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February 28, 2008

Hugos, 2008
Posted by Patrick at 01:41 PM * 45 comments

Those of you who regularly nominate and/or vote in science fiction’s Hugo Awards probably don’t need to be reminded, yet again, that this year’s deadline for nominations is midnight PST at the end of this coming Saturday, March 1. Or that you’re eligible to nominate if you’re either a member of the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention in Denver, or were a member of last year’s convention in Japan. Or that if put it off until the last minute based on the idea that you can nominate online, you may not be able to get through.

So I won’t dwell on any of that. But I will mention that among the things I nominated was, in the “Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)” category, Paul Cornell’s two-part teleplay “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood,” a two-episode Doctor Who story which I found startlingly affecting. Within the constraints of cheesy, cornball old Doctor Who with all its implausibilities, and of sci-fi TV with its need for regular, formulaic fight scenes, Cornell manages a story about memory and mortality which is genuinely moving and, at times, scary as hell. If you get the opportunity, check it out.

(Yes, this marks, I believe, the first time I’ve ever expressed a strong opinion about the TV-episode Hugo category. How we change.)

Comments on Hugos, 2008:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 02:57 PM:

That Dr. Who episode was way creepy and full of neat stuff.

It's one of those shows that, if broadcast via time-transmitter into the timeslot of The Outer Limits in 1963 or The Twilight Zone a few years earlier, might cause viewers' heads to explode.

No one thing about it would be beyond the ken of someone watching, but having time travelers and memories hidden in a watch and animated scarecrows and precognitive schoolboys and mind-glomming aliens and a heroic black woman doctor dealing with turn-of-the-century prejudice . . . meme overload!

#2 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:04 PM:

That was a good one! It's the first Doctor Who episode that ever brought tears to my eyes.

#3 ::: Jim ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:13 PM:

I will have to watch that episode again. Maybe tonight, even!

#4 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Or that if put it off until the last minute based on the idea that you can nominate online, you may not be able to get through.

Can you expand on this? Has the site been crashing on people? And--as it appears--do they not have a way to email the ballot in case the webform isn't working? Or a way to simultaneously send the webform and an email, just in case one is broken.

To physically mail the form today I'd have to use priority mail to have some chance of it arriving on time, or overnight it to guarantee it. As that isn't a good option I'm going to have to rely on the electric intertubes.

Also, has anyone collected the websites reviewing last years fiction--one page linking to everyone who is making their top-X lists?

I'll be going over Tangent Online to remind me of what I read in my magazines last year, but beyond that...?

I'm especially interested in the mid-length categories, seeing as how the difference between finalist and 6th place can be as little as one vote out of eighteen. Since there's some chance I can make 5% of the difference, I'm trying to be thorough.

I'm a Reader, and I Vote.

#5 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:30 PM:

Every once in a While, Doctor Who pulls it together and offers up some fine writing. Girl in the Fireplace and Blink were two other notable episodes that managed to be very moving and have great sci-fi ideas bandying about.

#6 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:46 PM:

So, topic drift. I'm planning on attending my first WorldCon this year. I've done local cons before, but this would be the first one I couldn't drive to and drive back home at night.

I have the cash to stay in a non-exorbitant hotel, or I could stay with a friend. I've absorbed the general wisdom about making sure you rest and stay hydrated and bathed and the like in previous threads, but thought I'd solicit advice on the lodging issue before I go ahead and find some. So...thoughts?

(I haven't bought my ticket yet because I was waiting on a chunk of money that just came my way, and wasn't expecting to participate in nominations, anyway, as I'll be lucky to get a significant number of nominees read before the Con as it is.)

#7 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:23 PM:

I actually kinda liked "42", but I guess that's because it was the first Dr. Who I saw, and there he is, explaining at superspeeds about happy prime numbers as if everyone learns this stuff in elementary school... Aha! I thought, so that's the appeal!

Anyway, if you have a space left over after the Dr. Who nominations, might I suggest the Avatar: the Last Airbender episode "Day of Black Sun: the Eclipse"? It brings to a head character arcs that have been developing for the last 2.5 seasons; it's got neat stuff to say about morality, duty, and tactics; it was really well-done and entertaining...

#8 ::: Janice E. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:25 PM:

@Skwid: There are some issues with staying with a friend. Is he/she attending the con? If not, is your friend cool with your coming in at all hours? (That's assuming you like to go to parties.) If so, will you be dependent upon your friend for transportation, or will you have your own? Also, the convenience of staying at a nearby hotel cannot be overstated, especially for those of us who end up buying books by the pound. Then again, if you're not paying for a hotel, you have more money to buy books, or whatever else opens your wallet.

