Hugos 2015 roundup: Part 3

We interrupt our regularly scheduled 2015 Clarion West Write-a-thon series to bring you another Hugo roundup. Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon

Some more Hugo reads in no particular order:

Title: Reduce Reuse Reanimate

Author: Carter Reid

Category: Graphic story

Slated: Sad and Rabid

Premise: Zombies

Where it grabbed me: Zombies

Where it lost me: The art isn’t distinctive or expressive. Also, I didn’t notice any actual… you know, characters. Or stories. In fact, the content seems astonishingly low-narrative for something nominated as a “graphic story.” I saw a lot of drawings of celebrities as zombies and disconnected, mean-spirited jokes of the “my ex wife is LITERALLY a monster!” and “my mother-in-law is LITERALLY a monster!” variety. Sexist, dumb, and hackneyed.

I should note that the nominated work is a print collection that was not included in the Hugo packet, so my opinion is based on a random sampling of the material at the website. It’s possible that the material in the collection is substantially different and I would have had a different opinion of it.

Did I like it? No

Does it deserve Hugo? HAHAHAHAHAHA…. No.

Title: Guardians of the Galaxy

Category: Dramatic long form

Slated: Sad and Rabid

Premise: A bunch of wise-talking galactic criminals get arrested, then team up to try to save the galaxy.

Where it grabbed me: Colorful and often funny. Han Solo as a talking racoon. Groot.

Where it lost me: A lot of the time it felt hollow and dishonest, like a reasonably successful imitation of an entertaining movie rather than an actual entertaining movie. I could feel my buttons being pushed — sometimes it worked anyway, but it left me feeling manipulated and vaguely resentful. And it’s kind of a problem when the only person with a real character arc is a mostly-CGI walking tree who says only “I am Groot.”

Did I like it? Not really.

Does it deserve a Hugo? Maybe.

Title: The Dark Between the Stars

Author: Kevin J. Anderson

Category: Novel

Slated: Sad and Rabid

Premise: Based on the part I read, an intergalactic custody dispute following a divorce.

Where it grabbed me: It didn’t.

Where it lost me: The first chapter hits the hammer on “my ex wife is a stupid bitch” pretty hard, which put me off right away. Then the next chapter is from her point of view, and I was hoping it would recast the first chapter in an interesting way, but it didn’t, and didn’t really do anything else that was interesting, either. Then the next chapter is from an entirely different person’s point of view, and it’s also not very interesting. Then the next chapter, and the next, and so on. Before long I’d met half a dozen different people and didn’t care about what happened to any of them. I realized I was nearly 50 pages into the book and was still waiting for something interesting to happen. That’s the point where I gave up trying.

Did I like it? No

Does it deserve a Hugo? No

Nominee: Cedar Sanderson

Category: Best fan writer

Slated: Sad and Rabid

For your consideration: A handful of blog posts from the website Mad Genius Club, in the Hugo packet

Argument for: I have no idea

Argument against: The first included post wasn’t well-written or interesting, so I started to skim right away and was just about to toss it aside when I hit this:

Rather than letting stories stand on merit, works are being recognized for their ‘message’ or for being written by the minority-du-jour. Readers are beginning to cue in on this, and to avoid certain clues when they shop for a book. And one of those, I found when I published Pixie Noir, is a hint of either “strong female character” or female writer. Not because they think either is a bad thing. No, because they associate both of those with message fiction, and like a puppy who has had his nose rubbed in a steaming pile (more than once!) they aren’t going to make that mistake again.

Why is this a bad thing? Because it may be that women are actually destroying genre fiction.

Stop. Blink. Reread. “Destroying genre fiction”? Are you SERIOUS — Wait, is this essay the source of the titles of the “[blank] destroy science fiction” anthologies?

Her whole narrative here is bizarre. She makes it sound as if women are a minority who have only recently started writing genre fiction, as if women (and not men) are well known as the primary writers of “message” fiction, as if the presence of a “strong female character” (whatever that means) is broadly seen as a reliable clue as to the message-i-ness of a work, and as if the people who avoid such works on the grounds of their message-i-ness are such a major force that their displeasure is capable of destroying genre fiction.

(Also, that “rubbing a puppy’s nose in it” thing? Don’t do it. It doesn’t work.)

This was so weird that I read more carefully for a while, hoping I could figure out why anybody would write such an absurd thing. Who exactly were these female writers of “message” fiction? Who were these “strong female characters” who were capable of destroying the genre? Who were the readers who were working so hard to avoid this “message”? Where were they registering their displeasure? Was there any hard data, such as sales figures, to demonstrate what effect any of this was having? I mean, surely it must be a very large effect, if she could talk about it literally destroying the genre — right?

Spoiler: you don’t find out.

What you do find out: she will admit to liking some female writers of science fiction. You know, the really popular ones everybody likes, such as Lois McMaster Bujold. She likes her husband, and seems quite proud of herself for this, apparently regarding it as something very remarkable. She enjoys being a girl. She wrote a book called Pixie Noir that has a sexy lady on the cover. Other women embarrass her.

