The 2017 MTV Video Music Awards

Some mark the end of summer by the changing of the leaves, some by the trudging rank and file of children back into schools. The MTV Video Music Awards aren’t one of those ends, but they are a sort of flickering-lights “last call” situation.  Summer isn’t over, it’s just coming to an end. As a result, it is the best time to look at a bunch of four-minute record-label commercials full of bright colors, flashing lights, and various and sundry displays of the human body.

This year’s crop is about as boring as it’s ever been – the brief blip of visual entertainment represented last year has given way to a bunch of blah sameness. The video vanguard award is going to P!nk 1, which sort of struck me as surprising, although I don’t really know why – she’s made a bunch of videos that people remember, certainly.

I suppose mine is not to question why, merely to proclaim the difference between right and wrong. And so it goes.

Song of Summer

I mean, I guess I get it, but there’s still not, like, a nomination process. Just BLAMMO: Luis Fonsi. Sad, really. I would’ve liked the chance to vote against it. It’s still a terrible song. It’s better than a couple of years ago when there were a million people in this category though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: It pains me to not have a choice here, is what I’m saying.

Best Editing

This is pretty transparently an excuse to get a bunch of people in the door. “There’s not anywhere else we could put, say, Lorde” say the MTV executives, “so pretend the editing in that video is something impressive.” It is not, I’m telling you. There’s like, nothing special about it. Or any of the other editing jobs here. I suppose because this is a technical category, it has to go to Young Thug, because while it’s true that there isn’t really anything special happening with the editing, the whole thing is edited to be delightfully meta, and quite funny. You should all go watch it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Young Thug, “Wyclef Jean”

Best Choreography

This is the first of what would turn out to be six thousand nominations for Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” about which expect to hear more later, except to say that while there is an impressively-choreographed bit 2, the rest of it isn’t much to speak of. Teyana Taylor is credited as doing her own choreography on the Kanye video for “Fade”, which premiered at last year’s VMAs anyway, which is I guess it’s own kind of impressive. The Ariana Grande entry here is more “we don’t know how else to get them nominated for stuff” faire. I would’ve thought that the same thing was true for the Fifth Harmony video, but it turns out they’re nominated in other places, so I guess there’s just no accounting for taste.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sia, “The Greatest”. Say what else you may about the musical/visual career of Sia, the choreography is always the best part.

Best Visual Effects

Here’s “Humble” again, which is clearly being feted as being all things to all people, and which is hands down the best song nominated for a VMA this year, but is also less “all things to all people” and more “a whole bunch of things at once all the time,” which is a different sort of idea. The KYLE video’s visual schtick is funny at first, but wears thin by the end of the song 3“Chained to the Rhythm” is not only not visually interesting, but is less visually interesting than the other Katy Perry song that’s nominated for a VMA this year. Harry Styles can’t fly, so making him appear to do so in the “Sign of the Times” video is certainly an effect. I genuinely like the “Dis Generation” video, though. I like the moving camera thing, and the repeating elements, and basically the entire set of visuals. So it wins.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: A Tribe Called Quest, “Dis Generation”

Best Art Direction

I’m still unclear on what “Art Direction” is in a music video context. This is a perennial problem. Luckily this category has a clear solution anyway. Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” is like a bad parody of Bruno Mars as performed by Bruno Mars, and the video makes this somehow even worse. Whatever “art direction” is, DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” video doesn’t have it. “Humble” is here again, because what the hell, why not? The Weeknd’s “Reminder” is nominated for a second time, despite the fact that I have no idea what marks it as special as a video, and I guess they just wanted to make real sure Abel would show up. The video for Katy Perry’s “Bon Appetit” is genuinely unsettling, featuring a bunch of really uncomfortable, sometimes even disturbing visuals. I would’ve also called it the visual effects one if I didn’t like the ATCQ video so much. It definitely gets this one, though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Katy Perry, “Bon Appetit” (f. Migos)

Best Direction

Still with this bafflingly-well-nominated The Weeknd video! I really should be consulted on these things. Also: “Chained to the Rhythm” is really a dreadful Katy Perry outing. I get that she’s the host, but man alive I bet we could’ve come up with something else. Like, y’know, her other video of the last year. That one. It’s still better than “24K Magic”. I wanted to say that it should go to the Alessia Cara video, because that one has a bunch of people in it that are talking over the music and stuff, and then I realized that if I was inclined to give this award to someone for their job being complicated, it really should go to “Humble.” That looks like it was a lot of work.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”

Best Cinematography

Imagine Dragons and Halsey would be in the running for “most pointless cinematograpy”, or perhaps “most confusing cinematography”. Ed Sheeran quite sensibly takes advantage of the natural sweeping beauty of the English countryside, but I’m not quite sure what that’s meant to say about the camera usage in the video. “Humble” seemed like a complicated direction, but again, the camera itself wasn’t a big part of that. Luckily the second-best song nominated for a VMA this year is also the song with the best video.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DJ Shadow, “Nobody Speak” (f Run the Jewels)

Best Fight Against the System

Weirdly, “Humble” is not in this category. I guess it’s not “fight the system”-y enough for the people at the VMA selection committee. Taboo’s “Stand Up” is clearly well-intentioned and deeply earnest, and I’m glad he got to say his thing. John Legend’s “Surefire” video tells the story of a cross-borders Romeo & Juliet style love-story, which is I guess fighting against a system in the technical sense, while also just being regular old romance pap in another. Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful” includes interviews with people who have scars 4, and is otherwise just another in the endless string of “conventionally attractive young, economically successful pop singer lady says everything will be just fine if you just be yourself” songs that are meant to be uplifting, but are by and large just insulting. I have nothing to say about Big Sean’s video for “Light”. It’s a pretty good song, it’s a pretty good video. The Hamilton Mixtape’s “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” is one of the best reworks on the record, and features three (of the four) rappers that I am decidedly a fan of, but it’s also really long and doesn’t quite get anywhere as a video. Logic’s “Black Spiderman” video is great, and makes its point, and is fun to watch, and is just great. It’s double-great, that’s what it is.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Logic, “Black Spiderman” (f Damian Lamar Hudson)

Best Rock

At least a numerical majority of these videos are nominally “rock” music, which puts this above most “rock” categories in most awards shows. Green Day made a pretty boring video for “Bang Bang.” I have no idea what it’s doing here, unless it’s to throw the utter horrorshow of that Fall Out Boy video into sharp relief. I hold nothing major against Coldplay. I confess that if I was a younger person, I would probably have bought into 21 Pilots’ thing. This is a reversal from previous stances on a band that I still don’t actively like, but now at least understand the appeal of. The Foo Fighters wrote a pretty good song, and made a pretty good video, and win sort of by default. Please don’t consider this a ringing endorsement.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Foo Fighters, “Run”

Best Dance

I think at this point in the proceedings, everyone is aware of my feelings on all of these people. So let’s talk about how Ty Dolla $ign spells his name, right? It’s Ty, like “ty”, and then it’s Dolla Sign, like “Dolla Sign,” but it includes a dolla sign. Wouldn’t Ty$ just be easier? Am I insane when I say that I think he used to spell it that way? I’m not insane, right?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Afrojack, “Gone” (f Ty Dolla $ign)

Best Hip Hop

DJ Khaled: still so very irritating. Big Sean and DRAM both made good videos for good songs here, but honestly I’m having a hard time recommending them for much of anything. The “Same Drugs” video is fine, I guess, but it’s also for the weakest single on Chance the Rapper’s last album. Migos’ video for “Bad and Boujee”does basically nothing for the song – although the song is still pretty righteous. So I guess here we are back at “Humble”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”

Best Pop

Every single one of these videos is a dumpster fire. There are MANY perfectly fine pop songs nominated in other categories – why are none of them here? This is stupid. I hate this.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Like, that Lorde video? Or hell, that The Weeknd video? Or even that Alessia Cara video is better than all these.

Best Collaboration

This category is mainly notable for being the one category in which Taylor Swift, sworn enemy of Katy Perry, appears. Partly this is due to the fact that she has stayed pretty under the radar for the last couple of years 5, but, y’know, it’s still a thing worth noting. Good thing for Ms. P that the song and video are dull and boring. That said, I remember more of that video than either Calvin Harris’s video or Charlie Puth’s, so it’s only in the middle of this dreary pack. DJ Khaled and The Chainsmokers decided to make videos that are nothing but a straight shot down the middle of standard-issue music-video achievement. Definitely not the sort of thing you give someone an award for. I like DRAM. I don’t know how much I would say the video for “Broccoli” in particular is worth the award, but it’s a pretty good song anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DRAM, “Broccoli” (f Lil Yachty)

Best New Artist

I never really know if this is meant to be judged on the artist in question’s music video presence, or on their sort of year in general, so I’ll just assume that this, like so many of these categories, is a reason to invite these people up to the ceremony more than any kind of actual lauding – MTV wants to be associated with these artists officially, so they’ve done so in this way, and it matters more that they are cool than any specific aspect of their year as such. Because that way I can make this decision and not have to feel like hanging myself.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: SZA

Artist of the Year

Certainly with seven nominations outside of this category, Kendrick Lamar is being all but directly groomed for this one, so there’s no real reason to beat around the bush here. I mean, if he were less deserving it might be something to discuss, but even Lorde and The Weeknd (the other two people in this category who have done stuff worth celebrating this year) aren’t really contenders in any meaningful way.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar

Video of the Year

It’s not like the “Humble” video is in any way bad – it’s fine! It’s a good video! It might even be a great video! – it probably doesn’t need this weird handicapped 6 competition here – it could’ve beaten other good videos even! But, y’know, it isn’t up against good videos. It’s up against stupid videos. Such is the way of things, I suppose.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”

Supplementary Micro-Predictions: The Performances

But the awards show is only kind of-sort of about the awards themselves! It’s also about the performances surrounding the awards. So let’s take a look at those also.

