psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Ancillary Justice! Time! Gravity! Julie Dillon and Sarah Webb! Sofia Samatar for the Campbell!

I described my feelings about the Hugo awards to [livejournal.com profile] crystalpyramid this evening as "a mildly participatory World Cup". [livejournal.com profile] carpenter observed that the winning short story, John Chu's "The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere", only barely made the 5% cut-off to be on the ballot (it got 43 nominations - they report to tenths of a percent, and 42 nominations out of 865 would have been 4.9%). I didn't nominate it, but [livejournal.com profile] carpenter did, and it's possible that she wouldn't have read it in the first place if I hadn't put it on my list of recommended stories for the year. Of course she might have come across it elsewhere, but I feel like I might get a small share of some joint credit there for influencing an outcome. I was also one of 38 people who nominated Sarah Webb for fanartist; she was the first-place vote for 831 people out of 1522 fanartist voters, so I feel like the 38 of us did something good there too. (The least-nominated fan artist to make it onto the ballot had 31 nominations. Your nomination goes a long way in this category.)

Finally, a quick stab at answering one of this year's interesting questions, "were there "Wheel of Time" voters who only voted for Wheel of Time and nothing else". 3137 people voted in the Novel category, of whom 658 gave their first-place vote to Wheel. Going through the rounds, Wheel never gets eliminated, so there's no explicit breakdown of what% of those votes would dump into which buckets. However, we know that at the end of the first-place race, in the No Award testing, if I understand this correctly, 480 people did not indicate any preference on their ballot between Ancillary Justice and No Award. 201 of those people also did not have any of AJ, Wheel, and Neptune's Brood on their ballot. So I think that leaves a pool of only 279 people who might possibly have had Wheel as the only space they filled in, and of course we don't know how many of them listed Wheel vs Neptune's Brood. (Someone should double-check this in case I'm being dumb somewhere.)

Looking at the question from a different angle, there were 2684 ballots for Short Story. If everyone who voted for short stories also voted for novels, there would be 453 novel voters who didn't vote for short stories. They can't have all voted for Wheel (658 first-place votes) [EDITED: what I actually mean is that at least some Wheel first-placers must thus have voted for short stories], and last year, there were 1649 novel ballots and 1381 short story ballots, so if those 268 people were playing again this year and still care about novels and not short stories, that would leave 185 possible new Wheel-only novel voters.

So, I think we can conclude from these two lines of reasoning that Wheel-only voters could not have been more than 6-9% of novel ballots cast (and can't be conclusively proved to have existed at all).
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 - [livejournal.com 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!)
I think We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler, would be a fun book to read unspoiled. I myself did not - that is, I had read reviews and descriptions which gave things away - but if anyone reading this was willing to pick it up purely on my recommendation (or that of SFWA; it was a Nebula nominee this year), I think you would not regret it. Recommended to people who liked Matt Ruff's Set This House In Order or Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, or possibly Summer of My German Soldier/Morning Is A Long Time Coming, or in general, family dramas with narrators with psychologically atypical perspectives.

I'm going to put a spoiler for the premise behind a cut, so that if you don't want to take my word for it, you can see if you think it would interest you. )

Now I'm going to kill time for another paragraph, and then I'm going to use another cut to talk about the ending of the book. If you just clicked to find out about the premise and you're interested in reading it, I strongly recommend you click back promptly because in about twenty more words I'm gonna spoil the whole shebang for you. Are you going? Are you gone yet? Okay, here we go.

We Are All Completely Spoiled For The Ending )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Mostly spoiler-free.

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie. I have already said I want and expect it to win, so I'm not going to repeat all that, except that I still highly recommend it.

Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross. I can still remember (or have constructed a memory which I believe I remember) being completely blown away by his short story novelette "Lobsters", by the density and breathless pacing of it. Also it was hilarious. Thinking about Neptune's Brood in the light of "Lobsters" leads me to the sad conclusion that Stross is succumbing to the dreaded mid-career bloat, in which, hey, a book is going to earn more than a novelette, he's a big name, let's make this idea a book! (I don't just blame Stross for this, presumably everybody at Orbit wants to keep the company in business.) Which is to say, I thought there were some neat ideas, and they might have made a strong shorter work, but there wasn't enough here to support an entire novel.

