Tag Archives: Doctor Who

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 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

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”

Analysis

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.

Mini-Reviews

“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).

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!

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.

x

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.

2011 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced the nominees for the 2011 Nebula Awards, the nominees for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book.

Novel

Novella

Novelette

Short Story

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director) (Optimum Releasing; Screen Gems)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director) (Paramount)
  • Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director) (BBC Wales)
  • Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorsese (director) (Paramount)
  • Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director) (Sony)
  • Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director) (Summit)
  • The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director) (Universal)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book

The winners will be announced at SFWA’s 47th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend, to be held Thursday through Sunday, May 17 to May 20, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. Connie Willis will be the recipient of the 2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award for her lifetime contributions and achievements in the field. Walter Jon Williams will preside as toastmaster, with Astronaut Michael Fincke as keynote speaker.

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of  SFWA. Voting will open to SFWA Active members on March 1 and close on March 30.

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Dramatic Presentation, Short 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, 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. My purpose is to remind nominators that there are worthy productions that do not have Doctor Who or Game of Thrones in their names.

I’ve listed the titles of individual episodes because the Hugo rules require individual episodes to be nominated. 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.

I haven’t made up my mind what I’m going to nominate, other than I will definitely be nominating The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a terrific short film (available as a free download from iTunes). My expectation is that one or more episodes of Doctor Who and Game of Thrones will be nominated no matter what, so I will use my nominations for more obscure works that can fill in the remaining slots.

For your consideration:

Adam And Dog (Short Film) [winner of the Annie Award for Best Animated Short]

Adventure Time (TV Series) [nominated for an Emmy Award]
Episode: Mystery Trainx

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Alphas (TV Series)
Episode: Original Sin

American Horror Story (TV Series)
Episode: Smoldering Children

The Ballad Of Nessie (Short Film)

Batman: The Brave and the Bold (TV Series)
Episode: Mitefall!

Batman: Year One (Direct-to-Video) [nominated for an Annie Award]

Being Human (TV Series)
Episode: Though the Heavens Fall

Ben 10: Ultimate Alien (TV Series)
Episode: Prisoner #775 Is Missing

The Big Bang Theory (TV Series) [nominated for an Emmy Award]
Episode: The Good Guy Fluctuation

Camelot (TV Series)
Episode: Reckoning

Community (TV Series)
Episode: Remedial Chaos Theory [a humorous take on parallel dimensions]

Doctor Who (TV Series)
Episode: The Doctor’s Wife

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Eureka (TV Series)
Episode: One Giant Leap…

The Event (TV Series)
Episode: Arrival

The Fades (TV Series)
Episode: Episode #1.4

Falling Skies (TV Series)
Episode: What Hides Beneath

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore(Short Film) [nominated for an Academy Award]

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Fringe (TV Series)
Episode: The Day We Died

Futurama (TV Series)
Episode: All The President’s Heads

Game of Thrones (TV Series) [nominated for an Emmy Award]
Episode: Baelor

Generator Rex (TV Series)
Episode: Ben 10/Generator Rex Heroes United

Green Lantern: The Animated Series (TV Series) [nominated for an Annie Award]
Episode: Beware My Power, Parts 1 and 2

Grimm (TV Series)
Episode: Danse Macabre

Haven (TV Series)
Episode: Sins of the Fathers

Hoops & Yoyo Ruin Christmas (TV Special) [nominated for an Annie Award]

I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat (Short Film) [nominated for an Annie Award]

La Luna (Short Film) [nominated for an Academy Award and an Annie Award]

Lost Girl (TV Series)
Episode: Barometz. Trick. Pressure

The Mercury Men (Web Series)
Episode: The Battery

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xx

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Merlin (TV Series)
Episode: The Darkest Hour, Parts 1 and 2

A Morning Stroll (Short Film) [nominated for an Academy Award]

