Hugo Award Finalists, 2013 – First Impressions

2312As always, the finalists for the Hugo Awards and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer are an interesting lot with a few surprises and a number of disappointments. The 1343 valid nominating ballots represent a record number, more than 20% above last year’s previous record. The winners will be announced Sunday, September 1, 2013, during the Hugo Awards Ceremony at LoneStarCon 3 in San Antonio, Texas.

As usual, I am looking forward to my yearly journey through the contemporary science fiction world, even if the Hugo Award itself is becoming more of a popularity contest among fan personalities than ever before. Here are my initial thoughts about the nominees.

Best Novel (1113 ballots)

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

2312 appeared on almost every best-of list and should be the odds-on favorite to win. Saladin Ahmed’s first novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, also received widespread accolades. John Scalzi’s Redshirts received some praise, but my guess, not having read it yet, is that readers liked its lighthearted premise of what it’s like to be a Star Trek crewmember more than its actual literary merits. Scalzi is also a popular fan personality, which helps his visibility. Lois McMaster Bujold is another fan favorite, having been nominated many, many times. My opinion is that her books are solid mid-list action-adventure tales, but mostly just comfort food for fans who relate well to her protagonist who overcomes major physical disabilities to become a badass soldier and politician. Blackout, by Seanan McGuire writing as Mira Grant, was on zero best-of lists and no other award short lists (at least, that I saw). But McGuire is a hugely popular blogger and podcaster whose celebrity within the fan community gives her a disproportionate advantage. The more of McGuire’s work I read, the less impressed I am. This is all the more disappointing because well-reviewed books such as Intrusion by Ken MacLeod, Jack Glass by Adam Roberts, The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin, The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal, among others, were ignored.

Asimovs_Oct-Nov_2012Best Novella (587 ballots)

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Stars Do Not Lie” by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall; On a Red Station, Drifting; and “The Stars Do Not Lie” were all well reviewed and all are on the Nebula ballot. Neither The Emperor’s Soul nor San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats appeared on any best-of or award lists that I saw. Here again, Sanderson’s and Grant’s fan popularity rather than the merits of their stories likely put them on the final ballot. The title of Grant’s story indicates it may be little more than fan fiction related to Joss Whedon’s hugely popular SF franchise, Firefly.

Best Novelette (616 ballots)

“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
“Fade To White” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
“In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
“Rat-Catcher” by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)

The love-fest for Seanan McGuire continues, incredulously including a self-published story. I’m not familiar with the other novelettes, so I am hoping that they will be decent. Certainly, Valente and Cadigan have produced top-notch work in the past.

Best Short Story (662 ballots)

“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
“Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)

All these stories undoubtedly deserve to be on the ballot. The sad news is that there are only three nominees because no other works received the minimum 5% of the votes required by the World Science Fiction Society constitution. I suspect this is due to a large number of good short stories that spread votes wide and thin.

Best Related Work (584 ballots)

The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge UP)
Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
I Have an Idea for a Book… The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

This is a hard category to say much about. The variety of potential works is vast, so almost anything can appear. Farah Mendlesohn has produced a number of well received scholarly works in the past few years, so I expect The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literatures deserves its place on the final ballot. Previous volumes of Writing Excuses were pretty informative, so I’m not surprised to see it nominated again. I have no idea what Chicks Dig Comics or Chicks Unravel Time are, but from the titles they must be part of a female-centric critical series. Martin H. Greenberg’s book sounds like little more than a list, so I’m not sure what value it has, other than to honor one of the great anthologists of all time. I’m a little surprised there are no art books on the final ballot.

sagaBest Graphic Story (427 ballots)

Grandville Bête Noire written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Saga, Volume One written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

I’m actually pleasantly surprised by how good the selections are for this category, with the exception of Schlock Mercenary, a lightweight gag comic. It is a travesty that it is on the list and Batman: The Court of Owls is not. The voters have no trouble putting superhero stories in the Dramatic Presentation category, but for some reason resist them in their natural home, the Graphic Story category.

looperBest Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (787 ballots)

The Avengers Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
The Cabin in the Woods Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
The Hunger Games Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
Looper Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)

There are no surprises here, other than not seeing Game of Thrones, Season 2.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (597 ballots)

Doctor Who:“The Angels Take Manhattan” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“Asylum of the Daleks” Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“The Snowmen” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
Fringe:“Letters of Transit” Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
Game of Thrones:“Blackwater” Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

As I predicted, there are the usual three episodes of Doctor Who and two other sacrificial lambs. My only question is why a single episode of Game of Thrones is nominated. As established last year, Game of Thrones should be considered as one ten-part presentation. Nominating a single episode is like nominating a single chapter from a book. In any case, it doesn’t matter, since it’s a foregone conclusion that Doctor Who will win.

Best Editor – Short Form (526 ballots)

John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Sheila Williams

The usual suspects are nominated once again. My hope is that the retiring Stanley Schmidt will finally receive his due.

Best Editor – Long Form (408 ballots)

Lou Anders
Sheila Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Toni Weisskopf

This is a category that very few people are really interested in. I certainly am not.

