Hugos and Moving On

So the 2013 Hugo Ceremony was held about 10 days ago. I didn’t end up watching as by the time the stream actually started it was quite late for me and, as I believe I mentioned in my last post, I was less excited about this year’s nominees as a whole. There were three awards I truly felt invested in, Best Novel and the two Dramatic Presentation categories. There were other categories with excellent entries, and I cast votes for most of the categories, but I wasn’t waiting with bated breath to find out who won them.

The big winner of the night, Best Novel, was John Scalzi’s Redshirts. It’s no secret to those who have read my introduction, that I’m a big Scalzi fan, but I didn’t love Redshirts as much as some of his other novels and it did not end up my number one choice this year (that went to Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312). That having been said, I was pulling for him to win (yes, I know that’s a bit weird – people are complicated!) and I couldn’t be happier for Mr. Scalzi. He’s said himself that there may be an element of “career award” to his win, and he’s certainly deserving of that! In other words, I ain’t mad at ya, Scalzi!

In the past few years, Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form, has been dominated by Doctor Who. This year’s nominees were three Doctor Who episodes, (“Asylum of the Daleks”, “Angels Take Manhattan”, and “The Snowmen”), a Fringe episode (“Letters of Transit”) and a Game of Thrones (“Blackwater”). You may remember that last year the entire season of Game of Thrones was nominated (and won) the long form drama category and the entire world is obsessed with that show, so it didn’t surprise me at all when George R.R. Martin won for his episode. Did I vote for it? No. (Well yes, but it was a low choice.) I voted for “Asylum of the Daleks” but again I’m perfectly happy for Martin to have taken home the prize. I’ve been A Song of Ice and Fire fan for many, many years and while I don’t love the show as much as the rest of world seems to, I do watch and appreciate the time and effort that go into making it. (Also, I pretty much always prefer the movie that plays in my head as I read to whatever ends up on-screen, regardless of anything else, so I’ve learned I have to take my reactions to adaptations with a grain of salt.)

I was also pleased to have Joss Whedon take home the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, and in this case I actually voted his work my number one choice! He was actually nominated twice, once with Drew Goddard for Cabin in the Woods (which I am never going to watch and therefore did not include in my ballot because scary) and once as writer and director for Marvel’s The Avengers. I could write an entire post on the awesomeness of The Avengers, every time I watch it I catch something new – an Easter Egg for Marvel geeks, a throwaway joke, an unnamed extra doing something badass – all the things that have always made Joss so great are there with my favorite superhero team.

So, while I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the nominees in general this year, three of my favorite writers took home awards and I’m happy about that.

“Moving On” to the second part of this post, I’ve been desperately trying to make it back through Prelude to Foundation and it’s incredibly slow going. I know all the major plot points from reading it before, but I want to read it again before I post on it so I can pick up all the little bits related to the Robot and Empire series before I post on it. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of other books I want to read – many of them past Hugo nominees – and I’m putting them off because of some arbitrary rule I made up myself about reading the old stuff first. So I’m giving myself permission to change. From now on, I will be reading what I want, when I want and I will post about anything I deem appropriate whether it was nominated for a Hugo or not. The end goal will still be to read all the past Hugo nominees at some point – but there’s plenty of good Sci Fi and Fantasy that was never nominated and I’m not going to continue denying myself those reads for no reason beyond my own stubbornness. The occasional movie, graphic novel, or game might sneak in here on occasion too.

Be ready!

