Hugo Wars, Part CCXVIII

Snoopy

I debated whether to join the conversation about the recently announced Hugo Awards Ballot. I eventually said the following on Twitter, and figured that would be the end of it for me:

  • I know awards have always had an element of popularity contest to them, and that any system can be played. (1/5)
  • Likewise, there have always been people who want to cheapen them for jealousy, bitterness, politics, attention, or whatever. (2/5)
  • Call me naïve, but I want the Hugos to be about the best authors, artists, & editors in our field. That’s what I’ll be reading for. (3/5)
  • Yeah, there’s been some annoying hypocrisy and chest-thumping. There are also some amazing people and works on the Hugo ballot. (4/5)
  • I’m not interested in letting anyone turn the Hugos into their personal political statement. I’m interested in celebrating awesomeness (5/5)

I didn’t originally plan to say more than that, but I’ve been reading along, and feeling more and more bummed about the fallout. So I finally decided I needed to get a few more things out. I’ll certainly understand if you’re burnt out on Hugo-related posts and choose to skip this one.

Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Grumbling About the Hugo Awards

Snoopy

The 2013 Hugo nominees have been announced! That means it’s time for the complaining to begin!

First of all, what’s up with John Scalzi getting a Best Novel nomination for Redshirts [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]? That’s two years in a row he’s made the ballot for something humorous. Are we actually taking humor seriously now? Come on, people. Only Deep And Serious stories should be recognized for awards! The next thing you know, we’ll be treating urban fantasy or tie-in authors with respect. WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO???

And then there’s the gender balance. 2/5 women on the Best Novel Ballot? 3/5 in Novella, and 4/5 in Novelette? 2/3 in Best Short Story? IT’S CLEARLY A POLITICALLY CORRECT CONSPIRACY, BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS GIRLS CAN’T WRITE SF/F! What happened to the good old days when we only nominated old white dudes??? Have we lived and fought in vain?

Seanan McGuire made the ballot a record-setting FIVE TIMES!!! This is a Very Serious Problem, people! It’s OBVIOUSLY some kind of voting conspiracy wherein Seanan writes popular, fun, thought-provoking stuff, in addition to helping to create a widely-loved podcast, and in return, people vote for her. It’s a TRAVESTY of democracy!!! WE MUST REVISE THE RULES AT ONCE TO MAKE SURE THE HUGOS ARE A POPULARITY CONTEST WHERE ONLY THE PEOPLE I THINK DESERVE TO BE ON THE BALLOT ACTUALLY END UP ON THE BALLOT!

Sheila Gilbert of DAW Books is on the ballot for Best Long Form editor. How could this happen? Sheila doesn’t have an active blog or online presence, which means she must have gotten on the ballot purely by being an awesome editor. Thanks SO much for completely shattering my understanding of how this process works, Gilbert!

Wait, they let Throne of the Crescent Moon [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Saladin Ahmed onto the Best Novel ballot too? THE PC POLICE ARE RUINING THE HUGOS AND THE WHOLE DAMN GENRE BY NOMINATING AWESOME STORIES THAT AREN’T ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE!!!

Three more Doctor Who episodes made the Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form category. What’s up with that? ALL YOU PEOPLE WHO LOVE DOCTOR WHO SO MUCH AND THINK IT’S WONDERFUL SHOULD ACCEPT THAT YOU’RE WRONG AND STOP VOTING FOR THINGS YOU LOVE!

Look, the bottom line here is that the final ballot for the Hugos doesn’t precisely match my own nominations, and therefore all of y’all who nominated Wrong Stuff are Bad People, and you should feel bad!

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Seriously, huge congratulations to all of the nominees! It’s true the final ballot doesn’t exactly match my picks, but I’m thrilled at many of the names and titles on the list, and I’m going to have a heck of a hard time trying to decide how to vote in many of these categories.

Big hugs to all of my friends who made the list! You’re amazing people, and I’m honored to to know you.

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Voting Time!

Snoopy

SFWA Election ballots have gone out, and need to be completed and received by April 26. My thoughts on the presidential candidates are here.

I’ll note that since writing that post, I’ve seen a bit more of both candidates’ approach on the SFWA discussion forums, and I’ve come to appreciate Steven Gould’s level-headed and down-to-earth style.

My only other comment on the elections is to note that my own candidacy for South Central Regional Director appears to have annoyed the folks at The Write Agenda, judging by their post and a few delightfully clueless trolls who popped up in the comments. I was amused to see how much virtual ink they’ve spent on me. If you’re not familiar with TWA, I refer you to my blog post about them from 2011. Beyond that, I’ll just point out that they’re supporting Theodore Beale for president…

Hugo Nominations are due March 10. Nominations can be submitted online by anyone with a supporting or attending membership at Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, and Loncon 3.

  • Best Fan Writer: I talked about possible nominees for this category here and here.