Julie-DillonBest Professional Artist (519 ballots)

Vincent Chong
Julie Dillon
Dan Dos Santos
Chris McGrath
John Picacio

A mixture of some old favorites along with some new faces. There are so many good professional artists that it is hard to pick a slate of nominees without offending some really deserving candidates. And picking a clear winner is nearly impossible.

Best Semiprozine (404 ballots)

Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore and Michael Damian Thomas
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker
Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams and Stefan Rudnicki
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Jed Hartman, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Abigail Nussbaum, Sonya Taaffe, Dave Nagdeman and Rebecca Cross

It baffles me why this category should exist at all. Either you’re a professional magazine or you’re not. This wishy-washy half-measure should be abolished. For example, Clarkesworld published three Hugo nominees this year compared to one for Asimov’s and zero for Analog and F&SF. If that’s not a professional magazine, I don’t know what is.

Best Fanzine (370 ballots)

Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
SF Signal edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester

The Hugo voters inexplicably changed the eligibility rules this year to exclude virtually all online fanzines. Why supposedly forward-looking science fiction fans chose to regress to only printed periodicals is a mystery.

Best Fancast (346 ballots)

The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

Although the Hugo voters have excluded online fanzines, they have embraced podcasts. However, the same titles appear year after year, and frankly, I have not been impressed with any of them. Episodes of news and opinion shows are almost always too long and often lack organization. StarShipSofa’s selection of audio stories is underwhelming. I’m still looking for a SF podcast with value-added information that’s worth my time. I suspect others feel the same way, since this category had the second-lowest number of nominating ballots.

Best Fan Writer (485 ballots)

James Bacon
Christopher J Garcia
Mark Oshiro
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Steven H Silver

Mostly the same names we see every year in the mutual-admiration society known as fandom.

Best Fan Artist (293 ballots)

Galen Dara
Brad W. Foster
Spring Schoenhuth
Maurine Starkey
Steve Stiles

Here’s another list of mostly familiar names. At least professional artist Randall Munroe did not make the final ballot this year.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (476 ballots)

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Zen Cho *
Max Gladstone
Mur Lafferty *
Stina Leicht *
Chuck Wendig *

* Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Mur Lafferty and Stina Leicht were both nominated last year, so I expect one of them will win this year. I am completely unfamiliar with the other three nominees.

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Related Work

Episodes of Prophets of Science Fiction produced and hosted by Ridley Scott and broadcast on the Science Channel are well worth considering. This documentary series looked at the lives and predictions of notable science fiction creators. In 2012, there were good episodes about Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne, and Isaac Asimov.Prophets_of_Science_Fiction_poster

Another suggestion is The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1 by Leslie S. Klinger (Vertigo), a scholarly look at Neil Gaiman’s classic comic book series.sandman_annotated

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

One of the troubles with the Graphic Story category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes often don’t represent entire, self-contained stories.

In my opinion, the graphic story category remains the strongest overall category on the Hugo ballot. Choosing five nominees is an almost impossible task because there are so many good choices to pick from. Yet, the Hugo voters consistently nominate the same fanish works year after year. Come on, folks, there is more than Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary. Much more.

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year (nine, if you count two works with 4.94% each). The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering, so I challenge the Hugo voters to think carefully about your choices and to not just fill in your ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else. Don’t be afraid to nominate superhero stories; these are some of the most exciting and relevant science fiction tales being published.

For your consideration:

  • The Abominable Charles Christopher, Karl Kerschl (
  • Adventure Time, Vol. 1, Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Branden Lamb (BOOM! Studios)
  • American Vampire, Vol. 4, Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo)
  • Aquaman, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado (DC)
  • Batman: Earth One, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank (DC)batman-court-of-owls
  • Batman: The Court of Owls, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo (DC)
  • The Battle of Blood and Ink: A Fable of the Flying City, Jared Axelrod, Steve Walker (Tor)
  • Battlepug, Mike Norton (
  • Batwoman, Vol. 1, J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman (DC)
  • Chew, Vol. 6: Space Cakes, John Layman, Rob Guillory (Image)
  • Cinderella: Fables are Forever, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus (Vertigo)
  • Daredevil, Vol. 1, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee (Marvel)dial-h
  • Dial H, Vol. 1: Into You, China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco (DC)
  • Earth 2, Vol. 1, James Robinson, Nicola Scott (DC)
  • Fables, Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind, Bill Willingham, et al (Vertigo)
  • Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson (IDW)
  • Grandville Bete Noir, Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido (Marvel)irredeemable
  • Irredeemable, Vol. 10, Mark Waid, Diego Barreto (BOOM! Studios)
  • iZombie, Vol. 4: Repossessed, Chris Roberson, Mike Allred (DC)
  • Justice League, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee (DC)
  • Lobster Johnson Vol. 2: The Burning Hand, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Tonci Zonjic (Dark Horse)
  • Locke & Key: Clockworks, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)manhattan-projects
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitavro (Image)
  • Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt (Dark Horse)20thCenturyBoys22
  • Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22, Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • The New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard (Vertigo)
  • Peter Panzerfaust, Vol. 1: The Great Escape, Kurtis Wiebe, Tyler Jenkins (Image)
  • Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission, SImon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milogiannis, Brandon Graham (Image)
  • Punk Rock Jesus, Sean Murphy (Vertigo)saga
  • Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples (Image)
  • Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson, Mark Siegel (First Second)
  • Saucer Country, Vol. 1: Run, Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly (Vertigo)
  • The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Vol. 1, Tradd Moore, Justin Jordan (Image)
  • Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis (DC)
  • The Underwater Welder, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)the-unwritten-6
  • The Unwritten, Volume 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, Mike Carey, Peter Gross (Vertigo)
  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Allard (Image)
  • Wonder Woman, Vol. 1, Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins (DC)wrinkle-in-time-graphic-novel
  • A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