Yeah, hon, I know the feeling.

Hugo verdict: Not on your life.

Title: Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”

Category: Dramatic short form

Slated: Sad and rabid

Premise: In a world full of people (wesen) with a physically animal (or other) nature that normally remains hidden, a grimm is like a mystic cop, and we follow the adventures of a grimm who is also an actual cop in Portland. This particular episode is about an Egyptian mummy that is actually an Anubis wesen in “woge” mode where their other nature is manifest, so he was mummified with a dog’s head.

Where it grabbed me: I’m a fan of the series, and Egyptology.

Where it lost me: This particular episode struck me as an average, not particularly memorable wesen-of-the-week outing.

Did I like it? More or less.

Does it deserve a Hugo? Not really.

Title: The Plural of Helen of Troy

Author: John C. Wright

Published in: City Beyond Time / Castalia House

Premise: JFK goes to a time-traveling noir detective to try to save Marilyn Monroe, who is also Helen of Troy, from himself.

Where it grabbed me: The early scenes where he’s trying to establish the setting of a city beyond time show some promise.

Where it lost me: It lost me a little bit when it introduced the detective, because all of a sudden the narrative voice changes and starts lurching awkwardly between “hardboiled wise guy detective story” and “trippy, would-be lyrical SF.” Then it got to the introduction of The Girl — you know, THE girl, the one who is Marilyn Monroe and also Helen of Troy and probably Salome and basically any woman who ever inspired a bunch of horny dudes to do something particularly ridiculous on account of her hotness. This bit is awful on a whole different level, managing to combine offhanded racism, patronizing sexism, fantasies of violence, and bad, overwrought prose into a nauseating spew of partially digested word chunks. And it goes on and on and on, for endless bilious paragraphs.

Here’s a sample:

Just watching her sway in silhouette across the window was enough to launch a mortar in a man’s knickers.

Did I like it? Hell to the no. In fact, it ought to be jailed for egregious offenses against the art of literature and the English language. It ought to be buried under the steaming ordure of an overloaded port-a-potty getting suctioned out after Jazzfest. It ought to be… eh, ignored.

Does it deserve a Hugo? A MULTIVERSE of no. Is there perhaps an anti-Hugo we can give it? An SF version of the Razzies?

Title: Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”

Category: Dramatic short

Slated: No

Premise: A collection of experimental clones struggle against people who want to exploit and harm them. Sometimes these people are other clones.

Where it grabbed me: CLONE DANCE PARTY!!!

Where it lost me: I hadn’t seen the show before, and the nominated episode, the season 2 finale, was advancing a lot of ongoing story arcs I didn’t have any background in.

Did I like it? Yes. I liked it enough to start watching the show from the beginning.

Does it deserve a Hugo? Maybe? I wasn’t sure how well it held up as a standalone episode, but given that it interested me enough to go back and watch the whole show, that alone might prove Hugo-worthiness. Also, did I mention there was a clone dance party?

Title: Championship B’tok

Author: Edward M. Lerner

Published in: Analog

Category: Novelette

Slated: Sad and rabid

Premise: I dunno. A guy plays chess with an AI and there are aliens called Snakes. That’s about all I got out of it.

Where it grabbed me: It didn’t.

Where it lost me: Not aggressively terrible, just not engaging.

Did I like it? No.

Does it deserve a Hugo? Probably not.

Title: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Category: Dramatic long form

Slated: None

Premise: The “good guys” organization of SHIELD has had a secret cell of HYDRA “bad guys” deeply embedded since Nazi days. They finally make their move, and use a mysterious figure called The Winter Soldier to create mayhem. Captain America, Black Widow, and a new hero with a cool flying rig team up to stop them.

Where it grabbed me: It’s a well done fantasy action movie. The three primary heroes are engaging.

Where it lost me: It’s one of the Marvel Universe films, and that makes certain aspects of it a little predictable. When I first saw it, I wasn’t yet tired of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But now I’m getting that way. For example, pure ennui is probably going to keep me from seeing Ant Man. That current feeling taints my evaluation of the movie.

Did I like it? Yes.

Does it deserve a Hugo? Not exactly. I want to see the Hugo go to something more original, with a stronger SF premise.

Title: Edge of Tomorrow

Category: Dramatic long form

Slated: None

Premise: As the Earth fights off an alien invasion, a military man who doesn’t want to get involved in on-the-ground fighting irritates the wrong general and wakes up as a private. He’s sent off on what turns out to be a suicide mission. But he wakes up the next day — right back where he started. Turns out he’s been infected by alien blood, which allows him to relive the same day over and over. He teams up with a woman who previously had this ability, and together they try to make this one day count by taking out the lead alien, which will end the invasion.

Where it grabbed me: It’s really well-done. The script is solid, the aliens are scary, and the two leads, played by Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, are engaging. In fact, it’s the perfect Tom Cruise movie. If you like him, he’s on screen the whole time. If you don’t like him, he gets shot in the face a lot.

Where it lost me: It didn’t.

Did I like it? Yes.

Does it deserve a Hugo? Yes.