Hello and welcome to the 2008 Stranger Genius Awards. For the sixth year in a row, The Stranger has scoured the city for the most beguiling, brain-tingling, smartest, and best work in theater, literature, film, and visual art, and now we present to you our findings: Seattle's (and indeed, the world's) newest certified Geniuses. Each of these five recipients is rewarded with the only thing that really matters: money. A check for $5,000. And a fucking cool party thrown in their honor. A party the whole city is invited to. Which includes you.

The party is on Saturday, September 13, at the Moore Theatre, that 100-year-old beauty, and we have the whole building. You would like to dance onstage? You may. You would like to wander up to the third balcony with your drink and your date? Now you're talking! There's a VIP party for the Geniuses first—to enter to win a pair of VIP tickets, e-mail your first and last name to lineout@thestranger.com with "VIP Genius" in the subject line by Friday at 5:00 p.m.—and doors open to the public at 9:00 p.m. (Get there promptly! The party will already be under way!) Emerald City Soul Club will be spinning throughout the night, and live entertainment includes the exuberant hiphop of Dyme Def, the court-jester surrealism of Daedelus, and the hot-shit electro soul of James Pants. And it's free.

And now for your questions. Do the Geniuses get to spend their money however they want? They do. There really aren't strings attached? There really aren't. So they can use it to take a trip, put a new floor in their studio, or get a younger and fresher face? Yes, yes, if that's what they want, yes. Is there an application process? Nope. After a year's worth of cramming our eyes and ears with as much new local work as we can—and writing about it in this newspaper and on Slog—our critics (and our readers) have a richer, truer impression of what's happening around us than an arts-grant panelist sitting in a blank room somewhere.

That isn't to say our internal deliberations aren't tense. This year we conducted them in a hot-air balloon careening dangerously toward a melting glacier on Mount Rainier, because Jen Graves can't steer. The conversation in the basket was a prickly, squirmy, don't-you-take-that-tone-with-me near-bloodbath. Every year among The Stranger's arts staff, tears are shed and fingers are pointed, but, eventually, consensus or a reasonable facsimile thereof is reached. Among this year's hot-button issues: Does worldly success knock a would-be Stranger Genius out of the running? Should the award be won for glorious existing work or given to an artist whose brain shows the richest promise? And does a group of theatrical anarchists qualify as an "arts organization"?

Answers to these questions and many more can be found in the following pages, where each of 2008's Stranger Geniuses is profiled in full, alongside shortlists of notable artists in each genre.

See you at the party.

—Paul Constant, Christopher Frizzelle, Jen Graves, Brendan Kiley, Charles Mudede, David Schmader, Annie Wagner, Lindy West