Category Archives: Novels

Hugo Award Finalists, 2013 – First Impressions

2312As always, the finalists for the Hugo Awards and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer are an interesting lot with a few surprises and a number of disappointments. The 1343 valid nominating ballots represent a record number, more than 20% above last year’s previous record. The winners will be announced Sunday, September 1, 2013, during the Hugo Awards Ceremony at LoneStarCon 3 in San Antonio, Texas.

As usual, I am looking forward to my yearly journey through the contemporary science fiction world, even if the Hugo Award itself is becoming more of a popularity contest among fan personalities than ever before. Here are my initial thoughts about the nominees.

Best Novel (1113 ballots)

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

2312 appeared on almost every best-of list and should be the odds-on favorite to win. Saladin Ahmed’s first novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, also received widespread accolades. John Scalzi’s Redshirts received some praise, but my guess, not having read it yet, is that readers liked its lighthearted premise of what it’s like to be a Star Trek crewmember more than its actual literary merits. Scalzi is also a popular fan personality, which helps his visibility. Lois McMaster Bujold is another fan favorite, having been nominated many, many times. My opinion is that her books are solid mid-list action-adventure tales, but mostly just comfort food for fans who relate well to her protagonist who overcomes major physical disabilities to become a badass soldier and politician. Blackout, by Seanan McGuire writing as Mira Grant, was on zero best-of lists and no other award short lists (at least, that I saw). But McGuire is a hugely popular blogger and podcaster whose celebrity within the fan community gives her a disproportionate advantage. The more of McGuire’s work I read, the less impressed I am. This is all the more disappointing because well-reviewed books such as Intrusion by Ken MacLeod, Jack Glass by Adam Roberts, The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin, The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal, among others, were ignored.

Asimovs_Oct-Nov_2012Best Novella (587 ballots)

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Stars Do Not Lie” by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall; On a Red Station, Drifting; and “The Stars Do Not Lie” were all well reviewed and all are on the Nebula ballot. Neither The Emperor’s Soul nor San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats appeared on any best-of or award lists that I saw. Here again, Sanderson’s and Grant’s fan popularity rather than the merits of their stories likely put them on the final ballot. The title of Grant’s story indicates it may be little more than fan fiction related to Joss Whedon’s hugely popular SF franchise, Firefly.

Best Novelette (616 ballots)

“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
“Fade To White” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
“In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
“Rat-Catcher” by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)

The love-fest for Seanan McGuire continues, incredulously including a self-published story. I’m not familiar with the other novelettes, so I am hoping that they will be decent. Certainly, Valente and Cadigan have produced top-notch work in the past.

Best Short Story (662 ballots)

“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
“Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)

All these stories undoubtedly deserve to be on the ballot. The sad news is that there are only three nominees because no other works received the minimum 5% of the votes required by the World Science Fiction Society constitution. I suspect this is due to a large number of good short stories that spread votes wide and thin.

Best Related Work (584 ballots)

The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge UP)
Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
I Have an Idea for a Book… The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

This is a hard category to say much about. The variety of potential works is vast, so almost anything can appear. Farah Mendlesohn has produced a number of well received scholarly works in the past few years, so I expect The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literatures deserves its place on the final ballot. Previous volumes of Writing Excuses were pretty informative, so I’m not surprised to see it nominated again. I have no idea what Chicks Dig Comics or Chicks Unravel Time are, but from the titles they must be part of a female-centric critical series. Martin H. Greenberg’s book sounds like little more than a list, so I’m not sure what value it has, other than to honor one of the great anthologists of all time. I’m a little surprised there are no art books on the final ballot.

sagaBest Graphic Story (427 ballots)

Grandville Bête Noire written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Saga, Volume One written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

I’m actually pleasantly surprised by how good the selections are for this category, with the exception of Schlock Mercenary, a lightweight gag comic. It is a travesty that it is on the list and Batman: The Court of Owls is not. The voters have no trouble putting superhero stories in the Dramatic Presentation category, but for some reason resist them in their natural home, the Graphic Story category.

looperBest Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (787 ballots)

The Avengers Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
The Cabin in the Woods Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
The Hunger Games Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
Looper Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)

There are no surprises here, other than not seeing Game of Thrones, Season 2.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (597 ballots)

Doctor Who:“The Angels Take Manhattan” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“Asylum of the Daleks” Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“The Snowmen” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
Fringe:“Letters of Transit” Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
Game of Thrones:“Blackwater” Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

As I predicted, there are the usual three episodes of Doctor Who and two other sacrificial lambs. My only question is why a single episode of Game of Thrones is nominated. As established last year, Game of Thrones should be considered as one ten-part presentation. Nominating a single episode is like nominating a single chapter from a book. In any case, it doesn’t matter, since it’s a foregone conclusion that Doctor Who will win.