Katy Perry

She’s the host, so she’s going to get some weird lead-off thing. She played “Chained to the Rhythm” at the Grammys (and it was terrible), but this is set to be the alleged Taylor-baiting (and definite Swet Shop Boys-jacking) “Swish Swish,” so at least it could be pleasantly catty?

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Possibly? Before a year ago I would’ve thought that visual spectacle was something that Katy Perry was able to deliver consistently, but man after watching her videos and such I have to doubt that that’s still the case. So probably, but maybe not.

Miley Cyrus

She just pulled out of the Teen Choice Awards because she “created an unrealistic schedule” for herself. I guess that’s fine.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Hard to tell. She’s recently coming off what feels like a hiatus, with her not releasing more than just the one single (the aforementioned “Malibu”) in the last year or so, and also changing her social media approach (and quitting marijuana) 7. So this could be part of the unveiling of New Miley, which I guess would be interesting historically, but honestly it’s probably just going to be super boring. Because “Malibu” is super boring, and “Younger Now” is even worse.

Kendrick Lamar

A perennial VMA choice, and probably inevitable given that “Humble” was nominated for seven awards (with Kendrick himself nominated for an eighth). This performance is going to be the also-excellent “Loyalty,” which is fine, and which is going to feature Rihanna.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Well the performance is liable to be pretty good. Historically his awards show performances have been visually strong, but also very cluttered, and the fact that this whole thing is next to considerable hullabaloo about “Humble” (despite, again, the performance not actually being “Humble”), a visually strong but very cluttered music video, says that it’s liable to be entertaining, but probably overstimulating.

Ed Sheeran

No one’s favorite redheaded balladeer is going to stand on stage and caterwaul at us.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Of course not.

Fifth Harmony

Girl groups! And dancing! And weird costume choices!

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Probably only to costume designers in need of a cautionary tale.

Lorde

Lorde took such a relative long time (in pop music terms) between albums, and the promotional cycle was so long-burning for her first album, that I’ve kind of forgotten what her television appearances look like. She was pretty good on SNL a couple of months ago or whenever that was.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: She’s got a great voice, it’ll be “Perfect Places,” which is a pretty great song, and it will probably include some of her dancing, which is, if nothing else, a unique visual experience. So yes.

The Weeknd

I suppose I understand the utility of continuing to tour when you don’t really have much going on show-wise – it’s an expectation on the part of the fans, and there’s probably something to be gotten out of it for the performer 8, but I don’t really understand taking the show to television (beyond, y’know, the appearance fee or whatever) if you’re just going to stand onstage and sing while a bunch of lights flash at you. Making this even less explicable, he’s going to perform “Reminder,” which is the pretty-boring song he’s gotten all these nominations for. So after you see clips of the video a few times, he’s going to sing it.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Not any moreso than just watching one of his videos or listening to the record or whatever.

Thirty Seconds to Mars

This has to be a joke, right? There’s no way this is actually true.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Good lord no.

Shawn Mendes

In case Ed Sheeran wasn’t enough for you, here’s Ed Sheeran 2: Somehow Sheeraner.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: No

Logic, Alessia Cara & Khalid

Well, these are three reliably high-energy performers, and while I don’t think the song (“1-800-273-8255”) 9 is super-great, I don’t begrudge them using their platform to perform it. Good for them.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Probably

Julia Michaels

I suppose I can say, in all honesty, that I have no idea what Julia Michaels does onstage, or how it’s going to come across on television. So that’s something.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: uuuuuhhhhhh….maybe? At the very least it will be something I haven’t already seen. So there’s that.

Post Malone

He’s going to play “Congratulations,” presumably because Quavo will already be in the room. By this point I will be grateful even for this.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Probably yes, at least by comparison.

P!nk

She’s receiving the video vanguard award, which usually means a performance, but it also usually means a sort of hit medley thing. According to Wikipedia, she’s just performing “What About Us,” which is a fine song 10. P!nk is traditionally pretty good in this environment, and it’s sort of the end-of-show closing number, so it should be pretty good.

WILL IT BE ENTERTAINING: Most likely yes.


  1.  still with the exclamation point though, right? 
  2.  the bit with all the bobbing heads 
  3.  this is partly because the song is fucking interminable 
  4.  and presumably they have these scars “to their beautiful”, I guess? 
  5. she has recently announced that in November (which means in time for consideration for the 2019 Grammys – see previously – among other things) she is dropping an album. She did so via a series of videos featuring parts of a scary-ass cg snake, which means she’s either taking ownership of the “snake” talk that drove her from instagram, or she is doing something less scrutable than that. I was one of the people that, prior to the revelation of the full set of videos (and thus the full animal) though it was a dragon, which would have been much cooler. Alas and alack. 
  6.  like in the golf sense, not the medical sense – I’m saying the VMAs are setting him up to win by putting him on this bunny slope. You know. The bunny slopes in golf, which is the sport in which people are handicapped. Those bunny slopes. Shut up.
     
  7. or whatever 
  8.  otherwise why be a performer at all?  
  9.  it’s the number for the national suicide prevention hotline, and while I think that is definitely an admirable thing to make into a catchy pop song I still don’t, y’know, find myself listening to it of my own volition, y’know? 
  10.  and probably a good decision to make for her voice, considering it sounds like a real effort to sing.  

On Totally Requesting Stuff, Live!

MTV is rebranding, everybody! As a result, they’ve decided to bring back an institution of their former glory, the music-celebrities-plus-music-videos-plus-screaming-people classic TRL! This is, openly and transparently, an attempt to “get back to their roots”, and help stanch the flow of viewers (and, as a result, money) from Viacom’s once-mighty once-flagship cable network, at the hands of Chris McCarthy 1. It seems like a weird way to go with things! 

TRL was always an odd proposition – it was several hours of the late afternoon in which famous people would come be weird 2 at Carson Daly – basically a music-adjacent celebrity would show up for several segments of a few-minutes each while a studio audience watched them interact and while a bunch of people were gathered, Today-Show-style, outside, screaming. Amid all this, they would show videos, or parts of videos, that people would vote 3 to see, structured as a countdown. It is one of the most decidedly “of its time and place” things I can think of – music videos started their serious descendancy as the network’s source of programming right around the start of the show, and by the end of the show were barely even a consideration on television 4. Now, many years after even that, when music videos are firmly associated with being something you can watch whenever, via the magic of the internet 5, it seems a weird time to dip back into offering them via the television.  

But this is a part of the rebranding effort that includes labelling the trophy of next week’s VMAs the “moon person” 6, and the revival of Fear Factor as a Ludacris vehicle, as well as the “remember Laguna Beach and also Jersey Shore” hybrid Siesta Key, and a general shift away from scripted content. That makes some sense – the scripted television field is crowded to the point of self-parody 7, and getting out of that game entirely seems to be a novel way to try to stay ahead – even if it means dropping the last five years, in which they (like seemingly everyone else with a camera and a dream) monomaniacally produced scripted content as though there was a prize at the bottom.

I’m presuming here 8 that this is a nostalgia-focused move, driving people back to MTV with the rebirth of this beloved (?) program to get their eyes on all the other “party like it’s 2003” programming (see above) on their slate, and then capturing their hearts forever, and making tonnes of money, and never being in financial jeopardy again.

But….how? Nostalgia is a powerful engine, but at the end of the day, TRL offered two things: 1) the prospect of famous people in a live environment where ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN and 2) music videos that were voted popular by the sort of people that would watch TRL which, if you were the sort of person that watched TRL, meant that you had at least something in common, mindset-wise.

It’s 2017 now. One of the only things easier than seeing a scripted television program is the result of a famous person behaving 9 in public, and one of the only things easier than that is finding a bunch of people telling you what they like in terms of videonical entertainment. Seriously – you can sort almost any place where music videos are stored by “most popular” and get basically the same effect if you intercut your YouTube viewing with, say, Instagram.

I understand that MTV wants to remain alive. Certainly I can’t fault people for trying to keep their businesses afloat. As a potential 10 viewer, however, it’s probably the correct time to evaluate what, exactly, would be garnered from tuning in. It’s true that, in the macro sense, people have a great deal of apparent love for watching music videos on their televisions. For all of you children who have never had to live in a world where things were only available to you when the Powers that Broadcast decided to show them to you: it sucked. It sucked every day. It sucked unbelievably hard. So TRL would have, like, maybe two music videos that were any good on it 11, and it was so long. This is not a world that anyone wants to return to, even if they think they do. 

So the only conclusion I can come to is this: people are going to watch for as long as their nostalgia-borne curiosity compels them to, and then are going to go right back to not watching MTV anymore. It seems an inevitability. And that will be a major loss for the awards-show-writing-about community 12, and it will leave no one happy.  

Of course, my business suggestion would be to make exactly one person happy: re-run Oddities and Sifl & Olly (which are both scripted anyway – remember how much better MTV’s scripted programming was than their non-scripted programming?), run an Unplugged a couple times a day, remind people about YouTube every hour or so, and have it all hosted by Matt Pinfield. So what do I know?


