I finally managed to stop writing (for the time being).
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM)
- Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Television)
- Grimm: “Headache” written by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, directed by Jim Kouf (Universal Television; GK Productions; Hazy Mills Productions; Open 4 Business Productions; NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
- Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions;Netflix)
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, M.A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media/Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)
- Supernatural: “Just My Imagination” written by Jenny Klein, directed by Richard Speight Jr. (Kripke Enterprises; Wonderland Sound and Vision; Warner Bros. Television)
As regular readers will know, I’ve yet to see any of the new Doctor Who, a show that will never not be on this category of the ballot. Same goes for Grimm and Supernatural. I haven’t finished watching Jessica Jones, but what I have seen, including this episode, is pretty great. That leaves My Little Pony, one of the lowest hanging fruits on the internet.
Look, I’m not going to pretend that the show’s fandom doesn’t have a huge share of assholes, but I’ve seen this nomination as just another thing to hold against VD, like it was another racist remark he made on Twitter, and that bothers me. While I’m sure there’s some overlap between his fans and bronies, it’s also very possible that he’s one of the conservatives who found it easy to appropriate the episodes’ theme as anti-communist or whatever, or that this is a joke on Worldcon like the Chuck Tingle story or that time Carrie White got picked as prom queen. Whatever it is, none of my friends in the fandom (I’m not calling them “bronies” because I don’t like that word.) are in any way optimistic about the nomination, because they know they’ve been used and they’re so used to annoying drama that it doesn’t even faze them anymore.
I used to really love this show, but that was back in 2011, and the novelty has gradually worn off. In retrospect, its quality is very inconsistent, and while “The Cutie Map” is one of the best episodes they’ve done in a year or two (and really, it wouldn’t kill voters to watch it), it still doesn’t hold a candle to:
What I nominated: World of Tomorrow by Don Hertzfeldt and Rick and Morty: “Total Rickall”.
Don Hertzfeldt is a weird indie animator who isn’t super well-known, but is highly respected by people who do know him. Like Rich Burlew of Order of the Stick, he does wonderful things with stick figures, though he goes for more abstract and emotional territory than Burlew’s traditional narrative. He first became well-known for Rejected, a fictionalized account of his commercial ideas being rejected for being way too out there and reflecting badly on what they advertise (though that didn’t stop FOX from okaying his couch gag on The Simpsons, which extrapolates that show’s decay over time to an absurd yet horrific degree by fast-forwarding it centuries into the future). The commercials themselves are a bit hard to sit through, though it’s worth doing so for Hertzfeldt’s simulated apocalypse using creases and tears in the paper he draws on, like he’s working in 2D stop-motion. I’ve also heard good things about his hour-long short trilogy, It’s Such a Beautiful Day, though I haven’t seen it myself.
World of Tomorrow is his first foray into science fiction, and the first time he’s used digital technology instead of photographing each individual frame he draws. Just like Rejected and Beautiful Day, it’s been pretty universally acclaimed, and it deserves to be. It’s the story of a four-year-old girl being visited by her clone from the distant future and taken on a tour of that future. What they see is more concrete and structured than Rejected thanks to the clone’s narration, but it hits on a similar blend of unnerving humor. Hertzfeldt calls it a ridiculous parody, but the part where people spend all their time watching recordings of their memories about spending all their time watching recordings of their memories and so on is one of the most on-point observations I’ve seen in science fiction.
Despite Hertzfeldt’s background, this isn’t just self-indulgent artsiness like chunks of Hard to Be a God were. World of Tomorrow is dense, varied, interesting, and most importantly, highly faithful to the idea of science fiction being a world of limitless possibilities. It’s available on Netflix streaming right now. Go watch it.
