German perspectives on SFF, a Hugo Survey and the best “Age of Ultron” review you’ll read today

The 2015 Hugo Awards debate is still dragging on and to those of us outside the US, it is very clear that the Hugos and Worldcon have been dragged into the increasingly toxic US culture war between the beleaguered nutty nuggets of the right on the one side and well-meaning advocates of more diversity on the other.

It is also increasingly clear that the Hugos not our award and never has been – even though the latest round of disqualifications and withdrawals lifted two works of translated fiction by non-US writers – The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu, and The Day the World Turned Upside Down by Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated by Lia Belt, onto the ballot, which is a positive sign.

What is more, those of us outside the US don’t feel very well represented by either of the two sides in the Hugo conflict, because the Sad Puppy side doesn’t seem to be aware that there is life and SFF outside the US, while the side of the so-called “Social Justice Warriors” is still very US-centric in spite of its focus on diversity.

For a German perspective on this year’s Hugo debate, check out the coverage at the German genre blog Lake Hermanstadt.

What is more, Shaun Duke has created a survey about the Hugo Awards specifically aimed at Non-US SFF fans and readers. If you’re not American and are an SFF fan, reader or writer (I know there are a few of you here), please take the survey and spread the word.

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However, there are times where those of us here in Europe have a slight advantage over the US. Case in point: Here in Europe, Avengers: Age of Ultron opens tomorrow (well, the midnight screenings are already through and Twitter is abuzz with excited chatter), whereas the US has to wait until May 1.

This also means that newspapers are full of Age of Ultron reviews. Now I always find German reviews of US superhero movies interesting, especially since superheroes are not nearly as ingrained in our cultural landscape as in the US and are frequently considered simplicistic fare for children. Hence we sometimes get reviews which spectacularly miss the point such as the infamous “Captain America is not a horse” of The Winter Soldier in Die Welt, in which the reviewer is surprised that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not a sequel to The Horse Whisperer in spite of starring both Scarlett Johansson and Robert Redford.

Though it is notable that German newspapers and magazines often seem more interested in the fact that many small town cinemas are boycotting Age of Ultron because of a dispute about fees and profit shares.

Luckily, Die Welt got a better reviewer for Age of Ultron, one who actually understand the genre and the Marvel phenomenon and who doesn’t expect sequels to The Horse Whisperer or Zodiac or Less Than Zero, even though some the same actors happen to show up in Age of Ultron. This review at Spiegel Online is also pretty good. Both are largely spoiler-free as well.

However, my favourite German review of Avengers: Age of Ultron and likely my favourite review of the movie period is this review by Dietmar Dath from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the man who also wrote my all-time favourite review of The Avengers. It’s actually less of a typical movie review (but then German does not distinguish between reviews and criticism) and more a detailed dissection of US pop culture in general (even the conservative freakout about the Legends of Korra finale is mentioned) and Avengers: Age of Ultron in particular. It’s spoiler-free, too, though one half-sentence makes me worry a bit about one of our heroes. But then, Age of Ultron is a Joss Whedon film and Whedon always makes me worry whether everybody will make it through alive.

Coincidentally, I was watching season 1 finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with my Mom recently and she became quite worried about the survival of Fitz and Simmons when both were trapped in that container on the ocean floor. “Don’t worry”, I said to her, “I know Joss Whedon’s name is in the credits, but the showrunners are actually his brother and sister-in-law and for once they don’t kill any of our heroes.”

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6 Responses to German perspectives on SFF, a Hugo Survey and the best “Age of Ultron” review you’ll read today

  1. sherwood smith says:

    Thanks for those review links! Fascinating. I’m not as enamored of Whedon as the reviewer seems to be, but it does look interesting.

    • Cora says:

      I find Whedon rather hit and miss myself. Buffy and Angel never did much for me (and for some reason, I find that I can’t rewatch either show), but I enjoyed Firefly and Serenity a whole lot. Haven’t seen Dollhouse. I also enjoyed the first Avengers movie quite a bit, even though I was never a fan of the comics, so I hope I’ll enjoy the second one as well.

  2. Murilegus says:

    Dietmar Dath dissecting pop culture—always a treat.

    Thanks for linking me, Cora.

  3. Mark H. says:

    Unfortunately I agree with you on the “Hugo was never our award” assessment. Whenever I see comments from the SP/RB side I get the feeling that they think Kansas is the center of the world, and on the other side I sometimes get the feeling that there is only one way, the American way, to address the problem of the lack of diversity, and US local specifics and problems must have the same relevance for everybody in the world. When it comes to politics in literature, I more and more get the feeling that I don’t have the time to care the specific problems in the American Science Fiction genre, when at the same time there are more local problems that I care about: Tröglitz, Rostock-Lichtenhagen (my personal Ferguson), Pegida, AfD and Lampedusa…

    That I said, I just bought an e-copy of the Three Body Problem. If I like it enough, I may consider to buy a supporting membership anyway, and vote for it.

    • Cora says:

      Actually, I think the SP/RP folks believe that Utah is the center of the world, since a lot of them seem to hail from there. As for the opposing side, their hearts are in the right place, but they are very US-centric with their approach to issues like diversity, etc… A few of them also seem to be quite unable to understand that countries have different issues and different ways of dealing with them.

      I think it’s also natural that SFF is influenced by whatever political and social issues are close to the author’s heart. See the huge importance of the Vietnam war in US fiction and media or all those British SFF writers who are still writing Thatcher England as dystopia novels 25 years later. So it’s really kind of obvious that as German writers and fans, we would care more about Rostock-Lichtenhagen (about which I have very similar feelings as you), Tröglitz, Pegida, the AfD, Lampeduse, etc… than about racist police violence in the US, horrible as those events are.

      I bought a supporting membership for this year’s Worldcon a few days ago, because I don’t want to see the genre I love taken over by the US equivalent to Pegida. I haven’t yet read The Three-Body Problem, but I enjoyed both The Goblin Emperor and Ancillary Sword very much. I also enjoyed Skin Game, though I found it a bit slight for a Hugo finalist.

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