  1.  McCarthy has actually been with Viacom since 2004, and has, over time, been given control of Logo, then VH1, and now MTV. 
  2.  there isn’t really another term for it. I mean, there’s Mariah Carey’s legendary TRL-hosted meltdown, certainly, as the height of weirdness, but the entirety of the show itself was capable of a sort of fever-dream quality that television only rarely can have. Eminem was (hilariously) a jerk to Mark Wahlberg! Marilyn Manson existed! The past is a different country.  
  3.  sometimes by phone! The past is a different country. 
  4.  the first episode ran before the widespread commercial availability of broadband internet, and the last episode aired three years after YouTube started. 
  5.  I have mentioned it before in this space, but as of the time of this writing, comments about how “MTV doesn’t show music videos anymore” have been going on for just about half of MTV’s existence, and there’s no real point in pretending it’s otherwise. 
  6.  also the grouping of the MTV Movie Awards’ acting categories in a non-gender-exclusive way, which I delivered approbation for at the time. 
  7.  there were 455 scripted television shows creating new content in 2016. The number for 2017 is set to be much higher. This is an absurd amount of television. 
  8.  I am neither an effective prognosticator – or even a reasonably-good prognosticator, for that matter, since I think my prognosticative skills are something less than random chance – nor an executive for MTV, so understand that this presumption is really something. 
  9.  in pretty much whatever set of configurations you might want to see them in – well-behaved, poorly-behaved, whatevs. 
  10.  the better term here is not potential, but perhaps “wildly theoretical,” since I have no real intention of ever watching TRL. 
  11.  and that’s really almost always going to be one good song and one good video for whatever other reason – cool special effects, attractive human performers, a funny bit in the middle, that sort of thing. 
  12.  I mean this genuinely. I love the VMAs. Genuinely. 

The 2017 Teen Choice Awards

It’s the Teen Choice Awards! When it’s August and I don’t have anything else to write about, I dip into them to see what the fine people at Fox think that teenagers are telling them about what they want to sit through. It’s all very exciting.

It has sixty thousand categories, and many of them are completely incoherent, so in addition to being an awards show that I am decidedly outside the purview of 1, it is also, even if I do know everyone involved in any given category, the case that I have absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to be evaluating. As a result, I’ll be doing this one speed-round style, where I don’t say much about all the nominees, just a bit about the category in general and then a pronouncement.

So strap in, everybody, because this one goes to some pretty crazy places!

Choice Changemaker

Surely Selena Gomez has done what she can by her causes – she’s executive producing 13 Reasons Why, among other things – but only one of these people went so far as to get arrested to change what she saw as a combatable injustice, so it goes to that one, on sheer conviction 2 if nothing else.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shailene Woodley

Choice Video Game

It’s nice of them to throw a bone to The Olds by including a game for Old People, in the form of the most recent Zelda game. Since I’m a Zelda fan over all the rest of these, I will happily chew on said bone.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Choice Dancer

I think it is weird that I know who more of these people are than many of the other categories here at the bottom of the list. I mean, not super weird. I’m not in a twilight zone episode or anything. Just a little bit weird. Still don’t have anything to say about them, though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Julianne Hough

Choice Comedian

Obviously the Dolan Twins can’t be the best comedian singular because they are plural. Come on, Teen Choice Awards, you don’t have enough rules that you do follow to be throwing out even more of them.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hasan Minhaj

Choice Female Athlete

Again with the twins! Anyway, this category really highlights how little attention is paid to women’s sports in most aspects of the country, so great job to the Teen Choice Awards for including it, even if it’s just out of some weird need to segregate awards show categories.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Elena Delle Donne, because one of my low-key favorite things about basketball is that the “small” forward is definitely not that.

Choice Male Athlete

I can’t imagine answering anything other than Lebron James, but I do also support giving awards to John Cena, just because it would be funny to watch the award float around onscreen as though no one was holding it 3.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lebron James

Choice Model

True story: a couple of years ago I watched a local newscaster lose all of his whole entire composure over a brief piece on Ashley Graham’s first Sports Illustrated appearance 4, and that memory has entertained me more than any other thing any of these models have done. Now, it wasn’t technically within the eligibility period for these here awards, but I’m going to allow it because 1) there are a billion more categories to get through and 2) it’s really funny.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ashley Graham

Choice Style Icon

Wait, isn’t Cara Delevingne also a model? I guess if you’ve been in three cinematic boondoggles in as many years 5 you’re officially an “actress.” This seems dumb. Anyway, she’s a more interesting dresser than almost anything else so there you have it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cara Delevingne

Choice Female Hottie

I hate these categories. I normally elect not to spend any more time on them than necessary 6, and perhaps this is precisely the wrong year to take another approach, but why not play the game a little? It’s not my thing at all, but I can imagine that if Zendaya had happened in a world where I were a younger me, I would have a lot of feelings about her. And Spiderman: Homecoming was awesome.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zendaya

Choice Male Hottie

For the record, this category is four members of One Direction, and two Canadian pop stars.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zayn Malik

Choice Snapchatter

I’m very old, but I also do enjoy when people turn themselves into punchlines. Or rather when people who were already punchlines decide to lean in on their punchline status. Folks who “play themselves,” as it were.It makes me happy.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: DJ Khaled

Choice YouTuber

Well, Jake Paul has made himself synonymous with “jerkbag” in the last couple of months 7, and he was the one of these dudes I had any real familiarity with before this, so I guess we’ll just give it to last year’s winner, the Dolan Twins. This is despite my earlier proclamation that plural humans shouldn’t win awards for singular categories. My principles are being constantly eroded, here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Dolan Twins

Choice Instagrammer

Why don’t we call them Instagrammas? Like a gramma. But with Instagram. I think this should happen. Who do I call to propose my change? Anyway, I don’t like Instagram much.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Beyonce? I guess?

Choice Twit

It’s funny, see, because it’s lightly perjorative and it sounds also is part of the word “twitter.” Laffs aplenty here at the Teen Choice Awards.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chrissy Teigen

Choice Muser

If it’s possible to know less about Muse now than I did last year, then I have gone and done that. If it is not possible, then, well, I have nothing else to say about it now, certainly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I mean, I don’t even know what qualities would go into being the best at using Muse. So whoever is the complete, diametric opposite of me, then.

Choice Music Web Star

I sort of get what they’re going for here (someone who makes music and is primarily famous for their presence on largely non-music-specific portions of the web, i.e. YouTube or Snapchat or whatever), but I also think that, like, most musicians also have web presences of some sort? I feel like I’m getting petulant (and pedantic!) in my not knowing who the ACTUAL GODDAMN HECKING HECK ANY OF THESE HECKING PEOPLE ARE.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Leroy Sanchez’s wikipedia page and YouTube videos contain nothing that make me hate him, therefore it is him.

Choice Fashion/Beauty Web Star

It’s not saying anything new to point out that one of the things that YouTube has enabled is the rise of the YouTube makeup vlogger. I think, generally, that’s pretty cool! Makeup is a thing that a lot of people care about a lot, and it’s something to which a lot of skill and selection abilities can be applied! But also I don’t know anything about it or this or anything at all because I am so hopelessly old that I just applied for the job of Cryptkeeper and was rejected for being too old.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Aw what the hell, they made a whole movie about Gigi Gorgeous, that’s good enough for me.

Choice Gamer

Doesn’t Thomas Middleditch do a bunch of stuff on Twitch? Can’t I just award this to Thomas Middleditch? I think it would make me happier if I could. And, after all, it’s my website.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Thomas Middleditch

Choice Comedy Web Star

I know that there are practical reasons why they can’t just say “YouTube” in all of these categories or whatever, but honestly. When I think of comedy on the web, I think of comedy podcasts 8, which are not what we’re covering here. I’m about to go full Abe Simpson on this set of awards. I will say, however, that it is interesting, this year, to look at how many of these people are refugees from Vine, which stopped existing a little bit ago.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Colleen Ballenger

Choice Female Web Star

So one of the things that happen when you look these folks up on Wikipedia 9, provided they have a Wikipedia page, is that you are left with the distinct impression that people are constantly making lists of young people and populating them with the folks that would end up Teen Choice Awards nominees. It’s something I would not have known about, and I suppose it makes sense and all (there are several industries built on profiting off of “cool” “young” “people”), but it’s still a weird world that I have basically no experience with, except for the once a year (or so) that I look at this awards show. Oh also, there’s more twins in this one. Enough with the twins already.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lilly Singh, I suppose

Choice Male Web Star

I love the Charli XCX video for “Boys” so much that anyone in it gets free awards. That’s the truth.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cameron Dallas

Choice Summer Music Tour

Usually, I thank whatever powers that need thanking that I didn’t have to go to any of these events. But I very nearly went to see Kendrick on this tour 10, so I guess it has to be that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, DAMN Tour

Choice Summer Group

Sometimes I think that maybe the world isn’t worth saving.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Literally cold stony silence is better than any of this.

