Friday, July 29, 2011

What I Would Have Nominated for the Hugos If I Weren't Such a Goober

I was lazy and disorganized this year, and didn't nominate for the Hugos. (If I had known then that I'd be spending this much time examining and criticizing the nominees, I would have done it differently.)

So this post is pointless -- more than most of mine, I mean. But it's what I would have nominated, if I'd been smarter and more thoughtful and less crazed at the beginning of this year.

Links are to my reviews, which detail much more fully the strengths of these books than I have room for here.

I'm particularly disappointed not to see Shades of Grey nominated; it's a big, biting novel that both creates an amazingly new and intricately imagined world and tells an intensely human story. (It was published right as 2009 turned into 2010, but I think there's enough wiggle room that it would have been a valid nominee -- and it would have been a damn good one.)

And Bitter Seeds is the best first novel I've read in about a decade: tough, clear-eyed, and deeply knowledgeable about both humanity and history. (The other three books, I expect, will already be well-known to the genre audience, so my special pleading is probably unnecessary.)

Graphic Novels:
Here I have a much longer list, in part because I read more graphic novels than I do SFF novels, and in part because I think the Hugo-nominating audience could use a wider view of what's out there. (And I'm arrogant enough to think that some of them might be reading this.)

First -- and, again, these are linked to my original, longer reviews -- are the books that I considered but didn't, in the end, make it to my shortlist. They all have definite strengths, and others might find them easily Hugo-quality.
  • The Good Neighbors: Kind by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh. It's the third in a contemporary fantasy series about a half-faerie teenage girl and how she deals with the two sides of her family. The trilogy gets a bit teen-drama at times, but the art is razor-sharp and Black is great at getting right into the minds of teens.
  • B.P.R.D.: King of Fear by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Guy Davis. The latest in a long-running supernatural thriller series; possibly not as accessible to new readers, but part of a grand, intricate, compelling world.
  • Castle Waiting, Vol. II by Linda Medley. Quiet, nice stories set in a kind of medieval never-never land; Linda Medley's stories are just lovely and sweet, but never too much so.
  • X'ed Out by Charles Burns. This loses points for being only a piece of story -- like so many similar "trade paperbacks" from the big comics publishers -- but it's a piece of the latest darkly enthralling story from master-of-the-unsettling Burns.
  • Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love by Chris Roberson & Shawn McManus. It's not deep, but I thought this was a great adventure story, and it's complete in itself, unlike the available bits of the parent book (Fables).
  • Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. It's somewhat high concept -- housepets, who secretly talk among themselves, solve supernatural problems -- but Thompson's art is utterly lovely and Dorkin isn't capable of ever being twee, so it all works much better than you'd expect.
  • The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier. Renier's art is amazing, particularly when he lets loose his really unlikely gigantic supernatural creatures late in the book, and his sad-sack kid protagonist is more interesting, and has more depth, than a thousand chipper can-do kids of lesser books.
  • Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso. It's probably a formal allegory -- and not a subtle one -- but Kelso is amazingly good at writing about people and their emotional entanglements in a society torn apart by a bad war -- and her drawing is just as good at expressing what her people are feeling. (I reviewed this for Realms of Fantasy, so, sadly, there's no link.)
In the end, though, these five books below are the ones I should have nominated, and, in some better world, I have to hope that I actually did so. Some are pretty obscure, but all are distinctive, powerful works of imagination that both entertain and provoke thought, and all are, in my humble opinion, entirely worthy of the Hugo award: 
  • Meanwhile by Jason Shiga. Published as a graphic novel for young readers, this complex, multiplex story of alternate worlds, branching timelines, and doomsdays is a brilliant, touching web of stories that demands to be re-read and completely understood in all of its amazing parts.
  • Werewolves of Montpelier by Jason. The latest deadpan slice-of-oddball-life story from the  master Norwegian cartoonist is just as skewed and thought-provoking as his best previous work, and that's very good indeed.
  • Trese: Mass Murders by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo. Yes, I know that it's probably impossible to find in North America, and that it could never have gotten on the ballot. But it's some of the very best urban fantasy I've ever seen, set in a distinctive culture I don't already know everything about, with wonderfully atmospheric art from Baldisimo.
  • BodyWorld by Dash Shaw. A real near-future SF story in comics form, without jokes or space opera or any of the usual "comics" trappings, something like a late '60s Robert Silverberg novel done in phantasmagorical full color.
  • Revolver by Matt Kindt. And this one is another excellent real SF story with echoes of a great prose writer: a Phildickian journey through two alternate worlds, one going along blandly and the other getting worse and worse in every possible way, through the eyes of one "normal" man who lives in both of them.
I didn't nominate any of those works, and so I now can't vote for them. (Then again, there's no reason to believe my single nomination would have lifted any of them to the final ballot.) Next year, though, I'm going to be more organized earlier, and both nominate for the Hugos and talk up my nominations here, for whatever good that does.

(Or, at least, I'm going to intend to do so. We'll see how it comes out in practice.)

1 comment:

Michael A. Burstein said...

I nominated Revolver. I was surprised it didn't end up on the ballot.

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