Parasite, Mira Grant. Hooked me early, lost me late. I was interested in what would happen once she did the thing, and then I kept reading and we started to waste time on typical Mira Grant secondary characters and it was like, argh, where is the thing, and then finally on like the *last page* there is the thing. So I guess all the parts of this story I actually wanted to read might be taking place in the next book but my feeling about that is more like "well then fuck it" than "oh boy I can't wait". Probably someone will want fic of this for Yuletide and I will read it and it will be more relevant to my interests than the actual book.

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia. I made it as far as chapter four before concluding I just didn't like or care about any of these people. Then I read the end to see if it was secretly awesome and I should go back and read the whole thing. It wasn't. I didn't.

The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. NOT A NOVEL.

(I am actually so disappointed by this lackluster ballot that I've been working my way through the Nebula nominees to console myself. Ancillary Justice, which won, I had already read of course, as well as Ocean at the End of the Lane, Stranger in Olondria, and The Golem and the Jinni. Expect a post about We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves coming shortly, and I have Hild out of the library right now. Does anyone have any opinions about the remaining two, Fire with Fire by Charles Gannon or The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata? Yes, I know I should be reading Campbell nominees.)
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Novellae?

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 (ha!)
"The Lady Astronaut of Mars", Mary Robinette Kowal. The emotional/relationship aspect of this story is very strong and moving, but the SF aspect doesn't seem essential to it, you could have pretty much that same arc in a realistic or historical story. And what's with the Oz reference? Don't get me wrong, I liked this, and I wouldn't mind seeing it win the Hugo, but it's not my first choice.

"The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling", Ted Chiang. A classic Ted Chiang story, about an interesting new psychological technology and how people relate to it. I really like that sort of thing and this is no exception, but this isn't as strong as his best. It felt a little sprawling and repetitive, with things spelled out that didn't need to be, while paradoxically I felt like we needed a little bit more detail around the central misrecollection, like the voice of the story needed to be a little less objective and more personal, maybe. But I really like the observation that writing is a technology, and the generally non-alarmist perspective, and I think this is my #2 pick.

"The Waiting Stars", Aliette de Bodard. There have been a number of de Bodard stories that haven't worked for me, but this one really did. It won the Nebula, deservedly, and is just generally *good*, well-balanced between its parts, well-constructed, populated by well-realized characters who I cared about. My #1 vote this year.

“The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen. What if you took everything that might be fun or inspiring or gripping in a space adventure story, and then wrote one without any of that? But I shouldn't put it that way, because that sounds like an interesting challenge, and this story isn't. Maybe I'll try headline format: "Man at no personal risk murders 12, sinks own ship, because Amurika."

“Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day. So some people have argued that the nominated works should be judged "solely on their artistic merits" (like Scalzi, here). For me, if I'm taking a walking tour of the gardens of country estates, and I happen to step in something unfortunate, I can see the argument that I shouldn't let that ruin my enjoyment of an otherwise beautiful garden. But if I find out the owner thinks it's really funny to see people ruin their shoes, and deliberately feeds his dogs things that give them diarrhea and encourages them to run all over the paths, such that I have to worry about every step I take? Dogshit has become an integral part of that garden experience, and it is impossible to imagine strolling blithely through without asking myself every few feet if I smell something, even if in the end I don't actually end up encountering any. (And, as it happens, the bushes need pruning, the lawn is threadbare and growing weeds, and there are no flowers or vistas of interest.)
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
A fine ballot. I don't love them all equally, but they all seem like very plausible nominees, there's nothing here that baffles me as to what the Hugo votership was thinking, and, really, I'll be pretty happy with any outcome of the vote. (The only thing I dislike about this ballot is that it only has four things on it, because the story with the fifth-most nominations wasn't on 5% of short-story-nominating ballots, which I think is a stupid rule; there being so many different good short stories nominated, dividing the vote, shouldn't mean we get even *fewer* of them on the final ballot. But anyways.)