Choice Summer Female Artist

Of all of these summery ladies, only one was willing to put someone on blast for lying about an affection for the beach. If Howard Kremer is to be taken as a reliable source 11, then the beach is one of the very cornerstones of Summer, and defending it and making sure that people are honest about their beach feelings can only be seen as a strong pro-Summer move. Plus she mentions sharks. She’s really got this locked up.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lorde

Choice Summer Male Artist

Seriously, do we need to keep nominating the One Direction also-rans for things? I propose that we do not. Stick to the major One D players, folks.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Harry Styles

Choice Summer Song

I’m not sure what makes any of these “summer” songs 12other than the time that they charted. Of course, I never know the words to anything ever anyway, so they could all be 100% about summer and I wouldn’t be aware.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like”

Choice Next Big Thing

Two of these are terrible DJs 13, two of these are bands signed to The Vamps’ record label, the remaining one is literally a thirteen year old girl.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Deaf people

Choice Breakout Artist

I suppose if one decides that one can redefine “breakout” in a way that includes Chance the Rapper in the last year or so, then I am willing to do so. Even though Acid Rap was a long time ago, guys. Because my second choice would have to be, like, Halsey, I guess? It’s tough out here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chance the Rapper

Choice Pop Song

This one functionally comes down to Rihanna’s worst song in years vs. Bruno Mars’s worst song ever!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rihanna, “Love on the Brain”

Choice Music Collaboration

OK, so, “Closer” by the Chainsmokers and Halsey is a better song than all of these songs 14, but is not in this category. I guess it wasn’t collaborative enough? That’s dumb.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Chainsmokers, “Closer” (f. Halsey)

Choice Latin Song

I genuinely, unabashedly love this Prince Royce song.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Prince Royce, “Deja Vu” (f. Shakira)

Choice Rock Song

I have a hard time defending the nomination of Lorde’s “Green Light” as a “rock” song – it has basically zero rock-music elements – but it’s hands-down far and away the best song nominated in the category 15, and I’d rather see it go to a song that is good, even if it means that the genre distinction in the category name means frigging nothing. These are the compromises we must make in trying times.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lorde, “Green Light”

Choice R&B/Hip-Hop Song

Donald Glover created my favorite television show of last year. He also created his own best album as Childish Gambino, a project I’m on the record as not being as enthusiastic about as I am his acting/writing work. It’s enough to get him through this category though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Childish Gambino, “Redbone”

Choice Country Song

Boy, there’s just nothing more depressing than that Florida Georgia Line and Backstreet Boys song, right? I mean, not actually depressing in the subject matter, I mean depressing as a thing that exists in the world. Let’s stop thinking about it now.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Thomas Rhett, “Craving You” (f Maren Morris)

Choice Electronic/Dance Song

Somebody should tell Quavo that he’s allowed to turn down requests to be on songs. Does he have enormous debts? Is someone holding his family hostage? I suspect we’ll never know.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Clean Bandit, “Rockabye” (f Sean Paul & Anne-Marie) 16

Choice Song: Group

The name of this category makes me want to die. The nominees in this category make me want to die. This whole thing makes me want to die.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Chainsmokers, “Closer” (f. Halsey)

Choice Song: Female Artist

Did you know that it’s been very nearly a year since a woman topped the pop charts? And that no woman is currently in the top 10? This is because of a weird fluke where most of the women that have been on the pop charts are currently between releases, and in fact almost everyone on the charts is someone non-standard. Anyway. These songs certainly shouldn’t be #1 anywhere, because they’re all dreadful.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: With a highly qualified definition of “rightful,” let’s say Selena Gomez for “Bad Liar”

Choice Song: Male Artist

I swear that I could probably even forget that I like Bruno Mars at all, so low is his actual impact on my day-to-day life 17, if it wasn’t for awards shows, where he’s often hands-down the very best person in the categories in which he tends to be nominated

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like”

Choice Rock Artist

This category remains terrible, like it always is, but I’m not inhuman. When Chester Bennington lost the battle with his depression that he’d been fighting, writing about, talking about and singing about for my entire adult life, it was a terrible thing, and a lot of people from a lot of different corners spoke well and emotionally about how Linkin Park’s music affected them. And that is the kind of thing that one starts writing music to be able to do, so let’s go ahead and award them wherever possible, because it isn’t nothing, and it’s as noble and as decent an effect as anyone can have.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Linkin Park

Choice Country Artist

It’s not that I like Kelsea Ballerini particularly, it’s that I have stopped writing about country music in this space almost entirely because it’s just the same goddamn people year in and year out. Country music may continue to be relatively (by 2017 standards) successful sales-wise, but it’s almost certainly because they keep the number of artists in the record-selling industry’s country-music purview very, very low. So it makes any sort of novelty at all seem like a godsend.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kelsea Ballerini

Choice Vinyl Artist

So I cannot find the nominees for this one. They are not on the Teen Choice Awards website, they are not on Wikipedia, they are not on anything that google can bring me. Given this situation, I’m going to give the award to the fine people at Funko, who make those great POP! Vinyl doll things. If they won’t give me information, I’ll just deliberately misread the category. That’ll teach ‘em.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Funko.

Choice Latin Artist

I refuse to cave to the notion that “Despacito” is anything other than a dumb, terrible song 18, and that’s a shame, because I don’t dislike Daddy Yankee generally. I guess that’s why Shakira is here?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Shakira

Choice Electronic/Dance Artist

There’s a part of me that wants to point out that the EDM thing is probably played out, given that the names in this category haven’t changed in several years, and then I remember that that is also true in the country music categories, so I guess EDM is super healthy and we’re never, ever going to be free of David Guetta.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The eventual heat death of the universe

Choice R&B/Hip Hop Artist

How often do you suppose, in the history of the Teen Choice Awards, has the (possible) best rapper going 19 been nominated for a Teen Choice Award? I bet it is not often!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar

Choice Music Group

I don’t have any suggestions for what a better name for this category would be 20, but nothing makes this sound like a bunch of stuff named by old people than the phrase “music group”. I can’t really explain why this is so, but, y’know, I don’t have much else to say here, so there you have it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hard to call any of this “rightful,” but why not The Vamps? They’re the least worst! Probably!

Choice Female Artist

At least in the artist categories we can consider people holistically, which helps immensely. It’s true that each and every one of these people has done something I have enjoyed (although in the case of Hailee Steinfeld, Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez that thing is “act” and not “sing”), none of them have done so very recently.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Katy Perry

Choice Male Artist

Sort of the companion piece to Bruno Mars, The Weeknd’s place in theee writeups disguises that while I once was excited to the point of obsession with his recorded output, I now find it to be fine, serviceable pop music that largely has little to do with his early promise. But, y’know, he’s still the best one here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Weeknd

Choice Hissy Fit

Noooooo oooooooone commits like Gaston

To throw fits like Gaston

You can write the receipt on a chit for Gaston!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luke Evans, Beauty and the Beast

Choice Liplock

I still hate “best kiss” categories. I liked Wonder Woman so much, though.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Pine and Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman

Choice Scene Stealer

While I might quibble with Michael Rooker being included here – he didn’t “steal” scenes so much as “take scenes when he was given scenes,” I feel like he’s also the only choice . He’s Mary Poppins, y’all.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Michael “Mary Poppins, Y’all” Rooker

Choice TV Ship

I would like to point out that Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse are currently playing Betty and Jughead on Riverdale, which is a pairing so non-canonical and, indeed, blasphemous that I can only assume that the powers that decide these nominations are trying to get the planet smited. Smote. Whichever.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: It’s not Jughead and Betty, I tell you what.

Choice Summer TV Actress

I refuse to believe that “teens” are clamouring for the cast of Younger to get awards. Come on now. Anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Cierra Ramirez, The Fosters

Choice Summer TV Actor

That Shadowhunters show isn’t so bad!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Harry Shum, Jr., Shadowhunters

Choice Summer TV Show

This year’s America’s Got Talent has a great ventriloquist girl on it, which means it has officially entertained me more than the rest of the shows that are nominated in this category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: America’s Got Talent

Choice Breakout TV Show

These categories are made way easier when only one of the choices is actually any damn good.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Stranger Things

Choice Breakout TV Star

I mean, Finn Wolfhard is the choice breakout name, certainly. That’s a great name. I wish my name was Finn Wolfhard. Ah, well. He doesn’t win this award anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Millie Bobbie Brown, Stranger Things

Choice TV Villain

The fact that Grant Gustin is nominated for playing the villain on The Flash makes me think I should start watching The Flash again, if only to see what the hell is going on over there. So at least it has me intrigued.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Grant Gustin, The Flash

Choice TV Personality

I would love to have a clever Hot Take about James Corden, but nah. I like him. Just like everybody else. Hard not to, really.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: James Corden

Choice Throwback TV Show

If I’m reading the website correctly, the nominees for these categories were decided via Twitter, which is pleasingly democratic 21, which means these are shows that people inclined to nominate for the Teen Choice Awards are watching on whatever streaming platform hosts them (or whatever?). This makes this all much weirder. But it’s a fine idea, I suppose.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Veronica Mars

Choice Reality TV Show

Masterchef Junior has gone, in its brief few seasons, from being a refreshingly-positivity-focused cooking competition show to being a kind-of stage-parent-abetted nightmare. The contestants no longer seem liked spirited, weirdly-proficient kids and instead seem very much like weirdly-obsessed-over highly-trained kidtomatons. A number of them have parlayed their television appearances into kid-acting careers 22, and several times each season they appear to be groomed and managed (not all of them, but certainly many of them) in a way I find deeply, existentially depressing. All of that notwithstanding, it’s still the only show in this list of nominees that’s at all watchable.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Masterchef Junior

Choice Animated Show

Rick and Morty had the decency to finally come back, so the least we can do is praise it to the heavens so that everyone appreciates it while it’s around.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rick and Morty

Choice Comedy TV Actress

Rose McIver does the difficult job of being funny on a semi-comedic procedural about zombies in which she has to also do a bunch of heavy acting lifting. That’s impressive by any yardstick, really.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rose McIver, iZombie

Choice Comedy TV Actor

Hudson Yang has, over the course of Fresh Off the Boat, really grown into his performances, which has been pretty satisfying to watch. He’s no Andy Samberg, of course, but then, who is?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine Nine

Choice Comedy TV Show

I do have to wonder, at this point, if there are teenagers that are getting anything particularly out of Fuller House. Whatever joys it may contain 23 seem firmly rooted in being a nostalgia-watch – an opportunity to check back in with people who populated a television show when older people were children, and as a result might be comforted by their continued presence. Of course I don’t know any actual teenagers, so I may be missing something important.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Choice Action TV Actress

Whatever else there is to say about Supergirl, most of its charms rely on Melissa Benoit’s performance, so I guess this one goes to her.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Melissa Benoist, Supergirl

Choice Action TV Actor

Of all the things I find baffling here, many of them I am able to write off as just being a product of “I am old and it is not for me”. But man, Prison Break is just not good, if it ever was (and I’ll hear whatever arguments people make about the first season). And yet, here Wentworth Miller continues to be. I can’t think of a famous person named Miller that I wouldn’t rather see getting awards before him.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Uuuuuh…Grant Gustin? I guess he’s a villain now, so that’s something.

