Hugo Award Novelette Finalists 2017

This was a really fun group of novelettes. Three fantasy stories, and three science fiction stories. Well, kinda three science fiction stories. Touring With the Alien and You’ll Surely Drown Here if you Stay were both on my ballot, and I feel they’ve come up against worthy competition for the most part.

I think it’s interesting that all six nominees were written by women. I don’t know if that’s happened before. I think it’s even more interesting that this is interesting, since for many years it was normal for all nominees in a given category to be men.

Before I get to the reviews, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, there is dinosaur porn on this list.  I don’t get graphic with my review, and don’t use any bad words.

 

The Art of Space Travel – Nina Allan

Read it Here

A well written story where the science fiction elements are a background for a character driven family story. The main character, Emily, is the housekeeper at a hotel where two astronauts going on a one way trip to Mars will be staying. The upcoming mission and the presence of the astronauts causes Emily to reflect on certain parts of her own life. As she thinks about all the future children who’ll be born on Mars with no connection to their Earth heritage, she also tried to find her unknown father, who she believes is connected to the failed first Mars mission.

It’s a nice story, with some really strong character development. Though, I have to wonder if it really is SF enough to be a Hugo nominee. Of course, the fact that it was nominated means it has passed that requirement, and I enjoyed this story enough that I’m not complaining.

 

The Jewel and Her Lapidary – Fran Wilde

Read it Here

A fantasy with a gemstone-based magic system. I’ve been on a Steven Universe binge lately, so reading about rulers called jewels, and gems that can ‘speak’ made me visualise this story in strange ways at first. The world building was good, but I feel this story might not have been long enough to give us both the world building and the character development it could have had. Maybe if it was a bit longer, or if we got rid of the travel guide segments. They were kinda cool, giving the story this ‘ancient, long forgotten-legend’ vibe, but I feel those words could have been better spent.

All in all, I liked this story a lot. It is a story of a royal court being betrayed by their servant and then conquered by an outside general. The only survivors are the princess Lin and her handmaiden (or rather, her lapidary), Sima. Lapidaries like Sima have power over the magical gems that the kingdom uses, but they are also enthralled by them. Lin and Sima must keep a powerful gem out of the usurper’s hands, while also saving Lin from having to marry the usurper’s son. The girls are young and somewhat powerless, and they’ll have to make some tough choices to get through this ordeal.

 

The Tomato Thief – Ursula Vernon

Read it Here

A fantasy with a Western feel. Grandma Harken lives out in the desert, and grows tomatoes.  When someone starts stealing her tomatoes, she sets out to find the thief, and ends up getting drawn into helping a woman trapped by a magic spell.

The story has a folk feel to it, and is influenced by Native American mythology. I say influenced, because while there were familiar elements, I don’t think any Native American peoples had train gods. This story does something I really like in fantasy stories; it shows the magic and/or mythology modernising with the rest of the world. Supernatural forces taking over the newly built railroad and then working out a truce with the spirits in the desert is fascinating to me. Of course, it wasn’t the main focus of the story, but it is one detail that made this world and this mythology seem so real to me.

After reading this story, I found out that it was actually a sequel to a nebula award-winning short story titled ‘Jackalope Wives’. There were a few events and references in The Tomato Thief that make more sense now that I know they tie into an earlier story, but I had no problem following along with this story. Despite being a sequel, it stands on its own.

 

Touring with the Alien – Carolyn Ives Gilman

Read it Here

Anything with unique aliens that are widely different to humanity is always a winner with me. In this story, alien spaceships have landed and after many years, no-one knows what they actually want. Avery gets a job giving one alien a tour. Yes, driving an alien around America in an RV. Of course Avery doesn’t see much of the alien – no-one has ever seen an alien – but she does get to know the alien’s interpreter. A human that was raised by the aliens and has no idea how to be human. It was fascinating seeing the two of them interact, and the aliens had such a different way of experiencing the world, which I had to think about a lot afterwards.

 

You’ll Surely Drown Here if you Stay – Alyssa Wong

Read it Here

Another western fantasy. This and the short story “A fist of permutations in lightning and wildflowers” were the first stories by Alyssa Wong that I’ve read, and I am eager to read more.

This story is about an orphan named Ellis who lives in a brothel, and his only friend is Marisol; one of the young ladies who works there. Ellis can shapeshift and reanimate the dead, amongst other things. One day a group of strange men arrive in town, and want to make use of his abilities. It’s a love story and a haunting story about things we can’t fully understand. Being written in second person made me feel a lot more connected to Ellis. I haven’t seen a lot of stories written in second person, but here Wong really makes it work.

 

Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex – Stix Hiscock

You Can Buy it Here if You Want

It is exactly what it says in the title. I don’t know how much more descriptive I can be. There were some funny parts, some titillating parts, and some plain-old dumb parts. This Novelette did make me laugh out loud at times, but more importantly, it made me shudder at the thought of sharp predator claws anywhere near a clitoris. There were parts of foreplay that also seemed like they would be quite painful. Like, really painful. Having a T-Rex sink his teeth in me seems like a horrible, horrible way to die.

There were also lots of typos.

I told my partner about this story, and he suggested that maybe the main character’s species could have weaponised their nipple-laser orgasms. Since her ex was a tentacle monster, we imagined them storming the battlefield together, with the tentacle monster aiming the breasts whilst jerking off their partner. Imagining that as a canon part of this universe made the story better.

 

Well, that’s this years novelettes done. I’ve also finished the Novels, so that just leave the Novellas. And then I’ll see what other categories I have time to look into.

