Wednesday, September 29, 2010

1985 Locus Fantasy - JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE by Robert Heinlein

For old time’s sake, we get one last spin with Robert Anson Heinlein – as a fantasy winner, surprisingly.

The novel begins with Alex Hergensheimer, a Christian activist from an alternate America run by fundamentalists and frequented by zeppelins, without airplanes or television. Hergensheimer walks on hot coals while on a tropical cruise, faints, and wakes up in an alternate universe that is no more technically advanced but much more freewheeling and immodest than his own. He falls in love with a young pagan stewardess named Margrethe, and the two soon find themselves in yet another world, more like our own. Every time they shift worlds, they tend to lose all of their money (or it becomes useless), so most of the novel is spent following Alex and Margrethe as they try to hitchhike back to Kansas through various worlds, washing dishes and waiting tables along the way. Alex suspects that there may be a divine reason for his universe-hopping, and it turns out he’s right. Eventually, we get Heinlein’s irreverent take on heaven and hell, Satan and God.

I’ve mentioned before that Heinlein’s later work tended to be a bit sex-obsessed; Job is no exception, though maybe it’s a bit more modest than the average late-Heinlein. We hear a lot about Alex’s sexual adventures, his lust for Margrethe and his other dalliances. Heinlein has fun taking a Christian fundamentalist through these sexual adventures, but it’s not like his internal conflicts are that complex. Overall, the atmosphere is very light. Very very light. And yet, I didn’t find it all that funny. I think Heinlein hoped to shock readers into a few laughs with his irreverence, but it’s all pretty tame by today’s standards. Actually, the religion material is relatively tame by Mark Twain’s standards – Heinlein’s just more prurient.

So, the jokes don’t work, and Heinlein’s descriptions of Alex’s dishwashing and various lusts get very tedious. Yeah, I didn’t really like this novel at all. I wanted to say one last good bye to the one of the masters of the genre, but I should have remembered that his later material just doesn’t work. Another dimension-hopping Locus fantasy nominee from this year, Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman, is a far better novel.

Grade: C-

Monday, September 27, 2010

1985 Locus – THE INTEGRAL TREES by Larry Niven

In 1971, the first Locus award went to Larry Niven for his creation of an offbeat new type of science fiction world in Ringworld. He did the same thing with The Integral Trees, and, lo and behold, gets another Locus. Ringworld swept the awards though, Integral Trees just won the Locus.

The world of Integral Trees isn’t really a world at all, it’s actually a cloud of gas around a neutron star. In one area, called “the smoke ring” this gas gets fairly dense and is actually breathable. Various plants and birds live in the smoke ring, including the titular integral trees – giant plants that span the entire width of the smoke ring (winds bend each end in opposite directions, causing them to look like integration symbols from calculus). Humans colonized the smoke ring from a slower-than-light starship, and societies have developed both on the trees and on dense vegetation masses called “jungles.” Over hundreds of years, the humans have grown tall from low gravity and developed tribal societies that mimic the traditions of their colonizing forebears (The Scientist is a position like a shaman, for instance). In the novel, we follow one group of tree-dwellers as their home tree disintegrates and they are enslaved by jungle dwellers. It’s short and fast-paced, as the protagonists skip from one strange and harsh environment to another in a series of action sequences.

Whether this physical world is plausible or not, I’ll leave aside (it doesn’t feel plausible, but Niven is the type of hard sf author who certainly did the math). It’s the human world of Integral Tress that rings hollow to me. The societies are generic and dull (the jungle-dwellers are slavers, the tree-dwellers are noble savages), and the characters are too. The best-developed character is Clave, the group leader who is a fierce and loyal warrior, but a bit full of himself. The protagonist Gavving is a decent guy, and his love interest Minya is a tough girl. Most of the cast is completely interchangeable. I really did not care about any of them.

This should have been a short story that introduced Niven’s interesting world and moved on. I have a whole essay bouncing around in my head about how there should be more sf written as faux-non-fiction rather than the author trying to cobble together a story as a vehicle to introduce his "cool Idea" (maybe I'll actually write it out some day)*. This novel was the inspiration for that line of thinking.