The dividing line between Dramatic Presentation, Short Form and Dramatic Presentation, Long Form is 90 minutes running time, but may be adjusted slightly one way or another if a majority of nominators place a borderline work in the other category. A multi-part production can be nominated in the Long Form category.

There is an overwhelming chance that Game of Thrones, Season 2 will be nominated, just as Season 1 was last year (my advice is to not waste your nomination votes for individual episodes of Game of Thrones in the Short Form category, as they will be disqualified). Beyond that, it seems to me that the field is pretty much wide open. I think The Avengers, Looper, The Hunger Games, The Cabin in the Woods, and The Hobbit are the most likely to be nominated. But there are a number of other worthy works.

For your consideration:

  • The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony Pictures
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fox Searchlight Picturesbrave
  • Brave, Pixar Animation Studios
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Lionsgate
  • Chronicle, Twentieth Century Fox
  • Cloud Atlas, Warner Bros. Pictures
  • The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. Picturesfrankenweenie-poster
  • Frankenweenie, Walt Disney Studios
  • Game of Thrones, Season 2, HBO
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, New Line Cinema
  • Hotel Transylvania, Sony Pictures Animation
  • The Hunger Games, Lionsgateiron_sky
  • Iron Sky, Entertainment One
  • John Carter, Walt Disney Pictures
  • Life of Pi, Twentieth Century Foxlooper
  • Looper, TriStar Pictures
  • Marvel’s The Avengers, Marvel Studios
  • Men in Black 3, Columbia Pictures
  • ParaNorman, LAIKA/Focus Features
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation
  • Prometheus, Twentieth Century Fox
  • The Rabbi’s Cat, GKIDS
  • Rise of the Guardians, DreamWorks Animationrobotandfrank
  • Robot & Frank, Samuel Goldwyn Films
  • Ruby Sparks, Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • Safety Not Guaranteed, FilmDistrict
  • The Secret World of Arrietty, Studio Ghibli
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Focus Features
  • Skyfall, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
  • Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures
  • Ted, Universal Pictures
  • The Woman in Black, CBS Films
  • Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney Animation Studios

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

It’s pretty much a given that at least three episodes of Doctor Who will be nominated, and that one of those will win. While Doctor Who is certainly an outstanding series, there are a multitude of other science fiction and fantasy TV shows, as well as a few theatrical shorts and Internet productions that are worthy of consideration.

A multi-part production such as Game of Thrones, Season 2 will undoubtedly be nominated in the Long Form category as Season 1 was last year. So my advice is to not waste your nomination votes in the Short Form category for individual episodes, as they will be disqualified.

For the Dramatic Presentation, Short Form category, I have compiled a list of productions that are eligible to be nominated this year. It is a long list, and undoubtedly not comprehensive. I’ve listed the titles of individual episodes because the Hugo rules require individual episodes to be nominated. The dividing line between Short Form and Long Form is 90 minutes running time, but may be adjusted slightly one way or another if a majority of nominators place a borderline work in the other category.

