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Hugo Thoughts: Dramatic Presentation

That Finnish Worldcon has opened Hugo nominations for 2016, and all over the internet the usual suspects are stirring and sharing their thoughts and recommendations. Being very suspicious my own self, I thought I'd chirp in with my own notions, as I have in years past.

First, the basics (forgive me if you have read this before, which most of you have):

To nominate, you need to be a member of at least one of these three worldcons:
-- MidAmericon II, last year's Kansas City worldcon,
-- the current year's worldcon, in Helsinki,
-- the 2018 worldcon, ConJose II, in San Jose, California.

If you were a member of MAC II, you're set. If not, you need to join one or the other of the forthcoming cons... and to secure nominating rights, you need to do that by January 31. Which means you have THREE MORE DAYS to join. Once you've signed up, though, you'll have another six weeks or so to decide what you want to nominate. You do NOT have to attend to be able to nominate. Supporting Memberships are also available, at a much lower rate.

To join the Helsinki con, go to:

To join for San Jose, the address is:

Once you've signed up, you will be sent your own personalized link to the nominations page, which will allow you to nominate the books, stories, movies, television shows, artists, fans, and editors whose work most wowed you this past year.

The Hugo Awards were first given in 1953, and remain our field's most prestigious, important, and meaningful awards. The list of Hugo winners is a Who's Who in science fiction and fantasy, and you can have a voice in determining which names are added to that distinguished roster besides those of Alfred Bester, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. Le Guin, Jack Vance, Connie Willis, Samuel R. Delany, N.K. Jemisin, James Tiptree Jr, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Gardner Dozois, Lois McMaster Bujold, Orson Scott Card, Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, Anne Leckie, Anne McCaffery, and so many many more.

Today I thought I'd ruminate a bit on the Dramatic Presentation Hugos. There are two of those: Long Form and Short Form. For all practical purposes, Long Form means "feature films" and Short Form means "television episodes," though the rules actually allow all sorts of other things to be nominated (live theatre, radio plays, easter eggs, slide shows, albums, once even an acceptance speech from the previous year, which was kind of the height of stupidity). But the only real hard and fast criterion here is running time.

This year's Long Form race is going to be dominated by two movies, I have no doubt. ROGUE ONE is a Star Wars film, and a pretty good one at that (the best since THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, imnsho); it has to be the odds on favorite going in. ARRIVAL, however, could give it some tough competition; a brilliant, powerful adaptation of a Ted Chiang story, relentlessly intelligent, well filmed, well acted (how Amy Adams did not get an Oscar nod I will never understand).

If we presume that ROGUE ONE and ARRIVAL are shoe-ins, though, the question remains as to what will occupy the other four slots on the final ballot. Certainly there were other genre movies released last year. DR. STRANGE, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, PASSENGERS, A MONSTER CALLS, THE JUNGLE BOOK, GHOSTBUSTERS, X-MEN, STAR TREK, yadda yadda yadda. Myself, I liked some of these a lot, other less, and still others I have yet to see. Some may make my ballot.

There's another option, however: television series. And it's an option well worth considering.

See, the rules allow a television show to be nominated in two different ways. You can nominate an individual episode of a series in Short Form, so long as it is under ninety minutes, or you can nominate an entire season as a whole in Long Form. (You can actually do both if you really like a show, but the Hugo administrators will then make the showrunners chose which nomination to accept, so the same show cannot appear simultaneous in both categories). Most recently, it happened to GAME OF THRONES. At the Chicago worldcon, GAME OF THRONES season one won the rocket in Long Form, ahead of several feature films. (In subsequent years, however, GOT won in Short Form, for individual episodes).

In today's television world, there are two different sorts of shows: episodic series, where every week tells a self-contained story with a beginning, middle, and an end, and serial shows, where the entire season is one story, one continuous dramatic arc, with no resolution until the final episode (if then). LAW & ORDER is its various incarnations is an example of the former, HBO's recent brilliant courtroom drama THE NIGHT OF an instance of the latter. In the not-too-distant past, episodic shows used to dominate television drama, but in recent years that has definitely changed. These days we have a real mix, though to my mind the best shows are almost all serials. The longer format allows you to do so much more.

This is truly the Golden Age for science fiction and fantasy on television, with more interesting series than ever before... most of them serial dramas. WESTWORLD, for instance. Terrific show. But the entire season is one story. To me, it makes no sense to pick an episode at random and nominate it in Short Form, when every episode depended so much on what had come before and what was to follow. I will be nominating WESTWORLD season one in Long Form, and I urge other WESTWORLD fans to do the same. Then we have STRANGER THINGS, recent Golden Globe nominee, another cool new genre show... I loved the series, but looking back, did I love one episode? No, I loved the whole story, so I'd nominate STRANGER THINGS, season one. Ditto for PENNY DREADFUL, the final season, which wrapped up in fine style last year. You could also make a case for MR. ROBOT, if you consider that sf.

