Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 Hugo Award winners

The 2014 Hugo Awards were presented tonight (17 August 2014) at the ExCel Center in London during LonCon3, the World Science Fiction Convention. Click photos to enlarge.

Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie 

Best Novella: "Equoid" by Charles Stross 

Best Novelette: "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal

 Best Short Story: "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu

Best Editor - Long Form: Ginjer Buchanan 

Best Fanzine: A Dribble of Ink by Aidan Moher

Best Editor - Short Form: Ellen Datlow 

Best Graphic Story: "Time" by Randall Munroe (not present).
Cory Doctorow (above) accepted the award for Munroe.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were present to accept their Hugo Award (Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form: Game of Thrones, "The Rains of Castamere"). They both left before the photo session. No other award winners were actually present to accept their awards.

Related links:
For a complete list of 2014 Hugo Award winners, follow here.
For all the voting statistics, follow here for the PDF.
(Note: In the nominating stats, on page 19 of the PDF, I see that Neil Gaiman withdrew his novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It was the second most nominated novel.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bletchley Park tour

We've been touring a number of sights in England as part of our vacation leading up to Loncon3, the world science fiction convention, which starts tomorrow. One sight I'll highlight here: Bletchley Park, the location of significant codebreaking during World War Two, and one of the first uses of an early electromechanical computer known as the "bombe." Click to enlarge.


The inner workings of a "bombe."

"Bombe" exterior.

Sculpture of Alan Turing, iconic mathematician and computer scientist.

One of several German "Enigma" devices on display.


Some of the new displays in Huts 3 and 6.


Manor house displays.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

2014 Hugo Award voting

The following is a discussion of my ballot for the 2014 Hugo Awards, for work published in 2013.

The fiction categories of the Hugo Awards' shortlist offer a study in contrasts, particularly in quality and, shall we say, lack of quality. This is part and parcel of popular-vote awards. I could go on about the "sad puppy" ballot campaign, which has been discussed exhaustively elsewhere, yet the phenomenon is neither new nor interesting. Ballot campaigns are a fairly reliable indicator of lack of quality. Worthy fiction doesn't need a ballot campaign. All it needs is a readership informed with a breadth and depth of reading and an engagement in the discussion of what makes fiction exceptional.

Novel:
1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The clear choice for me was Ancillary Justice, a heady mixture of gender issues, artificial intelligence, and a ruthless interstellar empire. It doesn't all blend perfectly and the pacing is a little off, nevertheless this is an exceptional first novel and I look forward to reading more by Leckie.

My next choice for novel likely would have been Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross. I've read several books by Stross and enjoyed them. Unfortunately, somewhere amid his prolific output I stopped trying to keep up. This one went unread.

Next comes "No Award," meaning I'd rather they skipped the award than give it to one of the following three nominees. I've written before about my adverse reaction to a Mira Grant novel. I won't belabor the point here. I've read enough of Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia, to determine that it is poorly written action-adventure with atrocious dialog. In a former career I was paid to read terrible prose and make it better. I don't see anyone offering to pay me to read this. Finally, there is the entire Wheel of Time series, started by Robert Jordan and finished by Brandon Sanderson, which only appears on the shortlist due to a misguided decision about serial works being eligible as a whole in the year of completion. My understanding is that the rule had to do with novels serialized in magazines that would sometimes run from the December issue of one year to the January issue of the next year. It was not intended for multi-volume series published across decades. Yet, here it is on the ballot. I've read enough that it is apparent that it is a poorly written variation on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It may be popular, alas, that doesn't mean it's worth reading.

Novella:
1. "Wakulla Springs" by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (read it here)
2. "Six-Gun Snow White" by Catherynne M. Valente

"Wakulla Springs" is a brilliantly written story of people and events at a resort in Florida in the 1940s and '50s, with wonderful descriptions of nature and great characters. It's the best novella, even though it doesn't have much to offer in the way of science fiction or fantasy. "Six-Gun Snow White" is a sophisticated blend of European folk tales and American folk tales about the Wild West, which works both as a linear narrative and a meta-fictional text. I'm sure some readers will object that the prose is over-written and calls too much attention to itself. I found the prose to be lush and beautiful and immersive. My objection is that I wanted more. Some of the events and characters were only briefly sketched and I would have liked a little deeper investigation of some aspects of the story.