~ Lauren

Review – Too Like The Lightning

Too Like the Lightning26114545

By Ada Palmer

Published 10/5/2016 (Tor Books)

Score: 8

 

I didn’t really know what to make of this book at first. I saw this book everywhere last year, with a lot of people raving about it. I put it on my ‘to read’ list, but was a bit reluctant to read it. Nothing I’d heard about the story really grabbed me. Then when Too Like the Lightning got nominated for a Hugo, I found out that it wasn’t available on the kindle store on Amazon’s Australian site, so I ended up getting it as an audio book. I was a bit doubtful going into this story, but I have to say that I’m glad I finally read it. Too Like the Lightning is an intelligent, cool, and unique book, and I am now firmly committed to continuing the series.

Too Like the Lightning is a hard story to describe. It is listed as political science-fiction, but it doesn’t really fit into any mold I have come across. It is a story told by notorious criminal Mycroft Cannar about the seven days during which a long era of peace and stability came to an end. Mycroft chooses to tell this story in the style of an 18th Century memoir, and often breaks the fourth wall. The philosophies of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment also play a huge role in this story.

Most of this book was dedicated to introducing us to the world of the 25th Century and the incestuous political system that keeps it going, with the actual plot being rather slow. I feel it needed to be this way, because this future world is very complicated, very strange, and yet it is presented so well. The story follows two different threads; the theft of a valuable seven-ten list (a list that ranks the most powerful people in the world, and that has an impact on the future balance of power) and Mycroft trying to protect Bridger, a boy who can bring inanimate objects to life.

Yes, he can bring inanimate objects to life. This is why I find it so hard to put this book in a simple category; it is science fiction with flying cars and everything, but this inexplicable miracle adds a fantasy feel to the story. I loved Bridger and his toy soldiers so much. I would have liked to spend more time with them, but it is made clear that the story of the seven-ten list is the main story Mycroft has been made to narrate. I feel it is a bit unfair to judge the plot of Too Like the Lightning, since not much is resolved. Don’t get me wrong, we get enough answers, but Too Like the Lightning and Seven Surrenders feel like two halves of the same book, and without reading Seven Surrenders, I feel I have an incomplete view of the plot.

This book does some very interesting things with gender. In this society, it is taboo to display gender, or refer to people with gendered pronouns. Our narrator Mycroft does gender people, however it is made clear that the pronouns he assigns other characters don’t necessarily correspond to their actual sex, but rather how Mycroft wants us to view said character. For example, the main antagonist is assigned male pronouns, though it is made clear that the character in question is a woman. It’s a fascinating way to look at gender politics, and the assumptions we make about people based on their gender.

I should also mention again that I didn’t technically read this book. I listened to it as an audiobook, narrated by Jefferson Mays. Considering this is my first audiobook, I can’t really say how good the narration was compared to other audiobooks, but I feel that Mays did an excellent job here. His narration drew me into Mycroft’s story, and I liked a lot of the character voices he did. I’m going to continue to get audiobooks after this; I didn’t think I’d be that big a fan of the format, but considering how much I drive, they actually work quite well for me.

All in all, Too Like the Lightning is a unique, intelligent book. In some places, it does feel like it’s trying too hard to be smart. There was a chapter where almost all the dialog was in Latin. Not like, in universe they were speaking Latin but we read it as English, we actually had to read the Latin. Between each line of dialog there was a translation, and it made the entire conversation drag on. The focus on the 18th Century and the Enlightenment was interesting, but it gave the story a very Eurocentric feel despite having a diverse cast and a lot of the action taking place in Chile. I suppose it doesn’t help that the Middle East has been mostly destroyed, a large part of Africa is a reserve, and most of Asia is represented by one faction. Whilst we’re talking about the story’s flaws, I should mention that some of the debauchery near the end felt a bit over-the-top.

But I’m still eager to continue this series. If you aren’t put off by the antiquated writing style and the minor flaws I just mentioned, then you’ll find Too Like the Lightning to be a fascinating book unlike anything else you’ve read before.

 

~ Lauren

 

 

Hugo Award Short Story Finalists 2017

Short Stories 2017

I Finally read all the short stories for this years Hugo Award. All but one of these stories can be read free online, and I would recommend all but one of the stories on this list. Only That Game we Played During the War was on my nomination ballot, but that isn’t going to make my vote out of these finalists any easier. We have five amazing short stories this year, and they are…,

 

The City Born Great – N.K. Jemisin

Read it here

It seems everywhere I look nowadays, I end up seeing New York. I read this while also reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, so I felt more connected to the setting here than I think I otherwise would have been. In other words, I know just enough about New York to appreciate how much someone who has been there would love some of the shout-outs to different areas this story makes.

For those who aren’t entirely in love with New York, there is still a lot to love about this story. It’s the story of cities coming to life in a reality-warping, eldritch way. The narrator is a homeless black man, who must now avoid unspeakable horrors as well as dealing with the everyday problems of getting food and shelter and avoiding the attention of the NYPD. The portrayal of police here may rub some readers the wrong way, but considering the way homeless people -especially homeless people of colour – are often harassed by police, I think the protagonist’s concerns are justified. There was a really intense chase scene here that I loved.

 

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers – Alyssa Wong

Read it here

That first paragraph was super tight;

“There was nothing phoenix-like in my sister’s immolation. Just the scent of charred skin, unbearable heat, the inharmonious sound of her last, grief-raw scream as she evaporated, leaving glass footprints seared into the desert sand.”

