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Handicapping the Hugos, Part the Second

Continued from last rock. My thoughts and predictions for this year's Hugo Awards.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM. Which is pretty much "Best Television Episode," though in theory various other types of "short form" are eligible. In certain years it has actually been the "Best Doctor Who Episode" category. Last year, for instance, episodes of GAME OF THRONES and ORPHAN BLACK went up against no fewer than four (4!!) DOCTOR WHO episodes. (GAME OF THRONES beat them all, and in the UK no less. No one was more shocked than me. Before the ceremony, I'd told David Benioff and Dan Weiss that we didn't have a chance of beating the Doctor on his home turf. Which might be evidence that I am really rubbish at predicting these races, but there you go). This year the ballot is considerably more diverse. Episodes of DOCTOR WHO, GAME OF THRONES, and ORPHAN BLACK have been joined by the pilot from THE FLASH and an episode of GRIMM. This may be the first time since this category was created that five different series were represented, which I see as a good thing. FLASH, GRIMM, and GAME OF THRONES were all part of one or the other slates. ORPHAN BLACK and DOCTOR WHO were not. The relationship between the three "slate" picks and the Puppies is all one-sided, I promise you; no one at HBO has the vaguest notion who Teddy Beale and Brad Torgersen are, and I figure the same is true for the producers and directors of THE FLASH and GRIMM. Nonetheless, the followers of the "Puppy-free ballot" are crossing all three shows off their list, leaving only DOCTOR WHO and ORPHAN BLACK. GAME OF THRONES has actually won three Hugo Awards in a row, and might have a good shot at taking a fourth here... but I think the Whovians (still annoyed at losing last year), the Puppy-free voters, and the Loncon voters will swing the balance. I think DOCTOR WHO bounces back and wins here. Of course, I would be happy to be proved wrong, as I was last year. (And of course I cannot hope to be objective here, since I do have a horse in this race. If GAME OF THRONES wins, HBO has asked me to accept for David and Dan and the show).

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM. Three nominees from the slates -- INTERSTELLAR, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and THE LEGO MOVIE -- against two that were un-slated -- CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER and EDGE OF TOMORROW. All pretty good to excellent movies, and one that I thought was great. (I voted for that one, but don't think that it will win). Any of them would make a worthy Hugo winner. (So would PREDESTINATION, which sadly did not make the ballot). This category, more than any other, demonstrates the folly of those voting the "Puppy-free ballot." I am quite sure that Christopher and Jonah Nolan, the folks at Marvel, and the Lego team have never heard of the Puppies, of either stripe; they may not even heard of the Hugo Awards. To throw their work aside, just because the Puppies put it on their slate, is as unjust as it is moronic. You don't want VD and Brad Torgersen telling you who to vote for, so why in the world would you let them tell you who NOT to vote for? Me, I voted for the movie I liked best, and I hope you all did the same. I think GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is going to win, though THE LEGO MOVIE could upset. If WINTER SOLDIER takes it, it will be mostly because of the blowback against the slates. The Pups will likely try to claim a GUARDIANS Hugo as a victory for them, but it's a hollow boast; their backing is irrelevent.

BEST GRAPHIC STORY. One Puppy nominee, a zombie story. Four finalists from fandom. From the comments I have seen on Puppy blogs, a lot of Puppies will be No Awarding this category. The Puppy nominee is the weakest here, in both story and art; the Puppy antipathy to the other finalists seems to come down to "they're not ours" and "they are more of that social justice shit." I know that many Sads claim they have been unfairly characterized as bigots, and sure, maybe so... but there are certainly bigots AMONG them. How else to explain their hatred of MS. MARVEL, which is a sweet, charming, entertaining superhero story, distinguished only by the fact that the hero is a sympathetic young Muslim girl? No, the comic wasn't WATCHMEN or DARK KNIGHT, it broke no new ground, but it was well-told, well-drawn, fun to read, funny in places. Sure, you could argue SAGA was better, or RAT QUEENS... but the negatively about MS. MARVEL is way disproportionate. In any case, I liked several of these, but I think SAGA will win.

