Tag Archives: China Miéville

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

One of the troubles with the Graphic Story category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes often don’t represent entire, self-contained stories.

In my opinion, the graphic story category remains the strongest overall category on the Hugo ballot. Choosing five nominees is an almost impossible task because there are so many good choices to pick from. Yet, the Hugo voters consistently nominate the same fanish works year after year. Come on, folks, there is more than Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary. Much more.

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year (nine, if you count two works with 4.94% each). The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering, so I challenge the Hugo voters to think carefully about your choices and to not just fill in your ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else. Don’t be afraid to nominate superhero stories; these are some of the most exciting and relevant science fiction tales being published.

For your consideration:

  • The Abominable Charles Christopher, Karl Kerschl (http://karlkerschl.com)AdventureTime_v1
  • Adventure Time, Vol. 1, Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Branden Lamb (BOOM! Studios)
  • American Vampire, Vol. 4, Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo)
  • Aquaman, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado (DC)
  • Batman: Earth One, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank (DC)batman-court-of-owls
  • Batman: The Court of Owls, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo (DC)
  • The Battle of Blood and Ink: A Fable of the Flying City, Jared Axelrod, Steve Walker (Tor)
  • Battlepug, Mike Norton (http://www.battlepug.com)
  • Batwoman, Vol. 1, J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman (DC)
  • Chew, Vol. 6: Space Cakes, John Layman, Rob Guillory (Image)
  • Cinderella: Fables are Forever, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus (Vertigo)
  • Daredevil, Vol. 1, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee (Marvel)dial-h
  • Dial H, Vol. 1: Into You, China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco (DC)
  • Earth 2, Vol. 1, James Robinson, Nicola Scott (DC)
  • Fables, Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind, Bill Willingham, et al (Vertigo)
  • Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson (IDW)
  • Grandville Bete Noir, Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido (Marvel)irredeemable
  • Irredeemable, Vol. 10, Mark Waid, Diego Barreto (BOOM! Studios)
  • iZombie, Vol. 4: Repossessed, Chris Roberson, Mike Allred (DC)
  • Justice League, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee (DC)
  • Lobster Johnson Vol. 2: The Burning Hand, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Tonci Zonjic (Dark Horse)
  • Locke & Key: Clockworks, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)manhattan-projects
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitavro (Image)
  • Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt (Dark Horse)20thCenturyBoys22
  • Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22, Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • The New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard (Vertigo)
  • Peter Panzerfaust, Vol. 1: The Great Escape, Kurtis Wiebe, Tyler Jenkins (Image)
  • Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission, SImon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milogiannis, Brandon Graham (Image)
  • Punk Rock Jesus, Sean Murphy (Vertigo)saga
  • Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples (Image)
  • Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson, Mark Siegel (First Second)
  • Saucer Country, Vol. 1: Run, Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly (Vertigo)
  • The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Vol. 1, Tradd Moore, Justin Jordan (Image)
  • Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis (DC)
  • The Underwater Welder, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)the-unwritten-6
  • The Unwritten, Volume 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, Mike Carey, Peter Gross (Vertigo)
  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Allard (Image)
  • Wonder Woman, Vol. 1, Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins (DC)wrinkle-in-time-graphic-novel
  • A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

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%)
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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.

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.

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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.

BSFA Awards Shortlist Announced

The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) today announced the shortlists for the 2011 BSFA Awards. The award ceremony will be held at Olympus 2012, The 2012 Eastercon, which will take place April 6-9, 2012 in London. The awards recognize works published in the United Kingdom. As such, they don’t necessarily overlap with the Nebula or Hugo Award nominations; nevertheless, they should be considered as some of the best science fiction and fantasy of the year. The nominees are:

Best Novel

Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith (Newcon Press)
Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan)
The Islanders by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)
By Light Alone by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Osama by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)

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Best Short Fiction

The Silver Wind by Nina Allan (Interzone 233, TTA Press)
The Copenhagen Interpretation by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s, July)
Afterbirth by Kameron Hurley (Kameron Hurley’s own website)
Covehithe by China Miéville (The Guardian)
Of Dawn by Al Robertson (Interzone 235, TTA Press)

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Best Non-Fiction

Out of This World: Science Fiction but not as we Know it by Mike Ashley (British Library)
The SF Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition ed. John Clute, Peter Nicholls and David Langford (website)
Review of Arslan by M J Engh, Abigail Nussbaum (Asking the Wrong Questions blog)
SF Mistressworks, ed. Ian Sales (website)
Pornokitsch, ed. Jared Shurin and Anne Perry (website)
The Unsilent Library: Essays on the Russell T. Davies Era of the New Doctor Who (Foundation Studies in Science Fiction), ed. Graham Sleight, Tony Keen and Simon Bradshaw (Science Fiction Foundation)

Best Art

Cover of Ian Whates’s The Noise Revealed by Dominic Harman (Solaris)
Cover and illustrations of Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls by Jim Kay (Walker)
Cover of Lavie Tidhar’s Osama by Pedro Marques (PS Publishing)
Cover of Liz Williams’s A Glass of Shadow by Anne Sudworth (Newcon Press)