For your consideration:jakethedog

  • “Jake the Dog”, Adventure Time
  • “Prehistoric Peril!”, The Adventures of the League of S.T.E.A.M.
  • “Tommy Madsen”, Alcatraz
  • “God’s Eye”, Alphas
  • “I Am Anne Frank”, Parts 1 and 2, American Horror Story: AsylumArcher Space Race
  • “Space Race”, Parts 1 and 2, Archer
  • “Betrayal”, Arrow
  • “Secret Invasion”, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest HeroesAWAKE
  • “Say Hello to My Little Friend”, Awake
  • “Blood & Chrome”, Battlestar Galactica
  • “Bridesmaid Up!”, Beauty and the Beast
  • “Trust”, Before Orel
  • “The War Child”, Being Human
  • “The Ultimate Enemy”, Parts 1 and 2, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien
  • “Time Slime”, Bravest Warriors
  • “The Final Frontier”, Castle
  • “Digital Estate Planning”, Community
  • “End Times”, Continuumdarkknightreturnspart1
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, DC Entertainment
  • Justice League: Doom, DC Entertainment
  • Superman vs. The Elite, DC Entertainment
  • “The Angels Take Manhattan”, Doctor Who
  • “When Lightning Strikes”, Dragons: Riders of Berk
  • “Just Another Day”, Eureka
  • “A More Perfect Union”, Falling Skies
  • “Yug Ylimaf”, Family GuyFringe
  • “Letters of Transit”, Fringe
  • “The Bots and the Bees”, Futurama
  • Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, Gracie Films
  • “Homecoming”, Green Lantern: The Animated Series
  • “Season of the Hexenbiest”, Grimm
  • “Thanks for the Memories”, HavenIron-Man
  • “Control-Alt-Delete”, Iron Man: Armored Adventures
  • “Cinderella Liberty”, Last Resort
  • “Endgame”, The Legend of Korra
  • “Midnight Lamp”, Lost Girlmerlin
  • “The Diamond of the Day”, Parts 1 and 2, Merlin
  • Episode #4.3, Misfits
  • Head over Heels, National Film and Television School (NFTS)
  • Mockingbird Lane, NBC
  • “Queen of Hearts”, Once Upon a Time
  • “The Contingency”, Person of Interestreddwarf
  • “Trojan”, Red Dwarf
  • “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, Revolution
  • “DC Comics Special”, Robot Chicken
  • “Bill Plympton Couch Gag”, The Simpsons
  • “Wrath of the Gods”, Spartacus: War of the Damned
  • “Revenge”, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • “Citizen Fang”, Supernatural
  • “Fury”, Teen Wolf
  • “Birth of the Blades”, Thundercats
  • “Pilot”, Touch
  • “Darkest Hour”, Transformers Prime
  • “Scars”, Parts 1 and 2, TRON: Uprising
  • “Save Yourself”, True Blood
  • “Freaky”, Ultimate Spider-Man
  • “The Departed”, The Vampire Diaries
  • “A Very Venture Halloween”, The Venture Bros.
  • “Parting Shots”, The Walking DeadPaperman
  • Paperman, Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • “The Ones You Love”, Warehouse 13
  • “Depths”, Young Justice

ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweeknie

Guest review by Tommy “Slug” Togath, age 14

There’s been a wave of animated monster movies in the past few weeks. Two stop-motion and one CGI movie have been released. Does this signify a trend, or is it just a coincidence? I don’t know, but all three movies are entertaining and explore different aspects of monster stories.

ParaNorman (2012)
Written by Chris Butler; directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This movie is from the makers of the wonderful movie Coraline (adapted from a book by Neil Gaiman). ParaNorman is an original story about a boy named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who can see and talk to ghosts. No one takes him seriously, and as a result his classmates tease him to the point of bullying. When a group of ghosts start terrorizing the town, it’s up to Norman to save the day.

ParaNorman is an entertaining movie, but probably not a movie that will stand the test of time. The stop-motion animation is better than in Coraline, with scenes containing multiple characters moving at the same time. The story, however, is kind of forgettable. The best part of the movie was when Norman had to contend with the body of his teacher who dies. It was one of the funniest and grossest scenes in a movie I’ve seen. I also liked when Norman talked to his dead grandmother.

The overall moral of the story is that everyone is different, and that bullying is bad whether it’s directed towards the living or the dead. It was a bit heavy-handed, but a valuable lesson anyway.

Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Story by Todd Durham and Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman; screenplay by Peter Baynham and Robert Smigel; directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked the setup for this movie. Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) builds a hotel in a remote and well protected forest so that his monster friends have a safe place to take their vacations without interference from evil humans. Dracula has a daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), who is about to have her 118th birthday party with all the monsters in attendance. A teenage boy named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) stumbles upon the hotel and Dracula has to disguise the boy to prevent his guests from panicking. Of course, Mavis and Jonathan fall in love, complicating Dracula’s efforts.

Hotel Transylvania is a funny, slapstick CGI movie. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Much of the credit goes to director Genndy Tartakovsky who created two of my favorite TV cartoons, Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack. Apparently, the movie was in development for many years with various writers and directors, but it was Tartakovsky who basically rescued it with his action-packed style.

The whole movie was funny, and I enjoyed seeing a lot of different monsters, although most of them didn’t get much screen time. The best part of the movie was at the end when Dracula finally realizes that humans aren’t as evil as he thinks. The message is that it’s ok to be different, and that we all need to accept others who may not look or act the same.

I could easily imagine that Hotel Transylvania could be a continuing TV series. There are a lot of potential stories that could be told with different monsters being highlighted. My understanding is that there is already a movie sequel in production.

Frankenweenie (2012)
Screenplay by John August, based on an original idea by Tim Burton and a screenplay by Leonard Ripps; directed by Tim Burton

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this black-and-white, stop-motion parody of the Frankenstein story. I was actually quite captivated by the movie. A boy named Victor (Charlie Tahan) doesn’t have many friends, except his faithful dog Sparky. After Sparky gets run over by a car, Victor decides to bring him back to life using electricity that he learned about in science class. When Victor’s classmates discover what he has done, they try to steal his idea for the upcoming science fair, creating chaos.

