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More Hugo Ruminations

Time to look at another Hugo category.

Today, Best Graphic Story. (Or 'best comic book,' if you want to be less pretentious).

Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I am an old time comic fanboy. I was there for the birth of comics fandom in the 60s. I was the first fan to sign up for the first comicon. My first published words were letters to Stan and Jack in the pages of THE FANTASTIC FOUR and THE AVENGERS. My first published fictions were prose superhero stories in fanzines like HERO and YMIR and STAR-STUDDED COMICS. I was a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. I once won an Alley Award (though I never got it). Decades later, I was a guest of honor at San Diego Comicon and won an Inkpot.

That was a long time ago, however. I fear I no longer follow mainstream comics much. I still love the stories and heroes I grew up, Silver Age Marvel and DC (hell, even Charlton, the Question and Blue Beetle were great), but there have been way too many retcons and reboots and restarts for my taste. I don't know who these characters are any longer, and what's worse, I don't much care.

I really don't think we needed to add a Graphic Story category to the Hugo Awards. Comics have their own awards, the Eisners, they don't need the Hugo too. Besides, most SF fans do not follow comics closely enough to make informed judgements in this area.

That being said, however, I have to concede that the fans did pretty damned well nominating in this category last year. SAGA was the only one of the finalists that I had actually heard of before Sasquan announced last year's ballot... but I dutifully read all the others before I voted, and for the most part, I was impressed (okay, not by the Puppy nominee, which was several notches below the other four)... especially by MS. MARVEL, a whole new take on the character (actually a whole new character with an old name), a charming new addition to the Marvel universe, and the eventual winner.

So... I still don't love Graphic Novel as a Hugo category, but it exists, and those who follow the field more closely than me should nominate Good Stuff here again, and maybe I'll have more comic books to discover and delight in when the final ballot comes out.

Meanwhile, I do have one truly outstanding graphic novel to suggest... I am not totally disconnected from the world of comics, y'see... and that's a book called THE SCULPTOR, by Scott McCloud.

McCloud, of course, is the author of UNDERSTANDING COMICS, the seminal work about graphic stories and how they work, a book I recommend unreservedly to all aspiring comic book artists and writers. With THE SCULPTOR, McCloud proves he's as talented a practitioner as he is a theoretician. It's a story about a guy with superpowers, yes... but a very real one. No one puts on spandex to fight crime here. This is a story of character, a tale that evokes not Stan Lee or Jack Kirby or even Steve Ditko (much as I love them), but rather Will Eisner. And higher praise than that I do not have.

I haven't read enough graphic novels to know for certain that THE SCULPTOR was the best of 2015. But it is so damned good, so original and so human, that I cannot imagine that it is not one of the best five. THE SCULPTOR deserves a Hugo nomination, and I know it will be on my ballot.


Dec. 22nd, 2015 01:19 am (UTC)
Talking of hugo winners, have you seen the amazon produced The Man in the High Castle? I really enjoyed it and was wondering if you had read the book and if so would reccommend reading it? I read LOTR after seeing the films and ASOIAF after seeing the first two seasons of GoT,and whilst enjoying the screen adaptations still and going on to watch The Hobbit films and further seasons of GoT i always feel somewhat dissapointed at missing parts from the books i really enjoyed. Am i likely to feel the same once ive read The Man in the High Castle?
Dec. 22nd, 2015 01:44 am (UTC)
Re: Hugos
I do recommend the novel. It is one of Philip K. Dick's masterpieces, I think, and an important part of the SF canon.

The Amazon series had a great look, and I really really wanted to love it. I didn't. There's not nearly enough Dick in it, and there's way too much huggermugger stuff that was never in the novel.

I would have loved a faithful adaptation of the book.
Joshua Olson
Dec. 22nd, 2015 02:35 am (UTC)
Re: Hugos
So maybe I'm twelve inside - this made me laugh: "There's not nearly enough Dick in it"
Mark Lysaght
Dec. 22nd, 2015 10:40 am (UTC)
Re: Hugos
I had that thought too
Hur hur hur
Dec. 22nd, 2015 09:43 am (UTC)
RE: Re: Hugos
Not enough Dick in it? Have i stumbled on a world exclusive?
Seriously though what on planetos does huggermugger mean?
i get the feeling from your answer once ive read the book the tv show wont seem as good 😭
of course that said i wish GoT had stuck more to the books storylines in later seasons!
Dec. 22nd, 2015 04:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Hugos
Since Philip K. Dick wrote the original book, there has been a glut of 'What if the Nazis won World War II?' alternate histories, such that the subject has pretty much become the cliche of cliches. It's a hard subject to make fresh.

Are you familiar with the story of how THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE inspired Dick to later write DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?
Dec. 22nd, 2015 08:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Hugos
Dec. 22nd, 2015 09:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Hugos
The story, in brief, as I've heard it: in researching for THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, Dick (who could read German) ended up reading the journal of an SS man stationed near the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. In this journal, the SS man in questioned complained that he couldn't get to sleep at night because of the crying of starving children.

