Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Preliminary Thoughts on the Nebula Nominees

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 0
The Nebula Award nominees were announced on Friday and I wanted to wait a few days to think about what was nominated before posting.  Now that I've waited, I'm not sure my thoughts are any different.  Overall, this appears to be a very solid list of nominees, though I have read very few of the shorter works so I may change my mind on that.  I hope not. 


Novel
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals)

I have read three of the six nominated novels and they are all likely going to make my Hugo ballot. The Goblin Emperor, Ancillary Sword, and Annihilation are all outstanding works of fiction and area all more than worthy of a nomination.  I have a copy of The Three Body-Problem at home and had been looking forward to reading it regardless of any nomination it may garner.  The Nebula nomination just pushed it farther up my to-read pile.  Charles Gannon was nominated last year for his novel Fire by Fire.  I was a bit put off by the protagonist's dismissive sexism, but thought it was a well enough written novel that was easy enough to read and kept me just entertained enough to keep going.  Assuming the level of writing and storytelling in Trial by Fire is consistent with Gannon's first novel, it seems a little out of place on this ballot.

On the other hand, the SFWA is an organization with over 1800 members and as much as I think that my tastes should be much more widely shared, people enjoy and appreciate different things and they love what they love no less passionately than I do.  For them, Charles Gannon wrote outstanding novels two years in a row.  And while I haven't read Jack McDevitt before despite his frequent Nebula nominations, I understand that he writes a similar sort of science fiction.  The audience of Gannon and McDevitt are likely fairly similar.  I'll give McDevitt a shot this year.  I'm long over due. 

Novella 
We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)
The Mothers of Voorhisville,” Mary Rickert (Tor.com 4/30/14)
Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion)
 “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap),” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)

I have read three of the nominated novellas and the Mary Rickert and Rachel Swirsky stories are both consistently excellent, which is what one has come to expect from those two.  They will both be on my Hugo ballot.  Nancy Kress's story is a worthy addition, though it gave me less of the knock out punch that Rickert and Swirsky delivered.  

 Novelette
Sleep Walking Now and Then,” Richard Bowes (Tor.com 7/9/14)
The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
The Husband Stitch,” Carmen Maria Machado (Granta #129)
We Are the Cloud,” Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed 9/14)
The Devil in America,” Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com 4/2/14)

I have not read any of the Novelettes and am not overly familiar with any of the authors, which means that there is a whole lot of discovery here for me.

Short Story 
The Breath of War,” Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/6/14)
When It Ends, He Catches Her,” Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction 9/26/14)
The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld 5/14)
The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family,” Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)
 “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” Sarah Pinsker (F&SF 3-4/14)
Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
The Fisher Queen,” Alyssa Wong (F&SF 5/14)

Likewise, I have not read any of the Short Stories, though last year I very much enjoyed Sarah Pinsker's "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind".  I tend to enjoy Aliette de Bodard's fiction, whether it is a novel or short story.  The one thing that really struck me about this category, though, is that Eugie Foster's nominated story was her last story, published the day before she died.  Foster had previously won a Nebula Award in 2009. 


Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation 
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
The Lego Movie

When it comes to the Nebula Award, I tend to focus on the Nebula "Proper" and less on the Bradbury and Norton Awards.  With that said, while I haven't seen Birdman I am surprised to see a nomination here as I was not aware there were any genre elements beyond being about an actor who once played a superhero.  But maybe that's enough.  I still don't understand the raw love for The Lego Movie. 

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy 
Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)

I have not read any of these novels.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Draft Hugo Ballot

Monday, February 23, 2015 4
This still needs a lot of work, or - as much work as I can do in the next two weeks, but this is where I'm at with my ballot for the Hugo Awards.  A star represents works that are a near lock to make my final ballot.  Anything else is a very inconsistent mark that means something specific to me for that category, but isn't quite enough to be put into words.

Novel
*City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett
*Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie
*The Mirror Empire, by Kameron Hurley
*The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
The Eternal Sky Trilogy, by Elizabeth Bear

This is it for the novels, I won't be getting to anything else new before the nomination period closes.  I have thoughts as to what my fifth slot will be, and it is very conflicted between excellent novels and reward a great achievement in the Eternal Sky trilogy (which is more than a worthy nominee - and much more so than The Wheel of Time was last year, I think in terms of raw quality)

Novella
*“The Mothers of Voorhisville”, by Mary Rickert (Tor.com)
*“Grand Jete”, by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean)
Yesterday’s Kin, by Nancy Kress
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome, by John Scalzi

I have three more novellas on my Nook right now, plus another I have copied over to a word doc - so if I am very productive, this category could look very different if I get through Daryl Gregory, Kat Howard, Ken Liu, and Lawrence Shoen.  Two of those will be read for the Nebula Awards, but if I get them fast enough I can consider them for the Hugos.