I haven’t seen very many Tim Burton movies. One of the movies he made a long time ago was The Nightmare Before Christmas, using the same kind of stop-motion animation. Some of my friends really liked this movie, but I didn’t like all the singing. Alice in Wonderland was only so-so. Frankenweenie is definitely better than those two movies, and I am now motivated to see some of Burton’s other movies.

I could really relate to Victor. I am kind of a science nerd, so I could appreciate him not having many friends. I also have a dog that I love, and I would be heartbroken if he died in an accident like Sparky. The best part of the movie was Victor’s science teacher (Martin Landau). He was kind of creepy and funny at the same time. I really liked when he said that science itself is neither good nor evil, but could be used for good or evil. Science is just a process of learning the facts about the world and the universe around us. I was disappointed that the science teacher did not have a bigger part in the movie. I also thought Sparky was a cool character. He was smart and cute, and acted like a real dog most of the time.

I didn’t come away from Frankenweenie thinking that there was a strong message, other than don’t experiment on your dead dog without permission. But overall, I liked Frankenweenie the most of these three monster movies. The production values were excellent, the story was funny, and I think that it’s a movie that I will understand more when I am older. There were a lot of references to old movies that I didn’t get.

Hugo Awards: Fan and Semiprozine Categories

Fanzines and Semiprozines

The Best Fanzine award was first presented in 1955. Science fiction fandom is largely based on the amateur fan magazines that have been published since 1930. Fanzines predate the first science fiction conventions. Fanzines are forums for fans to write on all kinds of topics of interest to each other. Fanzines are labors of love, with editors typically not accepting any kind of paid subscriptions, instead trading letters of comment or postage with other fans. The earliest fanzines were generally mimeographed, then xerographed, and in the past few years websites and blogs have dominated. The podcast StarShipSofa won in 2010.

During the 1970s, Locus ruled the Best Fanzine award. Locus had clearly moved to a more professional level than typical fanzines, with paid subscriptions and providing its editors with a nontrivial income. At about the same time, other “semiprofessional” magazines, such as Interzone and Science Fiction Chronicle, were gaining popularity. As a result, the Best Semiprozine category was established in 1984 so that traditional fanzines could more fairly compete against each other. Locus has been nominated as a semiprozine every year since then, winning 22 times, including this year.

Because of the domination by Locus, an ad hoc committee was appointed by the Worldcon Business Meeting in 2009 to look at the rules governing semiprozines. Many people felt that Locus had become a wholly professional magazine and should no longer be qualified to compete in the semiprozine category, but that the rules as written weren’t specific enough to move Locus out of contention. A few fans just wanted to eliminate the category altogether.

Semiprozines Redefined

The committee presented its findings and recommendations at the Business Meeting last year at Renovation. With some slight changes in wording, the Business Meeting approved the committee’s proposal and it was finalized with a few minor changes at Chicon 7. The proposal redefines several publications as professional magazines. Interzone, Lightspeed, Locus, and Weird Tales will no longer be considered semiprozines based on their employee’s income or their publisher’s owner/employee’s income. Clarkesworld will likely move out of the semiprozine category within a year or two (its editor withdrew it from the semiprozine final Hugo ballot this year).

What’s the Problem?

In my mind this does not solve the problem, it just moves it elsewhere. There is no Best Professional Magazine category for these publications to move to. Best Editor is not the same thing as Best Magazine. An editor has a large part to play in defining a magazine, but by no means the only one. To maintain parity, there needs to be a Best Professional Magazine category—well actually, a Best Collection award might be a better definition so as to include original anthologies.

Moreover, semiprofessional is a wishy-washy definition at best. Publishers of semiprozines want to have their cake and eat it, too. If they are publishing professional articles and stories, it’s irrelevant to me as a reader whether they are making or losing money. If a publication sells subscriptions, is available for sale at newsstands, collects donations, or pays any of its staff or contributors, it is a professional publication. The semiprozine publishers claim they want to create a level playing field, but that is an idealistic dream. The awards don’t differentiate in other categories regarding financial support. Two years ago, the small film Moon won over behemoth Avatar. In fact, independent films have gone head to head with major studio productions many times. In the 1980s and 1990s digest magazines successfully competed with the well-financed magazine Omni. Lightspeed and Clarkesworld have had short stories nominated. In addition, Lightspeed’s editor, John Joseph Adams, and Clarkesworld’s editor, Neil Clarke, were nominated as Best Editor, Short Form. So to say that semiprozines need a separate category is disingenuous. Good science fiction is good science fiction, no matter where it is published.

Another problem I have with the semiprozine definition is that it requires the semiprozine publishers to confirm that they are eligible before receiving the nominations (Yes/No answer). No other category is required to provide this kind of self-reported proof of eligibility. Do we trust the publishers to tell the truth about their finances without doing an audit? Would the Hugo Award Administrator be required to examine the publishers’ tax returns? I don’t think so. What if a publication is found to be fudging the truth after the nominations come out? After the final results are announced?


