Friday, August 29, 2014

Underappreciated Authors

Friday, August 29, 2014 0
Once again, I'm riffing off of a SF Signal Mind Meld.  This one asks the question "Which genre author, living or dead, do you think deserves more attention?"

This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer, even though the answer entirely depends on the respondent's preferences and perspective. But perspective is part of the problem.  I could probably rattle off a handful of names that I would love to see more discussion about, only to find out that they are consistent bestsellers.  This is because I don't know much about how much a particular novel is really selling, relative to the online conversations I see. But even that is a trick, because we only see what the people around us are talking about and we only hear from those voices we seek out. This is a touch obvious and trite, but if we only know what we know, we then have no idea what other conversations are taking place just outside our circles.  There are vibrant conversations taking place about all sorts of awesome books and I have no idea what they are talking about.  This book that I think is wonderful but lament that "nobody" is talking about may be much discussed and may also be selling quite well beyond anything I could have imagined, but here I think that nobody knows about it because my small corner isn't talking about it.

Of course, one could always run with the question from the perspective of "sure, this person sells enough to keep publishing and wins awards, but I want her to outsell Stephen King and Jo Rowling combined."  I'm going to try to not intentionally push in that direction. 

So, let's take what follows with a small grain of salt.  I may have no idea what I'm talking about. 

The first author who comes to mind is Jennifer Pelland.  She is a two time Nebula Award nominee for her short fiction ("Captive Girl" and "Ghosts of New York") and if I had my way she would be a Nebula Award winning author at the very least for "Captive Girl", which I thought was stunning.  Pelland is the author of the excellent novel Machine, published in 2012, and the short story collection Unwelcome Bodies (2008).  Pelland's fiction often deals with issues of body augmentation and image, and does so in an unflinching manner. If anyone is going to flinch, it's likely going to be the reader. She's damn good and I hope that she will be able to publish some stuff soon, because it's been far too long since I've read a new Jennifer Pelland story.  This is, of course, about me.

Another writer who I don't see people talking much about is Greg Keyes.  Keyes was discussed a bit more between 2003 and 2008 when he published his generally excellent Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone fantasy series, but perhaps because his subsequent output has been two Elder Scrolls novels and a prequel to the new Planet of the Apes movies, there hasn't been much buzz.  Keyes is also the author of the fascinating Age of Unreason quartet featuring an alternate history with Ben Franklin and Isaac Newton. That one is worth a look, if you haven't heard of it or read it before.  Start with Newton's Cannon.  I'd love to see a fresh novel or series from him that isn't tie-in work. 

Which, pun intended, ties in very well to Karen Traviss.  Much of Traviss's output has been tie-in fiction, starting with Star Wars and moving on to the Halo universe.  I followed her Star Wars work and thought it was some of the best of the Expanded Universe novels, but because I am less interested in the Halo Universe, I haven't followed her there yet.  I say yet, because knowing how good Traviss has been at everything else she's written, I'd probably be a fool if I didn't give those a crack, too.  If you want some excellent science fiction that isn't tied in to a shared universe of some sort, try her Wess'har Wars beginning with City of Pearl.  Blew me away and I was hooked from the first book of the six volume series.  Traviss does excellent work, period, but because she's been working so much in the Star Wars and Halo settings, I don't see much discussion about her.  She does have a new novel Going Gray just out and I expect it will be fantastic.

I read Imaro from Charles Saunders in 2009 (my review) and loved it.  It is a wonderful sword and sorcery novel set in an alternate Africa, and it is one which I had never previously encountered.  Despite my appreciation for Imaro and despite buying the second volume Imaro Two: The Quest for Cush, I have still only read that first book.  I should remedy this. So should you.  The first two Imaro novels were originally republished by Night Shade in the mid 2000's, but they never published the third volume. Saunders self published the third volume (which did have an original print publication by DAW in the 80's) and he has also self published a fourth volume. On the strength of Imaro alone, Charles Saunders should be much more well known than he is.

