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Comments on this year's Hugo Award Nominees - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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April 3rd, 2007

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02:27 am - Comments on this year's Hugo Award Nominees
This year, I think that the list does not contain nearly as many utterly egregious choices as last year - John Scalzi's Old Man's War was a Hugo nominee last year, and most certainly did not remotely deserve to be there, and several of the other choices were somewhat dubious. In any case, here are some of my impressively biased comments about the best novel, best film, and best TV nominees, as well as some more general comments. I'm not writing about the shorter fiction, because I didn't read that much recent short fiction in the last year, and so haven't read any of the nominees.

However, as you can see from looking over the list for all of the various categories of print fiction, there is one nominee by a woman in the novels category and absolutely none in any of the other categories. I know that Kage Baker wrote several excellent sort stories (and one excellent novel) in 2006, and I cannot believe that no other female authors have wrote top notch speculative fiction stories in 2006 – what I instead see is a fairly impressive degree of sexism. I am not even remotely impressed or pleased, and that may well color my other comments.

Michael F. Flynn, Eifelheim (Tor)
Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon (Del Rey; also, Voyager, 1/06, as Temeraire)
Charles Stross, Glasshouse (Ace)
Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End (Tor)
Peter Watts, Blindsight (Tor)

I didn't read, and in fact never heard of the first novel on the list, so I can't comment at all other than from the Amazon reviews it looks well done, but also likely to be depressing enough that I'll avoid it. I also haven't read Novik's book, and it's not all that much my sort of thing, but I'm told by a goodly number of people it's well done, and is also quite popular, and so definitely deserves to be on the list. I've read or tried to read the other three. Neither Stross nor Vinge's work is their best, but both are good and fun. I think Vinge's is somewhat better, but largely because Stross seemed like he was trying to be deliberately bizarre while also being overly heavy handed in some of his social commentary.

In vivid contrast, Blindsight was among other things a shaggy dog story attempting to be a serious novel. The premise sounded good – attempted alien contact with semi-incomprehensible aliens, and a wacked out semi-post human crew. All good so far. However, one of the characters is a vampire of a particular type – I recognized it from a somewhat cheezy shaggy-dog-story like video clip I saw on-line around 6 months ago. It turns out that Watts created the video clip as a tie in to his novel. It's exceedingly cheezy, in a mildly fun sort of way, but is vastly jarring in Blindsight, which is ostensibly a serious, gritty, and somewhat grim SF novel. Of course, that's only the first problem. Watt's is trying to do hard SF where he plays with neuroscience, biology, and all of the other sorts of things most hard SF authors avoid, and he uses his science in a clunky and remarkably heavy-handed manner. The result is wretched, and to me essentially unreadable. Once again, I'm baffled that this book made it on any list of good novels. However, one piece of utter trash and four good novels isn't too bad.

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Children of Men. Screenplay by Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron. (Universal Pictures)
Pan’s Labyrinth. Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. (Picturehouse)
The Prestige. Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Directed by Christopher Nolan. (Warner Brothers / Touchstone Pictures)
A Scanner Darkly. Screenplay by Richard Linklater. Directed by Richard Linklater. (Warner Independent Pictures)
V for Vendetta. Screenplay by The Wachowski Brothers. Directed by James McTeigue. (Warner Brothers)

I didn't see Children of Men for reasons I've mentioned elsewhere, and while the movie doesn't seem to have been as offensive as the trailer (admittedly almost nothing could be) I'm still rather dubious about it. Pan’s Labyrinth was both brutal, and characters were not as well explicated as they could have been, but it was still quite good. I'm still not certain if The Prestige was a significantly good film, but it was a significantly fun film. I didn't see A Scanner Darkly, so I can't comment other than to doubt that it could have been particularly good, given that it starred Keanu Reeves. V for Vendetta was magnificent, and the only movie based on Alan Moore's work that was at all close to the original – definitely my pick.

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Battlestar Galactica, “Downloaded.” Writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle. Directed by Jeff Woolnough. (NBC Universal/British Sky)
Doctor Who, “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday.” Written by Russell T. Davies. Directed by Graeme Harper. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Doctor Who, “Girl in the Fireplace.” Written by Steven Moffat. Directed by Euros Lyn. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Doctor Who, “School Reunion.” Written by Toby Whithouse. Directed by James Hawes. (BBC Wales/BBC1)
Stargate SG-1, “200.” Written by Brad Wright, Robert C. Cooper, Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, Carl Binder, Martin Gero, and Alan McCullough. Directed by Martin Wood. (Double Secret Productions/NBC Universal)

I didn't see the Stargate SG-1 episode, because I've seen half a dozen episodes in the time that show has been on and in my opionion absolutely none of them were even remotely worth watching, and so I don't imagine that this episode is any better. As for the rest, Girl in the Fireplace was quite good, but was in some important was very similar to School Reunion, which I thought was even better. Army of Ghosts was fun, but notably less so than either one of the other two. OTOH, despite liking Dr. Who somewhat more than BSG, and enjoying it considerably more, there is no question that Downloaded was the best episode of that season and I think it deserves the award. OTOH, I can also easily see School Reunion winning.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(9 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 09:49 am (UTC)
A Scanner Darkly was very impressive.