My next choice for novella, like Stross' novel above, would probably be "Equoid" by Charles Stross, were it not for the fact that I haven't gotten around to reading it.

Then comes "No Award" followed by two weak novellas. "The Chaplain's Legacy" by Brad Torgersen had some interesting possibilities, hampered by pedestrian prose and cumbersome storytelling. "The Butcher of Khardov" by Dan Wells, had even less to offer.

Novelette:
1. "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" by Ted Chiang (read it here)
2. "The Waiting Stars" by Aliette de Bodard
3. "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal (read it here)
4. No award

Ted Chiang's novelette, it will come as no surprise, is excellent. It concerns language, and meaning, and cultural filters, providing the reader with a lot to chew on afterwards. "The Waiting Stars" is set in the same universe as her excellent novella "On a Red Station, Drifting," which was shortlisted for the Hugo Awards last year. "The Waiting Stars" considers issues of erasure of self and culture. "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" is the autumnal story of an astronaut late in her career.

After the first three stories comes "No Award" and two novelettes with poor prose and tedious stories.

Short story:
1. "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (read it here)
2. "Selkie Stories are for Losers" by Sofia Samatar (read it here)
3. "The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu (read it here)
4. "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky (read it here)

I should note that this is the only fiction category where I have not had to resort to "No Award." All of these short stories are award-worthy. My preference for "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" comes from its wry sense of humor. The title of "Selkie Stories are for Losers" changes meaning in the course of this touching story about coming to terms with loss. "The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere" is an emotionally powerful story about truth-telling and a gay man coming out to his family. "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" is a brief prose-poem about confronting vulnerability.

Before I leave the fiction categories, I'd like to mention some titles that I think the Hugo voters overlooked and could have filled the place of the three novels, two novellas, and two novelettes on the shortlist that I ranked below "No Award."

Overlooked novels:
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
Empty Space by M. John Harrison (U.S. edition, 2013)
The Land Across by Gene Wolfe

Overlooked short fiction:
"Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance" by Paul Park (novella, U.K. edition, 2013)
"Entangled" by Ian R. MacLeod (novelette)
"Effigy Nights" by Yoon Ha Lee (short story, read it here)

First place votes in other categories:
I voted for Saga, Vol. 2 in the Graphic Story category; Orphan Black in Dramatic Presentation (Short Form); Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer in Related Work; Coode Street in Fancast; and Sofia Samatar for the John W. Campbell New Writer Award.

A category that needs special mention is Fan Writer, which is especially strong this year. I consider the essays of Kameron Hurley, Abigail Nussbaum, and Liz Bourke to be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand science fiction, both as literature and as a community. I'm less familiar with Foz Meadows and Mark Oshiro, and I suspect I should rectify that.

Related links on this blog:
2013 Hugo Award voting
2012 Hugo Awards: Best Novel shortlist
2011 Hugo Awards: Novel shortlist
2010 Hugo Awards shortlist

Friday, July 11, 2014

Gardner Dozois papers will come to UC Riverside

Gardner Dozois' archive of personal papers will come to the University of California, Riverside, according to an announcement by the university librarian.

Dozois is an award-winning author and editor. He served as editor of Asimov's Science Ficton magazine for 19 years.

The archive is describes as "35 linear feet" of material, including correspondence with almost every notable author and editor in the science fiction community in the past 40 years. For more details about the archive, follow here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Locus 'Year in Review' for 2013

Locus magazine's "Year in Review" is now available. It features recommended reading lists and commentary from reviewers, editors, and professionals in the science fiction and fantasy community. Here is a brief sample:

Graham Sleight's half dozen favorite books of the year:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
What the Doctor Ordered by Michael Blumlein
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
The Land Across by Gene Wolfe

Russell Letson's top 11 novels:
Zero Point by Neal Asher
The Last President by John Barnes
Proxima by Stephen Baxter
Protector by C.J. Cherryh
Impulse by Steven Gould
Empty Space: A Haunting by M. John Harrison
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Evening's Empires by Paul McAuley
The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata
Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
On the Steel Breeze by Alastair Reynolds

As with previous years (Year in Review 2012 and 2011) my own preferences are closer to Sleight rather than Letson, whose list I find uneven. This year, for the first time in many years, there was no essay or best books list from Jonathan Strahan. I hope he will return next year.

