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Interesting Links for 24-04-2017

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Sunday reading

Current
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth
Words are My Matter, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Death's End, by Cixin Liu
The Parrot's Theorem, by Denis Guedj

Last books finished
The Habit of Loving by Doris Lessing
Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer
The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Next books
Lavondyss, by Robert Holdstock
Argonautica, by Valerius Flaccus
The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd

Interesting Links for 23-04-2017

The Hugo nominations took a lot of what would otherwise have been reading and blogging time so far this year, so I am only now beginning to catch up. Here are four Hugo-eligible books which I read as the votes were coming in, which did not however make the final ballot. It's some time since I read each of them, so my notes are fairly cursory.

Penric's Mission, by Lois McMaster Bujold

Second paragraph of third chapter:
“Now what?” he called up, not expecting a reply.
This is my favourite of the four I'm looking at here - Penric is emerging as a great Bujold character in the mould of Miles Vorkosigan, and the story is a fascinating one of political intrigue and healing from horrible injury which leans a bit on Zelazny's Amber.

I got it mainly because it was Bujold but also because it was close to the Hugo novel/novella boundary - in fact it is just over 45,000 words which is the current upper limit for novellas, though it was marketed as a novella by the publishers and mainly nominated as a novella by voters. I hereby give notice that, if I can find a seconder, I am going to propose that the novel/novella boundary for Hugo purposes set in paragraph 3.2.8 of the WSFS constitution should have a flexibility of 20% (ie 8,000 words rather than 5,000 as at present) like all other such boundaries.

The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown (did not finish)

Second paragraph of third chapter:
“Hello, I am ROZZUM unit 7134, but you may call me Roz. While my robotic systems are activating, I will tell you about myself.[”]
Another instance of the need for greater flexibility in the Hugo novel/novella boundary, this is a shade under 35,000 words, the current minimum for a finalist in the Best Novel category, but was marketed and mainly nominated as a novel.

I feel less strongly because I didn't like it and couldn't finish it; I have a blind spot about cute anthropomorphic robots, and the protagonist here is one of the most typical examples I have come across recently.

The Raven and the Reindeer, by T. Kingfisher [Ursula Vernon]

Second paragraph of third chapter:
“A hundred-year storm,” said Gerta’s grandmother. “The Snow Queen rides tonight.
Another one that I got because there seemed to be some confusion about its length, though in fact I found it was far into novel territory at over 56,000 words. It's a gritty, fleshy retelling of the Snow Queen story, which I admit gave me some sleepless moments in the middle of the night while I was reading it.

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

Second paragraph of third chapter:
He had a saloon partner named Tom Bird, a half-breed who took a sentimental turn when lubricated by whiskey. On nights when Tom Bird felt separate from his life’s design, he shared stories of the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit lived in all things – the earth, the sky, the animals and forests – flowing through and connecting them in a divine thread. Although Ridgeway’s father scorned religious talk, Tom Bird’s testimony on the Great Spirit reminded him of how he felt about iron. He bent to no god save the glowing iron he tended in his forge. He’d read about the great volcanoes, the lost city of Pompeii destroyed by fire that poured out of mountains from deep below. Liquid fire was the very blood of the earth. It was his mission to upset, mash, and draw out the metal into the useful things that made society operate: nails, horseshoes, plows, knives, guns. Chains. Working the spirit, he called it.
This one caught my eye as by far the best scorer on GoodReads/Librarything stats on the BSFA longlist. I found it fascinating - a combination of 19th-century slavery narratives (of which I have read a few) with steampunk; the "underground railroad" of the title is a literal subterranean rail transport system which the protagonists use to try and keep a step ahead of the vindictive slave-catcher Ridgeway. I am surprised I haven't read more about this in my usual sources.

Sunday Reading

Current
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth
The Habit of Loving by Doris Lessing
Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer
Words are My Matter, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Last books finished
Europe in Winter, by Dave Hutchinson
The Gods of the Underworld, by Stephen Cole
The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman
Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee

Next books
The Parrot's Theorem, by Denis Guedj
Lavondyss, by Robert Holdstock
Argonautica, by Valerius Flaccus

Interesting Links for 13-04-2017

My votes for BSFA Best Art 2016

Since none of the artists whose work is up for the BSFA for Best Art is also on the Hugo ballot, I think I can list my preferences here in the usual way.

