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Hugo Nominations – Best Graphic Story & Best Fancast

with 11 comments

I’ve grouped these two categories together because I don’t have any of my own recommendations for either one of them. They also come perilously close to flunking my three criteria for Hugo categories: they must be for real things, there must be a sufficiently large pool of such things and the voters of the Hugos must be informed enough about such things to make meaningful nominations.

Best Graphic Story

A tortured description of the type sadly typical of the Hugos but I think everyone understands it is talking about comics. I love comics but, as I’ve written about before, I don’t really read them. I certainly don’t read them enough to but together a meaningful set of nominations and unfortunately, unlike the Best Artist categories, that can’t be fixed with a quick Google. So I will nominate anything that anyone persuades me is worthy in the comments. But it does beg the question, are Hugo voters, in general, qualified to nominate in this category? The evidence of the last couple of years since the category was instigated in 2009 aren’t positive: Girl Genius won for the first three years until the Foglios recused themselves and the bafflingly shit Schlock Mercenary has been shortlist every single year. I think we are approaching a make-or-break point for this category where the Hugo voters need to collectively step up or acknowledge that there can be important parts of SF that we just aren’t the right people to assess.

Best Fancast

I’ve never listened to a fancast (or, as they are known in the real world, a podcast) and I’ve no interest in starting. So I don’t want recommendations and I won’t be voting in the category once the shortlist is announced. Unlike the Best Editor categories, this is purely personal taste, but I do wonder if there is any real value in having a new fan category when the existing ones are relatively unpopular and the chief difference is the medium. Now, at last year’s Worldcon, Best Fancast was actually more popular than Best Fanzine but only by 841 votes to 820. This makes them them the third and first least voted categories (with Best Fan Writer sandwiched). Would combining the two produce the best of both worlds? New blood, more interest and a bigger pool?

You’ll probably have gathered that I think there are too many Hugo categories; given there are currently 16, I think that is inarguable. ‘Prizes for all’ is neither practical or sensible and a little bit of focus might encourage greater participation: last year only 1848 ballots were cast out of 6,060 total memberships.

Written by Martin

2 February 2014 at 19:29

Posted in awards, sf

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11 Responses

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  1. “are Hugo voters, in general, qualified to nominate in this category?”


    As you say, the facts speak for themselves. Schlock Mercenary only gets nominated because Howard Tayler advertises the eligible volume – I don’t know if this remains the case, but initially it was because the collected volume that would’ve been eligible for the award wasn’t due to be published until *after* the Hugos, so no-one would’ve even known to nominate it had he not advertised the fact.

    But my views on the category are well worn and well known, so I’ll leave it at that.

    Nick H.

    2 February 2014 at 20:06

  2. Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ “Saga” is pretty fantastic. Lovers from opposite sides of an interplanetary war, fleeing with their baby from bounty hunters, aided by the top half of a sort of ghost (she’s kind of a gory babysitter) and while this all sounds potentially hackneyed it’s a deeply human story about relationships and parenthood, and the world they’re roaming around in is some serious Brian K Vaughn weirdness. Volume 2 came out lateish last year and I’m looking forward to the next.

    ….oh, I see they won last year. They really deserved it. Nominate them again!

    John Layman and Rob Guillory’s “Chew” is some serious weirdness, about a guy who works for the FDA as a cibomancer, a kind of psychic with the power to learn the history of anything by eating it. Take that concept and run with it to basically every weird and gross place you think it might go, especially if the FDA is a vastly powerful government agency and chicken has been outlawed, and it just gets weirder. It’s some seriously strange and funny stuff.

    I’m glad to see that Fables (which stays generally well-written and engagingly readable, even if it’s well past its peak of greatness) and The Unwritten (which is also pretty fantastic) have been nominated. I think I would have given it to Fables earlier in the series, but these days not as much.

    But yeah, there’s no reason Schlock Mercenary should be anything but just another entry on Wikipedia’s “list of inexplicably popular webcomics.”


    3 February 2014 at 04:24

  3. I’ve got two nominations for Graphic Story at the moment:

    1) Prophet: Brothers. This is the far-future space opera that I prefer to Saga; it’s stranger and more impersonal.

    2) XCKD: Time. Because I think there was something quite special about following a story unfolding that slowly, particularly when it turns out to be (in part) about process that we usually think of as too slow for story.


    3 February 2014 at 11:24

  4. Nick: Not even one wafer-thin recommendation?

    Josh: Thanks for your recommendations. I’ve heard many good things about Saga and Chew so will explore. But I think Fables is part of the problem rather than solution. I read some of this when it was included in the Hugo Voter Pack last time I was a voter and, whilst not actively bad, I just can’t see how it can be one of the five best comics being published, let alone consistently year in, year out.

    Niall: Thanks, I will check out Prophet: Brothers and give a nomination to ‘Time’ for what it is doing


    3 February 2014 at 11:42

  5. Yeah, I agree– it seems like some of the nominees (like Fables) are books that have been around for a really long time and, while they are pretty good, either peaked a while ago and are coasting on that goodwill (even if they _do_ stay pretty good in general) or have just been around long enough that enough people have heard of them that they have something to vote for. I’m guessing Schlock Mercenary falls into the second category.

