Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hugo News: Edmund R. Schubert Edition

Having had a full week without proper news regarding the Hugo Awards, we have news. Edmund R. Shubert, editor of Intergalactic Medicine Show and Hugo Nominee for Editor (Short Form), has withdrawn his nomination.

His initial announcement was posted on the blog of Alethea Kontis as Mr. Schubert does not have a personal blog of his own.  Mr. Schubert writes that he was told by the Hugo administrators that the ballot was frozen (which we were aware of after Black Gate's withdrawal last year),

Unfortunately this may reduce my actions to a symbolic gesture, but I can’t let that prevent me from following my conscience.

So it seems that the best I can do at this stage is ask everyone with a Hugo ballot to pretend I’m not there. Ignore my name, because if they call my name at the award ceremony, I won’t accept the chrome rocketship. My name may be on that ballot, but it’s not there the way I’d have preferred.

As I intend to do with Black Gate's nomination, I will leave Mr. Schubert off of my ballot completely as per his wishes.  Though the ballot is considered frozen by the Hugo administrators (as is their right), I will follow the lead of those wishing to withdraw and vote as if that nominee was no longer on the ballot. It may not be how I would want to vote, but I can only respect the wishes of those who asked off of the ballot.

Mr. Schubert has more to say in an editorial at Intergalactic Medicine Show where he posts a Not-A-Hugo-Sampler sampler issue, writing,

However, I do think it's appropriate to take this opportunity to declare that more reading is always a good thing, and that people should open their minds to new work without pre-judging it. Thus this collection was born.

So, if you're unfamiliar with the work published over at IGMS, here's an opportunity to read some of what Mr. Schubert has published.

I have also updated my list of the Hugo nominees to reflect the withdrawal of Mr. Schubert.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Awards: Part Four

This doesn't properly fit into my series of posts about the 2015 Hugo Awards nominees, but it is still part of my continuing thoughts surrounding the awards this year.  Specifically, I've been thinking about some stuff Eric Flint wrote about on his blog regarding what we give out Hugo Awards for.

Flint suggest that if the awards are to reflect what is actually being written in science fiction and fantasy, there should be up to four awards given for longer works of fiction.

Short novel (40,000 to either 80,000 or 90,000 words)


Complete multi-volume novels (often called trilogies, quartets, quintets—but which have a definite ending)


I could live with combining multi-volume novels and series into one award category, but it would be a mistake. Inevitably, it would tend to elevate huge, sprawling—and sometimes wildly popular—series over the more compact works preferred by authors who like to work in trilogies or quartets. They really are two quite different literary forms—I know; I’ve worked in both—and should be treated separately. There is at least as much difference between them in terms of the skills involved as the difference between a novelette and a novella.

As a whole, I like the idea, though I'm going to refine it a bit more to suit my taste. Also, I disagree with Flint a bit since he also writes that he doesn't want to touch the short fiction categories and my preference would be to combine "short story" with "novelette" because other than intellectually understanding that a novelette is a story written with 7500 to 17,500 words, I'm not really sure what the heck of a novelette is. A novella, sure, you know when you're reading a novella.  But the novelette?  That one needs to go. 

More to the point, though, I do like the expansion of the categories for longer fiction.  Since the Hugo Awards currently begins the Novel category at 40,000 words, Flint recommends adding a Short Novel category for that length because it would open the door for more YA and independent authors.  I'm less concerned about that, though I agree with Flint that most traditionally published novels are working much above 80,000 words.

I wouldn't add a Short Novel category. If you think about the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, a 150 page novel is as likely to win the award as a 700 page novel.  The Hugos are not the Pulitzers (for many reasons), but I don't differentiate too much with novel length, and sometimes a shorter novel can be much more appealing than a monster of a tome.  So, I'd keep novel where it is while recognizing that the minimum length for a novel isn't reflective of how novels are being written today.

What I'd like to play with is Flint's suggestions for "Complete Multi-Volume Novels" and "Series".  What I see Flint saying is that the skill required to write a complete series and stick the landing is different enough from writing an ongoing series that they shouldn't be compared in the same way (Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy compared to Jim Butcher's ongoing Dresden Files).  I don't completely agree.

That's not completely true. I agree with what Flint is saying about the skill and technique, I disagree with how he is viewing the categories. I would divide the categories like this:


Ongoing Series

Completed Series

So Joe, you ask, what the heck are these categories and how are they different than what Eric Flint suggested?  Great question, I reply, let me tell you!

Novel: This category only slightly changes from how it works today. It is for a single volume work of no less than 40,000 words. The change is that I would strike section 3.2.6 from the WSFS Constitution "a work appearing in a number of parts shall be eligible for the year of the final part". 2013's publication of A Memory of Light is how The Wheel of Time was nominated at the 2014 Hugos for Best Novel.  I'd strike this.  Novel is for a single volume, period.  That's it. A Memory of Light is eligible for Novel, The Wheel of Time is not.

Ongoing Series: This is where I start to mess with Flint's suggestion.  Ongoing Series is for ANY series that has not yet been completed. To be eligible for Ongoing Series, a series must have at least two volumes published. However, it does not matter for the terms of this category if the author is planning to write a trilogy with a definite ending (Mistborn) or is writing a potentially open ended series (Dresden Files, Discworld). To be further eligible for a nomination, a new volume must be published during the eligibility year.  Love A Song of Ice and Fire but George Martin hasn't published The Winds of Winter yet?  The series is not eligible for Ongoing Series at the 2016 Hugos unless he gets that book out during calendar year 2015. 

Further, because we need to close one potential loophole here, an Ongoing Series is eligible for nomination ONCE.  What I intend this to mean is that if Mr. Martin publishes The Winds of Winter in 2015, it is eligible for Ongoing Series.  If A Song of Ice and Fire makes the final ballot for Ongoing Series, it is no longer eligible to be nominated in a subsequent year. However, if A Song of Ice and Fire fails to make the final ballot, it will still be eligible for Ongoing Series provided a new volume is published.  A series is considering "Ongoing" until the author or the publisher states that a volume is the "final" or "concluding" volume in that series.

Completed Series: A series is eligible as Completed Series when the announced final volume in the series is published.  A series will not both be eligible for Ongoing and Completed Series in the same year.  Publication of A Memory of Light rendered The Wheel of Time ineligible for Ongoing Series, but eligible for Completed Series.  Something like The Dresden Files would not be eligible for completed series until Jim Butcher announces "this is the final Harry Dresden novel".  If Butcher published a Harry Dresden novel but then two years later said, "oh year, Skin Game was really the last book in the series, sorry guys" The Dresden Files will not be eligible for Completed Series because the series is only eligible in the year the final volume is published.  I don't see this as too big of an issue because most writers want folks to know that they are delivering the promised conclusion to a series.


