Friday, April 2, 2010

Wild, uninformed Hugo speculation

I plan on reviewing the 2010 Hugo nominees (in the pertinent categories) throughout the summer then making my own picks and predictions before the awards are announced in early September. The nominees - chosen by attendees of the previous and next WorldCon - come out Sunday evening, and I will post them when they're announced, but today I'll share some of my random speculation about what will be in there. Then, we can see how terribly wrong I am.

There are only four categories that I feel qualified to guess at. Let's start with Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, since I think that's the most obvious.

There were five stand-out sf films this year: Avatar and District 9 both received Academy Award nominations for best picture - I think they're shoe-ins. Star Trek was a solid hit and comes from a current top contender for nerd king, JJ Abrams. Moon was an indie darling with an old-fashioned sf premise (it really felt like a '50s novella to me) and a great performance out of Sam Rockwell. Up was up to the typically high standards of Pixar, who have done well in this category of late.

There are a few possible surprises: Coraline was an excellent animated film that didn't get the attention it deserved, and it has the Gaiman factor on its side. I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the mix, though I couldn't predict which of those five it might replace.

2009 was a great year for film, and a lot of successful movies had fantastic elements. In most years, I'd throw Harry Potter, Fantastic Mr Fox, Where the Wild Things Are, and Inglorious Basterds into the mix, but the field is probably too crowded this time around.

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form is tougher.

I'd imagine an episode of Fringe could make the cut. The first season finale "There's More Than One of Everything" was quite good.

Overall, Dollhouse was a disappointment, at least coming from Whedon, but it got really great once it was cancelled. Any of the episodes from the series' final half-dozen could get a shot. I'd favor "Meet Jane Doe." The DVD-only season one finale "Epitaph One" might be an even stronger contender.

I think most were disappointed by last year's Doctor Who specials, but I thought "Waters of Mars" was a very strong one, and much darker than usual. The Children of Men season of Torchwood garnered great reviews, and I guess it could be nominated as a complete miniseries.

I'm still behind on Battlestar Galactica, but I wouldn't be surprised if the series' end did not get nominated. It was not well-received, and it came out a while ago. On the other hand, I'd like to see the pilot for its prequel, Caprica, get a nomination. It's a very different show and a nice change from the typical sf actioners.

Finally, Lost will probably get a nomination (or two). It had a lot of buzz going into its final season - at the same time people were making nominations. I don't watch Lost, so I have no idea which episodes will get the nod. It will be interesting if I have to cover this one.

Another show I don't watch, Stargate Universe, probably has a solid shot as well. I did watch the pilot, but it didn't grab me.

I'm probably missing something obvious from this category.

"Best Graphic Story" has its second year ever in 2010. I feel like I should be qualified to comment on this category, but I have a hard time remembering which trades came out when. I'd imagine we'll see the same mix of Vertigo books (the latest volume of Fables, for instance) and web comics as before, and the recent Marvel novel adaptations (the Enders series, Stephen King's Dark Tower and The Stand, Frank Baum's Oz) might get some attention.

I think Chew, from Image comics, is a shoe-in, and I'd also pick it to win the category in September. It's an inventive concept - a detective who has psychic taste powers in a world where chicken is illegal - with lots of sf quirks. In comic circles, it's gotten a lot of attention. It will be interesting to see how plugged into that world Hugo nominators are.

Mike Carey's The Unwritten might be an even better pick (I personally think it's a much better book), but I'm not sure it's eligible due to the later release of the first trade.

Finally, novel:

There are six books that came out in 2009 that I plan to read anyway:

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi
The City & The City by China Mieville
Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts

I think all six are legit contenders for this category, and it would make my life more convenient if five of them were nominated. That's pretty unlikely to happen though. Windup Girl has a lot of buzz about it, so I expect it to show up Sunday. I hope Yellow Blue Tibia is in there as well; it just sounds like a great ride. Grossman's The Magicians received a lot of mainstream attention, but sf/fantasy readers seem less keen on it.

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer has also received lots of attention, and it sounds like a great read. My wild guess would be Finch, Windup Girl, The City & The City, Boneshaker, and another novel I haven't mentioned, probably a fantasy novel.

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