Comic Hugos – The View From The Gutter

[Editor’s note: At the eleventh hour, James wanted to encourage Hugo voters to get involved in the Best Graphic Story or Comics category.]

By James Bacon: [Reprinted from Journey Planet.] Well I have to say it’s an incredible year for Comics in the Hugo awards, I was pleased to see a number of comics which I had nominated going forward to be finalists but also I was very pleased to see that the Comics I didn’t nominate which went forward to be finalist happened to be on my shelves! 

It’s very interesting to see how the Hugo voting constituency which obviously changes every year to a degree really has got a good sense of what is brilliant. The relevance of the Hugo Awards is becoming stronger within the Comics community people are aware of their importance who may not be fully aware of all the aspects which is fine because I’m not fully aware of every other awards aspects, but it’s always nice to see that recipients of the Hugo Awards have also been recognized by other awards, like the Eisners and Harveys and it’s amazing to see Hugo Award winner on the covers of comics!! 

Of course, there are a number of titles I nominated which didn’t make this list and that was somewhat disappointing,  but with a bit of reflection this is a phenomenal short list of Comics and I have to say, if you wanted to read some really good comics getting volumes one or two or in some cases one two three and four, and reading them is something I would really highly recommend especially if you haven’t read comics for some time, or if you’ve just drifted away, because these comics are telling very different stories, mixing genres that are not always directly associated with Comics even though they’ve always existed and in a number of cases are very far away from the easily pigeonholed superhero Comics people know more broadly.

So. To the comics. 

DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party, written by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)

Die continued to be brilliant and has only just completed in September with issue #20. Kieron is an inspired writer and here he takes the concept of Roleplaying a step further. As noted by Gillen, the idea formulated from a conversation with artist Jaime McKelvie and the potential ending of the 1980s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon but with the characters older, having lived through an adventure and then looking back. It’s  considerably darker and hauntingly brutal in places, not viscerally so per se, but in regard to the horridness of humans, the incisive eye to personal interactions and returning to ones youth, which let’s be honest is fun, fragile and yet fraught.   To face or confront horrificness from one’s youth is something that is so very much of the real world current time, when so many young people have been badly damaged, transgressed, abused, now these decades able to confront the power and their stories be told. 

The series came to an end in September, and while the finalist nomination is for Volume 2, itself a brilliant collection, the reader can now get the whole story. Kieron said he was ‘Sad that the adventure is coming to the end, but the wicked glee of finally being able to reveal all the bleak secrets we’ve been keeping’.

Without doubt a fabulous read, the last volume was noted as being characterized with ‘regrets and screaming’. Stephanie Hans artwork is unbelievably fluid, dynamic and captures action and interpersonal moments brilliantly, while bring this world to life fantastically. It’s such a nice clean line, so well drawn and just makes this comic sing. There was also somewhat of a community built and essays appeared, including one by Jeannette Ng (later in the series) which was great to see and read. 

Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, Author: Seanan McGuire, Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosi Kämpe (Marvel)

Volume one of Ghost Spider is issues 1-5 of the comic, and are a good point to get into Ghost Spider. A lot has occurred, to Gwen Stacey, but suffice to say she had been bitten by the spider that bit Peter Parker in Dimension 65 and things went, not so well for her, to the degree that she opts to go to college in Dimension 616, the Marvel Universe. Here Peter Parker is older, in college but also, alive, yet distinctly not her Peter, who she lost, tragically. She is still learning and her suit is symbiotic, and so a diet of cellulose is required to feed the suit and there is much fun and humour to the writing.

Gwen’s dad is a police captain, in 65 and has that world to worry about, with its own issues. The story weaves nicely, there is carry over from the previous run, but it is presented in a way that wonderful comic book way, that its might be worth going back, but the pace is upon you and one can read on, there is crime fighting, interaction and all is not actually safe for Gwen in Dimension 616, as The Jackal is hunting her, stalking her, and indeed is inveigled into the College, and has set up a college student to form a friendship with, and I suspect ultimately and betray Gwen.

It’s a cracking bit of fun, a lovely read, and McGuire does a fabulous job with Gwen and all the characters, and there is a lot going in, which Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosi Kämpe really deliver on, with clean dynamic art, a nice style to it, while capturing action and fights scenes with lucidity, protraction movement well, and also delivering on the smaller facial interactions that a story requires. You will need to crack onto Volume 2, or read all ten comics, it’s up to you for this story is not yet over.  I should note that Ig Guara worked with Rosi Kämpe on issue 5 of the comic, so I’m not sure why their name is not included. 

Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything, Author: G. Willow Wilson, Artist: Christian Ward (Dark Horse Comics)

G. Willow Wilson is a phenomenal writer, and this is an inspired Science Fiction epic set in a solar system, told over three volumes, roughly fifteen comics. We continue the story of renegade Captain Grix an experienced and tough freighter pilot, and the younger religious acolyte, Vess, who following on from their discovery of the massive conspiracy between the all powerful Megacorporation and the most dominant ubiquitous religion are now on the run, being hunted down, but there are more issues and challenges facing them, and they have few friends and many enemies.

The first five issues were incredibly dense with ideas,a  new world, a huge conspiracy, that is thoughtfully developed and cleverly done, reflecting the now in many ways into a fantastic world. The pace here evens out as the Sundog faces peril and pirates, and there are some very interesting sexual aspects explored, although there is a subtlety here and indeed, in some regards, relationships do not progress as a reader might expect. Christian Ward does space, crikey, he does it in amazing style, and takes the reader with the story, and he is incredibly competent at brilliantly putting the story into images, and it’s stunning. This feels like a building interval, and only makes one desire the third volume released as a complete graphic novel even more. 

Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild, Author: Marjorie Liu, Artist: Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

Monstress is such a wonderfully realized world, so fantastical, but never too much, and with such incredibly beautiful art, it is continually a joy to read this comic. It’s amazing to think that it has been running now for six years, and yet it delivers.

Volume 5: Warchild, collects issues 25 to 30. The comic is destined to have a ‘Long Run’ and to be honest, I do not mind the pace of release of issues, although sometimes I have to work as I realize I missed one, but it is such a pleasure to turn to, to read and enjoy and issue 36 is due early next year.

These issues, well, many aspects are coming together, importantly, there is War at hand, the city of Ravenna is to be taken, but there is also so much unpacking and understanding to be shared in these issues, and it really went at it. The Federation are going to war with the Arcanics, and this will be brutal, with the fear of mutilation, slavery and ultimately death facing the Arcanics, but we also see and learn about the past with flashbacks, where we see what occurred with Zinn and Maika, while helping us understand what is going on in more depth at Raveanna.

It is so intricately weaved, it is brilliance, although brutality and the horror of war, are vitally important to this story, while allegiances and loyalties as well as the pieces all coming together to show broader understanding, meanwhile with characters, be it philosophy or ethics, or the true nature and how horrible beings can be to one another, all are touched upon, allowing the reader to find a depth that can be fascinating as well as a cracking read. Sana Takeda’s artwork, complements the brilliant writing of Marjorie Liu, the wordsmithing is only matched by such a fine and detailed line, artistically done, always bringing the reader deeper in, yet dynamic and ferocious when needed, 

Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, written by Kieron Gillen, iIllustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire (BOOM! Studios)

Bridgette McGuire is so much more than a brilliant character, I loved so much about her, that her past was murky, a Monster Hunter, knowledgeable in the matters of Britain and of course, intelligent and wise, and able to drag her young academic nice grandson Duncan into this wonderful Arthurian story at gunpoint if needed, and Rose, who is incredible, all really rounds this story as fab .

The power of a story or legend can be vitally important to people, so when a Nationalist group uses an artifact to summon a  being back from the dead, once lost, thought dead in Myth, to usurp power, the fight is on. What is it to be a ‘Pure Briton’ and to desire Britain Back, well its interesting what a mythical king might consider to be pure. 

Arthurian Legend is now Arthurian fact to be dealt with, the mysticism and mayhemic violence. With only 6 issues, in this volume it is a wonderful collection, but the story grows quickly and the characters are wonderful. This is Dark Fantasy with a really pungent level of science fiction when it comes to time, reflective of the now, without doubt, influenced by Brexit Britain, and also having a wonderful roster of characters. This is refreshing, with a British Asian, gay and non binary charcters, and a female protagonist, it’s a nice perspective that uses the story to make one think.

Dan Mora’s artwork is so clean, but he does medieval and armor fabulously, so much so, I went out after enjoying these comics and sought other works by him, while the action and colours are brilliant. This comic was a huge hit when it came out, issue no 1 having multiple editions, I think I have an sixth as well as first as I liked the cover, with Bridgette holding a sub machine gun… 

Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)

Octavia Butler is experiencing quite the resurgence amongst readers with these adaptations, anyone familiar with her work knows she is one of the greatest SF writers we ever had, and here the comics are reaching a new readership and proving hugely popular. The incredible team of Damian Duffy and John Jennings who gave us Kindred, continue to bring brilliance to the comic reading world. This is an emotional and strong work, deserving thought and reflection, and the art complements the words brilliantly, capturing one would hope, the author’s vision with skill, while the human interactions portrayed with understanding to ensure sharing the inter personal effectively. There is of course that amazing relevance, set in 2024, the book is a stunning read in 2021, so much is of the now, which in a way is inspired. Given where we were in January this year, and the previous four years of Trumpian lies and nationalism, the vision of financial and crucially environmental meltdown, with a total erosion of societal norm is utterly believable, and of course the causes, be it the inequality, corporate greed and of course climate change, has never felt so of the moment. 