Choice Action TV Show

At least Supergirl is brightly colored and optimistic.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Supergirl

Choice Sci-Fi/Fantasy Actress

As someone who’s watched Burning Love multiple times, I have often found myself exclaiming my surprise that most of the women from the first season didn’t have tonnes of work, and were not on everything all the time 24. One of those women is Abigail Spencer, who is now on Timeless, a show that I have watched every episode of despite it being, y’know, pretty bad. So I’m happy to say she is deserving of this award, and even that Timeless is better than the rest of these shows, even though “somehow underused despite being the star of a pretty-awful show about time travel” isn’t quite the thing I had in mind.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Abigail Spencer, Timeless

Choice Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actor

Did you know that Matthew Daddario is the brother of True Detective and Baywatch star Alexandra Daddario? Did you know that neither of them has anything to do with guitar strings? Did you know that Shadowhunter is what ultimately came of the faltering The Mortal Instruments movie series that didn’t actually happen? All of those things are true!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Matthew Daddario, Shadowhunters

Choice Drama TV Actress

The nominees here are Bella Thorne and five different actors for Pretty Little Liars. We can add Pretty Little Liars to things I just don’t get.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ashley Benson, Pretty Little Liars

Choice Drama TV Actor

Sterling K. Brown is the safe bet, although he wasn’t nominated for The People vs. OJ Simpson (which happened before the eligibility period for this year’s Teen Choice Awards). He’s still a fine actor, even in This is Us, which is not fine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Sterling K. Brown, This is Us

Choice Drama TV Show

I want to continue to like Empire unreservedly, because it’s still a retired train 25, but I can’t. I do still like it extremely reservedly, however, which is enough to put it on top here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Empire

Choice Movie Ship

I would imagine that if you just kept the goddamn “ship” categories in there you wouldn’t need the stupid “kiss” category. Argh argh argh.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Evans and Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman

Choice Summer Movie Actress

On the one hand, Zendaya was good enough in Spider-Man: Homecoming that her performance withstood the stupid “MJ” reveal at the end. On the other hand, Gal Gadot was still better in Wonder Woman.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gal Gadot

Choice Summer Movie Actor

Tom Holland can have all of his accolades 26, but Chris Pine did a great job playing a male second banana/sidekick, and also is generally Chris Pine.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Pine, Wonder Woman

Choice Summer Movie

Spider-Man: Homecoming and Wonder Woman both deserve praise for being superhero movies in which their titular leads are actually heroic. There’s not a tonne of unearned property damage 27, there’s not a lot of wrestling with the result of killing a bunch of unsuspecting people, they are trying unquestionably to do the right thing in a real, humanist way (rather than in the “through gritted teeth even if the right thing is the ugly thing” that’s more common to, say, the other Avengers movies, and without being psychopaths like in the other DCU movies). I admire that. I think Wonder Woman is probably the better movie, although Spider-Man: Homecoming was the kind of thing that impelled me to read Spider-Man when I was a kid.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Wonder Woman

Choice Breakout Movie Star

Tom Holland probably “broke out” in Captain America: Civil War, where he stole the big action setpiece/ensemble scene. But I’ll accept that this would count, since he’s the title character and the star of the movie and all. Who needs to quibble?

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Tom Holland, Spider-Man: Homecoming

Choice Movie Villain

Nooooooo oooooooone’s an evil bloke like Gaston

Threatens townfolks like Gaston

Stands up to shamelessly repeated jokes like Gason!

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Luke Evans, Beauty and the Beast

Choice Comedy Movie Actress

Ellen Degeneres’s Dory is one of the greatest animated comedic performances of all time. OF ALL TIME.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ellen Degeneres, Finding Dory

Choice Comedy Movie Actor

I have mentioned that I only have so much room in my heart for Batman stuff. Mostly I find Batman stuff tiresome, and uninteresting. Unless it’s Batman stuff that’s all about how Batman stuff would be more interesting if it wasn’t so goddamned dark and negative and ugly all the time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Will Arnett, Lego Batman

Choice Comedy Movie

See above, although also add that the voice casting all around was nothing short of inspired, and I’m a big fan.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lego Batman

Choice Drama Movie Actress

I don’t like Serious Acting, and I don’t like biopics. And yet, here we are, giving an award to Taraji P. Henson for Acting in a biopic.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures

Choice Drama Movie Actor

No but seriously, I’m so glad I get to talk about Serious Acting in this context. It totally makes my day seem like I’ve accomplished something.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

Choice Drama Movie

I mean honestly. The Shack? Really? Come on, everybody. That’s no good.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hidden Figures

Choice Fantasy Movie Actress

Since Auli’i Cravalho is the only one of these actresses that acts as a character with complete agency 28, it pretty much has to be her, frankly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Auli’i Cravalho, Moana 

Choice Fantasy Movie Actor

While some of these are excellent roles for the actors that played them, most of them are also pretty stock Campbellian hero types. So it’s got to be Moana again, which at least plays with slightly different parts.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Dwayne Johnson, Moana

Choice Fantasy Movie

So, Moana then, is what I’m saying here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Moana

Choice Sci-Fi Movie Actress

Doesn’t it seem like Arrival came out like five years ago? I mean, I can look at release dates. I know it didn’t. It just seems like it came out a long time ago. Anyway, it’s not Arrival.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Choice Sci-Fi Movie Actor

I like Jeremy Renner in Arrival more than I’ve ever liked him in anything. I like Chris Pratt about the same in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as I like him in everything (so much!). I really, really liked Diego Luna, who did a good job of never really playing all his cards but still communicating what it was that his character was doing in Rogue One.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Diego Luna, Rogue One

Choice Sci-Fi Movie

I mean, I go on about Rogue One a lot, and I really love it. But before I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 I didn’t even know what a Ravager Funeral was, and by the end of it I was a quivering mass of human emotion to see one. So that one.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Choice Action Movie Actress

Can we get some kind of consistent ruling on which Superhero movies are “action” movies and which one are “fantasy” movies? I get that Doctor Strange had spells and interdimensional travel and a portal and everything, but Wonder Woman starts out on an invisible island and stars a character who was created as a gift by the literal actual Greek gods, and, like, they both have a bunch of fight-em-ups in them. I’m willing to go along with 29 the notion that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a science fiction movie rather than a fantasy movie because it takes place in space, but it is also an action movie first and foremost, yes? It just seems really arbitrary is all I’m saying here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman

Choice Action Movie Actor

You only say goodbye to a character that’s been onscreen regularly for seventeen years once, and there are lots of worse “goodbye” movies than Logan. Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for my entire adult life, and since the X-Men has been, historically, something that meant a lot to me, it’s hard not to be deferential to that.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Hugh Jackman, Logan

Choice Action Movie

So this one comes down to Logan vs. Wonder Woman. This is the kind of choice that I am usually insulated from by the fact that there aren’t usually two worthy contenders in any given category. I suppose I’m going to say Logan, because I feel confident that nobody is lying when they say there won’t be any sequels to disappoint or ruin it 30. I mean, maybe all the Wonder Woman movies will be good and I’ll change my opinion in a couple of years, but that bet seems less safe.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Logan

And there you have it! 94 categories, properly awarded, even the one where they didn’t actually publish the nominees! Tune in for lots of bland, amiable hosting and lots of utterly baffling awards being granted!