Now, I know all of this would put a certain amount of onus on the Hugo administrators to verify whether a series is ongoing or completed, but I think they already have a responsibility to verify a work is eligible based on word count and year published. It wouldn't be too hard to look this stuff up.  There are grey areas still in place for situations like Glen Cook published the final Black Company novel in 2000 (thus ending the series eligibility) but hinting that there could still be two more books.  There is also the gray area of macro series and micro series. All of the Black Company novels are The Black Company, but there are also The Books of the North, The Books of the South, and The Books of the Glittering Stone. How would those situations be handled?  I think these are overall smaller issues, but worth noting.

In the instance of A Memory of Light, the novel itself would be eligible for Best Novel and could make the ballot for that AND The Wheel of Time could be nominated that same year for Best Completed Series.  I think that would be recognizing two distinct things as the book is not the series and given that very few series works will be nominated past the first volume, it is a small concern.

You could tweak this another way and have Ongoing Series and Completed Series awarded every five years because there are far fewer series being completed each year than there are novels published, so the pool of eligible work is very small and can be inconsistent in quality. I'd be open to that, but it could easily lead to worthwhile works published four years prior being completely forgotten about in favor of the Completed Series of just the last year or two.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1632, by Eric Flint

Eric Flint
Baen: 2000

If nothing else that is good will come from the mess of the 2015 Hugo Awards, one thing did. I am now reading Eric Flint. After reading Flint's commentary on the Hugo Awards (and awards in general), I decided it was time to step into a series I've seen on bookshelves for years.  I started with Flint's recommended reading order, since there are a growing number of books in the 1632verse and they start branching fairly quickly. That brought me here, to 1632.

1632 is an odd bit of alternate history where through alien means that don't actually matter, a small West Virginia mining town from the year 2000 is sent back and sideways in time to the year 1631 and moved geographically to a region in central Germany in the midst of the Thirty Years War.  Again, the how this happened really does not matter at all. It isn't a plot point in 1632, and from a cursory understanding of the overall series, it isn't a plot point at all. It is answered, it just doesn't matter.

What happens, though, is a community of hard working, blue collar twentieth century Americans are dropped with all of their technology and modern day weaponry into a seventeenth century war zone with no way home. They intend to survive, adapt, and perhaps kickstart the American Revolution much sooner than the world was prepared for.

The comparison I keep making in my head is that of John Grisham, Michael Crichton, and Dan Brown. Perhaps more Grisham and Brown than Crichton, but his name continues to surface in my thoughts. The comparison I am making is of authors writing fairly straight forward, clean, and fast paced novels that hook a reader early and pull them along the story. Flint is a bit heavy handed in presenting the values and perspectives of the various characters in 1632. There is very little subtlety here. The focus is on storytelling and engaging the reader with an up front and entertaining story.  That's what Eric Flint has done with 1632.  It won't be confused with more literary science fiction, but then, it doesn't need to. 1632 accomplishes exactly what it has set out to do, which is tell a damned fun and entertaining story.

Readers can imagine what might happen if a community of modern Americans are dropped almost four centuries into the past, especially if it is a community of Americans who are used to adapting to difficult situations. To crib off a review from Jay Garmon
"the tone is relentlessly positive, celebrating honest, hardworking folk of two eras who come together to make a better world. In lesser hands, this would come off as jingoistic claptrap, but Flint succeeds at making the whole adventure palatable by populating his tale with thoughtful, likeable, fallible characters with well drawn motivations."

1632 is a very American novel, but it is American in the best ideals of the nation. The men and women of Grantville and the local United Mine Workers of America rally together to both make their way in this new / old world, but also through the strength and vision of Mike Stearns, the local UMWA president, to build a better new / old world for where they are at.  It is American in that the ideals of social and class equality are given a real chance to succeed in a setting which scarcely understands the concept.  Whether it will end up as the more perfect union is another matter, and probably will be answered as the series progresses.

The novel is a touch bloodthirsty as it moves along, but given where and when Grantville was dropped, perhaps this is to be expected. I'm not saying that this is a bug, however, since the overall rampant optimism of the novel's tone and the perspective of the Americans is a driving force. One can certainly draw a parallel between bloodthirstiness and Americans in general, and heaven knows that I certainly enjoy movies and books where stuff "blows up real good", but it is still worth noting here.  One thing in which I am quite curious for how the series as a whole will progress is whether the implications of that violence and bloodthirstiness will hit home on the characters.  I don't mean in terms of the over arcing story or the political situation because it is clear by the conclusion that yes, Grantville's presence and actions will have a rippling effect. What I'm talking about is rather the personal consequences. There is a cheerleader turned world's deadliest sniper in 1632, and while the town in general references a bit of its "hillbilly" and back country nature, there is a world of difference between hunting animals and killing men. This is briefly addressed and, if I may, shot down by said cheerleader, but how does the number of men she personally kills over the course of 1632 impact her?  How does the killing impact the others?  It is necessary here because in 1632 the killing is quite literally a case of kill or be killed, but how does this affect the various population of Grantville. It must, given that they grew up in a very different culture with a very different way of life and expectations than the one they are now stuck living in.  The people of Grantville are pragmatic, sure, but all of this is still a major change. Hopefully this is something Flint addresses in future novels or stories.

As for 1632, it is one heck of an entertaining read and is a novel I have not wanted to put down since I started. It is great fun and one of my more pleasant surprises in recent weeks.  I have every intention of continuing with the series, though I'll be referencing that reader's guide to make sure I'm working through in a more orderly manner. 

1632 is available as a free ebook in the Baen Free Library.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hugo News: Black Gate Edition

Because we cannot have nice things and also cannot go more than a day or two without Hugo-centric news, Black Gate withdraws from Hugo Consideration.  Black Gate was nominated for Best Fanzine, potentially on the strength of the Rapid Puppies slate (it was not listed on the Sad Puppies slate).

The official website of the Hugo Awards acknowledged Black Gate's intention to withdraw, but noted that the announcement came after the deadline for further withdrawals.  At this time, Black Gate will remain on the ballot.

What I am most curious about here is that because the ballots are already at the printer, Sasquan is unable to remove Black Gate from the ballot (apparently some people still use paper ballots - because science fiction is a genre of the future...) - but will Black Gate's request be honored?  Will votes for Black Gate just not be counted?  This might be the easiest solution.

We shall see if there is an official announcement.

Hats off to John Lorentz (Hugo Administrator for Sasquan) and the other members of the committee for having to do far more work, much of it in uncharted waters, than they had ever anticipated for this year's Hugo Awards. 

