Tag Archives: Captain America

Should SF Be More Optimistic?

A panel at Chicon 7 discussed whether science fiction has become too pessimistic. Dystopian dramas such as The Road, The Walking Dead, and I Am Legend seem to dominate today’s market. Is this a reflection of current societal woes, or a more widespread sense of doom towards the future by writers and producers? What part do readers and audiences play in contributing to the popularity of these darker stories?

My feeling is that modern science fiction is no more or less optimistic than it has ever been. Classics such as Metropolis, Dr. Strangelove, and Blade Runner have often painted cautionary pictures of the future, warning us of what might be, not what will be. I would argue that dystopian SF is generally more thought-provoking than utopian SF. The best literature relies on conflict to propel characters to change and grow. Utopian societies are often bland and uninteresting.

Things like Buck Rogers and Star Trek are loved by millions for their optimistic visions of technological innovation and political harmony, but even they have conflict to drive their stories. They are often criticized for their naïvety, too.

Taking a look at this year’s Hugo Award nominees, I see optimistic stories far outnumbering the dystopias. Among the novels, Deadline is really the only dystopia, and even it has an underlying optimism that says society will learn to deal with a zombie apocalypse with new medical testing and security technologies. Among the dramatic presentations, Game of Thrones could possibly be considered a pessimistic fantasy universe, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows certainly has some very dark moments before the forces of good spectacularly triumph over the forces of evil.

Last year saw pessimistic films such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Contagion, but they were more than countered by generally optimistic offerings such as Source Code, Captain America, X-Men: First Class, Super 8, Thor, Cowboys and Aliens, and Paul.

Science fiction TV has been dominated for several years by Doctor Who, the ultimate in optimism. Battlestar Galactica was certainly dark, but depicted the eventual triumph of humans. I think one reason Terra Nova failed was that audiences were not attracted to a world where running away from a dystopian society was encouraged rather than staying and working to improve it. Meanwhile, shows like Eureka, Alphas, and Warehouse 13 continue to offer lighthearted SF adventure.

To me, no matter how dark or depressing a science fiction story is, there is a fundamental optimism inherent in all science fiction. After all, science fiction (at least the majority that’s set in the future) imagines that there will be a future for mankind. You can’t get much more optimistic than that!

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2012 Hugo Award Nominations

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) announced the nominees for the 2012 Hugo Awards and the nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The complete list may be found at the Chicon 7 website.

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Novel

There were only two novels nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula this year, Among Others by Jo Walton and Embassytown by China Miéville. George R. R. Martin is a huge fan favorite, and with his hit Game of Thrones TV series it was all but certain that A Dance With Dragons would be nominated. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey was on a fair number of best-of lists, so it’s presence on the Hugo ballot is not a big surprise. The bigger surprise is Deadline by Mira Grant, which I don’t think was on too many best-of lists, but the author (real name Seanan McGuire) is very active in SF fandom and Deadline is a sequel to her book Feed that was nominated last year. Embassytown has been raking in most of the awards so far, but I wouldn’t count out Martin’s popularity to make him a dark horse favorite.

Graphic Story

With only 339 ballots, this category continues to be one of the least popular. Nevertheless, the nominees this year are markedly better than in years past. Perennial nominees Fables and Schlock Mercenary made the list again this year. The fannish Girl Genius was replaced by the fannish Digger by Ursula Vernon, which was begun in 2007 and completed in 2011. Coming in at over 700 pages, it will be interesting to see who has the stamina to wade through the whole thing. This is a comic that I had never heard of before, but I just read the first 20 pages and it looks intriguing, at least. My favorites, by far, are Locke & Key and The Unwritten. It’s unfortunate that terrific graphic stories such as Habibi by Craig Thompson, Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, and The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman didn’t make the ballot.