  1.  as evidenced by the amount of time I have to spend looking these people up and watching their Instagram stories or whatever 
  2. WORDPLAY! 
  3. because you can’t see him, see. 
  4.  it was amazing. He turned colors! He completely forgot how words work when they come out of his mouth! He, in every possible respect, reacted like a wolf in a Warner Brothers cartoon. 
  5.  Pan, Suicide Squad, and Valerian 
  6.  actually, in the two other times I’ve done it, I’ve decided it was no one at all (specifically I said “oh god oh god oh god”, because that’s how this category makes me feel), and Beyonce. 
  7.  not even being from Cleveland can save him there, nor his brother. Although they operate out of Los Angeles now, so maybe that’s the reason. 
  8.  because, to refresh everybody, I am so old. 
  9.  a thing which must be done, because the last couple of times out, a bunch of these people have turned out to be real dill-holes, and I’m not generally in the business of endorsing dill-holes if I can help it. 
  10.  actually, the show in question is in Columbus, and has not happened as of the time of this writing, so I suppose there’s a chance I STILL COULD. Probably won’t, but still could. 
  11.  and I believe he is! 
  12.  except possibly Miley Cyrus’ “Malibu,” which I suppose is summer-related because what other time of year is there in Malibu? 
  13.  one of whom, Jonas Blue, was responsible for the utterly surreal “Fast Car” cover that you would have heard in, say, a gym or a passing car or something. It’s so weird. 
  14.  This is not the first time I have had to lean on kind-of liking this song as a way out of an awards show category! 
  15.  it’s also the song mentioned above in the Summer Female Artist blurb 
  16. Not that one 
  17.  outside of shooting-focused video games as well, in which the usage of grenades is often accompanied by a rousing chorus of “Grenade” 
  18.  not on principle – I like pop music (obviously), and every single person on the song has made at least one song I have genuinely enjoyed – but in the specific. It’s real bad, guys. 
  19.  I will continue to make my argument for Vince Staples, but I’m not going to die on this hill in this particular piece. 
  20.  and it’s worlds better than “Choice Song: Group” 
  21.  provided, of course, that it actually is how they were selected and not a smokescreen, I guess? I mean, I’m inclined to believe it because 1) there are very few Fox properties involved and 2) it’s all sort of too surreal to be dishonest. 
  22.  on a side note, one of the more interesting television phenomena to have witnessed in the last ten years or so is the development of the “cooking competition show television economy,” whereby people hop from one cooking competition to the other, appearing on television fairly regularly for whatever their reasons are. Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, Top Chef, etc., all seem to cast from a seemingly-smallish pool of people that you see repeating. This is less true for the kids, but it is clear that there is some degree of springboarding that is useful for them through this venue. 
  23.  I watched the whole first season here, and can tell you: I did not find any joys. 
  24.  since then, some of them have been – June Diane Raphael and Beth Dover have both popped up in Netflix’s stable of available actresses, primarily on Grace and Frankie and Orange is the New Black, respectively. Janet Varney is on the excellent Stan Against Evil, Natasha Leggero co-created Another Period, and some of them were already pretty regularly-appearing people. 
  25. off the rails! 
  26. including below. Read on! 
  27.  a German military base gets fucked up in Wonder Woman, which can hardly be called acts of destruction against the unsuspecting, and we watch Spider Man go out of his way not to cause any extra damage to Coney Island. 
  28.  Belle is second-closest, but fundamentally Beauty and the Beast is still a movie about a woman who falls in love with her captor, and that’s some major points taken away in the “with agency” category. 
  29.  although not, in any meaningful way, to agree with 
  30. I mean, leaving aside that one of the first movies in the Wolverine-solo-movie series is genuinely one of the worst movies ever made. 

The 2017 Hugo Awards

So a few days ago I made it clear that my feelings toward the Hugo Awards had changed, and that this year I would be bringing you the definitive opinion-declarations that you all so richly deserve.

Since I said a bunch of stuff about it there, I don’t have to say much in the headnote, except as follows: there are a bunch of Hugos for stuff I don’t really know very much about, and that are small-time enough 1 to feel like a muddier, under-baked opinion wasn’t really a useful addition to the throng of voices on the subject. So the fan categories, the zine categories and the editor categories aren’t here. I’m also skipping the artist category, for reasons that are more related to not wanting to parse it all out 2, and reasons related to the preservation of the nice thematic unity of only writing about the narrative categories. I will point out that Chuck Tingle is nominated in the “Fan Writer” category, and he absolutely deserves another Hugo.  

And so, without further ado: The Hugo Awards, and their rightful winners.

Best Series

This is a new category to the Hugos, and is possibly temporary – this is the trial year for it, and it stands to be ratified/not ratified at this year’s WorldCon. This is a pretty good crop of choices, for the first year out, but already it runs into a problem. The front-runner, and probable rightful winner, is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, which is great, but I’m also completely unable to explain in what way it would be eligible this year 3. This also sort of highlights the general problem with the “series” category – when does it get the award? The rules are that it has to have at least three volumes and one of them has to be published in the last calendar year, but does that mean you give it to them at the third one (which risks giving it a Hugo before some completely-derailing future installments 4)? Or do you wait until it ends, risking just…never giving some series a Hugo 5? Anyway, it all raises a bunch of questions, and it might even be interesting to see how all this turns out.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Since it can’t be “rightful” if it’s not apparent why it was chosen, it’s going to have to be James S.A. Corey’s also-great The Expanse.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

I do not love television. One of the things that is, increasingly, becoming difficult when the time comes to write these things, is that I also do not much care for Game of Thrones 6. So that leaves that right out. I feel like Black Mirror is better in memory than it is in practice. I’m just stalling for time so I’ll say it’s not Doctor Who or The Expanse 7 either. Long-time readers will know about my endless, unconditional love for clipping., and how it has been truly surreal to see Daveed Diggs become one of a vanishingly small set of people to be nominated for a Hugo and a Tony 8, and certainly the only one of those people who also wrote an afro-futurist noise-rap masterpiece. So this category would almost certainly have belonged to clipping. and Splendor and Misery even if I did love television.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: clipping. – Splendor and Misery

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Deadpool and Ghostbusters were both movies that I enjoyed a great deal. They made me laugh, a bunch of cool shit happened in them, I’m very happy. They are, surprisingly, both outclassed here though. Which means, of course, that Hidden Figures never stood a chance 9. Arrival was a fine movie, but the thing that should have won a Hugo award was the story, which already had its chance 10, so we can move on. Stranger Things and Rogue One both, in their odd way, rely heavily on other narratives to offer their own a sense of weight and depth. In Stranger Things’ case, that made it more satisfying, and more emotionally resonant, but probably not any better as a thing in and of itself. Since Rogue One (the best Star Wars movie made in my lifetime) is only meant to exist entirely in and as a part of the larger Star Wars universe, the fact that it adds a human element, and makes the actual risks taken in the other movies seem more real, makes it a movie not only good enough to stand on its own, but also makes several other movies better.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rogue One

Best Graphic Story

The Hugos are, sadly, the only one of the three book awards that I cover here that has a specific category for comics 11. This was a tough field – none of these are bad, and a numerical majority of them are genuinely great. Marjorie Liu’s Monstress and Brian K. Vaughan’s Paper Girls are both newcomers that seem like they could each develop into something amazing, but aren’t quite there as of their first volumes. Vaughan’s second nomination is for Saga, whose sixth volume is as fun and thoroughly enjoyable as the first five, even if it isn’t necessarily the best thing here. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther misses the mark a bit, although it is a darn shame that it won’t have stuck around to develop its ideas a little further  12. Tom King’s Vision uses a venerable (and weird) superhero to talk about what makes a life, and sort of the idea of prejudice and where it comes from. G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel uses its character’s superheroics to deal with the moral implications of personal power, and also specific prejudice and issues that crop up within families and communities. Both are genuinely great, Ms. Marvel is slightly better, mainly because Super Famous (the volume up for consideration here) is, in addition to all those things, also funny.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous

Best Related Work

With “related,” perhaps confusingly, meaning “writting by someone who usually writes and/or acts in science fiction but who is, in this case, writing nonfiction.” Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg is the least of the bunch: a slight series of conversations that are there to take the form of a rough biography, without stooping to anything so gauche as writing a narrative. Uncle Bob is a good storyteller 13, with a keen grasp of his place in the world and all that. I’m sure the conversations were great fun to have, and I have no trouble believing that it seemed like a good idea to publish them. It is, nevertheless, the one work in this category that I would not recommend to the reader of this piece. Neil Gaiman’s The View From the Cheap Seats and Ursula K. Leguin’s Words are My Matter are both interesting essay collections from brilliant fiction writers, each of whom is a capable, if not exactly brilliant, essayist. Gaiman is amiable and enthusiastic, but the essays, speeches and introductions here collected are journalistic, friendly and completely non-analytical. Leguin fares a little better – most of her collection is, after all, just straight-up book reviews, and she’s a great reader as well as a great thinker, but Words Are My Matter is kind of the least of her essay collections, good as it is. The late Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist is, in part, funny and erudite and all of the things that you’d want from a book by Carrie Fisher. The main part of it, however, genuinely is excerpts from the diary she was keeping during her on-set affair with Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars. It’s got the germ of what would make Carrie Fisher such a joy to read things by, but it’s, y’know, the diary of a twenty year old. There’s only so well that can go down. Still, the beginning and the end of it (written when Fisher was older and more in control of her faculties) are pretty great. Sarah Gailey’s “The Women of Harry Potter” is a series of blog posts, each of which focuses on a different character in the series of books, highlighting their role and the effects they had on the story. It’s the best kind of fan-writing, casting things in a slightly different (or even just “more”) light, and giving a new dimension to the generally male-character-dominated discussion of the story. The best of these,  however, is probably Kameron Hurley’s Geek Feminist Manifesto, which is also (like the Gaiman and Le Guin books mentioned above) a collection of previously-published essays, but this one with an eye toward topics that are more currently in the public mind: what it means to like things that are problematic (or to be problematic), the economic realities of being a writer of fictions, the general sociopolitical realities of liking stuff 14, and generally presenting an interesting set of perspectives and thoughts. It’s sort of the diametric opposite of the Silverberg book, really 15.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kameron Hurley, Geek Feminist Manifesto

Best Short Story

This is one of the only categories to have a major Puppy incursion 16, in the form of John C. Wright’s “An Unimaginable Light,” a diatribe about robots and people and political correctness run amoke that is tedious in its constant moralizing, and straight-up steals its moral/end reveal from Metropolis 17. Brooke Bolander’s “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” is still fine, but not quite at the level of the other nominees. Amal El-Mohtar’s “Seasons of Glass and Iron” is no less beautiful than it was when I wrote about it for the Nebula awards, but this field has some even better candidates. Similarly, at Nebula time I had a hard time not choosing Alyssa Wong’s “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, and it is even a pretty good candidate for winner here, but it still isn’t quite there. Carrie Vaughan’s “That Game We Played During the War” makes use of chess and mind-reading and allegory and metaphor in a way that is all very beautiful and effective. N.K. Jemisin’s “The City Born Great” is about a city that is also a Kaiju and a Lovecraftian Other Thing that threatens it and a protagonist that makes sure the city is unharmed and is emotionally satisfying, visually inventive, and, you know, fucking rad.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: N.K. Jemisin, “The City Born Great”

