Friday, August 28, 2015

The Good Stuff: Some Book Recommendations Through August 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015 0
Inspired somewhat by Jason Sanford's recent blog, I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the good stuff I've read this year and not about that other mess from this year. This is supposed to be a book blog, after all, even though I don't really blog too much about specific books that I'm reading outside of a monthly wrap up post and a series of "Best of the Year" articles which I put out at the end of the year.

This year has been a touch light on 2015 reading for me. I've only read 13 books published so far this year, but the remainder of the year looks to be a veritable explosion of goodness that I'm quite excited by.

So, thus far, I'd like to highlight three books that were the standout of 2015 publications I've read.

Signal to Noise, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear

These three novels could not be more different from each other, but are easily the class of the 2015 books I've read so far.  With Seveneves we have a novel set, initially, in that not too far future and it opens with the destruction of the moon. Bad things ensue. Bear's Karen Memory, on the other hand, is set back in an alternate 1800's which initially doesn't feel science fictional at all, but those elements come later - and it features one of the best character voices in that of its protagonist, Karen Memery. If I could sign up for two more just like this, I would.  Sylvia Moreno-Garcia's Signal to Noise is set in both modern day and 1980's Mexico City and the jacket copy describes the book as "A literary fantasy about love, music and sorcery, set against the background of Mexico City." I would also describe it as musical nostalgic fantasy, but descriptions do not quite service the beautiful and fantastic Signal to Noise well enough. Just go read it.

I'd like to include The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata on this list (or very close to my top 3), but even though Saga Press published it this year, it was previously self published in 2013 and was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2014. So if anything would pull it out of an eligibility year, that would be it. 

Three more books worth noting are:
Persona, by Genevieve Valentine
The Rebirths of Tao, by Wesley Chu
The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu

Actually, since Rebirths of Tao is the concluding volume of Wesley Chu's trilogy, I highly recommend seeking out The Lives of Tao. The Tao series is absolutely fantastic.

I'm limiting this to books published this year, though I've read a number of excellent novels published in previous years.

Some stuff I am very much looking forward to the rest of the year:
Loosed Upon the World, by John Joseph Adams
The End Has Come, by John Joseph Adams
Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho
The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson
The Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott
Court of Fives, by Kate Elliott
The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins
Fool's Quest, by Robin Hobb
Empire Ascendant, by Kameron Hurley
Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu
The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin
Luna: New Moon, by Ian McDonald
An Apprentice to Elves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear
The Trials, by Linda Nagata
Going Dark, by Linda Nagata
Shadows of Self, by Brandon Sanderson
White Trash Zombie Gone Wild, by Diana Rowland
The End of All Things, by John Scalzi
Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente
Kitty Saves the World, by Carrie Vaughn

I expect there are a number of books I also want to read this year and I question what I will actually get to and what I'll miss until they show up on some else's Best Of list and I have to try to power through it early next year - but this is a fairly solid year for books I want to read.

What are you looking forward to?



Monday, August 24, 2015

What Annoyed Me About the 2015 Hugo Awards: The Most Everything Edition

Monday, August 24, 2015 0
Twelve Hugo Awards* were given out Saturday night. In five additional categories, No Award won the day. Prior to this year, only five times in the history of the Hugo Awards had No Award been presented for a category (source, paragraph two) with the most recent No Award being 1977's Best Dramatic Presentation. So, that happened. 

If you're curious, I didn't vote that way. I voted like this.  Of course, my nominations were far more in line with what might have happened if this whole mess with the Sad and Rabid Puppies didn't go down the way that it did.

I'm annoyed by a lot of things right now. They're all related and they are somewhat distinct.

I am annoyed that No Award was used as a mostly nuclear weapon rather than a surgical one.  I understand the use of No Award and I think it is a perfectly valid tool to have and to use. Sometimes you would rather have No Award be given out than for a particular work or individual to receive that award. That is completely fair. Sometimes it will happen that you will find no nominee in a particular category were worthy of receiving an award, so again you select No Award.