Apparently this passage really got to Dick, hit him in such a way that he had to stop reading for awhile. He concluded that anyone who could write such a thing, who could complain about starving children keeping him awake at night, was not truly human. Sure, the person in question may have two arms, two legs, eyes, ears and all the rest...but something essential that makes a true human being is missing, leaving a kind of bipedal creature that is only a shallow mockery of humanity.

And thus the androids of ELECTRIC SHEEP were born.
Dec. 22nd, 2015 02:09 am (UTC)
book recommendations
As a voracious reader, could you provide one or more recommendations while I await TWoW? ... given that (1) my favorite book series is asoiaf, (2) I've already read Lord of the Rings, (3) I greatly prefer multiple PoVs as opposed to the omniscient narrator and (4) the longer the better (5) I tried but wasn't fully drawn in by Outlander, Robin Hobb, Harry Potter, Mazalan or Lies of Locke Lamora. Nothing against any of these but after a few hundred pages I always decide I'd rather re-read all the Jaime or Asha chapters again.
Dec. 22nd, 2015 08:29 pm (UTC)
Re: book recommendations
Try Daniel Abraham, the Dagger and the Coin series.

Or, for a classic, Jack Vance and the Lyonesses trilogy.
Dec. 23rd, 2015 12:16 pm (UTC)
Re: book recommendations
Given your "The Longer the Better" descriptor, and liking multiple viewpoints, I recommend checking out Sanderson's Stormlight Archives. Only 2 books out at the moment, but both are doorstoppers, and the series is planned to extend to two sets of 5 novels each.

I'd also recommend Wheel of Time since you didn't mention it, but I find it hard to believe anyone who likes really long fantasy novels hasn't had that recommended to them at least once.
Dec. 22nd, 2015 03:30 am (UTC)
Graphic Novels
Halfway through 'The Sculptor' right now and you're absolutely right. What a book. It was a blind buy on my part this past weekend that's really paid off. Can't wait to finish it this weekend. While I haven't read much else, one I've really liked thus far is Neil Gaiman and JH Williams' 'The Sandman Overture', which finally wrapped this year. A gorgeous book and a damn good prequel.
Adam Shelton
Dec. 22nd, 2015 03:49 am (UTC)
Dramatic Presentation?
I know films weren't part of the post, but I've been really interested to see what you thought of the new Star Wars film. As I'm sure you are already well aware, the original trilogy films went three for three, while I don't think any of the prequels even got nominated. What say you? Hugo worthy?
Dec. 22nd, 2015 08:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Dramatic Presentation?
I have not seen it yet.

It will be a Hugo nominee, regardless of what I think about it.
Dec. 24th, 2015 12:12 am (UTC)
Re: Dramatic Presentation?
I've seen it. Ilooks like 2015 will be another decent year for BDP Long Form.
Dec. 27th, 2015 06:13 am (UTC)
Re: Dramatic Presentation?
I personally think that it deserves at least a nomination, but dang, the fact that it's nomination is so certain regardless of quality really speaks to the gigantic issues with the dramatic short and long form categories.
Dec. 22nd, 2015 07:02 am (UTC)
The Sandman: Overture had story by Neil Gaiman at the height of his powers, and stunningly beautiful art. I'm a big Scott McCloud fan dating from back in the '80s when he was doing Zot!, but Overture is going to be my #1 vote.

(N.B.: Anyone who is interested enough in SFF comics to be nominating and voting for the Best Graphic Story Hugo, should have read the main Sandman series, in the same way that anyone interested enough in SFF to be nominating and voting for Best Novel should have read The Lord of the Rings. If you haven't read Sandman yet, you should read it first. Plus, you know, you should go read it because you're missing out big time!)
Dec. 22nd, 2015 11:31 am (UTC)
I usually struggle with Marvel and DC comics because of all the reboots and figuring out where to start! Probably why I prefer comics such as SAGA, Fables and The Sandman. I'd recommend Locke & Key, Blacksad, and The wicked + the divine as well. Always looking for new stuff though, so might have a look at The Sculptor!
Al Jackson
Dec. 22nd, 2015 12:12 pm (UTC)
Graphic Novel
For a first graphic novel I was gob smacked by Sydney Padua's ,

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer.

I have never seen a graphic novel like this before.
It was the best graphic novel of 2015.

Edited at 2015-12-22 12:16 pm (UTC)
Dec. 24th, 2015 12:01 pm (UTC)
Lovelace & Babbage!!!
Thanks for the reminder: I loved this book in so many ways. A graphic novel sure, that started as a webcomic, about Ada Lovelace! Charles Babbage! Alternate history! Actual history! Footnotes! And the creator accidentally started a webcomic and hasn't been able to stop since. Possibly the very favorite book of this year's reading.

(I worry only that for some reason the book won't qualify in the graphic novel category (too much text). But that's a different conversation.)
Dec. 22nd, 2015 03:19 pm (UTC)
I don't recall if you've said anything about Ex Machina or not yet. Definately worthy of the nomination for Dramatic Long Form, though it'll probably lose out to Star wars. Have you seen it?
Al Jackson
Dec. 22nd, 2015 10:42 pm (UTC)
Ex Machina
Ex Machina played so sparsely in my city I never knew it was here.
I finally saw it Roku-wise just lately.
I was impressed. Best AI-Robot film I have ever seen.