For the complete 2013 Locus Recommended Reading List, follow here.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Mentioning a few recent things

Returning now after a long silence, here are some things I feel compelled to comment on.

Samuel R. Delany to be named SFWA Grand Master
Naming Delany a Grand Master will be a wonderful thing, and a long overdue honor for the author of one of the greatest bodies of work in the science fiction and fantasy genres. As with the previous year (naming Gene Wolfe Grand Master) my first thought is: Why wasn't Delany given this honor many years ago? Delany and Wolfe would both make my list of the top five authors in the genre in the past 50 years. Perhaps next time SFWA can add a woman's name to the predominantly male Grand Master list? (Here is the list.)

Neal Barrett, Jr. (1929-2014)
The under-appreciated and unique work of this author deserves continued attention. See especially the novels Through Darkest America (1987) and The Hereafter Gang (1991). For more information, follow this link to the SF Encyclopedia.

Sofia Samatar wins 2014 Crawford Award
This is an award for first fantasy novel. Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria (Small Beer Press, 2013) is an exceptional first novel and signals the arrival of a first-rate literary voice. This award is well-earned and the novel is highly recommended. (More about the award.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

More photos from LoneStarCon 3

Here are a few more of my photos from LoneStarCon 3, the 71st annual World Science fiction convention, held August 29 through September 2, 2013, in San Antonio, Texas.


Guest of Honor James Gunn, age 90, being interviewed by Kij Johnson at the Guest of Honor Interview, noon Sunday, September 1.


Catherynne M. Valente at her reading, 2 p.m. Friday, August 30.


Gardner Dozois at the "How to Sell to Ellen Datlow" panel 8 p.m. Friday, August 30.


Michael Swanwick at  the "How to Sell to Ellen Datlow" panel, phoning a missing panelist.


Special Guest Leslie Fish performing at her Special Guest Concert, 7 p.m. Thursday, August 29.


The convention hotels, Marriott Riverwalk and Marriott Rivercenter, viewed from the convention center.


Large mosaic at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.



Evening and night views from the balcony of our hotel room at the Marriott Riverwalk. The San Antonio River is center bottom of both photos.

Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 Hugo Award Winners


The 2013 Hugo Awards were presented last night, September 1, at the Marriott Rivercenter in San Antonio, Texas, during LoneStarCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention. Photos can be enlarged by clicking.


The three fiction winners: John Scalzi (novel), Pat Cadigan (novelette), and Brandon Sanderson (novella). The short story winner, Ken Liu, was not present.


Best dramatic presentation, short form, the "Blackwater" episode of Game of Thrones, Rory McCann (actor and bodyguard) and George R.R. Martin (screenplay). McCann plays The Hound in the Game of Thrones television series.


Best novelette, "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan.


Best Semiprozine, Clarkesworld: Kate Baker, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace, and Neil Clarke.


Best Fan Artist, Galen Dara.


The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Mur Lafferty (center), with presenters Jay Lake (left) and his daughter, Bronwyn (right).


Best Editor, long form, Patrick Nielsen Hayden.


Best professional artist, John Picacio.


Best novella, "The Emperor's Soul" by Brandon Sanderson. The second Hugo he is holding is for Best Related Work.


Best Novel, Redshirts by John Scalzi.


Best Editor, short form, Stanley Schmidt. He is also holding his Chairman's Special Award.


Best Fanzine, SF Signal: JP Frantz, John DeNardo, and Patrick Hester.


Best Fancast, SF Squeecast: Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente. Paul Cornell is not pictured.


Best Related Work, Writing Excuses, Season Seven: Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Brandon Sanderson.

Related link:
Complete list of 2013 Hugo Winners from Locus Online