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Eurovision 2019 Is Here: Science Fiction Fans, Rejoice!


Eurovision 2019 Is Here: Science Fiction Fans, Rejoice!

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Eurovision 2019 Is Here: Science Fiction Fans, Rejoice!


Published on May 10, 2019

Screenshot: Eurovision
Screenshot: Eurovision

Any SF fan who loves spectacle, who also loves or at least can tolerate music, is utterly missing out if they don’t follow that glorious tribute to musical excess known as the Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision is an international competition that promotes unity by setting nations against each other. Drawing mainly from the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union, the dozens of contestant nations are primarily European or at least Europe-adjacent (although for some reason Australia takes part). It was founded in 1956, which makes it roughly as old as the Hugo Awards. As you know, Bob and Bobette, creating awards and events is a lot easier than maintaining them, but the contest has since been broadcast every year without fail. Go Eurovision!

After the performances have been aired, each nation casts a positional ballot not entirely unlike the Hugo’s final ballot. This ballot is prepared from a combination of televoting and juried assessment (for more details, see here).

To avoid a contest in which citizens vote only for their own national champion (singer or group), Eurovision forbids residents of countries from voting for the champions of the country in which they are resident (which of course means that a British retiree living in Spain is free to vote for the British entry). Countries can only vote for other nations. It would be nice to say that this part of the process is above mere geopolitical concerns but…alas, there are years where one can plainly see which nations have sorely vexed their neighbours.

There is a further enchanting twist, which is that the winning nation of each year hosts the next year’s Eurovision. Expectations for Eurovision production values are quite high. Audiences will not settle for cardboard, duct tape, and a bit of paint. Winning comes with a hefty price tag. The upcoming 2019 Eurovision in Israel, for example, has a budget of 30 million Euros. Enough wins could cripple a small economy (and unsurprisingly, at least one television show got a plot out of that premise.)

Still, unlike, say, when Brazil hosts the World Cup, it’s easy to see where all that money goes.

Although early Eurovision songs were, well, a bit stodgy, the contest has as a whole managed to set aside trivial considerations of modesty, pragmatism, good taste, and in some cases, the laws of physics. There is no general consensus as to whether Eurovision is very serious business or an excuse for musical absurdism. The results reward viewing, because one never knows if the next piece will be a heartfelt musical work…


Or vampire dubstep…


Rap yodeling…


An ode to baking…


A Western ballad…


Gentle self-mockery…


…or something more surreal from nations that apparently enjoy a bountiful supply of drugs.

Really good drugs.

This might be a good time to call attention to the fact that all of these acts are presented live on stage with fairly constrained time limits. One must admire the hard work and expertise of the technicians who make all of this sparkling excess happen flawlessly.

Although Eurovision itself may not be exactly SF, some of the pieces are definitely science fiction-adjacent. The visuals are often glorious, and the show as a whole is well worth viewing. For those of you who have Twitter accounts and access to alcohol, drunk tweeting the show is never a bad decision. Pity about geofencing, but oh well.

If that’s not enough for you, Eurovision does have at least one direct SF connection. It inspired Catherynne M. Valente’s charming Space Opera, in which Terrestrial musicians are given the chance to compete in a galactic scale equivalent with considerably higher stakes than Eurovision. Watch Eurovision and then read the book it inspired!

Eurovision 2019 will air May 14, 16, and 18. I strongly recommend it.


About the Author

James Davis Nicoll


In the words of fanfiction author Musty181, five-time Hugo finalist, prolific book reviewer, and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll “looks like a default mii with glasses.” His work has appeared in Interzone, Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis) and the 2021, 2022, and 2023 Aurora Award finalist Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by web person Adrienne L. Travis). His Patreon can be found here.
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