Tuesday, September 01, 2015

My Only Hugo Disappointment

As most of you know, at last Saturday's Hugo Awards ceremony, the voters, of which there were a record number, chose not to offer awards in six categories rather than to give the award to nominees who got on the ballot because of the Sad/Rabid Puppy slating campaign. In the categories in which awards were given, in nearly all cases the Puppy nominees in the category finished below 'No Award.' The only category where a Puppy nominee prevailed was in Best Dramatic Presentation, in which one of their choices was Guardians of the Galaxy. There's not a lot of credit they can take for that one.

- John Scalzi, "Being a Jerk About the Hugos: Not as Effective a Strategy as You Might Think"

So, in the wake of the Sad/Rabid Puppy nonsense, I was moved to purchase a WorldCon membership and vote in the 2015 Hugo Awards. Some of my votes did well, particularly No Award, though clearly I wasn't alone in those votes. Other votes I didn't do so well in, but still thought the eventual winner was a good selection. There was really only one category where the Hugo voters disappointed me: the Best Dramatic Presentation category.

Technically, the Best Dramatic Presentation category is divided into two different awards: long form (a.k.a.: movies) and short form (a.k.a.: TV shows). The Puppies weren't quite as effective in getting their nominations on the ballot in these categories as they were in others -- only four works were nominated by the Sad Puppies for BDP:Short Form, of which three were nominated, and likewise only four works were nominated by the Sad Puppies for BDP: Long Form, of which two were nominated, though a third nominee (the Game of Thrones episode 'The Mountain and the Viper') came from the Rabid Puppy slate.

For the BDP: Short Form award, which has been won by the BBC TV series Doctor Who so many times that some fans have simply taken to referring to the category as the "Doctor Who Award", the majority of voters seemed to have decided to vote for the show that would most piss off the Puppy voters if it won -- thus, the Orphan Black episode "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried" ended up winning. (The Hugo Awards uses a version of Instant Runoff Voting for its vote tallying, and by the results of the voting, it was clear that Orphan Black had a comfortable lead throughout the voting process.)

I myself voted for the pilot for the Flash TV series, even though it appeared on a Puppy slate. I felt my vote was justified for three reasons:

  1. Just because science fiction is becoming and should become more inclusive and varied in the stories it tells doesn't mean there isn't still room for the traditional 'white guy hero' stories as well.
  2. If you're going to tell a 'white guy hero' story in the DC Universe, pretty much only Superman is a better option than Barry Allen as the Flash (and that story, as 'Smallville', has already been told).
  3. There's actually quite a bit of actual science in the science fiction of the Flash pilot, from the function of the particle accelerator to the specialties of most of the characters in the show, including Allen himself, who is a police forensic scientist.

I don't watch Orphan Black, but based on things I've heard about it from friends, I don't begrudge it the win; it certainly seems deserving.

Less deserving, in my opinion, was the BDP:Long Form win by Guardians of the Galaxy. Interestingly enough, a lot of my criticisms of GotG are available in entertaining YouTube video form thanks to Screen Junkies: Honest Trailers - Guardians of the Galaxy

To start, it's really difficult for me to come up with any actual science in the science fiction being celebrated here. Most of the aliens are human-looking people with different colored skin, but the skin colors don't inform anything about where the aliens are from or what their beliefs or personalities are -- this makes GotG's use of color less science-fictiony than Star Trek's, whose green Orion slave girls were at least a reference to the culture on Orion (even if it turned out to be a false signal) which informed a number of episodes in different series. Here, the color of the aliens isn't used for much other than a cue for the audience to root for the white-looking residents of Xandar as they get attacked by the motley blue and green aliens led by the main and lesser villains of the piece, respectively. The closest GotG ever gets to actual science is a reference, in passing, to the cybernetic surgery that created Rocket, but nothing is done with that, either, except to justify Rocket's alcoholism and psychopathy. GotG is basically science fiction in the same sense that Star Wars is science fiction -- which is to say, it's not really. Both films are more accurately 'space opera'; a genre set in a futuristic setting, but where neither the setting nor the technology and science therein really impacts the plots, which are all epic character arcs, romances, and political dramas.

Next, consider that much better examples of science fiction were on the ballot, not all of which was Puppy-approved. Sure, both Interstellar and The LEGO Movie were Puppy-nominated, but at least the former was much more rooted in science-fiction. More significantly, Edge of Tomorrow, the Tom Cruise time-travel movie, managed to be nominated despite not appearing on either Puppy list. I actually voted for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which wasn't quite as 'hard' as Interstellar on the Mohs scale of SF, but was at least a more gripping fantasy than GotG.

But the big problem with GotG as Hugo-winner came when I discovered what movie got left off the Hugo nominations list because of the three films from the Puppy slate that got on it: Big Hero 6.

The entire plot of Big Hero 6 revolves around the question of who decides how to make the best use of technology, and for what ends. The 'superpowers' exhibited in the film all make use of science presented in the film, and while not all the science is strictly 'real-world', it still follows the rules set up in the film itself -- for example, the limitations of Hiro Hamada's big invention become a significant plot point in the defeat of the true 'villain' of the piece. And, of course, it was a really good story, well-told. Had Big Hero 6 been in the nominations list, I'd have voted for it myself, and felt it was the most deserving potential winner, but because a bunch of butt-hurt white dudes felt like flooding the Hugo nominations market with their own wishlist, the movie I thought would have been the most deserving 2015 Hugo winner didn't even get nominated.

That, to me, was the biggest and really only disappointment I had from taking part in the 2015 Hugo Award voting. It may well be something I decide to do more regularly in the future, if only to continue to represent a 'new mainstream' in SF where diversity in stories and subjects is celebrated, not lamented.

No comments: