Friday, August 26, 2011

Reno Worldcon photos

More photos from Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Reno, Nevada, August 17-21, 2011.

Tim Powers
Guest of Honor Speech
Liza Groen Trombi and Gary K. Wolfe
on "The Best Reviews and Reviewers of 2010" Day One.

Atlantis Casino Resort
Sunset over the convention center (lower left)
at the end of Day One, view from the Atlantis.
Howard V. Hendrix and Louise Marley
on "Far Future SF, Then and Now" Day Two.
Poster proclaiming Atlantis
the official party hotel.
Connections in fan history, Hall 2,
with Dave Kyle (red jacket).
Gardner Dozois and Pat Cadigan
on "Science Fiction in the Seventies" Day Three.

Robert Silverberg
signing books in Hall 2.
Jo Walton
reading from "Among Others" on Day Three.
Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis
on "Three Conversations about Charles N. Brown"

An inexpensive nearby alternative
to smokey casino restaurants, open until 3:30 a.m.

Kathleen Ann Goonan
reading from "This Shared Dream" on Day Four
Ian McDonald
signing autographs in Hall 2 on Day Four 

Saladin Ahmed and Lev Grossman
on "Meet the Campbell Award Nominees."
Seanan McGuire, moderator and last year's winner,
with Lauren Beukes,
on "Meet the Campbell Award Nominees."
Saladin Ahmed
on "Meet the Campbell Award Nominees."
Lauren Beukes and Sloth
on "Meet the Campbell Award Nominees."
Larry Correia
on "Meet the Campbell Award Nominees."
Dan Wells
on "Meet the Campbell Award Nominees."
Eileen Gunn and Jo Walton
on "Ursula K. Le Guin at 80"
Kim Stanley Robinson
on "Ursula K. Le Guin at 80"
Jo Walton and Kim Stanley Robinson
on "Ursula K. Le Guin at 80"
Michael Swanwick
reading on Day Five
Michael Swanwick holding the artwork
he used as inpiration for his short story.
George R.R. Martin
sitting on the Iron Throne on Day Five.
George R.R. Martin
signing books on Day Five.
Click on an image to enlarge it. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 Hugo Awards ceremony photos

A selection of my photos from the 2011 Hugo Awards ceremony held at the Peppermill Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada, on August 20. Congratulations to the recipients and the nominees.
Connie Willis,
Best Novel
"Blackout/All Clear"
Presenter Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, and
Sheila Williams, Best Editor, Short Form.
Allen M. Steele,
Best Novelette
"The Emperor of Mars"
Mary Robinette Kowal,
Best Short Story
"For Want of a Nail"
Clarkesworld, Best SemiProzine,
Neil Clarke, Kate Baker, Sean Wallace,
and (not pictured) Cheryl Morgan
The Drink Tank, Best Fanzine,
Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon
Christopher J Garcia
Claire Brialey,
Best Fan Writer
Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O'Shea
Best Related Work,
"Chicks Dig Time Lords"
Lev Grossman,
John W. Campbell Award
for Best New Writer
Marina Gelineau, stained-glass artist,
designer of the 2011 Hugo Award trophy base.
Marina Gelineau's 2011 Hugo Award trophy base,
each unique and made of five layers of decorated glass
fused together in a kiln.
Lou Anders,
Best Editor, Long Form
Presenter Dave Kyle with Gay Haldeman,
recipient of the Forrest J Ackerman
Big Heart Award
Phil and Kaja Foglio, and Cheyenne Wright,
Best Graphic Story
Presenters Betsy Tinney, Alexander James Adams,
S.J. Tucker, who together comprise Tricky Pixie.
Jay Lake, along with Ken Scholes (not pictured),
served as master of ceremonies.
Sharon Sbarsky, Hugo Awards ceremony organizer,
and presenter George R.R. Martin.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Related link:
Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention

Sunday, August 21, 2011

2011 Hugo Award winners announced

The 2011 Hugo Awards ceremony was held last night in Reno, Nevada, and while the results were often predictable, some wonderful and creative work was recognized.

BEST NOVEL Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Spectra)
BEST NOVELLA "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
BEST NOVELETTE "The Emperor of Mars" by Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s 6/10)
BEST SHORT STORY "For Want of a Nail" by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s 12/10)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION – LONG FORM Inception written and directed by Christopher Nolan

I would single out "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" as the highlight of the fiction winners for me. It was an exceptional story from the novella category, which was loaded with first-rate work this year. For those who doubt that the outcome was fairly predictable, please see the blog post here from three weeks ago: Handicapping the 2011 Hugo Awards. I'll try not to pat myself on the back too much.

The Masters of Ceremony, Jay Lake and Ken Scholes, were amusing throughout, although their comic timing was diminished by their constant glancing at the podium to read their next line. The emotional highlight of the evening was Christopher J Garcia receiving the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, during which he collapsed and sat on stage, cradling the trophy like a baby. The smoothest and most effortlessly hilarious awards presenter was long-time writer and frequent Hugo Awards host Robert Silverberg, who provoked swells of laughter by stalling for time and teasing Connie Willis, whose category was yet to come.