And you may think I'm being needlessly picky, but you buy a membership, not a ticket. The difference is more than semantic: it's a matter of attitude.

I'm sure many people here will be full of advice on how best to enjoy your first Worldcon, so I won't dish out any more.

#9 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:28 PM:

(Someone will explain to Skwid that we don't call them "tickets," and it might as well be me.)

Hey, Skwid! We call them "memberships" because what we aspire to be is a convention (people getting together on a relatively level playing field, to exchange conversation and views) rather than a show (a small group of people entertaining a large audience).

Of course, we have our subcultural celebrities anyway, but the aspiration reflected in "membership" versus "ticket" is a good one, I think.

(Many people in our subculture are knee-jerky and annoying about this; it's a shibboleth. I hope I've avoided that.)

#10 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Oh, and I'd stay in the hotel, if I were you.

#11 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:32 PM:

My apologies for the slip, and thanks for the reminder. I appreciate the difference, and am looking forward to making my contributions!

#12 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:42 PM:

I read "ticket" and thought "for the flight to the convention."

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:47 PM:

Speaking of great TV/SF... Has anybody else noticed the Google ad for NBC.com up there to the right?

Bee-dee-bee-deee... I'm going to be sick.

#14 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:55 PM:

Excellent choice for the nomination! I wish I was eligible to vote this year.

#15 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Abi, I'm pretty sure that was contributing to that word popping out. I don't fly all that often, either, so it's another prominent event in my head.

The person I'd be staying with, if I do that, wouldn't be going to the convention, but I wouldn't be relying on them for transportation and hours shouldn't be an issue.

OTOH, it would be absurd to say that I am anything but a party person, and there is much to be said for not having to get oneself about in an unfamiliar city in the wee hours.

#16 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:02 PM:

Skwid-

I have been to conventions where I was staying off site and commuting, and the experience just loses a lot in translation. If at all possible, stay in the main convention hotel, even if that means finding a roommate situation. Because if you're staying off campus there will come a moment at one in the morning when you're sitting on the carpet in someone's room, passing around a flastk of truly amazing single malt, and enjoying one of those rare, clever, trenchant, deep conversations that you never remember properly in the morning, and that will just be the wrong moment to realize that you have to get up and leave now or you'll miss the last train.

#17 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:14 PM:

For anyone who's interested, "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" was adapted from a mid-1990s tie-in novel by Paul Cornell, available from the BBC website as an ebook. As good as the TV episodes are, I like the novel better. (And the two versions of the story have some interesting philosophical differences.)

#18 ::: Anne KG Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:46 PM:

Not re: TV shows, but I'm not sure this has been mentioned here yet so I'll bring it up. The SF Editors wiki will hopefully be helpful to people pondering the question of what editors (and possibly also reminding them of what books) should be nominated for the Hugo Awards.

The presentation is not that dramatic, being a straightforward wiki, but Kathryn Cramer's taken a swing at it and Steven Silver's had a hand in as well, so the information is already much more fleshed out than it was a mere week ago (which is greatly appreciated). A few editors have emailed me books to post and I continue to encourage people to do that (to akgmurphy (at) gmail) if you'd rather not play in the wiki code yourself.

Fen who are not editors are also welcome to post information (from reliable sources, please). And I will note with delight (tickling my own interest in history) that the wiki has taken an historical turn; people are welcome to enter information for former sf editors as well as those currently active in the field.

#19 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:33 PM:

Another vote here for staying, if at all possible, in the main convention hotel -- because there will inevitably come a point, somewhere in the middle of it all, when your brain and/or your body reaches a state of overload and you want nothing more than to withdraw yourself from circulation for an hour or so. Under those circumstances, being able to go back to a room and close the door behind you beats the hell out of trying to find a quiet corner of the con suite.

#20 ::: Tina B ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:58 PM:

And then, in the category of other related materials, I'll likely nominate the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Souvenir Book, with its previously unpublished Heinlein bits, tributes from folks like John Scalzi, Allen Steele and many more, and its photos and background bits (including a photo of Heinlein's first wife). This publication looks like an upscale convention program book, and served that purpose at the Heinlein Centennial.

You can still acquire copies from the Heinlein Centennial web site, but not in time for nominating -- only becuase it's entertaining.

#21 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:09 PM:

Can you expand on this? Has the site been crashing on people?

Yes, and no. This is a traditional warning -- that waiting to the last minute assuming that the computer will be there may result in you *not* getting to nominate, should the computer not, in fact, be online. If it does die at 11PM PST, and not come back until after Midnight, well, online nominations will be closed.

The direct correlation is don't wait until 5PM to mail your nominations, because if the Post Office doesn't pick them up that day, your ballot won't count.

Besides, that's a beastly hour to be nominating. Wouldn't you rather have the sun shining as you fill out the form?

