A Dramatic Change

Understandably, Steve Feldberg of Audible.com is “ecstatically pleased” about the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Hugo nomination for his company’s audiobook METAtropolis. It’s the first audiobook ever nominated, ending the decades-long shutout of audio works in general from the Hugos.

The last audio work up for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo, in 1979, was BBC Radio 4’s production of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Hitchhiker’s Guide finished second to the movie Superman.

Several record albums received nominations in the Seventies: two in 1971, Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers by The Firesign Theater, and Blows Against the Empire by Jefferson Starship. Later, nominations went to I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus by The Firesign Theater (1972) and Blood!: The Life and Future Times of Jack the Ripper by Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison (1978).

Another non-movie/tv work nominated in the Seventies was Phil Foglio’s 1976 cartoon slide show The Capture, which was accompanied by live narration and audience participation.

Every nominee after Hitchhiker’s Guide for the next 25 years came from film or TV. The division of the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo category into Long and Short Form, effectively doubling the number of works nominated every year, did little to broaden the types of media represented in the award. What finally interrupted the long-lived movie/tv monopoly was the “Prix Victor Hugo Awards Ceremony (Opening Speech and Framing Sequences)” performed by Paul McAuley and Kim Newman at Interaction, the 2005 Worldcon, which made the final ballot in 2006. It also has the distinction of being the first live stage performance ever nominated.

No audio work has ever won a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. If that should happen in 2009 they’ll need a katyusha load of rockets for the writers — John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear and Karl Schroeder, and narrators — Battlestar Galactica stars Michael Hogan, Alessandro Juliani and Kandyse McClure, plus Stefan Rudnicki and Scott Brick. Congratulations, Audible.com!

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15 thoughts on “A Dramatic Change

  1. Pingback: [links] Link salad has a sunny day, sweeping the clouds away | jlake.com

  2. Regarding METAtropolis: I don’t see how it follows that they would need trophies for every writer and voice actor in the production. We don’t issue trophies to every writer and actor in any other dramatic presentation. Generally the trophy or trophies have gone to the producer and director, although there hasn’t been a lot of consistency there, I’m aware. But the individual actors? We’ve had individual actors accept the awards sometimes, but they haven’t been the ones who have kept the trophies, as far as I know.

  3. Well, we don’t fire Hugo rockets out of a katyusha either. Please, officer, let me show you my poetic license — there, that’s me in the Groucho glasses.

  4. I would have sworn that Blows Against the Empire had won the Hugo, and was surprised to check TheHugoAwards.org only to find that while there were five nominees that year for Best Dramatic Presentation, no award was given. Did “No Award” actually win the voting? Or have I managed to cross into a parallel universe again?

  5. Phil aggressively informs people that he illustrated Bob Asprin’s pre-existing The Capture. I suppose the correct attribution ought to be Asprin & Phoglio, but I can’t even keep straight whether music or lyrics come first, so don’t rely too heavily on my scholarly style.
    At any rate, the Asprin story had languished for some time before the Phoglio illustrations were done.

  6. Neil is correct (hi Neil!). Bob Asprin wrote the script well before Foglio illustrated it and it should properly be referred to as *his* The Capture. IMHO.


  7. While Kevin states (above) that usually the trophies for Best Dramatic Presentation go to the producer and director, he’s woefully out of date. There was a time when trophies were sent to the studio to distribute as they saw fit and usually they kept them at the studio or gave them to the producer — he’s the one they were in business with — and he might give them to the director. Or not. For quite a while now, the Hugo trophies have gone to the writer/s and director. Trophies have either been picked up by them or their designated acceptor, or have been shipped directly to them by the convention after the ceremony.

  8. Pingback: Cheryl’s Mewsings » Blog Archive » The 2009 Hugo Nominees – Analysis

  9. Cheryl – My flight of fancy was inspired by the multiple rockets given to Locus over the years. Anticipation probably won’t be able to make up Hugos for everybody on the masthead of the winners — at a few hundred dollars a copy for the award it all adds up.

  10. David K. M. Klaus:

    I was only six years old in 1971, so I do not have any personal knowledge of the situation, but from the way it is described, it would appear that while No Award won the balloting (remember that it’s a preferential ballot), but that Blows placed second. Although the WSFS Constitution says that you treat No Award as if it were a nominee, I expect that in common usage, most people consider “nominee” to be everything except No Award. Assuming those things, there is nothing inconsistent with the wording: No Award won, but Blows had the most votes of everything except No Award.

    I don’t think WSFS required that detailed vote counts be published the way they do today. If they did, I’ve never seen published breakdowns going back that far. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, probably buried in Ben Yalow’s file cabinets somewhere.

    Craig Miller:

    You are more up to date on this than I am, so I’m happy to accept being corrected on current practice.

  11. Mr. Standlee, thank you for clarifying the vote results for me; your explanation makes perfect sense. I’m ten years older than you, but that was still before my fannish time, too.

    Craig Miller said, “For quite a while now, the Hugo trophies have gone to the writer/s and director. Trophies have either been picked up by them or their designated acceptor, or have been shipped directly to them by the convention after the ceremony.”

    Apropos of that, I remember passing by Craig escorting Gary Kurtz in a hallway at IguanaCon, Mr. Kurtz carrying the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award he had accepted for Star Wars.

  12. Kevin — I thought of the same plausible explanation, but it’s not a substitute for asking the still living, still actively fanning people on the 1971 committee for the real answer.

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