Related links:
Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention

Saturday, August 13, 2011

NPR's Top 100 SF and Fantasy Novels

Over 60,000 votes were tallied in NPR's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey, a popular vote open to anyone with an internet connection. As a popular vote, it correlates closely with book sales figures and with adaptation across multiple media. What it does not correlate with, sadly, is quality or diversity.

NPR revealed some of the actual counts: Number 1, The Lord of the Rings, 29,701 votes; Number 2, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 20,069 votes; Number 3, Ender's Game, 16,141 votes. Pulling up the rear, Number 100, C.S. Lewis' Space trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength), 1,452 votes.

NPR’s Top 10
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Inevitably, this tops the list. They got the title wrong -- it is not a “Trilogy,” rather a single novel split over three volumes for convenience. It is, I believe, a worthy title, although some would disagree. In terms of influence, it’s hard to argue with Tolkien's prominence in modern fantasy. It's easy to criticize, for relegating women to small token roles, when they are mentioned at all, for a big bad guy who is a nonentity, and for an uncomplicatedly binary view of good and evil.

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This began its existence as a BBC radio play and the novel version doesn’t outgrow that episodic comedy format. I prefer Adams’ Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, which is better written and more satisfying as an actual novel.

3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The NPR folks expressly stated that Young Adult novels would be excluded (they specifically cite exclusion of Rowling, Pullman, Lewis’ Narnia, and Le Guin’s Earthsea), yet this is clearly a YA novel. Very popular; not very good. After you’ve read a few of Card’s novels about children, all of whom have either super intelligence or super powers, they become tiresome. To quote Ben Peek: “I mean, seriously, half the books on this list are just old peoples YA books. But such is the way such lists work.”

4. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert
I’m guessing this title refers to the six Dune books that Frank Herbert wrote, although I think it’s likely that calling it The Dune Chronicles is a posthumous construction. Herbert said he originally conceived of the books as a trilogy. I’ve read the first three and they vary widely in quality. The disappointing third book was enough to discourage me from reading further. This is a case where they should have listed the first book, Dune, and left off the series. Even it were just the first book, it probably wouldn’t make my top ten list.

5. A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin
Like The Lord of the Rings, this is a long novel published in serial form, rather than a series of related novels. I think the books are quite good so far, if overly long. Still, this is the first title where I was glad I wasn’t drinking a refreshing beverage when I read the list or I would have spit all over my keyboard. This is an unfinished series. No-one can vote for a series that isn’t finished yet, can they? It’s like reading part of a book and then voting for it as the best book you’ve ever read. Seriously?

6. 1984 by George Orwell
No argument with this choice.

7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This is the first title on the list that I haven’t read. I’ve seen the movie (see above, the advantages of novels adapted across multiple media), which was pretty good. I like a lot of Bradbury’s work, especially The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Is this one better? I don’t know.

8. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
This one hasn’t aged well and the quality diminishes as the series continues.

9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Another solid choice.

10. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I didn’t get along with this novel when I read it the year it came out. It’s too episodic and doesn’t cohere enough to become a novel. It’s being made into a television series for HBO.

To sum up, three of these titles (Tolkien, Orwell, and Huxley) are strong, all the rest are weak or have significant problems, with one abstention for the Bradbury. Not a very good start and the rest of the NPR Top 100 list have similar problems. Notice the lack of women authors, or cultural or racial diversity.

Again, to quote Ben Peek: “I must say, I hate a lot of the books on this list. A Canticle for Leibowitz is at the top, a book that has always surprised me by its venerated status in the field, and one that I think is simply awful. William Gibson's Neuromancer was likewise a book I thought terribly written (though I loved Pattern Recognition, which Gibson wrote years later). And, outside the books I hated, there's some embarrassing inclusions: Salvatore's Drizzt series, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga, Terry Brooks' Shannara trilogy, Raymond Fiest's Riftwar Saga. Weird choices. I read those things when I was a kid, but even the memory doesn't love them that much. It's also, lets be fair, a white list, pretty male, and divided between the British and the Americans. But, that probably reflects more of the people who voted than anything else.”

I disagree with Peek on one point: I liked A Canticle for Leibowitz (Number 35 on the NPR list) quite a bit when I read it as a teenager. Otherwise, I would echo his points.

Gary K. Wolfe, on the shortage of women authors on the list: "It surprises me a bit that you have to get down to Number 20 (Frankenstein) before you come to the first work by a woman, or that there are only 5 women authors in the top 50. I wonder if that might be a reflection of who voted in the poll."