Finally, let's talk briefly about Rosemary Kirstein.  I only just discovered Kirstein this year (my review of The Steerswoman) and I'm excited to read more of the Steerswoman novels.  The first was excellent.  Kirstein, of course, is another author has written excellent books but because of sales and publishing, was dropped by her publisher / or didn't have the next book picked up, which is much the same to me.  She has been self publishing her novels and there are currently four of them out, so there are still opportunities to read more.  Back in 2008, Jo Walton put a spotlight on the series, and it's well worth a look.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Definitions or Categorization

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 0
Ian Sales has an essay titled "An epistemological model of (speculative) fiction" in which he discusses how one might categorize a work as science fiction or fantasy because he feels that for all of the definitions of what is science fiction "most of these definitions are ineffective."

Sales breaks things out with a chart which would graph out the amount of "Wonder" a work has (how much does it fill up the imagination) and the "Agency" (is the work filled with possible things that work in ways they do in real life?), and I think of the scene in Dead Poets Society where the students are told to chart out the greatness of a poem immediately before Robin Williams informs the students that the idea is excrement and to rip out the pages of their textbook.

Sales goes on to say that

Works can, of course, straddle borders, which can lead to interesting effects. But as means of distinguishing between various genres, the above chart doesn’t rely on tropes – in fact, it completely ignores them. A story can, for example, feature dragons, defined as cryptozoologic reptiles, and be science fiction. A fantasy novel can feature spaceships which fly between worlds because some person in a cloak waves their hands and mutters gibberish.

I think his essay is worth a look.  To the point that I have felt a need to truly categorize a novel or story as science fiction, I tend towards something Ray Bradbury once said about The Martian Chronicles (which I can't quite source),

First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see?


If I get technical about things, that's how I would define science fiction versus fantasy. It seems like, for the most part, Sales is working from a similar definition.  He just has a graph. 

But for the most part, I don't feel much need to define science fiction and fantasy. I can cover both of them under the umbrella of "speculative fiction" and I can further just say "genre" when referring to them.  Of course, "genre" is non-specific and can lead to confusion with other genres, but then genre itself is fluid and allows speculative fiction to take some romance and take some hard boiled crime and mix it all together and you still have a speculative fiction story. 

I can also say "hey, this is a really great book, you should read it" and recommend it like anything else. 

Of course, Shaun Duke takes this in a different direction and calls SF a "Supergenre", but I'm not quite willing to dive into that at the moment.  I just wanted to point it out.

My final thought is simply that science fiction (and all its subsets) and fantasy (and all of its subsets) are both under the umbrella of Speculative Fiction because they are different sides of the same coin.  Of course, this would suggest that I should define "speculative fiction" in some way that is superior to all of the unsatisfying definitions of science fiction or fantasy unless I said that "Speculative Fiction is comprised of science fiction and fantasy and all the blurred lines in between." 

I'm sure that doesn't work. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Legacies

Thursday, August 21, 2014 0
Recently, SF Signal posted one of their periodic Mind Meld features which asks a number of people to provide an answer for a particular topic. The latest one had to do with author's legacies and whether an unfinished series should remain unfinished.  You can find it here.  I had an abbreviated response there, but wanted to expand on it here. 

The quick answer is that it depends entirely on the author's wishes.  If George R. R. Martin does not want another writer to finish A Song of Ice and Fire if he should pass away before completing it, then that is exactly what should happen.  Or, should not happen, as the case may be.

Of course, Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time is an excellent example of the other side of this.  The author knew he was terminally ill and made arrangements through his wife and editor, Harriet, that the series would be finished and that his fans would get to find out how the series ended.  His wife selected another writer who was able to not only finish Jordan's work, but also do so in such a way that both honored and lived up to the standard that was set. 

But, the author's wishes are paramount. 

In that Mind Meld, Bradley Beaulieu had this to say,

Last year on Speculate!, the podcast I run with Greg Wilson, we were interviewing Scott Lynch about his wonderful” Gentlemen Bastard” series, and we got to talking about the implied contract writers create with readers—whether there was one, how far it extended; that sort of thing—and Scott said that he believed that the author owed the reader the full story. If you said you were going to provide a trilogy, you really do owe them a trilogy. I’m with Scott. Readers become very invested in their fiction (I know I certainly do), and I think it’s fair to say that if you put down good money for the first installment, you really ought to provide all the installments you said you were going to provide in the beginning. Now, Scott also said that you don’t owe the reader their version of the story, and I believe that to be true as well. A writer owes it to herself and the story to finish it the way she wants to. 