  • Best Novel: So, any of you eligible voters need a last-minute copy of Libriomancer? ;-)

  • Best Fan Artist: I became aware that folks were wanting to nominate me for this one based on my cover pose work. I explained why this made me uncomfortable, and said I’d decline the nomination. Farah Mendlesohn disagreed with that choice, and made some convincing arguments as to why. I’m still conflicted here, but she’s right. The Hugos aren’t just about the winners; they’re also about the people who vote. So I won’t tell you who to nominate, and if by chance I end up on the ballot, I’ll reconsider things. The one thing I would ask is that if you do this, please list both Jim and Amy Hines. Amy was my photographer for every one of the cover poses from 2012, and they wouldn’t have been half as good without her help and patience.

  • Best Editor, Long Form: Last year, Betsy Wollheim won this category, the first such win for DAW. Sheila Gilbert is my editor at DAW, and has more than forty years of editorial experience. Not only did she help with Libriomancer, but she’s supported me as an author for seven years now, helping me to build a career and grow as an author. Just as she’s done for countless others.

  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Seanan McGuire makes the case for Phineas and Ferb season three, episode 18, “Excaliferb.” I second her opinion on this one for so many reasons, from the in-jokes to the soundtrack.

  • Best Related Work: A friend brought “I Have an Idea for a Book…”: The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg to my attention earlier this week. I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, but it includes essays and as complete and thorough a list as possible of the thousands of books Greenberg helped bring about.

  • The Hugo Recommendation LJ Community has other suggestions if you’re not sure what else to nominate.

Please feel free to share your own thoughts on either the election or the Hugo noms!

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Declining a Hugo Nom

Snoopy

The deadline for Hugo Award nominations is March 10. (Which reminds me, I’ve got to finish getting my list of stuff-I-think-deserves-shiny-rocketships together.)

Last week, a friend mentioned that they were seeing posts on Twitter encouraging folks to nominate me for Best Fan Artist, based on the cover poses I’ve done.

I wasn’t expecting that. Thank you so much. It means a great deal to see how much people appreciate the whole cover pose project.

But I’m conflicted. The cover pics certainly seem to qualify as fan art, and they were done in 2012, so to my mind this would be a perfectly valid nomination. And I’ve got to say, winning a Hugo last year was amazing. It was one of the best moments of my life, and something I’d love to do again someday.

At the same time, even though the Hugo I received in Chicago was technically for my blog work in 2011, I’d be deluding myself to think the popularity of the cover poses wasn’t a factor. Accepting a nomination for Fan Artist would feel like I was trying to cash in twice for the same project.

Basically, the idea makes me uncomfortable. I won’t tell you who to nominate, but I will say that in the unlikely chance that I made the ballot for Best Fan Artist, I would decline the nomination.

Of course, if you wanted to nominate Libriomancer for Best Novel, that would be awesome and I’d love you forever. But when it comes to Best Fan Artist, it just doesn’t feel right. You honored me last year for my fan writing, and I can’t thank you enough for that. But there are are too many skilled, hard-working artists who deserve to be on that ballot this year.

In fact, if you have any thoughts on who should get a nod for Best Fan Artist or Writer this year, please share names and links in the comments.

Thank you.

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Snoopy

Thanks for all of the suggestions and discussion on my Hugo Fan Writer post yesterday.

I’ve been struggling for a little while now to balance blogging, the fundraiser from last month, finishing CODEX BORN, and other stuff. Looking back, I realize that I rushed to get yesterday’s post done, which resulted in it feeling clunkier and a bit less thoughtful than usual. My apologies for that.

As I was reading through the names people suggested, I immediately kicked myself for not including some of them. Others were unfamiliar, which is awesome, as it gave me new people to go check out.

One of the most interesting recommendations was for Racheline Maltese, who writes both essays and fanfiction. Which got me thinking … so I checked out the category definition over at the Hugo site. As far as I can tell, wouldn’t fanfiction writers be eligible for the Best Fan Writer award?

::Bracing myself for the outraged backlash::

Anyway, here are some more names to check out, both for potential nominating purposes and just because they write stuff that’s worth reading. Please note that this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list, and I would love to see more suggestions and recommendations.

Charles A. Tan - This is definitely a “kicking myself” recommendation. I’ve been following Tan’s roundup of writing/publishing/spec fic links for ages. He’s an active reviewer, and also contributes essays to places like the World SF Blog. I will almost certainly be nominating him for Best Fan Writer.

Bogi Takacs - I hadn’t come across Takacs’ blog before, but it received multiple recommendations in the comments. I read through some of Takacs’ reviews, which focus on underrepresented groups in SF/F. You can see a master list of tagged reviews here, or check out Takacs’ Hugo Eligibility post.

Ana Mardoll - Naomi Kritzer recommended Mardoll’s essay about Twilight and disability, specifically with regards to Bella’s clumsiness. I live with someone who deals with chronic pain, and for whom a fall can mean a trip to the ER, so a lot of this resonated with me. I continued reading about Mardoll’s thoughts on video games, bullying in Narnia, and eventually decided that if I was getting this drawn into her blog, I definitely needed to give her a shout-out.