Best Editor – Short Form (526 ballots)

John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Sheila Williams

The usual suspects are nominated once again. My hope is that the retiring Stanley Schmidt will finally receive his due.

Best Editor – Long Form (408 ballots)

Lou Anders
Sheila Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Toni Weisskopf

This is a category that very few people are really interested in. I certainly am not.

Julie-DillonBest Professional Artist (519 ballots)

Vincent Chong
Julie Dillon
Dan Dos Santos
Chris McGrath
John Picacio

A mixture of some old favorites along with some new faces. There are so many good professional artists that it is hard to pick a slate of nominees without offending some really deserving candidates. And picking a clear winner is nearly impossible.

Best Semiprozine (404 ballots)

Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore and Michael Damian Thomas
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker
Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams and Stefan Rudnicki
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Jed Hartman, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Abigail Nussbaum, Sonya Taaffe, Dave Nagdeman and Rebecca Cross

It baffles me why this category should exist at all. Either you’re a professional magazine or you’re not. This wishy-washy half-measure should be abolished. For example, Clarkesworld published three Hugo nominees this year compared to one for Asimov’s and zero for Analog and F&SF. If that’s not a professional magazine, I don’t know what is.

Best Fanzine (370 ballots)

Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
SF Signal edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester

The Hugo voters inexplicably changed the eligibility rules this year to exclude virtually all online fanzines. Why supposedly forward-looking science fiction fans chose to regress to only printed periodicals is a mystery.

Best Fancast (346 ballots)

The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

Although the Hugo voters have excluded online fanzines, they have embraced podcasts. However, the same titles appear year after year, and frankly, I have not been impressed with any of them. Episodes of news and opinion shows are almost always too long and often lack organization. StarShipSofa’s selection of audio stories is underwhelming. I’m still looking for a SF podcast with value-added information that’s worth my time. I suspect others feel the same way, since this category had the second-lowest number of nominating ballots.

Best Fan Writer (485 ballots)

James Bacon
Christopher J Garcia
Mark Oshiro
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Steven H Silver

Mostly the same names we see every year in the mutual-admiration society known as fandom.

Best Fan Artist (293 ballots)

Galen Dara
Brad W. Foster
Spring Schoenhuth
Maurine Starkey
Steve Stiles

Here’s another list of mostly familiar names. At least professional artist Randall Munroe did not make the final ballot this year.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (476 ballots)

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Zen Cho *
Max Gladstone
Mur Lafferty *
Stina Leicht *
Chuck Wendig *

* Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Mur Lafferty and Stina Leicht were both nominated last year, so I expect one of them will win this year. I am completely unfamiliar with the other three nominees.

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Hugo Awards 2012: Best Novel

Novels are defined as stories of 40,000 words or more. The titles in bold are the ones I nominated.

2012 Best Novel Nominations (958 ballots cast [compared to 833 ballots cast in 2011])

175 Among Others by Jo Walton (18.27%)
163 Embassytown by China Miéville (17.01%)
130 A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin (13.57%)
81 Deadline by Mira Grant (8.45%)
71 Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (7.41%)
——————————————————————–
70 The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (7.30%)
69 Rule 34 by Charles Stross (7.20%)
66 Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (6.89%)
62 The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemison (6.47%)
61 Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge (6.37%)
60 Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (6.26%)
58 Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine (5.74%)
52 Deathless by Catherynne Valente (5.42%)
49 11/22/63 by Stephen King (5.11%)
49 The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (5.11%)
48 Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (5.01%)

Best Novel Final Ballot Results (1664 ballots [compared to 1813 ballots cast in 2011])

My Ranking

Title

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Round 4

Round 5

3

Among Others (WINNER)

421

424

493

585

769

2

Embassytown

324

324

392

492

608

6

Deadline

311

312

367

418

4

A Dance With Dragons

316

317

360

1

Leviathan Wakes

260

261

5

No Award

32

No Award Tests
• 1164 ballots rank Among Others higher than No Award, 107 ballots rank No Award higher than Among Others – PASS
• ((1664-32)/1922)*100 = 85% – PASS