IOW, just because you can wait until 11PM PST, don't. Get it done now, and you won't have to worry. Better, should the server in fact be down tonight, you'll have another chance. We want you to nominate, we really do.

I was amused when the Hugo Administrator posted this, because I've seen that exact same warning since my undergraduate days. If you're betting on the mainframe being online the night before the assignment is due, you might just lose.

#22 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:38 PM:

Eric @21,

If it does die at 11PM PST, and not come back until after Midnight, well, online nominations will be closed.

I'm assuming, because I haven't seen it mentioned, that they don't have the system set up to receive emailed ballots i.e. a text file or a pdf for those who can edit pdfs. If that is the case it seems unfortunate: why web but not email?

I can't work on the ballot until Saturday because of time constraints--any earlier and I'll have to skip entire sections, which isn't much different from not sending it at all.

The direct correlation is don't wait until 5PM to mail your nominations....

I read the instructions as saying that the paper ballot must be received, not postmarked, by the 1st. Tomorrow would be the last day to mail if sent by $16 mail, if that's the case.

#23 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:12 PM:

Kathryn: It says right there on the ballot that we don't accept them by email. There are several reasons for this, one of which is that I expect to get *lots* of ballots in the next 48 hours. When you finish your form and hit send, it does, in fact, send me an email with your nominations. BUT. It sends them with a UNIFORM subject line and a UNIFORM format. I have spent a minimum of 4 hours/day for the last 2 weeks doing tallying. Ghu knows how much time it would take if they weren't in a uniform format and I had to go hunting through my inbox and spam filter to be sure I got them all.

Erik--I learned that trick from Jordin. You do not want to know what kind of fit he can throw when he waits til the last minute to submit his grant proposal and so has everyone else and the servers are overloaded. Also, Murphy rules.

The rest of you: You've got slightly more than 48 hours. Get busy!

MKK
Hugo Administrator
Denvention 3
Lack of prior planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on my part

#24 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Mary,
First, thanks for your work. I know how much work goes into analyzing a small survey, so a project like the full Hugo nominations must be immense.

It says right there on the ballot that we don't accept them by email

Oops, yes, there it is. I skipped the paper version because the voting membership was just bought within the past few days--paper mailing wasn't going to be an option.

I understand that an emailed pdf would cause a workload like faxing does, and that wouldn't be good.

so I'll have to take the risks of waiting until the last hour--although I'm obviously not the only person who'll be doing it this year.

But if I vote today I'll only be able to fill in Novels, where by Saturday I'll be able to properly fill in novellas through short stories. From looking at 2005 stats (and remembering earlier ones) it's the non-Novel categories where one vote is much more likely to make a difference.

#25 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:56 PM:

Well, I haven't seen the recommended Doctor Who's yet, but I like Stargate SG-1: Unending (the last episode) and Stargate Atlantis: Sunday, which was... unexpected.

They can be runners-up to the Doctor.

#26 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:54 AM:

You will, if you're watching the whole series, find that "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" sets up some things for later.

#27 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 06:49 AM:

Keith @ 5

Girl in the Fireplace and Blink were two other notable episodes

I agree; I liked both of those episodes immensely. Note that both of them required the writers to think very carefully about the natures of time and the Doctor; Blink in particular is one of the very few attempts at a time travel story in the movies or on TV that has been scrupulous about presenting the paradoxes without cheating or just blowing them off. There's a lesson here: follow your original premises out to necessary conclusions and your audience will go willingly with you, and don't cheat.

#28 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 06:58 AM:

Serge @ 13

Right now the upper righthand ad is showing an Awwww! moment; a dog, looks like a Black Labrador, with the most wistful expression you can imagine. Being primarily a dog person, I'm hooked.

#29 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:06 AM:

It's probably a bit late to job anyone's elbow, but I should just like to note that I nominated, among other things, SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE by Austin Grossman, just because it's insanely cool (and much better constructed than a first novel has any right to be).

#30 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:08 AM:

One question/speculation about the conclusion of The Family of Blood (which I'll ROT13 for those who haven't seen it yet): Fba (jub vf aneengvat ng guvf cbvag) vf yrsg nf n fpnerpebj, naq qrfpevorf uvzfrys nf "Ratynaq'f cebgrpgbe". Jnf guvf n ersrerapr gb gur Jbemry Tbzzvqtr punenpgre gung Wba Cregjrr yngre cynlrq?

#31 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:55 AM:

stefan@1:

That Dr. Who episode was way creepy and full of neat stuff.

It's one of those shows that, if broadcast via time-transmitter into the timeslot of The Outer Limits in 1963 or The Twilight Zone a few years earlier, might cause viewers' heads to explode.