BEST RELATED WORK. Hoo boy. What can I say that dozens of reviewers have not said before me? This will be the first NO AWARD of the evening, I think... and deservedly so. The nominees are all Puppies. Two are simply undistinguished. Lou Antonelli's LETTERS FROM GARDNER is more a short story collection than a "related work" and really should not have been eligible (and I have to wonder, if it wins, does Gardner get a rocket too for providing those letters?). And the last two nominees are... well, one is erudite and ugly, and one is stupid and repugnant. To get this chaff on the ballot, the Puppies crowded off Jo Walton's WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT and the second volume of Patterson's biography of Robert A. Heinlein, among other things. Even one of the Puppy nominees is urging a No Award vote here, in his own category... probably so that he can then claim victory when it comes to pass. If No Award does not win here, it won't win anywhere.

BEST SHORT STORY. All Puppies, but a stronger lineup than Related Work. Kary English has a real shot here with "Totalled." Of all the slate nominees, that's the one that the non-Puppy readers and reviewers have found the most interesting. The Steve Diamond story was a late addition after Annie Bellet withdrew; straightforward adventure, and from a major house (Baen), it could be a dark horse. The two Castalia House stories have a shot only if there are a lot more Rabids among the new voters than anyone dreamed. So... English has a decent shot, but in a fairly close race this one goes NO AWARD.

BEST NOVELETTE. "The Day the World Turned Upside Down" by Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is pitted against four Puppies. The Heuvelt slid onto the ballot only when a John C. Wright story was disqualified as ineligible. The Moens and others opposed to the slates will all be voting for it on those grounds, I guess, but it is not as strong as standard bearer as might be hoped, and if it carries the day it will be mostly because of backblow against the slates rather than its own innate literary quality. The four Puppy nominees range from "meh" to "not too bad," in my opinion. I don't see any of them as Hugo calibre. Three of them are from ANALOG, however, and ANALOG still has the highest circulation of any of the print magazines. One of those might emerge, as the others are eliminated and the ANALOG votes cascade. But I think this category goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVELLA. All Puppies. FOUR Castalia House stories, three of them by John C. Wright. If the Puppies have been winning earlier, if lots and lots of those new voters are Puppy supporters, maybe one of the Wrights will emerge. But the fifth nominees, "Flow" by Arlan Andrews, is from ANALOG, which is much more widely read than anything by Castalia House, and Andrews has not antagonized nearly as many fans as Wright and Kratman have. He may even get some non-Puppy votes. Enough to win? Likely not. Novella goes NO AWARD as well.

BEST NOVEL. Aha. "The Big One." Last award of the evening. Two finalists from the slates, against three that came out of fandom. This will be an interesting contest. There are, I think, four strong contenders. SKIN GAME is hurt by its association with the slates, and by being part of a long-running series, and by being urban fantasy, never a popular subgenre with Hugo voters. That's three strikes right there... but it would be a mistake to count Jim Butcher out. He's a very popular author, a megaseller with millions of fans, and one should NEVER underestimate someone like that (as I learned at Millenium Philcon, when I got schooled by Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling). Internet fandom has been fighting the Puppy Wars for months now, and we assume the whole world is aware of them, but that's far from true. A certain percentage of the Hugo voters may be entirely unaware of all of this, and many of them may vote SKIN GAME, a fast-moving and entertaining Harry Dresden. I think Butcher is the strongest candidate the Puppies have for a major win... though Butcher himself is not a Puppy, and has stayed entirely above this fray. That being said, his competition is pretty strong. I don't think Anne Leckie will win for ANCILLARY SWORD. She took the big one last year with ANCILLARY JUSTICE, and -- unlike the artist categories -- it is very rare for the same writer to win twice in a row. (Orson Scott Card did it, with ENDER'S GAME and SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, but he's the only one I can recall). THREE-BODY PROBLEM and GOBLIN EMPEROR are very different books, but both them have real strengths. Here's the thing, though: although THREE-BODY was not on the Puppy slates, some of the Puppies have praised it afterward, so if and when the Puppy nominees are eliminated in successive rounds of the Australian ballot, some of their votes will shift to Cixin Liu, enough to put him over the top. I think THREE-BODY PROBLEM wins a Hugo for China (but I won't be too shocked if GOBLIN EMPEROR or SKIN GAME scores an upset). No Award has no chance here. (Oh, and for what it's worth, Emily St. John Mandel's STATION ELEVEN remains the best novel I read last year, and I am going to be very curious to see how many nominations it got, and whether it came close to making the ballot).