All the language in this story is beautiful and emotionally charged. Though one thing it doesn’t do is state clearly what it is happening. This is the type of story where you have to decipher what’s going on a bit, but I feel it was worth it. Once I got to the end I re-read the start and suddenly everything was clear.

In this story, Hannah and Melanie are two sisters that have power over both the weather and it seems over time. When Melanie uses her powers to commit suicide, Hannah attempts to alter the timeline to save her sister. This goes on more times than she can count, and comes with a heavy emotional toll.

I’ll re-read this story again before I actually cast my vote. It’s powerful, but I found it very esoteric first time around. Despite being short, this story tackles love and grief and rejection well, though I feel the writing style may be a bit too out there for some. I feel like it’s the sort of story that’ll get better with every re-read.

 

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies – Brooke Bolander

Read it here

A super short fantasy/horror story; barely a thousand words long in fact. I’m finding it hard to comment on this story, as it’s so short I feel that mentioning anything about it here will away from the reading experience. I’ll say one thing; most of the story was told through a list of dot points. In a longer story, I would have found such a list a big no-no, but for something this length I feel it works really well. It’s a story of revenge, which contrasts the way rapists and killers often get fame of some kind to the way victims often face further degradation. But that’s not what’s going to happen this time, let’s just leave it at that.

 

Seasons of Glass and Iron – Amal El-Mohtar

Read it here

A beautiful, modern fairy tale. It takes elements from two separate stories (The Enchanted Pig and The Princess on the Glass Mountain) and combines them into a tale of two women learning to free themselves from the unfair expectations and abuses of men. It subverts of a lot of the misogynist themes in fairy tales, while still keeping the magic.

The heroines of the story are Tabitha; a woman who is cursed to wear out seven pairs of iron shoes, and Amira, a princess who must sit atop a glass mountain and wait for a man to ride up to her in full armour. They meet and talk about their curses and geese, and become really close. It is possible to interpret their relationship as romantic, but it is just as plausible (and rewarding) to see them as friends.

 

That Game We Played During the War – Carrie Vaughn

Read it here

This is one of the most fascinating depictions of telepathy I have ever seen. There is a war going on between two countries, one where everyone is telepathic and another of non-telepaths. The question on how to safely keep prisoners of war in this situation was very interesting. Likewise, we also see how easy it is for misconceptions about the enemy to terrify us during times of war. This story actually takes place after the war, with a non-telepathic nurse who both treated POWs and was herself a POW going into former enemy territory to visit her prisoner-turned-captor, and finish a game of chess they had started during the war. It is a really powerful story of reconciliation and peace.

 

An Unimaginable Light – John C. Wright

Originally appeared in the anthology God, Robot

A theological discussion between a robot and a human, that tries to examine free will and what it means to be human, and to prove a creationism. It doesn’t do this well, and what could have been a shocking reveal at the end just seemed silly. Shame, I think the plot and the reveal at the end could have been interesting if it was done by someone who wanted to tell a story, rather than spew bullshit.

The main female character is described with the words ‘pulchritudinous’, ‘callipygous’ and ‘leggy’ at the start, and later it is revealed that she has ‘creamy upper thighs’. Overall, the descriptions were bad, and the dialog was just terrible.

Then we get what I’m assuming are jabs at ‘lefties’. At one point a character replaces the phrase ‘his or her’ with the phrase ‘his or her or cis-his or cis-her or his-her or non-his or non-her’. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be satire, or if Wright really doesn’t know about gender neutral pronouns. You know, like ‘they’.

Best part about this story was when the male protagonist ended a debate about whether robots feel pain or are just mimicking it with a bitchslap and the line “I now require fellatio.”

In summery, this story is boring, hard to read, badly written, and overall stupid. Thank you Rabid Puppies.

 

The short stories this year were as a whole much more enjoyable than last year. I’m still tossing up on how to vote, but whichever one of these stories comes out on top would be a worthy winner.

~ Lauren

三体 by Liu Cixin and Wayfarers by Becky Chambers

20170529_092321I know it’s unfair to lump two great series together for one review, but after reading both series back to back for the Hugo Awards, I was struck by how utterly different they were to each other. These two series are total polar opposites, and I thought it would fun to compare the different views of the universe and alien life they have.

A word of warning. If you want to read both of these series back to back, start with Remembrance of Earth’s Past. Death’s End went to some really dark places, and I feel that reading The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet straight after was the best possible pick-me-up.

Okay, let’s talk a bit about the two series. You may remember Remembrance of Earth’s Past from when I reviewed the first book in the series, The Three-Body Problem, earlier this year. I tried not to go into too much detail about the plot on that review, since I think it’s a more fun read the less you know beforehand. I’ll try not to be too spoilery here, but I’ll have to reveal some information about the plot in order to discuss the whole series.

This series, (which I’m going to just refer to as 三体 from here on to save typing. The title is the Chinese title of The Three-Body Problem, and is often used to refer to the whole series) is hard science fiction. As in, no faster-than-light travel and detailed explanations for all the futuristic technologies we encounter. It is a story set in space and featuring aliens, but it is definitely not space opera.

The characters are scientists and military personal who over the course of many centuries try to defend Earth against alien invaders. I never really connected with any of the characters, but viewing the story as a long reaching future history nullified a lot of the characterisation problems. Of course, there were characterisation problems. Hard SF in general isn’t known for producing the most realistic, depth-filled characters, and this series in particular struggled at times.

