Monday, March 21, 2016

The 2016 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Publishing and Fan Categories

With ten days left before the Hugo nominating deadline, it's time to move swiftly forward to the publishing and fan categories.  What binds these categories together is that they are consistently the ones that I have the most trouble picking nominees in.  I don't even bother with the best editor categories, for reasons that have been enumerated too many times for me to repeat, and the two best artist categories are always difficult--I find myself relying very strongly on resources like the Hugo eligible art tumblrs, and recommendation lists like this one.  Still, there are some amazing nominees here, ones that I'd love to see on the ballot next month, and whose future work I'm really looking forward to.

Previous posts in this series:
Best Semiprozine:
  • GigaNotoSaurus - The model for this modest, unassuming magazine continues to work like gangbusters.  One story a month, many of them at a greater length than the more prolific online magazines manage, and often by names I'd never heard before but look forward to hearing again (I had my introductions to both Zen Cho and C.S.E. Cooney from GigaNotoSaurus).  It's an impressive project, and one that is long overdue for recognition.

  • Lackington's - The second year for this little magazine that could was just as impressive as the first.  Delivering short, strange, often experimental stories, usually clustered around a theme, it's a venue that isn't afraid to be a little off the beaten path, and whose contents is always rewarding.

  • Strange Horizons - In the end, there's no place like home.  Strange Horizons was the first online magazine I read, and wrote for, and it continues to strike a level of excellence that, in my admittedly biased view, is unmatched everywhere else.  Both its fiction and non-fiction were typically excellent this year.

  • Uncanny - A new magazine--it launched in late 2014--Uncanny nevertheless quickly established itself as a market to watch.  Already in its first year, it scored publications from some of the more exciting authors working in the field--people like Carmen Maria Machado, Sofia Samatar, and Catherynne M. Valente--all of which were strong, major pieces.  Definitely a venue to watch.
Best Fanzine:
  • File 770 - I'm not the first or second to say this, but Mike Glyer's work, collecting links and commentary during the months-long puppy kerfuffle (work that continues to this day) was both tireless and invaluable.  It transformed File 770 into the field's public square, a place for mostly amicable discussion between both sides of the dispute.  For that, it deserves recognition.

  • People of Color in European Art History - This ongoing project, though not technically genre-related, feels completely vital to the project of making genre more than just the playground for a certain Eurocentric worldview.  Its constant reminders that people of color have existed throughout history, and participated in European life at every level, are a necessary counterpoint to the prevailing attitude, especially in fantasy, that they should be relegated (if seen at all) to a restricted, restrictive set of roles.
Best Professional Artist:
  • Andrew Davidson - I first heard about Davidson this year, when I saw the series of woodcut illustrations he drew in 2013 for the Harry Potter novels (reissued this year in the new hardcover editions).  In 2015, he also illustrated the cover for Rachel Hartman's Shadow Scale, as well as that of the previous volume in the duology, Seraphina.

  • Likhain - Likhain draws fantastical art that draws from Filipino folk traditions.  In 2015, you probably saw her work on the cover of the e-book edition of Zen Cho's collection Spirits Abroad, and the rest of her work is equally vivid and eye-catching.

  • Victo Ngai - It's been three years since I first noticed Ngai's art on Tor.com, and at this point I simply can't believe that she hasn't been nominated in this category yet.  If there's another artist doing professional work for the genre magazines on this level, I'm not aware of them.  Often infused with Asian elements, Ngai's work is playful, fantastic, and occasionally even surreal.

  • Yuko Shimizu - My second year nominating this arresting, playful artist, who, like Ngai, combines Japanese illustration styles with fannish subject matter, as in this cover for a Batman comic.

  • J.H. Williams III - I'll have more to say about Williams's work when it come to the best graphic story category, but for now let's just say that The Sandman: Overture would not have worked without his panel-busting, almost overpowering artwork.  After nearly thirty years, the Sandman finally has art that suits the trippy, dreamlike nature of the character and his story.
Best Fan Artist:
  • Felicia Cano - Most of Cano's work seems to be semi-realistic fan art (such as her drawings of Harry Potter characters), but she also goes to slightly weirder places, as in these Cthulhu-esque drawings.

  • Jian Guo - I like Guo's recent series in which he dedicates a drawing to each of the planets in the solar system (plus Pluto).  Other recent work, such as this Batman vs. Superman poster, has an interesting style. 

  • Iguanamouth - This artist has a playful style and a fondness for lizards, and their most famous work is a series about unusual dragon hoards.  What's not to like?

  • Jose Sanchez - Sanchez draws mostly Star Wars fan art in a style that's a little off the beaten path--I like this drawing of C-3PO, or this TIE Fighter tribute.

  • Beth Spencer - I know Spencer mainly as one of the bloggers on Lawyers, Guns, and Money, and it was there that I became acquainted with her Alice-in-Wonderland-ish art.  In May she contributed a cover to Apex Magazine, but all of her work has a slipstreamy quality.
Best Fan Writer:
  • Nina Allan - Allan continues to be one of the smartest, most insightful reviewers currently working.  Her reviews for Strange Horizons never fail to convince me to read the books she raves about, and in her recent blogging about mystery novels she shows herself to be equally insightful about that genre as she is about science fiction.

  • Vajra Chandrasekera - Perhaps better known as a fiction writer, Chandrasekera is also a gifted essayist.  He's had several interesting pieces in Strange Horizons, including a new column and the review of Nnedi Okorafor's Binti that I already linked to.  And though those are 2016 publications, in 2015 he wrote one of the most insightful and necessary essays about science fiction and its love of the martial and warlike, one that feels particularly necessary in the face of the glut of superhero stories that thoughtless reiterate ideas rooted in American exceptionalism.

  • Erin Horáková - Erin's been writing great stuff for ages, but 2015 was a great year for her.  It's hard to know which of her Strange Horizons publications are the most delightful--her in-depth look at the animated miniseries Over the Garden Wall, which also examines how other reviewers approached this work?  Her caustic critique of the SF musical Urinetown?  Her fond but clear-eyed assessment of the children's show Yonderland?  Or perhaps her spirited argument that the movie Paddington is a work of genre fiction?  All are fantastic, and it's high time her work was rewarded.

  • Sofia Samatar - Despite being a full-time writer working on an amazing second novel in 2015, Sofia found time to continue producing excellent non-fiction.  Her essay about Carmen Maria Machado in the Los Angeles Review of Books is the best kind of close reading, one excellent writer walking us through the work of another.  And though it isn't strictly about genre, her essay for The New Inquiry, "Skin Feeling," should resonate with any person who wonders how our genre serves (and mis-serves) its POC readers and writers.

2 comments:

Ori Avtalion said...

Great artists!

The "Cthulhu-esque drawings" by Felicia Cano seem to have been for a prominent board game company, so these particular illustrations are more "professional" than "fan". If an artist is both a "fan" and a "professional", which category do they belong to? What if you like their fan/pro work more than the other? :)

Likhain also did the cover art for Zen Cho's The Terracotta Bride.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Ori:

You've asked THE question about the artist categories. There's increasing slippage between professional and fan artists, with lots of people - especially the ones who are good and whose work you'd want to nominate - doing work on either side of the divide. Another good example is the extremely popular Force Awakens/Calvin and Hobbes series. It's blatantly a work of fan-art, but the artist is Brian Kesinger, who works in comics. So where would you nominate him, if you wanted to?

There's a good summary of the issues plaguing the art categories at the Hugo Eligible Art tumblr. I think they're right that the categories are ripe for rethinking, but with the Hugos in their current state I doubt that's anyone's top priority.

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