I could not agree more.  I understand the perspective of Neil Gaiman when he, famously, wrote that "George R. R. Martin is not your bitch."  Which is to say that GRRM, or any other author, is not required to write on your schedule or write what you think they should write.  This is true. 

But. 

I agree with Bradley and Scott that there is an implied contract between readers and authors.  When I buy "Book One of Potentially Awesome Fantasy Series" from Wonderful Author Person, I am buying it with the understanding that it is only the first volume in a series and that the series may take years or decades to complete.  Obviously, I hope it will be finished sooner, but that is because I am an impatient little bastard.  I understand that it may take a long time and that in some cases, the author may need to step aside and write something else while they are working to complete the series.  That's the thing, though, I am buying "Book One of Potentially Awesome Fantasy Series" with the expectation that there will be "The Last Book in Totally Awesome Fantasy Series" to wrap things up. 

There are different sorts of series and they carry different sorts of expectations.  Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels are, for the most part, "The Continuing Adventures of Lawrence and Temeraire" and there is likely no true concluding novel because there can always be more adventures. This is the same with Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards. Sure, I know that there are seven books planned, but for the most part, they stand alone while building a larger tapestry.  Or many detective novels and Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy.  The Wheel of Time and A Song of Ice and Fire and Memory Sorrow Thorn and The Night's Dawn Trilogy are all different.  They are telling a singular story and set the expectation of a final volume that wraps up the story the author intends to tell, regardless of of how the reader feels it should end. 

If you knew going in that the author was not going to complete the sort of series which more requires an ending, would you have bought the "Book One of Potentially Awesome Fantasy Series" to begin with? 

This all ties together with the point about legacies, I promise. 

There are all sorts of reasons why an author does not finish a series and most of them a reader would have to be an unfeeling asshole to not empathize with or be able to understand.  Sales might be weak and the publisher declined to finish the series.  The author may have been ill.  There may have been family issues which there is no good reason for us, the reader, to know about.  As Neil Gaiman explained, the author may have been stuck or needed to recharge on different projects before returning to the promised book.  Actually, this is how Brandon Sanderson stays so prolific. He switches up projects and works on different things so he can stay fresh for his longer works.  It's just that Brandon writes so fast that we seldom have to wait very long.  But imagine a slower writer who still needs time to recharge on different projects.  The author may have died. 

Bradley Beaulieu wonders "does the death of the writer absolve the author from that contract" and goes on to explain how, from his fan's perspective, it does not - but that it should be done carefully and with conditions.  He later explains in the comments to the Mind Meld that as an author he agrees with those who believe the author gets to decide her or his legacy and whether a story will be finished by another writer.

The older I get, the farther I get from the fan's perspective and the closer I stick with "the author's wishes are paramount."  As a younger fan, of course I wanted whatever series to be finished and would have said that it should be.  Now, with a touch more maturity under the belt, my thought is that:

A) It sucks horribly that the author has passed away and all of my sympathy goes out to the author's family and friends and I hope that they all are able to find peace with the loss of their loved on. 

B) I may never get to find out how this story that I loved ends and that's okay. 

So that's where I stand.  But I do have one caveat to all of this, and it is more of a wish than a hope.  My wish is that if an author knows that she is nearing the end of her life, whether it is illness or age, that even if she doesn't want another writer to finish her work that she would be willing to pull together her notes and maybe sketch out how various story arcs are intended to resolve, and permit those notes to be released after her death - perhaps as a published volume for her estate or maybe just something online through her publisher / agent / friends. It would be a way to provide closure for the fans and readers who have spent years and money and emotion investing themselves in that author's work. The series may never be finished and the author never had the chance to finish it the way she intended, but here's a glimpse into how the various arcs and characters ended.  It's not a demand and it isn't a requirement, but it would be something nice. It would be one last gift to the readers who have been following along for years. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 Hugo Award Winners

Monday, August 18, 2014 1
Let's just start this out right: I'm very happy with how this year's Hugo Awards turned out.  This was an excellent slate of winners, one which I think we'll be able to look back on and think "yeah, they got that right".  You can quibble, of course, with what was nominated and what was not, but as a whole, I think this was a solid class of Hugo Award winners.