Anyone attending Sasquan would do well to buy these folks a drink or three.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hugo News: Final Hugo Ballot?

Feel free to refer back to my article listing the Hugo nominees, but we officially have the final Hugo ballot for 2015.



My last article mentioned the withdrawals of Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos, but at the time of posting the Hugo Awards committee of Sasquan had not yet made a public statement about what would happen next. The withdrawal of a nomination after a previous acceptance and after the final ballot was published had never occurred before. 

Per Mike Glyer at File 770, Sasquan made two significant statements.

First, Cixin Liu's The Three Body Problem would replace Lines of Departure on the ballot for Best Novel and "A Single Samurai" would replace "Goodnight Stars" on the ballot for Best Short Story.

Second, no further revisions to the ballot would be made as it is now going to the printer.

So, now we're set, right?  In any other year I would completely agree that we're set, but this is an obviously weird and contentious Hugo season, so we'll see.  I accept that the ballot is fixed and no more revisions will occur.  But what happens if anyone else decides to decline their nomination? Ballot is fixed, and no replacements will be added. But I suspect that would result in an empty slot and any votes cast for the declined work would be nullified.  Everyone else moves up a slot.

Will it happen?  I sure hope not.

But this is a weird year.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hugo News: Ineligibilities and Withdrawals

There is Hugo news.  Lately it feels like there is nothing but Hugo news, or at least Hugo discussion.  It is THE topic of conversation in the SFF community. But, there are two very significant pieces of news which have come out over the last two days.

The first was announced yesterday, reported at File 770 that two of the nominees were found to be ineligible by the Worldcon committee and were removed from the final Hugo ballot.  First in Novellette, "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus", by John C Wright was discovered to have been published on Wright's website in 2013 and prior to its print publication in The Book of Feasts & Seasons in 2014.  Second in Professional Artist, Jon Eno was found to not have produced any qualifying artwork in 2014. 

Wright's story was replaced on the ballot by "The Day The World Turned Upside Down", by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.  Jon Eno was replaced on the ballot by Kirk DouPonce. 

It is worth noting that Hugo administrator John Lorentz also looked into two novellas (a Wright and the Tom Kratman) and found that their eligibility stands and they will remain on the ballot. 

Overall, big news and important.  One thing that I'm curious about is what sort of precedent is there for this?  It is not uncommon for a work to be found ineligible (see the 2013 incident of Mary Robinette Kowal's "Lady Astronaut of Mars" audiobook declared ineligible), but it occurs behind the scenes prior to the announcement of the final ballot.  This is different, this is two nominees being pulled after the ballot.

This leads into the next piece of news which I find even sadder: Annie Bellet has withdrawn her story "Goodnight Stars" from the Hugo ballot.  Bellet writes,

There will be other years and maybe other rockets. I don’t want to stand in a battlefield anymore. I don’t want to have to think over every tweet and retweet, every blog post, every word I say. I don’t want to cringe when I open my email. I don’t want to have to ask friends to google me and read things so that I can at least be aware of the stuff people might be saying in my name or against my name.

This is not why I write. This is not the kind of community I want to be a part of, nor the kind of award I want to win.

I am not your ball. My fiction is my message, not someone else’s, and I refuse to participate in a war I didn’t start. It has become clear to me that the only way to stay out of this is to pick up my ball and go home. So this year, I will not put on a princess gown sewn with d20s. I will not win a rocket. But I will be able to sleep and know that when I get up, there won’t be fires waiting for me.

I wish Bellet did not make this decision, but I understand why she did. I'm still going to read her story, regardless of this. It was published in The End is Now, the second volume of a tryptich beginning with The End is Nigh, which was excellent. I think that her withdrawing makes leaves the Hugo ballot a poorer place, but this is not to criticize her decision - which will be widely talked about and discussed.

This leads into yet another piece of news which I found in the middle of writing this article.  Marko Kloos, author of the Hugo nominated Lines of Departure, has also withdrawn his acceptance of the Hugo nomination for Best Novel. Lines of Departure is the second in a series which began with Terms of Enlistment. 

I am even more committed to reading Kloos work now than I was before.

The Hugo Awards are a big hot mess right now.  Do I need to check every author and find out what is going on and if anything more is coming?  What happens next? 

At the time of this writing, the withdrawals of Kloos and Bellet have not resulted in additional works taking their slots on the ballot.  This might be unprecedented. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

If I Ran a Sad Puppies Campaign

If I ran a Sad Puppies campaign*...well, I probably wouldn't. I dislike awards campaigns in the first place. I probably would not be asked to be an organizing part of it because I generally don't align with many of their views.  I do not have a platform of nearly the size of Correia, Torgersen, or Paulk, so my running a campaign would be be like trying to get the vote out by going to a high school on the weekend - nobody is there to listen.  Most of the work that I nominate is the very stuff Sad Puppies is campaigning against.

But if I did.

If I did, it would look something like this:

1. I would wish to do it outside of the Sad Puppies banner because there is a great deal of negative connotation to it. Of course, it would lose a lot of its effectiveness if it was outside the banner as well as completely miss the point of running Sad Puppies in a different way. There is also a lot of positive connotation for Sad Puppies from the people who support SP, and changing the masthead might alienate a number of individuals the campaign is attempting to bring into the conversation.  Nobody is happy.  So, it would still be under the Sad Puppies banner**.

2. There would be a Mission Statement posted prominently either at the beginning or the end of any SP article I write, because I want it to be clear what MY campaign is all about.  The Mission Statement would include some of the following ideas, though it would be written in a much cleaner and concise manner
  • Sad Puppies 5 (hypothetically) is about building a wide ranging recommendation list of works that both individually and collectively we feel are shining examples of the best of science fiction and fantasy.  Many of these works have often been ignored when by the voters of the Hugo Awards and we feel these works should be considered.
  • Sad Puppies 5 is about bringing in the voices of fans who have not previously participated in the Hugo Awards and it is our hope that they will become a supporting or attending member of Worldcon and will nominate and vote for those works they feel are the best of the year.
  • We do not wish to dictate to anyone what to nominate and reject any attempts to do so.
  • This is not a slate. 
  • This is not a campaign.
  • SP5 is a conversation.

