Reviews: The Collapsing Empire and Six Wakes

The Collapsing Empire and Six Wakes

 Finished the two Hugo Nominees I haven’t reviewed yet. I’d been meaning to read both of them earlier, but The Collapsing Empire I never got around to, and Six Wakes seems to have not made it to my country yet. Couldn’t find it on the Australian Kindle store or in Australian shops. I had a similar problem with Too Like the Lightning last year, but I did manage to get that one from Audible. Six Wakes wasn’t even available there. Not unless I wanted to subscribe to the US Audible. If that would have worked. I was thinking of just waiting until I got the voter packet, but in the end I just didn’t want to wait anymore and ordered a copy online. After all that effort, I am so glad to be able to finally read and review these books.

The Collapsing Empire

By John Scalzi

Published March 21st 2017 (Tor Books)

Score: 8/10

The Collapsing Empire is a fun, accessible, and impossible-to-put-down space opera that I enjoyed every moment of. We are taken into a world called the Interdependency, where all human inhabited worlds are connected by an extra-dimensional field called The Flow, and no world has the resources to survive without trading. There are great houses and royalty and rebellions and scientists and ship captains galore. Everything great about the genre. Well, nearly everything. No aliens, but there’s no need for them here.

The problem with the Interdependency is that The Flow is about to collapse, leaving all those interdependent worlds to fend for themselves. To make matters worse, there is only one world in the Interdependency that is an actual habitable planet, and due to how far away from the trade routes it is, it’s been used as a backwater for exiles for decades. The story follows three characters – a scientist studying The Flow, the daughter of a house and trader, and the newly crowned Emperox – as they realise just how screwed the Interdependency is.

All three storylines are a lot of fun, and the main characters all feel real. It’s nice that there were so many strong female characters here. It’s like reading an old-school space opera, but with modern sensibilities in mind. The parallels between the collapse of The Flow and the inability of previous Emperox’s to respond to the threat and our own issues with responding to climate change were great, and didn’t feel too preachy.

What let me down though is that The Collapsing Empire felt more like the set up to the series, rather than a complete story in itself. Though I imagine if the second book was out now I wouldn’t care too much about that.

 

Six Wakes

By Mur Lafferty

Published January 31st 2017 (Orbit)

Score: 7.5

Six Wakes is a locked-room murder mystery with a twist. We dive into a world divided between humans and clones. Clones get their minds copied and implanted into a clone of themselves when they die, and there are strict rules governing the whole process. The story starts when the crew of a ship heading towards a new planet wake up from the cloning process with no memory of how they died and their previous bodies floating dead in the ship and their computer damaged.

The story takes place over five days as the crew try to repair the damage and piece together what happened. It’s a simple but intriguing premise, and as we learn more about the characters and unravel the mystery the book becomes impossible to put down. There is a lot of action on the ship itself, but also a lot of opportunities to explore the ethical implications of the cloning technology. It is mentioned that with the technology to copy a human mind and download it into a new body, there also comes the ability to ‘hack’ a person: To change aspects of their personality or alter their memories. Some of the technological speculation reminded me of the game Soma by Frictional Games, where mind copying – and how it isn’t the same as mind transference – is a big deal. Especially the parts that focused on the captain of the ship.

There is a lot of information to take in and I’m not sure if that hindered the ‘fairness’ or solvability of the mystery. I didn’t figure out what happened until the characters did, but I also tend to gloss over dates and timeframes, so someone who is paying more attention might figure out who the killer was earlier. Not that being able to solve a mystery yourself should be an essential part of a mystery, but I tend to prefer mysteries that I could have possibly figured out myself.

For a story that takes place over a few days with a handful of characters in a confined area, Six Wakes packs in a lot of world-building. What does personhood mean when we can be re-programmed? Does cloning make life cheap? Or was it always cheap? How do religions react to the technology? This book contains interesting questions, great world-building, and a fantastic plot. The characters are a bit forgettable though. Six Wakes is a fun book, and I’m glad I put in the effort to get myself a copy.

 

~ Lauren

 

 

 

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Hugo 2018 and Retro Hugo 1943 Finalists Announced

I am excited to report that the finalists for this year’s Hugo and Retro Hugo Awards have been announced. Yes, I will actually look into the Retro Hugos this year. I think I’ll have time. For a full list of Finalists for 2018, see here (and the 1943 finalists can be found here

I’ll be concentrating on the Novel, Novella, Novelette and Short Story categories once again. For the novel category, there are two books I haven’t read; Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty and The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. Both of these were stories I wanted to read last year, but never got around to. For Six Wakes, this was because the only way to access it was to order the paperback from the USA. I’m not opposed to this, but I was always hoping it would become available on Kindle or Audible. I can’t wait to finally get my hands on it. Somehow.