Foz Meadows - Her top ten posts from 2012 include essays on bullying and Goodreads, rape culture in gaming, racism in Revealing Eden … how come I’m not already reading this person’s blog? I blame ALL OF YOU for not bringing Meadows to my attention sooner!

Tansy Rayner Roberts - Another “kicking myself” name, because Roberts is another person I’ve been reading for a while now. She’s written about women in comics, unpacking fantasy vs. historical sexism, Doctor Who, and so much more.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Hugo Fan Writer Nominees

Snoopy

During my acceptance speech last year, I said, “There are so many brilliant and wonderful fan writers out there. I don’t know if there are enough rocket trophies in the world to recognize everyone who’s written passionate, insightful, clever, funny, and flat-out awesome articles and essays about our community. But I’d love to see us honor as many of those diverse voices as we can.”

Pop quiz: when was the last time more than one woman made the final ballot for the Best Fan Writer Hugo?1 And when was the last time more women than men made the final ballot?2

I’m not saying the people who made the ballot didn’t deserve it. But this sort of trend makes me believe fandom needs to broaden our scope. To that end, I’m trying to pull together some of the fan writing (mostly blog posts, because that’s what I tend to read) that stood out for me last year.

I would love to hear your thoughts on who else deserves recognition, because I know there are a lot of great fan writers I’m either not aware of or else I’m just forgetting, because of brain-leaks. I’ll probably do a follow-up on this, or maybe run a few spotlight blog posts for people I believe should be on that ballot.

N. K. Jemisin: Things People Need to Understand, Issue 223.2. I like Jemisin’s writing, both fiction and nonfiction, and this piece makes a number of good points about the state of fandom and the so-called agenda of people pushing for change and accountability.

Cat Valente: Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees: Gender and the Fallout Over Christopher Priest. Addressing and documenting the differences in how men and women are treated online.

Seanan McGuire: Things I Will Not Do to my Characters. Ever. In which McGuire responds to the question, “When are Toby or one of the Price girls going to be raped?” Because apparently this must happen in order for her work to be “realistic,” which is both messed-up and symptomatic of larger issues.

Genevieve Valentine. For her writing about sexism and objectification in the SF/F community.

S. S. White, aka calico-reaction. Purely for the number of good reviews and discussions of SF/F books, stories, and shows.

These are just a few of the people who come to mind as contributing to the ongoing conversations in fandom. But there are so many more. (I know the instant I post this, I’m going to kick myself for omitting someone.)

Who do you think should be honored this year for their fan writing? Please leave your suggestions in the comments, along with links and whatever additional thoughts you’d like to share. If the links cause your comment to go into moderation, don’t worry about it - I’ll be keeping an eye on the comments and free those up as quickly as I can.

  1. 2006
  2. 1974, if my research is correct.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Goblins on a Hugo

Snoopy

First off, a quick announcement. The Stepsister Scheme is now available from Audible.com as an audio book. The rest of the princess series will be getting the audio treatment as well, but I don’t have the release dates for the other books.

Earlier this year, I said that if I actually won a Hugo, I’d have to pose my goblins with it. I also did a back-and-forth dialogue in which the goblins talked about taking their shiny rocket to the moon and dropping moon rocks on the humans from their lunar goblin colony.

Tonight I finally found our digital camera, and voila! I give you: Goblins on a Hugo.

I had a plan if I lost, too. You see, all of the nominees get a Hugo pin…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Hugo Speech

Snoopy

Jim’s brain is currently experiencing technical difficulties as a result of five awesome days of Worldcon, which culminated in winning a freaking Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer!

Normal mental service should resume shortly. In the meantime, please enjoy this transcript of Jim’s speech. (We’ve removed all of the nervous pauses and stumbles for ease of reading.)

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Growing up, I was never what you’d call one of the “popular kids.” Shocking, I know. It turns out that sewing a Star Trek patch onto your jean jacket is not the best way to get in with the cool crowd.

It wasn’t until I was almost thirty years old that I finally discovered fandom, first through conventions, and then online.

It felt like home. Like any home, ours isn’t perfect, but this was a community where I could geek out about the things I loved, and people would jump in to say, “Me too!” I feel so fortunate to be a part of that community, to participate and learn and explore and hopefully, from time to time, to contribute.

There are so many brilliant and wonderful fan writers out there. I don’t know if there are enough rocket trophies in the world to recognize everyone who’s written passionate, insightful, clever, funny, and flat-out awesome articles and essays about our community. But I’d love to see us honor as many of those diverse voices as we can, and for that reason, I’ll be recusing myself from the Fan Writer category from here on out to make space for those other deserving writers.

