They're here. And I'm pretty damn happy.
As a reader, gamer, editor, writer and creator I have many different circles. So for some of you, explaining what the Nebulas are is redundant. But for those of you who don’t know, the Nebulas are kind of a big deal. Nebula awards aren’t just the Hugo’s with a different title. They're awards for writers by writers. If you're a film buff, think of the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) awards. You have to be a member of SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) to nominate and vote for Nebula Awards. To be a member, you have to be a SFF industry pro.
This morning they just announced nominations for this year. See the list here.
Wow. Last year was a great year for SFF. Here’s what I consider the highlights.
On the lit side we have The Grace of Kings Ken Liu, a short form juggernaut, finally published a novel. It’s on my list to read. I love his short stories.
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin is the best book that I’ve read that was published in the last five years. That said, I’m behind most of my peers in reading, so much of my time is dedicated to catching up on classics (when I’m not reading submissions or critiquing my pals!). But I read this fresh take on high fantasy late last year. If you played the Dragon Age games, you’ll find some parallels with this book. This is a tale of oppression, prejudice, and dangerous magic. It’s also beautifully crafted.
Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker. Am I allowed to talk about this? I’m biased. I get it. Transparency: Martin is a good friend of mine and I read this story before it sold (I read it before it was famous, eat your heart out SFF hipsters!). But if you think that’s going to stop me from telling you to read this story, you’re out of your damn mind.
I’m not pandering. Today I am Paul is mastercraft. It’s sold to a billion year’s best and foreign markets. It’s an android story. It’s a dementia story. As you read it, you know it comes from the heart.
Today I am Paul is THE android story of the year. And it murders the competition, sorry Ex Machina.
My non-writer pals may be more interested in the Outstanding Dramatic Presentation category, so I’ll go into a bit more detail here. Just looking at this list as a whole, I don’t see agendas. I see diversity. And good fiction.
The Martian, Didn’t see it. Yikes! Sorry guys. I wanted to read the book first, because who doesn’t? But then submissions. Option. Work. Don’t worry though, I’ve got stuff to say about the rest.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, After my first watch, I didn’t know if I loved ep 7 or just liked it. Then I thought about it for about two weeks straight. I loved it. That said, I think they played it a tad safe. Nothing particularly new, other than the cast. Oh, and this time they can really act and they have damn good chemistry. I’m very, very excited to see what Rain Johnson does with it. (He only directed the greatest episode in television history: Ozymandias)
Inside Out, My wife cried while she watched this. I didn’t. Really. I promise. I definitely didn’t. No. Psh. It’s the best Pixar movie since (the first fifteen minutes of) Up. If you haven’t, see Inside Out. Keep some Kleenex at the ready.
Jessica Jones, Really worked for me. While the fight scenes left a lot to be desired in comparison to Daredevil (what’s JJ’s super power anyways? Breaking locks? Shoving people?), I thought that the story is only second to Better Call Saul, which isn’t genre. JJ has my vote for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation because this is an award for writers, not special effects teams or story board artists.
My only complaint is the formula. Introducing the big baddie in ep 1 and setting the stage so that you know his defeat won’t happen until the season finale saps quite a lot of tension. They’ve caught The Doctor in episode 4! But you know he’ll give them the slip. I’m currently doing some contract writing work for a TV series, so this is the kind of thing I’m trying to avoid.
Mad Max: Fury Road, Pretty much the exact opposite of JJ. Eh, story. Epic action, sets, world building, artful direction. I hear their screenplay was a storyboard—that would explain a lot. Great, great movie, despite the plot.
Ex Machina, 92% on Tomatoes? It felt fairly derivative. It didn’t have an interesting take on the human condition, androids or the singularity. So I looked to the characters. None of them are particularly compelling, except for the androids. It’s a bottle film and a well acted one, which is essential for what they’re going for.
More interestingly, it’s a $15 million dollar budgeted genre film, a rarity these days. It’s seems Hollywood is shrinking on it’s budget types. We have the Blumhouse slog budget. Take chances on movies, throw whatever into theaters and see what sticks… but each with a low $1 million. Get ADT security cameras to direct your movie (looking at you, found footage films). Spend the rest on advertising. And then the blockbusters like Interstellar with budgets over $150 million.
Not much room left for the medium budget SFF flick. I like to support “the little guy” movies like this.
Budget politics aside, I’d still recommend watching Ex Machina, it’s worth staying awake for almost 2 hours and spending $2/3 at RedBox, Youtube or Amazon.
OR wanna know a better way to spend your time? Read or listen to Martin Shoemaker’s story. It’s free. And it won’t take you 2 hours.