The Chicken or the Egg? The Hugo Awards of Dramatic Presentation

TrophyIt’s that time of year again, where the nominations are thrown into the big cyber box and people are lighting up flares in the ever-pulsating world of the interweb, highlighting work to be critiqued and disseminated. There have been a multitude of discussions about representation, posts on eligibility and the direction in which the genre is headed. I’m taking this from a new(ish) angle.

My thoughts are focused on the awards for Best Dramatic Presentation.

It’s an award that has, since its first presentation in 1958, has hosted a wide range of titles. We’ve had the Apollo 11 Moon Landing footage win the Short Form in 1979, Gollum’s Acceptance Speech at the MTV Awards (Short Form 2004), comedian Rachel Bloom’s song “Fuck me, Ray Bradbury” (Short Form 2011) as well as the cult favourite “Dr Horrible‘s Singalong Blog” , the web series written by Joss Whedon. There have also been concept albums, such as “Blows Against the Empire” and “Don’t Crush that Dwarf; Hand me the Pliers” (both in 1971, where no clear winner was apparent.)

Nowadays, the short form awards are often inundated with episodes of Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica and Torchwood – which are anything but a surprise as of course these are franchises and the Hugos are a fan-based award. What interests me in particular is that there has been only one stage play nominated for a Hugo – “Lucas Back in Anger” in 2006. It’s unsurprising that it contains the two staple ingredients which people associate with SF theatre – a parody of a well known franchise and a comedy.

Could there be more SF Theatre in the Hugo Awards? Would this bring the form into the forefront, even if it wasn’t a winner? There is a more obvious reason as to why SF Theatre would be compromised, awards wise. Theatre has to be experienced – by that, I mean you have to buy the ticket and be there for the duration. Of course it’s similar to cinema, but the art of the former is much more exclusive. You have to wait for the tour to come your way (if there’s enough funding). If you record it, you lose that elusive experience of embodied reality.

So with this in mind, should there be a separate award for SF Theatre, if awards ceremonies are instrumental for novels, films and TV series to be celebrated and thrust into the spotlight? I’ve thought about this for some time now. There is SF Theatre, evidently (Ralph Willingham lists 328 plays in his book Science Fiction and Theatre up to 1991), but it is hard to find if you don’t know where to look. Do we need more SF Theatre before awards?

There is another benefit to this hypothetical award. As well as bringing the form to public attention (I’ve talked to many SF fans who are interested in the idea of SF Theatre but are unsure of where to look), there is also the incentive to include and encourage new writing in the form. SF Theatre is more than the adaptation, more than the comedic, more than the parody. I’m keeping this blog post short as I would like to open the floor to discussion. Do you think SF Theatre awards would be beneficial, regardless of what should come first?

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