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Game of Thrones has to be the odds-on favorite, what with its pedigree and ability to tell a 10-hour, fully realized story. I wouldn’t count out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 due to the immense popularity and sentimentality for this final installment of the Harry Potter series, but it seems a long shot, nevertheless. Hugo might also sneak in as the winner, but as good a film as it is, it really is not science fiction or fantasy, except in the broadest sense. Source Code was a fine follow-up to Duncan Jones’s Moon, but it is not nearly as good. Captain America: The First Avenger has no chance to win (and in my opinion, X-Men: First Class was the better superhero film last year). I’m a little surprised that Midnight in Paris wasn’t nominated, but I suspect it’s a bit too mainstream for the Hugo voters. I’m also a little surprised neither Puss in Boots nor Rango were nominated, but animated films seem to be less well regarded. The biggest surprise, by far, was the omission of Rise of the Planet of the Apes from the ballot.

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Doctor Who dominates the category, as usual. I give Neil Gaiman’s episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” the edge due to Gaiman’s popularity among Hugo voters. I suppose Chris Garcia’s Hugo acceptance speech was dramatic, and although it was certainly moving, it really does not deserve to be nominated. My choice, which I admit is a long shot, is the Community episode “Remedial Chaos Theory,” which is a clever and hilarious meditation on parallel world theory. My biggest disappointment was that The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the Academy Award winning short film, was not nominated.

Summary

Overall, it looks like most of the nominations are deserved. With a record number of nominations (1101), one can assume that most of the nominees have a goodly amount of support and that frivolous entries are minimal. I am looking forward to reading, listening to, and viewing as many of the nominees as possible.

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 11, 2012. Members (as of January 31, 2012) of Renovation, Chicon 7, or LoneStarCon 3 are eligible to nominate. For the Graphic Story category, I have compiled a list of works that could be considered.

It is clear that Hugo readers are not avid comic book readers. There is little overlap of the Hugo nominees and any of the comics-related best-of lists and awards. The Hugo voters are going for fanish titles such as Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary, along with obscure titles by fan-favorite writers such as Paul Cornell and Joss Whedon, and ignoring outstanding mainstream titles such as The Walking Dead, Locke & Key, Chew, 20th Century Boys, Return of the Dapper Men, and Irredeemable, to name a few. Yes, Y: The Last Man, Fables, and The Unwritten have been nominated, but there’s so much more good stuff not being recognized.

One of the troubles with this 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 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 works made the 5% cutoff last year. Moreover, the Hugo voters have given the award to Girl Genius three years in a row. To his credit, Phil Foglio announced that he would not accept a nomination this year for Girl Genius. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to convince this year’s Business Meeting to permanently ratify the Graphic Story category. As much of a comics fan as I am, if there is no greater diversity of nominees, I may have to support ending the category. Although the Hugo Award is a popularity contest, it should ideally represent a broad representation of the best of science fiction and fantasy.

The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering. I’ve tried to narrow down my list to titles that I’ve seen favorably reviewed. Nevertheless, I suspect I’ve missed worthy books. Most of the entries on the list are printed. I’m not a connoisseur of web comics, but I know there are some good ones being published. Even so, for a lot of web comics it’s hard to tell where stories start and stop and therefore what is eligible in a calendar year. Check with a site like Top Web Comics for a list of possibilities.

I’ve highlighted a few titles that have appeared on multiple best-of lists or that I have personal knowledge of being excellent. I challenge the Hugo nominators to think carefully about their choices and to not just fill in their ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else.

For your consideration:

Abominable Charles Christopher, Book One by Karl Kerschl

Amulet #4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

Angel: After the Fall, Vol. 4 by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch

Anita Blake: Circus of the Damned: The Ingenue by Laurell K. Hamilton, Jessica Booth, and Ron Lim

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

B.P.R.D.: Being Human by Mike Mignola, et al.

Batman & Robin, Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin by Grant Morrison, et al.

Batman: Eye of the Beholder by Tony Daniel

Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo

Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla

The Bean, Vol. 1: Riddles & Shrooms by Travis Hanson

The Boys, Vol. 9: The Big Ride by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson

Blood Work by Kim Harrison, Pedro Maia and Gemma Magno

Brightest Day by Geoff Johns, et al.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Vol. 8: Last Gleaming by Joss Whedon, Scott Allie, and Georges Jeanty

Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina

Captain Swing, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres

Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá

Chew, Vol. 4: Flambe by John Layman and Rob Guillory

The Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly

Cowboys and Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg

The Dark-Hunters, Vol. 4 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon

Deadpool MAX : Involuntary Armageddon by David Lapham, Kyle Baker, and Shawn Crystal

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol. 6 by Philip K. Dick and Tony Parker

Echo, Vol. 6: The Last Day by Terry Moore

Fables, Vol. 16: Super Team by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

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Fantastic Four, Vol. 4 by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Nick Dragotta, and Mark Brooks

5 Ronin by Peter Milligan, et al.

Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert

Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay

Freeway by Mark Kalesniko

Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 27 by Hiromu Arakawa

George R. R. Martin’s Doorways by Stefano Martino and George R. R. Martin

Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns by Geoff Johns, et al.