But the way No Award was used this year was as a weapon of protest. Mostly.  When so many nominees lined up with the proposed slates of the Sad and Rabid Puppies and there was so much anger about how the various Puppies went about their business in gaming how Hugo nominating works, No Award was used to protest what the Sad and Rabid Puppies did.  Mostly.

Some 5,950 votes were cast in the Hugo Awards and I have only seen the twitter and comment thread responses of a intensely small fraction of those who voted and talked about using No Award as a nuclear option for any Puppy affiliated nomination. Until the nomination and voting numbers were released, there was no way to tell just what the numerical impact of the Puppies were and what the impact of those who stated they would No Award over anything the Puppies touched would be.  Chaos Horizon breaks the numbers down in a very preliminary analysis. Apparently the number of people who wanted nothing to do with what the Puppies nominated was significant and they did so regardless of perception of quality. 

I can mostly understand the consistency of that stance except that when it came to Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, a category which had three nominees from the puppy slates - including Guardians of the Galaxy, the eventual winner. I believe the argument in favor of voting for the movies but not the rest of the slate is that Hollywood has nothing to do with the Sad or Rabid Puppies and thus should not be "punished" for the transgressions of the Puppies. Or, equally as likely, because those movies are "excellent" and the voters would have nominated Guardians of the Galaxy anyway so why not vote for it?  This suggests, of course, that inherently all puppy nominees are crap except for the very few that aren't - which mostly just the Hollywood ones so we're all good, right? 

This isn't true, of course. To get back to the previous point, I'd very much prefer that No Award voters would have across the board No Awarded everything the puppies touched, including Dramatic Presentation. Be consistent if you're going to do it.  When you're not consistent, it makes the stand you took on Best Editor really, really annoying.

The real reason I'm writing this massively long winded article is that I'm annoyed by how the voting went down for Best Editor Long Form.

George R. R. Martin wrote in his first essay on Handicapping the Hugos, in regards to Best Editor Long Form, that "the Nukes and the Moens will be No Awarding this category, since it is all slate, but I think (hope) there are not enough of them to matter. It would be a tragedy if we threw out four good editors just because the Puppies like them too."

This is exactly what happened to Toni Weisskopf, Anne Sowards, Sheila Gilbert, and Jim Minz. Minz is a more junior editor at Baen, so I suspect the appreciation Baen gets would be more directed towards Weisskopf. But I dare someone to tell me these are not worthy nominees, that they should not be seriously considered for a Hugo Award. I cannot imagine how someone can tell me that these four would be unworthy of a Hugo, but by voting No Award over the full category that is exactly what happened.

Oh, I understand. They were included on the Sad and Rabid Puppies slates, so they cannot be considered.  But you can vote for Guardians of the Galaxy.  Please, if you're going to do it - be consistent. Because voting for Guardians of the Galaxy but not Toni Weisskopf or Anne Sowards or Sheila Gilbert just makes the No Award folks look like a bunch of assholes.

Yes, most of the nominated fiction and nonfiction were simply not very good. Some of it was rubbish (I'm looking at you, Wisdom from My Internet and Revenge of Hump Day). I voted with a very light hand this year, but I can completely understand how most of that would fall under No Award. But the editors?  Now we're just being vindictive.  These are good editors. Part of me does wish that The Three-Body Problem was nominated by Vox Day as part of his Rabid Puppies slate (as he stated he would have, had he read the book in time), just to see if the No Awarders really would have buried that novel, after spending the previous months praising it as a serious candidate for Best Novel. Would the principle have held in the face of something they might have nominated themselves? Or, would it receive the Guardians of the Galaxy vote?  I expect that if the Rabid Puppies elect to troll the Hugo Awards next year by nominating works that would traditionally receive a nomination, the response will be to actually vote for those works rather than No Award them. But it would be an interesting experiment.