And there have them. My picks.

Let me close with this. Winning is winning. Losing is losing. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. If I am wrong, and the Nuclear voters or Deidre Moen's Puppy-Free crowd prevail, I will be unhappy and sad, but I will be the first to admit that I lost. If it turns out those 2400 new voters were all Beale fans, and John C. Wright and VD emerge clutching rockets, I will be disgusted and sick to my stomach, but I will also tell the truth and say, "We lost. Bad."

But if the vote goes the way I am predicting, with a mix of slate and non-slate victors and a few No Awards where they were earned, I will applaud that as the best result we could have hoped for, and a victory for worldcon, fandom, and the Hugos themselves.

I hope at least a few of the more honest Puppies will have the integrity to admit the same.

Win, lose, or no award, I intend to have a great time at the con with my fannish friends.

See you all in Spokane.


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Aug. 17th, 2015 04:31 am (UTC)
For the record, at least one of the 2500 new voters is not a pup.

I also took the view that a good/bad story was a good/bad story, regardless of slate. I was, perhaps, a little more forgiving than you with where the NA vote came in some categories. That may be because I haven't voted before, so don't have a feel for average quality over the years. Still, I was surprised to see where my tastes went in some areas.
Aug. 17th, 2015 04:44 am (UTC)
Best novel - twice in a row
Lois McMaster Bujold won in 1991 with "The Vor Game" and in 1992 with "Barrayar". She and Orson Scott Card are indeed the only ones.
Aug. 17th, 2015 04:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Best novel - twice in a row
Thanks for the correction.
RE: Re: Best novel - twice in a row - Alistair Urie - Aug. 18th, 2015 06:35 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Best novel - twice in a row - grrm - Aug. 18th, 2015 03:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Best novel - twice in a row - hectorh15 - Aug. 23rd, 2015 06:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 17th, 2015 05:10 am (UTC)
I thought Guardians of the Galaxy was a lot of fun, and Rocket is kind of a hero to me, but I have to say - and this is me leaving the whole slate mess aside - I genuinely thought Winter Soldier was a more interesting effort between the two. Maybe that's my appreciation of its political thematics, I don't know - but I do know that I'm not the only one to think that.

So I don't think a win for Winter Soldier is, as you suggest, automatically an anti-Puppies reaction. My circles of fandom are of course not statistically representative, but they're no more unrepresentative than any other circles of fans, and of all of the nominees in Long Form, this is the one they still talk about. They weren't impressed by Interstellar. They liked Guardians pretty well. Lego Movie was funny enough but not award-worthy. Edge of Tomorrow is lol Tom Cruise, which is too bad, since it's based on a good book and I hear was not a bad film.

So I don't know how many voted, or how they cast their ballots, but I know some of them did. And so, leaving aside everything else - Winter Soldier has a fandom all its own. I would not be surprised at all if it won. It's just a matter of whether they turned out to vote.
Aug. 17th, 2015 06:59 pm (UTC)
I'm one of those Winter Soldier fans, but you know that.

I enjoyed GoG once in the theater, but didn't keep talking about it. I want them to make more gonzo comedies, and I want them to make them more gonzo and more secretly substantial and okay maybe I'm holding out for Transmetropolitan with a laugh track.

I kept talking about Winter Soldier, I went to it again, I sat people down to watch it with me later so we could talk about agency and authority and veterans' issues and when it's okay to follow orders. And watch people throw things around with explosions and parkour and mechanical wings, because thoughtful storytelling doesn't have to be a drag. :D

So yeah, slate opinions may give it a boost, but in my eyes it stands on its own.
Devdeep Roy Choudhury
Aug. 17th, 2015 05:17 am (UTC)
Why do you feel Interstellar does not have much of a shot in the long form category? I felt it was one of the most well made SF movies I had ever seen with a scientific as well as an emotional component both of which were well executed.
Aug. 17th, 2015 04:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Interstellar
All five of the films have a shot.