Best Novelette

Here we have another appearance of a puppy-approved work 18 in a literary category, in the form of Stix Hiscock’s seemingly Chuck-Tingle-esque 19 Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, who is, by her own confirmation, not any kind of puppy, nor familiar with them, nor did she intend to write anything other than a silly dinosaur sex scene (with a green alien woman who has three breasts that shoot lasers). Good for her, I suppose.  The Jewel and Her Lapidary is a pretty good piece of work, but it’s either too long (I would’ve liked to see the focus winnowed down to just the events that make up the centrality of the action) or too short (I would also have liked to have spent several hundred pages in this world). It’s fine, but if it were a short story or a novel it would probably be amazing. Nina Allan’s “The Art of Space Travel” is a story about Mars colonization and one woman’s search for her father, and is also fine. Carolyn Ives Gilman’s “Touring With the Alien” is a good story in which the nature of humanity is addressed through an inventive conception of alien life 20 , and comes highly recommended. Alyssa Wong’s “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay” is wonderful, just as it was back in the Nebulas, but Ursula K. Vernon’s “The Tomato Thief” 21, which is actually about a world in which trains are gods and there’s magic in the desert and also about how tomatoes are basically the best of all foods, all of which I can totally get behind, is the best.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ursula K. Vernon, “The Tomato Thief”

Best Novella

This is, as it so often is, the category that I have the least-strong feelings for. China Mieville’s The Census Taker was pretty good, but also feels like an experiment that never makes itself clear 22. Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey remains an impressive feat of narrative efficiency, and incredible characterization, and remains entirely outside of my wheelhouse. Since I’m deciding “Rightful” here, that matters, dammit. If I had different tastes/interests, however, it might actually be the best-constructed story here. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and the Shaman is a fun, creepy semi-mystery. I’ve not read much of her Penric material, but I always mean to. This is probably not the best of it. Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway is a fantastic bit of world-introduction, and I’m tremendously happy that there are more stories set at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Kij Johnson’s The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe is the second-greatest piece of Lovecraft-touching fiction published all year – a great examination of what happens when someone from Lovecraft’s Dreamlands ends up in the real world, and about a woman in Lovecraft’s world. But, as with the Nebulas, it’s down to Victor Lavalle’s tremendous The Ballad of Black Tom, which also does many of those things, but does them in a way that also resonates with the racially-tinged material both in the original Lovecraft and in the environs in which Lavalle is writing. Plus it’s genuinely pretty scary, which I think is undersold when people talk about it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Victor Lavalle, The Ballad of Black Tom

Best Novel

Alright, it’s time to get a thing out of the way. Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem was one of those books that was not much like anything I’d ever read before. It had everything. It had action, and quantum physics, and “what is a human” philosophy, and everything. I bounced hard off The Dark Forest the first time I tried to read it, but when I gave it another chance, I found much to like in it as well – less of the practical questions, and a lot more of the moral and philosophical ones. Death’s End, here nominated, was…deeply disappointing. Not merely because it elected to have a whole bunch of different endings, but because it handles its characters poorly. There are still things to admire about it, certainly, but it stil winds up looking a bit like a dropped ball at the end there. N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate was an excellent sequel to The Fifth Season, but also has a bit of “middle book” syndrome going – it will probably be better when it’s able to be read as part of the completed series, but as it is right now it just advances the plot, building toward the payoff rather than allowing much of one on its own. Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning does an enormous number of things 23, but also seems incomplete – it’s pretty clearly the beginning of a larger story, and feels it. Becky Chambers’ A Close and Common Orbit is technically also a sequel 24, and is a rollicking party of a space adventure story that also deals with the nature of human-ness, and the selection of family, and the choosing of one’s proper place in the universe. Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky is also a damned delightful book of great ideas, and a surprisingly coherent storyline and bit of plotting,  for something with what could very easily veer into a soup-sandwich approach to incorporating many, many different (good and interesting) ideas and reference points into itself. Yoon Ha Lee also wrote a great book in Ninefox Gambit about self-determination (and what that actually means), as well as complicated math and a really interesting approach to space warfare/interstellar technology that I’ve been pleased to think about for awhile ever since I read it.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Yoon Ha Lee, Ninefox Gambit 25

And that about wraps it up here! Tune in come November for the World Fantasy Awards! And also later in the week for the Teen Choice Awards, because Ohioneedsatrain contains multitudes!

 


  1.  or, in some cases, I just don’t know enough about what to say. You may feel free to note that this never stops me in the case of the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes or whatever, and that’s true, but those aren’t really anything I feel could ever be taken seriously. At least, not really. At least, they shouldn’t. 
  2.  I am, as previously acknowledged in this space, not terribly excited by visual art in most cases, so it’s easy enough here to just talk about narrative forms. 
  3.  genuinely, as far as I can tell, nothing from it was published in the period of eligibility.  
  4.  Think Foundation 
  5.  think Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict books. Or, y’know, the Vorkosigan books, but they’re apparently not bound by the same rules I guess?  
  6.  I also do not like A Song of Ice and Fire to speak of, although it’s much better. 
  7.  although, y’know, see above. 
  8.  the other person that comes to mind is Mel Brooks, who was nominated for a Hugo for Young Frankenstein, and a Tony for The Producers 
  9.  I like biopics about as much as I like television or paintings. Probably less, actually. 
  10. Ted Chiang’s The Story of Your Life, which Arrival is based on, didn’t win the Hugo that year, although it did win the Nebula. It lost to Greg Egan’s Oceanic, which seems disappointing to me, but hey, I was a much younger me in 1999. 
  11.  the World Fantasy Awards, in fact, have banned comics from being nominated, after there was much kerfuffle over Sandman winning one. 
  12.  it was recently cancelled, see. 
  13.  and is genuinely one of those people who seems to have read every. fucking. thing. In the world, and remembers it all. 
  14.  sure, sure, it sounds vague, but there’s a handful of essays about it, damn it. IT’S A REAL THING. 
  15.  to be fair, however, while Kameron Hurley certainly seems well-read, she probably has not read as much as Robert Silverberg, because it seems like NO ONE HAS. 
  16.  the rabid ones, specifically, I am unsure if the sad puppies made any real presence known in this year’s Hugos. If they did, I couldn’t quite figure out how. 
  17.  the robots are the real people, and the people with the “freedom” to think and act are the real robots. WAKE UP SHEEPLE. 
  18.  with the following additional note: the puppies would also happily take credit for The Census-Taker in the novella category because, for reasons that I find myself unable to grasp, they always put China Mieville on their slates. The odds that the Census-Taker would have been nominated anyway are pretty high – Mieville is a well-known author, and a frequent Hugo nominee – but in the interest of fair discussion, it’s probably appropriate to acknowledge that the puppies like him also. 
  19. googling “Chuck Tingle Hugos” will get you all of the best-of-all-possible-worlds information you could want about the good Dr., but in case your goggling arm is broken: Chuck Tingle writes absurdist “erotica” that got on the puppies’ radar because it often involves dinosaurs – remember that they have a specific, well-beyond-rational distaste for the Rachel Swirsky story “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” and are frequently found dismissing the kind of things they don’t like about sff as “dinosaur erotica” – and turned out to be neither a puppy-supporter or a neutral party, but in fact specifically set against the puppy mission, in a number of hilarious and crowd-pleasing ways. 
  20.  which is basically catnip for Our Hero (me) 
  21.  set in the same world as her World-Fantasy (and Nebula-) -Nominated “Jackelope Wives” 
  22.  I end up feeling this way about China Mieville’s stories a lot. 
  23.  a small subset of which being: it takes place in the future, is written in the style of the past, it has a twisty main character, it provides a number of brief treatises on various modern philosophies along the course of its narrative, and also may or may not be reliably told. 
  24.  to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet 
  25.  at Nebula time it also came down to Ninefox Gambit or All the Birds in the Sky, and that time it went, in my estimation, to All the Birds in the Sky (and, indeed, it did actually win the Nebula). But the advantage of having some time since I’ve read it means that Ninefox Gambit edges it out just barely – I’ve been drawn to thinking about it an awful lot, and it makes me genuinely excited for more books in that series. 

On Fan Reactions and Awards

It seems that it is impossible for there to be an awards show that hasn’t had some measure of either controversy over their inability to reflect the entertainment environment expected of them their audience, or pre-emptively trying to avoid that same negative reaction.

I say this not in a “people won’t let things be cool” sort of way, but in a “this really calls into question the accepted orthodoxy about the way awards shows work” sort of way. I think, ultimately, more accountability is always better, so I’m in favor of it.

For the sake of clarity and ability to speak from any sort of position of authority, I’m going to limit this particular discussion, with one exception that will be made clear at the end 1 . Partly because I don’t always study other awards particularly closely 2, and partly because at least with the ones that I’ve already written about, my own viewpoint has been made fairly clearly already, and so doesn’t require a lot of table-setting. 

Starting the realm of the definitely-changing, The MTV Movie Awards made a definite swing this year at being the “woke” awards show – for the better, ultimately, as things got nominated that otherwise might have been ignored and shouldn’t have been. They did this, as far as I’m aware, without any real prompting from their audience or whatever – it’s not like anyone takes the awards very seriously in and of themselves, they just decided that the marketing/advertising dollars were in appealing to people who would rather see that kind of thing (i.e. a more socially-aware slate of nominees and recipients), and went toward them. It’s the sort of thing that happens to television all the time in a capitalist environment.

In even more important and far-reaching changes, recipients of the upcoming World Fantasy Awards will find themselves presented with a fancy new world-tree/disc thing 3, instead of the (kind of silly) bust of hateful ol’ Howard Phillips Lovecraft, about which I have talked previously, and, should I think of anything, may mention some more in November. This was a move that deeply upset a bunch of people, including Lovecraft biographer S.T. Joshi, who sent his back in protest. This is where the water gets a bit warmer.