Our journey with Lauren Olamina, contains an epistolary element, as we read her thoughts as written in her journal, and she is living in a gated community,  where people strive hard to live in this grim world, but that is going to get terribly upset.  Lauren has hyperempathy a condition brought on by her mother’s use of the Paraceto drug, means she shares extreme emotions with others, it is interesting as there is ambiguity to this condition, a blessing or a course, an ability, or in some ways perhaps offering metaphorical thoughtfulness. We see her in an existential fight, facing horror and destruction, and of course carefully bringing in religion.

I love post apocalyptic stories at the best of times, but this is fresh, even though it is 28 years old. I loved how Lauren’s father is a Preacher, allowing a very interesting view of religion, which is a key area of speculation as we follow Lauren as she fights through the horror, but not only for herself. The art is wonderful, John Jennings does a really good job of portraying the world, as it could be, and there is real beauty in certain panels, while it is unflinching in its darkness when needed to complement this story. 

It is really nice to feel that the stories I enjoyed, have been enjoyed by so many others, that there is a collective passion and pleasure from them, and I hope that this will transcend into the Worldcon at Washington itself. I am unsure who will be at the convention, but I hope that some of the creators involved get along and feel the appreciation from fans, because part of be genuinely feels, that no matter who wins the award, all are winners in this category. 

Hugo Awards Study Committee Report Online

The final Hugo Awards Study Committee Report is now online at the Worldcon 76 WSFS Business Meeting page along with the draft agenda for this year’s Business Meeting.

Committee chair Vincent Docherty says:

The committee got going much later than planned (entirely due to my own lack of time due to other commitments) but once we got started there was very energetic participation by the 20+ committee members. The report summarises the discussion and makes a number of recommendations, including four specific proposals which are on this year’s Business Meeting agenda (three updates to categories and continuation of the committee), as well as a number of topics for further discussion next year, assuming the committee is continued.

The committee welcomes feedback from interested fans. We’re aware of some online reaction to the specific proposals already, which might result in adjustments to the proposals when we get to the Business Meeting.

My thanks to the committee members for their work this year.

Direct link to the report: “2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee”

An excerpt from the overview of their recommendations —

…Understanding that the overall operation of the categories works well, the Committee found several places for improvement:

The Committee found that the present definitions in the Fan Artist/Professional Artist category were potentially problematic. The Fan Artist category was initially designed in 1967, seeking to honor those offering their artistic talents to the broader community of fandom for little or no compensation. Such contributions were often in the form of illustrations for fanzines and convention programs. In the last fifty years, however, the form that fandom has taken has changed, and the result is that the definition of Fan Artist was found to be outdated. This was given an extensive examination. The Committee also acknowledges that some further examination of the other fan/professional categories may be in order, and has proposed to carry forward at least one further change in this area.

The Committee found the term “Graphic Story” problematic. Just as “comic book” has come to be taken as including work not literally comic, “graphic story” has come to be taken as excluding work appearing in comic books or comic strips. The Committee proposes re-titling to “Best Graphic Story or Comic.”

The Committee feels that altering “Best Fancast” into a “Best Podcast” category and removing the restriction on eligible productions receiving money is desirable. Many podcasts generate income from either limited advertisements, tip jars, or other small streams of income. While these are often not sufficient to support someone making a living, the income can still be substantial. As also discussed in the context of the Fan/Professional Artist categories, the use of fixed income thresholds was also found to be problematic.

In addition to the Artist categories, the Committee gave some consideration to cases of category overlap and/or gaps in categories in general, and would propose to continue examining this both in the context of current and proposed awards. This arose, in particular, in discussions surrounding the future of Best Novel and the proposed Best Translated category.

The Committee also briefly considered several other questions, including how well the Hugo Awards have handled the digital/print divide and differences between how terms are used in an “industry” context in non-industry discourse (e.g. by Worldcon attendees/WSFS members who are giving the awards) and in the Hugo Award definitions themselves. Consideration of various such questions fed into the discussions on specific proposals.

The second question, ‘How well do the categories honor what we wish to honor?’, generated more questions for examination. Given the interaction of this question and the question of how many Hugo Awards should be awarded, most of these questions have been recommended for passage forward for further consideration in the next year. In particular:

A Best Translated category was proposed relatively late in the Committee’s deliberations. As a result, the Committee did not have the time to study this potential award in sufficient depth alongside the rest of its workload, and there were multiple ideas as to what form this category should take (e.g. whether it should be limited to novels, cover all written works) and, if recommended, whether the award in question should be a Hugo or a non-Hugo award given by Worldcons. In particular, the Committee proposes to examine whether such an award is presently feasible.

