Posts Tagged ‘the hugos’
In a post entitled ‘The Hugos, The Clarke Awards And What Do You Want, Exactly?’, Cora Buhlert writes:
“The Hugos are broken” posts came mainly from (male) British critics this year, and not against international fans and writers in general… Indeed, the one thing I don’t see on the list are British nominees, at least not in the fiction categories, which probably explains the dissatisfied grumblings of British fans and critics right there.
I’m not sure that first point is borne out by her own round-up post which links to not a single male British critic. Given this, her explanation for these grumblings is even less plausible than it would ordinarily be. She then goes on to discuss the Arthur C Clarke Award:
Indeed, my main reaction to the Clarke shortlist in comparison to this year’s Hugo controversy is the question to all the Hugo critics, “Is this really what you want?” An award shortlist chosen by a jury of qualified experts, which nonetheless winds up consisting entirely of white men and books which are far less diverse in theme and style (several of the nominees are basically reimaginings of hoary old SF tropes) than those on the Hugo shortlist, for all their flaws. One thing that all of these discussions and their recurrence show is that the SFF community is changing. However, it’s not necessarily changing into the direction that the brigade of young male British critics would prefer.
I don’t know who this brigade is but – speaking as a young(ish) male British critic – I certainly prefer this year’s Clarke shortlist to that of the Best Novel Hugo (and I prefer the BSFA Award shortlist to both). I base this on my previous experience of the work of Kim Stanley Robinson, Mira Grant, Lois McMaster Bujold, John Scalzi, Chris Beckett, Nick Harkaway and Ken MacLeod (and M John Harrison and Adam Roberts). That is not to say that I’ve read the majority of the work on the shortlists but I do think it allows me to make a relatively informed comparison. However, what I find interesting about Buhlert’s post is not these specific points but the fact she links criticism of the Hugos with criticism of the Clarke, particularly with respect to diversity. I think this is unsuccessful because of a failure to discussion the ways in which the awards are fundamentally different, a difference that is, I think, how they are decided (five judges versus any interested member of Worldcon) than what they decide. By discussing that issue, I aim to answer Buhlert’s rhetorical question more fully.
The Clarke Award is for best science fiction novel published in the UK; the Best Novel Hugo is for best speculative fiction novel published in the US. The Clarke Award has a pool of eligible work pre-selected by UK publishers; the Best Novel Hugo has no pre-selection of its eligible pool. We know that this year, that means that the judges of the Clarke Award had 82 works to select their shortlist from (substantially higher than in previous years). But the Best Novel Hugo pool is vastly bigger than this – at a conservative guess I’d say at least four times the size. We also know from Niall Harrison’s count that ratio of speculative fiction books published by men and women is very different between the two countries. For example, using books received by Locus in 2011 as a proxy, he found:
Overall, 47% of titles listed were written or edited by women, 53% by men; that’s closer to parity than last year. It also obscures a large difference between the US and the UK. In the US, last year, Locus received very nearly equal numbers of books written/edited by men and women. In contrast, only 1 in 3 books received from the UK was written or edited by a woman.
Which brings us to the fact that this year, for only the second time in its 27 year history, there are no novels by women on the Clarke Award shortlist. I mentioned this briefly the other day when I talked about the existing data on women and the Clarke but it is perhaps worth unpacking a bit more. It is my belief that the lack of women on the shortlist can only be explained by individual sexism, institutional sexism or some combination of the two. A good example of the former theory can be found in this post by James Nicoll:
Congratulations to the Clarkes for resisting the deadly temptation to produce a more diverse nominee list, especially given the outrageous – by what appear to the current standards of British SF – presence of women, persons of colour and Muslims on the submissions list. In particular I’d like to praise you for snubbing Alif the Unseen, which could have only embolden those people into further creativity in the field of SF.
I think most people would agree that when it comes to likely reasons why the judges did not put Alif The Unseen on the shortlist, naked anti-Muslim hatred is pretty far down the list. When it comes to women, however, there is a much stronger case. This is based on the demographic argument that women make up more than half of the world’s population so we should expect them to be represented in those proportions. Given the distance between the 50% we should expect and the 0% we got – the argument goes – it is just not plausible that the four women and one man who judged the award this could not select a book by a woman on merit. As someone puts it in the comments on Nicoll’s post: “An all-male list shows that they’re already judging by something other than quality.” Now, this is a very handy rule of thumb but one that is predicated on supply of eligible work matching those demographics. For the Hugos, it does; for the Clarke, it doesn’t come anywhere close.