For the Novellas, we have an almost complete clean-sweep by Tor.com publishing, with Sarah Pinsker’s And Then There Were (N-one) from Uncanny being the only non-Tor entry on the ballot. Most of these novellas I have heard good things about, but haven’t read, so catching up on this category should be good. In particular, I’m looking forward to reading Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire. This story is the sequel to last year’s winner Every Heart a Doorway, and is another book I’ve neglected for too long.

Next are the novelettes. Quite a mixed bunch here, including Yoon Ha Lee’s Extracurricular Activities, which I nominated. Of course I did; it’s part of the Machineries of Empire series. The only other finalist I’ve read is Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time by K.M. Szpara, which  has still stayed with me for quite some time, but was not one of my favourites this year.

I’ve read half the short stories before and am happy to see Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad as a finalist. That was a fun little story that I found myself re-reading again. The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata was also a standout story for me.

With the retro Hugos, there are a few names I recognise and look forward to reading. There are also a few that I’m not looking forward to. Second Stage Lensmen by Doc E.E. Smith is one of the nominees. When I first heard about Smith’s work, it sounded like something I would love. But I started on the Skylark series and was just not impressed. Damsels-in-distress, invincible, perfect heroes, humanoids = good, chlorine aliens = irredeemably evil, and the writing style itself all made me cringe. From what I’ve read of Smith, it was obvious that he was at his prime before the Golden Age that started in the 40s. On the other hand, the Lensmen series played a huge role in shaping science fiction. Lensmen is the epitome of classic space opera, and I know that there is a lot of cool stuff in the series. So I guess the only question is whether or not I need to read the whole series or just Second Stage Lensmen.

I’m excited about these finalists, and it’s good to have such a range of stories to keep me busy for the next couple of months. In the meantime, I do have a couple more reviews to publish, so I’ll try and get them done soon. If you’ve been disappointed by my lack of posts, then don’t worry: I’ll be a lot busier for a while.

~Lauren   

 

 

2017 Hugo Award Results

Well, that was an adventure. The livestream for the Hugo Awards didn’t work, which was frustrating, but the text-based live coverage saved the day. The team running that were excellent. At one point a guy in the audience started livestreaming the event on Bilibili. The stream wasn’t very consistent for me, so, there was more frustration, but I wasn’t giving up that easily. Between the two sources I got a decent look at the ceremony. A lot happened, but I am super tired, so I’m just going to go ahead with the results:

 

Best Fancast: Tea and Jeopardy

Best Fan Writer: Abigail Nussbaum (No win for Chuck Tingle this year)

Best Fan Artist: Elizabeth Leggett

Best Fanzine: Lady Business

Best Semiprozine: Uncanny

Best Professional Artist: Julie Dillon

 

Best Editor (Short Form): Ellen Datlow

Best Editor (Long Form): Liz Gorinsky

 

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Arrival

 

Best Graphic Story: Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening – Marjorie Liu & Sana Takada

Best Related Work: Words are My Matter: Writings about Life and Books, 2000-2016 – Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Best Short Story: Seasons of Glass and Iron – Amal El-Mohtar (My top pick!)

Best Novelette: The Tomato Thief – Ursula Vernon (Another top pick of mine won. Ursula Vernon made a cool speech about dead whales, but the video lagged right at the punchline.)

Best Novella: Every Heart a Dorrway – Seanan McGuire (Not my top pick, but we all knew this would be the result. Every Heart a Doorway is a worthy winner.)

Best Series: The Vorkosigan Saga – Lois McMaster Bujold (Presented by George R.R. Martin. I really have to start reading this series now.)

Best Novel: The Obelisk Gate – N.K Jemisin (Wow, I was not expecting that. Was really hoping for Ninefox Gambit. But I can’t fault the voters; every nominee deserved to win, and The Broken Earth Trilogy is absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to read the final book next week. I think this is the second time a sequel has won the Hugo in the year immediately following the first book, with Speaker for the Dead being the first. I’ll fact check that tomorrow… too tired right now.)

 

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Author: Ada Palmer

 

There was also an award handed out at the start of the ceremony to the Hugo Awards from the Guiness Book of Records. Turns out the Hugos are now the longest running SF award in history.

There were a lot of amazing nominees, and all the winners deserved their rockets. I’ll have to go and rewatch some of the speeches when the recording comes out, since I missed most of them. For now though, it’s passed 5am, I’m wondering if it was worth staying up so late. If your interested in seeing how the votes went down, the Hugo Report can be found here.

Time for some sleep. Goodnight everyone.

~Lauren

Less Than a Week to Go

Just a reminder that The Hugo Award Ceremony Will be held in just a few days time, and Worldcon has released details about the coverage of the award ceremony which can be read here. The winners will be announced on Friday the 11th August, and the ceremony will start at 19:30 local time. Which is 02:30 on Saturday where I am (near Sydney).