No Ordinary Family (TV Series)
Episode: No Ordinary Powell

Once Upon a Time (TV Series)
Episode: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Outcasts (TV Series)
Episode: Episode #1.4

Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice (TV Special) [nominated for an Annie Award]

Primeval (TV Series)
Episode: Episode #4.1

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Robot Chicken (TV Series) [nominated for an Emmy Award]
Episode: Robot Chicken’s DP Christmas Special

Sanctuary (TV Series)
Episode: Into the Black

The Simpsons (TV Series) [nominated for an Emmy Award]
Episode: Treehouse of Horror XXII

Smallville (TV Series)
Episode: Finale

Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II (Web Series)
Episode: Enemy: Starfleet!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV Series)
Episode: Carnage of Krell

Stargate Universe (TV Series)
Episode: Gauntlet

Steins;Gate (TV Series)
Episode: Prologue to the Beginning and End

South Park (TV Series) [nominated for an Emmy Award]
Episode: Crack Baby Athletic Association

Sunday (Dimanche) (Short Film) [nominated for an Academy Award]

Supernatural (TV Series)
Episode: The French Mistake

Teen Wolf (TV Series)
Episode: Code Breaker

Terra Nova (TV Series)
Episode: Resistance

Thundercats (TV Series)
Episode: New Alliances

Torchwood (TV Series)
Episode: Miracle Day: The New World

Transformers Prime (TV Series)
Episode: One Shall Rise, Parts 1, 2, and 3

True Blood (TV Series)
Episode: You Smell Like Dinner

Ugly Americans (TV Series)
Episode: Callie and Her Sister

V (TV Series)
Episode: Mother’s Day

The Vampire Diaries (TV Series)
Episode: The Reckoning

The Venture Bros. (TV Series)
Episode: From the Ladle to the Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story

The Walking Dead (TV Series)
Episode: Pretty Much Dead Already

Warehouse 13(TV Series)
Episode: Emily Lake

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Wolverine (TV Series)
Episode: Kikyo

Doctor Who Christmas Special

“The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe”
Written by Steven Moffat; directed by Farren Blackburn

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Snapshot: After the intense, life-and-death perils of the previous season, this year’s Christmas Special was a nice, lighthearted relief. With its focus on two children and a crisis that did not involve the fate of the universe, it enabled us to catch our breaths.

Spoilers ahead!

The episode opened with the Doctor (Matt Smith) trapped on an exploding spaceship. The Doctor apparently can survive the vacuum of space, and was able to snag a passing spacesuit in time to use it to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere, amazingly unharmed after cratering into the ground. Adding to the implausibility of the situation was that the Doctor put the spacesuit’s helmet on backwards—I don’t know about future spacesuit designs, but I know that real spacesuits are built in such a way that’s it’s impossible to wear incorrectly. Nevertheless, you don’t watch Doctor Who for scientific accuracy.

The main story involved the Doctor tending to a recently widowed woman (Claire Skinner) and her two children, Cyril (Maurice Cole) and Lily (Holly Earl), at a country estate as they escaped the London Blitz in World War II (for a fascinating, detailed account of this period, read this year’s Hugo Award winning novel, Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis). Matt Smith showed once again his remarkable rapport with children as he magnificently showed off the fabulous Christmas decorations in the house.

There wouldn’t be a story if the Doctor didn’t overlook something simple and allow one of the children unsupervised access to a time/space vortex. While everyone is sleeping, undisciplined Cyril sneaks downstairs  to unwrap a giant Christmas present from the Doctor. (Another nitpick: no kid, or anyone, sleeps with their glasses on, no matter how bad their eyesight is.) The unwrapped box turns out to be a portal to another world, filled with beautiful conifer trees dusted with a blanket of snow. No problem, right? Despite the Doctor’s claim that this was the most peaceful world in the galaxy, Cyril and ultimately Lily, their mother, and the Doctor become trapped when some mysterious prospectors plan to harvest the trees for fuel by dissolving them with acid rain (what the what?).

