Monday, June 05, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) - Splendor & Misery by Clipping

Splendor & Misery, by Clipping, is about a person who escapes slavery on a spaceship but has to live with the consequences.

As an audio album with no visuals, this was a strange experience that's hard to compare to the other finalists in this category. For one thing, the storyline is not clear - I'm not entirely sure I understood all of what the main character, referred to as Cargo #2331, goes through in his journey. Also, I'm not really a big Hip Hop fan - but I listened to this album a couple of times straight through, then listened to it again before I started writing this, and enjoyed it.

The story is apparently told mostly from the perspective of the spaceship's AI. The ship is a slave ship carrying a cargo of humans, who wake from stasis to try to escape. The ship, at the instruction of the crew, releases first sedatives then something stronger into the cargo hold, killing all the slaves except one. The one who survives apparently kills the crew, then sets the ship's course for as far away from civilization as he can get. Most of the songs are about how the ship is trying to understand how the human is reacting to being alone and afraid of recapture.

The good: There is a lot in this album to digest, and apparently a lot of easter eggs if you look deep enough, including references to other albums and lots of other science fiction works. The gospel sections are deeply moving, especially when you consider this as a traditional story of a runaway slave moved to outer space. It's possible to interpret the songs in different ways, but I think the album as a whole does a good job of telling a story and hammering home the terror/boredom/insanity of being a lone human unable to return home and running deeper into the infinite sky.

The bad: My biggest complaint is my own uncertainty that I interpreted the album correctly. There's so much room to wonder at what, exactly, the lyrics mean. I feel like I may have missed too much and fear that I didn't.

Conclusion: An excellent piece of work, which is now second on my ballot, above Doctor Who but not quite amazing enough to knock Black Mirror off the top spot for me.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): I've watched Doctor Who, Black Mirror, Game of Thrones: "The Door", and Splendor & Misery [album]. I need to watch The Expanse, and Game of Thrones: "Battle of the Bastards".