3. There would be a large recommendation list that would come from a recommendations post or two or three to get a sense of what people are interested in, and the most recommended works would be included on the SP5 recommendation list.  This is similar to what happened with SP3, except the recommendation list will be significantly larger and may even have a subsequent request for the community to then narrow down the huge list by specifically calling out their 3 favorite works from that list.  I haven't quite thought this one all the way through.
  • The larger point here is that where SP3 narrowed down a number (but not all) of the categories to the five slots on the Hugo ballot, SP5 would instead narrow down the recommendation list to at least ten works per category. This is much more of a recommendation list than anything that can be construed as a slate. At least ten***. Maybe more. 
  • The recommendations of each category would also include some of my personal recommendations, regardless of their popularity within the rest of the longer list, however those personal recommendations will be noted as such.
  • Some of this idea is coming from a comment on Larry Correia's blog, but I did like it. We would look at YA, Epic Fantasy, Comedic Fantasy or Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance / Whatever you want to call it, and anything else that is not often part of the conversation and we will seek out the best of those.  
4. It would be clear that SP5 is trying to broaden the scope of what is talked about and that at no point do I want any follower of SP5 to vote in lock step with anything on the recommendation list. This is a list of stuff the we, and I, think is good. Period.  What SP5 wants is for more people to participate and for them to look at what they have read throughout the year and nominate based on what they read that they thought was friggin wonderful, regardless of whether or not it was ever a part of the SP5 recommendations list.

5. SP5 would be if not a year round discussion of science fiction and fantasy, at least a longer six month conversation.  It would not simply be a campaign at the end of the year. Discussions of great books that were recently read would occur and the recommendations list would build throughout the year until it was time to curate the the various lists down to the 10-15 per category that the goal is. The curation would be a combination of my personal taste as well as that of the overall community of SP5 which is participating.

6. The discourse will be civil. If there is one thing that is annoying the hell out of me is that no matter what one's preferences are in terms of fiction, everyone will be treated fairly and with civility. SP5 would be a welcoming place for all.  And I friggin mean that. There would be no name calling or denigrating the tastes or characters of others. This is about recognizing great books, period.  There will likely be overlap with the sort of work that has been on the Hugo ballot in the recent past and there will be overlap with the sort of work that SP3 is currently championing.  ALL are welcome.  SP5 rejects those who tear down others.  This is not the place for that.

7. There would be no rhetoric beyond shining lights on good stuff.  If you don't like something, simply saying "hey, not a big fan of that one" would probably suffice.

8. SP5 only wins if people participate and nominate based on what they like. Will there be stuff on the ballot that I don't like?  There always has been.  Will there be stuff on the ballot that you don't like?  Assuredly.  Might there be stuff on the ballot that we do like?  I really hope so. 

9. SP5 is not about being a bludgeon or getting back at anyone or making their heads explode. It's about good books and stories and art and whatever else is eligible for a Hugo Award.

It would look something like that. But I'm not running a Sad Puppies campaign and I am not seeking to do so.  It's just a different way of looking at how it could work.  I have no idea how Kate Paulk plans to run SP4. 

*This is not actually an attempt to run a future Sad Puppies campaign. This is more of my way to think through stuff that's been running through my head. If there is something about the SP campaigns that has bothered me, what would a SP campaign look like that doesn't bother me?  I think this is it.

**To a much larger point, actually running this hypothetical exercise would require buy in from the folks who have previously run the SP campaigns because I have not been part of their communities, they don't know me, and I don't have an audience. It would require some work on their part to bring the conversation over here.  It's not something that someone on my side of the fence in a small pond could just do. Shouting into an empty high school, you know?  Nobody is listening. 

***I would love to see a wider and larger recommendation list in SP4. Curate broadly.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Speculative Fiction 2014 Contributors: Or, hey, I'm a in a book!

Book Smugglers Publishing has announced the contributors for the latest entry in the Hugo Award nominated series: Speculative Fiction 2014!

From the announcement

Edited by Renee Williams and Shaun Duke, Speculative Fiction 2014 collects over fifty pieces of online commentary on SFF from all corners of fandom. Celebrating diversity and change, the articles included here cover conversations and reviews about TV, movies, pop culture and books in what can only be described as a smorgasbord of awesome.

Finally, we are proud to announce that this year’s edition features a foreword from prolific Fantasy, Science Fiction and YA author, the awesome Kate Elliott! With over 20 books published and a strong online presence, Kate Elliott is the perfect voice to introduce this year’s edition.

I won't list all the contributors to Speculative Fiction 2014 here since there are over 50 of them (52 if I can at all count correctly), but what I would like to point out is, "hey, I'm in a book!"  I've been reading the commentaries of a number of the contributors here and am honored and chuffed to be in the same book as them.  My contribution to this collection is my article "On Merit, Awards, and What We Read", which I wrote following last year's Hugo Award announcement. Because of course if anything I wrote was going to end up in a book somewhere, it was going to be about the Hugo Awards.

I'd have posted about this sooner, but I didn't want this to leak out to my father before I was able to tell him in person at Easter. Let's just say that he was fairly excited for me.

You can find out more about the series here.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Award Nominees, Part Three

If interested, here are the links to Parts One and Two.  I have thoughts.

Part Three is a roundup of a number of links that I have been following discussing various aspects of the final ballot.  In many cases, the discussion in the comment threads are as interesting as the original article.  This is not representative of everything that is out there, just what I had found, what was linked to me, and what I have been following. I'm sure there are another thirty pieces that are equally worth reading. 

I'd like to tell you that these are organized, but they are really not.  I could not decide in what way I wanted to organize this.

Tor.com's Announcement

File 770 breaking down the relative success of slates

Chaos Horizon breaks down the Hugo math

Brad Torgersen: Stealing the Enterprise

Jim C Hines 10 Hugo Thoughts

Abigail Nussbaum's Thoughts

Vox Day on Bloc Voting

John Scalzi has thoughts.

Justin Landon: The Hugo Awards: An Entity at War with Itself

Matthew David Surridge on why he declined his Fan Writer nomination

Larry Correia on why he declined his Best Novel nomination

Annie Bellet on her Hugo nomination.

Bookworm Blues: The Hugo Awards, a Lamentation

Nerds of a Feather "Sigh"

Renay's Hugo Glitter Hellscape: Practice Reckless Optimism

Brian K Lowe: Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Puppies of War

Elizabeth Bear on the community

The Hugo Awards: The Voting System (because people should know how it actually works)

The Weasel King: An Important Note on Hugo Voting (from last year, but pertinent)

Kevin Standlee: On Voting No Award (Seriously, know how this works)

Shaun Duke: No Award and Blank Spacing

File 770: A Collection of Links of other people's thoughts

Lee Harris on the Hugo Awards

Niall Harrison at Strange Horizons on the Puppy Hugos

Amanda at the Mad Geinus Club: A Few Facts About Hugo

Jason Sanford: Yes People Do Read the Non Puppy Novels

Larry Correia: A Letter to the SMOFs, Moderates, and Fence Sitters

John C Wright: Entertainment Weekly Retracts the Libel, but Too Late

Paul Weimer: Sad Puppies and the 2015 Hugo Award Nominations

io9: The Hugos were Always Political

Adam Roberts on the Hugo Awards

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Award Nominees, Part Two

What follows below is the second part of my "Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Awards" series, which in previously year is usually just a single post and is typically this post. This year I have more thoughts than usual. Find Part One here.  These are my thoughts on the specific nominees and what I think about each category, such as I have thoughts on each category.