To take an example from another area where women remain disadvantaged, a lot of the actively bad practice has disappeared from recruitment and promotion over recent decades but it doesn’t matter if you have impartial criteria and a representative and independent interview panel if only men apply for the job. In this way, a fair selection process can still produce a disproportionate outcome. This counter-argument has been put forward by Liz Williams, one of this year’s judges, and I think it is a compelling reason to believe that the sexism here is institutional rather than individual.
In this respect, I was struck by something that Paul Kincaid said before the award: “If, for instance, Empty Space, Jack Glass, Angelmaker and Alif the Unseen are all excluded from the list, we will have very legitimate cause for concern.” Angelmaker did make the shortlist so hopefully he didn’t find cause for concern with the award this year (Kincaid has written his own dyspeptic piece on the Hugos and the Clarke). What struck me, however, was that you would be hard-pressed to change the ratio of authors and make this core proposition 75% women. If the judges don’t like a highly-rated novel by a man then there are plenty of other highly-rated options by men. If they don’t like a highly-rated novel by a woman then that can wipe out a lot of the available pool. Niall Harrison suggested in his excellent piece on the shortlist that the most plausible other contenders by women were The Method by Juli Zeh (which was shortlisted for a Kitschie) and Pure by Juliana Baggott. There is also vN by Madeline Ashby, a book that had much more mixed reviews but represents pretty much the only core science fiction contender by a woman). I am looking forward to reading these novels but I wish there were many, many more of them; as with the employment example above, I think the focus of fixing the problem needs to be on removing barriers for people who aren’t white men.
You’ll also notice that Empty Space, Jack Glass and Angelmaker are all most readily identified as science fiction whereas Alif The Unseen is most readily identified as fantasy. No one knows whether the judges liked it but didn’t think it was eligible or thought it was eligible but didn’t like it (or, indeed, didn’t like it or think it was eligible). These edge cases offer an additional opportunity for elimination and, if they are not eliminated, they always prove contentious. For example, this comment by Jonathan McCalmont in the context of a very interesting article about how to fix discussion of the Hugo Awards: “An interesting example of this type of thing in practice is the Clarke award which, despite being an SF award, has recently been nominating works of urban fantasy and novels containing talking horses.” Both Zoo City (a primarily fantasy novel by a woman that can be read as science fiction) and The Waters Rising (a primarily science fiction novel by a woman that can be read as fantasy) are dismissed. (McCalmont goes on to echo Cheryl Morgan’s suggestion that this year the judges have directly responded to this reaction: “But then you look at this year’s shortlist and you see nothing but core genre. Something happened. People talked about it. Something else happened.” I find this theory unlikely.)
So, what do I want from the Arthur C Clarke Award, exactly? I want knowledgeable judges to read the submitted work, think carefully about which of these novels truly constitute the best science fiction published that year and advocate passionately for these books to their fellow judges. I want them to be open-minded about what constitutes science fiction and I don’t want them to try and second guess the response their shortlist. I’m lucky because this is exactly how I believe the award already operates. But I also want the judges to be able to draw on a broad, bold and diverse pool of high-quality submissions and sadly that isn’t the case.
The Hugos, however, do not have such a problem so what do I want from them? I want the voters to act as if they were judges, to treat the process of voting as a privilege and a responsibility. I want them to read the material made available to them in the voter pack and cast an informed ballot based on this, meaning categories such as Best Fan Artist to receive as many votes as categories such as Best Novel. I want everyone who can vote to actually vote, meaning more people voted than nominated. But I also want everyone who votes to nominate next year and make use of what the Clarke doesn’t have: a pool of potential nominees constrained only by the imagination of the people who decided the shortlist. Being an informed nominator is a tough job – it is much harder than being an informed voter – but it is only way to make an informed vote truly meaningful. To make this process easier, we all need to help each other by posting our draft ballots, engaging with low nomination categories and just generally talking about what really is the best that speculative fiction has to offer.
The Hugo shortlists were announced on Saturday and, if not utter twaddle, they are still pretty bad. On a personal level, I think four things I nominated made the ballot (yay, Strange Horizons!). When it comes to the actual voting, I suspect I will probably be using No Award quite liberally. But judiciously. God knows there are stupid things about the Hugos but Aidan Moher is completely right that the primary problem is not the process but the voters. So I’m going to try to be the best voter I can.
