psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
So I just finished League of Dragons, the final book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, and Carry On, Rainbow Rowell's version of the final book of a YA fantasy series she originally invented as a Harry Potter analogue for Fangirl, although this is not, in fact, the series as it existed in Fangirl, this is the book it actually is, a book in our world. Novik is still active in fandom and I'm a big fan of her fanwork (as well as prowork); I don't know who Rowell is but there is *no way* she wasn't in HP fandom and I would love to know who she was if someone ever wanted to slip me that secret under the table. I'm just really fascinated by the whole business of having that context, as a reader, although it also feels like a delicate subject, maybe partly because SRB has been vocal about disliking people talking about it in her case? But, argh, this is too interesting to be too taboo to talk about! Novik and Rowell are doing really different projects but are doomed to end up on the same syllabus when someone gets to teach a class on this stuff in 2035 or whatever; I suppose you could consider this a sketch of a paper for that class.

(If you just want to know if I'd rec them, without spoilers, then yes, both; the Temeraire series is fantasy alt-history done excellently, and I think Carry On would be interesting to anyone who ever thought much about Harry Potter. (I would love to know whether it makes any sense outside of that context, but who on earth is going to want to read it who doesn't know Harry Potter?))

Under the cut there are spoilers about shipping, for the very end of League of Dragons, and for earlier books in the Temeraire series, but I've tried to avoid other references to plot events in both books.

Read more... )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Lizard Radio, Pat Schmatz, co-won the 2015 Tiptree. So I'm a giant hypocrite: this book is totally a YA dystopia with Authorities with Secrets, a genre I usually claim to be quite sick of, and yet I loved it. Maybe it's not that I'm a hypocrite, maybe this one is really that unusually good? It's more character-driven, smaller in scope, more of the important drama is internal instead of societal. Also I'm a huge sucker for a nonbinary protagonist, and while the book's world is sfnal in how it deals with gender, the nbness felt like real-world nbness in that sfnal setting, which I liked. It was just really good teen-coming-of-age-in-conflict-with-their-society, plus some neatly-handled worldbuilding of being very concrete and specific in its details (a lot of fun invented slang) and entirely blank on anything it doesn't actually *need* to mention, so, we get this very narrow intriguing glimpse of this world, without anything like a backstory dump.

You-might-like-it-if: The Giver, the Stranger/Hostage series? Uglies? I almost want to say Clockwork Orange, although it's been a million years since I reread that, and Lizard Radio has a super likeable protagonist so it's not a great parallel? Oh, that brilliant Samatar story, "How to Get Back to the Forest", I thought about that a lot.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
This is possibly the easiest to read of Patrick Ness's novels - which, given that his other books are the Chaos Walking series, which remain some of the most difficult and upsetting books I've ever read (but, I mean, are phenomenal and important in what they're grappling with) and A Monster Calls which waaaaah and More Than This which, like, several content warnings there, so, yeah, Ness, not to be picked up lightly. The Rest Of Us Just Live Here has its share of hard stuff but, I don't know, still manages to be very funny and relatable, and that's part of the point?

The premise here is that this is a book about some of the "normal" kids at a high school that periodically faces supernatural problems (gods, vampires, etc) that the "indie kids" have to dramatically deal with. So, the "normal" kids have all kinds of, like, real, human interpersonal stuff going on, against the background of the latest supernatural threat. Ness keeps a lot of different threads going, any one of which could probably have been An Issue Book in the hands of a lesser writer, but all together, it makes a bigger point about everybody having stuff going on, and there's some beautiful moments here about pity vs caring, and loving your friends, and, inevitably, I cried, but not in the Monster Calls way. More like the Team Human way, and that is my #1 if-you-liked recommendation for this, it feels a lot like Team Human in its genre meta and emotional beats. Also, more generally, Buffy, maybe Karen Healey's The Shattering.

I'm going to put some non-specific spoilers behind a cut, first a character thing I really liked, and then some content-warning-ish stuff. Read more... )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Volume Two of the adventures of Kamala Khan. I didn't read this in time to nominate it for a Graphic Hugo, but I would have; the message is pretty heavy-handed, but I don't mind that, in my superhero comics, and Kamala is just such a great character. I love seeing her use her powers, I love seeing her navigate the two-identity life, her team-up with Wolverine is fantastic, and I appreciate that the art stays away from T&A and gore, since my kids have demonstrated that they will pick up and look through any comic I bring home, and I'd rather they not get used to superboobs and bloody violence just yet.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Sometimes I read something and think "wow, this author is totally One Of Us." I would be pretty surprised to learn that Becky Chambers *doesn't* have an AO3 account (or at least used to, I know weird things happen in the mysterious process of Going Pro). The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is her first novel and it is fast and delightful and totally written by someone who loved Firefly and probably at least two of Star Trek, Babylon 5, and Farscape. Found family, alien races politely (or sometimes less politely) trying to get along, a couple of ethical dilemmas, some episodic action - I hope it becomes a series of books, it's not unresolved at all but I very much feel right now that I just watched the first season of something, fell in love with all the characters, and want to see what they'll get thrown at them next season.