* I have three words for anyone who might scoff that this would further lower the literary establishment's respect for speculative fiction: Jorge Luis Borges.

Grade: C-

Thursday, September 23, 2010

1985 Hugo, Philip K. Dick, 1984 Nebula - NEUROMANCER by William Gibson

I think it’s safe to say that William Gibson liked the movie Blade Runner. In the very influential Neuromancer, Gibson more-or-less single-handedly founds the genre of cyberpunk by merging the gritty world presented in that film with a sense of the coming importance of networked computers. The fact that the novel introduced the word "cyberspace" conveys some idea of its pervasive influence.

The novel begins in the dense, crime and technology-rich city of Chiba, Japan. It’s big, dark, and densely populated, like the LA of Blade Runner (we also get a dense megacity on the US east coast and orbital platforms as settings). The Cold War ended after a brief exchange that destroyed a chunk of Germany and led to heated technological warfare in the Soviet Union. Henry Case is a down-and-out drug addict and former hacker whose ability to connect to cyberspace was destroyed by a group of Russian mobsters. In a rapid fire series of events, he’s hired by a former special ops man named Armitage, a survivor of the war, his ability to connect to cyberspace is surgically restored, and his girlfriend is killed. Case grows closer to his fellow employee, a “street samurai” named Molly, as they steal an electronic reconstruction of a dead hacker called Flatline. Eventually the team relocates to space and attempts to accomplish their mission, which they discover involves the mega-corporation of Tessier-Ashpool and a sentient artificial intelligence called Wintermute.

The plot starts out as standard heist material, and then gets increasingly weird and byzantine. I started out enjoying the plot immensely, and I liked its conclusion, but for most of the novel it’s too obscure to really matter. The pacing is also less-than-perfect, as the novel is filled with frenetic action, but the actual story develops very slowly, then resolves itself in moments in the final chapters. But plot and pacing are almost beside the point here. As in Blade Running, the main attraction is the revolutionary setting – the mixture of dystopia, noir, and computers that we call cyberpunk. Gibson looks at the ecological dystopias of the ‘70s and basically asks, what if it’s that bad, but the world doesn’t end? People just go on living in a polluted, overcrowded, plutocratic world.

The other big attraction is Gibson’s prose. It’s lean and muscular, but full of evocative technological metaphors. The oft-cited first line is a great example: “the sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

I didn’t love Neuromancer – the characters felt-like noir cut-outs, and there are the aforementioned problems with the pacing – but I liked it quite a bit, and there’s no denying the strengths of Gibson’s craft, and I found the world absolutely compelling. It’s easy to see how this work launched a new subgenre.

Grade: A-

Sunday, September 19, 2010

1984 World Fantasy Award - THE DRAGON WAITING by John Ford

John Ford (who passed away a few years ago) had a lot of admirers. The likes of Neil Gaiman are effusive in their praise of his work, and even moreso in their praise of the man himself as a mentor and a friend. For all those reasons I really wanted and expected to like this book. The book itself made me want to like it as well – every page is full of interesting ideas and nice little character moments, and Ford offers some of the most pleasantly readable prose this side of Robert Heinlein. And yet…

The Dragon Waiting is a historical fantasy: the world is like our own past - in the late 15th century in this case - but there have been a few major changes. Magic exists, for one, and wizards, dragons, and vampires all play major roles here. Also, Christianity was purged from the Roman Empire after Emperor Constantine’s conversion – as a result, most Europeans still worship the pagan gods of Rome. And, the Empire itself has endured, seated in Byzantium (which avoids two name changes, Constantinople and Istanbul, in the process). Ford introduces a cast that includes an English wizard, a female doctor linked to the Medicis, a Byzantine prince, and a German vampire, and puts them through a series of small adventures (separately then together) which eventually bring them to the court of Richard III. Richard’s battle with the would-be Henry VII plays out far differently in our world and involves powerful magical forces and the fate of Byzantine power in northern Europe.

