Now before everyone runs screaming from the screen, thinking that this is just another rant on the storm of controversy that the announcements have created, it's not. I am aware of all that, and it concerns me, but I don't dwell on it. I only look at 3 categories, because to be totally honest they're the only 3 I think I can speak with anything approaching authority on. Those 3 categories are:
Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form (usually a feature film)
Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form (generally an episode of a TV show, but things like songs and even the over the top acceptance of a previous award winner have made the shortlist in the past).
Best Novel: yes that is last year's winner. As I don't have a crystal ball I thought the best way to illustrate these was to use last year's winner.
This is in no particular order.
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie - the sequel to Ancillary Justice. I haven't read it (I've only read one of the nominated works. None of my nominations got up). I wasn't as taken by Ancillary Justice as everyone else seemed to be. Maybe it's because of my uneasy relationship with science fiction, and that's what Ancillary Justice is. I also didn't see replacing the he personal pronoun with she for everyone, regardless of gender, as ground breaking as many others did. I've heard good reports of Ancillary Sword, and Hugo voters do seem to like sequels, so this one could very well earn Ann Leckie her second rocket ship in a row.
The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson - another science fiction entry. It's the first book in Anderson's Saga of the Shadows series, and it follows his Saga of the Seven Suns series. I haven't read anything by Anderson, but I know people who have, and he doesn't get many positive reviews. He may have improved, I'm not sure. I suspect the nomination is a nod to recent efforts to get popular best selling work on the ballot in favour of work that does well critically, but doesn't reach as wide an audience.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison - I actually do want to read this, but try finding a copy of it down here. The item of hens teeth immediately springs to mind. I do however have a copy on order and I'm rather excited to see what the fuss is about. From what I know about it, it attempts to do something different with the genre and it's one of only 2 fantasies on the ballot (the Hugo began it's life as a purely science fiction award, and while fantasy has made raids on it in recent times, many do still consider it an award for works of science fiction, not fantasy). Plenty think it's a debut, it's actually not. Katherine Addison is a pseudonym for Sarah Monette, who also wrote Melusine. I don't think it will win, but I am pleased it was nominated.
Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos - I have to admit when I saw this on there, my first thought was who? It's the second book of the Frontlines series, which is military SF in the vein of John Scalzi's Old Man's War. Interestingly it was originally an ebook only, via Amazon.com, and it was given a print release by Amazon's imprint 47North. I think this is a bit of a victory for epublishing and something that will become more prevalent in the future. Again, I don't think the entry will excite enough voters to get it the award, though.
Skin Game by Jim Butcher - now this one I have read. I'm quite a fan of Harry Dresden, and have read all of the books, even the short story collection of Side Jobs. I was surprised to see it on the list. For one it's urban fantasy, and that's a subgenre Hugo voters tend to shy away from. The closest any urban fantasy author has ever come to winning a Hugo was Seanan McGuire's Campbell win in 2010. I doubt it will garner many votes, despite it's best seller status. The Dresdens are a bit like the literary equivalent of fast food. Nice for an occasional guilty treat, but it's nutritional value is questionable, and you wouldn't want a solid diet of it. There's been a bit of talk about the best selling entries and how they got onto the short list, but I think they earned their nominations, and it may also have the effect of getting people who wouldn't ordinarily know about the Hugo, to take an interest and vote. Inclusion is what the genre and the award should be all about, and getting something like an entry of the Dresden Files onto the ballot may help with that.
Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form: now I personally don't really agree that either this award or the Short Form one should be part of the Hugos. They're generally films or TV shows, and these both have plenty of their own awards. It's rare that anyone connected with the film even shows up to collect the award, which shows how much meaning they attach to it. However I have seen a few of the nominated works and I feel strongly enough about it to say a few words.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - I enjoy all the Marvel films, and outside of The Avengers, I think the two Captain America films have been the strongest entries in that particular series. I did like Iron Man (the first one), but the 2nd and 3rd didn't live up to the first one, and The Winter Soldier more than held it's own with its predecessor, and also The Avengers, which it was intimately connected to. This was like a Daniel Craig Bond movie with super powers. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow absolutely stole the show, and it could have really been titled Captain America & Black Widow: The Winter Soldier. There was a nice connection to the first film, and the reverberations from this film were felt throughout the Marvel cinematic universe, bleeding into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and will also be in evidence in the upcoming Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. The winner for mine, but probably won't get the votes.