“If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky. I can't remember now whether I read this before I did my own nominations - I *think* I read it in the time between nominations closing and the ballot coming out. It's cute and sad and has some good lines and I like the structural gimmick but, I don't know, "incoherent" is too strong, but the sfnal elements being explicitly someone's fantasy within the story made them feel a little haphazard or superficial to me.

“The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt. I read this when it came out and didn't put it on my long list, but when I saw it on the ballot I immediately said "oh yeah, that story", and re-reading it, I'm surprised I hadn't long-listed it, there's some powerful and neat stuff in here. Although it's also a little weird, and inconsistent in tone. content warning note )

“Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar. This one I nominated, although rereading it just now, it didn't strike me as being as good as I remembered thinking it was the first time I read it. In some ways, this whole Hugos thing was simpler back when I wasn't actually participating, and was usually reading the five nominees for the first time when the ballot came out (and then snarking about them). Now I'm not sure how much weight to give to my recalled first impressions, vs my re-consideration at the time of my nominations, vs my re-reading or in some cases re-re-reading right now. I mean, I feel like "impact on first read" is a very important quality of a story, and "holds up to rereading" is very different, and the books and stories I reread over and over aren't necessarily the ones I would say are "the best" but are ones I love for how they feel. Also complicating things a little, I nominated this in part because it won the SH readers' poll and I wanted to get something I liked actually onto the ballot and you need 5%, as mentioned, and so I backed this because I thought it might actually have a chance, and, hey, it worked. But now it feels a little weird to consider voting for something else ahead of it that I considered nominating but didn't, because of whatever psychological fallacy that is that makes you stand by your past preferences even if you expressed them for strategic reasons. Anyways, this is probably my #1.

“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu. This was on my long list and I still think it's a really vivid and lovely story. Probably my #2.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
The packet is out! Working on the fiction (the ones I haven't read already), but let's start with the art.

Fan Artist
Brad W. Foster
Mandie Manzano - my #2
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles
Sarah Webb - my #1

Foster, Schoenhuth, and Stiles were on the ballot last year, and are distinctly weaker nominees than the other two to my eye. Schoenhuth makes jewelry, and it looks like very nifty jewelry, and I'm sure there's a long argument we could have about fine art vs applied art and is jewelry just little wearable sculpture fine art and I'm not going to pretend I have the art history cultural literacy to take a position in that argument. However I find it personally harder to engage with her work in an "this art is saying something to me" way than I do with picture art or bigger/more complex sculpture work. It looks to me like Foster and Stiles get nominated every year because they do a lot of work for convention programs and fanzines and the like, which I suppose is service deserving of some sort of recognition, but I don't think that recognition needs to be a Hugo.

Mandie Manzano didn't include samples in the packet, but I found a bunch of her work online here. I like it - stained-glassy Disney characters and others.

Sarah Webb I nominated, and I absolutely love her work. So much narrative in a single-panel image, so much detail, so gorgeous.

Professional Artist
Galen Dara
Julie Dillon - my #1
Daniel Dos Santos
John Harris - my tentative #2
John Picacio
Fiona Staples

Galen Dara got the Fan Artist Hugo last year, so yay for a successful going pro, but his samples here don't excite me. [Please see comment below - Dara is female, sorry for misgendering, and has some really lovely work in her online portfolio.]

Julie Dillon's work is *gorgeous*, you can see some here and here.

Daniel Dos Santos work feels a little more generic to me, like, it's fine but I don't feel like he's showing me things I haven't seen before.

John Harris is a spaceships-and-edifices artist. But a really good one, a couple of his samples are awesome. Scalzi promoted a book of his art recently; I really like this one in particular, and it is in the packet.

John Picacio has been a ballot stand-by for awhile and won in 2012 and 2013, which I suppose shouldn't affect my opinion, but, I don't know, it probably legitimately makes his work feel a little less fresh. Still good stuff here though.

Fiona Staples didn't include samples in the packet, and her tumblr is unhelpfully full of other people's art, but she turns out to be the artist for Saga, which I should have remembered. (And probably there are samples of that in the Graphic section of the packet once I get there.) Saga is awesome but I really wish she'd chosen some particular images to put in the packet to help me think about her work from a purely artistic angle as opposed to part-of-this-story. I could conceivably bump her up to #2 once I've read this year's Saga volume though.

