My ballots for the Best Dramatic Presentation categories are, except where they are not, fairly well developed. I probably will not decide until the last minute about Captain America and the Lego Movie, but one of these will come in 3rd place, and the other will be 4th.
Best Dramatic Presentation
I will be using “No Award” in the short form category, but only to distinguish the two works I really think are worthy of a Hugo from the two I do not. The GOT nominee does not appear on my ballot because I have not had access to it; I suspect it would have been a preferred choice, perhaps even my top choice.
The Best Dramatic Presentation category(s) is not a stranger to the “No Award” option. In fact it represents the only real remaining category that has been won overall by “No Award”. “No Award” has won the Best Dramatic Presentation category four times (1959, 1963, 1971, and 1977). It was not divided into the short and long form categories until 2002.
I am still wounded over the 1971 loss of “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers” to “No Award”. I remember people using the title of that slab of vinyl to improvise tests of human cognition and communication. Aldus Huxley may have theorized about the “Doors of Perception”, but the Firesign Theater tried to adjust the hinges of those doors with pliers. By manipulating the intonation, spacing, and emphasis of that Hugo-nominated album title one could develop multiple meanings. The spaces within conversations could be filled with experimental versions of the title:
- Don’t crush THAT dwarf! Hand me the pliers.
- Don’t Crush THAT! DWARF! Hand me the pliers.
- Don’t CRUSH that dwarf. Hand me the PLIERS!
- Don’t crush that dwarf, hand ME the pliers.
Decades later I would find out that “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers” did not barely lose out to “No Award”, and that “Blows Against the Empire “ by Jefferson Starship had actually come in second place. I know that the Jefferson Starship supergroup that put out “Blows Against the Empire” was not really the same band that “Built This City” in 1985 ("Worst song of the 80s" by a Rolling Stone Reader's poll), but the fact that they had the same name, and several of the same members, makes me think it was better that "No Award" won in that year.
In addition to the dubious distinctions of most “No Award” winners, and for propelling films like "Flesh Gordon" (nominated 1975) to prominence, the Best Dramatic Presentation has been a place where stories too far ahead of their time could be reconsidered in a digested visual format some of the members of fandom could better relate to.
During his life none of Ray Bradbury’s stories would be nominated for a standard timeline Hugo. Ray Bradbury is a name that defines the genre of science fiction to generations of readers. The first science fiction I read was Ray Bradbury. In 2004 Worldcon did use their time machine to go back to 1954 and present Bradbury with a Hugo trophy for the novel "Fahrenheit 451", and the adaptations of two of his stories were nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation on that same time-travel excursion. A film version of "Fahrenheit 451" had been nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo in 1967; it was the first of four (1967, 1970, 1981,1984) Best Dramatic Presentation nominations that adaptations of Bradbury’s stories would receive before the time travel trip from 2004 to 1954. Because of the timeless excellence of Bradbury’s science fiction and fantasy it is likely that adaptations of his stories will sporadically be nominated far into a future where our Hugo votes are pulled effortlessly from the fabric of our thoughts by the glowing blue Worldcon-being of pure energy.
I am happy with this year’s Best Dramatic Presentation nominations lists. If you vote exactly like me the best nominee will win. If you decide to be wrong and vote differently, and if enough of you vote differently as well, then it is highly likely that another Hugo-worthy nominee will win in these categories.
Remember, that if you want to vote there is still time to buy a sustaining (voting) membership for only $40.