A few weeks back, I mentioned that it’s awkward for any award group to find the right balance between humongous categories that cover so much space it becomes next to impossible to judge the contenders on their merits and categories that become so specific they’re meaningless. This week we have two seriously impressive examples of the former dilemma.
Best Professional Artist
There’s a huge variety of styles and content on offer from the five finalists in this category. With 1481 nomination ballots this year compared to last year’s 753, it’s yet another near-doubling of nomination ballots. Which means that the massive increase in total ballots cast hasn’t been focused on any particular category: it’s pretty much across the board.
Lars Braad Andersen (http://www.3dartistonline.com/user/Lars%20Braad for a sample of his style) – His covers for some of the There Will Be War anthologies appear to be representative of his style, with a mix of realistic landscape rendering and atmospheric Sfnal elements. Do look up his covers: they are perfect for the kind of books.
Larry Elmore (http://www.larryelmore.com/store/) is of course very well known for his lush traditional fantasy art. And yes, by traditional I do mean the hot babes in metal bikinis – who are utterly gorgeous as rendered by Mr Elmore. His dragons are also gorgeous although not quite in the same way.
Abigail Larson (http://www.abigaillarson.com/) is one of the reasons this category is going to be damned hard to decide on. Her style is utterly different, being somewhere between gothic line art, cute cartoony, monochromatic or sepia toned with splashes of bright color. She’s one of those artists whose work you can recognize instantly because her style is so distinct, but it’s also so different from what could be described as ‘SF/Fantasy cover standard’ that it’s going to be really hard to compare her work against her fellow finalists.
Michal Karcz (https://500px.com/karezoid) Michal’s work often mixes landscapes with Sfnal elements to create haunting imagery that tends to leave a mood behind, as it were. He’s haunting, evocative, and even his post-apocalyptic images are beautiful. How the hell do you compare this with an Abigail Larson (answer: you don’t. I may be drawing all the names out of a hat to decide who gets which vote in this category. They’re all that good).
Larry Rostant (http://rostant.com/) A lot of Larry’s sample pieces are covers that appear to be manipulated photos or possibly actual photos with some touch up and editing. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t do other styles: one of his covers in the sample is a GRRM novel complete with the total absence of human anything. He does a lot of covers of the form “iconic human with appropriate background”, all of which are eye-catching, stand on their own as works of art, and do a good job of signaling the kind of book they’re for.
This is going to be a bloody difficult category to vote because all of them are worthy contenders many times over.
Best Related Work
This is another hugely diverse category, and one that I’m going to have trouble choosing. From last year’s 1150 ballots to this year’s 2080 there was a big increase in interest, and to judge by the quality of the five finalists, the category has benefited accordingly.
Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini (Castalia House) – I’ll admit, I haven’t read more than a tiny fraction of this work (provided in full in the voter packet), but what I have read is very well written and as densely layered and rich as Wolfe’s fiction. I may not have time to read it all before voting closes, but I’m certainly going to read it.
“The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson (http://jeffro.wordpress.com) – This is why we can’t have nice things, folks. Madmen like Jeffro go and do insane things like reading and reviewing every novel Gary Gygax ever mentioned to fit them all in to a massive reference of influences on Dungeons and Dragons (which of course proceeded to influence the living daylights out of every role playing game ever since).
“Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (castaliahouse.com) – This series is a wrenching expose of what is possibly the biggest failing of fandom: the tendency to accept and even celebrate the worst of predators in a misguided belief that all forms of outcasting are equal, or possibly that we outcasts all need to stand together. It’s likely to be heavily downvoted by the “you can’t be a fan if you haven’t been to all the right places and supported all the right people” crowd because very few of the genre’s major figures emerge unscathed – but read and form your own judgments, and remember that it’s possible to detest a person and admire their art. Remember also that rumor is not always truth, and those who preferred to withhold judgment until they had evidence may not have seen evidence in time to speak out.
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day (Castalia House) – This is honestly the weakest of the works in this category. It’s an illuminating read, but the real focus is on dealing with the trial-by-social-media and shaming tactics used by certain parties to shut down those they wish silenced. Really the involvement with SF and Fantasy is kind of a side note: it’s definitely a book that’s worth having and reading, but it’s not exactly a related work. At least in my opinion. The whole “battle for the soul of Science Fiction and Fantasy” thing may well mean it counts more to some.
“The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland (askthebigot.com) – Like “Safe Space as Rape Room”, Moira Greyland’s life is a horrifying expose of one of the genre’s biggest names – and a good chunk of it is backed up by court transcripts. For that reason alone, my vote will probably go to this or Safe Space, because both are well-written, both expose terrible crimes on the part of genre names, and both blow open the genteel concealing of the horrors that’s been going on for years.
That doesn’t mean that the other works are unworthy: they’re all good. It’s sad that Johnson and Aramini’s works have to compete against something as horrible as this, simply because they’ll likely be overlooked by the controversy over Safe Space and Moira’s story (as well as the controversy that erupts whenever the name “Vox Day” is used).
As always, read, review, and vote for the finalists that you genuinely believe are the best. And spare a moment of pity for your sad correspondent, because the time draws near when I will take one for the team, as it were, and review the short story offerings.