Whilst I wasn’t that interested in any individual Humans in the story, I found myself deeply engaged and interested in the behaviour of humanity as a whole. Since there is no FTL travel in this universe, the human race has about 400 years of knowing that an alien invasion is on its way, and that we will never have the technology to defend ourselves. The reactions the general population has to each different development, and the out-of-the-box plans humanity has to come up with to try to protect itself, made for a fascinating, hard-to-put-down read.

The two books of the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers were also hard to put down, but for different reasons. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit are space opera. Space opera with it’s easy FTL travel, journeys to different worlds, and numerous alien races. The technologies are not explained in great detail and at times the alien races feel a bit too human, but the characterisation more than makes up for it. In Angry Planet, we follow the crew of a hyperspace tunnelling ship.

They don’t get involved in any grand adventures, they don’t have to save the galaxy, nothing so exciting. They just have to go to this remote part of space and punch a hole in the fabric of space and time. On the way, they make stops to resupply and take shore-leave, and that’s about it. Occasionally something more serious does happen, but for the most part, they’re safe. Despite the lack of action, there is tons of character growth. Watching the crew grow, and watching how their relationships change as they learn more about each other was perfect.

A Closed and Common Orbit features a smaller cast of characters, and most of the action takes place on one planet, but it was still amazing. We watch Sidra the A.I. who is illegally downloaded into a synthetic body try to adjust to her new life, while also learning about Pepper, who was created to be a slave in a scrap heap on a restricted planet of enhanced humans, but escaped with the help of a friendly A.I. A beautiful character study, with what seemed to me a realistic depiction of an A.I’s struggles.

There are a lot of differences between these two series, but the one I’m most interested in is the two different views on alien life. In Wayfarers, humans are part of a galactic community. The Wayfarer itself is a multispecies crew, and Sidra goes out dancing with aliens. It’s not a perfect galaxy; there are wars, and prejudice, and not everyone likes humans, but it is a relatively safe and peaceful interstellar civilisation we get to enjoy. In 三体,this is not a possibility. Even if FTL travel was a thing, the universe is just too hostile and scary to support a multispecies civilisation. I can’t really go into details about why this is without giving out big spoilers, but Liu gives a very compelling reason for why we can’t all get along and go out clubbing together.

In 2010, Stephen Hawking warned that first contact with aliens could be a disaster for humanity. He compared Earth meeting aliens to Columbus landing in the New World, but with the destruction the Native Americans faced being repeated across the planet.

He does have a point. If aliens can reach Earth, then they probably have the technological superiority needed to destroy us. A counter-argument though would be that they would have no reason to do so. Any resources they could extract from the planet could be more easily obtained in space, and if they wanted a new home, then surely there would be plenty of uninhabited worlds out there for them to take. After all, Earth has been human-free but habitable for most of its life, so statistically, shouldn’t most habitable worlds be uninhabited? Slaves? If you can build a fleet of space ships, you can build a robot workforce. Ideology? Maybe, but if they’re the type to keep stirring up wars, they might not have the time or resources needed to explore the universe.

All things considered, if we make contact with aliens, we’d all be friendly, right? Technological restraints might prevent us from having the type of space opera universe we see in Wayfarers, but it’s not hard to picture some sort of community where we have peaceful relations with alien civilisations. Yet in 三体, Liu not only justifies why the trisolarian aliens are out to get us, but also paints a realistic picture of a universe where every alien race is hostile. I can’t say why, because that would spoil The Dark Forest, but if you really want to know without reading the books, google ‘dark forest theory’; the logic behind the 三体 universe should be easy enough to find from there.

三体 is a cynical and logical response to the optimism found in space operas like Star Wars, Star Trek, and other works like Wayfarers. Not only that, but the focus on technology and the realism the series employs make this hostile view of the universe seem not just possible, but highly likely.

It was a bit depressing seeing the usual tropes of an interstellar civilisation so drastically reversed. And yet it was also fascinating and thought-provoking. 三体 did dent my excitement at the prospect of meeting aliens and made the universe seem like a darker place, but I still enjoyed the series. Having your view of the universe changed is a big thing, and the 三体 books did it in a very enjoyable way. But I feel like I really needed a more optimistic space opera afterwards, and the two Wayfarers books were perfect for that. I loved both series, and both Death’s End and A Closed and Common Orbit deserve their places as finalists for the Hugo Award.

 

~ Lauren

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Hugo Award Finalists

2017 Hugo Award Finalists

Wow, the Finalists for the 2017 Hugos have been announced. It seems like I’ve only just finished nominating. This is the biggest ballot on record, with 108 Finalists in total. Part of the reason this ballot is so much bigger is because there are six finalists in every category instead of five. So, I better get reading; voting closes July 15, and the winners will be announced August 11. No time at all really; so I gotta cut this into short and just list the finalists.

BEST NOVEL

  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
  • Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
  • The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
  • Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

BEST NOVELLA

  • The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

BEST NOVELETTE

  • Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
  • The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan (Tor.com, July 2016)
  • The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing, May 2016)
  • The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
  • Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)
  • You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

BEST SHORT STORY

  • The City Born Great by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
  • A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
  • Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
  • Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
  • That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
  • An Unimaginable Light by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

BEST RELATED WORK

  • The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)
  • The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)
  • Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)
  • The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow / Harper Collins)
  • “The Women of Harry Potter” posts by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)
  • Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY

  • Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
  • Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)
  • Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)
  • The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION – LONG FORM

  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
  • Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)
  • Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)
  • Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)
  • Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION – SHORT FORM

  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)
  • Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
  • Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)
  • Splendor & Misery[album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