INTERSTELLAR was brilliant, but it was more intellectual and demanding than the competition, and not everyone responds to that. INTERSTELLAR is in the tradition of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, which is a great film. But GUARDIANS is in the tradition of STAR WARS, and in a popular vote, STAR WARS wins.

I think.

Could we wrong.

We will know soon enough.
Re: Interstellar - rjcollins - Aug. 17th, 2015 08:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Interstellar - Kyle Larson - Aug. 18th, 2015 02:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Interstellar - Scott Barnett - Aug. 18th, 2015 07:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Interstellar - Frank Probst - Aug. 17th, 2015 11:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 17th, 2015 11:41 am (UTC)
"It is very rare for the same writer to win twice in a row."
Lois McMaster Bujold accomplished it in 1991 (The Vor Game) and 1992(Barrayar).

Edited at 2015-08-17 11:42 am (UTC)
Bob Jenson
Aug. 17th, 2015 01:13 pm (UTC)
I had no problem pulling the no award trigger when I felt it was justified, but I would hate to see it sweep the whole lot. There were very Hugo worthy entries as far as I'm concerned. I ended up voting THREE BODY PROBLEM for best novel, although ANCILLARY and GOBLIN I enjoyed as well - I hadn't read any of Butcher's work, but I want to pick up the earlier books in the series now. If 3BP is endorsed by the puppies - as is INTERSTELLAR - so be it.
Slightly off topic - any idea how early should I get in line for your signing, Mr. Martin? I imagine there is a limit on number of books you sign per person? I promise I had no dreams of a stack of books teetering in my arms - I've actually seen that back in the day and was astonished by it. 2 at the most, but I would be happy with only one. And I promise I will not try and get a selfie with you if the opportunity arises...
Aug. 17th, 2015 04:17 pm (UTC)
I will sign only one book per person, and the line will be capped. Probably to 400, since that's about as many sigs as I can handle in one hour. So get there early.
(no subject) - Bob Jenson - Aug. 18th, 2015 03:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 17th, 2015 02:16 pm (UTC)
I feel kind of neutral in this debate feeling, like I am lost at to what everyone is arguing, and I would admit a bias against "Ms. Marvel" because it is a major super hero comic and I feel lost whenever I read those, almost as if I starting a book half way through. But the two I have read on their, Sex Criminals and Saga, both of which I love, both have really strong female leads. I don't know maybe their is sexism, probably so, but would they not go after both if that was the case.

I will add, I'm not here to yell and scream, I have been trying to understand this whole puppy controversy and can only find really bias sources either way. Straight white men want to onto their long held power, or dumb femnazis what to invert their own politics into the Hugo awards. But both Saga and Sex Criminals were really good, so if either won I would not be surprised of either of those to won.
Aug. 18th, 2015 02:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Hugos
Neither Saga nor Sex Criminals was in any of the two puppy slates. So I don't see your point about sexism and the puppies.
As for really biased sources, try reading GRRM's earlier posts on the Puppygate. He provides evidence as to why politics have nothing (or almost nothing) to do with who wins the Hugo. He is not biased and he calls out both sides when they overreact. To say you have only found biased opinions on this blog means that either you haven't read this blog (in which case you haven't tried hard enough to understand this whole puppy controversy) or you find it biased as well (which is kind of rude to say to GRRM's face and makes me question what you think bias is).
Re: Hugos - utley92 - Aug. 22nd, 2015 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 17th, 2015 02:34 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I believe there is a motion before the Business Meeting to extend the eligibility of "Predestination" by one year due to the limited nature of its original theatrical release.
Aug. 17th, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC)
I was one of those who accepted the call (from Mary Robinette Kowal) and crawled out of the rabbit hole to read and vote. I wish I had jumped in earlier but I got some reading done and was able to vote in a couple categories. I'd like to think I was less partisan than I've become politically in recent years but declarations of motivation by faulty humans are inherently suspect. I did the best I could. I'm excited to hear the results.