I had greater ambitions to read and watch everything, and I didn't get quite as far along with the various stories as I had planned due to life. The time I would generally have put towards short story reading went to studying for various exams, so I didn't hit the Novellas and Novelettes quite like I planned.  But that's okay.  I still have thoughts and opinions and happiness.

Before I dig into the individual categories, I would like to offer an extra round of congratulations to Ann Leckie for winning everything, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kameron Hurley, Aidan Moher, and John Joseph Adams. I have been reading and following these folks for a number of years and I think they are all extra awesome in their own particular ways and I am super excited that they won. Aidan in particular.

You can find my breakdown of the Hugo Voting here


Best Novel (1595 ballots)
*Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
Parasite by Mira Grant (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (Baen Books)
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)

Thoughts: Ancillary Justice (my review) was really in a class all its own here. I would have understood if The Wheel of Time had won and I probably would have applauded, if only because of my overall love and appreciation of the series as a whole and how good of a job Brandon Sanderson did in finishing Robert Jordan's work, but I wouldn't have agreed with the award. Ancillary Justice was the right call.

Best Novella (847 ballots)
The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
The Chaplain’s Legacy” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
*“Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)

Thoughts: This is one of the categories I missed most of the nominated works. I had copies of everything, I just never quite got around to it. As such, the only two I read were the winner and the runner up (Six-Gun Snow White - my review). I'm not sure I enjoyed "Equoid", but I can see where some people would appreciate it. Without having read the other three stories, I can't say where I would have voted, but right now neither of the two I read would have been it.

Best Novelette (728 ballots)
The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013) (audio)
*“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

Thoughts: Another category my reading was delinquent. This time, though, I can say that I adored Mary Robinette Kowal's "The Lady Astronaut of Mars". That was a wonderful and charming and sad story and I am so happy that it won.  I also enjoyed Aliette de Bodard's story, but I think between those two, the Kowal was the correct choice. I did not read the other three. Too much studying, too little time.

Best Short Story (865 ballots)
If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
*“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

Thoughts: Had I a vote, I would have voted for John Chu's lovely story (my review). I was able to read all four nominated stories and while I loved the Swirsky, I think the Chu is a better representation as a story. Swirsky's was more of a beautiful heart-wrenching semi-narrative poem. It's wonderful, but Chu's story is a worthy winner.

Best Related Work (752 ballots)
Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)
Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary by Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)
*“We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image)
Writing Excuses: Season 8 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson

Thoughts: Kameron Hurley's piece was one of the more discussed and shared nonfiction works in the genre this year, and I think it represents a significant part of the conversation this year. The award is also timely in that the writer of the Best Related Work is also the winner of Best Fan Writer. More on that later.

Best Graphic Story (552 ballots)
Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
“The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who” written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
The Meathouse Man adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
Saga, Volume 2 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
*“Time” by Randall Munroe (XKCD)

Thoughts: I don't know, man. There's a lot going on with Time, but Saga is something pretty special itself (bonkers, but special). I never quite got to The Meathouse Man, though I'm familiar with the original story, so I imagine it was dark and nasty. Time is a different sort of graphic story, but it works. It's quiet, and sad, but it works. I think it's my impression on what a graphic story is that is messing with me. I think I would have voted Saga over Time, but taking the time (no pun intended) to work through Time is worthwhile.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (995 ballots)
Frozen screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
*Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
Iron Man 3 screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
Pacific Rim screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

Thoughts: Easily the right choice. The only argument to be made is whether or not Gravity is actually science fiction. Maybe the thought of George Clooney as an astronaut is fantasy, but if you really think about the movie, it's just a straight up story that happens to be in space - but everything is possible with today's technology. It's fiction that uses science, but isn't science fiction. Unless you argue that everything that ventures into space is science fiction. But regardless of that, Gravity is an excellent movie.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (760 ballots)
An Adventure in Space and Time written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Television)
The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot written and directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
*Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Thoughts: In the category of the Hugo Award for Doctor Who, Game of Thrones won. It's the Red Wedding episode, which I'm not sure I can evaluate fairly because, holy snap, the Red Wedding.  I'm a couple episodes behind on Orphan Black, but I'm glad the Doctor Who didn't win.

