Sunday, June 19, 2022

Hugo Awards 2022 - A few thoughts and a couple of rants

Yes, I have been reading the Hugo Awards finalists, trying to work my way through them at a decent pace. I have read a few of the nominations, but far from all of them. So here I go with some of what I've already read/watched/whatever.

First up, let's look at Best Novel. I finished The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, first, then realized I probably should have saved it for last. Chambers books are thought-provoking and twist your mind, but in a gentle and friendly way that makes them a relief to read. As a palate cleanser, her books are the best by far. This one is no exception. A solid tale of a group of strangers meeting under strained circumstances and getting to know each other, it plays out both gently and powerfully. I genuinely liked all the characters and laughed along with them (the bit about cheese just had me howling). I could have sat and read just about each character for another few hundred pages, but Chambers sets up the situation then plunges the reader into a bit of stress which cements everything. Excellent and wonderful, and a book you can easily read without knowing much of her other works (I've only read a couple). I don't yet know how it'll hold up compared to other finalists, but it is definitely worthy of a Hugo Award.

The next one I read was A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine. I had not read the first novel, which this is a sequel to, so I was lost in places. But not so badly lost as I've been reading other sequels. I quickly got into the rhythm of this universe and enjoyed learning more about each character and how they interacted. By the end of the book I had a very good sense of what had happened in the first book. Overall, it was a good book, solid and worthy of a Hugo. It also managed to provoke some very strange dreams, so that was interesting.

I have not yet read the other four finalists. I'll try to post something when I get through those.

In other categories...

I read "The Sin of America", by Catherynne M. Valente, finalist for Best Short Story. This is one of those painful tales that I can see being required reading in a literature class. And while I don't think it's bad, it's a little too painful and on point for me to say I "enjoyed" it. Hugo worthy? Certainly. Will it be at the top of my ballot? Unlikely.

In the Best Series category, I've read enough of The World of the White Rat, by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) to say that I absolutely enjoy this universe and want to read more in it and I'm quite pleased to put it on my ballot at the top, unless I manage to read enough of one of the other series that is so fantastic to knock it off my pedestal. But yeah, this is a great series of books.

I have a request of all future people nominated in the best series category. Please Please Please Please PLEASE include in the packet a small text list of the works included in the nomination (every eligible work) in a suggested reading order. Nothing fancy. Nothing major. Just a freakin' list so we know what books to look for if we aren't certain and don't have to Google it and run through a dozen different variations of what books might be in that series and oh here are the ones that just got published but they aren't part of the nomination but here they are anyway and no, that's not a part of the series but someone listed it anyway and ... so much irritation could be removed by just listing the works.

In Best Graphic Story, I read Far Sector, written by N.K. Jemisin, art by Jamal Campbell, as it was coming out and yeah, it's worth a Hugo Award. An excellent series and that's coming from a comic book fan who doesn't much like intergalactic stories. It was just so well written, nicely layered and beautiful. Well worth the effort of reading. Right now it has the top spot on my ballot, but I haven't read the other books yet so that could potentially change.

I read “How Twitter can ruin a life”, by Emily St. James in the Best Related Work category and it still stings. The anger I feel at the mob who caused all that pain... and yet I understand completely. The essay lays it out very cleanly and clearly, and so I find it to be Hugo worthy. As with other categories, it's on the top of my list at the moment simply because I haven't read anything else in the category, but I certainly could see it staying there.

To my surprise, I've already seen three of the six finalists in Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form and four of the six in Short Form. I have a nit to pick with the Dramatic Presentation categories that I'll start with, though. There are two Dramatic Presentation categories: Short Form and Long Form. There needs to be a third. Serial. For example, in Long Form, we have WandaVision - a series. Up against a bunch of movies. In short form we have a bunch of single episode of series - five of which are NOT standalone episodes. At least as far as I know. The Arcane episode is the culmination of eight episodes of build-up and in no way could have the impact as a standalone that it would if the viewer had seen the rest of the series. Expanse is utterly incomprehensible if you haven't seen the rest of the series. For All Mankind? I've never seen a single episode. Will I understand the season two finale? The only standalone episode is Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is hilarious and wonderful and just freaking GREAT... but it's literally the only one on the list you could possibly understand easily without seeing other episodes. And I have issues with giving a Hugo Award to any work that cannot stand on its own. I'm clearly in the minority, but that's my opinion.

Okay, so now that's out of the way... Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form. I've seen Dune, Encanto, and WandaVision. All of them are good, although Dune left me a little cold (ironically enough). For sheer power, WandaVision has Encanto beat because of the length of WandaVision compared to Encanto. For sheer enjoyment, Encanto is the clear winner. I will attempt to view the other three finalists before I make a final decision, but it's going to be difficult because putting a movie up against an entire TV series is a lot like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they are both fruit, but you enjoy them differently.

For Short Form, Arcane: The Monster You Created is going to be the top of my ballot. Yes, it suffers from the "can't stand alone" problem, but as long as the Hugos have these limitations on works, I'll pick the one I know is best. Likely second will be Star Trek: Lower Decks: wej Duj which was excellent on multiple levels and rip-roaring fun as well. Loki: The Nexus Event and The Wheel of Time: The Flame of Tar Valon are both good, but Arcane has them beat by miles, and Star Trek by a mile or so. I have not watched any Expanse since my first attempt failed. I just couldn't get into it. So I'll leave it off my ballot. My husband has been watching For All Mankind and plans to coach me through the nominated episode, so I'll figure out where it goes when I see it.

The only other category I'm willing to opine on at this time is the Lodestar Award, which has the excellent Chaos on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer. If the other finalists are even half as good as Kritzer's work, I'm going to really love reading these.

So, that's where I'm at right now. I hope to update again soon(ish) with more thoughts.