A potential reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation categories was considered, and has been proposed to be passed forward should the committee be continued. Multiple alternatives, including a possible addition of one (or more) categories and redefining the Long/Short division into a TV/Movie division, would be given consideration if the committee is reauthorized.

A readjustment of the Best Semiprozine and Best Editor categories has been proposed and will be considered if the Committee is reauthorized. In particular, the Committee feels that the nature of the internet may have reduced the advantage that professional magazines have over non-professional productions, and that allowing professional publications to compete in a “Best Magazine” category would allow them to once again be honored. The Committee also noted various complications with the Best Editor categories; several proposals, including a possible realignment into “Best Anthology” and “Best Imprint,” will be evaluated if we are authorized to do so….

The report advances three proposed changes, and recommends further study of four more:

Part II: Specific Proposals

(1) Proposed continuation of the Hugo Study Committee

(2) Proposed Changes to the Fancast Hugo Category (with slight changes to the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories to maintain consistency)

(3) Proposed Changes to the Professional Artist and Fan Artist Hugo Categories

(4) Proposed Changes to the Best Graphic Story Hugo Category

(5) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Addition of a Best Translated Work Hugo Category

(6) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Replacement of Semiprozine and Best Editor Hugo Categories with Professional Magazine, Anthology/Collection, and Publisher/Imprint

(7) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Potential Alterations to Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Categories

(8) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Best Art Book and Alterations to Best Related Work

(9) Proposal Not Recommended for Further Consideration: Best Novel Split

[Thanks to Vincent Docherty for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/17 We Were Somewhere Around Barstow When The Pixels Began To Take Hold

(1) YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET. I appreciate the irony in the first line of Germain Lussier’s io9 post “The New Dune Movie Is Being Written By the Man Who Wrote Forrest Gump”:

But we don’t think that should worry you.

According to Lussier, Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for his adapted screenplay for Forrest Gump, has been hired to adapt the Frank Herbert novel Dune for director Denis Villeneuve.

(2) NEW AFRICAN SF AWARD. Since the Hugo announcement date was only known a few days ahead of time, the African Speculative Future Society may not have known that April 4 was a less-than-optimum date to announce the inaugural 2017 Nommos shortlist.

The categories are:

The Ilube Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel by an African  – 1000 USD prize,

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novella by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Short Story by an African – 500 USD

The Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Graphic Novel by Africans – 1000 USD to be shared.

The award website says —

We have welcoming and inclusive definition of who is an African that includes children of an African parent. Read more about eligibility here.

The award has been funded for four years, by Mr Tom Ilube.

“Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales are important because they link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.”  Mr Tom Ilube.

The first award ceremony will be held at Aké Festival in Nigeria, November 2017. After that they hope to alternate the location of the awards ceremony between West and East Africa.

Here are links to the Short List and the rest of the nominees in all 4 categories:

(3) OLD OPERA HAS NEW ACTS. Cora Buhlert couldn’t find what she liked 20 years ago, but there’s enough good stuff now for her to be writing about “The Space Opera Resurgence”.

I didn’t like any of those books. But I was an SF fan and a space opera fan and this was all the space opera there was, with very few exceptions (mostly published by Baen Books, which are notoriously difficult to find in Europe). So I kept trying the highly regarded New Space Opera of the early 2000s, until I found myself standing in the local Thalia store, the latest offering of New British Space Opera subgenre in hand (it was this one – I remember the cover very clearly), when I suddenly dropped the book to the floor and exclaimed, “Why do I keep buying this shit? I don’t even like these books.” So I turned my back on New British Space Opera and on science fiction altogether (I did put the book back on the shelf first) and read other genres for a few years, until I came back in a roundabout way via urban fantasy and science fiction romance and found a whole universe of SFF books that weren’t on the radar of the official genre critics at all.

Now, some ten to fifteen years later, there is a lot more space opera on the shelves than back in the early 2000s. It’s also a lot more diverse the than just pale Banks clones. Nor is it just written by white, overwhelmingly British dudes – indeed, some of the best space opera of today is written by women and writers of colour. And even some of those authors whose novels almost put me off science fiction altogether some ten years ago are writing much more enjoyable works these days. …

(4) MAIL CALL. It’s not easy to get letters from the year 1962 unless you’re The Traveler. Galactic Journey today unveiled – “[April 5, 1962] Pen Pals (Letter Column #1)”. The first missive comes from University of Arizona student Vicki Lucas….