Best Editor: Short Form (656 ballots)
*John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow 
Jonathan Strahan 
Sheila Williams

Thoughts: This is the Best Editor category where you can see the editorial hand in play. Compiling an anthology or building a short fiction magazine, the Short Form editor shapes the vision in a way that you can see. John Joseph Adams has been doing excellent work for years, and I'm very happy to see him receive the recognition.  Now, as for this past year, I have no idea. I haven't followed the anthologies and the zines like I used to.  But JJA definitely deserves to have a Hugo on his shelf.

Best Editor: Long Form (632 ballots)
*Ginjer Buchanan (Ace Books)
Sheila Gilbert (DAW)
Liz Gorinsky (Tor)
Lee Harris (Angry Robot)
Toni Weisskopf (Baen)

Thoughts: Long Form is a lot tougher because, depending on the press, the editor is part of a team of editors working for the publisher. So, unless you know exactly what Gorinsky worked on (and this can be tough in a large publisher), it's hard to say that she was the best editor or that she acquired the best work published last year.  When you look at smaller publishers with only a single editor on board, yes, Toni Weisskopf is Baen and Lee Harris is Angry Robot (as I understand it).  Lou Anders is Pyr.  So, if you like the publisher, you know what the editor has been doing.  Ace likely has a number of editors, but Ginjer Buchanan just retired this year, so this was the last chance to recognize her for her decades of work in the genre. I imagine this played a role.

Best Professional Artist (624 ballots)
Galen Dara 
*Julie Dillon 
Daniel Dos Santos 
John Harris 
John Picacio
Fiona Staples

Thoughts: I never did the wrap-up post after profiling all of the artists, but Julie Dillon (my profile) had a fantastic year. I might have voted for Galen Dara for my top choice (my profile), but every one of these produced quality work last year.

Best Semiprozine (411 ballots)
Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
*Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Sonya Taaffe, Abigail Nussbaum, Rebecca Cross, Anaea Lay, and Shane Gavin

Thoughts: I haven't been reading the short fiction of the various zines this past year, but given that JJA also won Best Editor, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that his zine is the Best Semiprozine.

Best Fanzine (478 ballots)
The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
*A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J. Montgomery
Pornokitsch edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin

Thoughts:  If I could express just how excited and happy I am for Aidan, I would. I just don't know how to succinctly get that across. Up until recently, A Dribble of Ink has been a single author blog. It was just Aidan pumping out quality work for years. He's been more of an editor these last couple of years, curating his blog and seeking out guest work to post - and curating is an apt term, because from the look of things, this is an active role versus just having guest writers doing whatever they want. He's grabbing writers of quality and expanding his audience and reach and overall doing one hell of a good job.

Also, where I've been previously happy for SF Signal winning for Best Fanzine, it's always been more of a group blog and a bigger and different thing. Those wins were important in helping blogs get recognition, but Aidan's win is the first time I've really felt like "one of us" have won the Hugo. This touches on Fan Writer a bit, but I've been blogging for a decade and Aidan has been right there for most of that time.  This is just a cool and awesome thing. 

Best Fancast (396 ballots)
The Coode Street Podcast – Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast – Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (presenters) and Andrew Finch (producer)
*SF Signal Podcast – Patrick Hester
The Skiffy and Fanty Show – Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, and Stina Leicht
Tea and Jeopardy – Emma Newman
Verity! – Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Writer and the Critic – Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond 

Thoughts: I don't listen to many podcasts. I just tend to not have the time or the focus, so while I love the conversations I've been able to hear when I do, as a whole, I've not been able to engage with them. It's a shame. I did enjoy the couple of episodes of Skiffy and Fanty I've listened to.

Best Fan Writer (521 ballots)
Liz Bourke 
*Kameron Hurley
Foz Meadows 
Abigail Nussbaum 
Mark Oshiro 

Thoughts: First, excellent lineup of fan writers. Second, Kameron Hurley very much deserved this win with all of the killer fan writing she's been putting out, whether it is guest blogs, her own blog, or living on Twitter and engaging. Third, it does seem like more prominent writers and published authors are the ones who get the most recognition for Fan Writer. I am not suggesting that published authors are not also fans, and that they do not produce fan writing, but it does seem like Liz, Foz, Abigail, and Mark had a slightly tougher road against the wider recognition of Kameron. Again, not a dig on Kameron's absolutely killer fan writing or the reach of "We Have Always Fought" (published on A Dribble of Ink), but she is a more recognizable name outside of those who follow fan writing and various blogs. 