And, of course, there's GAME OF THRONES. Our sixth season won an unprecedented number of Emmys, setting an all-time record. And there are individual episodes that won Emmy acclaim: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won for writing for "Battle of the Bastards," Miguel Sapochnik took the directing Emmy for the same episode, and "The Door" also earned a directing nomination for Jack Bender. But it was the season as a whole that won for Best Drama, and for me, at least, it makes the most sense to nominate GAME OF THRONES, season six, in Long Form.

When I look at the other movies eligible this year, aside from the Big Two, I see some good work, for sure... but nothing that stands head and shoulders above shows like WESTWORLD, STRANGER THINGS, PENNY DREADFUL, and GOT. I think the time has come for serial television drama to have more of a presence in the Long Form category.

And what about Short Form, you ask?

There are still plenty of episodic shows left, more than enough to fill that category. GRIMM and ORPHAN BLACK and FLASH have all been nominated in recent years, and their fans will likely have favorite episodes again this year. And then there are the anthology shows, the most outstanding of which is BLACK MIRROR. As with TWILIGHT ZONE and OUTER LIMITS in days of yore, every episode of BLACK MIRROR is self-contained, and many of them are brilliant. (Dark as hell, disturbing, but masterfully done). Your favorite BLACK MIRROR episodes should definitely be nominated here; so far, the show has been criminally overlooked in the Hugos. Of course, there's DR. WHO as well. I don't know which episodes will be nominated this year, but there will surely be one. Or two. Or three. Or four. For GOT fans who reject my Long Form argument, or prefer to nominate in both categories, "The Door" and "Battle of the Bastards" are the likely contenders.

And then there is the interesting case of THE EXPANSE. You could make a good argument for nominating the entire first season of THE EXPANSE in Long Form, as with WESTWORLD or GAME OF THRONES or STRANGER THINGS, since it is one continuous story. However, the airing dates of THE EXPANSE season one straddled the calendar year, so half of the episodes came out in 2015. Not sure what that does to the show's eligibilty. (Two of those early episodes did garner considerable support last year, and would likely have made the ballot if not for the Puppies). In light of that complication, I think EXPANSE fans (like me) should probably nominate their favorite episode in Short Form. My pick would be the season finale, "Leviathan Wakes." Originally broadcast on February 2, 2016, it is clearly eligible, whereas the earlier episodes are not.

Those are my thoughts on the Drama categories in this year's Hugo Awards. You're welcome to share your own. (As ever, please stay ON TOPIC or your comments will be nuked).

No matter which shows and movies you chose to nominate... NOMINATE. Surely the events of 2016 have demonstrated the importance of voter turnout.


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Jan. 29th, 2017 01:18 am (UTC)
Have you watched The OA? Regardless of whether you have, do you feel like it has enough sci-fi elements to warrant being nominated?
Jan. 29th, 2017 01:24 am (UTC)
There was only one Dr Who episode released last year, so it'll only get one nomination this time round (I suspect it'll get nominated even though the episode was no more than mildly entertaining).

I've been enjoying the recent adaptation of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, it might be another contender for a nomination.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 29th, 2017 01:48 am (UTC)
Re: WorldCon
If money is tight, and you are not likely to travel to Finland, yes, you should join ConJose... and do it soon. The rates go up the closer you get to the con.

If money is not an object, join both. You can join Helsinki as a supporting member rather than an attending member, which is considerably cheaper. That still gets you the right to nominate.
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Jan. 29th, 2017 03:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Kolbjørn Gjerde
Jan. 29th, 2017 01:44 am (UTC)
Question to GRRM
I agree so.much with your thoughts on Westworld, Stranger things and all that. You also talk alot about "the battle of the bastards" and "the door", but what are your thoughts on "the winds of winter" episode?
Jan. 29th, 2017 02:31 am (UTC)
I have yet to see Arrival. Our budget whalloped me over the head about the time that came out. Passengers though...I loved Passengers. Yes, not the most original premise,except...except. It raises the question that Jim has to answer, an he answers it horribly, and all the consequences and Aurora's reaction are so great. Not great 'good', but great in relation to the question we'd all have to ask ourselves, in that situation. And I'm not being clear at all.
Yes, Rogue One is a good movie, but I like the non-franchise, non-remakes movies the best I think. Build a new world :)
Jan. 29th, 2017 02:49 am (UTC)
One title left out that deserves consideration is Outlander, either for the whole second season, or if not, then either S2/E7 "Faith", which was one of the best hours of television I ever watched, or the S2 finale which was profoundly well done.