I'm annoyed by acronyms and insider terms. Brad Torgersen's invention of CHORF (Cliquish Holier Than Thou Reactionary Fanatics) to describe many on the "other side" of the Puppies was just, well, sad. It's childish and makes Torgersen appear to be a petulant child. Puppy Kicker is annoying. The use of SJW (Social Justice Warrior) as a pejorative is misguided (fighting for diversity and greater representation is not at the expense of quality) and generally when I see it used I can almost always recognize that I'm going to fundamentally disagree with both the message as well as how it is delivered. George R. R. Martin's constant use of "trufan" strikes me as exactly what the Sad Puppies say is telling them that they don't count and are not included.  The term refers to the convention going segment of fandom, the ones who go to Worldcon and participate. Those people are awesome that they enjoy going to cons (I don't) and can afford to go to cons (not everyone can) and have been doing so for many decades (I've only been participating as a "fan" for a single decade). "Trufan" suggests that if you're not a "trufan" you're not a "realfan" - which then allows for Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen to be able to talk about "wrong fans" having "wrongfun" as the reason why all of this was necessary in the first place.

But maybe it is wrongfun, because I'm annoyed that the Sad and Rabid Puppies did not nominate better works. I'll give a pass to the Best Novel nominations. I have long standing issues with Kevin Anderson's fiction (I don't think it's very good), but the rest of what was nominated (and declined) were solid. Maybe not what I'd consider the best of the year, but nothing I can complain about any more than I'd complain in any other year (I don't appreciate at least half of what Charles Stross writes and the half I do like doesn't get nominated).  I'd also like to thank Brad Torgersen, because if nothing else, I wouldn't have read Skin Game this year without the nomination and that's my first Jim Butcher. It was really damn good. I voted it third and above the eventual winner. I intend to read more from Butcher.

The other categories?  Outside of Annie Bellet's story (which she eventually declined a nomination for), the other stories were not Best of Class. True, I voted most of them above No Award but I was voting with a very light hand.  They were not among the best of the year (nor was the Heuvelt story not on the slate). I understand that tastes vary, but there are surely better more competent stories that would have and could have been nominated instead.  But there's really no excuse for Wisdom from My Internet. It is incoherent rambling and flat out embarrassing - much more so than any other nominee and is one of those that makes folks think the entire process of compiling a slate was about giving those who care about the Hugo Awards a big middle finger.  Friggin do better, people. Don't reward an author for a sub-par book even if you think that's happened in the past. You may want Kevin Anderson to receive a Hugo nomination, but if The Dark Between the Stars isn't one of the five best 2015 books you've read - don't nominate the damn thing. And if you don't have five nominees for a category (and you didn't for everything), that's okay - don't add Wisdom from My Internet just to hit five. It's crap and I think you have to know it is.

Be better. Be better, especially if you're complaining about other people being worse. Be better.

And that goes for a lot of the folks who I enjoy and appreciate and read and support and have literary love for.  Dropping No Award on five categories was not a victory.  It's just not. 

A point may have been proven that a group of outsiders who appear to have no respect or love of the traditions of fandom, Worldcon, or the Hugo Awards and want to take over the award will be shown the door with all haste, but that's not a victory. That's not something to celebrate. It happened, it's not pleasant, and I hope like hell it doesn't happen next year.

I hope next year will be a collective of individuals nominating works they truly think are best and are not influenced by outside slates. I don't care who the participants are. If you care about the award, nominate with your heart and with your head and do it as an individual. Have fun talking about the award and who you're considering for nomination. Expect that many of the nominees are not those you would have chosen. Maybe you haven't heard of some of them. Great, it's a new reading list! Maybe you think some of them suck. It happens! But if you care about the award and value it, nominate with integrity. Vote with integrity. Don't slide into second base with your spikes high looking to hurt the other player. Play the game the right way and if you think the other guy or gal is being a little shifty - be better. Don't sink to their live, rise above.

If you don't care at all about the Award and don't value it - why participate?  Why try to devalue or destroy something that someone else loves? Don't be that person. Be better than that.


*Yes, I am counting the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer as a Hugo.