This year’s Business Meeting ratified a proposal to create a Best Fancast category, removing podcasts from Best Fanzine consideration, rightfully realizing that the printed word is significantly different from audio and video broadcasts. Unfortunately, a parallel change to remove audio and video from the semiprozine category was not made. Additionally, they didn’t define what constitutes a fancast, leaving open the possibility that a mixed media publication could find itself in limbo. With the rise of Kindle and iPad apps, this is a definite possibility.

In anticipation of the permanent Best Fancast category, Chicon 7 included a special Best Fancast Hugo category this year. SF Squeecast, a collaboration between Hugo-nominated authors Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente, along with Lynne M. Thomas, won this award. Frankly, I was underwhelmed by all of the nominees, but there were twelve podcasts that made the 5% eligibility cutoff, so there are obviously a number of well-regarded podcasts available.

Professional Fans

This brings up an interesting point. The winners of the Best Fancast Hugo are professional writers. The winner of the Best Fan Writer was Jim C. Hines, a professional writer. The leader in the first five rounds of voting for Best Fan Artist was Randall Munroe, a professional artist. I don’t know what this means, exactly, but it’s clear that name recognition goes a long way, and, at least for this year, the lines between fan, semiprofessional, and professional were extremely blurry.

Note: this is an updated version of an article that appeared in Axolotlburg News in September 2011.

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

The Best Dramatic Presentation category was added in 1958. It was split into Long Form (over 90 minutes) and Short Form (under 90 minutes) beginning in 2003. Although some traditionalists decry the addition of media-based works (and to be sure, some questionable movies and TV shows have been nominated and even won), this is usually one of the top vote-getting categories, showing it is popular with the Hugo voters.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Nominations (603 ballots cast [compared to 510 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

171 Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (28.35%)
148 Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (24.54%)
113 Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (18.74%)
112 Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (18.57%)
105 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (17.41%)
94 X-Men: First Class (15.59%)
78 Attack the Block (12.94%)
78 Super 8 (12.94%)
78 Thor (12.94%)
78 Misfits Series 1 (12.77%)
77 Kick-Ass (12.10%)
73 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12.10%)
48 The Adjustment Bureau (7.96%)
36 Contagion (5.97%)
27 Cowboys and Aliens (4.48%)
24 Paul (3.98%)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Final Ballot Results (1613 ballots [compared to 1755 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking Title Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
2 Game of Thrones (Season 1) (WINNER) 710 711 756 808
6 Hugo 293 295 326 392
4 Captain America: The First Avenger 198 199 247 297
1 Source Code 192 192 208
3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 175 176
5 No Award 45

No Award Tests:
• 1181 ballots ranked Game of Thrones (Season 1) higher than No Award; 115 ballots ranked No Award higher than Game of Thrones (Season 1) – PASS
• ((1613-45)/1922)*100 = 82% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – Hugo
3rd Place – Captain America: The First Avenger
4th Place – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
5th Place – Source Code


Fourteen items passed the 5% cutoff in what I thought was a lackluster year for movies. Unsurprisingly, the juggernaut Game of Thrones completely dominated the voting. I suspect this trend will continue for as long as the series is in production. Attack the Block and Misfits were not widely distributed in the U.S., or else they probably would have done better. My biggest surprise was that Rise of the Planet of the Apes wasn’t higher in the nominations, although I’m not surprised it didn’t make the top five. Contagion should also have ranked higher than it did—did people not think it was science fiction?


Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)

In a year loaded with super hero movies, Captain America stood out as one of the best, both in terms of the emotional arc of the title character and in the use of set design and special effects to convey a sense of reality lacking in many super-hero movies. It’s hard to convert the intrinsically unbelievability of comic books into something that looks good on screen. Although I liked X-Men: First Class more, I can’t argue that Captain America didn’t deserve recognition. See my full review here.

Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)

This faithful and lavish production of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy was the clear favorite in a relatively weak field. It’s hard to compete with a 10-hour production that can include character and plot details that 2-hour movies cannot. My only knock against Game of Thrones is the same one I have about the books: it’s an unresolved chapter in a longer narrative. Nevertheless, as long as HBO can keep the quality at this level, Game of Thrones will be a favorite to win for several years to come.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)

Despite being the second half of the adaptation of the final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was pretty well self-contained, and was certainly a monumental conclusion to the film series. Unlike some of the entries that felt more like Cliff’s Notes versions of the books, this installment managed to retain most of the content from the book. The three primary actors, especially Daniel Radcliff, have grown into accomplished thespians who can carry off a story of this magnitude.

Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)

Hugo was my favorite film of 2011. Period. But it is neither science fiction nor fantasy, despite having a brief plot point about a mechanical automaton. Hugo also boasted the best use of 3-D since Avatar. Nevertheless, it never should have been on the final ballot. See my full review here.

Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

Although not quite as good as his Hugo-winning film Moon, Jones was able to use his higher budget to craft an entertaining story with big ideas. This tale of time travel and identity manipulation was very much in the tradition of Philip K. Dick. It’s hard to produce a time travel story without paradoxes, and this was no exception. The ending was satisfying on an emotional level, but didn’t hold up to careful scrutiny. Jones has become a top director, and I look forward to whatever he makes next, science fiction or otherwise.