The remaining places were then calculated to be:
2nd Place – Embassytown
3rd Place – Leviathan Wakes
4th Place – Deadline
5th Place – A Dance With Dragons

Analysis

The Best Novel category is very strong, with 16 books making the 5% cutoff (Hugo rules stipulate that nominees must have at least 5% of the nominating votes to help indicate widespread support). Two books came within 2 votes of making the final ballot. I tend to nominate well-reviewed books that are nevertheless underdogs—why waste nominations on sure things like A Dance With Dragons? Although the number of nominating ballots went up considerably from last year, the number of final ballots dropped significantly.

Among Others, by a widely respected author and blogger, won the Nebula Award and had appeared on a lot of best-of lists, so there was little surprise that it won. Embassytown garnered a lot of critical praise, but was not an easy read. Leviathan Wakes is the first in a new space opera series, written under a pen name by a duo of George R.R. Martin’s protégées. It managed to climb from fifth to third in the final results, which demonstrated weak support for Deadline, the second book of a series, and A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book of a series. Hugo voters wisely rejected these two books as being incomplete stories.

Mini-Reviews

Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)

This coming-of-age story of a teenage girl reminded me in tone of To Kill a Mockingbird, except with fairies. The book is an episodic semi-autobiography of Walton’s struggles with an abusive mother, the death of her twin sister, and discovery of science fiction fandom. As a love letter to fandom, it’s not hard to understand the reciprocal love the book received. The prose is beautifully written and evocative, just don’t expect a highly plot-driven adventure. The fantasy elements, to me, were secondary, especially since the protagonist was the only one who could see the fairies. Was she an unreliable narrator? That’s left for the reader to decide.

A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)

The fifth chapter of Martin’s epic fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire, the first half of A Dance With Dragons recounts the adventures of the characters that Martin cut from A Feast for Crows seven years ago. Everyone eventually gets back in sync, just in time for another cliffhanger ending. Let’s hope that it won’t be seven years until Volume 6! When Martin finally finishes this story, I hope he wins every award imaginable, but in the meantime it’s hard to justify voting for a story that is far from complete.

Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)

This second volume of Grant’s zombie trilogy was underwhelming. It begins in the middle of the story and ends with not one, but two major cliffhangers. The writing is serviceable, but nothing special. The book is full of plot holes, too. For example, on a cross-country drive the protagonists stop at a service station for gas. Even though the station is closed tight, they have no trouble pumping their gas and going on their way. In another instance, they infiltrate a well-guarded government installation, making their escape only because it has the exact same floor plan as another facility on the other side of the country. Plus, the “surprise” ending is flashed in neon early in the book with the ham-handed revelation that cloning exists in this world. Grant (pen name of prolific podcaster and filker Seanan McGuire) obviously spent a lot of time researching how viruses could produce zombies, but she needed to think a little harder about a plausible plot and more realistic characters.

Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)

Miéville is one of my favorite authors, with his boundless imagination and magnificent use of language. Embassytown’s central theme is how language shapes our perceptions. On a distant planet, aliens and humans try to find commonality, despite fundamental differences in communication styles. When some of the humans interfere with the aliens’ societal customs, conflict is inevitable (where is the Prime Directive when you need it!). Miéville is never one to shy away from an eloquent and rich vocabulary, often inventing words to suit his needs, but Embassytown goes even further in testing the reader’s tolerance for made-up language. This isn’t a quick and easy read, but the astute reader will undoubtedly reap much from this well-crafted parable.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Orbit)

Corey is the pen name of Daniel Abraham, a long-time collaborator of George R.R. Martin on the Wild Cards books and adaptor of Martin’s works for comics (as well as a respected solo author), and Ty Frank, one of Martin’s personal assistants. Leviathan Wakes is the first in a new space opera series. The story wraps up nicely, but there are definite plot threads that will lead to interesting complications in future volumes. The authors paint a detailed and action-packed universe, with protagonists that are well-developed. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to more in this series.

Do the Hugos Need a Young Adult Category?