As I said in the opening, from moment to moment, it’s quite clever and exciting. The characters and plot are interesting, and Ford has a lot to say about his alternate historical world and the magic therein. And yet, the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts. I think the biggest problem is that the novel jumps from character to character early and then from storyline to storyline later on. The central plot takes some time to become clear, and I never felt like I had a strong narrative thread to grab onto that would pull me through all the details. In the end, I got overwhelmed in the details instead. I’m a historian, but even I don’t care as much as Ford about the intricate politics of Richard III’s career. Ford clearly knows this world, but it never came as alive for me as Stephenson’s Baroque cycle (reviews forthcoming in 2011ish!) or Moorcock’s Gloriana. And that’s a shame, because it’s evident that Ford had a lot to offer.

Grade: B-

Friday, September 17, 2010

1984 Saturn - THE TERMINATOR

Yes, there was a time when James Cameron had to work with budgets under $200 million, and his films generally made less than a billion dollars. The Terminator had a relatively low budget of $6.5 million, and there are times when it feels like a low rent action flick…I think mostly because so many low rent action flicks (starring the likes of Dolphe Lundgren and Jean Claude Van Damme) have imitated it.

The plot, for those who are somehow unaware, follows a struggling young waitress in LA named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who is being chased by two naked men from the future. One of them is a steroid-sculpted cold-blooded killer and future governor (Arnold Schwarzeneggar). The other is a scruffy dude named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). Schwarzeneggar kills a whole mess of people, but Reese protects Connor and eventually tells her that he is from a war-torn future that only her womb can save. But that damn Terminator keeps coming!

‘70s films were obsessed with overpopulation and ecological disasters. ‘80s films were obsessed with the threat of humanoid robots. This seems kind of bizarre, considering that a quarter century later we still can’t really make a robot that can walk on two-feet or understand human language the way that we do, but I guess robots were changing the world economy in the ‘80s – propelling Japan to near superpower status and speeding the erosion of America’s industrial base. I don’t remember people really talking about it at the time (and mechanization seemed to be a much more explicit worry of ‘50s and ‘60s sf), but maybe Blade Runner and The Terminator are playing on these sub-conscious fears. Maybe an even more likely explanation is that this is a manifestation of anxiety about the growing importance of computers.

Anyway, the film is pretty thrilling; it’s really more of a horror film than an action film. I think the low-budget feel works to the film’s advantage, though the big ending has aged pretty poorly (stop-motion fx!). The scenes in the future are among the best, and I wish that Cameron had made a film about the resistance in the '90s instead of McG's in the '00s. The film even manages to say some interest things about destiny (and creates a nice time loop). The score is terrible though – the signature rhythm is great and unforgettable, but the rest is awful synthesizer music (just try not to laugh at the music that accompanies Linda Hamilton’s first appearance).

Cameron’s Avatar has been accused of ripping off a whole host of stories, films, comic books, concept albums, performance art pieces, dream journals, etc. He actually set a precedent for this here in his first real film. Harlan Ellison sued, claiming that the story ripped off two of his Outer Limits episodes: “Soldier” and “Demon with a Glass Hand,” and now all releases say “acknowledging the works of Harlan Ellison” at the beginning of the end credits.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

1984 Campbell – CITADEL OF THE AUTARCH by Gene Wolfe

I have mixed feelings about this, the final volume of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. I’ve been a fan of the work throughout the first three volumes of its run, but the concluding entry is definitely the weakest.

In Citadel of the Autarch, Severian goes off to war and then chances into his destiny, which has implications for all of Urth. The first third is the strongest, as Severian finds himself recuperating in a military camp and becomes the judge of a story contest. The stories are all wonderfully told, and there’s a brilliant conceit involving a captured enemy combatant’s story; the people of Ascians can only speak in memorized passages from their holy text, but we still get his story in translation. In the second third of the novel, Severian goes to war, and we learn that….wait for it….war is hell. It’s a message that I approve of, of course, but it’s the most generic part of this extremely original series.

I won’t spoil the conclusion, even though it’s revealed early in the series, but it does occur through a series of random events, and it puts the character in an entirely different place than he’s been. I can see various reasons for Wolfe to do things this way, but it was a bit unsatisfying because a) it is such a chance occurrence and b) it takes Severian away from the very personal story that has always been at the series’ heart. The Book of the New Sun has been a sort of anti-quest, and the big finish didn’t quite seem an appropriate conclusion to Severian’s wanderings.