I watched last year’s ceremony on Ustream, and they currently have an off air video titled Hugo Awards. This year Worldcon is live streaming the ceremony on their official Youtube channel. Live text-based coverage can also be found on the Hugo Award’s official site

After the ceremony, the results should be easy enough to find online. I’ll try to do a wrap-up post myself, though since I’ll be staying up until at least 3am to watch the ceremony, I might be too tired and lazy to do it the following day.

Hugo Award Novella Finalists 2017

I’ve now finished reading all the written fiction nominated for the 2017 Hugos. And I did it all before the voting deadline this time. Yay! This year was full of really strong stories, and the novellas were some of the best I think. Most I have read, or have been intending to read for a while, so I’m really glad to have finally read and reviewed them all.

 

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Penric and the Shaman – Lois McMaster Bujold

Penric and the Shaman is the sequel to Penric’s Demon. I read this last year and loved it, but since then I’ve read the sequel, Penric’s Mission, and every time I try to think of Penric and the Shaman, I end up thinking about Penric’s Mission instead. Shaman explores a different type of magic to the chaos demon magic we were introduced to in Penric’s Demon. Shaman magic is based on nature and animals, and there is some mistrust between Shamans and Sorcerers.

This story not only explores the magic and theology of a really well developed fantasy world, but is also a murder mystery with no actual antagonist. I found out that this story references a lot of things from Bujold’s novel The Hallowed Hunt, which I am now eager to read.

It’s hard to say how well this story stands on its own. It’s a sequel, but it doesn’t follow straight on from Penric’s Demon. Compared to Penric’s Demon and Penric’s Mission, I don’t think it’s as good, but it is still a fun read. I’m just going to say that the entire series is amazing, with a fascinating magic system and compelling characters.

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The Dream-Quest of Vellitt BoeKij Johnson

This is a retelling of H.P Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Johnson wrote this story as a way to revisit something she loved in childhood but contained things she found problematic. I have to say, mission successful. This Dream-Quest has everything great about the original, but the writing feels modern, and not racist or sexist at all. Johnson’s Dream-Quest is an adventure story in a strange, fantasy world full of strange creatures, fantastic areas, and insane gods. The protagonist is the titular Vellitt Boe, a teacher at Ulthar’s Women’s Collage. I really enjoyed reading an adventure story about an older woman; Vellitt isn’t the type of heroine I would expect to find in a story like this, but she was such a fun character.

As well as great characters, this story has an amazing world. Of course, the credit for the Dreamlands has to go to Lovecraft, but Johnson has done an excellent job of bringing this world to life once again. Her descriptions of all the locations Vellitt visits are wonderfully evocative. Lovecraft’s worlds and mythos are wonderful, but Kij Johnson is a much better writer, adding more depth to the Dreamworlds and crafting an amazing plot. With dialog! Lovecraft was never that good at writing dialog. If you are interested in Lovecraftian stories but don’t like the man’s views or some of the themes he put in his stories, then I cannot recommend this re-telling enough.

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The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor LaValle

Another Lovecraft retelling from Tor.com. I am loving all these modern takes on Lovecraft. Like Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country, The Ballad of Black Tom explores the horrors of racism through Lovecraftian themes. This is a re-imagining of Lovecraft’s The Horror at Red Hook, which I haven’t read yet. I was intending to read The Horror at Red Hook before I read Black Tom, but at the end of the day, I didn’t want to delay reading a really good story in order to slug away at what is considered to be one of Lovecraft’s most poorly written works. Especially since it supposedly relies on the reader being xenophobic in order to be frightening. Maybe I’ll go back and read it if I get all these novellas read before voting closes. Whilst I don’t have any desire to read The Horror at Red Hook, I loved The Ballad of Black Tom enough to be interested in that extra context.

This is the story of Tommy Tester, and Detective Malone. But mostly of Tommy Tester, aka Black Tom. Tom hustles to make a living, and ends up crossing the path of a man who wants to wake the Sleeping King, bringing about the end of the world as we know it. You’d think Tom would want to get the hell away from that level of evil, but being black in the 1920s means Tom actually does get to face great evils from other places too. It’s quite scary seeing just what can happen when you push someone too far.

Then the second half of the novella focuses on Detective Malone, and more on the gory, traditional Lovecraft horror. Some of the things Malone encounters are quite horrific, and the descriptions of these horrors would make Lovecraft proud.

This is another must read for anyone interested in Lovecraft’s mythos but unwilling to read the originals. Actually no, this is a must read for any horror fan out there.

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Every Heart a Doorway –  Seanan McGuire

This novella has received so much hype. I’ve been wanting to read it for ages, but the price in the kindle store was more than I was willing to pay for a novella. I’m glad I didn’t go out and buy this story straight away; this story is amazing, but I feel it falls short of the hype.