Thank you. Thank you to fandom for welcoming me, and special thanks to my family back in Michigan, who tolerate Daddy spending way too much time on the computer.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Hugo Roundup

Snoopy

As a Hugo nominee, I think I’m required to do at least one reminder post that Hugo voting ends July 31. There’s now a countdown on the Hugo Voting Page.

I’ve posted my thoughts on various categories here:

While I didn’t get through all of the novels, I did have a review of one of the nominated works: Deadline, by Mira Grant.

I voted last week. There are a few categories I left blank, as I wasn’t familiar enough to feel right about voting, and at this point, I wasn’t going to be able to get through the rest. Here are my final, somewhat disorganized thoughts on the nominated works.

Graphic Novel - You’ve got Fables, a story that blends different fairy tale characters, including some kick-ass heroines and an interpretation that blends the two versions of Snow White. Then there’s The Unwritten, which centers on the magic of books and stories. After reading those two, I was half-expecting the next one to be all about an underdog fantasy monster and his pet spider. This was one of the categories I struggled with, trying to rank both the storytelling and the artwork/presentation. For example, the artwork in Digger might not be on the same level as the art in Fables, but I found myself enjoying the story and imagination in Digger more.

Best Editor - Long Form - As a DAW author, I can’t be objective here. Pat Rothfuss talks about his experience working with Betsy Wollheim here, and I think he says things better than I could. Last year, she edited and published a #1 NYT Bestseller (Rothfuss) as well as a World Fantasy Award winner (Nnedi Okorafor). Betsy has been editing for decades, and has never gotten a Hugo for it. I think it’s time that changed. (Pat’s post is also worth reading for the insight into writing-related stress and breakdown.)

Best Related Work - I think the online SF Encyclopedia is an impressive achievement, and worth recognition. Seanan McGuire’s album “Wicked Girls” is awesome, and the title song is award-worthy all by itself (in my not-terribly-humble opinion). I’ve been a guest on Writing Excuses and I think they’re great, but I found myself struggling with the question of whether it was better to vote for something aimed primarily at writers vs. works aimed at SF/F as a whole. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, and I don’t think “specialized” works should be excluded. Just something I had to work through as I was trying to decide how to vote.

Best Fan Writer - I have no comment, except to say once again that I’m honored to be on the ballot with these people.

John W. Campbell Award - This was a tricky one. One author had a fairly short story. Two others had novels. It’s hard to compare. I think that for the short story nominees, it’s a good idea to submit multiple stories, like E. Lily Yu did. It provides a larger sense of the author’s writing and range. I wonder how many people will vote for the novelists, simply because folks tend to see novels as more “valid” than short stories…

No Award - I didn’t vote “No Award” for any of the categories. I wouldn’t deny others their right to do so, but I find that option personally distasteful. The works on the ballot are there because a significant portion of our community feels they deserve to be on the ballot. Even if I disagree, I’m not comfortable saying I’d rather see no award given out than see it go to that person or work.

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One of the challenges I struggled with was keeping my personal feelings off of the ballot. I know a lot of the nominees this year, which is awesome, but also awkward. I think I was able to judge each category on the merits of the submitted work, but it was hard. (It helps that I have some amazingly talented friends, so in many cases I could vote for them with a clear conscience.)

Have you voted yet? What was the hardest category for you to decide on? Which category or categories did you end up leaving blank?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Hugo Novellas, Part 2

Snoopy

When I registered for Worldcon, my goal was to read/watch/listen to ALL THE THINGS on the Hugo Ballot, and to review them as well. It was a good goal. A noble goal. A goal which, with less than a month until the July 31 voting deadline, simply ain’t gonna happen.

That said, I did get some reading done over the past few weeks, starting with the rest of the nominated novellas. (I reviewed the first three here.) Remember that both attending and supporting memberships give you voting rights and access to the Hugo Voter Packet.

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The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary, by Ken Liu, really stuck with me. Doctor Evan Wei, a Chinese-American historian, develops a form of time-travel technology that allows an individual to observe the past, but not to change or interfere. The catch is that any given moment of history can be seen only once, after which the Bohm-Kirino particles that allow you to reconstruct that moment are gone forever.

The story focuses on Unit 731, a Japanese biological and chemical research facility during World War II, in which thousands of people as many as 200,000 people, primarily Chinese and Korean prisoners, were killed in various experiments.1 Dr. Wei’s goal – and Liu’s as well – is to bring to light the atrocities that were committed, atrocities which have been suppressed and ignored.

Liu documents his sources, citing various texts, testimonies, articles, hearings, and other accounts to support his story. And while the story of Wei’s efforts and the political and personal backlash is a good one, in the end I think it’s overpowered by the history lesson.

The science was, I felt, the weakest part of the story. Liu provided just enough detail about time travel to make me question it, and to erode my suspension of disbelief. But from a thematic perspective, particularly when it comes to the danger of erasing history, I thought it worked well. “We cannot avert our eyes or plug up our ears. We must bear witness and speak for those who cannot speak. We have only one chance to get it right.”