The winners of the BSFA Awards were announced the day after the Hugos. They look good in their own right but even better in comparison. Which is not to say that any of my choices actually won.
Best Novel went to Adam Roberts for Jack Glass. Obviously, my first vote went to Empty Space by M John Harrison but I’m very pleased to see Roberts win an award. As, I imagine, is he. When the shortlist for the Arthur C Clarke Award is announced later this week, I expect Jack Glass to be on it (if not, blame me).
Best Short Fiction went to ‘Adrift On The Sea Of Rains’ by Ian Sales. This year’s shortlist contained three interesting but flawed stories and three stories that were beneath consideration. Of the former, ‘Limited Edition’ was the most interesting and least flawed and got my first vote but this novella got my second slot. However, I’ll expect his next story in the series, ‘The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself’, to go further.
Best Artwork went to Black Sheep for Jack Glass. I discussed the shortlist at length when it was announced and I was obviously hoping for a Joey Hi-Fi win. Since that was not to be, I’m glad Jack Glass pulled off the double.
Best Non-Fiction went to the World SF Blog, adding to their Kitschie from last month. This is funny category and one I where I naturally gravitate towards a discrete work. So this was the only category where my second choice didn’t win. My first choice was Paul Kincaid’s ‘The Widening Gyre which crystallised some of my own thoughts and framed the most important debate of last year for me. Second place went to Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn; I have my problems with the book but it is long overdue.
It is Hugo nominations time and last night on Twitter there was a bit of a conversation about nominating Devi Pillai for Best Editor Long Form. This was kicked off by this post by NK Jemisin entitled ‘Give my editor a Hugo’. In addition, to Pillai’s work on her own books, she also put forward this list of other works:
- The Way of Shadows, Beyond the Shadows and Shadow’s Edge (the Night Angel trilogy) by Brent Weeks
- The Heroes and Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
- Blameless, Changeless, Heartless, etc. (the Parasol Protectorate series) by Gail Carriger
- Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
- Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan
- Cold Magic (the Spiritwalker Trilogy) by Kate Elliott
- Working for the Devil (the Dante Valentine series) by Lilith Saintcrow
- Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan
- The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtney Grimwood
I have only read three of those novels: The Heroes and Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie and The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtney Grimwood. I love the Abercrombies, I think the Grimwood is the worst thing he’s ever published. It also strikes me as a novel with substantial issues around structure, pace, point of view and consistency, things I would expect and editor to take a firm hand with and things that would disuade me from nominating Pillai for an editorial award. At this point Jonathan Strahan made the inevitable comment: “The problem is, and this is why I suggested my proposed Hugo rules change, you can’t know if it is or isn’t. You’re assuming.”
He’s right. I haven’t seen Grimwood’s original manuscript, I have no idea of the work Pillai did on subsequent drafts, all I have to go on is the finished text. Only two people know for sure, I just have to rely on the evidence. In some cases the evidence seems overwhelming such as with Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan which appears to be not only a very bad book but cursorily edited in order to make a quick buck. But it remains an assumption (as editors will delight in telling you if you make any such inference).
There is more than a little hypocriscy to Strahan’s position though. He has been nominated for Best Editor Short Form for the last four years and has not declined these nominations. Yet he believes them to be meaningless, that the people who vote for category are incapable of making any judgement about them. Only authors and editors themselves would be able to nominate, meaning each editor would have two nominations at the maximum. That doesn’t make for a viable award. So I hope if he is nominated this year, Strahan will stick to his principles and decline. In an ideal world, all editors would do the same and the awards would be abolished since what they seek to reward is so clearly incompatible with a popular vote.
Strahan’s own prefered rules change is to give the Best Novel award to both author and editor. This is embarrassing. It is, however, entirely in keeping with the philosophy of the Hugos: awards for all and contorted categories that exist nowhere else. In the rest of the literary world, awards for novels are awards for authors as should obviously be the case. Implicit in an award-winning novel is the idea that the editor has done well to acquire and publish it and they will undoubtably be congratulated by their peers for this. Similarly for magazines and anthologies, success for them implies success for the editor. But it is self-servingly ridiculous to try and formalise such industry praise within a fan award such as the Hugos, particularly since doing so would in no way avoid the problem of fans having to make assumptions. Both categories need to go and not be replaced.
Now that I’ve received by Hugo Voter Pack I thought I would use it to help me make an informed decision about some of the categories that I don’t know that much about.
