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More Hugo Suggestions

Let us continue our discussions of some possible nominees for the 2016 Hugo Awards.

Today I want to look at Best Professional Artist.

This is one of the older Hugo categories... but, if truth be told, one of the more problematic. In theory, the Hugo is supposed to recognize outstanding work from the previous year. In the four fiction categories and the drama categories, where specific books, stories, movies, and TV shows are being nominated, that works admirably. But the system tends to sputter and fail in all the categories where the nominees are people rather than works. In those categories, more oft than not, a "round up the usual suspects" philosophy seems to prevail. The same handful of people seem to get nominated year after year, regardless of what they produced during the specific year in question. Breaking in to the final five is very hard. Having once made the list, however, nominees tend to keep coming back. Often they lose for a few years, then win... and keep on winning. Whether they have had a good year, a bad year, or a long vacation does not always seem to matter. They are thought of as one of the best in their field, thanks to previous nominations, so their names are the ones that come to mind when voters fill out their nominating ballot.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Best Professional Artist category, where long winning streaks have been the rule, not the exception. Science fiction and fantasy have always been blessed with a plethora of talented, imaginative, amazing artists, a tradition that goes back way beyond the Hugos and the worldcon itself to the heydey of the pulp magazines. In fact, the very first worldcon Guest of Honor was not a writer, but an artist, Frank R. Paul.

Unfortunately, come Hugo time, only a handful of those artists have ever received the recognition they deserved, due largely to the aforementioned rules, wherein nominations go to a person rather than to a specific work (to be fair, an effort was made a few years back to add a second Hugo category for professional art, for specific works rather than artists, but it received so few nominations that it was, sadly, abandoned). Popular -- and thus well-known -- artists tended to run up long streaks of nominations and victories. Frank Kelly Freas won the first four rockets in this category from 1955 to 1959, won again in 1970, then collected another five from 1972 to 1976. Michael Whelan started winning in 1980, after being a runner-up for two years, and continued winning throughout the 80s, losing only once in the entire decade (to British artist Jim Burns, when worldcon was in Brighton). Whelan won in 1991 and 1992 as well, but in 1994 Bob Eggleton broke through, after finishing behind Whelan for a number of years, and started a streak of his own, winning in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2004. In between the Eggleton victories Whelan won twice more, in 2000 and 2002, and Jim Burns took another in 2005.

((The whole list of nominees and winners can be examined here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award_for_Best_Professional_Artist)).

The point of this is not to take anything away from Freas, Whelan, or Eggleton, all three of whom are magnificent artists, among the most talented ever to work in our field. (I have been fortunate enough to have my own work illustrated by both Freas and Eggleton, though never alas by Whelan, and have originals from all three hanging on my walls). But consider the list of artists active during the same years who NEVER won a Hugo. Virgil Finlay. Chesley Bonestell. Jeff Jones. Steve Fabian. George Barr. Paul Lehr. Tom Kidd. Tom Canty. Barclay Shaw. James Gurney. John Jude Palencar. All Hugo Losers, many of them multiple times (it is a proud thing to be a Hugo Loser, as I have often said). Perhaps even more mind-blowing, Alan Lee and John Howe and Ted Nasmith have never even been nominated.

It is a flawed system, truly. Not at all the fault of the artists, of course. If the Hugo founders had decided, way back when, to give out a "Best Writer" rocket instead of awards for Novel, Novella, Novelette, and Short Story, I suspect Robert A Heinlein would have won the first ten or so, maybe losing one or two to Asimov, until the New Wave when Harlan Ellison and Roger Zelazny and Ursula Le Guin would have taken a few. Then cyberpunk would have arrived and Bill Gibson would have won five in a row, and then... thankfully, though, the writing awards have always gone to stories, not people, so it has always been easier for newcomers to break into the short list.

Flawed or not, though, this is the system we have... which brings me to this year's nominations. I suppose the point of my history lesson here is to urge all those nominating to (1) consider the Usual Suspects by all means, since most of them are terrific, but look BEYOND the Usual Suspects as well, and (2) nominate artists who actually produced great work in 2015, rather than over the entire span of their careers. The award is meant to be for this year's work.

So who do I think produced outstanding art during 2015?

Well, lots of folk, of course, but there are four in particular I had the pleasure of working with this year, and would like to draw to your attention.

First: JOHN PICACIO http://www.johnpicacio.com/ Yes, John is a past winner. Truth be told, he is one of the current crop of Usual Suspects. He was nominated for the first time in 2005, and lost. Thereafter he was nominated every year from 2006 to 2011, losing every year and winning a place of honor in the Hugo Losers party... until he finally broke through and won in 2012. He won again in 2013, lost to Julie Dillon in 2014, and was squeezed off the ballot by the Puppies last year. He's also won the Chesley Award, the Spectrum Award, the World Fantasy Award... and deservedly. Picacio just keeps getting better. A couple of years ago, Picacio embarked on a passion project of his own, creating spectacular original artwork for a loteria deck (an extremely popular Mexican card game). He's still deep in the midst of that, but some of the cards he painted were exhibited last year at worldcon (and probably other cons as well), and during a gallery showing at my Jean Cocteau Cinema. Those of you lucky enough to see them know how amazing they are. Though the loteria deck has been taking most of his time, Picacio also found time during the year to do some cool STARS WARS and WILD CARDS art. You can find samples of that on his website. Meanwhile, here's his most recent loteria card.