The Grammys recently found themselves under fire, which you can read about here, and the official result of which is pretty up in the air. We do know the immediate response, however, which was to deny that there was any such thing as a problem and to insist that musicians are simply devoid of prejudicial thought and action. So clearly it’s possible to also simply avoid change altogether, or at least make it clear that that’s your immediate intention, even if it isn’t where you land up 4.

Of course, they may find that they end up in the same position as the Academy Awards. After a couple of years straight of finding themselves on the receiving end of backlash about their seemingly-careless habit 5 of not recognizing the contributions of non-white film-associated artists and performers, the Academy Awards underwent major changes, admitting a tonne of other people into the Academy itself to represent a more diverse pool of judges, and eventually coming out with something that didn’t upset people so much by its mere existence 6.

All of which is to say this: because none of these awards has as directly-chosen a set of recipients as the Hugo Awards, none of these awards has been able to position itself in a way that makes the award-granting process (and end result, frankly) more interesting. It became more interesting because it became a set of awards with a viewpoint.

This was not a change that the WorldCon attendees/Hugo voters 7 arrived at in their own course. The story of the two groups of Puppies is well-established (and well-told elsewhere), but the upshot (which I have mentioned a couple of times now, as it’s been going on for quite a while) is going to follow. I’ll try to make it as brief as I can.

In the beginning, a group calling themselves the Sad Puppies set out to make space for their interests (specifically in response to Larry Correia’s blog post here, which gave the movement their name and the basic structure of their platform), which they saw as under-served. The field of science fiction (as specifically told through the winners of the Hugo awards) was, to their eyes, dominated too much by “literary” or “non-traditional” science fiction 8. So they began to encourage the people that they gathered together to vote for a “slate”, getting works that lined up with their idea of what it all should be and getting them nominated. At this point, Hugo nomination was a direct-numbers system, meaning a certain number of nominations was enough, and a group that organized itself properly could get most of what they wanted in the door 9. This, apparently, inspired a second group of people, a couple of years later, called the Rabid Puppies, to attempt a similar sort of job.

The Rabid Puppies were not merely displeased that the subject matter and mode of writing had moved away from the Heinlein-style “heroic individual does stuff in space and/or with science generally to be heroic and awesome” 10, and were specifically set against some of the people that they saw as changing science fiction into something that they could not countenance, and they set out, specifically, to “destroy” the Hugos.  

The result of the two slates came to a head a couple of years ago, when No Award was given at the Hugos 11  in a number of categories that had, at that point, been overrun by the Rabid (and kind of Sad, although by 2015 the two groups were very similar, and the Rabid folks were much louder) Puppies. In the run-up to the actual Hugo voting, there was a lot of talk about who the Rabid Puppies were, and about how many of them had a track record of believing some pretty vile things, and specifically targeting writers both personally and in a sort of meta-sense 12By associating themselves with these sorts of people – i.e. people who feel that it is appropriate to “destroy” an award because you don’t like someone’s race or political attitudes or, uh, dinosaur story – they both elevated their visibility in terms of what it was they were actually about, and galvanized the existing Hugo voters to work against them directly.  

The end result was not only a non-awarding of a bunch of major categories, but a two-pronged follow-up action: in the short-term, people became aware of the Hugo nomination process problems, and reacted with more people making nominations and voting on them, which is more-or-less what choked the puppy agenda out of winning last year, and then the rules to Hugo nomination were changed 13 , with the result that as of this year’s Hugo nominations, the Puppy Presence is limited to some of the smaller, easier-to-get-into categories (the editor categories, say, or the podcast one), or for their placing their stamp on (and subsequently taking credit for) things that had a good chance of being nominated otherwise 14

What ended up happening in terms of shaping the Hugos, then, was that they shifted from being a sort of cheerfully-amorphous popularity contest, to a cheerfully-amorphous popularity contest among people who want science fiction to be a certain way 15, and that makes it all much more interesting.

The standard tone of awards-granting bodies is one of an assumed objectivity – even in the case of the Hugos, where it’s the voice of a certain subset of the audience, and is clearly visible. In this case, however, it’s largely composed (still) of people who are nominating and voting despite the puppies, and largely in opposition to them. Which means that instead of the Hugo Awards being the blandly best of the bunch that sold, it now has some texture and some traction. And that is much more interesting than pretending that your awards are something that Just Happened, and that the process itself doesn’t matter.

And, hey, it’s probably temporary. The natural state of things like this is to be agitated, and then sort of settle back into a state of stasis, and when things die back down, people will get lazy about them again, and they’ll probably go back to not being very interesting. But for right now they are, and I’m going to write about them next week, and you’re all going to enjoy it.


  1.  I mean, it probably doesn’t take a lot of prognosticative ability to tell that I’m talking about the Hugos here. They’re next week, and the whole thing is building toward it, but if you absolutely must know how it all turns out: it’s the Hugos. 
  2.  Although I will say here: last year Bob Dylan won a Nobel prize for Literature, and Paul Beatty won the Man Booker prize, despite being an American, and both of these things strike me as being exactly the sort of “updating for the times” nonsense that the rest of the lesser, more entertainment-oriented awards are also doing. No disrespect meant to either man. 
  3.  I’ve only ever seen the one promotional shot, so it could also be a fancy new world-tree orb thing. I can’t tell the exact shape of the round, moon-ish thing in the branches. 
  4.  after all, the Grammys could be entirely different next year, but that’s hard to tell from here, five months out from the last ones. 
  5.  this is giving them the benefit of the doubt and not accusing them of malice outright, which was also a common reaction at the time. 
  6.  and then somehow still managing to shit the bed with one of the greatest live-television snafus of all time. 
  7.  the two are ostensibly the same pool of people – the way to become a Hugo voter is to pay to become a member of the World Science Fiction Convention. A lot of people become supporting – i.e. non-attending – members, who get a vote on the awards but don’t sit at a table for the convention itself. 
  8.  the quote marks there aren’t direct quotes, but rather an attempt to distill what they’re calling their problem nominally in the most basic terms possible. 
  9.  this is far from the only time the Hugos have been gamed in such a way. The history of the Hugos is littered with groups of people that wanted to make some kind of point. In previous pieces on this very blog, in fact, I have claimed that I wouldn’t be writing about the Hugos, partially because its version of the vox populi has always struck me as kind of silly, and I’ve never much cared for it. This piece is, in no small part, a set of reasons why I have changed that attitude, and has to do with how the curatorial nature of the awards themselves have changed as much as it is any kind of outright reaction. 
  10.  the Sad Puppies were seemingly-devoted primarily to this, the stuff of “golden age” adventure-type stories, at least publicly and on paper. 
  11.  a sort of pre-existing mitigating factor of the directly-numerical nomination process was that people could, if they did not believe that any of the works that were nominated deserved the award, nominate that no award be given. The way that worked was something like this: there would be five nominated slots, and you would rank them from one to five. At some point on the list, if, say, you felt that two of them were good enough, you would rank the best of them at #1, the other good one at #2, and then No Award at #3, finishing it out with the least-worst, as it were, at #4 and #5. 
  12.  for an example of the former, Alpha Rabid Puppy Vox Day referred to NK Jemison as a “half-savage,” (a quote which he later went on to complain was “taken out of context,” as though there was a context for it that makes it ok) and went on and on about her race as a reason she should not be listened to or taken seriously. She was, unfortunately, far from the only person to receive this treatment from a prominent puppy. The exemplary manifestation of the latter is the their weird, completely nonsensical obsession with the Rachel Swirksy story “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,” which continues to this very year (stay tuned for my Hugo Awards writeup for more on that), which was usually cited as the case in point when they talked about everything that was wrong with the Hugos and which, it must be pointed out, did not actually win a Hugo Award. But that didn’t stop them from seemingly going out of their way to make it clear how much they hated it. 
  13.  to make it less dependent on numerical majority, and eventually introducing an intermediary step. 
  14.  a thing they started doing last year, theoretically because they could then take “credit” for a “victory” in a category for nominating Guardians of the Galaxy or this year’s The Census Taker. 
  15.  to follow-up on the Dragon Awards, it is worth pointing out that they now have the same editorial advantage – that is to say, we know exactly what those folks are all about, and what they’re looking for. My stake in this, however, is such that the stuff that they celebrate, even just purely in literary terms, leaving aside the speech of some of the people that are closely associated with it, is entirely not something I’m interested in. I think that going and having another award to give it to what you like about a certain thing is great, and I’m glad they found theirs. I’m also glad that I don’t have to try to slog through all that stuff. 

The Best Records of July 2017

Boris – Dear (Boris is an all-time favorite, and Dear, which may or may not be intended to be their final record – they originally set out for it to be, but it sounds like they’ve rethought the situation – is a real monster)

Jay-Z – 4:44 (I didn’t think we’d ever get another good Jay-Z record. I especially never believed we’d ever get a personal Jay-Z record. Wonders never cease.)

Ex Eye – Ex Eye (Did you maybe think you didn’t need Colin Stetson’s sax-driven art-metal? Why would you think that? That’s a silly thing to think)

Alan Vega – It (Alan Vega’s solo output can be kind of uneven, so it is with great joy and relief that I report that IT is a fantastic, raging, stomping final statement)

Pollyseeds – The Sounds of Crenshaw, Vol 1 (Terrace Martin put together a proper band with a proper name, and made a record that still pretty much sounds like Terrace Martin, which is more than enough to land it on this list)