There are so many literary categories and sub-categories for the Hugos, but only two for dramatic presentation, and I wish we could see more; at least break it into three--individual episode of a television series, entire season of a television series and motion picture, and perhaps a a fourth, catch-all category for Dramatic Presentation-Other for things that don't fit into the above three.
Jan. 29th, 2017 03:05 am (UTC)
We will have to disagree on that. I think there are too many Hugo categories already and do not favor adding more. I wish there was a rule that said if any new category is added, an old one has to be deleted to make room for it.

If they keep adding more and more awards, they will end up having to split the ceremony in two, like the Emmys. There's a limit as to how long an awards ceremony should be.
(no subject) - kevin_standlee - Jan. 29th, 2017 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Williamjames Hoffer
Jan. 29th, 2017 03:52 am (UTC)
Hugo Nominations
This is one of those areas when I really cannot fathom why anyone would trust me with a ballot provided I registered appropriately. I prefer the academy system where people in the industry like GRRM actually know what is Hugo worthy. Sure, there will be silly things. But at least you don't have a schmo like yours truly with a ballot. Worst case scenario those loons get involved with their crazy politics. The Hugo Awards were the inspiration for the Sparrows. Who knew? Just kidding.
Jan. 29th, 2017 04:33 am (UTC)
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Jan. 29th, 2017 07:02 am (UTC)
Long Form Eligibility for The Expanse
The Expanse Season 1 is eligible for Long Form. I won't bother quoting the exact wording but the gist is that any episodic work is eligible for nomination as a whole in the year following the publication or broadcast of the final segment. So, sine the final episode of The Expanse Season 1 was broadcast in 2016, it7s eligible in BDP: Long. Only the individual episodes which were broadcast in 2016 are eligible for BDP: Short Form.
It's interesting to note that although a choice has to be made between Short and long forms for episodes broadcast in the same year, it would have been possible for one of the episodes broadcast in 2015 to be on the 2016 ballot and then for the first season as a whole to be on the 2017 ballot.
It's not quite identical, since they were then edited to form the novel, but four of the short stories that made up Charles Stross' Accelerando had already appeared on the Hugo Ballot in prior years for the novella or novelette categories.
If you really want to check the precise rules, see the Constitution of WSFS at: http://www.wsfs.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/WSFS-Constitution-as-of-August-22-2016.pdf
Jan. 29th, 2017 03:58 pm (UTC)
RE: Long Form Eligibility for The Expanse
Thanks for the clarifications.
Ryan Bruce
Jan. 29th, 2017 07:12 am (UTC)
The Door
I absolutely loved this episode and I don't believe it got as much recognition as it deserved. I didn't read the spoilers and I almost teared up over it, ok maybe a little bit. Hoping Summer gets a better ending in the series though and that you and HBO can jag a Hugo for the episode.
'Battle of the bastards' was epic visually and had some great moments, but 'the door' was better imo
Bruce Warnsby
Jan. 29th, 2017 07:44 am (UTC)
The other big name for Long Form is "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" which is a excellent movies and linked to Harry Potter fandom. That said I saw 3 hugo type movies(Dr. Strange and Rouge One were the others) this year and all are worthy
Jan. 29th, 2017 11:20 am (UTC)
I still think that there's a very good case to be made for Person of Interest in the drama categories, a very good series on AI etc. I nominated individual episodes a couple of times but they never made the ballot, since this is the last time it'll be eligible I'm going to nominate the last series as long form - not sure it's eligible but it's worth a shot - and some individual episodes as short form.
Jan. 29th, 2017 12:08 pm (UTC)
My vote
I'm definitely nominating BLACK MIRROR in the Short form category. What a show! It's very creepy and has haunted most of my dreams lately but it's also so thought provoking. Masterfully done is right, George!

The long form will be a tough choice between WESTWORLD and STRANGER THINGS.
Jan. 29th, 2017 07:10 pm (UTC)

I'm pretty certain ARRIVAL is going to win against any competition put up against it. That said, having recently watched it, I was really disappointed in the adaptation turning an essentially note-perfect story into pretty typical Hollywood fare; some of the heart of it comes through, but I feel too much was sacrificed to making it "thrilling". It should have been a low-budget independent film, focused more on performances than effects and action. Oh well.

Amy Adams was terrific, though, and of course Villeneuve is a terrific director.

"Nosedive", BLACK MIRROR
"San Junipero", BLACK MIRROR
That is all.

Jan. 30th, 2017 11:27 am (UTC)
San Junipero
That would be my choice for the BLACK MIRROR episode too. I haven't seen ARRIVAL yet so I'll definitely check it out!
Jan. 29th, 2017 07:31 pm (UTC)
Black Mirror
Do you have a favorite episode of this season of Black Mirror?

I am somewhat partial to the third and especially to the fifth.

Rest of them were too cheery :)

Edited at 2017-01-29 07:31 pm (UTC)
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George R.R. Martin
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