Oh, and interspecies space lesbian sex friends, if you weren't sold already. :)
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I had trouble getting into this one at first - I read the first 25 pages weeks ago and then let it sit on my floor, unenthused about spending an entire book with either of the first two viewpoint characters. I eventually ran out of library renewals, though, so I gave it another try, pushed myself through the next 40 pages, and then devoured the remaining 500 as fast as I could find time to read. It really, really picked up for me once we met more of the characters, found out more about what was going on, and saw some of the bigger-picture conflicts that will presumably drive the rest of the series (I am very eagerly awaiting book two in September). Recommended, and I hope we see it as a Yuletide fandom, I want fic.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Two weeks until nominations close! I have actually gone and filled out my ballot, although I'm still investigating works in some categories. This is my ballot so far. (People who think it's tacky to share your nominations before the ballot closes shouldn't click on the cut link here.)

Read more... )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
!!! I have so many thoughts and I'm not sure what I actually want to write down? What I really want is to sit in someone's living room with four or five other people who have read these and argue for hours like college students again. Book club at alum weekend? There's such a fascinating kind of nostalgia here - the nostalgia for that intellectualism - I was not so into the SFF nostalgia in Among Others but boy does Walton get me here. Wow, is this series interesting. The last one comes out at the end of June.

Augh, if I only Hugo-nominate one of Just City and Philosopher Kings, which one would I pick? PK made the Locus List, so might have more traction, but the central idea was fresher in JC. But PK has plenty going on, so, gah, hard call!
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I kind of want to write a long essay about Jo Walton's The Just City, but I don't have time, so let me just say for now that I couldn't put it down, it had some amazing moments, it's such an interesting thing to have written after My Real Children, and I have so much respect for Walton for tackling these books about the big (the biggest!) ideas. Maybe once I read the next one, Philosopher Kings, which I plan to do the second I can, I can write a proper thing about them both?

One quick spoilery note - this book is very intense in certain ways, some people might prefer to be warned for:
Read more... )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I forgot I had separate notes from awhile ago on some artists.

PRO?
Peter Mohrbacher (website)
James R Eads (website)
Stephanie Law (website)
Scott Brundage (website)

FAN?
Marissa Garner (Etsy shop, which I think I read somewhere is classified as "fan" work)
Ptolemy Elrington
(Facebook page - can't tell which works are 2015 though)
Sena Runa (Facebook page)
Silvia Cordedda (DeviantArt page)

(Btw, a note regarding previous post: Apex and Lightspeed have turned this year into prozines rather than semipros, to clarify why I said "selling work to a semipro makes you a Fan Artist" and then linked to some Lightspeed and Apex work under Pros.)
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
So it turns out I've been wrong all this time about what makes someone a Pro Artist or a Fan Artist - I thought selling work to a semiprozine made you a Pro Artist (in the way that if a writer sells a story to a semipro it's a professional sale), but actually it makes you a Fan Artist, and to know whether an art work was Professional you have to know whether someone who was part of whatever published it earned at least a quarter of their yearly income from SFF publishing. (I have no idea if that has to be a *living* income or if someone non-self-supporting could have a micropress as their only line of work, make a tiny amount of money from it, and commission Pro art?) Basically the whole thing makes no fucking sense, especially since, just to further confuse things, someone can be eligible in both categories, for different works, but you're not supposed to consider the Fan works thinking about them as a Pro or the other way around, but it's still not a work award, it's a person award. (There's more about this here as well as a proposal to fix it. I could also imagine redoing it as, like, Best Cover (which would honor striking design as well as nifty SFF art), Best Non-Cover Sold Work, and Best Personal Work, or something, I don't know.) It's extra frustrating given that Fan Artist is a relatively undernominated category where a nomination can really make a difference, if only it was easier to be sure one was doing it right!