A Potential 2015 Non-Puppies Hugo Award Ballot

One thing I enjoy doing after the Hugo Awards are announced is to look at the nomination numbers. It's interesting to note that Saga: Volume 4 just missed the ballot by 1 nomination for Graphic Story, as did the Coode Street Podcast in Fancast. I've long been fascinated by how few nominations are needed in some years and in some categories and also how small the margin between making the final ballot and missing it can be. Given how relative few people nominate compared to the number of Worldcon members eligible to nominate, it shows how important nominating and voting actually is.

What I want to do this year is to look at those nominating numbers, but rather than talk about how close some works were to making the ballot, I want to look at what the ballot might have looked like had the Sad Puppies slate and Rabid Puppies slate not existed.

Now, I will freely acknowledge that this is a difficult thing to do because many of those who voted either a partial Puppy slate or a full Puppy slate may still have participated in the Hugo Awards anyway and without those published slates to go on as a guide, there is no way to predict how the votes would have gone. Larry Correia would probably still receive a nomination for Monster Hunter Nemesis (he had the second highest novel nominations, but declined prior to the announcement of the ballot). But there's really no way to tell how this would shake out in the absence of public slates, some of which appear to have been voted on right down the line.  It would not be nearly as simple as removing all of the SP / RP nominated works off of the ballot, though for this exercise that is what I am going to do.  The Long Form Editors, for example, were more than worthy nominees and I should expect that they would be in the mix. Toni Weisskopf for one would almost certainly be nominated without the slates but with the participation of those who voted for the slates. She certainly should have been nominated in the past without the boost that Larry Correia gave her with a previous iteration of Sad Puppies, but unfortunately she was not.  I have a number of opinions as to what went down with the Hugo Awards, specifically with the editors, but that is a separate essay which will be written and will also tie into this one.

So - on to A Potential 2015 Non-Puppies Hugo Award Ballot.  The actual final ballot can be found here.

This is only using the nomination data provided by Sasquan. The works in italics are those added to the ballot by the absence of Puppies. The number next to the work reflects the number of votes.

Best Novel
Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie (279)
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison (256)
The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu (210) - Winner
Lock In, by John Scalzi (168)
City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett (160)

What is interesting here is that I am including The Three-Body Problem as one of the non-puppy nominees to make the ballot. The reason for that is that it was only the after-the-fact withdrawal of Marko Kloos which allowed Cixin Liu to make the final ballot.  I do think there is a chance Skin Game could have made the ballot anyway as Jim Butcher is crazy popular (he ended up being the top vote getter). I would have loved to see City of Stairs make the ballot. Heck, I nominated it!  3/5 would have been my picks.

Best Novella
The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss (124)
The Regular, by Ken Liu (104)
Yesterday's Kin, by Nancy Kress (103)
Grand Jete (The Great Leap), by Rachel Swirsky (95) 
The Mothers of Voorhisville, by Mark Rickert (83)

All non-nominees are new. Again, 3/5 were on my nomination ballot, with my other two being the next two down.

Best Novelette
The Day the World Turned Upside Down, by Thomas Olde Huevelt (72) - Winner
Each to Each, by Seanan McGuire (69)
The Devil in America, by Kai Ashante Wilson (65)
The Litany of Earth, by Ruthana Emrys (54)
The Magician and Laplace's Demon, by Tom Crosshill (54)

I only nominated one novelette and it did not make the top fifteen.

Best Short Story
Jackalope Wives, by Ursula Vernon (76)
The Breath of War, by Aliette de Bodard (73)
The Truth About Owls, by Amal El Mohtar (48)
When it Ends, He Catches Her, by Eugie Foster (44)
A Kiss With Teeth, by Max Gladstone (41)

This is an interesting category because it invokes Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS Constitution, which states that to receive a nomination a work must receive nomination from at least 5% of the ballots which voted on this category. The only exception is that at minimum three nominees will be listed. Only the Vernon and de Bodard eclipse that 5% line, but to make three you would also include El Mohtar's story. So, it should be only those three. But this is another place where you can start playing with numbers. If the puppy related voters did not nominate, all five are now likely above 5%. But if they split their votes across a wider board then a) a different story is probably on the ballot (Annie Bellet's "Goodnight Stars", most likely) or b) there are still only three nominations because it is difficult to get 5% of the nominations for short story.  In other news, 0/5 of my nominations would have made the ballot, and none of them were in the top fifteen.