Best Graphic Story (221 Ballots)
- Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Written by Neil Gaiman; Pencilled by Andy Kubert; Inked by Scott Williams (DC Comics)
- Captain Britain And MI13. Volume 3: Vampire State Written by Paul Cornell; Pencilled by Leonard Kirk with Mike Collins, Adrian Alphona and Ardian Syaf (Marvel Comics)
- Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages Written by Bill Willingham; Pencilled by Mark Buckingham; Art by Peter Gross & Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn; Colour by Lee Loughridge & Laura Allred; Letters by Todd Klein (Vertigo Comics)
- Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm – Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
- Schlock Mercenary: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse – Written and Illustrated by Howard Tayler
What do we get in the pack? The whole of Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? and Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages for starters. The former has been nominated because it would be unfathomable for the Hugo voters not to nominate everything Neil Gaiman has ever had a hand in. It is weak but that is to be expected. The latter has been nominated because, well, I’ve no idea. It is a dreadful, amateurish mish-mash of nothing.
In addition, we are given issues 10 and 11 of Captain Britain And MI13 which is frankly insane. Would we have been given chapters 10 and 11 of one of the Best Novel nominees? The result is the reader has no idea who the characters are, what they are doing or why we should care about it. I can see why Marvel wouldn’t want to make the whole volume available to Hugo voters but plunging us straight into the middle doesn’t make any sense. The only basis on which I am able to rank it is the fact that Paul Cornell seems to be a good egg and issue 10 opens with Dracula on the moon.
Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary are both webcomics so you can play along at home. The former is fun and at least slightly original which is not something you can say of any of the other nominees. The latter is just unreadably bad. Its author comments that it is on the internet because he couldn’t sell it. No shit.
1) Girl Genius
2) Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
3) Captain Britain And MI13
4) No award.
Best Professional Artist (327 Ballots)
- Bob Eggleton
- Stephan Martiniere
- John Picacio
- Daniel Dos Santos
- Shaun Tan
What do we get in the pack? A selection of work by each of the artists. Three of these are pretty good without ever being the complete package. My favourite is Martiniere for the level of detail and sense of scale as well as the sheer SF-ness. Then there is Tan who breathes life and emotion into his covers and Picacio who introduces a bold design element to his covers. Both of these qualities are absent in the work of the others.
Of the remaining two, Dos Santos draws perfectly adequate but very boring figures (with the exception of the composition of his cover for Green which I rather like) whereas Eggleton produces clumsy scenes in vomitous pastels.
4) Dos Santos
5) No Award
Best Fan Artist (199 Ballots)
- Brad W. Foster
- Dave Howell
- Sue Mason
- Steve Stiles
- Taral Wayne
What do we get in the pack? Well, Sue Mason is not represented so we can discard her out of hand. That leaves a lot of eye-gougingly bad “art” that frankly should never have seen the light of day. The exception is Dave Howell who designed the Hugo award itself. It seems a bit pointlessly incestuous to reward this in turn with a Hugo but hey, at least it isn’t completely shit.
2) No award
I had been planning to review the shortlist for the Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form category of the Hugos for Strange Horizons. That was before I saw Avatar and realised I had absolutely nothing to say about this idiotic, worthless film. So, instead, I thought I would post some thoughts about the films on the shortlist here.
Along with Avatar, District 9 was one of the two films I hadn’t seen before starting the process and it was a shock to my pre-conceptions. From what I had read, I had expected Neill Blomkamp’s film to be a promising but flawed debut; I hadn’t expected a work of such pervasive cinematic incompetence. Perhaps this is understandable in a first time director expanding his own short film, Alive In Joburg (2005), but then where was Peter Jackson who, as producer, received higher billing than Blomkamp? It starts with a great science fiction premise: a giant spaceship appears over the skies of Johannesburg but instead of a glorious moment of first contact there is only silence; when humanity forces its way into the ship, the alien inhabitants are disorganised and dying. The problem is not only the story Blomkamp uses this to tell and the way he tells this story.
The aliens arrived in 1982 and, by the time the film starts, twenty years later, there are over a million of them inhabiting the titular slum district on the edge of the city under the aspices of MNU, a private security contractor. As they grow the slum grows too big to contain, tensions between the “prawns” and the humans rise. This backstory is deftly sketched out in the form of a faux documentary, a venerable tradition – it is the ripping-off-a-plaster theory of infodumping – which works well here (even if it is presumably a legacy of the budget constraints of the original short film). Blomkamp then doubles down by making his protagonist, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley), the subject of a documentary himself. Unfortunately these dual documentaries set up an interference pattern because it soon becomes clear that whilst this new ‘day in the life’ documentary is being told forwards as the bulk of the film, the extracts from the initial ‘talking heads’ documentary were filmed after the events of the movie. The idea is to set up some tension by foreshadowing that something major will happen to Van De Merwe but this is laboured and unnecessary; he is the protagonist, we know something major is going to happen to him. This sort of clumsy redundancy becomes a feature of the film.