As a bit of house cleaning, I will note that 8 of my nominees made it onto the final ballot.

Best Novel (1827 ballots) 
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos
Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

I nominated both Ancillary Sword and The Goblin Emperor and am very happy to see them included on this year's ballot. I am sad to report that I have never read any of the Butcher's Dresden Files novels, and though Skin Game is the 15th in the series, I am looking forward to reading it. Hopefully it's a series you can mostly pick up and run at any point. I've been eyeballing Lines of Departure as something to read for a while now, though my library doesn't have a copy. I had heard nothing about Kevin Anderson's book prior to the nomination. I've read his Star Wars novels and enjoyed them, and the first three Dune prequels (the House books) were pretty good, but the one book in his own setting I've read was The Edge of the World and I was very disappointed by it and was not inclined to seek out anything else Anderson wrote. The Dark Between the Stars is in a different setting and is the first in a new trilogy, so we'll see how this one takes.

Best Novella (1083 ballots)
Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
“Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
“Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
“The Plural of Helen of Troy” by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Three novellas from from John C Wright, huh?  I'm not familiar with Wright's work, though I've been aware of his name for years. I just haven't picked up one of his novels (or been aware of his shorter fiction). I have no idea who Kratman or Andrews is. So, no real opinion on this category.

Best Novelette (1031 ballots)
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
“Championship B’tok” by Edward M Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
“The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)
“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)

I am not familiar with any of the nominees in the Novelette category, though I think there's a chance I've previously read stories from Lerner or Flynn. I'm not sure, though.

Best Short Story (1174 ballots)
“Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
“On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
“Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge magazine, July 2014)
“Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Like Novelette, I am not familiar with the nominees in the Short Story category, but I do have The End is Now on my reading list (and on my Nook waiting to be read). I don't remember Bellet's "Goodnight Moon" from The End is Nigh, but I'm looking forward to reading all of the stories in The End is Now. I like a good apocalyptic story.

Best Related Work (1150 ballots)“The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
“Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
Wisdom from my Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

No thoughts.  

Best Graphic Story (785 ballots)
Ms. Marvel Vol 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch)
Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid
Saga, Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky

Saga Volume 3 was one of my nominees and I've been gradually working my way through Marvel Comics (I'm currently in the middle of the Dark Reign era), but I think I'll get to Ms Marvel much, much sooner. It's been recommended to me multiple times. Rat Queens and Sex Criminals were on my radar, I was just waiting for more collections to be published so I don't catch up to the series with one book.  I know nothing about Zombie Nation.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1285 ballots)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Lego Movie

Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Interstellar were on my nomination ballot.  I just recorded Edge of Tomorrow on my DVR, and unlike most people, I wasn't a big fan of The Lego Movie despite my now near constant references to Mr. Business at my child.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (938 ballots)
Doctor Who: “Listen”
The Flash: “Pilot”
Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”
Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”
Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”

I am rather happy that this category is no longer "Best Doctor Who". I'm only familiar with the Game of Thrones episode, which was quite excellent. I'm so behind on Orphan Black that I want to watch it and I'm not sure if it is fair to watch the one episode so far out of sequence. We'll see.  

Best Editor (Short Form) (870 ballots)
Jennifer Brozek
Vox Day
Mike Resnick
Edmund R. Schubert
Bryan Thomas Schmidt

The editor list here does not include what each editor has worked on for Short Form editing, so I'll have to look them up. I am not familiar with the current editing work from the nominees.

Best Editor (Long Form) (712 ballots)
Vox Day
Sheila Gilbert
Jim Minz
Anne Sowards
Toni Weisskopf

Publishing houses represented here are Roc, DAW, Baen, and Castalia House. What I've wished for years is to have easy access to which specific books published that year the editors worked on. I still don't have it.

Best Professional Artist (753 ballots)
Julie Dillon
Jon Eno
Nick Greenwood
Alan Pollack
Carter Reid

Julie Dillon was on my nominating ballot. I am unfamiliar with the work of the rest.

Best Semiprozine (660 ballots)
Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Bursztynski
Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief

Generally, I have enjoyed Lightspeed and Strange Horizons. I always meant to read Beneath Ceaseless Skies, but have not. I am aware of Andromeda and Abyss & Apex, but have not read either.

Best Fanzine (576 ballots)
Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steve Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris and Helen Montgomery
The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
Tangent SF Online edited by Dave Truesdale

Years ago I read Tangent for its short fiction reviews, this is the only nominee I am familiar with, but I have heard of three of the other four. I have no idea what The Revenge of Hump Day is.

Best Fancast (668 ballots)
Adventures in SF Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
Galactic Suburbia Podcast Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman & Peter Newman

I seldom listen to podcasts. 

Best Fan Writer (777 ballots)
Dave Freer
Amanda S. Green
Jeffro Johnson
Laura J. Mixon
Cedar Sanderson

No Thoughts.

Best Fan Artist (296 ballots)
Ninni Aalto
Brad Foster
Elizabeth Leggett
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles

Stiles and Foster are long time nominees. Schoenhuth was nominated last year. Leggett was on my ballot this year, I thought she did fantastic work.

Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 ballots)
Wesley Chu *
Jason Cordova
Kary English *
Rolf Nelson
Eric. S. Raymond

I know, I know, this isn't a Hugo. I don't care, it's a damn Hugo. Wes Chu was on my ballot for his excellent Tao novels (I've read the first two). I am unfamiliar with the remaining nominees.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Thoughts on the 2015 Hugo Award Nominees, Part One

You may have noticed that the finalist's for this year's Hugo Award look significantly different than they have in the recent past.  There's a reason for that.  The reason is Sad Puppies 3, the latest iteration of a campaign to promote "entirely deserving works, writers, and editors — all of whom would not otherwise find themselves on the Hugo ballot without some extra oomph received from beyond the rarefied, insular halls of 21st century Worldcon “fandom.”"  (This is the intro to SP3, for what it is worth). 

Actually, there are a couple of reasons for why the final ballot has a different look, and according to Mike Glyer at File 770, the second reason, and perhaps the most prominent reason is actually not Sad Puppies, but the offshoot and only semi related Rabid Puppies, in which the architect of that slate states that "they are my recommendations for the 2015 nominations, and I encourage those who value my opinion on matters related to science fiction and fantasy to nominate them precisely as they are."  The result of which, if you follow Glyer's article, is that it appears that those readers of Vox Day, the man behind the Rabid Puppies slate, did value his "opinion on matters related to science fiction and fantasy" and nominated accordingly.  Possibly.  Glyer writes that the Hugo ballot "consists of 48 items recommended by both lists; 3 items only on Sad Puppies; and 10 only on Rabid Puppies," which to me (and I think to Glyer) that Rabid Puppies may have been the significant factor.