Green Woman by Peter Straub, Michael Easton, and John Bolton

The Griff: A Graphic Novel by Christopher Moore and Ian Corson

The Gunslinger – The Battle of Tull by Stephen King, Peter David, and Michael Lark

The Gunslinger – The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, Luke Ross, and Richard Isanove

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Harbor Moon by Ryan Colucci, Dikran Ornekian, and Pawel Sambor

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben

I Will Bite You! by Joseph Lambert

Irredeemable, Vol. 7 by Mark Waid and Peter Krause

iZombie, Vol. 2: uVampire by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred

Jericho Season 3 by Alejandro F. Giraldo

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Fool Moon by Chase Conley, Jim Butcher, and Mark Powers

Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

Kill Shakespeare, Vol. 2 by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Mangaman by Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran

Marineman: A Matter of Life & Depth by Ian Churchill

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 18 by Naoki Urasawa

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick, David Mack, and Pascal Alixe

Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison and Alan Robinson

Pinocchio by Winshluss

RASL: Romance at the Speed of Light by Jeff Smith

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes adapted by Ron Wimberly

7 Billion Needles, Vol. 4 by Nobuaki Tadano

Super Dinosaur, Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman

Superboy, Vol. 1: Smallville Attacks by Jeff Lemire, Pier Gallo, and Marco Rudy

Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

True Blood, Vol. 2: Tainted Love by Joe Corroney

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim

Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga, Book 1 by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Billy Tan, and Mark Brooks

The Unwritten, Vol. 4: Leviathan by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

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Vampire Academy by Leigh Dragoon and Emma Vieceli

The Walking Dead, Vol. 14, No Way Out by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead, Vol. 15, We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, Vol. 1: The Colossus of Mars by Arvid Nelson and Carlos Rafael

Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young

Xombi by John Rozum and Fraser Irving

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 11, 2012. Members (as of January 31, 2012) of Renovation, Chicon 7, or LoneStarCon 3 are eligible to nominate. For the Dramatic Presentation, Long Form category, I have compiled a list of productions that could be considered.

A number of people are recommending Hugo be nominated. Hugo is by far my favorite film of 2011, but I just don’t see how people can consider it a fantasy. It’s got an automaton as a plot point, but that’s based on a real invention. I suppose Hugo could be considered an alternate history, but that seems to be stretching the definition too much.

A multi-part production such as Game of Thrones or Torchwood: Miracle Day can be nominated in the Long Form category if nominators feel that the mini-series should be taken as a whole, rather than as individual episodes. 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.

My expectation is that Game of Thrones will be nominated no matter what, so I will use my nominations for other works. I will surely nominate Rango, and most likely Arthur Christmas, Puss in Boots, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and X-Men: First Class will make up my other choices. The Adventures of Tintin and Source Code would also be worthy, in my opinion.

For your consideration:

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adventures of Tintin  [Annie Award nominee]

Another Earth

Arthur Christmas [Annie Award nominee]

Captain America: The First Avenger

Cars 2 [Annie Award nominee]

Cowboys & Aliens

The Divide

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos

Game of Thrones, Season 1 [Emmy Award nominee]

Gnomeo & Juliet

Green Lantern

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

In Time

Kung Fu Panda 2  [Annie Award and Academy Award nominee]

Limitless

Melancholia

Midnight in Paris [Academy Award nominee]

Paul

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Puss in Boots  [Annie Award and Academy Award nominee]

Rango [Annie Award winner and Academy Award nominee]

Real Steel

Rio  [Annie Award nominee]

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Source Code

Super 8

The Thing

Thor

Torchwood: Miracle Day

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Winnie the Pooh

X-Men: First Class