Hugo Nominations (2017)

Here’s the list of books and movies that came out in 2017 and made it to the Hugo nominations this year. I’m giving little mini reviews here as I go through them. So far, I’ve been impressed with the quality of the nominations in each category. Sucks to try and rank them, but I’d rather have that problem than have bogus entries that only got in there because of some stupid antics.

Dramatic Presentation – Long (Movies)

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What’s not to love? It’s great seeing strong a woman finally getting her own standalone.

I was always lukewarm about Wonder Woman in the old series days. I guess I thought she was too girly (I was a serious tomboy). This Wonder Woman is definitely not girly, even when she has to wear a dress.

 

Thor: Ragnarok

Ok, I was so not expecting to watch Guardians of the Galaxy starring Thor and the residents of Asgard. The first two Thors had such tear jerky moments that I really loved. So right at the beginning, I’m like WTF is going on while laughing my butt off. This movie is a complete 180 from the earlier movies. I still miss their heartache-y feels, but OMG the comedy here is spot on. It doesn’t veer into the stupid and is equally as fun as Guardans 2, especially the antics between Thor and Loki (swoon!) and a surprise guest!

 

Blade Runner 2049

At first I was worried this would be some remake of the first one since those have been so popular lately. Instead, the story was pretty interesting and gives us a glimpse of what happened with Deker and Rachel from the first movie. I liked that it wasn’t predictable.

Minor annoyance is this felt like a setup for a sequel. I much preferred the more solid ending of the first.

 

Get Out

I totally missed this one and had never heard of it before the Hugo nominations. It starts off normal enough with the white girlfriend taking her black boyfriend to meet the family. And no, she didn’t tell them he was black because, “Why, does it matter?” Things start getting a bit creepy when we meet the all-black servants and their ‘off’ expressions. Then we get some strange behavior from the white relatives, but you can brush it off as overcompensating to prove they aren’t racist. Right? Yeah… This is a great thriller that slowly gets more messed up as the movie progresses.

 

 The Shape of Water

The movie pacing is a little slow, but is kept interesting by the main character who is mute, uses sign language to communicate, but has friends around her to interpret so we don’t have to watch a lot of subtitles. It also becomes a strength when she is able to teach the sea creature to communicate.

While the main story is predictable, there is an interesting side plot involving one of the scientists that builds its own tension and kept me interested.

It has one super ridiculous scene that got me to laugh at the implausibility, otherwise this story is pretty good.

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I’m grateful this one wasn’t another redo of the original. Though to be fair, I liked the first one just hated that it reused the same basic story only supersized everything. Although, after seeing this movie’s plot hole chasms, maybe a copy of Episode V would have been better.

I really wanted to love this movie. I thought it would be like the first one only without the copycat plot. Unfortunately, this movie had so much bad in it. The throne room fight which was built up to was going to be amazing. The actors spent many hours working on their fight skills. Yet, what came out on film was some of the worst choreography I’ve seen in a long time. That whole casino detour sucked the tension right out of the escalating chase. And as someone else mentioned in a review I read, they worried about the animals but the kids were on their own. Also, I will never get that meme of shirtless Kylo out of my mind. Thanks TLJ. Not!

At least the visuals were spectacular.

Dramatic Presentation – Short (TV episodes)

Black Mirror: USS Callister ( season 4, first episode) Found on Netflix

This is what you’d get if Twilight Zone and Star Trek: TOS had a baby. You do have to suspend disbelief with one aspect of the technology. But what you get after that is a story about a guy who is treated poorly, taking out his frustrations in game. Sounds like something many of us gamers do. But what happens in this story will make your hairs stand on end as it quickly transforms from ST parody to chilling cyber horror. I admit to being on the edge of my seat during the last section. And the ending… well, I’ll let you watch and decide for yourself.

 

Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (2017 Christmas special)

Capaldi’s last episode means regeneration! I always love the regeneration episodes because we see the Doctor doing some sort of awesome sacrifice. In this episode, we not only get a regeneration episode, we get a two Doctor episode for MAJOR WINNAGE!

The only episodes I love better than regeneration ones are the multiple Doctor ones. Seeing each version of the Doctor play off each other brings an elevated humor to the episode that you don’t get to see normally. So what a treat!