Of course, to pay the tuition and room & board, I also take in ironing, do tutoring, deliver newspapers, etc., and they helped me get a student loan. It’s been a real eye-opener to go to school here. Now I know what “scholarship” means. At the University of Arizona, from which I transferred last year, I did have some great learning experiences, but nothing as rich as this.

Not that I didn’t have some great experiences at UA, meeting an English Professor who is an avante-garde composer (Barney Childs), and since I worked in the Fine Arts College I went to most concerts & saw the harpsichord played for the first time (double keyboard!) & heard Barney’s music played. (I admit, I have a crush on him — see the enclosed photo.) And then I’ve been to San Francisco & seen jazz trumpeter Miles Davis & a lot of other stuff….

(5) CAMESTROS FELAPTON EXPLAINS IT ALL TO YOU. Thank goodness somebody can. In  “Hugo 2017: How to vote for best series” he looks at 8 different approaches to dealing with the vastness of the Hugo nominated series. Sure, 8 is also a lot — just be grateful he didn’t try to match the number of ways Cyrano described his nose.

The issue is that Best Series is not unlike Best Editor Long Form – the normal way of voting in the Hugo Awards doesn’t work (read the relevant stuff and vote). However, unlike Best Editor Long, best series at least has accessible information and works. The problem is that it is way too much volume of stuff to evaluate if you haven’t already been following the series in question. So here are some approaches to choose from.

(6) CHOP CHOP. Shouldn’t Wolverine co-creator Len Wein be getting a cut of this?

A medical clinic in the Philippines is using an unusual mascot to advertise its circumcision service: claw-bearing X-Men super hero Wolverine.

The advertisement for Dionisio M. Cornel Memorial Medical Center in Antipolo features an image of Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-clawed character he played in the X-Men and Wolverine films next to text promoting the clinic’s circumcision service.

(7) RED ALERT. At Nerd & Tie Trae Dorn wants to know “What the Heck is Even Happening With AnachroCon Right Now?”

The Atlanta, GA based convention AnachroCon might be more aptly named “AnarchoCon” these days. Earlier this week the convention’s Chair and legal counsel Sarah Avraham stepped down in what sounds like an extremely complicated situation.

In a public Facebook post Avraham detailed the reasons for her departure, and while you should really read that post in its entirety, I’ll do my best to summarize it. It starts when Avraham was approached by William and Cindy MacLeod in the spring of 2016 to take over the event in an attempt to rehabilitate the convention’s image and get it back on track financially.

Because man, this con needed help….

(8) ON HOLD. Nerd & Tie is also reporting that “One Month After Cancellation, Multiple Parties Still Waiting For Refunds From Lebanon MEGA Con:.

This last weekend would have been the second annual Lebanon MEGA Con, if the Missouri based convention hadn’t announced its cancellation just one month before. While organizer Will Peden did say that everyone owed money would be paid, some parties are waiting for those promises to be fulfilled.


  • April 5, 2063 — The day the Vulcans landed. According to Memory-Alpha:

First Contact Day was a holiday celebrated to honor both the warp 1 flight of the Phoenix and first open contact between Humans and Vulcans on April 5, 2063 in Bozeman, Montana


  • Born April 5, 1917 — Robert Bloch

I recognize Bob Tucker on the left. Who is the woman on the right? The photo is from a 1959 party in Chicago.

(11) DELIBERATIONS CONTINUE. The Shadow Clarke Jury carries on a discussion of the books they’d like to see considered for the Clarke award.

It does not seem surprising that reading Don DeLillo’s novel Zero K, in which an estranged son accompanies his tycoon father to the threshold of his journey into eternity, brought those memories of Cold Lazarus especially rushing back. Straddling the millennium, both [Dennis] Potter’s final teleplays and DeLillo’s sixteenth novel have a leached-out, end-times quality that puts human mortality centre stage and refuses to look away. That Potter’s scripts – almost a quarter-century old now and written while SF was still very much a pariah literature – leap naked into the science fictional abyss, while DeLillo’s novel appears to negate, to brush aside the very notion of science fiction altogether, seems just one further irony.

Imagine a table laden with all the food you can think of; things you like and things you don’t like; cuisines from all around the world; the fresh and the fast; three thousand calorie freak-shakes next to organic kale salads; dessert piled on top of nachos sitting on a bed of pears. The table is groaning, under the physical and the metaphorical weight of the feast.  It’s wonderful and disconcerting and a bit horrifying and deliciously tempting at the same time.  This is the gastronomic equivalent of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Radiance, a virtuoso outpouring of language, style, trope and intertext fit to overwhelm any appetite. It took close to a week for me to sit down and start this review after I finished the book; I needed that long to digest it.  If you like your novels spare or clean this one probably isn’t for you.