And while you can lay charges of sexism against the Hugos, you're doing so against the aggregate members of the 2007 WorldCon - as it's the people going to the next one who voted for this shortlist, and not some committee somewhere.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 06:26 pm (UTC)
A Scanner Darkly was very impressive.

Fair enough, I did not see it.

And while you can lay charges of sexism against the Hugos, you're doing so against the aggregate members of the 2007 WorldCon - as it's the people going to the next one who voted for this shortlist, and not some committee somewhere.

Precisely. I actually expect the Nebulas to be considerably more balanced. People can avoid sexism when they try (which is usually true on committees composed of people who are not vile) but when they act en mass, such prejudices become more evidence.
Date:April 3rd, 2007 01:00 pm (UTC)
I thought The Prestige was one of the best movies I saw all last year. And then I read the book, which made me even more impressed with the movie. The book has a bizarre framing device, a muddy plot where the "tricks" are far too obvious and heavy-handed, and generally is nowhere near as compelling or entertaining as the film. I'm very impressed that the screenwiters managed to tighten it up and clean it up enough to make that movie, considering their source material.

A Scanner Darkly may well have been my other favorite movie of last year. Yes, I know Keanu Reeves should be a dealbreaker but in the role of a drug user whose brain's been permanently damaged by the drugs, his omnipresent confused mumbling seemed to fit right in. :-) The story's good, and the movie was pretty faithful to PKD's novel. The rotoscoping look of the film put a lot of people off but I thought it was a great touch, making things as disorienting and surreal to viewers as they were to the main character.

And I have to disagree with you on V for Vendetta. But even if, a you say, it is the most faithful representation of Moore's work in a film, that's really not saying much. :-)

I would think it terrible if "School Reunion" won: it's just Davies' even-less-subtle-than-usual announcement that he wants to be writing Buffy. "Girl in the Fireplace" sent my husband into a rage: he makes a good case for the point that the character of the Doctor used to refuse to have anything to do with societies based on slavery, but here he spends his time getting drunk and kissing pretty girls instead.
[User Picture]
Date:April 4th, 2007 09:05 am (UTC)
I don't suppose your husband has ever seen The Aztecs from the first season?
Date:April 4th, 2007 09:26 am (UTC)
Quite possibly; he's seen a lot of them. Anf fair enough: the character's not internally consistent, he's been written for too long and by too many people for that.

I think he was thinking more of ... I'll link you to his post about "Girl in the Fireplace," if I can find it. Yeah, here it is.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC)
On the films, I wasn't really interested in either The Prestige or A Scanner Darkly. I've only seen half of Pan's Labyrinth (before I started drifting to sleep), so that leaves me with Children of Men and V for Vendetta, both of which were very good in much different ways. While V for Vendetta was much more "fun" in its own way.. I'd have to say that Children of Men was a much better film. V had style, but CoM managed to pull off some very tricky things very well, like maintaining a solidly believable vision of the future the whole way through, while still pulling off a lot of good metaphors and having just the right amount of emotional drama.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
That stargate was PARTICULARLY BAD!!! (Yet extremely funny) It was a cheesy "OMG it's our 200th episode" special" where it was someone's 200th trip into the gate, and while waiting for the party guests to show up, they use the SG1 show of their own universe, run by that dorky alien dude, to parody a bunch of other movies/shows with the SG-1 actors. It's funny, worth watching, but it's not really sci-fi, doesn't really fit with the rest of the show, and I'm glad there is only one of those episodes.

I loved pan's labyrinth. Haven't seen any of the others. :)
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC)
That stargate was PARTICULARLY BAD!!!

Dear gods, that sounds impressively wretched. With luck something better will win.
[User Picture]
Date:April 3rd, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
Stross says Glasshouse is actually horror in a science fiction setting. I liked Blindsight; it’s right up there with C S Friedman’s The Madness Season with my favorite vampire novels. I think he did a good job with the “if this goes on” cautionary-future tale there, and made his vampires very chilling.

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