In fact I also got to see Predestination Roku-wise just recently.
I had to go back and read the Heinlein story.
Gee! That not a long short story. Every line of the story appears in the adaption. I was amazed.
One the best science fiction films of all time.
Dec. 22nd, 2015 03:22 pm (UTC)
By the same token that comics have the Eisner Awards, books have the Nebula Awards. The difference between the Eisners & Nebulas and the Hugos, though, is that the Eisners & Nebulas are both voted on solely by professionals. The Hugos give the fans a chance to vote.

(Just another perspective, and this is from someone who's eligible to vote in all three, provided I've bought a WorldCon membership, and has been both an Eisner judge and also a SFWA volunteer during your time as VP. Straddling both realms I feel like there's room for both in the Hugos.)
John Nelson
Dec. 22nd, 2015 04:13 pm (UTC)
I think the need to have a graphic novel category in the Hugo's isn't so much focused on the graphic or comic aspect, but rather the "book" part. Graphic novels sit in that weird realm betwen cinema and literature and yet are neither of the two. With that said, I think the celebration of the medium being taken more seriously and celebrated and honored as a literary format is great. You have to put it into context that a book reader who wouldn't normally consider a comic or graphic novel would have a differently criterion for what makes it good and award worth vs the comic book scene.

It's a bit like the main stream Grammy award for the best metal album vs the underground metal scene offering the same award.
Dec. 22nd, 2015 04:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the recommendation! The only one I'm rooting hard for in this category is Noelle Stevenson's Nimona, which is simply fabulous.
Dec. 22nd, 2015 04:20 pm (UTC)
I stopped following comics when I was 14 or so. If you're a child of the Silver Age, I'm a child of what I've heard called the 'Dark Age of Comics' after WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, when all of a sudden every comic hero had to be more of an anti-hero bordering on sociopath.

A valuable lesson was thus learned: darker and grittier does not always equal more mature. Sometimes quite the opposite.
Ronald Grimsson
Dec. 22nd, 2015 05:25 pm (UTC)
Superhero comics are no longer what they used to be. Even John Byrne admits it:
"The American superhero comic has crashed and burned. What we are seeing out of Marvel and DC is pieces of the wreckage bouncing down the runway."
Dec. 22nd, 2015 06:57 pm (UTC)
The graphic story that is absolutely going on my Hugo ballot is the post-apocalyptic Stand Still, Stay Silent.

Dec. 22nd, 2015 10:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the recommendation! At first glance, strictly looking at the art, it looks like something I'd be interested in.

I have this feeling that the future of comics/'graphic novels' may lie with web comics: creators supported by Patreon and ads, with no publishers demanding things from them, free to experiment with any idea they please. Such a recipe tends to produce a lot of highs and lows: the great ideas that may have been overlooked by traditional publishers get their chance to shine, but the bar to entry is so low that Sturgeon's law strikes with a vengeance.
Abraham Limpo
Dec. 22nd, 2015 09:20 pm (UTC)
Can I recommend "Starve" by Brian Wood and published by Image?
Dec. 22nd, 2015 11:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Recomendation
You just did.
Rajat Bhat
Dec. 24th, 2015 11:20 am (UTC)
Suggestion on comics
Mr. Martin, have you read Kingdom Come and Irredeemable? If yes, then how did you find it? And slightly off topic - do you follow any manga/anime series?Which ones are your favourite?
Dec. 24th, 2015 07:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Suggestion on comics
No, haven't read those. I see the occasional anime, mainly when we show one at my theatre, but don't follow the medium closely.
Dec. 27th, 2015 06:17 am (UTC)
Graphic Nominations
I imagine (and hope) that The Wicked + The Divine will get a nomination. Brilliant Young Avengers meets Vile Bodies meets Joseph Campbell stuff there.

I personally haven't loved Fraction's ODY-C, but given that it's Matt Fraction, and given that it's such a brilliant concept (for those not aware, rewriting Homer's Odyssey in space and genderswapped), I could see it landing a nomination.

As far as the big two are concerned, Hickman's Secret Wars is the culmination of years and years of excellent groundwork and produced an event that may not matter but sure was a blast. Super Science Fiction is just the best of both worlds.

Tim McDonald
Dec. 27th, 2015 02:15 pm (UTC)
OK, George, I have to ask, did you join FOOM in the early '70s? I must admit, I did. I was a Stan Lee Fanboy of the worst sort! Of course, it turned out to be a good investment, the poster that came with my membership kit is now worth over a $100. Pretty good return on investment!

Dec. 28th, 2015 12:08 am (UTC)
No, as best I can recall, I never joined FOOM. But I was a member of the earlier fan group, the Merry Marvel Marching Society. Somewhere around here I may even have my membership stuff, including the 45 rpm record.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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