His claim directly addresses the central conceit of the novel that the networks and routes by which African-American slaves escaped to the free states and the North exists as an actual underground railroad with stations and steam locomotives on rails. However, his mistake lies in imagining that the workings of the railroad can be reduced to information as legible as a map and a timetable. Earlier in the novel, when Cora visits this particular ‘ghost tunnel’ for the first time with the railroad operative, Royal, she reflects that the necessary secret of the railroad is not a bad type of secret but rather an intimate part of the self that is central to personal identity: ‘It would die in the sharing.’ The enigma of the railroad, as Royal observes, is that ‘it goes everywhere, to places we know and those we don’t’. The challenge it presents is not to classify it as a system of knowledge but to figure out both how it connects the different selves who use it and where it might lead to.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish is easily the least traditionally science fictional of my shortlist selections: not only does it feature no rockets, but it’s set firmly in the past (and is more about pasts than futures) and it includes talking snakes and something very much like a dragon. In the sense that science fiction is defined by the presence or absence of received ideas and familiar imagery—that is, using the least science fictional definition of science fiction—it would not be considered science fiction.

(12) A LITTLE SMACK. Fusion says justice has been served – “Black Panther and Ms. Marvel Nominated for Hugo Awards Days After Marvel VP Blamed Them for Sales Slump”.

On Tuesday morning, the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards (the Oscars of sci-fi and fantasy writing) were announced by the World Science Fiction. Unsurprisingly, collected volumes of Marvel’s critically acclaimed Black Panther and Ms. Marvel series were both nominated for Best Graphic Story.

These nominations come just days after Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, went out of his way to blame Marvel’s lagging sales on comics—like Black Panther and Ms. Marvel—starring people of color and women. Suffice it to say that the optics of this whole thing don’t reflect well on the publisher, but the Hugo nominations send a telling message to Marvel about just how the public actually feels about its “diverse books.” 

(13) REACTION POST. Abigail Nussbaum catalogs all the emotions she’s feeling after seeing the 2017 Hugo shortlist, beginning with happiness about her Best Fan Writer nomination, and continuing down the spectrum til she reaches —

Frustration, because the puppies’ ongoing presence on the ballot, even under extremely reduced circumstances, means that it continues to be impossible to talk about the nominees as their own thing, rather than a reaction to an attempted fascist takeover.  There’s a lot to praise about this year’s ballot, including the continued shift towards a more diverse slate of nominees, but in the short fiction categories in particular, the Hugo has once again thrown up a fairly middle-of-the-road selection.  Most of these stories aren’t bad, but quite a few of them are meh, and it would be nice to once again be able to have a proper discussion of that.  Instead, we’re all still in bunker mode, still cheering the fact that publishable fiction was nominated for the genre’s most prestigious award, which increasingly seems like a low bar to clear.

(14) PUPPY ANTENNAE ACTIVATED. Cora Buhlert sets things in context and delivers a thorough set of first impressions about the Hugo ballot.

The best novel category looks excellent. We have the sequels to two previous Hugo winners in the category, Death’s End by Liu Cixin and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin respectively. We have the long awaited and critically acclaimed debut novels by two accomplished short fiction writers, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee respectively. We have a highly acclaimed debut novel with a very unique voice, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, as well as the sort of sequel to 2014’s highly acclaimed debut novel with a unique voice, A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. A Closed and Common Orbit, Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit were also on my ballot, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining three. And those who worry that science fiction is about to die out and be swamped by fantasy, which will inevitably lead to the collapse of the West or something, will be pleased that four of the six nominees in this category are unabashedly science fiction. The Obelisk Gate is an edge case, while the only clear fantasy novel is All the Birds in the Sky and even that one has a mad scientist character. Diversity count: 4 women, 2 men, 3 writers of colour, at least 3 LGBT writers, 1 international writer in translation, 0 puppies.

(15) TUESDAY’S HUGO NEWS. H.P. at Every Day Should Be Tuesday features a picture of a dog in his more Puppy-sympathetic coverage of the 2017 Hugo Awards finalists.

… I am very gratified to see Cixin Liu back where he belongs Death’s End a finalist for Best Novel.  I loved it, as you can probably tell by my overenthusiastic review.  I thought The Dark Forest was robbed, and I voted for The Three-Body Problem as the Best Novel two years ago.  I would have loved to have seen the entire series go up for an award, but oh well.  It perhaps says something about the incestual nature of the Hugo voting that the two books in the series edited by the popular Ken Liu were finalists, and the one that wasn’t didn’t even finish in the top 15 nominations….

