Tag Archives: longlist

Hugo Recommendations: Best Dramatic Presentations

The Hugo Awards’ Best Dramatic Long Form and Short Form categories are probably the ones that I’m most ambivalent about, to be honest. However, they are also the categories in which I think I’ve probably consumed the highest proportion of eligible work. When I look back over the last year, I have to admit that I’ve watched an awful lot of television, and I’ve seen all of the Hugo-eligible films that I’m likely to enjoy. It’s probably too late for most folks to actually sit and watch however many hours of material I’m about to recommend, but here’s what I think was the best of the genre film and television I watched in 2015.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
  • Crimson Peak
    There is almost no way this is going to even make the shortlist for the Hugo, but it might be my favorite film of last year. It’s got gorgeous costumes, Tom Hiddleston’s butt, and a badass knife fight between two women wearing big billowing nightgowns and ridiculously long wigs in the snow.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
    This two-hour long car chase with ecofeminist messaging is also near the top of my list.
  • Advantageous
    This film made the rounds of some festivals and stuff, but it never got a wide release. Instead, it went straight to Netflix, where it’s still available to watch. It’s a beautiful meditation on aging, motherhood, and the sacrifices women make in order to survive in late-stage capitalism and secure a future for their children.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    It’s just like A New Hope, but better. I wasn’t that excited about a new Star Wars movie, to be honest, but this one was surprisingly wonderful and an objectively good film.
  • The Martian
    The Martian isn’t as good as the book that it’s based on, but it’s one of the better film adaptations I’ve seen in recent years. Matt Damon is tolerable in the lead role, and the supporting cast is excellent. I also have a deep appreciation for optimistic humanist science fiction, and this example of it stands out in the best way in a genre landscape that has been trending towards dark and gritty for at least a solid decade now.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
    No television adaptation could ever be as marvelous as Susanna Clarke’s novel, but this one comes close.
  • Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Season One)
    By far the best Marvel adaptation to date, Jessica Jones is a feminist masterpiece.
  • Into the Badlands (Season One)
    I often feel as if no one else loved this show the way it deserves to be loved, but it just got officially renewed for a second season. The first season starts off a little rocky, but by the end of its six episode run, it gets great. It also delivers some of the finest martial arts choreography ever to appear on the small screen.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
  • Doctor Who “The Husbands of River Song”
    My interest in Doctor Who has been pretty steadily waning since Steven Moffat took over the show, but I loved last year’s Christmas Special so much. It was a perfect send-off for River Song. Moffat created her and ruined her, but in this episode he mostly managed to finally do right by her. That final scene at the Singing Towers of Darillium was swoon-worthy, for sure.
  • Marvel’s Jessica Jones “AKA Smile”
    I’m thinking about nominating the whole show, but if I had to pick a favorite episode, it’s the final one of the season. It’s amazing and delivers on every promise of the episodes leading up to it.
  • Minority Report “American Dream”
    I don’t think this show was overall good enough to be nominated as a whole, no matter how much I kind of loved it in spite of its many flaws. However, this is the episode that came closest to actually realizing the full potential of what this series should have been all along.
  • The Expanse “Dulcinea”
    By far the best sci-fi show on television since Battlestar Galactica, and this episode started the series of strongly.
  • iZombie “Dead Rat, Live Rat, Brown Rat, White Rat”
    The penultimate episode of season one is no longer the best episode of iZombie to date, but it is the best episode that is Hugo-eligible this year.
  • Supergirl “Human for a Day”
    I really like this show, but I’m not certain if any episode is strong enough on its own to merit a rocket. This one comes close, though.
  • Into the Badlands “Hand of Five Poisons”
    This show is definitely a grower, not a shower, and the final episode in its short run is definitely the apex of the first season’s quality. All the shit gets real in this episode, and it’s excellent enough that I can even forgive for ending on a cliffhanger before the show even got a second season confirmed.

Hugo Recommendations: Novel and Novella

I’m still working through some eleventh hour reading of short stories and novelettes from last year, so those recommendations will be coming later, but let’s kick things off with my short-ish lists (not my final ballot, which I haven’t 100% decided on, yet) for the big one—Best Novel—and for Best Novella, which is going to be interesting this year I think, with Tor.com publishing so many novella-length works.

Best Novel
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
    This book is just incredible. Hands down my favorite book of 2015, it’s big and beautiful and simply marvelous on the technical level. It’s definitely Jemisin’s best book to date, and it stands head and shoulders above most of the competition.
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
    I feel like almost no one loved this book as much as I did, probably because Liu’s combination of Eastern and Western influences make this novel a kind of strange read for folks who are used to more Tolkien-inspired, rather than actual epic-inspired, epic fantasy. I expect this title to be a long shot for making the final shortlist, but I could be wrong.
  • Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen
    I only read Barsk a couple weeks ago, and it’s the last 2015 novel I’m likely to read unless something that I haven’t read already makes the finalist list for the Hugos. I’m so glad I did. It’s a really excellent bit of science fantasy, and I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like it. 2015 was chock full of highly original SFF, and this title was among the most inventive books of the year.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
    There’s very little new under the sun when it comes to reimagined fairy tales, but Naomi Novik found some of it and put it into this gorgeous standalone novel.
  • Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
    I will read literally anything Cat Valente publishes, and Radiance had me at “decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery” and never let me go. It’s probably a little too experimental/literary for everyone to find it as delightfully fun as I did, but I’d love to see it get a Hugo nod, even if it doesn’t win.
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
    I’m still not in love with the ending of this book, but it’s one of the most technically perfect books I’ve ever read. The whole thing just runs like clockwork, and it’s a masterpiece of story engineering.
  • The Just City and/or The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton
    I adored both of these, but I’d obviously have to pick just one if I decided to put one on my ballot. Probably it would be The Just City, though. You’ve got to love a book whose climax is a debate between Sokrates and Athena, and things got a little weird at the end of The Philosopher Kings.

I also loved The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy, but both of those are sequels to books that have already won, so I’d prefer to see the love spread around. Plus, the translation on The Dark Forest just wasn’t up to the same standard as that of The Three-Body Problem, and as much as I liked Ancillary Mercy, it wasn’t as good as Ancillary Justice.

Best Novella
  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky
    I would never have guessed that this would be my favorite novella of 2015, but it is. It’s basically like a Tarantino flick with cute little forest animals—a wild ride from start to finish.
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
    I actually didn’t love this one when I first read it, but it’s grown on me since. The more I think about it, the better I think it is.
  • Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
    This was published as a novella, but it may be too long to technically fit into the category for award purposes. Either way, it’s a superbly original bit of sword and sorcery-ish stuff.
  • The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik
    I only got around to this title this week, but it’s another one that I’m glad I squeezed in before I sent in my ballot. It’s a great little book about identity and immigration and integrating the past with the future.
  • The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard
    If you read and enjoyed On a Red Station Drifting, you will love this return to that same universe. Writing in this setting is what Aliette de Bodard does best, by far.
  • Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente
    Zelda Fitzgerald meets “Twelve Dancing Princesses” meets something wiser and darker and more postmodern. Valente’s command of words is always impressive, and like everything else she writes, Speak Easy is gorgeous. Also, have you seen that cover? This book is the whole package.