The members attending the Chicon 7 business meeting voted down a proposal to add a Young Adult (YA) category to the Hugo awards. Perhaps the biggest objection was that the proposal didn’t adequately define what a YA book is. But like a lot of Hugo categories, it seems that the members’ votes determine what belongs in a category, whether it is really appropriate to be there or not. Another objection was that YA is a marketing artifact that could change in the future. This argument is silly, as there has been children’s literature forever, and it’s one of, if not the top, growing segments of the publishing industry. Another argument against a new YA category is that if a book is good enough, it can already be nominated in the Best Novel or Novella categories, as evidenced by the works of J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman. While true, this ignores the works by authors who write fabulous stuff but that doesn’t show up on Best Seller lists. About the only argument that I thought held any real weight was that adults who are not familiar with youth-oriented fiction might have a hard time choosing truly representative works. But this does not stop Hugo voters from voting for Best Editor (Long Form), Graphic Story, or other categories they’re not necessarily familiar with.

The underlying motive for adding a YA category is to put a spotlight on a subgenre that is somewhat neglected. As several members at the meeting pointed out, this kind of recognition would tend to pull in new readers and new convention attenders, and add to the overall positive public relations of the Hugos and Worldcons. The truth is that there is a wealth of great YA science fiction being published that deserves recognition.

It seems to me that there is a fairly simple solution. The Golden Duck awards already recognize science fiction in three age categories: picture book, middle-school book, and the Hal Clement Award for “Young Adult” book. The Golden Ducks are announced during a panel at Worldcon each year. My understanding is that a jury of educators and librarians select the nominees and winners. Why not just move the announcement of winners to the Hugo ceremony, and include the winners in the Hugo publicity and historical records? The heightened visibility and endorsement by the Worldcon membership would be beneficial to all involved. It would eliminate most, if not all, of the objections a separate YA Hugo category engenders.

With its three age group categories, the Golden Ducks address the problem of defining what a YA book is. And, if a book is good enough, it could win both a Golden Duck and a Hugo. As a juried award, it would avoid the problem of unsophisticated readers trying to guess what the best YA books are. It is conceivable that the Golden Ducks could be revamped to be similar to the John W. Campbell award for best new writer, i.e., a non-Hugo that is voted on by the Worldcon membership. I think that the Golden Ducks should remain a juried award to maintain its integrity.

Elevating the visibility and stature of the Golden Duck awards would produce a win-win result that I think should be given serious consideration. It would not need a change to the WSFS constitution. It would require the buy-in of the Hugo and Worldcon committees, but it’s hard to imagine them objecting too much. Yes, it would lengthen the Hugo ceremony, but not by much. Some might argue that this plan would open the doors to other awards to petition to be included in the Hugo ceremony. I don’t think this would be a serious problem.

The benefits of acknowledging great science fiction and fantasy aimed at children far outweigh the negatives.

2012 Hugo Award Nominations

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) announced the nominees for the 2012 Hugo Awards and the nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The complete list may be found at the Chicon 7 website.

x

Novel

There were only two novels nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula this year, Among Others by Jo Walton and Embassytown by China Miéville. George R. R. Martin is a huge fan favorite, and with his hit Game of Thrones TV series it was all but certain that A Dance With Dragons would be nominated. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey was on a fair number of best-of lists, so it’s presence on the Hugo ballot is not a big surprise. The bigger surprise is Deadline by Mira Grant, which I don’t think was on too many best-of lists, but the author (real name Seanan McGuire) is very active in SF fandom and Deadline is a sequel to her book Feed that was nominated last year. Embassytown has been raking in most of the awards so far, but I wouldn’t count out Martin’s popularity to make him a dark horse favorite.

Graphic Story

With only 339 ballots, this category continues to be one of the least popular. Nevertheless, the nominees this year are markedly better than in years past. Perennial nominees Fables and Schlock Mercenary made the list again this year. The fannish Girl Genius was replaced by the fannish Digger by Ursula Vernon, which was begun in 2007 and completed in 2011. Coming in at over 700 pages, it will be interesting to see who has the stamina to wade through the whole thing. This is a comic that I had never heard of before, but I just read the first 20 pages and it looks intriguing, at least. My favorites, by far, are Locke & Key and The Unwritten. It’s unfortunate that terrific graphic stories such as Habibi by Craig Thompson, Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, and The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman didn’t make the ballot.

