Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Hugo For Best Graphic Story (Part 1)

This is part one of a two-part blog post. The second part, discussing this year's nominees, is found here. 

This trophy is fine, but a
rocket ship is just classier.
(Image via
Best Graphic Story is one of the newest categories for the Hugo Awards, and unfortunately, it’s the one that has always felt like it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the awards.

Because two well-established comic book awards (the Eisners and Harveys) exist —and because they often celebrate the quasi-SciFi of superhero stories — the Hugo for Best Graphic Story doesn’t seem to carry as much weight as the other Hugo awards. 

The award can seem redundant, especially when the Hugos recognize a superhero comic book. 

Some worthwhile works have been honoured in the first decade of the award, but a look over the shortlists from 2009-2016 reveals a lot of fandom’s in-jokes, media tie-ins, and works created by people we know within the Worldcon community. 

In short, the Best Graphic Story category has been treated in part like a fan writer category and in part like a professional category. That hasn’t been fair to either group. 

Missed opportunities

Ironically, the inferior movie
adaptation "Edge of Tomorrow"
did get a Hugo nomination. 
Because of this profusion of questionable nominees, some significant works of fantasy and science fiction went unrecognized in the first several years of the Best Graphic Story Hugo. Walt Simonson’s Ragnarok (2014), All You Need Is Kill by Hoski Sakurazaka (2015) and Beasts Of Burden by Evan Dorkin (2009) all spring to mind. 
One solution to this conundrum would be to split the award into a fan-created category and a professional category. But this might not solve the more fundamental problems caused by the comic book industry’s overreliance on superhero tropes.

We have to recognize that the superhero genre is a weird niche in science fiction, whose traditions and themes do not hew to many of the same ideas that inform the rest of the genre. Superheros can be classified as science fiction, but that does a disservice to both creative traditions — Kal-El and Bruce Wayne have little in common with Paul Atreides, Hari Seldon, Frodo Baggins, or Valentine Michael Smith.

XKCD is awesome. It richly
 deserves the Hugo it received.
(Image via 

Be conscious of our mandate

As such, when nominating works in the Best Graphic Story category of the Hugos, Worldcon members should consider whether something is a great comic book with fantastical elements, or whether it is a great work of science fiction or fantasy that happens to be a comic book. The former type of work is probably best left to the Eisner and Harvey awards.

If there is to be a Hugo for Best Graphic Story, we as Hugo voters must continue to be deliberately conscious of what our mandate is, what the purpose of the award is, and why this award is relevant.

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