The format does have some rewards. Copley – who also produced and starred in Alive In Joburg – gives a brilliant, naturalistic performance as the everyman MNU middle manager with inevitable David Brent-ish overtones. He is one of the best things about District 9 but he is a locus of realism in a film that otherwise has all the nonsense of a Hollywood shoot ‘em up whilst taking place in a context (post-Apartheid South Africa) that makes the stakes for failure considerably higher. For example, nothing abot MNU makes sense from their mandate down to their name – Multi National United? Really? More importantly, the whole catalyst for the film – MNU’s resettlement of the district to a “reserve” hundreds of kilometres away – only makes sense if you consider it as exactly what it is: a direct analogy for District Six.
This was the designation of the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town as a whites-only area in 1966 and the subsequent forced relocation of all non-whites. District 9‘s attempt to revisit this injustice means that while the aliens’ presence in Johannesburg starts as a nice piece of cinematic nose thumbing at American cultural hegemony, it quickly sees them being crudely bludgeoned into symbolic representations of black people. This deprives the aliens of any existence they might have in their own right and means we have, for example, the ridiculous spectacle of Van De Merwe going door to door serving eviction notices to the aliens on behalf of MNU. This is not to mention the problem of getting a bunch of aimless, scavenging drones who breed indiscriminately to stand in for black South Africans. This is a shame because the film is actually very strong on depicting prejudice and institutional racism. Early on Van De Merwe unselfconsciously defends the use of the term “prawns” as a slur because “that is what they look like” and is then filmed awkwardly bonding with his black colleagues. It is this which – if you are able to put to the back of your mind the fact that what you are watching is stupid and potentially offensive – makes the mass eviction serving an impressive piece of film making.
Unfortunately, we then have to snap out of our rigid analogy to accommodate a new film. One of the aliens is apparently less lazy and unintelligent than the rest of his species and has been secretly working on a plan for the last two decades to fix the mothership which has been hanging motionless overhead. This plot element is, in itself, very silly but it also shows that Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell haven’t thought ahead. This is the point where they have to abandon the documentary style as they need to show events elsewhere yet they do not abandon it entirely. This leaves the film an unsettling patchwork of styles with the continuing but sporadic uses of found footage increasingly unlikely and the talking heads increasingly superfluous.
Not long after this departure, Van De Merwe gets splashed with some magic fluid and the film barrels down its new trajectory as an action film. Van De Merwe goes straight home after his hard day’s work because – surprise! – he doesn’t bother to tell anyone he has been contaminated. MNU – surprise! – reveal itself to be a standard Evil Corporation hell bent on grinding Van De Merwe’s bones for bread in search of biotech profits. (Van De Merwe’s boss is also his father-in-law but that does stop him from cheerfully allowing himself to be filmed approving live vivisection. Bloody in-laws.) To survive Van De Merwe must – surprise! – team up with the clever alien, overcome his bigotry and learn important life lessons. It is remarkably hackneyed stuff, a painfully familiar blend of plot holes, clichés, sentimentality and blowing shit up. I said this was incompetent film making but perhaps a more charitable way of describing District 9 is as a film that runs on instinct. This is sustainable at the level of the individual scene but beyond that it disintegrates.
Right, after pictures, words:
- Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
- The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi
- The City & The City by China Mieville
- The Ask & The Answer by Patrick Ness
- In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield
- To Kiss The Granite Choir by Michael Anthony Ashley (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
- The Push by David Hutchinson
- Vishnu At The Cat Circus by Ian McDonald (Cyberbad Nights)
- Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow
- Palimpsest by Charles Stross (Wireless)
- Sinner, Baker, Fabulist Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster (Interzone)
- It Takes Two by Nicola Griffith (Eclipse 3)
- A Journal of Certain Events of Scientific Interest from the First Survey Voyage of the Southern Waters by HMS Ocelot, As Observed by Professor Thaddeus Boswell, DPhil, MSc; or, A Lullaby by Helen Keeble (Strange Horizons)
- Black Swan by Bruce Sterling (Interzone)
- The Island by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2)
Best Short Story
- Microcosmos by Nina Allan (Interzone)
- Hangman by Erin Cashier (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
- Turning The Apple by Tina Connolly (Strange Horizons)
- Useless Things by Maureen F McHugh (Eclipse Three)
- The Dying World by Lavie Tidhar (Clarkesworld)
John W Campbell Award
- Lauren Beukes
- Kristin Cashore
- Felix Gilman
- Nick Harkaway
- Patrick Ness
I didn’t have any trouble with the moving picture categories but I’m struggling with the static ones. So far I have:
Best Graphic Story
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
- Invincible Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca
Best Professional Artist
- Adam Tredowski
- Stephan Martinière
Best Fan Artist
Any other suggestions?