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Game of Thrones has to be the odds-on favorite, what with its pedigree and ability to tell a 10-hour, fully realized story. I wouldn’t count out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 due to the immense popularity and sentimentality for this final installment of the Harry Potter series, but it seems a long shot, nevertheless. Hugo might also sneak in as the winner, but as good a film as it is, it really is not science fiction or fantasy, except in the broadest sense. Source Code was a fine follow-up to Duncan Jones’s Moon, but it is not nearly as good. Captain America: The First Avenger has no chance to win (and in my opinion, X-Men: First Class was the better superhero film last year). I’m a little surprised that Midnight in Paris wasn’t nominated, but I suspect it’s a bit too mainstream for the Hugo voters. I’m also a little surprised neither Puss in Boots nor Rango were nominated, but animated films seem to be less well regarded. The biggest surprise, by far, was the omission of Rise of the Planet of the Apes from the ballot.

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Doctor Who dominates the category, as usual. I give Neil Gaiman’s episode, “The Doctor’s Wife,” the edge due to Gaiman’s popularity among Hugo voters. I suppose Chris Garcia’s Hugo acceptance speech was dramatic, and although it was certainly moving, it really does not deserve to be nominated. My choice, which I admit is a long shot, is the Community episode “Remedial Chaos Theory,” which is a clever and hilarious meditation on parallel world theory. My biggest disappointment was that The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the Academy Award winning short film, was not nominated.

Summary

Overall, it looks like most of the nominations are deserved. With a record number of nominations (1101), one can assume that most of the nominees have a goodly amount of support and that frivolous entries are minimal. I am looking forward to reading, listening to, and viewing as many of the nominees as possible.

Halting State

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Halting State by Charles Stross is a tour de force melding of police procedural and cyberpunk.  In the year 2018, Sergeant Sue Smith of the Edinburgh constabulary is called to investigate a virtual robbery in an online game space by a band of orcs at a dot-com startup company.  Jack Reed, a computer expert, and Elaine Barnaby, an insurance investigator, are quickly called in to spearhead the insurance company’s investigation.  They soon realize that there is more than meets the eye, and are caught in a web of high-power politics and finance, not to mention murder.  Stross creates a detailed world filled with wonderful gadgets, good characterizations, and plenty of action, not to mention some quirky humor.  Possibly the biggest hurdle in reading the book is that it is written in the second person.  This makes sense for a story centered on role-playing games, since that is how most game masters run their games.  I didn’t find this hard to comprehend (actually, it didn’t really register until about halfway through the book), perhaps since I have played enough D&D to be used to this style.  It’s a brave choice, but I thought it worked fine.  I’ve read several other Stross novels and stories, and have been delighted with all of them.  He has jumped onto my favorites list.

2011 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced the nominees for the 2011 Nebula Awards, the nominees for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book.

Novel

Novella

Novelette

Short Story

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director) (Optimum Releasing; Screen Gems)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director) (Paramount)
  • Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director) (BBC Wales)
  • Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorsese (director) (Paramount)
  • Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director) (Sony)
  • Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director) (Summit)
  • The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director) (Universal)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book

The winners will be announced at SFWA’s 47th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend, to be held Thursday through Sunday, May 17 to May 20, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. Connie Willis will be the recipient of the 2011 Damon Knight Grand Master Award for her lifetime contributions and achievements in the field. Walter Jon Williams will preside as toastmaster, with Astronaut Michael Fincke as keynote speaker.

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of  SFWA. Voting will open to SFWA Active members on March 1 and close on March 30.

A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Guest review by Tommy “Slug” Togath, age 13

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Princess of Mars was first published 100 years ago in 1912. I was expecting an old-fashioned story that would be kind of boring. But the reality was that it was exciting and I only had to look up 2 or 3 words I’ve never heard of.

This book is the basis for the upcoming movie, John Carter. John Carter is a former Confederate officer who goes to Arizona to mine for gold after the Civil War. When his partner is killed by Apaches, he narrowly escapes by hiding in a mysterious cave. He goes to sleep and wakes up on Mars, known as Barsoom to the natives. My biggest surprise was how John Carter got from Earth to Mars—no rockets or anything logical, so that kind of detracted from the realism. I know there’s really no life on Mars, and I could suspend my disbelief about that part, but it was hard to look past the mysterious travel between planets. Maybe the next book will address that more sensibly.