BEST EDITOR – SHORT FORM

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams

BEST EDITOR – LONG FORM

  • Vox Day
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Chris McGrath
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Sana Takeda

BEST SEMIPROZINE

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by P. Alexander
  • GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
  • The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

BEST FANZINE

  • Castalia House Blog, edited by Jeffro Johnson
  • Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood
  • Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
  • Nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
  • Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
  • SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

BEST FANCAST

  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
  • Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
  • The Rageaholic, presented by RazörFist
  • Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

BEST FAN WRITER

  • Mike Glyer
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Natalie Luhrs
  • Foz Meadows
  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Chuck Tingle

BEST FAN ARTIST

  • Ninni Aalto
  • Alex Garner
  • Vesa Lehtimäki
  • Likhain (M. Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Mansik Yang

BEST SERIES

  • The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)
  • The Expanse by James S.A. Corey (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
  • The October Daye Books by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)
  • The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)
  • The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Harper Voyager UK)
  • The Vorkosigan Saga  by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER

  • Sarah Gailey
  • Mulrooney
  • Malka Older
  • Ada Palmer
  • Laurie Penny
  • Kelly Robson

 

The first thing that pops out to me is that to read all the novels, I’ll still have to read five books just like last year. I’ve already read three of the finalists (Ninefox Gambit, All the Birds in the Sky, and The Obelisk Gate), but of the three remaining, Death’s End and A Closed and Common Orbit are sequels, so I’ll have to read the previous books in the series to get the most out of them.

I’m in a somewhat similar predicament when it comes to the novella The Ballad of Black Tom. I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, but after hearing that it is a subversion of Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook, I decided to read the original first. But then, I also didn’t really want to read The Horror at Red Hook because I heard it’s really badly written and that even by Lovecraft’s standards it’s racist. I suppose I’ll see how much time I have.

Oh yeah, Chuck Tingle is back, but this time nominated in the category of Best Fan Writer, which I think is pretty cool. There is also a new dinosaur erotica story I am forced to check out. Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Knock-Off Chuck Tingle… I mean, Stix Hiscock.

Okay, maybe that was uncalled for. I haven’t even read his novelette, so maybe Mr. Hiscock is a perfectly respectable voice in the silly dinosaur erotica genre. I haven’t been keeping up with the latest dinosaur porn, so I wouldn’t know. I just get the impression from Mr. Hiscock’s two books and their publication date that he might be a copycat. Also, it’s a novelette! Space Raptor Butt Invasion was the perfect length for what it was; I’m not sure I’m looking forward to something much longer by someone without Chuck Tingle’s warm and somewhat silly style.

But nearly everything else on the list I’m looking forward to reading or watching. Quite a few of the stories have been on my radar for a while, and I’m also really interested in listening to Splendour and Misery by Clipping. I’m not really that into Hip-Hop, but I like most music, I love science-fiction themed concept albums, and Daveed Diggs was good in Hamilton.

The big question is whether or not I’ll have time for everything.

Should be a fun few months.

 

~ Lauren

 

 

 

 

 

Worldcon75 and the Hugo Awards

Nominations for the 2017 Hugo Award are open now. The Hugos are the biggest awards in the Science Fiction and Fantasy world, and are given out each year at the World Science Fiction Convention. Awards are given in dozens of categories, and honour everything from novels to short stories to comics to movies. The awards have been awarded every year since 1955, and guess who decides the winners of these prestigious awards?

We do. Anyone can nominate works for the Hugo Awards. From these nominations five finalists are chosen, and then anyone can vote for the winners.

Well, okay, ‘anyone’ is probably a bit of a stretch. To nominate and vote on the Hugo Awards, you have to be a member of the current Worldcon. Membership is open to anyone; you don’t have to actually attend the convention. It’s easy, but it isn’t free.

This year, the Hugos will be presented at Worldcon75, at the Messukeskus convention centre in Helsinki Finland. (Website here). If you wish to attend the convention, a full membership will get you in all week. But if a trip to Finland isn’t quite practical right now, a Supporting Membership costs 35€/$40. A Supporting Membership gives you the ability to nominate works for the awards, and the ability to vote on the winners. To make the voting easier, Supporting Membership also gives you access to a downloadable Hugo Packet, which contains samples of all the works. Last year these samples included the complete Novellas, Novelettes, and Short Stories that get nominated. If you are interested in participating, you can join Worldcon75 here.

Last year, I voted for winners, but I didn’t make any nominations. I just hadn’t read enough from the previous year to really make nominating worthwhile. Despite that, I don’t regret buying the Supporting Membership. When the nominations were announced, I read all the novels, novellas, novelettes and short stories on the ballot. Due to the influence of a group of angry right-wing trolls, I read a few sub-par or just plain bad stories. But I also read some pretty amazing stories. I would never have read The Fifth Season if I hadn’t felt compelled to for the awards. I wouldn’t have been introduced to the world of Penric and Desdemona, or met Binti. Seveneves would still be on the ‘to read one day’ list, I would still have no idea who Chuck Tingle is. Hmm… maybe I would be better off without that last one.

Voting for the Hugo Awards gave me a reason to venture out of my comfort zone with my reading. It also inspired me to read more new releases last year, so I could nominate this year. Normally I read a lot of older science fiction, so reading more modern stories was a nice change. Especially now that I’m reading more fantasy. In 2016, I read seven novels that were published in that year. I have my five nominees mostly decided, but I still have time to read a few more novels before nominations close. Maybe I can read Too Like the Lightning? Or finish the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series. Death’s End is eligible this year, and I am halfway through The Three-Body Problem and loving it. I’d be interested in hearing any other suggestions.