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

The Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category was begun in 2003. Even though many TV shows and other media had been nominated and even won a number of times before the split into long-form and short-form categories, the feeling was that just as novels are different from short stories, movies are different from TV episodes. A Doctor Who episode has won every year since 2006, with the exception of 2009’s Internet sensation, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) Nominations (524 ballots cast [compared to 394 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

162 “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (30.92%)
76 “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (14.50%)
73 “Baelor” (Game of Thrones), written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; Directed by Alan Taylor (13.93%) [Ineligible – Nominated in Long Form]
60 “The Pointy End” (Game of Thrones), written by George R.R. Martin; Directed by Daniel Minahan (11.45%) [Ineligible – Nominated in Long Form]
53 “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (10.14%)
49 “Fire and Blood” (Game of Thrones), written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss; Directed by Alan Taylor (9.35%) [Ineligible – Nominated in Long Form]
38 “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (7.25%)
36 “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (6.87%)
35 The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (6.68%)
31 “Winter is Coming” (Game of Thrones) (5.92%)
32 “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide” (Fringe) (5.53%)
28 “A Golden Crown” (Game of Thrones) (5.34%)
28 “The Wedding of River Song” (Doctor Who) (5.34%)
20 “The Day We Died” (Fringe) (3.82%)
18 “The Wolf Shaped Bullet” (Being Human – UK) (3.44%)
15 “The French Mistake” (Supernatural)(2.86%)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) Final Ballot Results (1395 ballots [compared to 1466 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking Title Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
2 “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) (WINNER) 585 586 645 671
1 “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community) 299 301 314 365
4 “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who) 156 156 201 211
6 “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech” 142 145 152
3 “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who) 136 136
5 No Award 77

No Award Tests:
• 1036 ballots ranked “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) higher than No Award; 163 ballots ranked No Award higher than “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who) – PASS
• ((1395-77)/1922 )*100 = 69% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – “The Girl Who Waited”
3rd Place – “A Good Man Goes to War”
4th Place – “Remedial Chaos Theory”
5th Place – “The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech”


Thirteen short-form dramas made the 5% cutoff. Three episodes of Game of Thrones were ruled ineligible since the series as a whole was nominated in the long-form category. Doctor Who and Game of Thrones will undoubtedly dominate the Hugos for the foreseeable future, because most TV science fiction is fairly mediocre. It was nice to see Fringe getting some recognition—I really must go back and watch it. My biggest disappointment was that the Academy Award winning animated short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was not nominated. Told sans dialog with a Chaplinesque character, this thoroughly charming fantasy is a love letter to reading and the value of books.


“The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)

With more than twice the number of nominations as any other contender and only taking four rounds to be declared the winner, this episode by fan favorite Neil Gaiman had huge support. It was an exciting and entertaining hour that managed to turn almost fifty years of Doctor Who lore on its head. The episode is notable for contriving to have the consciousness of The Doctor’s TARDIS transferred into a sentient being that can converse with him. In doing so, the audience learns some interesting history of The Doctor’s origin.

“The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)

Chris Garcia’s many friends evidently thought it would be funny to nominate his histrionic acceptance speech. The speech was certainly dramatic, and it was a presentation, but this had no place on the final ballot. Thankfully, the voters agreed with this assessment, but its inclusion on so many nominating ballots meant a worthy work such as The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was left off.

“The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)

This episode focuses entirely on The Doctor’s companion, Amy Pond, who is inadvertently left behind on an alien planet for 36 years before The Doctor returns to rescue her. Rife with time travel paradoxes, the episode nevertheless delivers an opportunity for actor Karen Gillan to flex her acting muscles as both young and old Amy (with the help of excellent make-up).

“A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)

This was really the first part of a two-part episode that concluded with “Let’s Kill Hitler,” so I’m not sure why it was not nominated as such. The Doctor’s pacifist philosophy is severely tested when his companion Amy Pond is captured and held at a secret military base. He builds an alliance of confederates to help break Amy out of prison. This episode is notable for revealing the true identity of The Doctor’s sometimes love interest, River Song. This somber episode revealed a dark side to the usually happy-go-lucky Doctor; a side that had repercussions later in the season.

“Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Community is consistently pushing the envelope for a sitcom, and this episode in particular was a tour de force of humorous science fiction, exploring the many-worlds theory of existence in a clever and delightful way. It’s unfortunate that Community is not more widely seen, and I suspect the Hugo voters who didn’t see it instinctively dismissed it as a triviality compared to their beloved Doctor Who (that is often just as jokey and irreverent).

Hugo Awards 2012: Best Graphic Story

In 1988, Nolacon II created a one-time special category, “Other Forms,” as a way to honor the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. In subsequent years fans discussed whether there should be a permanent graphic novel category, but nothing happened until 2008. That year the organizers of Anticipation agreed to include a one-time, special Best Graphic Story category in 2009 in expectation that the 2009 Business Meeting would institute Best Graphic Story as an official category. This did indeed happen, and thus, Best Graphic Story became a new category in 2010. The award was ratified by the 2012 Business Meeting, making it permanent.