Best Related Work
What Makes This Book so Great, by Jo Walton (105)
Chicks Dig Gaming, by Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith, and Lars Pearson (92)
Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor (83)
Invisible: Personal Essays on Representation in SF, by Jim C Hines (79)
Tropes vs Women: Women as Background Decoration, by Anita Sarkeesian (77)

1/5 from my nominating ballot (Jo Walton's book)

Best Graphic Story
Ms Marvel: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson (145) - Winner
Saga: Volume 3, by Brian K. Vaughan (110)
Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery, by Kurtis J. Weibe (64)
Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick, by Matt Fraction (60)
Saga: Volume 4, by Brian K. Vaughan (59)

1/5 from my nominating ballot (Saga 3).

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (295)
Edge of Tomorrow (204)
Big Hero 6 (183)
Snowpiercer (131)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (109)

I'm not convinced this is a category that would have been any different on the final ballot without any puppy voting whatsoever. But, if I'm being fair to this exercise, I have to pull them. 2/5 of these were on my nominating ballot, but so were Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form
Doctor Who: "Listen" (89)
Oprhan Black: "By Means Which Have Never Been Tried Yet" (71) - Winner
Agents of SHIELD: "Turn, Turn, Turn" (62)
Game of Thrones: "The Lion and the Rose" (61)
The Legend of Korra: "The Last Stand" (47)

Best Editor: Short Form
John Joseph Adams (149)
Neil Clarke (133)
Ellen Datlow (108)
Jonathan Strahan (101)
Sheila Williams (95)

0/2 of my nominating ballot still would have made it, though my two were both the next up after Sheila Williams. This would have been a solid and an outstanding lineup, but then those who made the final ballot also would have been solid and fresh choices.

Best Editor: Long Form
Liz Gorinsky (96)
Beth Meacham (69)
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (65)
Lee Harris (35)
Anne Perry (31)
Devi Pillai (31)
Jenni Hill (31)

As with Short Story, four of the seven potential nominees did not surpass the 5% mark, which means we would have only three nominees here. Except that I think Toni Weisskopf probably would have had enough votes to go Top 4 without the SP / RP slates and there's just no way to tell about Sowards and Gilbert.  I have very strong thoughts about how the voting went down for Long Form Editor (spoiler for the next article, I disagree with it) because the lineup that actually made the ballot: very strong and worthy.

Best Professional Artist
Julie Dillon (136) - Winner
John Picacio (97)
Galen Dara (68)
Stephan Martiniere (65)
Chris McGrath (46)

3/5 from my nominating ballot.

Best Semiprozine
Lightspeed (159) - Winner
Strange Horizons (152)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies (94)
The Book Smugglers (84)
Interzone (49)

Best Fanzine
Journey Planet (68) - Winner
The Drink Tank (58)
Lady Business (51)
File 770 (50)
A Dribble of Ink (46)


2/5 from my nominating ballot (A Dribble of Ink and Lady Business)

Best Fancast
Galactic Suburbia (80) - Winner
Tea and Jeopardy (69)
The Coode Street Podcast (68)
Verity! (66)
The Skiffy and Fanty Show (60)

Here's where I point out how tight the line can be between making the ballot and not. Coode Street, third here, missed the actual ballot by 1 nomination.

Best Fan Writer
Laura J. Mixon (129) - Winner
Abigail Nussbaum (89)
Liz Bourke (78)
Natalie Luhrs (76)
Mark Oshiro (69)

You will note that I am nowhere near this list.  I would need to see a full nomination breakout (including everyone receiving votes), but I believe I received up to three (so I was told by someone who included me and recommended me to others) - none of which were from me. So, that's nice.