Anyways, here in the existing flawed system, here are some links for places to look at art:

Rocketstackrank collection of Pro Artists
Rocketstackrank collection of Fan Artists
Hugo Recommendation blog tag for Pro Artists
Hugo Recommendation blog tag for Fan Artists
A tumblr of 2015-specific Hugo Eligible Art

Here are some Professional Artists (most of my favorites I chose from having encountered their art "in the wild" and not just on recs blogs)

Craig Shields (I like this one cover but not the rest of his recent stuff)
Cynthia Sheppard (website)
Ellen Barkin (Instagram - on the Pro list but the work I like might not be pro work? These categories are so fucking complicated, I don't even know.)
Goni Montes (some works here)
John Brosio (Lightspeed showcase)
Jonathan Bartlett (website)
Joshua Hutchinson (Apex cover, website)
Julie Dillon (everyone already knows about Julie Dillon but isn't that last cover at the bottom right here the prettiest damn thing?)
Li Shuxing (a cover here)
Liu Junwei Clarkesworld cover.
Tran Nguyen (an illo here)
Victo Ngai (website)
Victor Mosquera (website)
Wylie Beckert (Lightspeed showcase)
Galen Dara - (some pro work here)
Cory Godbey (website)
Sana Takeda (website)
Jian Guo (DeviantArt), another one eligible for both Pro and Fan and aaaaargh

And here are some Fan Artists

Autun Purser (website)
Feliks Grzesiczek (DeviantArt gallery)
Jonathan Apilado (website)
Julie Dillon (Eels! Is she simultaneously a Pro and a Fan? Who can say?)
Rachel Kahn (website)
Sam Burley (a cover here)
Takeshi Oga (a cover here)
Tran Nguyen (another one in both the Fans and Pros?)
Tyler Edlin (a cover here)
Vlada Monakhova, (an illo here, website here)
Karen Hallion (Facebook photos here)
Iguanamouth/Lauren (website); they're the artist of Unusual Dragon Hoards
Mia Araujo (website)
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
OK, Apex's tagging is a bit haphazard, but they also don't publish many novelettes, so I'm just going to go ahead and rec the novelettes I have - two from GigaNotoSaurus, one from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and three from Clarkesworld.

The Body Corporate, Mark Pantoja in GigaNotoSaurus. An alien planet where the familiar might be more dangerous than the strange.

Drinking with the Elfin Knight, Ginger Weil in GigaNotoSaurus. Adolescence, with magic.

Grandmother-nai-Leylit's Cloth of Winds, Rose Lemberg in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Names and identities and choices and love.

So Much Cooking, Naomi Kritzer, in Clarkesworld. Posts from a food blog, and fears of bird flu. I loved this.

The Servant, Emily Devenport in Clarkesworld. Intrigue on a generation ship.

Morrigan in Shadow, Seth Dickinson in Clarkesworld. This is in the world of a story I liked last year, Morrigan in the Sunglare, space military SF about ethics and strategy. Damn, ka-wow, Big SF.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Short stories from Clarkesworld. Top recs in bold.

Last year, in addition to Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld, I also read short stories from Giganotosaurus, Tor.com, Daily SF, Apex, Subterranean, Crossed Genres, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. I think this year I'm going to skip the rest of them, or, rather, I already read through Giganotosaurus and Tor.com looking for novelettes, I may do the same with Apex (I think they tag, which is so useful) and call it a day.

Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight, Aliette de Bodard. She's just so good. This is another Dai Viet Empire story, a "normal life" story rather than a war story.

Cat Pictures Please, Naomi Kritzer. Benevolent AI tries out interventions.

Indelible, Gwendolyn Clare. Remembering a sister. Short but kicks.

Slowly Builds An Empire, Naim Kabir. Interesting story about a non-telepath in a telepathic future society.

Postcards From Monster Island, Emily Devenport. I really like fiction remixes in which a horror or terror is re-seen in a more humanistic/optimistic light. This is a take on giant monster movies.

For the Love of Sylvia City, Andrea M. Pawley. Benthans vs drylanders in this story about refugees, assimilation, and isolationism.

This Wanderer, in the Dark of the Year, Kris Millering. What if a crash-landed alien was recovered by terrorists?

Forestspirit, Forestspirit, Bogi Takács. AI vs neural network in a small battle.

When Your Child Strays From God, Sam J Miller. Great voice as this mom confronts her teen son's drug use.