The Rageaholic was a finalist last year, but I only saw my first few videos within the last month or so.   And for the most part, I have no interest in watching his videos on video games or movies or politics.  If only for the main reason I don’t watch many YouTube videos or listen to many podcasts.  I ain’t got time for that stuff.  But Razorfist has an encyclopedic knowledge of comics and Elric of Melnibone.  And he’s got a great shtick.  Usually in black-and-white, decked out in mirrored sunglasses and a leather jacket, long hair, wall covered in posters behind him.  Complete with some metal thrown-in to start and finish things off, and a rapid-fire, eloquent, profane delivery.

H.P. also identifies himself as a contributor to the Castalia House blog.

(16) HUGO BY OSMOSIS. The nominations have inspired J.D. Brink’s latest theory.

And John Picacio has been nominated for best professional artist.  I’m pretty darn sure (though not 100%, mind you) that he and I shared a day at Dragon’s Liar comics in San Antonio signing stuff on Free Comic Book Day a few years ago.  We sat right next to each other.

So by sheer proximity, I should be getting a Hugo award, if not this year, than next year

(17) IF I WERE A RICH MAN. Who knew I wouldn’t have to wait til I made a million dollars before seeing my name in Forbes? They published the Hugo nominees.

(18) MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY. Jude Terror’s account of the nominations for Bleeding Cool is intentionally myopic: “Marvel And Image Split Hugo Awards Comics Category, Shut Out Other Publishers”.

Worldcon has released the finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards, the science fiction and fantasy awards named after Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback. We’re pretty sure that’s the book Spider-Man first appeared in. In true snooty comics website fashion, we’ll only talk about the things that relate to comic books and ignore everything else.

First, in the most important category, Best Graphic Story (that’s fancy-speak for comics), nominees included Marvel’s Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, and The Vision, two of the most successful and acclaimed books the likes of which Marvel “has heard” people don’t want anymore, and one written by a guy who “rode off into the sunset.” Monstress, Paper Girls, and Saga from Image took the other three slots, shutting out all other publishers. Shockingly, no prominent editors from the superhero comics community earned nominations in any of the editorial categories, though Sana Takeda, a familiar name to comics readers, did move the needle with a spot on Best Professional Artist list.

Dan Slott failed to secure a nomination in Best Fan Writer despite writing some of the most acclaimed Doctor Who fan fiction around in Silver Surfer, though Doctor Who’s Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, was nominated under the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “TV show.” Yes, we know we’re breaking out “only talk about comics” rule, but what could be more “comics website” than that?! Sir Robert Liefeld’s greatest creation, Deadpool, earned a nomination in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) category, which is a fancy way of saying “movie.”

(19) VIRTUAL VISON. “Astronomers just turned on a planet-size telescope to take a picture of a black hole”Vox has the story. (No, not that Vox.)

Every image you’ve seen of a black hole is an illustration. A giant “virtual” telescope may change that….

We’ve never seen a direct image of a black hole. But if an audacious experiment called the Event Horizon Telescope is successful, we’ll see one for the first time.

Why we’ve never seen an image of a black hole

The biggest problem with trying to detect a black hole is that even the supermassive ones in the center of galaxies are relatively tiny.

“The largest one in the sky [is] the black hole in the center of the Milky Way,” Dimitrios Psaltis, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, said in 2015. “And taking a picture of it would be equivalent to taking a picture of a DVD on the surface of the moon

(20) THAT REVOLUTIONARY NEW IDEA FOR SELLING BOOKS. The Verge has another Amazon bookstore on its radar screen – it will be the third in New York.

Amazon has confirmed plans to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore across from the Empire State Building, bringing its total number of announced but as-of-yet unopened stores in New York City up to three.

Publisher’s Weekly reports that a sign reading “Amazon Books Coming Soon” has gone up in the 34th Street storefront, adding that an Amazon rep said the store will open this summer. The store has also been added to the Amazon Books website. This would presumably make it Amazon’s second store in New York. A location in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center (just off of Central Park) was announced in January, with the intent to open this spring.

Another, in Hudson Yards, the still-under-construction $20 billion shopping and luxury residential complex on Manhattan’s far west side, was widely reported last summer — with plans to launch alongside the rest of the development’s new stores in 2018 or 2019.

(21) CUTTING EDGE. Here’s the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword final trailer. The film will be out May 12.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Girl Genius Thrilled Not To Be On Hugo Ballot

A recent installment of Girl Genius delivers fresh evidence that Phil and Kaja Foglio like marching to the beat of a different drummer. The pair are ecstatic their comic is not a 2013 Hugo nominee —

“How exactly is this GREAT? We were only supposed to sit out ONE year!”

“Don’t you see? It means we’ve shown them, shown them all! …The Best Graphic Story category is REALLY NEW, and WE won the FIRST THREE! So SOME people said there was no point to the award, since WE’D just keep winning it – which was actually pretty nice of them—“

The Foglios withdrew Girl Genius for 2012 only, but are quite content to promote the health of the new category by leaving the glory to others for another year.