Still, this was a solid entry and what has been a fantastic and influential series.

Grade: A-

Sunday, September 12, 2010

1984 Locus Fantasy - THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Fantasy writer Marion Zimmer Bradley caused a pretty big stir with this feminist retelling of Arthurian legend. I think most of my female friends and many of my male friends read it in high school (I did too…though it took me a long time).

Bradley has two connected agendas here. The first is to place King Arthur in a particular historical context. Most popular retellings these days seem to put Arthur in the High Middle Ages. To be fair, this was when Arthur was at the height of his popularity and romances about the famous Guinevere/Lancelot/Arthur love triangle abounded. But I suspect it’s actually because people want knights in shining armor. If Arthur lived (which is certainly debatable) it was in the 6th century – 500 years earlier. By years, it’s the equivalent of putting Crusaders in Civil War garb and giving them rifles. Anyway, Bradley sets this firmly in an earlier time period: the shadow of the Roman occupation still hangs over Britain, and Saxons are invading. She also highlights the conflicts between Britain’s pagans and the increasing Christian presence in the isles, which is a very intriguing and dramatic historical moment that doesn’t get much attention in fiction.

Her second, and more prominent, agenda, is telling the Arthurian legend from a female, and explicitly feminist, point of view. The action centers on Arthur’s sister Morgaine (who you might know better as Morgan le Fay). She’s usually rendered as an evil sorceress, but here she is a priestess and the protector of the mystical island of Avalon. The beautiful Gwenhwyfar (er…Guinevere) also gets a lot of attention; she encourages Arthur to convert to Christianity, even while her own choices are often circumscribed by her position as queen. We also get passages from Arthur’s mother Igraine and her sister, the Lady of the Lake (it turns out that everyone in this book is related – which means there’s incest galore!)

The plot is largely familiar – Excalibur, the grail quest, Mordred, Merlin, and Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar’s affair all figure in, though with unique spins. Everything boils down to the battle between patriarchal and repressive Christianity, and spiritual and feminist paganism. The magic is muted and relates only to the vague powers and spells of the priestesses of Avalon.

The book runs a bit long (thus my struggles in high school), and the dialogue is of the stilted-and-bone-dry variety that can drive me crazy in so many fantasy novels, but this is otherwise a very well-written novel, and the character of Morgaine is fantastically well-drawn. You can tell that Bradley was passionate about this heroine, and I really did grow to love her. The setting and central conflict are also absolutely fascinating. I wouldn’t put this at the top of my too-read list, but it’s certainly a novel that I would recommend to fans of fantasy, and especially to fans of Arthurian legend. But, they've probably all already read and loved it.

Grade: A-

Thursday, September 9, 2010

1984 Hugo for Dramatic Presentation, 1983 Saturn – RETURN OF THE JEDI

It’s become fashionable in these days, after the disasters that were the Star Wars prequels, to say that the trouble all began in 1983 with Return of the Jedi and the damn Ewoks. Maybe it’s because I was so young at the time, maybe it’s because Return of the Jedi is the first film I remember seeing in the theater (unless you count the brief, half-remembered trauma of ET), but the Ewoks have never bothered me, and I actually think this is a strong film.

We begin by getting all of the main characters back together after the splintering events of Empire, as everyone goes to great lengths to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt. Luke is finally as cool as the series had always promised he’d be, and everyone works together quite nicely in a fun (though perhaps too long-running) rescue scene. From there, everything builds to a very thrilling tri-part conclusion. We get a strong light-saber battle between Luke and Vader (though not as strong as Empire’s brutal face off). We get the best space combat of the trilogy, as the Rebel fleet attacks a new Death Star. And, we get an Ewoks versus Imperial fight on the ground. The latter sequences are the most frequently criticized, and yeah, it probably is a bit sillier than Star Wars fans would’ve liked, but anyone who thinks a guerilla insurgent action against a better armed foe with superior technology couldn’t succeed doesn’t know much about history. I also think that Darth Vader’s conversion provided for a fascinating ending to the series.