Nebulas!

May. 18th, 2014 10:48 am
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I'm sure there are years when the Nebula Awards go to baffling choices, but I think they did a good job this year.

Best Novelettte "The Waiting Stars" is my favorite thing I've ever read by Aliette de Bodard, who I am often not so into; Best Novella "The Weight of the Sunrise" by Vylar Kaftan is an excellent alternate-history work that I wish had made the Hugo ballot. Ancillary Justice for Best Novel. I haven't read the Norton winner but will get right on that. (You can find links to many of the short fiction Nebula runners-up on the front page here.)
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Brandon Sanderson has commented on the nomination of the Wheel of Time series for the Hugo Best Novel award. He makes some fine points about "don't be a dick to Wheel of Time" fans, which, sure, but also defends the nomination of the series as a single work.

I think Sanderson is absolutely right when he says that "serials are such a part of our collective culture in sf fandom", and I think there really should be an award that recognizes epic works - particularly epic works that are amazing as a whole but maybe don't have one particular sub-part people can pick out to nominate. But I don't think the Best Novel category should be that award. I mean, think about it - we feel like we need to distinguish works of 7500 to 17500 words from both shorter stories and longer novellas, because that's a distinctive length format and it's unfair to compare 4000-word short stories to 12000-word novelettes. (At least, I assume that's why. Maybe the category was actually created to honor Bob P. Novelette, I can't say for sure.) But Sanderson is arguing that we can judge a 4.4 MILLION word series against - I don't actually have wordcounts at hand for any of the other novels, but they could potentially be as short as 40K words, and I believe many SF books come in around 100K. That is, Wheel of Time is over *one hundred times as long* as a hypothetical short novel, and over forty times as long as an average novel. Again, we don't think we can compare a 10000-word novelette to a twice-as-long novella, but the Novel category is supposed to span two orders of magnitude?

Here's what I think should have happened: I would have liked to see Sanderson say that he was deeply honored on behalf of Robert Jordan, but he was withdrawing the work from consideration, BUT the Jordan estate would like to endow a new award to be voted on with the Hugos (much like the Campbell, which isn't technically a Hugo), the Robert Jordan Award for Epic SFF, to honor completed series of at least 4 volumes/600K words (ish), to recognize the unique qualities and significance to fandom of such works. In the long run, I think that would be a better memorial to Robert Jordan than shoehorning his work into an ill-fitting category.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
See the whole list here.

Novel
Ancillary Justice! Yay!
Neptune's Brood - hrm, Saturn's Children was not so exciting that I wanted to read the sequel, but I suppose I could slog through this for the purposes of voting.
Parasite - I still feel done with Mira Grant.
Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles - title not promising, Amazon page less so. I have better things to do than slog through this.
The Wheel of Time - whaaaaa? Like, the whole thing, like, all nearly four and a half MILLION words according to wikipedia? That's been coming out since the 90s? How is that even "a novel"? Not all of the books were even written by the same person. (Which seems different than a project that was co-written from beginning to end.) Maybe this category needs a wordmax to distinguish single novels from entire series? There is NO WAY that, having declined to follow this series for the past 25 years, I am now going to slog through fifteen books of it for the purposes of being a better Hugo voter.

I don't know. I mean, one book I loved and four books ("books") I don't even want to read is better than five books I don't want to read. But, meh, fellow Hugo nominators, I say "meh" in your direction. (I think the biggest shock to me is that Ocean at the End of the Lane didn't make it... I wasn't that wild about it myself but I totally would have guessed that Gaiman fans outnumbered, uh, everyone else ::grin::.)

Things I Am Excited About
Sofia Samatar up for the Campbell. "Time" up for Graphic Story. Although the four short stories are not my very very favoritests from this year they are all good stories (and I did nominate "Selkie Stories"). "Wakulla Springs".

What the F*ing F*
Vox Day????
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
The end of March suddenly seems much closer, as I think about recommending more 2013 books as potential Hugo contenders... I was just reading an argument that the nominating season really should be a minimum of 4-5 months after the last eligible works come out, to give people more time to read. I'm curious whether my reading will look different this year, knowing from the very beginning of the year that I plan to play this game again, instead of deciding at the last possible minute like last year?