Best Fan Artist
Steve Stiles (48)
Brad W. Foster (29)
Ninni Aalto (28)
Spring Schoenhuth (26)
Elizabeth Leggett (23) - Winner

I believe this is the only category untouched by the SP / RP slates.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Wesley Chu (106) - Winner
Andy Weir (95)
Alyssa Wong (80)
Carmen Maria Marchado (61)
Django Wexler (60)

1/5 were from my nominating ballot, but three more were in the top fifteen receiving nominations.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015 Hugo Award Winners

Sunday, August 23, 2015 0
(Via Locus and my entire internet)

Below are the winners of the 2015 Hugo Awards. Congratulations to all the winners!

Best Novel: The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu
Best Novella: No Award
Best Novelette: The Day the World Turned Upside Down, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Best Short Story: No Award
Best Dramatic Presentation - Long: Guardians of the Galaxy
Best Dramatic Presentation - Short: Orphan Black "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried"
Best Related Work: No Award
Best Graphic Story: Ms Marvel: No Normal
Best Professional Editor - Long Form: No Award
Best Professional Editor - Short Form: No Award
Best Professional Artist: Julie Dillon
Best Semiprozine: Lightspeed
Best Fanzine: Journey Planet
Best Fancast: Galactic Suburbia Podcast
Best Fan Writer: Laura J Mixon
Best Fan Artist: Elizabeth Leggett
John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Wesley Chu

I have a whole lot of additional thoughts regarding the awards and everything, but those will have to wait until this week because I don't have quite enough time to get my thoughts down.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Hugo Awards 2015: My Final Ballot

Monday, August 03, 2015 0
Now that the deadline has passed and I have done all the Hugo reading and consuming that I am going to do this year, the final ballot I submitted is below.  The full list of nominees can be found here.


Best Novel (my thoughts)
1. Ancillary Sword
2. The Goblin Emperor
3. Skin Game
4. The Three-Body Problem
5. The Dark Between the Stars

Best Novella (my thoughts)
1. "Pale Realms of Shade"
2. Big Boys Don't Cry
3. "Flow"
4. "The Plural of Helen of Troy"
5. No Award
6. "One Bright Star to Guide Them"

Best Novelette (my thoughts)
1. "The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale"
2. "Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium"
3. "Championship B'Tok"
4. "The Day the World Turned Upside Down"
5. No Award
6. "The Journeyman: In the Stone House"

Best Short Story (my thoughts)
1. "On a Spiritual Plain"
2. "A Single Samurai"
3. "Totaled"
4. "Turncoat"
5. No Award

Best Related Work (my thoughts)
1. "The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF"
2. "Why Science Is Never Settled"
3. Letters from Gardner
4. No Award

Best Graphic Story (my thoughts)
1. Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick
2. Saga, Volume 3
3. Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery
4. Ms. Marvel: New Normal
5. No Award

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
1. Interstellar
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
4. The LEGO Movie
-Note: I did not get the chance to watch Edge of Tomorrow

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
1. Game of Thrones: "The Mountain and the Viper"
-Note: I did not get the chance to watch the other nominees

Best Editor, Short Form
-No Vote

Best Editor, Long Form (my thoughts)
1. Toni Weisskopf
2. Anne Sowards
3. Sheila Gilbert
4. Jim Minz
5. Vox Day

Best Professional Artist (my thoughts)
1.  Nick Greenwood
2. Julie Dillon
3. Alan Pollack
4. Kirk DouPonce
5. No Award

Best Semiprozine
-No Vote

Best Fanzine (my thoughts)
1. Elitist Book Reviews
2. Journey Planet
3. Tangent Online
4. No Award

Best Fancast (my thoughts)
1. Tea and Jeopardy
2. Galactic Suburbia
3. Adventures in SF Publishing
4. The Sci Phi Show
5. Dungeon Crawlers Radio


Best Fan Writer
1. Jeffro Johnson
2. Laura Mixon
3. Cedar Sanderson
4. No Award
5. Amanda Green

Best Fan Artist (my thoughts)
1. Elizabeth Leggett
2. Spring Schoenhuth
3. No Award

The John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer
1. Wesley Chu
2. Kary English
3. Jason Cordova
Note: I did not get the chance to read the work of Rolf Nelson or Eric Raymond

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Books Read: July 2015

Saturday, August 01, 2015 1
The beginning of a new month brings with it the opportunity to look back at the month gone by and to give one last glance at what I most recently read. The below listed books are what I read during the month of July.