So, it’s not as good as Empire. I think it’s debatable whether or not it’s as good as the first movie (I think Star Wars benefits a lot from the freshness and simplicity of its story – virtues that a third film is unlikely to have almost by definition). But, it is still a strong film and a fitting conclusion. If we’ve learned anything from the prequels, it should be that things could have been so much worse.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2010 Hugo statistics

There are some breakdowns of the Hugo voting and nominating over here.

Not only did I completely blow it on Stross's "Palimpsest," but I picked some real losers. Morrow's Shambling Toward Hiroshima finished last as did Avatar. I stand by Shambling, but the people have spoken, and I now accept that Avatar is a bad film. Captain Britain came in fourth in its five-nominee category.

Different strokes!

As for nominations, my three not-a-Hugo nominees came in 10th and 23rd (tie). www:Wake received the third most nominations by a healthy margin and garnered a lot of votes in the final tallies. I'm already mentally preparing myself to read www:Watch next year. I wonder if Mieville's and Bacigalupi's new novels are shoe-ins as well...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

2010 Hugo Winners

  • Best Novel: TIE: The City & The City, China MiĆ©ville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK); The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
  • Best Novella: “Palimpsest”, Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace, Orbit)
  • Best Novelette: “The Island”, Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos)
  • Best Short Story: “Bridesicle”, Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)
  • Best Related Book: This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”), Jack Vance (Subterranean)
  • Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the StormWritten by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars” Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)
  • Best Editor Short Form: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
  • Best Editor Long Form: Ellen Datlow
  • Best Professional Artist: Shaun Tan
  • Best Semiprozine: Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan
  • Best Fan Writer: Frederik Pohl
  • Best Fanzine: StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith
  • Best Fan Artist: Brad W. Foster
  • John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Seanan McGuire

Well, I guess I wasn't the only one who had trouble deciding between Mieville and Bacigalupi - the collective consciousness of Hugo voters had the same issue. This is only the third tie in Hugo history, but I'm pretty happy with the results this time (unlike in 1966).

I called "Waters of Mars," and I'm happy there. I was close on Moon, and I'm not unhappy about that win. I'll stop trying to defend Avatar now (it did already win a Saturn, which is probably more it's speed).

I was off on Graphic Story quite a bit. I know the Foglios are widely beloved, but I do wonder if this is just going to be the Girl Genius category in perpetuity.

I was also way off on my personal preferences for the short fiction categories. "Palimpsest" really surprised me, as did "The Island" to a lesser extent. They both had great ideas though. I'm just a bit sorry that "Eros Philia Agape" didn't win. "Bridesicle" I really did like in a category with three clear stand-outs. Well, I've said before that I've never been that in to short fiction - I guess my taste in that realm is a bit different than most.

I also want to mention that I'm glad StarShipSofa and Clarkesworld won the zine categories. The former is a really nice podcast, and both provided audio readings of several of the short fiction selections, which I mentioned has become my favorite way to consume shorter stories.

Overall, some surprises, but I very nice set of winners overall that does represent the strengths and variety of speculative fiction.

Happy Labor Day weekend for those in the States. The blog will be back to regularly scheduled, Hugo-reviewing activities from Friday onward.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

2010 Hugo Nominees - Novel round-up

Finally, the big one. This actually seems like a good time to lay out what I consider to be the qualifications for the Best Novel Hugo. I’ve now read 49 of the previous winners, so I think I have a solid idea of what works (and what does not) for this award. As I see it, there are three things that make a great Hugo winner:

  1. Ideas. A Hugo winner should make you think about society, technology, human character, etc.
  2. A compelling world. What really defines speculative fiction for me is that it creates a new setting as a way to examine or escape our own. Whether that’s alternate history, a fantasy realm, a city with unusual culture and politics, a future dystopia, or an interstellar spaceship doesn’t matter.
  3. Literary quality. A Hugo winner should be solid literature that can stand up next to successful mainstream novels. You shouldn’t have to make excuses for the prose or the plot.