Of course, novels aren’t going to be my main focus for now. Whilst I read a lot of new novels, I haven’t really read much more shorter fiction than normal. I’ve found some good stories in Analog Science Fiction and Fact that I’ll be nominating, and have read some of Tor’s novellas, but I feel I’m missing out on the best short fiction to come out this year. To remedy this situation, I have found this amazing site called Rocket Stack Rank which aims to help casual SF fans find and discuss short fiction. They have a page full of recommendations for this year’s nominations, as well as instructions on how to find the stories. I plan to go through that and read anything I find interesting. If you’re looking to nominate for the Hugos this year, or if you just want to read more short fiction, I highly recommend this site.

If you are interested in joining Worldcon and voting for the Hugo Awards, then hurry up! You need to register before January 31 to be eligible to vote. Hmmm… maybe I shouldn’t have procrastinated so much on this post. Nominations close 8/3/17, at 06:59 UTC. The final ballot will be announced in April, and voting for the winners will be open until July. The winners will be announced in August. Worldcon members can nominate and vote for the following categories;

  • Best Novel
  • Best Novella
  • Best Novelette
  • Best Short Story
  • Best Graphic Story
  • Best Related Work
  • Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
  • Best Editor – Long Form
  • Best Editor – Short Form
  • Best Professional Artist
  • Best Semiprozine
  • Best Fanzine
  • Best Fancast
  • Best Fan Writer
  • Best Fan Artist

 

In addition to these categories, Worldcon75 will also include a special Hugo for “Best Series”. And as usual, The John W. Campbell Award for best new writer will also be given out with the Hugos. If you want to learn more about these awards, then visit the official website of the Hugo Awards, or check out the Wikipedia entry for more background information.

In the meantime, I have a lot of reading to do. And a lot of reflection on what I read last year to undergo. There may be a lull in reviews for a while as I focus on shorter fiction, but don’t worry; I’m not going anywhere. Happy reading everyone.

 

~ Lauren

Lauren’s Super Speculative Fiction Book Bingo Card

This year I have made my own book bingo card, with some challenges I want to complete. I’m going to put more effort into finishing these challenges than I did for last year’s one; not that there was anything wrong with the challenges last time, I’m just more motivated to set reading goals this year.

I’m hoping to read more previous winners of the Hugo Award for Best Novel this year. I have my own checklist of Hugo and Nebula award winners that I’ve been working through for a few years, and so far I have read 12 out of 69 Hugo winners, and 8 out of 51 Nebula winners. I put a few Hugo winners on my Christmas and Birthday wishlist this year, and for Christmas I received American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Neuromancer by William Gibson. I’m aiming to tick off a few more Hugo winners this year, which is why this Book Bingo card has five ‘Hugo Winner’ challenges, arranged in such a way that no bingo can be made without one.

2017book-bingo

The rules for this challenge are simple: each book can only count for one challenge, and I have until the end of the year to complete it. If anyone else is interested in giving themselves a reading challenge or making themselves read more Hugo winners, then feel free to copy the card and play along with me. A list of all the winners of the Hugo Award for Best Novel can be found here. Happy reading everyone.

~ Lauren

2016 Hugo Award Winners

2016hugo2016 Hugo Award Winners

 

I got to watch my first ever Hugo Award Ceremony this morning. I enjoyed Pat Cadigan as the host, and whilst not all the winners were my first picks (which is to be expected in such a diverse fandom) I don’t think there were any undeserving winners. I also feel that this was a better outcome than last year’s sweep of No Awards. Mr. Noah Ward only picked up two wins (Best Fancast and Best Related Work), but the Rabid Puppies were well and truly put in their place. Well, mostly. But that’s a debate for another day. For now, here is a list of the winners.

 

 

Best Novel: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

Best Novelette: Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine)

Best Short Story: Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer (Clarksworld)

Best Related Work: No Award

Best Graphic Story: The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamies King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Production; Netflix)

Best Editor (Short Form): Ellen Datlow

Best Editor (Long Form): Sheila E. Gilbert

Best Professional Artist: Abigail Larson

Best Semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Best Fanzine: File 770 edited by Mike Glyer

Best Fancast: No Award

Best Fan Artist: Steve Stiles

Best Fan Writer: Mike Glyer

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Andy Weir

 

Congratulations to all the winners. Especially N.K Jemisin for taking out the ‘Big One’. I loved The Fifth Season so much. I have the sequel The Obelisk Gate waiting on my Kindle, and cannot wait to continue the story.

On a lighter note, it seems that no talk of this year’s Hugo’s is complete without mentioning Chuck Tingle. Space Raptor Butt Invasion came in 3rd Place in the short story category (right after No Award). After the awards, I began wondering what the Rabid Puppies had to say about the results. My search led to this gem of a website. So, I just want to say a big thank-you to Chuck Tingle, for all the silly laughs.