Captain Future Living in the Past

When I created my Hugo novel spreadsheet earlier this week – yes, of course there’s a spreadsheet! If I ever start a project without first creating some sort of spreadsheet or database to track it than there is something seriously wrong and someone needs to get me to a doctor, fast! Anyway, when I created my Hugo novel spreadsheet earlier this week, I forgot to scroll down on the Wikipedia page to the “Retro Hugo” nominees and winners. Oops! That meant that I missed several earlier novels so I had to go back and add them. I surprised to find a couple of the oldest (1946) were available for the Kindle and as soon as I saw the cover (and $2.99 price tag) of Red Sun of Danger by Edmund Hamilton (writing as Brett Sterling) I knew it would be the next one I would read. There’s something about ridiculous pop art of the 1940s and 1950s that I love. Despite the whole, damsel-in-distress thing there’s an inherent goofiness that speaks to me. It’s perhaps one of the reasons the sci-fi covers of the 1980s and 1990s turned me off so much, with their wide shots of planets and distant ships; where was the danger? The romance? I mean, look at this thing!

How could you not want to read that?! I mean, really? What could possibly be happening? Some sort of dragon is attacking a robot while Jane of the Jungle cowers in the background. What does any of that have to do with a red sun? And who is Captain Future? I was psyched! I did some quick “research” by looking up Captain Future on Wikipedia (this was #18 after all, I didn’t want to go in blind) and then I started reading.

Captain Future is Curtis Newton, born to a pair of scientists living on the moon. Together with their friend and colleague Simon Wright, they built a giant robot (Grag) and a shape-shifting android (Otho). They also transplanted Simon Wright’s brain from his aging body into a box with lenses to see and magnetic means of locomotion. As with any good hero story, Curtis’ parents are killed and Grag, Otho, and Simon “The Brain” Wright (soon to be known collectively as “The Futuremen”) raise him on the moon. Curtis is super-intelligent, athletic and the all-around perfect human specimen and actually wants to use this surplus of awesome to help people, anonymously. Captain Future is born.

Our story starts when the colonists of the distant planet Roo threaten to secede from the System Government, a problem because the planet provides 90% of the vitron (a substance that provides long life) to the System. Were the secession to succeed, prices for vitron would be driven up and the entire System might collapse. It seems the native Roons, peaceful co-habitants for nearly a decade, have suddenly begun attacking the colonists and the colonists are blaming the government for not being able to stop it. The President calls upon Captain Future and the Futuremen, as well as the scientists who discovered vitron, to go to Roo and discover who’s behind the obvious plot to monopolize vitron.

What follows is the standard series of cliff-hangy chapters and ridiculous adventures you’d expect. There are “atom-gun” shootouts, giant worms, paralyzing spiders, toxic flowers, and the “night-dragons” seen pictured above. (I have to admit, as a huge fan of John Scalzi, the night-dragons gave me a serious case of squee as I imagined them leaving Roo after the events of this book and heading to Skalandarharia!) It’s as predictable and cheesy as you could want. Check out the inflated language and over-use of adverbs endemic of the style and period:

Quord was tearing the weapon away from Newton, and Otho could not shoot because Captain Future was between him and the Venusian.

Newton rallied his dizzied faculties to avert the tragedy. Quord already had the butt of the gun and his finger was tightening on its trigger. Dazedly, Captain Future lunged forward, twisting the Venusian’s arm around at the moment he pulled the trigger. (Kindle location 1876)

At the same time, there’s an obvious parallel to be drawn to the treatment of the Native Americans (indeed any indigenous people) by European settlers and pioneers. The culture clash that can so easily occur when no one bothers to take the time to learn about each other is all there in the “superstition” (involving Kangas, of course) the criminals use to incite the Roons to violence. It’s not subtle. And, thankfully, it’s generally a positive message as the government refuses to even consider genocide (you never know so soon after WWII!) “It’s utterly against System Government policy to massacre the native inhabitants of this world.” (Kindle location 845)

While a surprise that something so obviously pulp was nominated for a Hugo, it’s a good reminder that even the silliest of stories can have something to say. I truly enjoyed my introduction to Captain Future. Wikipedia mentions that a movie was in the works at sometime, and while IMDb lists is simply as “in development” I sincerely hope that it will one day come to fruition. The world could stand to learn a little something from Captain Future and the past.

Bechdel Score: 1 of 3