Now, with the disclaimers that these are my personal qualifications and my own opinions of the books, I think only two of this year’s nominees really meet all three of these criteria. Actually, looking back, two is probably a good number, and I'd add that three more are near misses, so I think this was a good year for the category.

In ascending order:

Wake has a lot of good ideas, but they’re just barely connected by anything I’d call a novel, and the world is really just our own (and Sawyer doesn’t even give us a particularly nuanced or interesting take on our world).

I think Julian Comstock comes close on all three points but misses the mark every time. It’s more an attack on the religious right than a book that really made me think. The world is detailed, but too much like the past. And, Wilson successfully evokes boys’ adventure novels, but goes a little too far in aping a style that can by cloying.

Boneshaker also feels like a youthful adventure novel, but is more successful – enough so that I think it could meet the test in point #3. I also really enjoyed the world that Priest created. It wasn’t so much a novel of ideas though, as the world existed more to satisfy aesthetic qualities.

Palimpsest gives us a fascinating world and rich language, but it’s more of a character piece than a novel of ideas, and I’d argue that it’s really more about Valente’s prose than even the characters.

So, that leaves Bacigalupi and Mieville as the two successes. I do think these are the top two contenders, as they’ve deservingly dominated the other sf awards. This was the toughest voting decision I faced.

Both novels have a lot to say about the world we live in, but the issues of globalization and energy are so central to what’s happening to us right now, and Bacigalupi’s prose, characters, and story cut so remarkably to the heart of them, that I had to vote for Nebula-winner Windup Girl in the end.

However, The City & The City is also a great novel, and I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that it actually wins the category this weekend.

Anyway, thanks for reading all of this. If you’re out there reading and you have suggestions for how I should cover the Hugos next year, let me know.

I’ll have my thoughts on the actual winners on Sunday or Monday, then we go back to the Monday/Friday schedule and it's all 80s, all the time!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2010 Hugo Nominees - Dramatic Presentations round-up

Short Form

Since its inception in 2003, this category has been pretty thoroughly dominated by Dr. Who and Joss Whedon. That makes sense; those are both things that I like very much. Still, it’d be nice if I could vote for Flashforward, the only nominee not Whedon or Time Lord related. Flashforward’s pilot is a compelling hour of television. It was good enough that it got me to watch an entire season that was often not good at all. Still, so much of what made that pilot good was its promise – its mysteries and possibilities. So, the fact that that promise was unfulfilled is a big strike against the series’ beginning.

We can also throw out the first two Dr. Who specials, which simply weren’t up to the high standards of the new version of the show. That makes this a contest between the post-apocalyptic first season finale of Dollhouse and the third Dr. Who special, “The Waters if Mars.” It’s a really tough choice. “Epitaph One” is the opposite of Flashforward – it takes a show with a deficit of promise and explores what it’s really about while upping the ante dramatically. It’s also a neat little story in itself, with its own mysteries and a great framing device for flashbacks. In the end, I still had to go with "Waters of Mars," which was epic and dark.

  1. “Waters of Mars” Doctor Who
  2. “Epitaph One” Dollhouse
  3. Flashforward
  4. No Award
  5. “The Next Doctor” Doctor Who
  6. “Planet of the Dead” Doctor Who

As for a prediction: you’d think Doctor Who might split the vote, but one of these episodes is so far ahead of the others, that I think "Waters of Mars" should still pull it off.

As for Long Form, I had some problems with Star Trek’s clunky, silly plot and District 9’s confused message and splattering gore. I liked both films, but I have no problem putting them out of the running. Moon keeps growing on me, but it just feels more like a vehicle for Sam Rockwell than a perfect little sf film in its own right. That leaves Up and Avatar. I probably liked Up more as a film, and it elicited emotional responses from me that Avatar didn’t even come close to…but Avatar is such a classic piece of science fiction, warts and all, that I had to give it my vote. It's a very strong year overall though.

  1. Avatar
  2. Up
  3. Moon
  4. District 9
  5. Star Trek

But, as I said before, I think there is a real backlash against Avatar. I think it’s really a race between the indie alternatives of Moon and District 9. I think District 9 will win in the end.