But it doesn’t really surprise me that it didn’t make the cut. This category isn’t technically reserved for TV shows, but it might as well be, and I can see how a short film like World of Tomorrow would escape notice (plus the fans of Worldcon and Hertzfeldt don’t have much overlap from what I can tell). Fortunately, there’s a show on TV right now that’s just as amazing in very similar ways. Rick and Morty may look like a stupid, immature adult comedy in the vein of all the awful South Park imitators, but it’s highly concentrated science fiction that isn’t afraid to stare into the existentialist void that shows up whenever nonreligious people think too hard about life, the universe and everything. Rick, Morty’s mad scientist grandfather, was forced to stare into that void for too long, and now Morty and his family have to deal with everything Rick drags into their life because of his tinkering with a chaotic, uncaring universe.
There are far too many great moments and ideas in the series for me to talk about all of them, so I’ll just talk about “Total Rickall”, my favorite episode of the second season. The Smith family is invaded by alien shapeshifters that alter their memories in order to seamlessly pretend to be people who have always been in the family and part of the show. They reproduce by inducing flashbacks of wacky sitcom events that never happened, which introduce new kooky characters that the aliens can then become. The premise is both a parody of The Thing and of sitcom cliches like previously unmentioned relatives and clip shows, but I chose it because the solution to the dilemma is the rawest exposure of the underlying pessimism that’s always been part of the show’s DNA. It’s not as blatant a statement of purpose as this transcendent moment from season one, and it doesn’t give the audience much room to take comfort in life’s inherent meaninglessness, but it really got to me and a lot of other people. If you can get past the ugly character designs, Rick’s belching, and the traumatic things that can happen on this show, try it out.
BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM
- John Joseph Adams
- Neil Clarke
- Ellen Datlow
- Jerry Pournelle
- Sheila Williams
BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM
- Sheila E. Gilbert
- Liz Gorinsky
- Jim Minz
- Toni Weisskopf
I’m passing on these because I don’t know enough about how editing works to recognize good work in the field when I see it. Maybe I can judge one category based on the anthologies included in the packet, but with editors of novels I have no chance whatsoever.
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
- Lars Braad Andersen
- Larry Elmore
- Abigail Larson
- Michal Karcz
- Larry Rostant
I don’t keep up with this category outside of the Hugos, but the beauty of it is that all I have to do is give their work a glance and my opinion is formed in record time.
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
- Daily Science Fiction edited by Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden
- Sci Phi Journal edited by Jason Rennie
- Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, A. J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons staff
- Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
- Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson
- File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
- Superversive SF edited by Jason Rennie
- Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale
These are the categories that I most regret neglecting last time. Magazines like these are the best source of short stories, novellas and novelettes that will also be up for nomination, and if more people read them it wouldn’t be so easy for VD to game those categories.
- 8-4 Play, Mark MacDonald, John Ricciardi, Hiroko Minamoto, and Justin Epperson
- Cane and Rinse, Cane and Rinse
- HelloGreedo, HelloGreedo
- The Rageaholic, RazörFist
- Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick
None of the fancasts last year were really my cup of tea, so my expectations of this field would be low even under normal circumstances. I don’t really have anything to say about these last three categories, either:
BEST FAN WRITER
- Douglas Ernst
- Mike Glyer
- Morgan Holmes
- Jeffro Johnson
- Shamus Young
BEST FAN ARTIST
- Matthew Callahan
- Christian Quinot
- Steve Stiles
THE JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER
- Pierce Brown *
- Sebastien de Castell *
- Brian Niemeier
- Andy Weir *
- Alyssa Wong *
In conclusion, don’t let Vox Day dictate how you vote. Using your voting pattern to send a message to him is pointless, because he’ll just twist the results to mean whatever he wants it to mean. I understand if you’re too exhausted to consider giving the unknown quantities he forced on us a chance, but since I’m not burnt out I’ll be doing just that (except for stuff he published directly). I’m going to try to keep external politics out of my decisions as much as possible, and I’m also going to try having fun reading the finalists, and I suggest you do the same.
This is just the shortlist and there will be some adjustments later, so I’ll let you know when the ballot has been finalized and I get my voter packet. Until then, I’m going back to reading Trial by Fire.