The other day Niall posted his draft Hugo ballot. I’ve been thinking about this too. Rather than posted all of them, I thought I’d list my current thoughts on the two Best Dramatic Presentation categories. Anyone want to persuade me otherwise?
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long)
- Fantastic Mr Fox
- The Road
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short)
- Dollhouse – Epitaph One
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Born to Run
- Partly Cloudy (Pixar short)
- Ashes To Ashes – Episode 2.1
- Being Human – Episode 2.1
When Heroes was first shown in the UK a great deal of fuss was made over it, both by the BBC (who broadcast it in this country) and by British SF fandom. I watched the first couple of episodes, thought it was bollocks and switched off. I did promise to return to once it was released on DVD and I didn’t have to make it a weekly commitment though. I have now done this and, in fact, I devoured them. This is not because Heroes is any good, it is because Heroes is crack.
In a recent discussion about spoilers I suggested that:
You’d have to have a pretty mechanistic way of consuming art if the only thing that held your interest was wanting to know what happened next. Equally if that it is all there is to it then it would be a pretty lousy work of art.
Heroes is just such a work. The whole point of the programme is finding out what happens next. There was some kerfuffle over the fact that the whole of the season was nominated for the Hugo in the Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form category. Every episode ends with “to be continued” because it isn’t really an episode, simply a sliver of the whole, and the cliffhanger at the end is no different from the cliffhanger at the end, apart from the fact it further escalates the arms race of gotcha moments. You can forgive everything – the awful writing, weak acting, Sendhil Ramamurthy’s voiceovers – in exchange for the glee with which they endlessly pull rabbits out of hats. Characters aren’t really characters, rather they are endless malleable pieces of scenery, anyone could die but only because anyone could come back to life, it is utterly free of any need for consistency. It sounds awful but somehow it is not. Actually, it sounds like Lost, a programme I similarly gave up on after a couple episodes and also keeps a drug-like hold on people.
Apparently seasons two and three are shit. So it goes. I’m interested to see what “shit” means in this context though.
Scott Eric Kaufman on Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince:
it presents an unnerving and captivating account of a world and moment the audience can’t fully fathom. The confusion was compelling: I was drawn into situations whose meaning escaped me, but whose significance was clear, and so I spent the entire film intellectually engaged… The earlier films never alluded; they either explicated at length or vehemently pointed at the mystery the movie would explain. In The Half-Blood Prince, David Yates includes scenes whose importance is not established by the mere fact of their inclusion. The narrative wanders, forcing the audience to debate which of the various elements will ultimately be meaningful… The narrative ambiguity, coupled with a pace that allowed scenes to develop such that motivations were intimated rather than immediately revealed, resulted in a film that was strikingly adult in weight and complexity
You might think this sounds a bit like filthy postmodernism – I’m not convinced that a sloppy, confused narrative is actually a good thing because it allows multiple reads of the text – but it is still an interesting post and his snark about Manohla Dargis is worth the price of admission alone. It is interesting because it is the perspective of someone seeing the films with fresh eyes, especially since my views of the films are so coloured by the books. There are large chunks of Kaufman’s post I disagree with (starting with the opening sentence) but it is a good point about the impatience with the film of those familar with the books because they know how the story ends and the film singularly fails to move this story forward. At the same time though, I saw the film with my girlfrend, who hasn’t read any of the books either, and her response was less “what a wonderful intellectual puzzle” and more “well, that was pretty pointless”. If only Yates had played a bit faster and looser with the source text.
But there’s more! Kaufman has just posted his thoughts on the Hugos slapfight which John “Bellows” Scalzi has managed to supply with plenty more oxygen. By the way, if you are actually still interested in following the debate, the conversation over at Torque Control remains the most interesting and least retarded.