Novelette
“A Fire in the Heavens”, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Shadows Beneath)

I need to do work.

Short Story
-*”The Color of Paradox”, by A. M. Dellamonica (Tor.com)
--“Mrs Sorensen and the Sasquatch”, by Kelly Barnhill (Tor.com)
--“A Cup of Salt Tears”, by Isabel  Yap (Tor.com)
--“As Good as New”, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com)
-“Spores”, by Seanan McGuire (The End is Nigh)

Last year was not a strong year for reading short fiction (for me), so I'm very behind.  I've used Some of the Best of Tor.com as a resource just to get ideas for what to consider, though Kelly Barnhill's story has been on my list all year and she's still holding on.  The trouble is, if I push to read more novelettes, I'm going to miss out on more short stories and my time is quite limited right now.  So - if there are any strong recommendations for something I just have to read now, I'll take it. 

Graphic Story
*Saga, Vol 3
*Locke and Key: Alpha and Omega

Related Work
*Rocket Talk Podcast
What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton

There is an argument to be had regarding whether or not Rocket Talk is a Fancast or a Related Work. On the one hand, it is published on Tor.com, a professional publication - and I expect that Landon is compensated for each episode in the same way that all contributors to Tor.com are compensated.  On the other hand, I believe that Tor.com does not pay for the production of Rocket Talk.  I think, and this is obvious based on what category I'm commenting on, that Rocket Talk is a professional podcast and is much more suited to be a Related Work.  I love Rocket Talk, it is the one podcast I actually listen to on a semi-regular basis.  But it's association with Tor.com eliminates it from being a fancast. 

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
*Interstellar
*Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Mockingjay: Part I
X-Men: Days of Future Past
How to Train Your Dragon 2

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Editor, Short Form
William Schafer
Ann VanderMeer

Editor, Long Form

Professional Artist
-John Picacio
-Julie Dillon
Stephan Martiniere
Magali Villeneuve
Milan Jaram
Joey Hi-Fi

Fan Artist
*Elizabeth Leggett (she has professional work, but I love the fan work)
Wenqing Yan

Semiprozine

Fanzine
*Chaos Horizon
A Dribble of Ink
Lady Business
SF Mistressworks
The Wertzone

Chaos Horizon is easily my favorite blog / fanzine this year.  I love the analysis Kempner is doing in trying to figure out, based on past history, what works are likely to garner nominations for the Hugo and Nebula Awards. 

Fan Writer
*Brandon Kempner
*Renay Williams
Justin Landon
Abigail Nussbaum
Adam Whitehead
Niall Alexander
Paul Weimer
Liz Bourke

See above.  Also, Renay at Lady Business (and on Twitter) has been making me think this year, so I'd love to see her recognized.

Fancast
No Nominations

John W. Campbell Award
*Wesley Chu
*Helene Wecker
*Brian McClellan
Henry Lien

Friday, February 20, 2015

2014 Nebula Award Nominees

Friday, February 20, 2015 0
Picked this up first from John Scalzi, below are the nominees for the 2014 Nebula Awards (presented in 2015.  I should have some initial thoughts on the nominees next week.

Congratulations to all the nominees. 

Novel
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals)

Novella 
We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)
The Mothers of Voorhisville,” Mary Rickert (Tor.com 4/30/14)
Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion)
 “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap),” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)

 Novelette
Sleep Walking Now and Then,” Richard Bowes (Tor.com 7/9/14)
The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
The Husband Stitch,” Carmen Maria Machado (Granta #129)
We Are the Cloud,” Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed 9/14)
The Devil in America,” Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com 4/2/14)

Short Story 
The Breath of War,” Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/6/14)
When It Ends, He Catches Her,” Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction 9/26/14)
The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld 5/14)
The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family,” Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)
 “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” Sarah Pinsker (F&SF 3-4/14)
Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
The Fisher Queen,” Alyssa Wong (F&SF 5/14)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation 
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
The Lego Movie

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy 
Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Books Read: January 2015

Thursday, February 05, 2015 2
My son was born on January 6 and I was able to take a month off from work.  Because his three primary activities are eating, pooping, and sleeping I was able to read more books than I had expected in January.  Well, I expected him to be born closer to January 23, but I didn't expect to read much immediately following his birth.  With a slight slow down this last week, I was reading at a fairly decent clip. Everything after Oath of Gold was read following his birth. 

I don't know how confident I feel about what the next couple of months will be like.  Or, more specifically, what happens when he is awake more often and trying to crawl down the stairs.  But for now, I'm keeping up.