The Man Who Bridged the Mist, by Kij Johnson, tells the story of Kit Meinem, an engineer and architect charged with building a bridge to connect the towns of Nearside and Farside. The river of mist that separates the towns is thick and dense enough to support boats, but it’s also home to dangerous fish-like creatures, some of which are enormous enough to destroy the ferries and their passengers.

The mist is fascinating, but it’s never fully explored or explained, and that works. The story isn’t about big flashy battles or the magic of the fantastic; it’s about the magic of Meinem’s bridge, the long process of construction and the ways in which that bridge will change the world. It’s a story that shows the triumphs and the costs of progress. Some of the costs are obvious, like the deaths among Meinem’s crew.

Others are subtler. Rasali Ferry is skilled at crossing the mist. She knows the dangers, but the mist is where she feels at home and at peace. Meinem’s bridge will put an end to her way of life, a fact she struggles to accept throughout the course of the story.

I liked this one as much for what it wasn’t as for what it was. Instead of big magic and effects, Johnson gives us Meinem’s love of engineering, his passion for his work, and the lovingly detailed process of building the bridge and changing the world. (And as a writer, I can’t help thinking about the bridge as a metaphor for stories.)

The Ice Owl, by Carolyn Ives Gilman, is the most traditional story of the three. The city of Glory to God is described as a city of rust, a city of religious rule and corruption. In the opening pages, the Incorruptibles – the “army of righteousness” – enter the Waster enclave where Thorn lives and burn down a school. Thorn sets out and finds a tutor, a historian called Magister Pregaldin who turns out to be far more than just a teacher.

I liked a lot of the worldbuilding and ideas in this one. Lightbeam travel means Thorn is 145 years old, at least by sequential time, due to time spent in transit. The titular ice owl is fascinating and symbolic and tragic, the last of its kind, hibernating in Pregaldin’s freezer.

Underlying the events of the story is the Holocide, a SFnal parallel to the Holocaust. Pregaldin deals in looted and lost artwork from that time. Thorn’s mother is seeing a man named Hunter, who pursues war criminals from the Holocide. As Thorn begins to suspect her tutor of being connected to the Holocide, she sets out to learn what role he played both then and now.

For some reason, this story didn’t quite come together for me as well as the others. I liked Thorn’s character: she’s smart, impulsive, and determined. I liked her investigation into Pregaldin’s past. I liked her family conflicts, her frustration with being the responsible one for her mother. But while there were a lot of great pieces, there were times they still felt like pieces instead of all fitting into the larger story. I’ve seen some very positive reviews of this one, so it might be a matter of taste, or maybe I just didn’t read it carefully enough.

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So there you have it, the rest of the novellas. For those of you who’ve read them, what did you think?

  1. Ken emailed me to clarify that the number of prisoners killed in Unit 731 is unclear, but estimates are in the thousands. The 200,000 number is the lower estimate of people killed by biological weapons developed in Unit 731. My apologies for my mistake.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Hugo Novellas, Part 1

Snoopy

I’m splitting my Hugo Novella reading into two parts, on account of novellas are long, so it’s taking me more time to get through them.

My other Hugo reviews/thoughts so far:

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Kiss me Twice, by Mary Robinette Kowal - Reading this story made me think of Asimov’s Robot Detective books with Elijah Bailey and his robot partner R. Daneel Olivaw. Both present interesting mysteries. Both explore the relationship between human and artificial intelligence. Both question the implications and possibilities of artificial life, the rules and the loopholes.

I liked the Asimov books, but I like Kowal’s story even better. Much of this is due to the character of Metta, the police department’s A.I. I love how Kowal developed this character, the way Metta adopts a different persona for every police officer (much as a human might change clothes depending on the situation), the Mae West quotes she uses to joke with Huang, the way she’s simultaneously supercompetent and aware in the way only a computer can be, but also vulnerable and, if you’ll forgive the conceit, human.

Detective Huang is a good protagonist, too. A decent, determined, well-developed character who treats Metta more like a partner than a machine, which means he’s invested on all levels when something happens to her.

This is a fun, well-paced story which asks interesting questions, presents various nifty and shiny SFnal ideas, and made me blow off several things I needed to get done so I could find out how it ended. I’ve told Mary that 1) she should turn this into a book and 2) I want to write a blurb for that book.

Silently and Very Fast, by Catherynne Valente - I’ll be honest, Valente’s skill with language and imagery made me question whether I was a good enough writer to review this one. (I decided to do it anyway!) This is a wonderfully layered story. It’s retold fairy tales and romance and tragedy and poetry and the power of story/myth and post-singularity science fiction all woven together.

Like Kowal’s story, “Silently and Very Fast” deals in part with the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence. Elefsis is a program who started as the virtual keeper of a house, but grew into so much more thanks to the love and attention of a child, Ceno. It’s a relationship that can’t be forced into human terms. Ceno is Elefsis’ parent and lover and sibling and so much more. Thanks to the neural hardware, they’re literally a part of one another.

