April 1st, 2018

the retro-Hugos

I've glanced at the current Hugo award nominations, and I really have no opinions on them; I just don't follow present day science fiction and fantasy enough to even recognize all of the names, especially in the short fiction categories. There are two nominees for Best Novel whom I'm firmly resolved never to read another word by; there are two of six movies that I've seen and mostly liked.

On the other hand, I'm more familiar with the 1943 Hugo nominees. . . .

Under Best Novel, on one hand, I'd really like to support Islandia, which is one of my favorite books; but I don't see how it counts as either science fiction or fantasy. Yes, it's set in an imaginary country. But most of Sinclair Lewis's books are set in the imaginary state of Winnemac, and I've never heard anyone discuss Babbitt as science fiction. For that matter, most of Jane Austen's novels take place in imaginary rural communities in England. . . .

I've read three of the others, and I can't quite see any of them as compelling, though I enjoyed two of them (Darkness and the Light isn't a book for which "enjoy" is the right word). I guess I'd go for Beyond This Horizon as my "on the other hand."

For novellas, it would definitely be "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag," with its inventive reenvisioning of the Fair Folk in an urban noir setting. None of the novelettes or short stories really strikes me as compelling; the Foundation stories really are a monument to Isaac Asimov's lack of skill at characterization and prose style, and they also fail to work out the implications of their ideas (which Donald Kingsbury dealt with brilliantly in Psychohistorical Crisis, though actually, to his credit, Asimov got there first in The End of Eternity).

For Best Dramatic Production, I'm baffled at the idea of Bambi being either science fiction or fantasy; it's a children's animal story. The only other one I've seen is Cat People, which I didn't think was really compelling; I prefer the remake with Nastassia Kinski. I think this may be the version of The Jungle Book that's said to be really good, but I haven't gotten around to seeing it, and in any case I don't think The Jungle Book is science fiction or fantasy either, though it's even higher among my favorites than Islandia.

But at least, if I were expecting to vote, I think I could read, reread, or watch a lot of the remaining nominees.