The actor who plays the first Doctor also played the role in the Hartnel special released a while ago, so I was excited to see him return. He nails the first Doctor’s mannerisms so well it’s scary how alike he seems. And yes, I’ve seen all the original Doctor Who, and this actor impresses the socks off me.

This story has some great humor and naturally hits the sadness at the end when the Doctor finally capitulates and lets go. Not all of the Capaldi episodes were great, but this one delivered.

 

The Good Place: Michael’s Gambit (season 1, episode 13)

So, I hadn’t watched this at all and started from the beginning. I thought it was really cute. Woman wakes up in the Good Place and she knows there’s been a mistake since she’s selfish and has done bad things. But would you really confess if you knew that would send you to the Bad Place? Nah, she didn’t either. However, she begs her ‘life mate’ to help her learn how to be good once he catches on that she’s a mistake.

I loved the humor with this one. Since she’s a  bad person, she causes problems in the perfect world around her. However, she tries hard to avoid being sent do the Bad Place. The last episode which was nominated has a really wicked surprise twist involved that takes the entire series up several notches. I can see why it was nominated. I really enjoyed season 1.

 

The Good Place: The Trolley Problem (season 2, episode 5)

TBD: I still need to watch season 2.

 

[Intro]
Our mothers were pregnant African women thrown overboard while crossing the Atlantic Ocean on slave ships. We were born breathing water as we did in the womb. We built our home on the sea floor, unaware of the two-legged surface dwellers until their world came to destroy ours. With cannons, they searched for oil beneath our cities. Their greed and recklessness forced our uprising. Tonight, we remember.  Lyrics

This is a scifi rap song about what happens when land dwellers dig too deep in the sea! There’s added scifi elements and sound effects that make this really cool. Unfortunately, it’s competing with TV episodes which are longer and more complex. Hopefully though, this will inspire the Hugo people to create a new category for shorter works like this one.

 

Star Trek: Discovery: Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad (season 1, episode 7)

You need to have a CBS subscription to watch this, which I refuse to do for one series. Maybe when they have Netflix-like variety. Until then, I won’t be watching this series and I can’t vote on it. Sad puppy. Hopefully, one day they will sell the complete series so people like me can finally binge watch it.

 

Best Series

The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells (Night Shade)
The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan (Tor US / Titan UK)
The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson (Tor US / Gollancz UK)
World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Voyager / Spectrum Literary Agency)

So the World of the Five Gods is really all the fun Penric’s Demon stories that are mostly standalones. Since there is no series page for these, I added the link to the first book on Amazon’s site so you can find a list of all the books that fall under this umbrella and get a reading order. I was able to find links to the series pages on Amazon for the other books.

I’m already a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, so I’ve read the Stormlight Archives and nominated it to the list. Some of the Penric stories have been nominated for a Hugo in the past and are delightful reads and I’m a fan of Seanan McGuire. The other three authors are new to me, so woot! I have some reading to do in July.

Best Novel

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

I enjoyed the other Ann Leckie books, also nominated for Hugos in prior years, and look forward to this one. I’ve read Scalzi and Jemisin, but not these books. So again, I have stuff to read in July!

Best Novella

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)
River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)

All Systems Red nudged its way into one of my favorite novellas. This story is about a murderbot who is on boring guard duty to a group of people evaluating a planet for potential exploitation. When glitches start happening, at first they are written off as shoddy company practices. But when the second expedition goes quiet and they investigate, things take a chilling turn. I really enjoyed this one because it’s from the POV of the murderbot. It’s an AI coupled with organics, giving it emotions and a desire to be able to act on its own. Funny thing is, the bot is uncomfortable around people and likes to remain hidden in its armor suit. I really loved this story and the ending leaves things open ended enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see more books about the murderbot’s exploits.

I’m happy to see another Binti book. Okorafor’s first Binti book won the Hugo and she might very well win this year’s as well. I loved the story and am quite happy to see such a skilled non-white author adding quality diversity into the science fiction universe. You should definitely read the first book before you read Binti: Home. Also, the second book ends on a cliffhanger, so you’ll want the third book. Fortunately, that one has been released, otherwise I’d have been real steamed! This story starts off with Binti deciding to go home so she can participate in her peoples’ pilgrimage and hopefully find her place in society. She’s dealing with anxiety from the attack in book 1 plus bouts of uncontrolled anger. But when she arrives home, nothing goes as planned and she finds out more about herself than she probably wanted to know. The ending leaves off with people in danger and she’s rushing to fix things.