With all of that said, though - this was an outstanding year for the nominated fan writers. I am aware of Mark through the Mark Reads Stuff that I've seen linked, but I am not familiar with his work. Liz, Kameron, Foz, and Abigail have been just killing it. I've been advocating for Abigail's nomination for several years and I'm very happy to see it here.  Kameron's win is well deserved, as was that of "We Have Always Fought" for Related Work.

Best Fan Artist (316 ballots)
Brad W. Foster
Mandie Manzano 
Spring Schoenhuth 
Steve Stiles
*Sarah Webb 

Thoughts: Like Professional Artist, I highlighted the nominees (except that I never got Brad's spotlight posted - for which I apologize). Sarah Webb (my profile) was easily my favorite of the bunch and I would not be surprised to see her work being nominated in the future for Professional Artist if she continues with it and moves in that direction within the genre.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (767 ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).
Wesley Chu 
Max Gladstone*
Ramez Naam*
*Sofia Samatar*
Benjanun Sriduangkaew

*Denotes finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Thoughts:  I made it halfway through this category (Chu, Naam, Samatar), so I can't speak on Gladstone or Sriduangkaew (yet).  I would have went with Wesley Chu just from reading the first of the Tao novels (my review). I had a blast reading it and was more impressed by it than Naam's Nexus or Samatar's Olondria novel. I do understand, though, that I'm in the minority of A Stranger of Olondria  (my not a review). I've enjoyed her short fiction, but I just failed to engage with Olondria.  Most everyone else truly appreciated the artistry of the novel, though, and so I am not at all surprised by the win. Maybe next year for Chu.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 Hugo Award Voting Breakdown

Sunday, August 17, 2014 2
One of my favorite things about the Hugo Award season, besides the whole damn thing, is that after the awards are given out, the convention running that year's awards also provides the voting results and nominating breakdowns. Per the WSFS Constitution, they must do this within 90 days following that year's Worldcon (section 3.11.4), but what I've been seeing in recent years is that those totals are released shortly after the awards are given.

That breakdown can be found here.

I tend to find the breakdown of the instant runoff voting a little bit less interesting just because it depends on the vagaries of how the various voters have ranked the nominees, but what I find fascinating is taking a look at how close a work that missed the ballot only needed two more people nominating it and it could have made the final ballot.  And then who knows what would have happened.

Such as Best Novel.

368 Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie 23.1%
218 The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman 13.7% *
184 Warbound Larry Correia 11.5%
160 The Wheel of Time Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson 10.0%
120 Neptune's Brood Charles Stross 7.5%
98 Parasite Mira Grant 6.1%
96 The Shining Girls Lauren Beukes 6.0%
92 A Stranger in Olondria Sofia Samatar 5.8%
91 A Few Good Men Sarah A. Hoyt 5.7%
84 The Golem and the Djinni HeleneWecker 5.3%
81 The Republic of Thieves Scott Lynch 5.1%
74 Under a Graveyard Sky John Ringo 4.6%
70 London Falling Paul Cornell 4.4%
69 Abaddon's Gate James S.A. Corey 4.3%
67 Steelheart Brandon Sanderson 4.2%
66 River of Stars Guy Gavriel Kay 4.1%

Neil Gaiman declined his nomination, which allowed Mira Grant's Parasite to make the ballot, but The Shining Girls was only two nominations away from making the ballot.  Two!  I would have loved to see The Golem and the Jinni pick up a nomination (it was a superior work of fiction) but it was 14 away.

There was a 23 nomination gap between "Wakulla Springs" and a novella from Mira Grant, which is reasonably substantial over 847 ballots.  Similar for novelette, which has 20 votes between Vox Day's story and Ken Liu making the ballot.

But then we get to the short stories and you get two interesting things happen.  First, the current rules for the Hugo Awards requires that a nominee be on 5% of the nominating ballots to make the short list for the awards.  This year only four stories did so.  Second, had the 5% rule not been in place, Sarah Hoyt's story "Dog's Body" would have made the ballot (and only needed to be on five more of the existing ballots to make it). But, behind Hoyt by a single ballot was a story from Ken Liu.