Over the years we see Elefsis grow and pass from one family member to another as the humans age and die. We learn how the world has evolved during this time, and the lengths they’ve gone to in order to protect Elefsis.

There were parts I didn’t understand at first. Only as I kept reading did some of those earlier scenes and stories slip so beautifully into place. I strongly recommend reading this one twice, because the parts become that much more gorgeous and powerful once you’ve seen the whole.

Countdown ($2.99), by Mira Grant - “Countdown” is a prequel to Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy (including her Hugo-nominated novel Deadline). Having read the first two books of that trilogy, I enjoyed getting all of the background information on how the zombie uprising began, and seeing characters who until now had just been mentioned in a historical context.

I think, if you’ve read and enjoyed the books, then this will be a good, powerful story, one you should definitely check out. The pacing and voice are similar to Grant’s other books, but the structure is different: “Countdown” is broken into lots of smaller segments from various characters’ perspectives as the inevitable undead uprising unfolds.

If you haven’t read the books, I don’t know if this will work as well. (Or if you read the books but they weren’t to your liking.) Some of the power of the story comes from knowing what happens later on. For example, seeing the Masons as good, determined, loving people and knowing what’s about to happen and the kind of people it turns them into was simply tragic. On the other hand, much of it works just as well in isolation–like the stories and fates of those involved in creating the original viruses.

Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire is up for four Hugos, but I think this one might be a long shot. While “Countdown” does stand alone, I think it will be more powerful and effective to fans of the books.

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Comments and discussion are very much welcome, as usual.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Hugo Novelettes

Snoopy

Most of the Hugo-nominated novelettes are available online, and I’ve linked to them where I could. Attending and supporting members of Worldcon can read them all through the Hugo Voters Packet.

My thoughts on the short story ballot are here, along with links to the stories.

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Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders. The opening line is, “The man who can see the future has a date with the woman who can see many possible futures.” I really like this setup, and the conflict it creates between the man who sees a fixed, unavoidable future and the woman who believes she has free will to choose from various possibilities. I love how Anders presents the characters, both of whom have known for a long time that this relationship was coming and how it would go, but who still stumble through the same awkwardness as the rest of us. I loved the details, like the game Judy plays with her friend, picking random destinations and predicting what would happen if they packed up and went there that very day. Anders’ characters are so very human, and the conflict between them — is the future really fixed (Doug), or can you choose your future (Judy)? — is thoughtfully explored.

The answer Anders gives to that conflict is simultaneously tragic and scary and hopeful, and felt right for the story. This is the first story I’ve read by Anders, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Fields of Gold by Rachel Swirsky. “When Dennis died, he found himself in another place.” While exploring the possibilities of the afterlife isn’t exactly new (really, what is?), I like a lot of the things Swirsky did here. Structurally, the things Dennis did and didn’t accomplish on his various lists of goals worked well, giving insight into his life and character. I particularly loved the celebrities who showed up, not as actual dead famous people, but as collective manifestations of the mundanes.

Overall though, the story didn’t work for me as well as it might have, because I didn’t really like the characters. They tended to be a bit too unpleasant for me. It’s a stylistically interesting and well-written story, but purely as a matter of personal taste, not my favorite.

The Copenhagen Interpretation by Paul Cornell. Instead of giving you the opening line, I’m going to jump to this bit about Isaac Newton:

“[O]ld Isaac’s in his garden, an apple falls on his head, he picks it up and sees this tiny worm crawling across its surface, and so he starts thinking about the very small…”

I read this as a key to the alternate history Cornell presents, one with carriages exploring the solar system, spies manipulating what act like tiny wormholes, and a very different and well-detailed present-day (I think?) world. Jonathan Hamilton is a spy who encounters a woman named Lustre Saint Clair, a woman he knew fifteen years ago…who appears no older than eighteen years of age.

This draws Hamilton into a plot involving twin arms dealers who have been exploring space, discovered the relativistic effects of near-light-speed travel, and made not-so-successful contact with aliens. (Though the ending calls all of this into question.)

I believe this is the third of Cornell’s stories about Jonathan Hamilton. I’ve not read the others, which might account for some of my disorientation. I love the ideas and the worldbuilding, but I felt a bit disconnected from the story. I may reread this one if I have time, to see if that helps.

Ray of Light ($1.49 on Kindle) by Brad Torgersen. “My crew boss Jake was waiting for me at the sealock door.” Max Leighton is one of the thousands of surviving humans who fled to the ocean bottom after aliens blotted out the sun for reasons we never knew. His daughter is part of the first generation to grow up never having seen the sky.

I liked the classic SF feel of this one. Torgersen does a nice job with mood, conveying the sense of desperation and desolation on the sea bottom. And I thought the idea of the children developing their own religion/cult, and setting out on a possibly suicidal mission to the surface ice, made for a good story.

