Xin Ye and Lauri Ahonen
The team of US artist Xin Ye and Finnish artist Lauri Ahonen took over the illustration of webcomic/graphic novel Erfworld in October 2015, starting on page 96 of the current book 3 (http://www.erfworld.com/erf_stream/books). Pages 121-223 are the eligible pages that were published in 2016, with Xin doing the pencils and Lauri doing the inking and coloring. (Dates of individual pages may be seen at http://www.erfworld.com/streams/filter/erfworld in reverse chronological order).
While the Best Professional Artist award is usually given to a solo artist, there is precedent for a team being nominated for joint work. The husband and wife team of Leo and Diane Dillon were nominated for the 1969 and 1970 Hugos, and won the 1971 Hugo in this category. I have confirmed with one of the Hugo administrators at MidAmericon II that it is legal to nominate a team that jointly produces the art work in question. Erfworld fans have expressed appreciation for the contributions of both Xin and Lauri in comments on recent pages, and accordingly, we propose to nominate them as a team. (Note: To nominate them as a team, you need to put both names on the same line of the nomination ballot.)
Erfworld development is crowdfunded by fans. I have confirmed with Rob Balder, the creator, publisher, and writer of Erfworld, that Erfworld qualifies as a professional publication under WSFS constitution section 3.2.11.
About Erfworld’s story line (for those who want to view the art in context with the story):
Parson A. Gotti is a gamer from Columbus, Ohio, who is magically summoned to Erfworld to serve as Chief Warlord for the side of Gobwin’s Knob under the (mis-)leadership of Stanley the Tool. Erfworld is a cartoon-like world operating under the rules of a turn-based fantasy strategy game, where various sides engage in near-constant warfare with one another. The frequent in-world reflections of US pop culture cause Parson to wonder at one point in Book 1 whether the whole world is somehow taking place in his imagination as he lies unconscious back on Earth. But he ultimately comes to accept the world as real, and take the lives and deaths of the characters he encounters seriously.
In Book 3, Hamsterdance vs. the Charlie Foxtrot, Parson (Lord Hamster) turns to diplomacy to try to break up the coalition of Royal sides confronting Gobwin’s Knob. He works with the leaders of Thinkamancy, the Great Minds That Think Alike, in an informal alliance against Charlie, the mysterious leader of the corporate-speaking mercenary side Charlescomm, who has been covertly backing the coalition against Gobwin’s Knob, and who tried to assassinate Parson at the end of Book 2. Meanwhile, tensions are rising with the Free Casters over Parson’s introduction of a military force into the Magic Kingdom, the previously neutral refuge for casters that connects with the capital of each side via the magic portals in Portal Park.
While Xin and Lauri’s art may best be appreciated by reading the story as a whole in order, here are some selected images of particular note from 2016. Many of these are reaction shots at the conclusion of an illustrated text page that advance the story with a single image. (Descriptions may contain possible spoilers.)
Page 123 – Charlie’s Archons receive orders for what they believe to be a suicide mission.
Page 127 – Wanda prepares for battle while recalling memories from her past.
Page 144 – Charlie contemplates his losses
Page 149 – Parson faces interrogation
Page 215 – Don King reacts to the news of the latest attack. Includes a Godfather reference in the bowl of oranges on the table (foreshadowing an impending death).
Images of the telepathic Thinkspace:
Page 151 – Maggie’s dream
Page 195 – Bunny starts her turn