It’s awards time again. We’ve already had the BAFTAs and the Grammys, the Oscars on soon to arrive…and our little corner of the world is not to be left out. Nominations have just closed on the Nebulas, and the Hugo nominees are open (which reminds me, I have to nominate).
As everyone (who pays attention to these things) knows, the last few years have seen more than usual contentiousness in the Hugo arena, and last year was a plain disaster. Talk about “a tale … full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!” I mean, honestly, except for those directly involved in the awards (i.e., the nominees), these things don’t mean a whole lot. When you’re talking the scale of the Academy Awards, yes, a win can mean serious money, but in SF, not so much. It’d be a hell of a thing to win one, but other than yourself, who would that affect? According to the pitched battle we saw last year, apparently a lot of people.
My personal less-than-scientific survey points to most of the people most hyped up about this subject actually being writers, which could explain much, as they have an actual, or at least potential, interest in the outcome. But that would assign a selfish motive when as far as I can see, the greater part of the argument stems from a disagreement over what kinds of stories should be nominated for awards: fun stuff that puts “story” first and restores the classic “sense of wonder,” or edgier fare that seeks to explore deeper into who we are and what we’re doing to ourselves and each other–and in doing so often puts emphasis on who is in the action, rather than on the action itself.
I will not take sides; I like both. One day you want a napoleon, one day you want a donut. But which do you find in the Great British Baking Show ? Which should you?
As far as I’m concerned, awards are for exceptional work. “Exceptional” implies “unusual,” perhaps “unique.” For this reason, award tend toward the edgy. Doesn’t matter which award. That’s why the Best Picture Oscar didn’t go to Star Wars, Avatar, or The Avengers. Fine flicks, but not really Best Pictures; we’d seen it all before. Comedy doesn’t get the proper respect, either, probably because those voting have never tried to write it.
There is an element of the emperor’s new clothes here; sometimes people vote for the new because they want to be thought of as au courant, and are afraid they’ll be seen as old if they don’t. But most people vote this way because they want to reward the artist who has shown them something new, who has seen the future first, and taken the risk. (Because the same old stuff is safer. Not necessarily easier, but safer. Not that there’s anything wrong with going back to the classics.)
So I won’t take sides in the sense that you have to choose one or the other of your friends after they break up. But I will say that I stand with the “edgy” crowd when it comes to awards. Not that the “classic” can’t win (and in no way is the importance of “story” diminished), but those that stand up, stand out.
Actually, I guess that should be, “Those who stand out, will stand up.” As in, stand up to walk to the podium. Me, I’d probably trip over something, like Dick Van Dyke. And nobody would appreciate it, because comedy gets no respect.
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