Anyways. Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni is a fantasy set in 1899 New York, and it is excellent. It's about a golem, and a jinni, and the immigrant experience, and I would recommend it highly to people who love New York City, people whose ancestors came through Ellis Island, people who love reading about robots and Vulcans and other such outsiders, and anyone who wants to request it for Yuletide next year, because I would love to offer it. (I don't feel the fannish impulse about everything I read - I have no desire to write Ancillary Justice fic, or Stranger in Olondria fic, for instance - but this just has so much potential.) Also recommended, as implied by the previous paragraph, to people who might still have open Hugo-nomination slots. (I think I personally would still vote for Ancillary Justice but I see no reason not to use all five of my slots if I have five worthy candidates.)

I loved the rich cast of secondary characters, and the little details about what various people's lives were like. (My intuition as a 21st century American is that in many (although not all) contexts people with Eastern European Jewish ancestors are "white" in a way that people with Syrian ancestors are not, so it was really interesting to see the immigrant communities as comparably insular and "foreign" in 1899.) I loved - I'm going to have to go to a spoiler cut here:

more squee with MAJOR spoilers )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Catching Fire was very well done, and yet why are we watching this, exactly? Europa Report was sadly not so well done, nor was it quite the film I wanted it to be.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I liked today's Daily Science Fiction story, Why Women Turn To Stone. I also really liked Lydia Waldman's story Silence, which is going up next week. (ETA: Silence.)

Dramatic Presentations! The Dramatic Presentation Hugos are divided into Short Form (under 90 minutes) and Long Form (over 90 minutes). Gravity, according to Wikipedia, was 91 minutes long, which I would almost wonder if they did on purpose except I can't imagine that blockbuster movies care about winning obscure SF fandom awards. (I also plan to nominate Iron Man 3 and Pacific Rim to promote there being more things on the ballot that I can rank above The Hobbit... no, wait, Hobbit was on last year. Except I guess there's more of it now. Whatever.)

I was actually making this post in order to link to an available-online candidate for Short Form, the Legend of Korra two-part episode "Beginnings", but unfortunately I seem to have waited too long to do it and Nick has taken it down. This is a short clip that shows a little bit of the very nifty animation style used in the episode. Further on the episode is much less slapstick and more epic. I found the second half of the first part and both halves of the second part on YouTube but couldn't find the first half of the first part to link to. So, I guess this is technically not a best online science fiction or fantasy anymore.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I liked the Strange Horizons story this week, The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library. Disturbing little meditation about artistic mediums and what it means to get hung up on them, or at least that's how I read it.

But what I really want to talk about is Graphic Stories. I actually went and read the rules about this category, because, unlike the text categories, it's never been clear to me what exactly is eligible. Does it have to be a print edition? Does it have to be a certain length? In practice, the nominees mostly seem to be something like Printed Comic Volume 5: Collecting Issues 49-60 or sometimes Webcomic Volume 7: Most Of 2011. As far as I can tell, what the actual rules say is just that it has to be a "complete work", and when some amount of an ongoing serial gets collected into a published volume, it produces something that can be pointed to as a "complete work", but the actual printing of it is irrelevant. Which is good, seeing as I'm focusing in my personal nominating on "things that are available online." But I am still pretty confused as to what *exactly* to nominate for my works of interest, as follows:

Spacetrawler is a science fiction comic by Christopher Baldwin of Bruno fame. It finished this year and is now running a bonus story. I believe there is a Book 3 coming out - I would have said this year, but I don't seem to see it in his online store, so maybe next year? But I could nominate the whole thing this year, as it finished on the web? Except to further complicate things I did some searching and he seems to have been encouraging people to nominate Book 1 in 2012, so maybe the whole thing isn't eligible now, just subsequent parts? But it didn't actually *get* a nomination, so... I should probably just email him and ask in what form if any he thinks it should be nominated, but, ugh, this is just way more hassle than checking word counts on stories.