The New 52: First Casualties

DC announced today that they are canceling six titles of their New 52 launched last September. Gone are Blackhawks, Hawk and Dove, Men of War, Mister Terrific, O.M.A.C. and Static Shock. All will end with Issue #8. I don’t think any of these are a surprise, based on sales figures, but it’s still disappointing that DC didn’t give them a bit more time to develop followings. In my case, I don’t read monthly comics and was waiting for the collected trade editions. I enjoyed the first issues of Mister Terrific and Men of War and was looking forward to reading more of Mister Terrific. Men of War was a quality book, but just not my cup of tea. O.M.A.C. had gotten a fair bit of critical acclaim, but I found it too cartoony and too much like the Hulk for my tastes.

The six books will be replaced by six new titles beginning in May, including World’s Finest by Paul Levitz and George Perez and Kevin Maguire; Dial H by China Miéville and Mateus Santoluoco; G.I. Combat, an anthology title; The Ravagers by Howard Mackie and Ian Churchill; Earth 2 by James Robinson and Nicola Scott; and the return of Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham.

World’s Finest will star Earth-2’s Power Girl and The Huntress, and Earth 2 will feature the Justice Society as they collide “with other worlds.” It sounds like DC is opening the door to recreating the multiverse that existed before Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The Ravagers is a Superboy and Teen Titans spinoff which will also incorporate elements from Legion Lost.

G.I. Combat will feature “The War that Time Forgot” by writer J.T. Krul and artist Ariel Olivetti, “The Unknown Soldier” by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with artist Dan Panosian, and “The Haunted Tank” by writer John Arcudi and artist Scott Kolins. No mention if Sgt. Rock from Men of War will have a place in the new book, but it sounds like they are going to emphasize more fantastic war stories than the straight-up stories in Men of War.

The title I’m most excited about is Dial H. China Miéville is one of my favorite science fiction writers, with an amazing imagination and literate sensibility. He is a huge DC fan, and I can imagine that he will be able to produce something very special. Another positive note is that the editor on this book will be Karen Berger, Vertigo’s senior vice president and executive editor. This book should nicely complement Animal Man and Swamp Thing. If anything can get me to buy monthly comics again, this will be it.

DC did not announce the page count or pricing on the new books, although it’s certain that G.I. Combat will be an oversized, $3.99 title.

The City & the City

The City & the CityThe City & the City by China Miéville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The City is Besźel. The City is Ul Qoma. Both somewhere along the European/Asian border. Besźel is old-world and rundown; Ul Qoma is modern and wealthy. The science-fictional relationship the two cities share, and what they don’t, is at the heart of China Miéville’s The City & The City. Layered over this foundation is a police procedural that pays homage to Raymond Chandler. To say more would ruin the pleasure of discovery. Stop reading here if you don’t want the secret to be spoiled. Suffice to say that The City & The City is a top-notch novel that will appeal to both science fiction and mystery fans.

A young woman is found murdered in Besźel. The evidence indicates that she was killed in Ul Qoma and then moved. Detective Tyador Borlú of the Besźel Extreme Crime Division is assigned to the case, along with beat cop Lizbyet Corwi. The investigation eventually takes Borlú to to Ul Qoma where he teams with detective Qussim Dhatt. All is not as it seems, and as clues are uncovered this becomes a dangerous political case.

With a concept that would be at home in a Philip K. Dick story, the two cities inhabit the same physical space. The citizens of Besźel and Ul Qoma walk the same sidewalks and drive the same (although differently named) streets. Custom and law dictate that residents of each city “unsee” the other. If one “sees” something in the other city, he is committing the crime of breach. To ensure compliance, a mysterious, all powerful authority known as Breach exercises immediate and complete enforcement in both cities. Thus, everyday interactions, such as avoiding cars and pedestrians in the other city, become second nature by adulthood. Travel and trade to and from the cities are allowed, but only at highly regulated checkpoints.

How the cities split apart is not explained, having been lost to the sands of 2000 years of time. The only clues are artifacts buried in an archeological dig in Ul Qoma—a site that the murdered woman was researching. Conspiracies abound around those who would unify the two cities and those who would forever keep them apart. Certainly, one of the unresolved issues is why the taboo of crossing illegally is so severely enforced.

Miéville shapes his writing style to reflect the place he is describing. The early chapters in Besźel are somewhat broken and unclear, but as the story progresses toward Ul Qoma the prose evolves to a smoother, more confident tone. Miéville does this so unobtrusively that only on reflection does one realize what he is doing. Miéville brings the urban settings of the book to life, and the reader will be rewarded for having the patience to see the mysteries unraveled.

The City & The City is ultimately a metaphor for how we “unsee” the unpleasant aspects of our lives, be it a homeless beggar, a public argument, other people in an elevator, or any kind of awkward situation. Let us hope that Miéville will further explore this fascinating duality.

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