On the other hand, would they be drawing attention to the news in this way unless they were worried the trend might become permanent?

Chicon 7 Votes on Hugo Rules Changes

The Main Business Meeting at Chicon 7 ratified the new Best Fancast category [PDF file], most of the changes to the Semiprozine and Fanzine Hugo categories [PDF file] first passed at Renovation in 2011, the existing Best Graphic Story category — which faced a sunset date — and rejected a motion for new Best Young Adult Fiction category.

The Best Fancast category was passed last year and Chicon 7 exercised its option to place it the 2012 Hugo ballot. Best Fancast recognizes fan podcasts, videos, etc. — and effectively removes them from the fanzine category. Statistics provided to the Business Meeting showed on its trial run this year Best Fancast had participation levels that favorably compared with the fanzine category in terms of nominating vote totals and number of items nominated. The ratification vote sailed through without much comment. The category comes with a sunset provision, so it will come up again for review in a few years.

The redefinition of the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories had to get over a few more hurdles before being ratified, due to fans offering amendments.

Voters agreed to restore the phrase “or the equivalent in other media” that had been struck out of the existing Best Fanzine rules. The cover argument was that keeping the language protected the eligibility of publications done in electronic form, although that has been policy for years — the vast majority of fanzines are now created in digital media and distributed online. What the real effect of keeping “equivalent” in the rule will be is hard for me to say. Rich Lynch said he was comfortable with the outcome because the new requirement for “periodical publication” was retained.

Ben Yalow also convinced the meeting to adjust the new verification rule in the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories. Nominees will now “be required to provide information that they meet the qualification of their category” instead of being “required to confirm…” Yalow felt the original wording implied an unwanted restriction on the powers of the Hugo Administrator.

The meeting also agreed to Rich Lynch’s housekeeping amendment to delete a few surplus words that had been unintentionally passed as part of the motion in 2011.

The Best Graphic Story category needed to be ratified once more at this year’s meeting to stay in the constitution, though of course it has been functioning for several years. We were told 344 nominating votes were cast in the category this year, for 244 distinct items, of which only 9 had 5% of the vote (a minimum eligibility standard). Two fans cited these stats as support for their opposing views, Chris Barkley saying it proved the category’s viability, Kent Bloom saying it showed the pool of Hugo-worthy works is very limited. Phil Foglio spoke in favor of keeping the category — one where he’s won nearly all the Hugos — humorously admitting, “Yes, at the moment we’re dominating, but you know, we’ll die someday…” Despite a lively controversy, the ratification easily passed.

The proposed Best Young Adult Fiction Hugo category aroused more passion. Some in favor argued the Worldcon would stunt its growth by rejecting the category, while opponents noted YA has no real definition and Ben Yalow said, “We don’t give out Hugos for marketing categories, we give Hugos out for works.” Lew Wolkoff contended there really wasn’t enough expertise among Hugo voters because many don’t read YA works unless something especially draws one to their attention. The motion failed 51-67.

Renovation Invites Bill Willingham
as Special Guest

Bill Willingham, the Eisner Award winning comic book writer, has been added as a special guest of Renovation, the 2011 Worldcon.

The invitation symbolizes Renovation’s  plans for a program track dedicated to comics and graphic novels, with panels, talks and demonstrations. And it also will be the third successive Worldcon presenting a Best Graphic Story Hugo, a category first introduced in 2009. Bill Willingham has twice been nominated in this category for installments of his Fables, the story War and Pieces (2009) and Volume 12: The Dark Ages (2010).

The full press release follows the jump.

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Proposed Hugo Award Changes

The Hugo Awards are presented annually by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention, to be held this year in Denver, August 6-10.

Two proposals have been made to change the Hugo Award categories by amending the World Science Fiction Society constitution.

Farewell Semiprozine Hugo: Chris Barkley and Ben Yalow propose to delete the Best Semiprozine Hugo category.

Title: One less award

Moved: To amend Section 3.3.11 (Best Semiprozine) by adding a new last sentence:

“No award shall be made for this category.”

Discussion: This removes the semiprozine category, while still leaving the definition in to stop former semiprozines from dropping back into fanzine. Since the Best Editor-Short would now allow the editors of those publications to compete in that category, there is still a category to recognize those works.

Adding a Best Graphic Novel Hugo: Chris M. Barkley and Steve Barber propose to add a category to the awards:

Best Graphic Novel: A science fiction or fantasy story told in graphic form, of at least sixty-four (64) pages in length, published in book form or as a series of consecutive, continuous issues through an online medium as a complete story.

Discussion: Eligible works for nomination are to be any publication devoted to graphic science fiction or fantasy themes, whose story lines end and are published or distributed by the end calendar year.