In the Queue for the Worldship Munawwer, Sara Saab. Made me cry (I'm a huge sucker for this kind of thing.) Evacuating the Earth.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
My library loan ran out on Seth Dickinson's The Traitor Baru Cormorant and I don't think I'm going to re-queue for it, so, partial review. Really well-written but I realized after starting it that I remembered the short story it was based on (here) and nothing was going to end well and, look, I don't mean to say that people shouldn't write angry/frustrated/despairing books, there are lots of reasons to be angry/frustrated/despairing and to want to grapple with the harshness of the world in literature, but I am a simple little mind that enjoys feeling good feelings, I like my tragedy all beautiful and operatic, or, even better, I want hope and happy endings. I don't know, maybe I would have ended up loving it - the writing was really good - but in a world of limited time, I am just not enthused about reading a novel so I can get slammed with painfulness.

Binti

Mar. 2nd, 2016 09:54 pm
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Binti, Nnedi Okorafor, a Nebula-nominated novella published by Tor as part of their new novella line. I liked it! Nifty character background and detail around a classic "communication with previously-uncommunicatable-aliens" plot; there's some really solid, moving stuff about being changed by experiences, and what it means to be a stranger in a foreign land, made neatly concrete by some of the aforementioned character background. Also some good visuals and unexpected little moments - I could imagine the whole thing animated by Miyazaki, maybe, made me think of Nausicaa, or Laputa. Recommended!
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Updraft, by Fran Wilde, turned out to be too YA for my increasingly curmudgeonly tastes. Started out strong with a fascinating setting - people who live in skyscraper-like living bone towers, flying from tower to tower with manufactured wings, never seeing the ground - but the plot and characters ended up being aeriel Divergent, more or less. Which, hey, good for Wilde, that's a fine reading public to want to provide with more books they'll enjoy, but I'm not part of it and I found it unbearably tedious.

The thing is, if you introduce a highly-resource-limited world, whether that's a water-world or a desert-world or an air-world, I want to know *how the fuck it works*, like, how did people end up in that situation? How do they support the population size? Where are they getting these raw materials? I start reading something like Updraft, I want it to be The Martian, I want to know if they actually have enough dirt to grow all those peas and potatoes and fruit and how they haul it from level to level as they move up the towers. And they're all wearing spider-silk, if the spiders live on ambient insects, that helps, and they're supplementing their diet with hunted birds, and metal is a rare artifact of the past, and there's clearly been some clever thinking here! Maybe it all works! But I want the tour, I want to get to see the farms and the spider herds and enjoy the fantastic-ness of all this fantasy world. With less having my disbelief un-suspensioned every time someone casually chucks buckets of organic waste out the window, like, *really*, your carbon cycle doesn't need that back?

Instead of world-tourism we get an endless emotionally-incoherent Conspiracies-Family Secrets-and-Webs of Betrayal(TM) Plot, which kicks off when the Secretive Ruling Caste like totally unfairly keeps the main character from passing her driving test even though she like totally studied, which eventually leaves her no choice but to become one of them and aaagh I am so sick of one very special girl dismantling the ludicrous rigid traditions of her society with her special determination. Ok, that's unfair, I've loved that book before and I'll probably love it again, but this wasn't it. The writing was painfully repetitive and I felt like it was hammering me with its narrative keywords as opposed to, y'know, actually getting me to care about any of them. I will give it points for No Romance, that's rare in this genre and I imagine it took some guts for Wilde to stand by not stuffing one in.

I will rec a related short story by Wilde in the same world, Bent the Wing, Dark the Cloud, that doesn't show much of the world, but is much emotionally stronger.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho. Magic and manners in Regency England, where the main characters are transracial adoptees of color, and British Imperialism gets subverted. I've been looking forward to reading this, having been a big fan of her short fiction, and it was good! Pacing a little uneven and a nontrivial plothole, but some really great moments, clever details, awesome scenes, etc. I was somewhat surprised to learn it's the first of a trilogy because it felt very satisfying as a standalone, but I definitely look forward to seeing where she goes next. Recommended to fans of Sorcery & Cecelia, or maybe Temeraire, or anyone who likes Regency romance and fantasy. Would make a *phenomenal* miniseries: it's fairly episodic, there's a lot of great visual images, historical costumes + magic = yes. John Boyega as Zacharias, Naomi Scott as Prunella (ok, I didn't have a young South Asian actress in mind, I did some google research to come up with her), it would be sooooo good.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Nebula nominees! Bolding things I've read, starring things I already had my eye on to try to read. Please feel free to point out things on here that you think I would like. Alas, there aren't any categories where I've read enough of the nominees to try to make a prediction this year, but I'd love to hear other people's predictions if you have any!

