Oh, well.

1.  Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce, and Mimi Mondal (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • A remarkable collection of writing on Octavia Butler, her work, and her legacy, much of which consists of letters written directly to Butler (who died in 2006).  There are a few dozen short contributors from big names like Nnedi Okorafor and Steven Barnes as well as from less established authors.  The editors, Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal, deserve a lot of credit for putting this together and making it happen.  Great stuff.  I feel slightly bad about putting this before Le Guin, but I feel like Le Guin would be okay with relinquishing a posthumous Hugo to give more attention to newer voices.

2. No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • The universe became a far less interesting place when Ursula K. Le Guin died in January 2018.  I was lucky enough to be able to teach The Left Hand of Darkness last semester, and I'm currently working on a paper called "Le Guin's Daoism," which I am scheduled to present at this year's Worldcon in San José, CA.  Reading this collection (mostly from her personal blog) brings out something you rarely hear about Le Guin: She was hilarious!  It doesn't always come out as clearly in her fiction, but when I read her essays I find myself frequently laughing out loud.  As a cat lover and Le Guin fan, I especially love the parts about her cat Pard in this collection.  I never had the honor of meeting Le Guin, but reading this makes me miss her in a way I usually miss loved ones.

3. Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), by Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press)
  • I have some minor quibbles (I think Banks really thought the Culture was a utopia, ambiguous though it may be, despite the problems Kincaid wants to focus on), but otherwise this is a solid scholarly monograph about one of my all time favorite authors.

4. Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoë Quinn (PublicAffairs)

  • I'm not much of a video gamer, so most of what I know about Gamergate came from news articles months or years later.  This is an interesting memoir by one of the people at the center of it all: Zoë Quinn.  What utter vile bullshit Gamergate was!  I already knew that, but it's surprising to have it detailed so clearly.  Quinn also promises ways to fight online hate.  Let's hope we can someday move beyond this sort of bullshit in gaming, comics, science fiction, Star Wars fandom, politics, or anywhere else.

5. A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press)
  • I've read some of his work, but I never met Harlan Ellison.  By all accounts he was larger than life whether you loved him or hated him (and from what it sounds there were plenty of reasons for both).  This is a nice, sympathetic biography (some might say too nice and sympathetic).

6. Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Liz Bourke (Aqueduct Press)
  • An interesting collection of Bourke's book reviews from various sources (it's giving me ideas, honestly: someday I might try a similar venture with the stuff I post here and elsewhere).  If the other finalists weren't so excellent, I'd have ranked this higher.

Best Graphic Story
I'm not much into comics or graphic novels, but I had a look at the Hugo voters' packet, anyway, and I recognize some of these as continuations of series from previous years.  Here's what I thought.  As I did last year, I continue to love the art in the Monstress series, so I'm giving that the #1 spot.  I also thought My Favorite Thing is Monsters and Bitch Planet had unique art.

1. Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

2. My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

3. Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)

4. Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

5. Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image Comics)

Leaving off my ballot

Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Marvel)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
I love voting for this category because I've always seen everything already. This year is no exception. But I wonder if anyone in the movie industry really pays much mind to the Hugos, which are really more of a literature thing. Oh, well. This year is tough because I really liked all of these movies, each one for really different reasons. But if rank them I must, here we go...

1. Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
  • Check out my review.  A groundbreaking and hilarious science fiction/horror film.  I plan to use this one as a key part of my horror and philosophy class this fall alongside W. E. B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk.

2. The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • A movie that sounds ridiculous if you explain it but in the capable hands of Guillermo Del Toro it becomes something that works really well, well enough to win the Oscar for Best Picture.  See my review.  I may also show this one in the horror and philosophy course if we discuss the idea of monsters (who are the real monsters, anyway?).

3.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
  • The nerd rage is strong with this one.  And I'm totally baffled by the rage.  I'm honestly embarrassed by Star Wars fandom these days.  The Last Jedi isn't perfect, but I love the movie and what Rian Johnson was trying to do.  I think the franchise needed some shaking up (not to mention some moving away from Skywalker family drama).  I also love Holdo and Rose and can't understand why people hate them (I'd like to think it's not just misogyny and racism, but... ).  I think this is the most philosophically interesting Star Wars movie, especially from a Daoist perspective (non-action or wu wei demonstrated by the Canto Bight sequence, the cosmic perspective of the Force in Luke's teaching and actions, etc.).  I've been meaning to write more about The Last Jedi for months, but in the meantime you can read my initial review.

4. Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
  • As a sequel to a beloved film released 35 years later, Blade Runner 2049 was always a pretty audacious idea.  I'm not sure if it lives up to the original (okay, no, it doesn't), but it's a visually beautiful film that delves into some interesting philosophical territory as well.  There are some issues with the movie (especially, I think, when it comes to gender and race), but it's at the very least an interesting, beautiful sequel.  I also meant to write more about this, but you'll have to make do with my initial review for now.

5. Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)

  • As I note in my review, I'm not the biggest super hero fan, but I knew this one would be something special.  Wonder Woman, along with Black Panther, makes me re-evaluate some of my criticisms of the super hero genre (although I think Black Panther worked a bit better as a movie ... I'm sure it will be a finalist next year!).

6.  Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)

  • Even a superhero curmudgeon like me likes to have fun.  And this movie is a lot of fun.  And it has cool space stuff.  I do wonder why this, rather than Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, was a finalist (Guardians was a bit more fun in my opinion).  Anyway, check out my review of Thor: Ragnarok. 

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
TV is harder to keep up with than movies (at least big budget Hollywood movies). There's just so much TV out there. Somehow I've seen all of these except for the Doctor Who episode (hate my if you will, but I'm more of a classic Who fan and haven't kept up with the new stuff -- Tom Baker for the win!). Actually, it's not all TV. There's a hip hop song on there, too. Check it out.

1. The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • A show on NBC where one of the main characters is a philosophy professor?  And they actually talk about philosophers and doing so is integral to the plot?  And it's all really funny? I have no idea how this show got made.  Must've been intervention from upper management.  This episode is everything I love about The Good Place, and it actually makes a substantive metaphilosophical point about thought experiments.  Forking great!  See what I said about this a few months ago.

2. Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios)
  • Star Trek: Discovery is another boiling point of nerd rage that baffles me.  But at least the Star Trek fans aren't quite as annoying about it as the Star Wars fans.  The mind- and time-bending episode was just so much fun.  And Harry Mudd is in it.  Read my thoughts on Discovery here.

3. Black Mirror: “USS Callister,” written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow)
  • A hilarious and deep spoof of Star Trek and some of the negative side of its fandom.  Probably my favorite Black Mirror episode, maybe because it's one of the least Black Mirror-ish episodes (I get it, technology makes us uncomfortable...).  Check out what I had to say about this episode several months ago.

4. “The Deep” [song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

5. The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,” written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • I had to look it up, but this was actually the last episode of season one, which had a pretty forking amazing reveal.  If "The Trolley Problem" wasn't a finalist, I would've ranked this higher.

Leaving off my ballot

Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales)

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