John Carter becomes friends with a Martian warrior named Tars Tarkas. Tars Tarkas is a Thark, with green skin, 6 limbs, and very tall. I liked Tars Tarkas a lot, but he really didn’t have much to do. A domesticated Martian pet named Woola becomes John Carter’s companion. I loved Woola because he was brave and loyal to John Carter, just like my dog is to me. John Carter falls in love with a Martian woman named Dejah Thoris. She looks just like an Earth woman, except she has red skin. Dejah Thoris is mostly just a “damsel in distress” and doesn’t do much in the story.

I liked John Carter because he was brave and smart. He had to fight a lot of Martians because he didn’t know their customs. But it turned out all right because the Martians are all warriors who live by the sword and they respect the greatest fighters. John Carter had a big advantage because his muscles were used to the higher gravity of Earth, so he could jump really far and get away from danger.

John Carter made many enemies. The one I liked the least was Sarkoja, a female Thark. She was mean to everybody. Tars Tarkas finally made her leave, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her.

I liked the scenes with fighting and battles. The opening scenes in Arizona with John Carter being chased by Apaches were very thrilling. I liked the part where John Carter was captured in the city of Zodanga, then rescued his friend Kantos Kan and escaped. Although I knew he would escape, it was still exciting to read about how he fought against long odds and was able to get away.

I was a little disappointed that the story seemed to jump around a lot—more like a series of connected short stories than a coherent novel. But the book held my interest and I would recommend it to my friends. I will definitely read the next book in the series, and I am more excited than ever to see the movie John Carter.

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon handily won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2008. As an alternate history, it gets lumped in with science fiction and fantasy, although there is a quasi-fantasy element that surfaces in the latter part of the book. As one would expect from a Pulitzer Prize winner, Chabon is an excellent writer who knows how to evoke mood and emotion. The story is a detective noir (more along the lines of Chinatown than The Maltese Falcon) set in Sitka, Alaska, where the Jews settled in 1948 and are now, sixty years later, in danger of being expelled when the land reverts to Alaskan control. Homicide detective Meyer Landsman begins what looks like a fairly routine murder investigation only to be drawn into a circle of intrigue, deception, and conspiracy. Along the way he must face his personal demons in the forms of his estranged wife, who is now his boss, and the mysteries of his sister’s death in an airplane accident years ago. Weaving colorful characters and settings together, Chabon paints a fascinating picture of what might have been, while keeping us enthralled with mystery and action. Chabon’s use of Yiddish, Yiddish-derivatives, and even Esperanto words and phrases may turn off some readers, but most of the words are contextually self-evident, and there is a glossary in the back of the book. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a marvelous feat of world building and linguistics.

Rollback

Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Rollback opens in 2048 as Don and Sarah Halifax are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. Sarah is a retired astrophysicist who had decoded the first alien radio message almost forty years earlier, helped craft humanity’s reply, and now is asked to help figure out the aliens’ second message which for some reason is coded differently than the first message. In order to have more time to work on the message, a billionaire philanthropist agrees to pay for Sarah’s “rollback,” or rejuvenation of body. Sarah won’t do it unless Don is included in the deal, but it turns out that the process doesn’t work on Sarah but does on Don. A large part of the book is an examination of Don’s new life as a physically-fit 25-year-old with the mind of an octogenarian, torn between the love for his wife and his newfound virility. In the meantime, Sarah is in a race to discover the hidden meaning of the second alien message before she dies. Rollback is a journeyman effort by a fan favorite. This is the quintessential Analog story—lots of techno-babble and pseudo-psychology, but a bit short on characterization.

2011 in Review

I started this blog in late August 2011. My goal was to write at least 500 words a day, which I accomplished. Views of my blog have steadily increased, approximately doubling every month.

The most viewed posts were:

  1. Real Steel
  2. Fullmetal Alchemist
  3. Evangelion
  4. Batman: The Brave and The Bold
  5. Arthur Christmas
  6. The New 52: Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Batman and Robin

My favorite posts were:

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My favorite comics were:

My favorite novels were:

Initially, I didn’t think this was a great year for movies, but looking back on my favorites, there are actually quite a few good, if not necessarily great, ones on my list:

My favorite TV series were:

There were several novels published in 2011 that I’m looking forward to reading:

  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  • Embassytown by China Miéville
  • Reamde by Neal Stephenson
  • Rule 34 by Charles Stross
  • The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

2011 was a good year for conventions, too. I attended the San Diego Comic-Con, the World Science Fiction Convention (Renovation) in Reno, and a number of smaller, local conventions.

I’m looking forward to 2012.