Best Graphic Story Nominations (344 ballots cast [compared to 287 ballots cast in 2011])
(The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.)

60 Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (17.4%)
36 Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (10.47%)
33 Digger by Ursula Vernon (9.59%)
28 The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (8.14%)
26 Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (7.55%)
21 Finder: Voice by Carla Speed McNeil (6.10%)
20 Doorways by George R.R. Martin, illustrated by Stefano Martino (5.57%)
17 Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin and Daniel Abraham, illustrated by Rafa Lopez; (4.94%)
17 Habibi by Craig Thompson (4.94%)
14 Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 3: Reason by Thomas Siddell (4.07%)
12 Freakangels Volume 5 by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield (3.49%)
11 Anya`s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (3.20%)
10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 by Joss Whedon (2.91%)
10 Knight and Squire by Bill Willingham, illustrated by Joao Ruas (2.91%)
10 Fables Volume 16: Super Team by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (2.91%)

Best Graphic Story Final Ballot Results (1091 ballots [compared to 1263 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking


Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5


Digger (WINNER)







Fables Vol 15: Rose Red







Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication






Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom





The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan




No Award


No Award Tests:
• 685 ballots ranked Digger higher than No Award; 109 ballots ranked No Award higher than Digger – PASS
• ((1091-84)/1922 )*100 = 52% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – Fables Vol 15: Rose Red
3rd Place – Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom
4th Place – Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication
5th Place – The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan

Phil Foglio withdrew Girl Genius, the winner for the past three years, from consideration. Some griped that this simply meant that the second best graphic novel would be selected. My opinion is that Hugo voters are not particularly sophisticated about graphic novels and are sending essentially the same titles up for consideration again and again. Schlock Mercenary and Fables have been nominated every year, and this is the second year in a row for The Unwritten. Digger, a web-based comic with the same fanish sensibilities as Girl Genius, filled the void left by Girl Genius.

One of the troubles with this category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines often extending over several years. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes don’t often represent entire, self-contained stories. How can one justify recognizing an incomplete story?

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven titles made the 5% cutoff (interestingly, during the Business Meeting discussion about whether to ratify Graphic Story as a permanent category, the Hugo administrator stated that nine titles had made the cutoff—I guess they consider 4.94 to be close enough to 5 to count). It was great to see Carla Speed McNeil’s Eisner and L.A. Times Book Prize winner Finder getting attention (however, the storyline Voice was completed in 2008, so it’s unclear whether the printed volume in 2011 would have been eligible), but where were Atomic Robo, Battlepug, Chew, Daredevil, 20th Century Boys, American Vampire, Joe the Barbarian, The Walking Dead, and Irredeemable? Why weren’t Habibi and Anya’s Ghost ranked higher?

There were noticeably more nominating ballots cast this year than last year, but there was a sharp drop in the number of final ballots cast. Only a little more than half the total voters voted in this category. So, it seems this is not a hugely popular category.


Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)

I have to admit that I only got through about 100 pages of this 700+ page opus. What I did read was pretty good, but somewhat similar to things like Cerebus the Aardvark and Howard the Duck, pitting an anthropomorphic animal (in this case, a wombat) against human antagonists. Even though I am a big comic book fan, I had not heard of Digger before it was nominated. Looking back at Eisner Award records, I saw she was nominated in 2006 in the category Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition, but I am not a connoisseur of web-based comics, so it didn’t register in my memory. Digger certainly had the overwhelming support of the Hugo voters. It has the cute animal/fantasy vibe that Hugo voters seem to gravitate to. In her acceptance speech Ursula Vernon hinted that there was a huge twist ending, so I will make it a point to finish this massive story.

Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)

Fables is one of the few cross-over favorites of the SF and comic book worlds. The first half of this trade edition was very good, chronicling the struggles of Snow White’s sister, Rose Red. The second half of the book was much less effective. It was not clear whether the intent of the voters was to honor just the Rose Red portion, or the entire volume. Nevertheless, the best of Fables is in its early years, and it seems momentum is keeping it on the ballot when perhaps other works are more deserving.

Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

Locke & Key is a marvelous horror story, about a single mother and her children coping with life in a haunted house. The story is chilling without being too graphic. It’s hard to justify voting for a single, open-ended volume, but for me, Locke & Key is too good not to vote for, and I’m not even a big horror fan.

Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)

I just don’t get Schlock Mercenary, a space opera gag strip that’s a clear parody of Star Trek. Its fans are certainly motivated: it garnered significantly more nominations than anything else. It has the cutesy artwork that Hugo voters like, but I think it’s just occasionally amusing and without much substance. What am I missing?

The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

I don’t understand why The Unwritten doesn’t get more Hugo love. It’s all about great literature, with lots of magic and adventure. Perhaps casual readers think it’s too much of a Harry Potter pastiche, but it is far from that. This particular volume did suffer from being a middle chapter in a longer work, with no clear resolution.  I thought the previous volume, Dead Man’s Knock, was a better representation of the series and was more self-contained.