23 April 2014

Hugos and Art : I don't know enough about this to have an opinion...

As I mentioned earlier, over the New Year's break I started a little side-project called the Hugo Eligible Art(ist) Tumblr, where I collated a bunch of names and links to artist portfolios, and sent out bulk emails to the artists I linked asking whether they'd like to bring attention to any eligible 2013 work.  That was fun!  [Though I've a suspicion a lot of those emails hit the spam bucket.]

The finalists for the Hugo Awards were announced last weekend (and congratulations to all the nominees), but the numbers of ballots really stood out to me.  According to the Hugo site:

- 1923 ballots were cast.
- Best novel received 1595 nominations.
- Best Professional Artist received 624 nominations.
- Best Fan Artist received 316 nominations (the lowest of any category).

Now, there is some confusion generally about these two categories - particularly the fan artist category, which basically covers any art first displayed in 2013 that was not created as a commission for an entity providing 1/4 of any individual's income.  So this means that an artist could be eligible for both categories, depending on the circumstances of individual commissions.  [The covers that Julie Dillon has done for me, for instance, qualify her for the "Best Fan Artist" category.]  Some people are even more confused because "fan art" means to many people "work created as a fan of someone else's intellectual property" (this is also eligible, but the category is not limited to that work).*

Now, since the announcement of the finalists, I've read and listened to a few different Hugo Awards discussions, and when they get to the art categories (particularly "Best Fan Artist") almost all of them have said: "I'm going to skip this because I don't know enough about the category".

I find this strange!  Very strange!  1923 people thought themselves sufficiently informed about SFF novels to cast a ballot (a process that means at minimum the six or so hours of reading it would take to finish one rather short novel), but only 624 people had managed to see at least one SFF picture and have a positive reaction to it.  Not even the cover of the novel they had just read!  [Let alone the fan art for their latest favourite movie.]

I'm willing to bet that, during this past year, most of the people nominating saw an order of magnitude more SFF art than they read novels.  Art (SFF or not) enriches our lives daily and there is almost zero effort involved in enjoying it.  You don't have to be an expert to parse your own reaction to a picture.  "Like? Y/N".  That's it.  You didn't need to be a Professor of English Literature to nominate that novel, and there's no degree in the History of Fine Art required to remember the name of the artist of a work you liked.

Finding out the name and year of eligibility of a piece of art is definitely more work, but heck, again there are the covers of the novels you've just voted into eligibility.  The ones festooning the bookshelves and pouring off our computer screens.  Are these artists not worth that tiny bit of effort?

Here is a collection of links to this year's finalists, and I expect some of their work will be in the Hugo voting package, which will make this next stage easier.  But I'd love it if next year there was less of the "I don't know enough" and more of the "I liked this".

'Cause artists are awesome:


The Pyramids of London - Julie Dillon
* My personal view of the Hugo Awards art categories is that they're incredibly confusing and we'd be well served to drop "professional" and "fan" and instead have "Best SFF Character Piece", and "Best SFF Landscape/Cityscape/Starscape".  I'd love to see people nominating _pictures_.

19 April 2014

Moebius: Empire Rising

Moebius: Empire Rising is a Kickstarter-funded new adventure game by Jane Jensen (best known for the Gabriel Knight series about a New Orleans author/bookstore owner/'Shadow Hunter').

Moebius follows a somewhat similar pattern, focusing on Malachi Rector, an antique store owner who discovers he is something more, and is drawn into a search by a government agency researching repeating patterns of history.

Graphics
Graphics-wise, Moebius is pretty basic.  The 3D models are clunky in both animation and shape, and the comics-style cutscenes are no more than serviceable.

Gameplay
Agreeably well put together puzzles, with nothing too taxing.  Rather pointless cave-wandering exercise toward the end.  A couple of possible places to die, but otherwise nothing difficult.  On the Zork-factor scale, 2/10 in unforgiving.

Characters
Rector is rather blatantly styled on the BBC's Sherlock, with a superiority factor through the roof, sarcastic comments galore, and a tendency to display mental analysis in words popping up on the screen.  He is funny, but far from a nice person (definitely not the same model as the rogue-type of Gabriel Knight).  David, his primary off-sider, is the straight-laced soldier type.  There's a probable m/m romance going on between this pair, but it only takes the steps toward trust in this the first outing of a possible series.

Story
Rector is an antiques savant, and gets himself into physical danger by occasionally debunking fakes.  A new client wants him to turn his historical knowledge to a different end - establishing connections between the lives of existing people and famous people of the past (not reincarnation so much as parallels).

There is an oddness to this process, because we see Rector investigating the lives/murders of people, but being completely disinterested in solving the minor mysteries, only in establishing parallels.

Spoilery Bit
And the problem that rises in the story and the characters is the attitude towards women.

Rector (apparently an extremely desirable man) is theoretically pursued and wooed and spurns them all except for favouring the occasional woman with strictly one night stands only.  This includes with his assistant from his antiques store, who he treats with either contempt or courtesy, apparently depending on his whims.

The plot revolves around identifying the woman who will marry and support to power a future US President.  Someone has been trying to figure out who this woman will be - and kill her.

Women in the game do not come off well.  They are either jealous, there to support men to power, vapid, sex-hungry, or sex-starved.  [The only exceptions to this is a brief telephone conversation with a female senator, and two 'tough' Muslim women.]  There's even a plot point apparently revolving around how women shouldn't expect fidelity from their husbands.  Men are the people who do stuff in this story, and women are there to support them or present obstacles.

This is all a bit of a downer in comparison to the Gabriel Knight series, where we had Grace Nakimura, ever-ready to call Gabriel on his shit, and to get stuff done.

If it wasn't for all the negativity toward women, I'd call this a reasonable game, if nothing spectacular.  But, funny as his snark could occasionally be, Malachi Rector was simply too off-putting for me to want to take another outing in this world.