Darwin Carmichael Is Going To Hell is a webcomic that finished this year and until a couple of days ago I would have said was never going to have a print version, because they announced that, in July. Except it turns out they ran a Kickstarter in November and they'll be printing it next year. So, nominate this year? Wait for the print edition next year?

A Stray In The Woods is the least like anything that ever gets nominated for the Graphic Hugo - if the Volume Whatevers are like novels from a long series, Stray is more like a stand-alone novelette. (I haven't actually counted panels or pages, I'm just sort of going by impression. More than a short story, less than a novel.) It's definitely much less complicated than anything I've ever seen nominated for Graphic Story. But given that we don't have multiple categories for graphic works of different sizes, the way we do for text works, I want to argue that plot complexity is not the only feature we should be looking at, here. As far as Stray specifically, look, I almost didn't read it at all, because, eyeroll, a cat comic. Without spoilers, it turns out it's not just a cat comic. And a certain moment was the biggest "wow" I got from any graphic work this year. It was a profoundly science fictional sensawunda moment, or, well, maybe fantastic rather than science fictional, but, you know, the sublime in imaginative literature and all that. It was also a profoundly *visual* moment, that really worked with the comic as an artistic medium and not just a storytelling vehicle. (Also it finished this year and had a print edition this same year, yay for non-ambiguous publication dates.)

(I do very much look forward to reading some more Saga in my nominated-works bundle, but have not bothered to track it down myself from the library or whatever on the assumption that other Hugo voters are going to take care of that for me. Yes, this is very lazy and probably wrong-headed, but enh.)
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I expect Ancillary Justice to win the 2013 Hugo.

I am torn, myself, as to whether I would vote for it or for Stranger in Olondria - Ancillary is a much more obvious choice, classic science fiction, fascinating world-building, military action, space opera. Stranger is smaller and quieter although also "higher" in the literary sense, explicitly about Art and such; it would be neat to see something like that get recognized. I will certainly nominate both. However, I have no idea whether Stranger will even have a shot at the ballot, whereas judging by the buzz around Ancillary, I'm sure it will.

Hugos aside - I highly recommend this book. If you like the Vorkosigan books, if you liked the McCaffrey Ship Who Sang books but wished there was less overt romance, if you like the Borg, if you like... um. I'm tip-of-the-tonguing on the comparison I want to make, possibly because it's almost 1 am, I'll come back and revise this later. Vinge, there we go, if you like Fire and Deepness this is one for you. There's neat stuff with gender. There's neat stuff with identity. There's some really vivid cinematic action. Leckie did a great job (to my privileged eye) with issues of race and class and colonialism and empire, I mean, this book is about some really real stuff, as well as awesome fun sci-fi stuff. Must go to bed before this review gets any more gushing and incoherent.

PS I seem to have never reviewed Thor 2. It was fun, I liked it a lot, more than the first one! Space elves and nifty fight scene choreography, good stuff.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Novelettes (7500 to 17500 words) and novellas (17500 to 40000). I have a lot fewer of these, which I think is a combination of fewer of them being published, and of me being more demanding of a story if I'm going to invest longer in reading it.

Novelettes

Bit-U-Men, Maria Dahvana Headley, Lightspeed. Upsetting sugar mummy story.

Ten Million Sheets of Paper, All in Black and White, Caroline M. Yoachim, GigaNotoSaurus. Neat idea and imagery.

Novellas

How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain With the Crooked One, C.S.E. Cooney, GigaNotoSaurus. A lovely Rumplestiltskin retelling.

The Shattered World Within, Patty Jansen, GigaNotoSaurus. Biological social order.

Wakulla Springs, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages, Tor.com. Race relations and species relations in a Florida setting.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
2013 isn't over yet, but I wanted to post this so that interested parties could start reading things before it becomes all-Yuletide-fic all-the-time in late Dec and Jan. Or maybe that's just me, but anyways. I'll post a supplement in January if I come across anything particularly good in the last six weeks of the year here.

I do not claim that my reading is comprehensive; for the sources I am reading, I may well have missed months here and there with some real gems, feel free to point things out in the comments. Also there may be good online magazines I'm ignoring entirely.