Complications ensue when the Doctor realizes that the trees contain sentient beings—to paraphrase his words, the trees are more alive than normal trees. After some typical bumbling, the Doctor figures out that the way to save the trees’ souls is to store them in the mother’s head, fly through the time/space vortex, and let them find a new home elsewhere in the galaxy. In the process, she somehow saves her husband by leading his plane through the vortex to safety.

The best part of the episode is the epilogue in which the Doctor visits his most recent companions, Amy and Rory (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill), two years after seemingly dying. Of course, River Song had told Amy that the Doctor faked his death, but the Doctor didn’t know that Amy knew he was alive. After some awkward moments, the Doctor and Amy have a big hug, the Doctor sheds a tear (the first one in eons, apparently), and everyone realizes how important it is to forgive the ones they love. (Until, of course, Amy and Rory are killed in the upcoming season [I’m guessing]).

So, not a terribly profound episode; it mainly served as a buffer between the brutal conclusion from the end of the previous season and the presumably severe repercussions in the upcoming season.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who
“The Wedding of River Song” written by Steven Moffat; directed by Jeremy Webb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spoilers ahead!

The sixth season finale of Doctor Who, while not as big and flashy as last season’s, did a remarkable job of addressing the conundrums raised this season, beginning with the who and why of the Doctor’s death shown in the season opener, “The Impossible Astronaut.” Steven Moffat had pretty much written himself into a corner over the course of the season, and it was somewhat of a miracle that this resolution made any kind of sense.

The prevalent theme this season has been the Doctor’s increasing belief that his powers are much more harmful than they are beneficial. Starting at the end of last season when the entire universe conspired to confine him in the Pandorica because they feared his power, it culminated in the Doctor issuing a post-hypnotic command to the entire human race instructing them to kill members of the Silence on sight in “Day of the Moon.” This act of ruthless genocide propelled the Doctor from relative obscurity to galactic infamy. Coupled with the Doctor’s realization in “The God Complex” that Amy’s faith in him was regularly exposing her to death, he determined he had to stop putting her and Rory in danger.

This theme was nicely turned on its head by River’s actions. Setting off a distress beacon to the universe through all of time, she shows that the Doctor is not the monster he has come to see himself as, but as the friend and benefactor to the universe. “You’ve touched so many lives, saved so many people. Did you really think when your time came, you’d really have to do more than just ask? You’ve decided that the universe is better off without you. But the universe doesn’t agree.”

So, after tricking the universe into thinking River had killed him, the Doctor has gone back into obscurity, at least for now. This little reset is undoubtedly well deserved. I don’t think the series could go on much longer if the Doctor had to continually contend with everyone wanting him dead. Nevertheless, we are still left with some major unanswered questions that have the potential to significantly up the ante.

This being Doctor Who, I don’t suppose we should think too hard about the logic of the story. For example, if time is stopped in the bubble universe why wouldn’t everything stop moving? Also, the writers built up the premise that the Doctor’s death was a fixed time point, but then cheated by having him surviving inside the Tesselecta. Superficially, this makes sense, but if the Doctor is alive, why did the time stream revert back to normal?

I enjoyed many of the small touches in this episode. Pterodactyls in the park, Winston Churchill as the Holy Roman Emperor, floating cars, and many other whimsical sights relieved some of the tension. Seeing Rory staying behind to defend everyone was a nice cap to his growth this season.

So the question remains as to when the Silence will figure out that the Doctor is still alive. Is Madame Kovarian really dead? Will Amy and Rory continue to be companions, or will the Doctor leave them to live their lives? Will we see some of the adventures of the Doctor and River as a married couple? And what is the oldest question, the question from the beginning of the universe, which has been hidden in plain sight?

As long as Matt Smith plays the Doctor with his intriguing combination of innocence and inner darkness, I’ll be watching.