Ursula K. Le Guin would make my Top Ten list (Number 45 and 78 on the NPR list). As would Joanna Russ (nowhere on the NPR list). Just a few of the women authors that would appear on my Top 100 list: Gwyneth Jones, Karen Joy Fowler, Eleanor Arnason, Octavia Butler, Nicola Griffith, Kate Wilhelm, Mary Gentle, Maureen F. McHugh, R.A. MacAvoy, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Angela Carter, Justina Robson, Nalo Hopkinson, and Lisa Goldstein. All ignored by the NPR list.

 The voters had their international blinders on: Stanislaw Lem, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Angelica Gorodischer, Jose Saramago, and Haruki Murakami. All ignored by the NPR list. I think Jules Verne is the only author on the list who is neither British nor American.

Some of the great British authors of science fiction: J.G. Ballard, Brian Aldiss, and M. John Harrison. All ignored. American authors Samuel R. Delany, Alfred Bester, Edgar Pangborn, Jack Vance, and Clifford Simak. You get the idea.

The issue of series fiction is badly mishandled throughout this list. It appears random whether a single book in a series is chosen, or an entire series. Or, in the case of Martin, Jordan, Rothfuss, and Sanderson, an unfinished series. The Brandon Sanderson (Number 71 on the NPR list) is the first of a projected 10-volume series of which only the first book has been published. Surely, this is madness? And, don’t get me started on the absurdity of voting for an unfinished series (The Wheel of Time, Number 12 on the NPR list) that was started by one author, Robert Jordan, now deceased, and is being finished by another author, Sanderson. My hat is off to Adam Roberts who has immersed himself in the “stupefyingly bad” Wheel of Time so that the rest of us will be spared.

Related links:
NPR Top 100 SF and Fantasy novels survey
Ben Peek: Magicland and Magic Books
Glen Weldon: NPR's Top 100 SF and Fantasy, parsing the results 
(includes Gary K. Wolfe quotes)

Edited to add:
I keep thinking of more major authors who were left off the list: John Crowley, Ian McDonald, Guy Gavriel Kay, and I could go on and on. Or, top authors who don't appear until nearly the end of the list: Gene Wolfe at Number 87, Kim Stanley Robinson at Number 95, and China Mieville at Number 98. Or authors represented by work that is far from their best. For instance: Roger Zelazny's only title on the list is the Amber series. Popular? Yes. His best work? Nowhere near it. Based on the results, this list was voted on mostly by 13-year-old white males in the U.S. with little knowledge of the depth and breadth of the genre.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Renovation iPhone, iPad app updated

The updated Renovation app, version 1.4, for iPhone and iPad is now available. To get it, go to the App Store, select Updates and install. This version appears to solve the bugs that I noted in the previous post.

As you choose each day of the schedule the app automatically updates the listing. For instance, the "Game of Thrones: George R.R. Martin" event is now updated with the change to 11 a.m. Saturday. If you had already added the old version of the event to your favorites list, called "My Program," the out-of-date item is still there and must be deleted before you can add the new, corrected item to your favorites list. All of the schedule changes are conveniently listed under "Changes."

This brings Apple mobile devices up to date with Android devices, which already had the updated software. Many thanks to Renovation and Viafo for continued improvements to this useful tool for convention attendees.

Related link:
Hugo voters increase and iPhone app

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hugo voters increase and iPhone app

A record number of voters participated in this year’s final Hugo ballot, a total of 2100 voters from 33 countries. As I noted in a post a few days ago, participation in the final ballot was just over 1000 the two previous years. Both the increased numbers and the international involvement are encouraging developments. Kudos to the Renovation organization for creating an excellent Hugo voters packet and for their marketing efforts as well.

We’re looking forward to going to Renovation, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, to begin in just over a week in Reno, Nevada. We will have five members of the immediate and extended SF Strangelove family on board for the long drive from Southern California.

The convention program is available in a variety of formats:
Introduction and facilities grid
A searchable database
PDF format

For the first time there are versions of the program for mobile devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android. I’ve used it on an iPhone 3GS and an iPad 2 and it is definitely handy. To obtain the free app, go the the App Store, search for "Renovation" and download. The app allows searching the program by day or by participant. It also incorporates Twitter. The best feature is “My Program,” a custom list of favorite program items that you create. Select a program item by touching the “plus” symbol in the upper right corner and that item is added to your favorites list.

The added screen real estate for the iPad is wonderful, especially for viewing maps of the facilities. The trade-off is the handy size and portability of a phone.

After spending some time using the iPhone 3GS and switching from vertical to horizontal format several times the graphics freaked out and made the visuals and navigation difficult to use. The solution was to restart the phone. After restarting I was able to add duplicate copies of the same program item to “My Program.” It was easy to undo by touching the “X” symbol in the upper right corner.

Congratulations to Renovation and Viafo for creating this convenient tool for working with the convention program.

Related links:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Celebrating authors in Sydney

A city that celebrates writers easily wins my affection. After Aussiecon 4 in Melbourne, almost a year ago now, we spent a few days playing tourist in Sydney and we discovered the Writers' Walk at Circular Quay.

 Click on an image to enlarge it.