psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
The Campbell Award for Best New Writer goes to a person rather than a work - I sometimes think of it as the "if only one of them was going to get a book contract for their next book who would I give it to" award.

Sofia Samatar. I nominated her and she's still my number one pick. A Stranger in Olondria is beautiful and about big things and her stories are sharp and powerful and I want to read everything she writes.

Max Gladstone. Three Parts Dead had the best hook of anything I'd read in awhile and was tons of fun. Inventive world, vivid action, great characters, and the writing craft was really strong not so much in the "beautiful sentences" way but in the architecture of it, or the "screenwriting" or something. I mean very satisfying handling of how various elements were introduced and developed. My second pick, and I'd like to recommend this book to fantasy readers and maybe also people who like courtroom dramas.

Wesley Chu. I feel like I recall someone - [ profile] crystalpyramid? - read Lives of Tao and liked it, but... I didn't. I mean, I really didn't, to the extent that after about six chapters I started flipping around and skimming bits because I was bored. I wasn't interested in the premise (aliens have been possessing famous people throughout history to influence human progress; one accidentally ends up in an IT worker who has a few months to shape up into a Bond-type agent), I didn't care about the characters, and the narrative POV felt fatphobic and dude-centric (as in, "women are viewed through the male gaze").

Ramez Naam. It was a little weird to be reading Nexus about the powerful dangerous drug/cybertech Nexus 5 at the same time as Josh was shopping for his Nexus 5 phone. Like naming your rocketship "Prius" or something. I am really interested in the big topics of this book - the early days of the adoption of transhuman technology, the conflict between humans and posthumans - but I just wasn't interested in the page-to-page plot which had a lot of fighting and blackmail and... thriller stuff. Reading this book reminded me a lot of reading Afterparty with the same issues of "why are we focusing on this less-interesting part of these affairs" (and even a few of the same characters like the magical ethereal little girl exposed to the nanotech in utero - is Alia from Dune the type character for this trope?). A lot of the writing felt clunky and heavy-handed and Naam made some missteps (in my eye) - when he first introduces one of the main characters, I thought we were meeting the villain - we see him at a party using the drug/tech in a really skeevy manner that leads to him losing control and committing what I read as sexual assault - but then we see him again from someone else's point of view and he's supposed to be so brilliant and beautiful and sensitive and shy and I guess maybe the party scene was meant by Naam to be more like sympathetically embarrassing than gross? Ew. And yet, I might read the next one, just to skim for the bits about what's going on more generally in the world.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew's stories have some neat images and ideas but tend to leave me a little cold. I did like "Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade" more when I reread it than when I read it the first time, and also found it easier to follow (I have to confess that I generally enjoy breezier, faster prose, Sriduangkaew can be a little too ornate or formal for my taste). But I do feel like she's working on interesting stuff, and I would happily put her on a list of "new authors to watch".
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)

Wakulla Springs, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages. I nominated this and it's still my #1 pick. Vivid and slow and rich. Some amazing description.

The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells. So I have to admit, when I opened the file and saw on the cover that this was a tie-in work for a game called "Warmachine", my first thought was, really? franchise fic for the Hugo?. And then I thought, wait a minute. I've read plenty of fanfiction that's as gorgeous and hits as hard as anything original. One of my favorite movies is based on a theme park ride. I recently enjoyed another movie based on a plastic building toy. So what if the main character here is also a mass-produced inch-and-a-half-tall paintable metal figurine, this could still be a great story about him! I mean, it wasn't - it was tedious and pointless and an embarrassment to the Hugo ballot. But it was unfair to assume that just from the game logo.

Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente. I liked this a lot. Weird ending, but some fantastic language and detail along the way. My #2.

"Equoid", Charles Stross. I really liked the take on unicorns (the horn is a parasitic/symbiotic cone snail), could have done without the tentacle-rape. (Very strongly played for horror, not, uh, the sort of thing Astolat might write.) I'm not all that into the Laundry universe in general - I've read other stories on Tor but haven't wanted to seek out the novels. Still don't. But such clever unicorns!

“The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen. Unlike the rest of the nominees from the Correia Ballot so far, this story actually felt like it was nominated by people with whom I could have a conversation about science fiction. Like, we might have different tastes, but some shared interests too. After that awful novelette, I was braced for another one like that but longer, but I actually enjoyed reading this (the survival story, the moment when the queen flies). Torgersen's aliens are recognizably in dialogue with Vinge's skroderiders and Card's Buggers, not with anything terribly interesting to say, but at least he's riffing on good stuff. There is some profound stupidity about technology here - shoes are great, but nobody using a powerchair can ever know God - as well as a moral ontology I would find repugnant if it were real (I do not want any part of a favorites-playing God who intervenes to save humans after letting other sentient peoples be exterminated, thank you) - but those were not "how could this possibly even be on the ballot" level problems to me.


psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (Default)

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