1. Oath of Gold, by Elizabeth Moon
2. Symbiont, by Mira Grant
3. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
4. City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett
5. Abaddon's Gate, by James S. A. Corey
6. The World of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin
7. Down to the Bone, by Justina Robson
8. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
9. Low Midnight, by Carrie Vaughn
10. My Real Children, by Jo Walton
11. The Martian, by Andy Weir
12. The King's Deryni, by Katherine Kurtz
13. Engineering Infinity, by Jonathan Strahan (editor)

Best Book of the Month:  If I waited to do a Best Of list several months (or years) after the end of the year, rather than at the very end of that calendar year, that year's list would look very different.  For example, City of Stairs would / should be near the top of my most recent list, except that I put the list together in December and I read City of Stairs in January.  Regardless, this is a most impressive fantasy novel and it has me very excited to read whatever Bennett does next.  Also, read Renay's review of City of Stairs to get another perspective and to pick up on something that I completely missed but should not have.

Disappointment of the Month: I adore Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels.  More specifically, I adore Kurtz's Deryni novels set a bit farther back in the past - the Camber era stuff that deals with the Haldanes regaining the throne and Camber's children.  I've been less excited by the Kelson era work, and have been overall been disappointed by the Childe Morgan trilogy.  It had been 8 years since Childe Morgan was published (the second in the trilogy) and 11 since In the King's Service (book one).  This is more than my issue with the era Kurtz is writing in, though, which is immediately prior to Kelson.  The King's Deryni comes across more as a travelogue hitting some notable points over a ten year (approximately) period in Alaric Morgan's life - with his training, friendships, Duncan entering the priesthood, the poor priest caught being a Deryni, the battle against the Marluk, etc.  Much of that is richer because of prior knowledge of the series, not because of how well The King's Deryni was written.  I still hope for the Year 948 novel that has been long rumored.  If you look at earlier Deryni novels, there are genealogies and a LOT of people died in 948.  I'd like to know why and how.  The other novel I've been waiting for / hoping for is an Orin and Jodotha novel, which are the legendary Deryni Evaine was just discovering more about before her death. 

Discovery of the Month: Robert Jackson Bennett really isn't an unknown quantity at this point, but despite being well aware of The Troupe and American Elsewhere, I never picked up one of his books.  Until City of Stairs.  And I realized just how wrong I was for not reading him sooner.

Worth Noting: If The Martian had not been previously self published, I would be considering it for a Hugo nomination.  It might not make my final ballot because slots are really tight right now and it would take something to really knock me off my feet in the next three weeks for anything not currently under consideration to grab a slot.  But I would at least be thinking about it.  Now, please write another book, Mr. Weir. 

Gender Breakdown: To start out the year, I have 8 of the13 books I read were written by women, which breaks out to 61.54%.  This marks three consecutive months I have read more female authored books than male authored, and quite possible, the only three months this has happened in my life - though there may have been isolated months more than fifteen years ago when I would read all the Anne McCaffrey or Katherine Kurtz I could get my hands on. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Incredibly Preliminary 2015 Hugo Award Nomination Ballot

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 13
After taking a year or so off, I am going to participate in the Hugo Awards again this year.  So, this post is the first of several which will allow me to publicly work through my thoughts on who I would like to nominate for a Hugo Award.  Unlike previous years I have nominated, I have been much less involved in the short fiction scene, so I'm going to actively seek out recommendations for the short fiction categories.

This is a start and is currently in no particular order.  My next post on this will start to narrow.  This is just what I am thinking about right now before doing more serious work to narrow down the categories.


Novel
City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Mirror Empire, by Kameron Hurley
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
The Eternal Sky Trilogy, by Elizabeth Bear


Graphic Story
Saga, Vol 3
Locke and Key: Alpha and Omega

Related Work
Rocket Talk Podcast


Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Guardians of the Galaxy
Interstellar
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Mockingjay: Part I
X-Men: Days of Future Past


Fanzine
A Dribble of Ink
Lady Business

SF Mistressworks
Chaos Horizon
The Wertzone

Fan Writer

Justin Landon
Abigail Nussbaum
Brandon Kempner
Adam Whitehead

Categories I just have no idea about yet but will do research to feel good about.
Novella / Novelette / Short Story
Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Semiprozine
Fancast 
Professional Artist (there is a great Hugo Eligible Artists blog to help me out)
Editor: Short Form / Long Form
Fan Artist
John W. Campbell Award

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Books Read: December 2014

Thursday, January 15, 2015 0
My intention was to get this post up immediately following all of my Year's Best and Looking Forward posts, which led to a good run of posting at very end of December and four posts in the first six days of January. That final post was scheduled for and posted on January 6. 

The reason we didn't get this post up on January 7 was that on January 6, my very pregnant wife's water broke in the wee hours of the morning and we spent the rest of the day in the hospital waiting for the arrival of our son.  Our first child.  Andrew decided to make an appearance at 11:49 pm.  He's doing great, and so is my wife.  But what this has meant in terms of posting is that we spent a couple of days in the hospital and then have been working on figuring this parenting thing out for the last 8 days.  By no means do we have it figured out, but I have some spare time while the rest of my family is napping. You could argue that I should be, too. 