I fully respect the idea of wanting to see the sort of stuff you like to read represented on the Hugo ballot, especially if there have been a number of years you firmly disagree with meeting the standard of what you consider "Good" or even "Best".  Hell, I've been hoping to see one of Elizabeth Bear's novels on the Hugo short list for years and despite my nominations, it hasn't been enough. Not everyone shares my love of her fiction as much as I think they should. That's okay, but maybe one day. Of course, I didn't help matters by leaving her off my ballot this year, but that happens sometimes.

What I don't like is the organization.  Small "o", not large.  Maybe I am naive in thinking that a different way to accomplish similar goals is simply to encourage more people, your friends and readers, to participate. To suggest that the Hugo Awards are not perhaps reflective of the sort of science fiction and fantasy that you enjoy, but let's be part of the process.  Let each of us think about the books and stories we read last year, and nominate those we thought are best. Then, perhaps post what you personally think is excellent and intend to nominate. It is the slate building that I object to.  I also object to the campaign on Tor.com last year to get The Wheel of Time on the ballot, and as much as I love that series, I don't believe that as a unified whole it represented the best of science fiction and fantasy for that year.

But I'm a very small fish. So, when I start posting evolving versions of my Hugo ballot, what I am saying is that "hey, here are a bunch of things that I think are pretty awesome and worth reading - and these are what I'm considering for my ballot". I think that how I view my commentary here is how it is received. Some people use it as a recommendation list, but my readership is small and those who do read and are engaged with the Hugo Awards were already working on their ballots.  If I have swayed anyone to participate, I'll be beyond shocked.  At best it is a light recommendation, at worst I'm shouting into the wind.

Where Sad Puppies is different is that Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia before him have significantly larger bases from which to work, and they are talking to a group of readers who love what they love, but have mostly not participated in the Hugo process. Correia and Torgersen have been looking to engage these individuals and bring in more active participation and nominating, to shine a light on excellent work that is overlooked by the awards. I know for a fact that there are many opposed to the Sad Puppies slate who would vehemently disagree with how I have phrased this, and decry the politicizing of what Sad Puppies is trying to do given that "they" disagree with the current Worldcon "fandom" as nominating lesser works for political reasons and not because "fandom" actually enjoys them.  Correia believes that there are "insider cliques" involved in the Hugo process, though I'm not sure if he is stating that there is organized voting blocs that aren't talked about publicly, or if because the actual number of people who nominate for the Hugos is so small and is, more or less, part of an insular community that it is easy for them to predict who will be on the slate.

For myself, that is 100% not true. Everything on my ballot is something I thought was awesome and worth nominating.  I nominate based on whether or not I enjoyed a book (or story, or whatever) and combined with that, whether I thought that work was of sufficiently high quality, whatever that means to me on that day.  Which is to say that there are plenty of books that I love, praise, and can't wait to read the next volume in the series, but still don't feel that they are quite "Hugo Worthy". If there are aspects of the previous Worldcon fandom community who are engaged in organized voting blocs, I believe it is wrong and should be condemned. I have never seen it, but I am a very small fish and I generally don't go to conventions (I think I've been to three or four, one of which I only attended for a single day because I did not have a good time and felt isolated).

At this point I have read far too many articles written on both sides of the debate, and while I'm not willing to say "I hate everyone equally", I can say that I'm fairly well annoyed by most people. I am not on the side of the Sad Puppies because generally, the sort of book and the sort of story I enjoy reading is already what is frequently represented by the Hugos (though there are certain authors I am very, very confused by how frequently they are nominated for stuff - but I've always chalked it up to different and divergent tastes and nothing more).  But, I do agree with one of their stated aims: which is that more people should be involved in the Hugo awards. Heck, the people who nominated and vote are only a small fraction of the people who actually attend Worldcon.  Get them involved, too, somehow.  Everything might look different if that happened.

So, what am I going to do? 

I'm going to read everything on the ballot and hope that the Hugo voter packet is inclusive of everything on it (minus the dramatic presentations), and then I'm going to vote accordingly. I look forward to the Hugo Awards every year and enjoy thinking about them, talking about them, occasionally writing way too many words about them. Before I knew anything about the awards, I believed that they were the premier award in science fiction and fantasy. The best of the best. The Oscar of the genre. Later I learned that the Hugos were nothing more than an award given out by a particular community, and only nominated and voted on by a very small subset of that same community.  The Hugos are reflective of a particular group of people, just as the Nebulas are, and the World Fantasy Awards are (the three I awards I care most about) - but the Hugos is the one I can participate in, which makes it special even knowing what I do about it.  So, I respect the process of the award and will treat all the nominees fairly and at face value - and I think it is disappointing that I felt the need to write that sentence.

This concludes Part One. Part Two will continue with my thoughts on the actual ballot, rather than what has surrounded the ballot.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

2015 Hugo Award Nominees

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

Below are the nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards.  Congratulations to all the nominees.

Update 4/14/2015: Sasquan removed and replaced two ineligible nominees.
Update 4/17/2015: Two nominees on the final ballot declined their nominations. Sasquan replaced each with the next highest eligible vote receiving work. According to Sasquan, there will be no further revisions to the ballot as it is now going to the printer.
Update 4/20/2015: Black Gate has declines its nomination, but because the ballot was already frozen, it will remain on the ballot.
Update 4/28/2015: Edmund R. Schubert declined his nomination, but because the ballot was already frozen, he will remain on the ballot.

