|Clipping frontman Daveed Diggs will|
have to wait another year to complete
his EGOTH. Photo from Worldcon 75.
Splendor and Misery from L.A.-based experimental hip hop group Clipping is an ambitious and challenging work that is an exemplar of this tradition. In the 2017 Hugo Awards, it became only the second such work to be nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award (after the 1971 album Blows Against The Empire by Jefferson Starship, which finished in the voting below ‘No Award’).
However, Splendor and Misery failed to generate much popular support among voters, placing last amongst other nominated works in the category and losing to Leviathan Wakes from the TV series The Expanse. While Leviathan Wakes is an awesome bit of television (and is the work that we voted for) it is kind of a shame that there isn’t a good category to recognize eclectic and unusual works in the Hugo Awards.
At a panel at Worldcon75, we were impressed by the Hugo Awards administrators’ commitment to the idea that anything with merit and the necessary nominations deserves to be on the ballot, regardless of format. There was some discussion about the inherent strength and flexibility of current categories, which could accommodate works like board games, as an example.
However, at what point does flexibility begin to take away the original meaning of a category? Perhaps there should be scope for more opportunities for the Hugo awards to present special
|As has been noted earlier on this blog,|
a lot of great SF from 1972 was not
recognized at the Hugo Awards.
The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust
is another example of this.
(Image via BBC.com)
It would be foolish, however, to suggest that there should be a Best Album category at the Hugo Awards. The longstanding unofficial rule of thumb is that there should be a good expectation in any given year that there are at least 15 worthwhile nominatable works to make a category viable. In most years, there would be far fewer science fiction or fantasy concept albums to choose from.
Unfair Comparisons Shortchange Odd Nominees
Under the Hugo Award rules as they currently stand, science fiction concept albums clearly fall into
|The Archandroid is the second of seven|
planned albums chronicling the story
of Janelle Monáe's time-travelling
android alter-ego Cindy Mayweather.
(Image via Amazon.com)
In most years, the only shortlisted works for best dramatic presentation short subject are television episodes. In 2011, Janelle Monáe’s exquisite album Archandroid – which told the tale of an android messiah fighting to restore freedom, love and unity to a robot metropolis – wasn’t on the ballot, while three episodes of Doctor Who competed against each other.
But how can you compare Archandroid to The Pandorica Opens, the Doctor Who episode that won the category that year? Should the liner notes be considered when judging an album’s merit?
The pop album and the video are mediums so disparate that how one judges the success of either one as art – or as science fiction – are completely different. There isn’t a reasonable grounds for comparison.
Comparing Apples And Orions
One might note that, as a group who are united only in their love for science fiction and fantasy as a
|We suspect that Splendor and Misery|
would have fared better at the Hugo
Awards if the related music videos
had explicitly been part of the nomination.
(Image via YouTube)
Which brings us back to Splendor and Misery. Hugo voters are not an audience that is known for their love of experimental rap. However, when Clipping performed a concert at this year’s Worldcon in Helsinki, the response was electric. It is clear to those of us who were at the performance that Clipping’s inclusion on the ballot meant something both to the band, and to the audience.
A evocative tale of slavery, isolation, and yearning for freedom, Splendor and Misery is elevated by the richness of the language, and the deftness of Daveed Diggs’ delivery. This should be remembered as a great work of science fiction, regardless of how it was adjudicated at the Hugo Awards this year.