There are no reviews to link to.

1. Grace's Guide, by Grace Helbig
2. Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
3. Prince of Dogs, by Kate Elliott
4. Hawk, by Steven Brust
5. Revival, by Stephen King
6. Allana, by Tamora Pierce
7. The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer
8. The Last Man, by Vince Flynn
9. Unexpected Stories, by Octavia Butler
10. The Deaths of Tao, by Wesley Chu
11. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances, by Matthew Inman
12. Steles of the Sky, by Elizabeth Bear

Best Book of the Month: Based on how I listed stuff on my list of the Top Nine Books Published in 2014, I have to go with Hawk. This was Steven Brust in full form and completely delivering a top notch Vlad Taltos novel. 

Disappointment of the Month: You generally know what you're getting with a Vince Flynn novel (action, a touch of jingoism, and a lot of ass kicking of terrorists and those who obstruct the safety of the United States).  You get an angry Mitch Rapp, which has generally been a solid if flawed ride.  The Last Man was Vince Flynn's last published novel and it was written while he was battling the cancer which ultimately took his life. Unfortunately, it wasn't up to the standard of the rest of the series.  I have some thoughts on that, but in the end, it doesn't matter. A husband and a father lost his life, and I feel so much more for his family than I care about how this particular novel turned out. I've enjoyed Flynn's work in the past and we have a couple of his books up at the cabin if we need to quickly dive in to something.  As a side note, it was recently announced that Kyle Mills will be continuing the Mitch Rapp series. The Survivor (a book Flynn started) may come out in 2015.

Discovery of the Month: I have mentioned this elsewhere, but I really wish I had discovered Tamora Pierce when I was twelve. I liked it at 35, I would have loved it then and would have devoured everything Pierce wrote back then. Allana was fantastic.

Worth Noting: With Steles of the Sky, Elizabeth Bear concluded her superb Eternal Sky trilogy, a "silk road" fantasy with far more eastern than western influences. It is a beautiful and brutal novel and series, and it should be held up as one of the top fantasy series in recent years.

Gender Breakdown: Of the twelve books I read last month, seven were written by women. This marks two consecutive months which I have read more books written by women than by men.  This brings my total to 62/135 for the year (45.92%), which is the greatest percentage of female authored books I have ever read in a given year as long as I have been keeping track of this sort of thing.  So, that's good, right?  It's a start.  I have a different and longer post in mind to talk about my year in reading as it relates to gender (a sequel to this one), so I won't bury it all here, but this is nothing more than a start.


Previous Months
January
February
March 
April 
May
June
July 
August 
September
October 
November

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Less New Books I'm Looking Forward to Maybe Reading in 2015

Tuesday, January 06, 2015 0


Inspired by Kate Elliott, I would like to consider some books published in the last several years which I would like to read. I'm putting this together with a quick scan of the Locus Forthcoming Lists.  Some of these will be later books in a series where I haven't read all of the earlier books, but they do hold some interest for me.

I am also quite certain that there are many more books than these for any given year that I'd like to read, these are just the ones jumping out at me today.

2013
MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
American Elsewhere, by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Daylight War, by Peter V. Brett
The Incrementalists, by Steven Brust and Skyler White
The Bitter Kingdom, by Rae Carson
Abaddon's Gate, by James S. A. Corey
Blood of Dragons, by Robin Hobb
Without a Summer, by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Best of All Possible Worlds, by Karen Lord
Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch
Limits of Power, by Elizabeth Moon
A Matter of Blood, by Sarah Pinborough
Fiddlehead, by Cherie Priest
Necessary Evil, by Ian Tregillis

2012
Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed
Iron Hearted Violet, by Kelly Barnhill
Shoggoths in Bloom, by Elizabeth Bear
Rapture, by Kameron Hurley
The Shadowed Sun, by N. K. Jemisin
Crucible of Gold, by Naomi Novik
The Serpent Sea, by Martha Wells
Worldsoul, by Liz Williams

2011
Cold Fire, by Kate Elliott
Raising Stony Mayhall, by Daryl Gregory
Infidel, by Kameron Hurley
The Diviner, by Melanie Rawn
The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
City of Ruins, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

And also some random books from earlier years but which are on my "read sooner rather than later list":
Stretto, by L. Timmel Duchamp
The Burning Stone, by Kate Elliott
The Temporal Void, by Peter F. Hamilton
Fool's Fate, by Robin Hobb
Darkspell, by Katherine Kerr
The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon
Surrender None, by Elizabeth Moon
Maelstrom, by Peter Watts
The Killing of Worlds, by Scott Westerfeld

 
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