BEST NOVEL (1827 ballots)
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)
  • The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)
Marko Kloos declined his nomination after the ballot was announced. The Three Body Problem was added.
BEST NOVELLA (1083 ballots)
BEST NOVELETTE (1031 ballots)
The John C Wright novelette was found to be ineligible after the ballot was announced, and was replaced by the Heuvelt story.
SHORT STORY (1174 ballots)
  • Goodnight Stars by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • On A Spiritual Plain by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • The Parliament of Beasts and Birds by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • "A Single Samurai", by Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books)
  • Totaled by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge magazine, July 2014)
  • Turncoat by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Annie Bellet declined her nomination after the ballot was announced and was replaced with the Steven Diamond story.
BEST RELATED WORK (1150 ballots)
BEST GRAPHIC STORY (785 ballots)
  • Ms. Marvel Vol 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)
  • Saga, Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo ((Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow; RatPac-Dune Entertainment; 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, as Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO System A/S, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))
  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW; Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves ((HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods” written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC; GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Triedwritten by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)
BEST EDITOR (SHORT FORM) (870 ballots)
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Edmund R. Schubert has declined his nomination, but will remain on the ballot.
BEST EDITOR (LONG FORM) (712 ballots)
  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf
  • Julie Dillon
  • Kirk DouPonce
  • Jon Eno
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid 
John Eno was found to be ineligible and was replaced on the ballot with Kirk DouPonce.
BEST SEMIPROZINE (660 ballots)
  • Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Bursztynski
  • Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief
BEST FANZINE (576 ballots)
  • Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steve Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris and Helen Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent SF Online edited by Dave Truesdale
Black Gate has declined its nomination, but will remain on the ballot.
BEST FANCAST (668 ballots)
  • Adventures in SF Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman & Peter Newman
BEST FAN WRITER (777 ballots)
  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson
BEST FAN ARTIST (296 ballots)
  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

  • Wesley Chu *
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English *
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric. S. Raymond

As a side note, I expect to have my standard "preliminary thoughts" post on the nominees up on Monday.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Books Read: March 2015

It's that time again to look back at what I read the previous month, and since my child is still not crawling or spending most of his time awake, I continue to do a fairly solid job in getting books read. Progress!  The one link is to my one review, though in this case the review is more of a re-read commentary than it is a review.  So, we're sort of making progress there but not really. 

1. White Trash Zombie Apocalypse, by Diana Rowland
2. Maelstrom, by Peter Watts
3. Silence Once Begun, by Jesse Ball
4. Honor's Knight, by Rachel Bach
5. NW, by Zadie Smith (unfinished)
6. Get In Trouble, by Kelly Link
7. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
8. Razor's Edge, by Martha Wells
9. Kenobi, by John Jackson Miller
10. Stronghold, by Melanie Rawn

Best Book of the Month: Rachel Bach is killing it with her Paradox trilogy. Honor's Knight is book 2, and it has me itching for the conclusion (Heaven's Queen). I don't know quite where's she going with the series, but I love the setting, the battles, and the obstinate morality of Devi Morris. It's good stuff, nice ass kicking space opera and very much worth seeking out to read. Highly recommended.

Disappointment of the Month: I last read Zadie Smith ten years ago when On Beauty was published, and I very briefly noted then that it was the novel I had hoped Smith would write, given that I had admired her work but not fully appreciated it until then. So, even though it took three years after publication for me to attempt NW, I had very high hopes that were sadly not met. Something about the style of the novel just did not work for me, it was borderline stream of consciousness and was so jumpy and not quite pulled together in a narrative format that I could engage with or follow. Not to be too simplistic, but I suspect that if NW was written in a more conventional prose format, I would have found it much more to my taste. It just wasn't for me, and this makes me a little sad.  

Discovery of the Month: None, unless discovering / rediscovering that Kelly Link's short fiction generally isn't for me counts.  If I wasn't so disappointed by NW, I'd have slid Get In Trouble into that slot.

Worth Noting: So, years ago I read Yoda: Dark Rendezvous thinking that we were finally going to get a good novel focusing on Yoda. Maybe we would get some background or just some general ass kickery of the muppet flipping around with his lightsaber spitting backwards sounding wisdom. Instead, most of the novel focused on the Padawan Scout, which wouldn't have been a problem if the book was titled Scout: Dark Rendezvous. Where I'm going with this is that Kenobi is almost entirely the book I wanted Yoda to be - significantly focused on Obi Wan as he was settling onto Tatooine with the intent to watch over Luke. There is a side focus on Anileen Calwell and on a particular Tusken Raider, but unlike with the Yoda novel here it seems to build and enrich the story of Obi Wan in hiding. Here we get the struggle of Obi Wan to truly be in hiding with the greater purpose of protecting Luke while not abandoning the other principles of the Jedi Order when he could help in other ways.  Kenobi is one of the stronger Star Wars novels I've read in a while. Maybe not top shelf Star Wars, but worth checking out if that sort of thing interests you.

Gender Breakdown: This month seven out of the ten books I read were written by women.  This brings me to 21 out of 34 so far for the year, or 61.76%.  Given that every other year in my life would have been drastically skewed in favor or significantly more men, I'm more than okay with my plan and goal to read more books written by women in 2015 than by men.  So far I'm holding very well to this goal.

Previous Months:

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A Look Back at 2014: Or, Reading and Gender

This is a long overdue article, and one which I meant to write in early to mid January.  Of course, my son was born three weeks early and he has sapped all sorts of mental energy.  You'll note that I continue to use him as an excuse for things. I'm not sure exactly how long I can pull that off, but I'll keep trying.

In July I wrote an article about gender, and what I read.  I read, on average, perhaps 120 books each year.  Even with the kid, I'm on track to at least do that again this year (though, my video game playing has significantly decreased).  As mentioned in the previous article, over the last six years the percentage of books I have read in a given year which were written by women ranged from 26% and 45%. I noted at the time that the 45% was my progress so far in 2014 and that most years I was somewhere in the 30% bracket.

So, for all the years I have paid attention to the issue of gender, and what I read, I have done a rather crappy job at changing my personal status quo.

Let's actually look at what I did in 2014.  The first number represents the count of books written by women, the second is the total books read during that month.

January: 4/14
February: 8/13
March: 7/14
April: 3/6
May: 6/16
June: 3/9
July: 5/10
August: 3/10
September: 4/8
October: 4/9
November: 8/14
December: 7/12
2014: 62/135 (45.92%)

In the end, I stuck right around the same 45% I was at in July, though had I not tanked August I could have been a lot closer to a 50/50 balance. So, given my history of really only reading female authored books three out of every ten times, it's a huge improvement.  It's not perfect, but there is no perfect number. 

There is no perfect number.  The reason I'm tracking this is that a number of years ago I ran across several conversations people about what they were reading, and what does it say if you are only reading books written by men?  Hopefully, it means that most of those books you are reading are damn awesome and entertaining and you get full value out of them.  As you should.

I noted in July that

I only know about what I know about.  Until I had read Elizabeth Bear, I never knew just how much I would love her writing and how she consistently writes novels that blow me away.  Until I just read Katherine Addison after years of being aware of Sarah Monette (her real name) but never reading Monette's books, I would never have known just how good The Goblin Emperor was.  Insert any writer you want there.  Until I read Carrie Vaughn, I turned away from the thought of the modern urban fantasy / paranormal romance with werewolves and vampires.  The list can go on (and on) with any number of writers in any genre, male or female, because so often you just don't know until you give a book a go.