I think I should also acknowledge the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards. I haven’t said much about them because I knew I wouldn’t have the time to read two sets of nominees. However, some classics were nominated for the awards, and on Thursday the winners were announced. They are;

 

Best Novel: Slan by A. E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science-Fiction)

Best Novella: If This Goes On… by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction)

Best Novelette: The Roads Must Roll by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science-Fiction)

Best Short Story: Robbie by Isaac Asimov (Super Science Stories)

Best Related Work: Category Dropped

Best Graphic Story: Batman #1 (Detective Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Fantasia written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, directed by Samuel Armstrong et al. (Walt Disney Productions, RKO Radio Pictures)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Pinocchio written by Ted Sears et al., directed by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske (Walt Disney Productions, RKO Radio Pictures)

Best Editor (Short Form): John W. Campbell

Best Editor (Long Form): Category Dropped

Best Professional Artist: Virgil Finlay

Best Semiprozine: Category Dropped

Best Fanzine: Futuria Fantasia by Ray Bradbury

Best Fancast: Category Dropped

Best Fan Artist: Category Dropped

Best Fan Writer: Ray Bradbury

 

All in all, I think this year has been a good one for the Hugo Awards. The Retro Hugos showcased some of the classics of the genre, while the 2016 winners paint a bright picture of our genre’s future. This year’s winners represent diversity; not diversity as in some new PC trend or quota system, but diversity as in a range of ideas and voices and stories that will keep science fiction and fantasy exciting for many years to come.

 

~Lauren

 

 

2016 Hugo Awards: Novellas

 

Novella Reviews

Well, I didn’t get to read all the novellas before voting closed. I couldn’t read Slow Bullets and The Builders in time, partly because of my poor time management skills, and partly because J. K. Rowling distracted me with a new Harry Potter story. It was still great fun reading them all. All five are novellas that I think deserve praise and recognition, but they are also five novellas that I wouldn’t have gotten around to reading if I hadn’t set out to read and review Hugo nominees.

So let’s set aside the politics, and just enjoy some good stories.

 

Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold25791216

A fantasy story about a young man who accidentally gets possessed by a demon. It is set in the Chalion universe (aka World of the Five Gods), which I am unfamiliar with. Despite this, I never got confused by the world or what was going on. This novella stands on its own and makes me interested in reading more of Bujold’s work.

The relationship between Penric and his demon Desdemona was a joy to read, and I would be very interested in seeing them go on more adventures. Demons in this setting are not necessarily evil, and being possessed of one gives one magical powers. At first Desdemona can only communicate with Penric by talking out loud with his own mouth. That combined with the fact that Desdemona has only ever possessed women before leads to a few funny moments.

This novella had an amazing, deep world, an interesting magic system, good characterisation and an action-packed climax. All in all, a total hit.

 

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A very original story with a unique perspective. Binti is a teenage Himba girl. Himba referring to an indigenous Namibian people. I’m not going to give a detailed analysis here of who the Himba are, since Google is a thing, but they have a couple of traditions that play a big role in Binti’s story. Firstly, since they live in a desert with very little water, they cover their bodies and hair with otjize; a paste made of ochre and butterfat. Secondly, the Himba rarely leave their ancestral lands. This causes some complications for Binti, as she is excepted into the most prestigious university in the galaxy. And no, it is not within the Himba ancestral lands. It isn’t even on Earth.

So Binti has to make a journey away from her home and family, to be surrounded by people who do not share her customs. I found the start of this story, where Binti is travelling amongst strangers for the first time, to be really interesting. Once this introduction phase is done we get caught up in a conflict between humanity and their alien enemies. This part of the story was fun too, but there are a few things that I felt let it down. The science wasn’t really articulated that well, making a lot of what happened feel a bit more fantasy-esque that it should. I also feel that the resolution was a bit too neat for everyone involved, considering just how Binti got caught up in this conflict.

Despite its flaws, this story will stay with me for a few reasons. The first is that Okarafor takes a group of people who we view as ‘primitive’ and ‘tribal’, and shows them in the far future being adapt with technology yet still sticking to their customs. The second is that the idea of a planetary-wide university full of all sorts of people is just so appealing for me, and the third is that there are more stories about Binti on the way for me to look forward to.

 

25188109Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve always had a soft spot for stories that have fantasy and science fiction tropes mixed together, so as soon as I knew that the magical god-emperor had a nemesis that built robots, I was intrigued. This story is about Emperor Kairominas and his world. Kai has a magical power called lancing, which allows him to do everything but control the weather. He is the most powerful and important person in the world; but his world is not the only one out there.

It turns out that in this universe the majority of people are brains in jars, living in simulated worlds that revolve around them. Fantasy worlds, futuristic worlds, contemporary worlds, and communal worlds where they can all meet and interact.

The nature of this universe raises a lot of ethical and existential issues for Kai and the other people he interacts with. Do their life really have purpose? Are their accomplishments real? Are the simulated people in their worlds real? And if so what rights do they have? But fear not; as interesting as the philosophy discussion is in this story, that’s not all that’s there. We have world-building – not just Kai’s world, but this whole brain-in-a-box system feels very much lived in – we have character development, we have giant robots and fights, this is a fun, action packed ride. And the ending… well, obviously I’m not going to say much about that, except that it was pretty damn powerful.

 

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

This story starts as a big war is coming to a close. There is a ceasefire, but that doesn’t mean that everything is suddenly peaceful. Scur, the main character, is left for dead after being captured by a savage war criminal on the other side. It’s like the set up for some sort of revenge fuelled rampage, except after Scur loses consciousness she wakes up in a hibernation berth on a derelict ship, along with hundreds of prisoners of war. Scur still wants revenge, but survival becomes the main concern of everyone. I’m not going to say much about the state of the galaxy outside their ship, because learning about that along with the characters was one of the best parts of the story. And really, it needs that slow reveal. Without the intrigue of learning more about the world and what has happened outside the prison ship, this story starts to feel a bit less original.

I liked the idea of the slow bullets. Tracking devices/information storage devices/bombs placed in the chests of every soldier. It’s really hard to talk about their importance without writing spoilers though; let’s just say that the characters have to make a huge decision about what happens to their bullets.