Edge of Tomorrow - I really hope this doesn't win, and not because I don't like Tom Cruise, I do, but this looked to me like a version of Replay, but with a military SF edge. Urk. How it made the ballot, I do not know.
Guardians of the Galaxy - and Marvel and Disney continue to take over the cinematic world. You couldn't not like this film. Fun and action from start to finish. A genetically engineered raccoon as a hero, who knew? The ending scene with the baby Groot dancing gets it a nomination alone.
Interstellar - this one will probably win. I haven't seen it yet, so I can't say too much, but what I have seen and heard about it didn't excite me greatly. It is however the sort of thing that gets votes at the Hugos.
The Lego Movie - this was also a huge amount of fun. Batman's voice, all the in jokes and takes from other films and games. Something that shouldn't have worked, but did. It's a shame there's no Best Song at the Hugo's because I would have nominated Everything is AWESOME. That song ear wormed me for days afterwards.
Still from last year's winning entry. Game of Thrones: 'Rains of Castamere'.
Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form: I have similar feelings on this one to the Long Form award, but a lot of those were driven by the fact that there seemed to be an unwritten rule that only Doctor Who was allowed to win it. Despite the actual quality of the seasons episodes, it seemed to get at least 3 nominations every year. Then a few years ago it became the Doctor Who V Game of Thrones award. Game of Thrones won it last year, and the producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss were on hand to accept it, which was a nice touch. I'm not going to discuss the individual episodes that were nominated, but the shows themselves. It's really pleasing to me to see 5 TV shows nominated this year and very different shows at that. The genre actually has diversity and voters have finally realised that. It's a long way from nominating things like Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury by Rebecca Bloom and Chris Garcia's acceptance 'speech' when his The Drink Tank fanzine won the Hugo in 2011, made the shortlist for this award.
Doctor Who: 'Listen' - not only did the show only get one nomination, it was actually the standout episode of the season that got nominated. Aside from brief interruptions by Game of Thrones, the evergreen British SF show has owned the award in recent times, and while it's now got more competition I still think it will be hard to beat for the award.
The Flash: 'Pilot' - I really like The Flash. I'm old enough to remember the previous attempt in the '90's to make this into a show (the on screen father of the current Flash actually played The Flash in that show, nice little nod there). Compared to it's stablemate Arrow, I find The Flash a little lightweight, and think Arrow is the better show, although I'm sure some of that is driven by the fact that the wonderful Emily Betts Rickard is in Arrow and totally makes the show as Felicity Smoak. I think the show's lightness may count against it. The Hugos are serious business, don't you know?
Game of Thrones: 'The Mountain and the Viper' - if anything is going to topple Doctor Who, it's Game of Thrones. It could very well repeat 2014's win for 'Rains of Castamere', here. I couldn't vote for it, though, not on that particular episode, actually not for the season overall, either. I do enjoy the show, but it's never improved on Season 1, which for me is still the best season of it. People and voters do like it, though, plus the show's creator George R.R Martin will definitely be present.
Grimm: 'Once Were Gods' - if I hadn't been sitting down when I read the nominations I think I would have fallen over when I saw this one. I really like Grimm, although I'd like it even better if it were the Monroe and Rosalee show. It's one of a whole bunch of eligible shows and even though it has no chance it's nice to see it there, and realise that people have woken up to the fact that genre TV does not start and end with Doctor Who and Game of Thrones.
Orphan Black: 'By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried' - this actually got a nomination last year, and it was well deserved. I hope it wins, I know The Flash and Grimm have no chance, but Orphan Black could. It deserves recognition purely and simply for the stunning performances by Tatiana Maslany.
So that's my take on the Hugo nominations. I'll be back in a few months to discuss the winners, hopefully Noah Ward won't make their presence too well felt in these 3 categories.