Sunday, July 5, 2015

I Lied: A Few More Words about the Hugos

I rarely watch movies. The last time [spouse] and I saw a film in the theater together was before she even got pregnant with our first child. That child is now seven-and-a-half years old. Rarely, also, do I feel moved to seek them out on DVD. I don't even have a Netflix subscription. The only reason we have cable is that, where we live, Time Warner has a monopoly on passable internet connections. When [spouse] lost her job, we cut back our cable subscription to the minimal 20 channels. One night recently, when an earache robbed me of my concentration, I could neither read nor piss about online, so I watched the local access channel's coverage of our most recent town council meeting. I was genuinely interested in it. More interested than I am in most Hollywood blockbusters.

So when the Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) was announced, the only nominees in which I had the slightest interest were Edge of Tomorrow and Interstellar. The interest was slight enough that I did not feel particularly moved to attempt to obtain either one. Nick Mamatas's nagging prompted me to get Edge of Tomorrow (it's based on a Japanese science fiction book, available in English translation from Haikasoru) via interlibrary loan, and I was pleased that I did. A Google search tells me that I am not the first person for whom the phrase "Groundhog Day meets Full Metal Jacket" came to mind. Since those are two of my favorite movies of all time, however, I don't mind. Watching Tom Cruise die in various humiliating ways is all it's cracked up to be.

My conceptual interest in Interstellar dissipated as soon as a library catalog reminded me that Matthew McConaughey stars in it. Not only can't he act, it is as if he is a negative quantity, an anti-actor, who manages to annihilate all trace of talent in those performing with him.

My Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):

  1. Edge of Tomorrow

Among the other categories in which my interest barely rises above nil is "Best Graphic Story". So when [spouse] and [daughter] had Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 checked out of the library and were reading it, I did not even recognize it as a Hugo nominee, nor did I ask to look at it. After they had returned it, they noticed the Hugo ballot in a copy of the Sasquan Progress Report that I had left lying about and started lobbying me to vote for it. But I can't in good conscience vote for something I have not read and enjoyed myself, and I am not interested enough in graphics as a genre to ask them to check it out from the library again. If it's a close vote and Ms. Marvel loses, feel free to blame me.

As more people post their ballots and/or their critical response to the items on the ballot, I have been surprised at how critical judgment on Kary English's "Totaled" has lined up. People who fault contemporary SF for leaving too little room for ambiguity have criticized it for unclear, unreliable narration in the early sections. (To which I respond: As if a recently revived brain-in-a-jar would be a reliable narrator.) People who have a habit of calling for "good stories" in the whiz-bang mode of military SF have praised the story for its emotional trajectory. It has scrambled the factional lines, and that, I think, suggests a few points in its favor. There is room for dispute over it, and is worth being revisited and debated on aesthetic grounds.

What I think is indisputable, unfortunately, is how thoroughly English herself stumbled over the politics of this year's hyper-politicized Hugo. She went months after the announcement of the ballots before disavowing both the Sad and Rabid Puppies slates on which she had been placed: Long enough that most of the anti-canine wings of the Hugo electorate had already dismissed her as a fellow traveler, but not long enough to avoid the wrath of the Rabid Majordomo himself. I take this as an object lesson in how the center-right, quasi-depoliticized "common sense" that passes as "moderation" in the U.S. context can succeed, in a global context, only in pissing people off, whether in small matters (e.g. the Hugos) or in big ones (e.g. Guantánamo, drone bombings).


  1. Joseph

    Your discussion about the long form award leads me to believe that perhaps you might not really understand how Hugo votes are tallied. I hesitate to overexplain, so I'll simply point out that by voting No Award after your preferred choice, you are actively voting against the remaining works, saying (for purposes of vote tallying) "If the one I liked doesn't win, then I would rather that there be no award at all rather than have one of the others win"

    If this is intentional, more power to you, sorry for wasting your time. But if that's *not* your intent -- for example, if you really mean "here's the one I want to win, I have no idea about any of the rest" or something else entirely - you should consider changing your ballot. Theres a good explanation of the voting system here:

    1. No misunderstanding. If something is so evidently crappy, from its trailer and/or its casting, that I have no desire to watch it, then why would I want to even take a chance it might win an award?