Every Heart a Doorway is about what happens to children that travel to magical worlds after the adventure ends and they return home. These children come home to parents that are worried sick about them, and who don’t believe that they have been on magical adventures. The kids have changed during their time in their magical world, and have come to view the other world as home. The story features a secluded boarding school where these wayward children get sent to so they can ‘recover from their delusions’. However, the headmistress has actually been to her own magical world, and helps her students in ways the parents wouldn’t approve of.

It’s a wonderful story, with really engaging characters, diverse magical worlds, and a great fantasy vibe even as the plot began to get really dark. The writing is top notch, and it features transgender and asexual characters. But when you hear a story being praised for a year, and see that story win tons of awards, the bar gets set extremely high, and Every Heart a Doorway fell short of my expectations.

The big problem for me was with the pacing; the plot rushes forward before we’re really finished getting introduced to all the characters and the setting. This causes problems with the character’s reactions to the action. For example, the main character – Nancy – discovers the mutilated body of another student. A few minutes later, she is asking one of the other students about the world they went to. I don’t think these are problems with the plot itself or the characterisation. I just feel that there wasn’t enough space for both the character’s backstories and the plot to be fully explored, and by cramming both together everything was thrown off. Every Heart a Doorway needed to be longer.

That being said, I can’t wait to read the next novella in the series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones. I feel that since it focuses on what I thought was the best part of Every Heart a Doorway (going to a magical world) I’ll probably like it even better.

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This Census-TakerChina Miéville

I’m not really sure what to make of this one. It’s been on my to-read list for a while, but I just had a lot of trouble getting into it. It was confusing at first, but slowly the world building and the story started falling in place. It had a lot of details I really liked, and I also liked the writing style.

This story is about a little boy who lives on an isolated hill with no-one else around except his parents. One day, he witnesses his father kill his mother, but none of the townspeople downhill believe him, so he is forced to continue living on the hill alone with his father. It’s creepy, but I’m not sure I’d consider this horror.

I really liked the characters. Only two of them actually get names, but I never noticed until after I was done. As for the worldbuilding, I would have liked a bit more, but what we got gave us a nice, subtle look at a world falling apart, with hints of past wars. I suppose more information would have ruined the effect, but I feel that there was a bit too much left unexplained.

That being said, I still had trouble with this story. It ended abruptly, and whilst the writing and characters and worldbuilding were all really good, I had trouble getting into it. I think it was that slow start; by the time I had the story figured out and was getting interested, it was starting to draw to a close.

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A Taste of HoneyKai Ashante Wilson

Every other novella on this list I had heard about before reading. A Taste of Honey was the only one that I hadn’t heard of before, and I had no idea what to expect going in.

And damn, this story blew me away. Which is weird, because it is mostly a romance in a high fantasy setting; not the sort of thing I usually go for. It’s the story of Aqib, master of the menagerie in the kingdom of Olorum. One night while walking the prince’s cheetah, he meets Lucrio, a visiting Centurion from the Empire of Daluça. The two hit it off and begin a whirlwind romance. There are some problems though; firstly, Olorum is a very homophobic place, so Aqib and Lucrio must keep their relationship a secret. Secondly, Lucrio and the other Daluçans are returning home in a few days, meaning Aqib must choose between young love and his family obligations.

The story is written in an interesting style, which jumps between different times in Aqib’s life. Aqib is a wonderful, multi-dimensional character who I really came to care about, and this style and the pacing helps bring Aqib’s world and challenges to life. His relationship with Lucrio, as well as all the members of his family, all felt real. Though I would have liked to see more of his father and brother after Aqib made his decision. And I suppose the idea of such a strong romantic relationship forming in such a short time is a bit silly, but the way Wilson writes make it feel real.

The worldbuilding was good. Daluça is Fantasy Rome, and I feel Olorum might be an expy of North Africa, or the Moors, but it felt like a fantasy world. A fantasy world that runs on Clarke’s Law; everything the ‘gods’ say is extreme technobabble that makes no sense to Aqib or the reader, but it made the magic and the religion of the world seem real and unique.

I loved the ending of this story. I feel that deserves special mention, because it is the type of ending that could have been handled badly. That ending had the potential to feel like a rip off and cheapen the story, but in Wilson’s hands it felt perfect. I was so happy reading it. It was the perfect ending to an absolutely amazing story. Definitely want to read The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps now, which I believe is set in the same universe.

 

Okay, that’s my Hugo reading done for the year. I may have a look at the Best New Writer nominees since I have the time, but on the other hand I feel I need to go read something else for a while. Oh well, we’ll just have to see what happens next. Until next time, happy reading everyone.

 

~ 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

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