    It’s too bad they missed Spaceman for 2011: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaceman_(comics) That was some pretty solid SF, in a sort of Paolo Bacigalupi vein.

    Josh Brandt

    3 February 2014 at 18:05

  6. Well I did recommend Fraction and Zdarsky’s “Sex Criminals” for 2014 on Twitter. But that I didn’t recommend anything in my comment was that none of the best 2013 comics I read, off the top of my head, seemed SFnal enough; “Fatale” is Lovecraftian horror, “Fantastic Four”/”FF” is superhero, and the “Underwater Welder” is a cracking tale in the vein of something you might see on the Twilight Zone, but was a 2012 book.

    I wholeheartedly endorse Niall’s xkcd: Time suggestion, everyone should nominate that.

    Looking back at the rest of my 2013 reading:

    “Darth Vader and Son” was a 2012 book. There was a follow-up I haven’t read, “Vader’s Little Princess” which is eligible, though. It’s a fun idea, but it’s a cute joke with no depth to it, so I couldn’t recommend it for Hugo nomination.

    “X’ed Out” and “The Hive” by Charles Burns are 2010 and 2012 books respectively. They’re also the first two parts of a trilogy and don’t really stand alone. The third and final part “Sugar Skull” is due this fall, so I’d say perhaps keep an eye on the whole thing as a potential nomination for 2014.

    “Knights of Sidonia” and “Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin” both fall to the manga problem. Which is that they’re both good series, but the volume divisions are pretty arbitrary, which makes it hard to justify picking one under the ‘best graphic story’ definition. I might be tempted to go with “Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin”, but there are four eligible volumes, it’s hard to say which one to pick, and I honestly don’t know how much it’d appeal to people who aren’t already Gundam fans anyway. And in any case there’s the “wait until the end (vol 12, I think) and nominate the whole thing” option.

    “Hawkeye” isn’t SF. “Doubt” is horror. “Young Avengers: Style > Substance” is superhero and I didn’t think it was that good anyway. “Harlan Ellison’s 7 Against Chaos” was a weirdly old-fashioned re-telling of the seven samurai in space, and the ending disappointed.

    “Mind MGMT volume 1: The Manager” was published April 2013, but as the most recent issue collected in it was originally published October 2012, it falls through the screwy gap in the rules and isn’t eligible. “Mind MGMT volume 2: The Futurist” *is* eligible, but while volume 1 stood alone well, volume 2 builds on volume 1, so- actually, no, sod it, nominate volume 2 anyway. Kindt’s doing something special with Mind MGMT; it’s nominally a spy thriller, but he’s absolutely putting an SFnal twist on it in the way that that people involved in the story have abilities beyond normal human means. The way the story is structured, though, and the angle of Kindt’s telling – he uses the edges of the page to tell another story alongside the main one that also comments on the main story, for one – are what makes it not simply be a superhero story. It’s definitely SFnal, I’d say.

    And that’s pretty much my reading. I have, for various reasons, still being getting back in the saddle a bit with comics, so to speak.

    \Re: Fables, I think that (and any long-running series that doesn’t have a definite ending planned) is suffering from a similar problem to the manga problem. Which is that as an ongoing story, individual volumes satisfy fans, but a volume taken in isolation loses something – either it’s not telling a single story, or the story it’s telling relies on what’s come before. (Which reminds me, Mind MGMT has an ending planned and will finish with issue 36, IIRC.) I’m a bit behind with Fables, but I’ve been told that Willingham hit what would’ve been a perfect ending point, blazed past it, and there’s a general feeling that the series is kind of treading water now.

    Long comment, I know, sorry; but you did ask for it :)

    Nick H.

    3 February 2014 at 19:14

  7. I would second (third?) Matt Kindt’s MindMGMT. Does some wonderful things with the stretching of the medium. It is fairly SFnal, in the sense that there has long being a tradition of psychic powers in SF. Volume 2 has a lovely design feature where the cover of each issue is a feature of the following issue.

    There was a wonderful 8 page short by Brett Lewis and Cliff Chiang in the recent Vertigo anthology The Witching Hour, “Mars to Stay”. Depsite the title of the anthology it’s a psychological SF horror, unsurprisingly set on Mars.

    China Mieville’s “Dial H” conclused it’s run last year. It had a very Weird Fiction slant to superheroes that really elevated it about the average.

    Personally, I cannot recommend Brian K Vaughan’s work in general, it’s very formulaic in the sense that all of his work I’ve read follows a very strict structure. Here’s the bit where the character reveals a fascianting and yet somehow pertinent piece of trivia. Here’s the bit (about 2/3rds into the issue), where there is a twist, whether it is a plot point, or simply a character insight. Coming to the end of the issue? Well, you need a big single panel splash point and a shocking reveal.

    Stephen Shevlin

    7 February 2014 at 12:22

  8. […] comics, SF television is something I like in principle but rarely get a chance to consume and, when I do, […]

  9. […] Best Graphic Story […]

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