79 Selkie Stories are for Losers Sofia Samatar 9.1%
73 The Ink Readers of Doi Saket Thomas Olde Heuvelt 8.4%
65 If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love Rachel Swirsky 7.5%
43 The water that falls on you from nowhere John Chu 5.0%
38 Dog's Body Sarah A. Hoyt 4.4%
37 A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel Ken Liu 4.3%

If you look at Best Editor: Long Form, you'll see exactly that. Patrick Nielsen Hayden missed the ballot by a single vote.  One person. If you care about the Hugo Awards and you don't think that your votes matter when nominating, think of the single ballot that separated PNH from receiving another Hugo Award nomination.

169 Toni Weisskopf 26.7%
118 Ginjer Buchanan 18.7%
63 Sheila Gilbert 10.0%
54 Liz Gorinsky 8.5%
48 Lee Harris 7.6%
47 Patrick Nielsen Hayden 7.4%
42 Devi Pillai 6.6%
41 Lou Anders 6.5%
36 David G. Hartwell 5.7%

Likewise, Joey Hi-Fi was one nomination away from Best Professional Artist.  If you care about seeing newer and fresher names on the Hugo Award ballot, Joey Hi-Fi was one vote away from the final ballot.  One.

129 Julie Dillon 20.7%
109 John Picacio 17.5%
51 John Harris 8.2%
50 Galen Dara 8.0%
49 Dan dos Santos 7.9%
49 Fiona Staples 7.9%
48 Joey Hi-Fi 7.7%
38 Michael Whelan 6.1%

One thing that just interests me in general is the Fanzine Category (this comes as no surprise to readers of my blog).  There was a solid mixture of traditional style fanzines and blogs.  I'd like to throw out a bonus high five to Lady Business on picking up 5.6% of the ballots. It's wasn't enough to make the final ballot, but it's a solid showing. Good stuff. 

107 Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond 22.4%
83 The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James 17.4%
61 Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Christopher J. Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete
Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J. Montgomery 12.8%
61 Pornokitsch edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin 12.8%
53 A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher 11.1%
49 Banana Wings Claire Brialey, Mark Plummer 10.3%
49 The Drink Tank Chris Garcia, James Bacon 10.3%
33 Argentus Steven H. Silver 6.9%
29 SF Signal JohnDeNardo 6.1%
28 file 770 Mike Glyer 5.9%
27 Chunga Andy Hooper, Randy Byers , Carl juarez 5.6%
27 Lady Business Renay, Ana, Jodie 5.6%
24 Mad Genius Club Amanda Green 5.0%
23 Staffer's Book Review Justin Landon 4.8%
20 SF Commentary Bruce Gillespie 4.2%

Remember, folks. A single nomination can make the difference being a Hugo Award Nominee and not making the ballot, and I think all of us who spend time thinking about and writing about the genre and the awards can recognize how cool and awesome it would be to pick up a nomination, let alone the Hugo Award (serious congratulations to Aidan Moher at A Dribble of Ink!!!!!!!!!!).

2014 Hugo Award Winners

(Via Tor.com and the rest of the internet)

Below is a listing of the 2014 Hugo Award Winners. I will have significantly expanded thoughts later (probably tomorrow), but this was a fairly awesome slate of winners and otherwise for now: Congratulations to all the winners!

BEST NOVEL: Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)

BEST NOVELLA: “Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
BEST NOVELETTE: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
BEST SHORT STORY: “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
BEST RELATED WORK: “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
BEST GRAPHIC STORY: “Time” by Randall Munroe (xkcd)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM: Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM: Game of Thrones “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter
BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM: Ellen Datlow
BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM: Ginjer Buchanan
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST: Julie Dillon
BEST SEMIPROZINE: Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
BEST FANZINE: A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher
BEST FANCAST: SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester
BEST FAN WRITER: Kameron Hurley
BEST FAN ARTIST: Sarah Webb
JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER: Sofia Samatar

Friday, August 08, 2014

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine

Friday, August 08, 2014 0
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Genevieve Valentine
Atria: 2014

This is the novel that, without realizing it, I always expected Genevieve Valentine to write. If you only paid attention to her debut novel, Mechanique, or if you only followed her short stories, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club may come across as a bit of a departure. But, readers who have followed Valentine on her blog cannot help but notice her passion and knowledge of fashion. From her red carpet rundowns to various commentary on much older fashion, this is something that Genevieve Valentine knows, cares about, and can discuss with wit and knowledge.  Which is to say that The Girls at the Kingfisher Club takes a step away from the post apocalyptic steampunk circus of Mechanique and instead visits Prohibition era New York City with speakeasies and dance halls. 