Novel
Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu
Uprooted, Naomi Novik
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen
Updraft, Fran Wilde*

Novella
Wings of Sorrow and Bone, Beth Cato
“The Bone Swans of Amandale,” C.S.E. Cooney
“The New Mother,” Eugene Fischer
“The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn,” Usman T. Malik
Binti, Nnedi Okorafor*
“Waters of Versailles,” Kelly Robson

Novelette
“Rattlesnakes and Men,” Michael Bishop (Asimov’s 2/15)
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead,” Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed 2/15)
“Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds,” Rose Lemberg (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 6/11/15)
“The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society,” Henry Lien (Asimov’s 6/15)
“The Deepwater Bride,” Tamsyn Muir (F&SF 7-8/15)
“Our Lady of the Open Road,” Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s 6/15)

Short Story
“Madeleine,” Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed 6/15)
“Cat Pictures Please,” Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld 1/15)
“Damage,” David D. Levine (Tor.com 1/21/15)
“When Your Child Strays From God,” Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld 7/15)
“Today I Am Paul,” Martin L. Shoemaker (Clarkesworld 8/15)
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers,” Alyssa Wong (Nightmare 10/15)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Ex Machina*
Inside Out
Jessica Jones: AKA Smile
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Seriously Wicked, Tina Connolly
Court of Fives, Kate Elliott
Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge
Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace
Zeroboxer, Fonda Lee
Shadowshaper, Daniel José Older
Bone Gap, Laura Ruby*
Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
Updraft, Fran Wilde*
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Short stories from Lightspeed.

He Came From a Place of Openness and Truth, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. Odd little playing around with alien and YA tropes.

Things You Can Buy for a Penny, Will Kaufman. A neatly-built fairy tale.

The Way Home, Linda Nagata. Ye olde American-soldiers-through-a-portal fantasy, this one to a particularly hellacious world.

Quiet Town, Jason Gurley. You know, in 10 or 20 years this kind of thing might seem like nothing special at all, but right now, it's topical and I'm a sucker for it.

Time Bomb Time, C.C. Finlay. Very gimmicky but it's an amusing enough gimmick.

Goodnight Earth, Annie Bellet. Supersoldiers in a post apocalyptic future kind of deal.

Influence Isolated, Make Peace, John Chu. Had me at cyborg boyfriends, what can I say.

Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind, Erica L Satifka. This is 736 words long and almost made me cry. I didn't rec this on Twitter because the title is so long, but it's worthwhile.

Madeleine, Amal El-Mohtar. Memories, time travel, and girlfriends.

Given the Advantage of the Blade, Genevieve Valentine. Princess fights! But more than that!

And We Were Left Darkling, Sarah Pinsker. Dream children. Beautiful and shivery.

Ghosts of Home, Sam J. Miller. The foreclosure crisis personified, clever and sharp.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death, Caroline M. Yoachim. I feel like when I write tropey fanfic (universe-swapping, mysterious duplicates, shrinking, etc) my characters tend to be much more focused on solving the problem than in some other similar fic. I liked the problem-solving focus in this time-travel story.

The Light Brigade, Kameron Hurley. Starts like military SF, ends like something more.

Beacon 23: Little Noises, Hugh Howey. Ye olde fixing-shit-in-space story.

Not Hugo eligible (there are always a few reprints I can't resist reading):

Water Rights, An Owomoyela. Near-space human expansion sf. From 2012.

The Birds and the Bees and the Gasoline Trees, John Barnes. Close encounters, the abyss, etc. From 2010.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I think in the tumult of Christmas I never posted about this. Sanjay's Super Team is the best Pixar short ever. I have probably said this before (Day & Night, Boundin') but, no, really, this time, I *mean* it, it is an entirely different kind of thing than a neat visual gimmick or an inspirational poem, it's simultaneously epic cosmic high fantasy, and amazing character work, all in this teeny-tiny space of, like, seven minutes. I would watch a full-length feature trilogy expansion of it though, it's just - stylistically SO COOL, and the backstory (with the photos at the end) took my breath away. I don't think it can be purchased online at this time which is unfortunate because I want to tell everyone in the world to a) watch it, because it is so good, you want it in your eyeballs if you do visual media at all, and b) nominate it for the Hugo Dramatic Short-form (I usually try to stay away from "you should nominate this" language, but I just want everyone to get to know about it!).

The Good Dinosaur, the movie it screened with, is not so exciting. Phenomenal photorealistic nature animation but the story was pretty by-the-numbers. Which is fine - "some cute moments and nothing really obnoxious" is not a bad kids-movie experience - but it's too bad that Sanjay's Super Team might not have gotten as many in-theater views because it got paired with a less-enticing feature.

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