1. Cibola Burn, by James S. A. Corey
2. The Breadwinner, by Stevie Kopas
3. Consider Phlebas, by Iain Banks
4. A Crown of Cold Silver, by Alex Marshall
5. Daughters of the North, by Sarah Hall
6. Adrift on the Sea of Rains, by Ian Sales
7. Die Trying, by Lee Child
8. The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu
9. High Deryni, by Katherine Kurtz
10. Darkspell, by Katherine Kerr
11. Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos
12. Crucible of Gold, by Naomi Novik
13. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
14. Justice Calling, by Annie Bellet
15. The Eye With Which the Universe Beholds Itself, by Ian Sales
16. Witch Hunt, by Annie Bellet
17. The Assassins, by Gayle Lynds
18. The Complete Peanuts: 1995-1996, by Charles M. Schulz

Best Book of the Month: It was close between Daughters of the North and Darkspell, but I think the slight edge is going to go to Sarah Hall's wonderful and beautifully ugly novel.

Disappointment of the Month: I hesitate to call The Three-Body Problem a true disappointment, because usually I reserve this space for what is often the "worst book of the month", and Cixin Liu's novel is certainly not that. But I had such high expectations for it based on all of the hype and the buzz and the award nominations and it was...also not that. The Three-Body Problem is a novel of ideas and some cool science-y type stuff. Remember, kids, I have a degree in English so when science becomes a major aspect of a novel, it's all hand waving magic to me. I like it, but it's magic. The ideas of The Three-Body Problem were cool and interesting and I wanted to know more about what happened next. The characters and the dialogue and the prose...I expected something different. Better? Cleaner? Less cardboard? Different. I'll still read The Dark Forest, it's just that my expectations will have changed and be more in line with what these books are.

Discovery of the Month: I had never read the short fiction of Ian Sales before learning about his Apollo Quartet, a series of novellas (and one short novel, I think) dealing with and around the space program - but exploring different science fictional ideas. The first two volumes are tightly told and thrilling stories and while they are not left with cliff hanger endings and each told very complete stories I was itching to know what happened after the final page. What happened next?

Worth Noting: I thought Katherine Kerr's Daggerspell was fantastic. Darkspell is even better. I hope to not let two years pass before reading The Bristling Wood.

Gender Breakdown: July was a weird month for me. At several times I thought the gender balance was going to skew heavily towards male writers, only to even the course and have it totter right back again. I swear I had this month planned out, but it all went wonky. I had some issues with my Nook at the end of the month, so several books I had loaded from the library became unreadable and I had to pull stuff I had on there from other sources, which helped me read two of Annie Bellet's novellas and one more Ian Sales. As for the breakdown, nine of of the eighteen books I read were written by women (Stevie Kopas is female). This brings my yearly total to 49 out of 86 books and moves my percentage to 56.97%.  I am still on track.


Previous Months:
January
February
March 
April 
May  
June

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Fanzine

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 1

Black Gate declined its nomination after the Hugo Committee of Worldcon had locked the ballot, so they remain on the ballot for Best Fanzine. However, to respect the wishes of John O'Neil at Black Gate, I will leave it off my ballot.

While I don't normally read Elitist Book Reviews, or most other book blogs these days, it is the sort of fanzine I most appreciate. I have long enjoyed a good book blog, one that actually reviews books. There seem to be fewer of them around these days, or at least the old guard (and the older guard) are producing fewer reviews and have ventured off to new things and less bloggy things. Heck, if you've been following along here you'll see a relative lack of reviews, so as older guard as I am - I'm not reviewing much either. Regardless, I've enjoyed what I've read of Elitist Book Reviews.