No one thing about it would be beyond the ken of someone watching, but having time travelers and memories hidden in a watch and animated scarecrows and precognitive schoolboys and mind-glomming aliens and a heroic black woman doctor dealing with turn-of-the-century prejudice . . . meme overload!

Speaking of Martha Jones, she'll be in the episode of Torchwood that should be airing on BBC America tomorrow. She worked well in that one - lots of nice interaction between her and Captain Jack with references to their adventues together with the Doctor - but was underused in the following two IMO.

#32 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:33 AM:

Annnd just another reminder that revelations and reviews concerning upcoming Torchwood episodes (no matter how obvious or non-spoiler the poster things such observations may be) should be ROT-13'd for the benefit of those waiting on BBC America, those without BBC America access and waiting on the DVD, and those who have accessed the great tivo in the sky but are honor-bound to wait until Sunday to watch the current episodes with my gosh-darn slowpoke friends.

Thank you!

#33 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:34 AM:

s/things/thinks

sorry

#34 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:36 PM:

skwid - from experience at other kind of conferences, the best stuff often happens in the informal meetings between people. If you have to "go home", you miss out on a lot of those.

#35 ::: L. F. ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:49 PM:

Just a passing mention that the first episode of Pushing Daisies, "Pie-lette," was surprisingly dark yet candy-colored SF and probably the most unique use of the genre on network tv since Firefly.

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 28... Ah! I am relieved that the Buck Rogers ad has vamoosed. Ads for puppies or for Rod Serling's Night Gallery are much more to my liking. (Not that that show was great. It did have some good episodes though, like the one about the Nazi war criminal who's on the run but goes to a museum every day, hoping that he'll somehow be taken away into one painting's idyllic scenery.)

#37 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:03 PM:

"Pushing Daisies" is incredibly strange and wonderful. I believe the look-and-feel owes a lot to Amelie.

It's one of those shows that you'll look back on in 20 years and wonder if you had just imagined it all.

#38 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:28 PM:

I'm also still reading, hoping to get one more novel read after running a dance tonight and before falling asleep (scheduled reading time: 12:30am-3am) and then three or four short works squeezed in before I get out of bed. I could do my ballot now, but I may yet get another nominatable item or two. (Last night's book I think does not quite make the cut.)

definitely on my ballot:
Catherynne Valente's second Orphan's Tales, In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Nalo Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms (thanks again for the recc on Rixo, Fragano!)

Several other things in various categories, including Dr. Who episode "Blink" and New Voyages episode "World Enough and Time" in DPSF, are still under consideration.


#39 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:54 PM:

Thanks for the thoughts so far, folks.

One of my Denverite friends is also suggesting various alternate lodging ideas that would be only a slightly longer walk from the Con hotels but either less expensive or more comfortable for the same price; but I am unsure that after a day of con-going (and a night of Partying Like a Rock Squidâ„¢) that I'm going to want to walk for any significant length of time, in addition to the social advantages Joe mentions to staying in the primary hotels. I mean, the social experience is so much a part of what I am looking forward to at the Con, you know?

#40 ::: Tina B ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:15 PM:

Take MKK seriously. As soon as I got home from work today I did my nominating ballot. I really do not like server crashes, and am quite willing to be early and not get caught.

#41 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:49 PM:

Kathryn in Sunnyvale, she uses Mary Kay (and no, she doesn't wear pink).

#42 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:42 PM:

I just bought my membership, and I would like to find folks to share a room with (at a con hotel). Skwid (or anyone): if you are interested, drop me a line at "walters@" the domain in my name-link.

#43 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 05:31 AM:

Steve C@2: For me, that distinction goes to "Father's Day".

I nominated both "Blink" and "Human Nature", and threw in the season-closing two-parter just for the heck of it. Also "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?" from The Sarah Jane Adventures because I thought that one was kind of neat. I don't think it'll get onto the ballot, but it would be a pleasant surprise if it did.

#44 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 08:18 AM:

Tina B @ 22 is absolutely right about the beauty of the Heinlein Centennial program. I loved mine so much I couldn't bear to carry it around and thus it has no autographs from the event.

#45 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 09:12 AM:

I feel terribly guilty for being such a lousy fan that I couldn't nominate anything. I rarely go to cons so I never pick up the buzz on what's currently good or cool or both; I don't read the zines anymore, so I miss all the short stories until they're collected somewhere; I usually only pick up books in paperback, which means they're already a year old even if they weren't delayed in UK publication; I didn't see any new skiffy films last year; and I even managed to miss the Dr Who episodes mentioned above. Last year, I think I'd only read one novel and seen a couple of the TV episodes, and nothing else on the entire voting list was familiar to me, so I didn't vote.

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