But it wasn’t a great story. I think my main complaint was that it felt a little too easy. I didn’t feel the urgency, and the reward at the end of the story felt … unearned, if that makes sense. The weight of the setup didn’t match the weight of the resolution.

What We Found by Geoff Ryman. This story won the Nebula award for Best Novelette. Set in Makurdi, Nigeria, it presents two intertwined narrative threads. One of Patrick and his family, which includes a schizophrenic father, an abusive grandmother, and a brother I’d describe as a bit of a trickster. The other story shows Patrick as a researcher who discovers that stress and trauma are passed down from father to son. But over time, other researchers lose the ability to duplicate his results, leading to another revelation:

“Simply put, science found the truth and by finding it, changed it … Some day the theory of evolution will be untrue and the law of conservation of energy will no longer work … Atoms will take only 50 more years to disappear.”

The science is a fascinating game of “What if?” and also presents an interesting lens with which to examine family, whether we inherit the flaws and pain of our ancestors, whether recognition could give freedom from such inevitabilities.

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Having read through the short stories and novelettes, I have a lot of respect for the ambitious stories, and for authors who push to explore new ideas and possibilities, even if the end result isn’t perfect.

For those of you who’ve read them, what did you think?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Hugo Short Stories

Snoopy

First off, happy book day to my friend Lisa Shearin, whose book All Spell Breaks Loose [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is out today. And last week marked the release of Mira Grant’s Blackout [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy].

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This year will be my first Worldcon, and the first time I’ve voted in the Hugos. I’ve been diligently downloading and devouring the Hugo Voters Packet, starting with the short stories, because … well, they’re short!

Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue, by John Scalzi. I wonder how I’d feel if a story I wrote for an April Fool’s Day joke made the Hugo ballot. On one hand, it’s delightfully random and unexpected. At the same time, I think I’d have this nagging sense of, “Wait, what about all the stuff I wrote that wasn’t a joke?”

As a joke, this was marvelous. Tor and Scalzi went all out, including cover art, and the story was an amusing read. It’s nice to see humor on the ballot. And there’s an actual story here amidst the jokes and the over-the-top fantasy tropes. I can honestly say that when I finished reading, I wanted to know what happened next.

You could tell Scalzi was having a good old time with this one. That said, some of the humor felt a little forced. While it’s a fun read and you should check it out, I don’t see this one taking home a rocketship.

Movement by Nancy Fulda. This is a first-person SF story set in the near future about a girl named Hannah with temporal autism. Hannah’s parents are trying to decide whether to pursue a new technology which could help her integrate into society, but becoming more “normal” isn’t always a good thing. This made me think of Elizabeth Moon’s award-winning novel The Speed of Dark, which I reviewed here. Like Moon, Fulda does a very good job of capturing her protagonist’s voice, showing us the world through Hannah’s eyes. As the father of an autistic child, it’s hard for me to be entirely objective about this story, but I really appreciated it, and I thought the ending worked well.

Also, even though Hannah doesn’t think it’s terribly effective, I totally want to invest in shoulder-mounted mosquito-killing laser technology!

The Homecoming by Mike Resnick. Resnick is one of the most prolific writers in our field, and “The Homecoming” has a lot going for it. It’s an emotional story of an estranged son (Philip) coming home to visit the father who wants nothing to do with him. His mother has Alzheimer’s, and has only a few lucid minutes each day. Philip left Earth years ago, after radically redesigning his body into an alien form, in order to explore another world. His father took it as a rejection of family and humanity.

To me, it felt like a metaphor for a father unable to accept his son’s sexuality. I could be reading into it, but this is how the story resonated for me — the father mourning his lost grandchildren, hating the life his son has chosen, while the mother takes on the role of peacemaker, bringing them together despite her infirmity.

While the SFnal elements were wonderful, the ending felt too quick and easy, and didn’t really work for me. It didn’t feel true.

The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. This is, in my mind, a good example of that sense of truth I’m talking about. Jack’s mother was a mail-order bride from China. When he’s young, she makes origami animals and infuses them with life: a paper tiger purrs and prances, the tinfoil shark swims, and so on. It’s amazing and beautiful. But as Jack grows older, he rejects his Chinese heritage, wanting to fit in with his “American” peers. In doing so, he rejects his mother as well. Only after she’s gone does he learn the rest of her story.

There is no neat ending here, but there is … understanding. Movement. Regret and loss, but with a thread of connection through the story’s magical element.

One of the things I admire about this one is that it’s not overstated. Jack has little understanding or compassion for a mother who sold herself in a catalog, but there’s a line later on where he’s prepping resumes and says, “I schemed about how to lie to the corporate recruiters most effectively so that they’d offer to buy me.” It’s just one line, and Jack doesn’t see the connection, but the reader does. One line is all it takes.

This story has already won the Nebula award, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it take the Hugo as well. Yeah, it’s really good.