However, here are seventeen 2013 online short stories (which I believe to be eligible for the upcoming Hugos). I'll link to novelettes and novellas in a separate post. I don't have a final five set in stone yet, but I've marked a couple that are very likely to be in it. These are sorted by source but in no particular order otherwise.

Selkie Stories Are for Losers, Sofia Samatar, Strange Horizons.

I Have Placed My Sickness Upon You. Karin Tidbeck, Strange Horizons. This one for sure.

Longfin's Daughters. O.J. Cade, Strange Horizons. Full of eels.

Din Ba Din, Kate MacLeod, Strange Horizons. Nonchronological living.

A Plant (Whose Name is Destroyed), Seth Dickinson, Strange Horizons.

The Best We Can, Carrie Vaughn, Tor.com. A realistic first contact story. Probably this one.

Contains Multitudes, Ben Burgis, Tor. com. Alien symbionts, kind of obvious but effective.

Super Bass. Kai Ashante Wilson, Tor. com. Some neat descriptive language.

Professor Incognito Apologizes, Austin Grossman, Tor.com reprint from a 2013 anthology. I like superhero stories.

The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, John Chu, Tor.com.

Brimstone and Marmalade, Aaron Corwin, Tor.com. Cute.

The Oregon Trail Diary of Willa Porter, Andy Marino, Tor.com. Creepy.

Division of Labor, Benjamin Roy Lambert, Lightspeed. This one.

This Villain You Must Create, Carlie St. George, Lightspeed. More superheroes.

Just Like Clockwork, K.G. Jewell, Daily Science Fiction. A classic SF physics fable.

The Machine, Sean R Robinson, Daily Science Fiction. Steampunk Titania.

Never Dreaming (In Four Burns). Seth Dickinson, Clarkesworld. Death and identity and choices.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
A Stranger In Olondria, Sofia Samatar. I look forward to nominating this 2013 fantasy novel for the Hugo. It's pretty far into the "literary" area of sf space and is, hrm, more beautiful than entertaining, but I would highly recommend it if you like LeGuin or maybe Tolkien. (But, really, LeGuin - in particular The Dispossessed, Voices (the middle of the Gifts/Voices/Powers trilogy), and A Wizard of Earthsea.) Samatar makes beautiful sentences and there's some really good stuff here about literature and art and inspiration and love and death and, you know, literary stuff. Narrative about narratives. Shifting referent of the title as the book progresses. I knew next to nothing about it going in and am trying to avoid spoilers here, would be happy to discuss more in comments.

I've also liked some of Samatar's short stories, Selkie Stories Are For Losers in Strange Horizons, and Honey Bear, which is one of the most powerful stories about parenting I've ever read. It looks from her website like she may have started publishing in 2012, which I think would make her Campbell-eligible? I look forward to nominating her for that too.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Recommended! You know how half of my book reviews these days complain about having read it all before? The Summer Prince does not have this problem! I am not sure I can talk about this book without sounding like fawning jacket copy, "fresh-voiced and distinctive", but, look, it is awesome. The setting is vivid (and fascinating). The relationships are lovely (and a deliberate subversion of the same-old love triangle business). Instead of some fakey contrived system to rebel against, we get a mix of *real* world problems - classism, a heavily-stratified society, refugee issues, entrenched and corrupt politicians - and serious science-fictional ones (about the people left behind, when the Singularity is happening somewhere out there). The whole thing is just this beautiful mix of the ancient and primal (the names, the central ritual), and the inventive and futuristic, and the real-but-other culture of Brazil - I think my biggest regret about the book was reading it on paper instead of in an electronic format where I could have more easily looked up translations for the bits of Brazilian Portuguese, I mean, it was always obvious whether something was a food or a musical instrument or a game or whatever, so you didn't have to have a translation to follow the plot, but it's nice to have the specificity of picturing the right sort of thing. (But it's not just, like, random flavor that it's set there, it's integral to the story, the Portuguese concept of saudade is central to the theme.) I did not end up feeling fannish about this book - like, I did not feel the deep passion for the characters that made me want to tell my own stories about them - but I totally want to hold this book up to YA writers and say, look, guys, this one gets it right, this is how you do it, if only every book could be smart and moving and thought-provoking like this.

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