Thanks for your gentlemanly and informative discussions about Hugos and poopygate. I've enjoyed them.
Aug. 17th, 2015 04:31 pm (UTC)
Lois McMaster Bujold also won back-to-back Best Novel Hugos; in 1991 with The Vor Game, and in 1992 with Barrayar. They are the only ones to have won back-to-back in Best Novel.
Aug. 17th, 2015 04:53 pm (UTC)
It pains me to no end that 1. no one saw Edge of Tomorrow, and 2. It won't win the hugo. It was such a slick, fun, *refreshing* movie. It had a great cast, an interesting, complex female lead, Tom Cruise's a-game, etc etc, and it was killed by poor marketing. Oh well.

Really, in the end, it seems like the Dramatic Presentation Hugos are the least prestigious of the lot. Doctor Who has over the past few years consistently received less and less critical acclaim (really, it's been heavily *criticized* with each passing year) and still gets tons of nominations even when it doesn't win. The longform doesn't go to interesting scifi or fantasy movies, it goes to blockbusters.
Aug. 17th, 2015 06:48 pm (UTC)
it was killed by poor marketing.

The marketing was naff, granted, a fact clearly acknowledged when the DVD edition was called LIVE.DIE.REPEAT instead. However, it was also killed by the fact that it utterly failed to stick the dismount. I don't want to go into too much detail because spoilers, but in short: the story is supposed to be a videogame metaphor, and despite having spent most of the film building on it, it gets completely thrown away in the last act.
RE: BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION - solarbird - Aug. 17th, 2015 07:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION - tethysdust - Aug. 18th, 2015 09:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 17th, 2015 07:24 pm (UTC)

For this to happen, there would surely need to have been an excellent Dr. Who episode last season. While Capaldi is a great actor and fine Doctor, the scripts have really not been up to it.

(Went to Google to see which episode is nominated - Google's done a fine job of knowing one is looking for the Hugos, but doesn't mention an individual episode.)

I think you're still a safe bet in this one.

Aug. 18th, 2015 03:08 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat, directed by
Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
You can find all nominations in the pdf found here http://www.thehugoawards.org/2015/05/2015-hugo-voter-packet-available/
All this I found through Google. ;)
(no subject) - apep727 - Aug. 18th, 2015 11:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bastun_ie - Aug. 19th, 2015 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 17th, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC)
I really like Ms. Marvel. I think it's certainly one of the most enjoyable superhero comics around at the moment.
Marten Logsdon
Aug. 17th, 2015 08:13 pm (UTC)
Dark Between the Stars
I was wondering what you made of Dark Between the Stars. It's the only novel nominee you didn't mention so I was curious.

I'm not a puppy, and I know it was a puppy nominee, but I took your advice and read all 5 novels and signed up to vote.

For me Goblin Emperor was good but juvenile, Anceliary Sword was good but not as good as AJ was, TBP was a slog to get through, and Skin Game was fun but not really Hugo worthy.

DBtS I found to be good hard sci-fi. I liked it's characters and world building and quandaries about ethics and using resources wisely and such.

I doubt it'll win, I always get the feeling KJA isn't very well regarded plus it's a Puppy nominee, but I liked it. I was curious about your thoughts on it and its chances.
Aug. 17th, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Dark Between the Stars
Opinions differ, that's what makes a horse race.

I did not mention DBTS because I thought it was the weakest of the five finalists. I don't think it has a chance.

But I'm one vote and so are you, so who knows? We'll know soon enough.
Frank Probst
Aug. 17th, 2015 11:37 pm (UTC)
Agree that Dr Who will probably win. I don't watch the show, but I watched the nominated episode and thought it was pretty solid. The Game of Thrones episode had the single best one-on-one fight from the books, and it didn't disappoint, but the show upped its game two episodes later with Brienne versus the Hound. My "should win" vote goes to Orphan Black. The episode that's nominated has so many plot twists that it feels like you're on a roller coaster, but it never goes off the rails, and it has a killer scene at the end.
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