Next up: MAGALI VILLENEUVE http://www.magali-villeneuve.com/ Magali is young French artist, immensely talented. I met her for the first time last year during a trip to Paris, but I was already well acquainted with her work. She first came to my attention a few years ago when Fantasy Flight Games hired her to do the art for some of the cards in their GAME OF THRONES collectible card game. Her stuff impressed me so much that I told Random House I wanted her to do the next ICE & FIRE calendar. Magali knocked that one out of the park as well, as all of you who bought the calendar (it debuted last summer at Comicon) can testify. Those of you who have not seen her work... well, the calendar is still widely available, and you can check out her website to see her card art and other work. Magali has never been nominated for a Hugo. She should be.

That brings me to my third suggestion: MICHAEL KOMARCK http://www.komarckart.com/ Komarck's website is a tad outdated, I fear; you won't find much of his recent work there, but I can assure you that he has been active in 2015. I fell in love with his style years ago when he did the cover for the Meisha Merlin edition of TUF VOYAGING, and he's been doing all the covers for the WILD CARDS books, old and new, since Tor re-launched the series. Komarck has been nominated for the Hugo once before, in 2012, losing to Picacio. I think it was about time he was returned to the ballot. Here's his painting for the reissue of DOWN & DIRTY, just a beautiful piece of work.

Lastly, but far far from least, I offer you GARY GIANNI http://www.garygianni.com/ Gianni has never been nominated for a Hugo, which I find truly appalling, since I am convinced that this guy is the living reincarnation of N.C. Wyeth. He blew me away years ago with his artwork for the gorgeous Wandering Star limited editions of Robert E. Howard's SOLOMON KANE and BRAN MAK MORN collections. He followed that up by doing the art for the PRINCE VALIANT comic strip for several years... and it speaks volumes that he'd be tabbed to follow in the footsteps of the immortal Hal Foster. Gianni did the art for the 2014 Ice & Fire calendar, which I know many of you have in your collections. And for the last two years, he has filled his days doing the artwork for the Dunk & Egg collection, A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS. That one came out in October, and it's hit all the bestseller lists so I know that a lot of you have seen it. If you love the artwork as much as I do... and how could you not? ... do remember Gianni when making your Hugo nominations. He's way past due, and I can't think of anyone who has produced a more significant body of fantasy art this past year. Here's a taste:


It should go without saying that the four artists I've mentioned above are by no means the only ones to have done outstanding work this year. Many of you will no doubt have other artists to suggest, and you are welcome to do so in the comments below. I would ask, however, that if you want to recommend an artist, please make certain it is for work published in 2015, and do provide a link (where possible) to the work that impressed you, to give us all a look. With art, seeing is believing, and carries way more weight than just dropping names. (Yes, I know, comments with links will be screened by Live Journal, but that's not a problem. Be patient, and one of my minions will unscreen the comment and the link when we get to it).

Let's make this year's ballot a race between the five artists who actually did the best work in the field during 2015.


Dec. 30th, 2015 10:53 pm (UTC)
I know the Hugos are important
Generally speaking I love reading your blog and the discussions raised by yourself and your readers. That being said you've written a novel over the past 5 months in regards to the Hugos. I don't feel strongly enough about this to do a word count but suffice to say it would be large.

I know everything you blog about is vastly important to what makes your life enjoyable and ultimately that is the only thing that matters.

I just feel a bit like a coworker (this is a loose analogy) that overhears someone tell their boss that they were just too busy to get something done on time when you saw them surfing the internet 7 hours a day for the past 2 weeks.

To be clear you owe nothing to us as fans ...in the same way the Jets don't need to keep you informed of every personnel decision they make or their plan for the upcoming draft. But they do come to the podium and answer questions (outside of your least favorite coach) and release press statements when things go awry.

For better or worse your readers have wrapped themselves up in a westerosi blanket and are extremely invested in the outcome of your story. We buy all the books, toys, maps, calendars, and HBO subscriptions that you push out. It would be nice if you didn't treat "the question that shalt not be asked" with such disdain.

I don't need to tell u this, but you certainly don't owe us an answer to that question. However as a faithful reader/fan/consumer of all things ASOIAF I think it would be really nice of you to give some sort of update.

I know you consider them 2 separate entities, but if there is reasonable hope for the book coming in the near future (2016 sometime) and we can avoid the show until said time then I would absolutely do that. I've obviously never met you but I feel like you would want to do the same if there was a similar situation and you were the fan rather than creator.

I hope you see this isn't a mean spirited entitled brattish off topic post. I'm a procrastinator and my anxieties usually cause me to do the exact opposite of what I need to (eating my feelings so to speak). So on a significantly smaller scale I understand your reluctance to be open about your process on this book. So from one fanboy to another I just ask that you give your loyal bannermen an outline of the battle plans.
Dec. 30th, 2015 11:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
It's not disdain, it's weariness.