Journey Planet, on the other hand, is a very traditional fanzine compiled in discrete issues with various writers and artists contributing. The issue in the voter's packet was a Doctor Who themed issue. Overall, a well constructed and well written fanzine. I think I'd enjoy it more in a blog format, but that has more to do how I prefer to consume media than it is about what Journey Planet is. While good, I'm not inspired to go seek out additional issues or follow what the zine does.

Tangent Online is a long running short fiction review website, and if you're looking for coverage of the short fiction market one of the best options you have (that I'm aware of) is Tangent. It's....fine. While I am happy that Tangent exists and that there are occasional sources and reviewers who cover short fiction, the reviewing at Tangent has never grabbed me.

The less said about The Revenge of Hump Day, the better. I don't understand the nomination. It does not get my vote.


My Vote:
1. Elitist Book Reviews
2. Journey Planet
3. Tangent Online
4. No Award


Standard 2015 Hugo Disclaimer:
In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and let my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such.

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Editor, Long Form

Monday, July 27, 2015 0
Vox Day (Castalia House)
Sheila Gilbert (DAW Books)
Jim Minz (Baen Books)
Anne Sowards (Ace Books)
Toni Weisskopf (Baen Books)

If I could wave my hands and remake the categories for the Hugo Awards, Best Editor (Long Form) would disappear. Not because the editors are not worthy of recognition, but because it is impossible to evaluate.  At least when we vote for the Short Form Editors, we are really recognizing the overall body of work in putting together a particular magazine and / or their work in compiling an anthology.The short form editor is, ultimately, the face and the vision of a particular 'zine or anthology so when that 'zine or anthology is successful, the editor was successful. We don't know and can't know how much editorial work was involved in helping the author better craft the submitted story, or if a given author submitted a piece of work which barely needed to be touched. We just know if the end result of the editor's "good eye" was something we appreciate.

This is where Long Form is yet more difficult. In most cases, the editor is not the face of a publishing house and does not acquire and edit every book published by a given house. The Long Form Editor Hugo Award is not for Best Publisher, and yet it is impossible to evaluate the work the editor did that year. Presumably the Long Form editor both acquired and helped shape the final product of each book published with his or her name listed as editor, but how much credit goes to the editor in terms of being "best" versus simply having the good taste and fortune to acquire something awesome.

But this is where we are left to evaluate the editors, with a further challenge of how difficult it would be to read everything published by each of these five editors, or even just a solid representation of those works published. I read over 100 books each year and I read widely enough and mostly works published prior to the eligibility year that hitting sufficient works from each editor is nearly impossible.

What am I left with? Looking at the Hugo Voting Packet and evaluating my impression of the works listed from each editor as a measure of quality and "best" for 2014. 

Anne Sowards and Sheila Gilbert both included a list of what they edited last year. Toni Weisskopf did not, but noted to go to baen.com to see her work. Neither Jim Minz nor Vox Day included sample lists of their editorial work, though Vox Day is the editor of Castalia House so presumably everything published there had Day's editorial work.

From that perspective, and without knowing specifically what Weisskopf edits at Baen compared to what Minz has edited, I would recognize Weisskopf's work as editor and publisher at Baen followed by the lists of Sowards and Gilbert. Jim Minz I place lower simply because neither Weisskopf nor Minz included their work and while Baen is very much worthy of recognition, there is no way for me to separate the two - so Weisskopf gets the nod at publisher and Minz is slid down the ballot. I recognize this is likely a disservice to Minz, but if I can't tell which works are his...  Vox Day has fifth slot, above No Award, because while I can't quite tell which novel-length works were published in 2014, I do feel comfortable acknowledging that I am not the intended audience for Castalia House and I am not interested in much if not most of what they publish.

My Vote:
1. Toni Weisskopf
2. Anne Sowards
3. Sheila Gilbert
4. Jim Minz
5. Vox Day


Standard 2015 Hugo Disclaimer:
In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and let my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such.

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote.
 
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