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu. Let me put it this way: this is a story that made wasp nests beautiful and magical in a mere two paragraphs. It’s a story of clashing civilizations, in which the wasps colonize the less powerful bees, a situation with many real-world parallels. The wasps take tribute from the bees, but offer them “the honor of watching us elevate [you] to moral and technological heights you could never imagine.”

This kind of story could become preachy, but it never does. It is what it is, unapologetic and disturbing. Yu takes advantage of the shorter insect lifespan to show the evolution of a new line of bees: anarchists who set out to create a new future.

Like Liu’s story, the ending isn’t neat or happy, but it feels right. There’s a sense of movement that feels circular even as it moves forward. There’s a lot going on in this one, and I may have to reread it to catch things I missed my first time through.

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Discussion is welcome, and since the stories are all online, you don’t even have to be registered for Worldcon to read them.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Who vs. Who vs. Who

Doctor Snoopy

Of the five items on the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category for the Hugo awards, there are three episodes of Doctor Who. I recently received season six on DVD for my birthday, which means I’ve been able to watch and rank all three.

Spoilers ahead…

Third Place: A Good Man Goes to War

I feel like this should have been the best of the three episodes. The setup was there: Rory and the Doctor have to rescue Amy and newborn Melody from a heavily guarded space station. To paraphrase River Song, this was an episode that was supposed to show us the Doctor’s finest moment, and then his darkest.

I wasn’t feeling it. It felt like the show was trying too hard, and cramming too many plot revelations into the episode. The Doctor was certainly clever and efficient, and it was interesting to see him calling in debts and putting together an interstellar A-Team. The Silurian and her human companion were my favorites. But it all felt rather by-the-numbers.

There were some great moments. Badass of the Year award goes to Rory for the scene when he marches onto the bridge of a Cyberman ship. I liked the “Melody Williams” vs. “Melody Pond” exchange between Amy and Rory. And I think it’s good for the show to explore the consequences of the Doctor’s “Basically, run…” reputation. But ultimately, while it was a quick-paced and exciting plot, I think that worked against the emotional side. It never stopped long enough to let me feel.

Second Place: The Girl Who Waited

I loved the central problem of this episode. After arriving at Apalapucia, we discover the planet was quarantined due to a disease that kills two-hearted species within a day. Through timey-wimey manipulation, they split off multiple timelines that allowed the sick to live entire lifetimes in that day, while healthy people could look in on them. Amy accidentally enters an accelerated timeline, and lives 36 years on her own before Rory and the Doctor find her. And since the robotic doctors would be deadly to a human, Amy spends those 36 years fighting to survive…

This was a “smaller” episode than “A Good Man Goes to War”: just our three main characters and a bunch of robots. I loved seeing Karen Gillan’s older, harder version of herself, complete with armor made up of the shells of old medibots, armed with a sword and club, and even her own cobbled-together sonic screwdriver probe. I loved seeing how she changed, and her hatred for the Doctor who once again failed to return for her. I loved that she stopped waiting for rescue, that she saved herself.

The last ten minutes or so were incredibly powerful. The Doctor can yank young-Amy from the timestream, but it would erase old-Amy from existence. I loved that old-Amy didn’t want to die. The moment when the Doctor shuts the TARDIS door on old-Amy was brilliant. I love that the show didn’t take the easy way out, that the Doctor knew what he had to do and did it. It showed the alien Time Lord side of him in a way I hadn’t seen in a while.

I did have some nitpicks. How did Amy learn to make a sonic screwdriver or a katana capable of decapitating a robot? What’s with this season trying to bypass the Doctor’s regenerations? (The plague would kill him permanently. Another episode referred to his regenerations being “offline.” Huh???) But overall, I thought it was a very good episode.

First Place: The Doctor’s Wife

I loved it. The plot itself was pretty typical — sentient superbeing called the House lures the Doctor past the edge of the universe in order to feed on the TARDIS. But first House has to remove the TARDIS’ matrix, and tucks it into a human form.

The relationship between the Doctor and Suranne Jones’ personified TARDIS was amazing. I loved their early conversations, when her perceptions were out of synch with normal time. I loved the history between them, and their obvious joy in one another. I loved the smaller moments, like when the Doctor is looking out at ruined TARDISes and seeing the parts he can use to rescue his friends, and Jones’ character points out that she sees the corpses of her sisters.

It was the ending that pushed this into the number one spot for me. Because a human body can’t hold the energies of a TARDIS for long, as we learned back at the end of season nine. And that means the Doctor will never again be able to talk to and interact with his longest companion the way he has in this episode.

In those last minutes, when he’s all but begging her not to leave, you see just how powerfully lonely a man the Doctor really is. It’s heart-wrenching, and it’s some of the best acting I’ve seen from Matt Smith so far.

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For the Doctor Who fans out there, what do you think? Agree or disagree, or is there another season six episode you’d rank higher? (I haven’t seen the final few episodes of the season, so please don’t spoil those for me…)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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