And Then There Were (N-One) is an interesting story involving parallel dimensions. The main character meets hundreds of herself across multiple dimensions. In fact it’s a conference for just her(s). But when one of ‘her’ winds up dead, it is up to our main character to solve the murder since she’s the closest thing to an investigator any of ‘her’ has done. (Confused yet?!) But why would one of her want to kill another of her and what happens to the ‘her’ that did it? It’s not like there’s some parallel dimensional police jail. I liked this one because it explores the ideas of ‘what if’. What would I be if I had made that choice? Who would I be. Add to it a murder mystery and you have a very intriguing story.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a chilling tale of parental molding gone horribly, horribly wrong. Jack and Jill (yep, the singsong comes into play in the tale) are twins who are molded into a perfect frilly girl and a perfect tomboy. Neither are happy but they don’t know any better. Until one day they find a doorway leading to a dark fairy tale that takes this tale even darker. Love, murder, betrayal, mad scientists, and vampires all make an appearance. I’m not really sure which was more terrifying, the mental manipulation in this story or the physical savaging by the hungry hippos from River of Teeth who helpfully GRRM’d a few people!

I recently mentioned in a forum how weird I found it to read about a neutral gendered person using the ‘they/their’ pronoun because it was so rare to see and triggers my natural grammar spidey sense. So naturally, there are two novella’s that do this.

The first one, River of Teeth, is about a guy organizing a group to do a ‘caper’. You have a conwoman, an assassin, a demolitions expert, and the fastest gun in the US. Oh, and you have their hippos. Yes, that’s right. This is Louisiana if they had raised hippos to tame and use instead of horses when riding through the swampy region. Oh, and you have ferals which are part of the problem this group aims to solve. Along with a helping of revenge. But the enemy is wily and things don’t go to plan. And there’s a lot of brutal feral hippo savaging of flesh! Not for the faint of heart.

The second story with a neutral gendered person is The Black Tides of Heaven. In this story, kids grow up gender-neutral and when they reach the age of eighteen, they can choose their gender and start using the his/her pronouns. Magic is used to keep genderification at bay. (Is that even a word? :P) This tale is a little less brutal than the hungry hippo one (you knew I’d have to go there, right?!). But fraught with more mental manipulation by a ruler bent on using people, even her own children, to her will. Technology is being developed to try and break the control by the magic wielders and the whole thing is one big revolution waiting to happen. The ending to this one wasn’t as complete as I’d have liked, though I found out there’s a book 2.

Best Novelette

The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)
A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017)
Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017)
Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017)
Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017)

My favorite so far is “The Secret Life of Bots”. In it, humans are losing a war against an alien race. In a last, desperate effort to stop a spherical missile from using a jump gate, the skeleton crew digs up a mothballed vessel which has barely enough repair bots to get it running. The story starts off with Ship sending a very old bot to find and destroy a space bug/spider that is in danger of entering a secure section of the hold containing a secret weapon. Naturally, the thing winds up there and we find out what it’s for. In the meantime, the ship suffers too many problems and the humans aren’t going to be able to stop the sphere. That’s when the old bot uses it’s Inspiration module to come up with a solution. But there’s a reason this model was scrapped long ago…

The story was flat out cute. I loved how the bot was characterized and wished I had written this story! I included links to the stories, but they might not work past the July 31, 2018 nomination period.

A close second is “A Series of Steaks”. In this one, a meat forger is blackmailed into creating a supply of T-bones. With the help of her new assistant who handled blackmail before, she works up a plan for revenge.

The third one, “Small Changes over Long Periods of Time”, is what happens when a surgically altered transgender is bitten by a vampire. As you can imagine, that’s not a good thing! I liked this one because it’s one of those questions that I’d never think of, but when presented with it, I’m like of course that would be a bad thing.

Best Short Story

Carnival Nine,” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September 2017)
Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017)
The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (Tor.com, July 19, 2017)
Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017)

I really enjoyed “Carnival Nine” which is a story about windup dolls. One doll has many more turns of the key she can use per day, so she’s an active child, runs away to the carnival with a boy she falls for, and ends up having a special needs child. It was a touching story and I loved the wind up doll aspect. That added a unique feel to the story.