 

 

The Builders by Daniel Polansky25667920

A novella with 53 chapters. That alone is pretty impressive. This is a western fantasy, and is a story where all the characters are small anthro animals, which gave the story a nostalgic feeling for me. However, these animals aren’t cute and don’t sing songs; they murder each other violently and get drunk. It’s a straightforward story of the revenge fuelled rampage I thought Slow Bullet’s might go for at first.

The Builders is also very well written. I liked the style, and the characters were all fun badarses who were introduced very well. I wish the worldbuilding was as good. This tale takes place in a kingdom called The Gardens, which boarders a Kingdom to the South, which implies a fantasy world. However, France and Mexico and Turkey are also places in this world, so maybe it is actually a furry version of our world. Hard to say. It’s also hard to imagine the scale of this world, which I suppose is unavoidable in this medium. We know that badgers are amongst the largest animals and almost touch ceilings in a lot of buildings, but there are all manner of smaller creatures. Most seem to be rodents, but there are also cats and foxes.

This is a fun, dark, action-packed tale. However, I’d say this was my least favourite of the five nominees. Mostly due to lack of world-building, and also the quest the characters go on feels a bit pointless at times.

 

Well, that’s all for the Hugo Nominees this year. As I said, no time to look over everything. I guess I’ll see you all again when the awards are handed out. Or maybe earlier; we’ll see.

~Lauren

 

2016 Hugo Awards: Novelettes

Novelette Reviews28251392

Finally finished reading those in-between length stories, the novelettes. The Rabid Puppies almost got a clean sweep of this category. Two of their nominees (Flashpoint: Titan and What Price Humanity) were from an anthology called There Will Be War Vol.X, which also contains the short story Seven Kill Tiger. Given how much I disliked Seven Kill Tiger and that the volume opened with editor Jerry Pournelle implying that the world was peaceful between the end of the Cold War and September 11, I didn’t have high expectations for the novelettes that were drawn from that. Suffice to say I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed all the nominees in this category, and ordering my votes will be difficult.

In the meantime, I better get back to reading. Voting closes on July 31st; so I only have four days to read five novellas. Wish me luck.

 

Flashpoint: Titan by Cheah Kai Wai

From There Will Be War Vol. X

A fun military SF story, with some nice space battles. The politics of space exploration were interesting and believable, and the inclusion of Kessler Syndrome (space debris making it impossible to leave orbit) as the new Mutually Assured Destruction was a powerful motivator for all the action. The action in this story is almost non-stop and full of tension. I also really liked that the combatants were Japanese and Chinese, with the Americans playing an important, but more passive role. Given the state of the three countries space programs, that seems realistic to me. My only criticism would be that there is little characterisation, with the captain of the Takeo being the only character to be fleshed out at all. It lessened the impact of the destruction of the final battle a lot.

 

What Price Humanity by David VanDyke

From There Will Be War Vol. X

Another good military SF story. After reading Seven Kill Tiger I didn’t have much hope for There Will Be War Vol X, but this story and Flashpoint: Titan have turned me around. What Price Humanity shines where Flashpoint flopped; the characters were amazing. I really connected with Vango as he tried to help his little crew figure out what was going on, and the ending was more powerful because of it.  This is a story about humanity in a war we can’t win, which asks the toughest question of all; just how far will we go to survive? Most of the story takes place inside virtual reality, and we get some interesting questions about reality while we’re at it.

 

23512999Obits by Stephen King

From The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Another fun story, about a journalist who discovers that he has the power to kill people by writing their obituaries. Kinda feels like what Death Note would have been like if Light Yagami had been a normal person who felt wrong about killing people, and if the ‘write about people and they die’ power didn’t have so many rules. The characterisation in this story was good, and the reaction the characters had to this power struck me as being realistic. However, I have often found myself coming away from Stephen King’s shorter fiction feeling unsatisfied due to the ending, and I got that again here. The story builds up, the stakes get higher, and then the ending completely fizzles out.

 

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu)

Read it here: http://uncannymagazine.com/article/folding-beijing-2/

A story with an obvious metaphor, but who cares about how obvious the message is when it is done so well. In this story, Beijing is divided into three cities called First Space, Second Space, and Third Space. Only one of these Beijings is active at a given time, while the other two get folded away underground with their population in suspended animation. Each Beijing is home to a different class, with different career opportunities, different hours they live through, and different rates of inflation. This story takes a good look at classism in China, and around the world. An interesting thing to note is that although the system is unfair and life is hard for our hero Lao Dao, the folding Beijing is portrayed as an uncomfortable world for those at the bottom, rather than a full blown dystopia. I don’t know if this is meant to be just a reflection of what our world is really like, or an expression of Chinese attitudes towards one’s place in society.

All in all, this was a really good story. The translation felt natural, and the language – particularly the descriptions of the city folding – was on point.

I have a few little nitpicks; mainly in wondering how the folding Beijing relates to the rest of the world and a few odd POV shifts, but over all, this was a fun story.

 

And You Will Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander

Read it here: http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/shall-know-trail-dead/

A gritty cyber-punk story, about a cyborg killer realising there might be more to life than just death and booze. Lots of violence and bad language. Characters were good, the language was beautiful. Well, maybe that isn’t the right word; the language was very dirty with lots and lots of swearing, but it described the scenes and the characters so well. It’s a bloody action-packed ride that manages to get some romance in too. There were a few points though where I found the action to be a bit hard to follow; not because there was a lot happening, but because that otherwise fun and awesome language got in the way a bit.

 

~Lauren