That's an important point that still stands.  I'm not trying to hit a quota, but I've had a goodly number of women on my "to read" list for a decade without ever picking their books up.  Same with those by men (sorry, Peter Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds, I just keep not picking your books up even though I want to).  This is about broadening and about discovering awesome writers I really should have been reading all along. C. J. Cherryh?  Yeah, she's friggin fantastic but I never read her until 2009 after more than a decade of her being on my radar. 

I'm still looking for new shiny things to read, and while I said that I'm not trying to hit a quota, I am consciously trying to read more women.  Not because I think doing so is somehow "good for me" or that I'm going to score points with people whose opinions I value, but because there are a wealth of awesome stories out there and if I'm only reading men, I'm missing out on a lot.  I'm going to read more of everything. Scott Lynch, Peter Brett, Brian McClellan: I'm reading all of you this year. Kate Elliott, Katherine Kerr, Robin Hobb: I'm also reading all of you this year. 

As a side note for where I'm at in 2015 so far, for the first time ever I have read more women than men. I remark on it because of all those years the percentage swung dramatically the other way.  This year, it swings in a different direction. Because reading is a conscious choice and there are plenty of books and authors who I know are going to be my favorites and that I'm going to love with a passion.  I just have to read them. 

As a further side point: I remember being in high school and my father telling me that he made the town librarian fairly mad because she would recommend him books and he told her that he didn't like books written by women. I was shocked and a little upset at the time. Our librarian, who happened to be a woman, was an awesome lady and the best librarian a fledgling geek could have - and she recommended fantastic books written by both men and women. But I never understood cutting off half the population just like that. I also didn't understand how he could tell the difference, except by a name on the cover.  Still don't.  I didn't get into the fight with him because it wasn't worth it, but it was something that I've remember with a "nope, not going to be like that" firmly planted in my head.  I'm going to read it all. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Stronghold, by Melanie Rawn

Melanie Rawn
DAW: 1991

Welcome back to my Melanie Rawn re-read! When we last left off, in March of last year, we had concluded Rawn's Dragon Prince trilogy (Dragon Prince, The Star Scroll, Sunrunner's Fire) and I suggested that I would resume the re-read in a timely manner.  This was obviously untrue and I clearly cannot be trusted when I say when a certain article is going live, but here we are again at the start of a new trilogy. 

In my write up of Sunrunner's Fire I suggested that if you consider story arcs across the series, the six books really comprise a single trilogy that looks like this:

1. Dragon Prince (1 book)
2. Star Scroll / Sunrunner's Fire (2 books)
3. Dragon Star (3 books)

I still think that works. Where Dragon Prince was a standalone that set up future stories, The Star Scross and Sunrunner's Fire had distinct story arcs that were as much in service of setting up a larger story as they were concluding the proper story arc of dealing with the fallout from Roelstra.  Dragon Star is three books comprising one war.

As before, this is less of a proper review and more of a re-read.  There is an excellent chance of book and previous trilogy spoilers, though I will attempt to limit (but not necessarily eliminate) those that touch on the remainder of the Dragon Star trilogy.  You have been warned.  The quick answer is that I am a huge fan of these novels from Melanie Rawn and very highly recommend them. Go read, I'll still be here.

One way that I keep describing both Stronghold and the Dragon Star trilogy is: Melanie Rawn kills everyone and burns the whole thing to the ground. I mean this in the best possible way, but everything that Rawn spent so much time and emotional energy building in the Dragon Prince trilogy with Rohan and his dreams of peace is completely shattered with the invasion of the Vellant'im.  We know nothing about these people, except that they are bearded, targeting faradh'im (the Sunrunners) and are destroying and burning their way across the continent, seemingly towards the desert. 

Rawn was likely planning this from the start, given that she published Dragon Prince in 1988, published the next two in 1989 and 1990, and immediately published Stronghold in 1991.  But, more than publishing one trilogy and and then working on the next one, Rawn seeded The Star Scroll and Sunrunner's Fire with hints of the Dragon Star novels. It was the war with the sorcerer's, but also the continuing hints of Andry's vision of his world in flames and his family destroyed. Andry knew this war was coming, though he didn't know when or how.  Stronghold shows how.  Or, at least, the beginning of how.

The build to war is slow. There are several more hints at the invasion to come, the first coastal cities are hit but they are hit during cloud cover so it takes longer for word to spread to Stronghold and Dragon's Rest than it otherwise might. Scattered reports are getting through, and what to believe?  Except that the invaders are burning and gutting cities / castles and then moving farther inland. 

Stronghold is where Rawn starts killing minor (and major) characters. This invasion is for real, and nobody is safe. This is made clear as the invasion begins to hit the Desert.  But, besides the invasion, there are two other primary conflicts. The first is the inevitable conflict of Pol vs Andry. At this point Andry is well established as Lord of Goddess Keep with fully established power. Pol is the next High Prince and is starting to step into that role, but he's still a step behind Rohan because Pol doesn't fully inherit so long as Rohan is around.   But, a central conflict of the series is the battling influences and ideas of Pol vs Andry. It doesn't get any better here.

The other conflict is, sadly, Pol vs Rohan. Despite being lord of Princemarch and the next High Prince, Pol still lives in the shadow of his father. As one does, especially when one's father is such a prominent and vital man in that particular world.  Pol chafes, and he has the inexperience of youth that his ideas of how to behave and what the appropriate response should be is in conflict with what Rohan knows based on his years of experience and what he has spent his life trying to build (unified rule of law, general peace).  But as the invasion deepens, Pol begins to no longer trust his father's decisions. He wants desperately to believe in Rohan like he did as a child, but each step chafes. 

Which is the point that I start bringing in my own personal situation into the book and I think about my relationship with my father and the relationship I hope to have with my (now) three month old son, and the struggles of fatherhood and growing in different directions but still being family. I think of Andry's relationship with Chay (his father) and with Rohan and Pol (uncle and cousin), and of my extended families and my hopes.  This has nothing to do with the book itself, but it part of my introspection around it.  It's the stuff that I think about when I think about the book. Getting older changes how you think about stuff, and that's even when you don't have a near nameless murderous invasion destroying your land and you see your father just not doing anything to stop it and that's all you want is for him to act. 

So, Stronghold.  It's a brutal novel, filled with death and disappointment. Of course I like it

Unlike the Dragon Prince trilogy, which I've read many times, I've only read Dragon Star once. And of that once, I'm not sure I've ever read the second volume Dragon Token. I know I've read Stronghold once before and I know I've read Skybowl, but I vaguely remember never being able to find a copy of the middle book when I was younger.  Now I have it.  So, we'll see if my Melanie Rawn reread proceeds with a book I don't remember at all. 

This time, I make no promises as to how quickly the next article will go up.  Just know that it will.