I know that each individual who asks that question thinks it is just one question... but the questioning is endless. Every day. From many sources. Blog comments, livejournal messages, emails, sometimes snail mail, interviews. No matter how often I update (I used to, you know, several books back), someone else will be along the next day to ask for another one. It wears me out.

I may do a year's end post tomorrow though, so...
Jess Dyba
Dec. 30th, 2015 11:38 pm (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
I just let out a little woot! at work when I read George's post, everyone in the office knows I wasn't doing any work.
Dec. 31st, 2015 12:09 am (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
Thank you! I just got so excited.

Thank you for more than a decade (for me) of entertainment and imagination fuel. Thank you for creating something that has captivated my attention so thoroughly, that even after a decade of reading, I'm on ASOIAF related websites/blogs/subreddits nearly daily. I still learn something new every time I log on - how unbefuckinglievable is that?

I'm on team take-your-time, but I love updates too! I of course do not expect an update to be a timeline, it could just be a one liner.

"I just wrote where whores go!"

"I just finished a rough draft for a POV final chapter!"

Anything at all is always over-welcomed.

Have a Happy New Year George!

Edited at 2015-12-31 12:11 am (UTC)
Dec. 31st, 2015 02:45 am (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
I have to suspect older creators of fiction must view the rise of social media with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, you can stay in touch with fans from all over the world and instantly communicate things you want to say.

On the other hand, what once took the form of a trickle (fan letters to the writer and such) now takes the form of a ceaseless flood.
Dec. 31st, 2015 06:20 am (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
You said it.

Yes, the internet is incredibly useful in many ways, and is certainly addictive. But it is also incredibly toxic.

I do value this Not A Blog, but that's where I have drawn the line. Facebook and Twitter have no interest for me. (Such accounts as I have there are maintained by my minions, I never even look at them).
Dec. 31st, 2015 06:26 pm (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
Sad but true, especially of Facebook. I've been on a number of groups where people have been banned for bad behaviour and it really makes you question the human mind! I barely use Twitter but I've heard of people having Twitter spats so that's probably just as well!

I do miss the days when you had the time to respond to fan emails though. I remembering emailing you years ago after reading A Storm of Swords only a few months after its release and you were kind enough to respond more than once. It was a more innocent time. Even the ASOIAF fandom pages from the early 2000s were less heated as well.
Dec. 31st, 2015 07:40 pm (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
I don't have your problems, but I share your sentiment. I have no Twitter account, no Facebook account, only really have this account because I occasionally wanted to respond on this blog. I post on some forums, but only places where I know some intelligent conversation occasionally goes on, and even then I've started to duck out whenever a flame war begins in the last few years.

And even through avoiding all that, I still feel the need to 'detox' from the internet at times, unplug my modem and just spend the day disconnected from the world, drawing or writing or reading. Were I not able to do so periodically, I suspect it would turn me into a complete misanthrope.
Mark J. Crandley
Dec. 31st, 2015 03:05 am (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
Thank you for being patient with us. Your work inspires a lot of devotion. Can't wait to read the finished saga regardless of whenever it comes out.
Andrew Wright
Dec. 31st, 2015 04:06 am (UTC)
RE: Re: I know the Hugos are important
Thank you for responding to this comment.

I know you probably know this, but just want to say most of us fans, even those who ask or try to speculate (or read the NotABlog tea leaves for clues) about your progress, don't mean to make you weary with questions. We just enjoy your work so much that it is nearly impossible to NOT seek updates and hang on your every word. Just know it is usually out of love even when it is tiresome or annoying.

P.S. As much as I speculate and wonder about TWOW myself, after reading that stupid Gawker/Deadspin post I almost hoped you would slow down your writing pace a little more, just to spite that dumb (and misinformed) blogger.

(But please don't! :)
Dec. 31st, 2015 05:46 am (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
I hope you also hear a lot of "thank you"s for everything you've done so far.
Dec. 31st, 2015 06:26 am (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
I do indeed. And I appreciate them.

Would that I had the time to say "You're most welcome" to all of them.
Dec. 31st, 2015 04:01 pm (UTC)
RE: Re: I know the Hugos are important
Hey George! Hope you are having a good holiday. What is a GRRM New Year's party like?

Also, did your mural ever get finished? I still have plans for a cool painting for you.

Thanks for recommending The Expanse. Nice to see a good space show back on TV and I just ordered the books.

I'll be waiting anxiously for your New Year's post. Don't despair. Son of Kong will be awesome when it is done.
Dec. 31st, 2015 06:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
As much as I'd love a post on the end of the year, it's more important you have fun with whatever you're doing to celebrate the new year. I hope you get to relax as well.
Dec. 31st, 2015 10:53 am (UTC)
Re: I know the Hugos are important
Personally I'm very grateful for this 'novel' (as you put it) grrm wrote concerning the Hugos last year. Not only for the importance of the subject, but also the style. His vigorous presentation of the facts was the iron fist in the velvet glove of his tolerance and patience. The best defense is a good offense!


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

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