The twelve Hamilton girls are shut in their father's house by a father who has never even met most of his daughters. He really wanted a son, you see. The world the novel is set in involves seriously old money New York, which is often a fairly quick turnoff for me.  Please, tell me a story about the troubles of rich people.  But, that isn't the story here. It is noted to provided context to the threat of the father marrying the girls off to get them out of the house, and to illustrate in what sort of world the father moves in.  The story is of the twelve daughters who learn to dance on their own from watching the occasional movie at the cinema, and practicing together in their house when nobody else is around. Eventually, the oldest sisters sneak out of the house to find a place to go dancing. It is only out dancing, even with the risk of police raids, that the girls feel truly alive and at home. It is the only thing that is truly theirs. Given the situation at home, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. 

Mixing in the excitement of dancing well, bootlegging, police raids, and the overall tension of escaping the wrath of an autocratic father, Genevieve Valentine has written an outstanding novel. As much as I enjoyed Mechanique and her short fiction, Valentine absolutely nailed it with The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. I mentioned in the first paragraph that this was the novel I always expected Valentine to write. I'll go one step farther, without realizing it, this is the novel I always wanted Genevieve Valentine to write. She stuck the landing with this one.

Many professional reviews make mention of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", from the Brothers Grimm, and how The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a modern retelling of that fairy tale. One's familiarity with the original story may shape how the novel is read, but The Girls at the Kingfisher Club stands very well on its own. It may be part of a tradition of adapting older stories and setting them in a different era, sometimes modern, sometimes during the 1920's, buts The Girls at the Kingfisher Club brings its own elegance and its own excellence to the table.  The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a delight.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The End of Subterranean Online

Tuesday, August 05, 2014 0
It is only through some sideways mentions in other places that I realized Subterranean Online, one of my favorite short fiction magazines which I have done a poor job of following in recent years, is about to close up shop.

I haven't been reading most of the short fiction venues I used to frequent. This isn't a knock against the fiction they publish, it has more to do with where I'm at in life and how and what I am currently reading.  Knowing that, if you asked me for some recommendations for where to find a good short story, one of the first places I would send you is Subterranean.

Subterranean Online was the short fiction side of Subterranean Press, a small publisher which puts out beautiful and limited editions of books.  In some cases, they would be limited prints of popular books from major name authors (Stephen King, George R. R. Martin), but they would also put out significant story collections that you just won't find anywhere else (Connie Willis, Peter Beagle, KJ Parker, Lucius Shepard) as well as novellas and smaller novels that are original to SubPress (Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Joe Lansdale).

Subterranean Online was just as discerning, just as vital a source of short fiction. Publisher and editor William Schafer would publish, among others: Rachel Swirsky, John Scalzi, Mike Resnick, Joe Lansdale, Caitlin Kiernan, Elizabeth Bear, Ted Chiang, Jeff VanderMeer, Cat Rambo, Gene Wolfe, Lucius Shepard, Kage Baker, Daniel Abraham, Norman Partridge, Ekaterina Sedia, Jay Lake, Poppy Z Brite, Alastair Reynolds, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cherie Priest, Carrie Vaughn, Liz Williams, Daryl Gregory, Cory Doctorow, Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kelly Link, Genevieve Valentine, Catherynne Valente.  More. So much more.

Just looking at that list, I have to ask myself why I ever took a break from reading this zine.  If you were looking for a good story, you had to come here.

The first online issue was Spring 2007 and Schafer had consistently published since then, which is a fairly remarkable run. 

It is a very real thing that you don't know how much you miss something until it is gone, even though the last issue has only just been published and I would guess that the fiction will remain online for some time in the future, I already miss Subterranean Online. I discovered a number of excellent writers because they were published there, and I read numerous wonderful stories at Subterranean Online.
 
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