Read more...Collapse )



Novel | Art | Non-Fiction | Short Fiction

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Many things slipped my mind over the final few days of preparing the Hugo final ballot for publication, and one of them was my usual report on the number of owners and average rating of the Best Novel finalists by users of Goodreads and LibraryThing. This may well measure nothing more than the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, of course. For what it's worth, here are the figures:
Goodreads LibraryThing
owners av rating owners av rating
All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders 65547 3.58 666 3.60
The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin 22695 4.38 288 4.20
Death's End, by Cixin Liu 18745 4.48 220 4.19
Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer 16480 3.97 226 4.06
Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee 12487 3.96 197 4.01
A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers 14361 4.41 153 4.37

As I noted with the Nebulas, All the Birds in the Sky is way ahead in terms of number of owners, but the ratings for some of the others are pretty strong.

My votes for BSFA Best Non-Fiction 2016

This is the second year that the BSFA has had its two-stage vote system in effect, and for the second year in succession I think it's had a positive impact particularly in this category, where some very odd stuff was showing up in the early part of this decade (like, a novel in this non-fiction category back in 2010, and a poorly written essay in 2013).

It's good to see academic treatments of sf getting extra prominence via the shortlist as well, even though it does mean that there is some variation of format among the entries, with blog posts and series of blog posts jostling monographs and essays. But I don't think that is avoidable; there's not really enough interest in the category to allow splitting into sub-categories.

So, all that being said, here is my ranking, in reverse order, with the second paragraph of the third chapter or section of each shortlisted work. (None of the BSFA shortlist is on the Hugo final ballot, so I am unrestrained.)

my votesCollapse )



Novel | Art | Non-Fiction | Short Fiction

Sunday reading

Current
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth
The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman
The Gods of the Underworld, by Stephen Cole
Europe in Winter, by Dave Hutchinson

Last books finished (since 1 April)
The Cabinet of Light, by Daniel O'Mahoney
A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, by Chuck Tingle
The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley
Daughter of Eden, by Chris Beckett

Next books
The Habit of Loving, by Doris Lessing
The Parrot's Theorem, by Denis Guedj
Lavondyss, by Robert Holdstock

My votes for BSFA Short Fiction 2016

There's no overlap at all between the BSFA shortlisted Short Fiction and the Hugo finalists. It's also striking, I think, that all of the BSFA shortlist first appeared in print, whereas none of the Hugo finalists did (several appeared simultaneously in print and electronic publication). I found my final ranking easy enough to make.

my preferencesCollapse )

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March Books

March pretty much disappeared as a reading and blogging month, thanks to the Hugos and also the election in Northern Ireland. I think it will be a little easier now that those two votes are over. I don't need to be as discreet about what I am buying or reading (though Hugo finalist write-ups will have to wait until the second half of August). The one book I'm working through from my standard reading lists is Very Long Indeed, which also didn't help my tally.

Non-fiction: 2 (YTD 9)
The Intimate Adventures Of A London Call Girl, by Belle de Jour
The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher


sf (non-Who): 1 (YTD 18)
Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock


Doctor Who, etc: 1 (YTD 8)
Short Trips: Snapshots, ed. Joseph Lidster


Comics: 1 (YTD 5)
Black Panther Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze


1,000 pages (TYD 10,100)
3/5 (YTD 15/45) by women ("Bell de Jour", Fisher, "Stix Hiscock")
1/5 (YTD 3/45) by PoC (Coates/Stelfreeze)

Reread: 0 (YTD 2)

Reading as of 31 March
Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth
Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers

Coming soon (perhaps):
The Habit of Loving by Doris Lessing
The Parrot's Theorem by Denis Guedj
Lavondyss by Robert Holdstock
Argonautica by Valerius Flaccus
The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
Every Step You Take by Maureen O'Brien
The Innocent Man by John Grisham
Saga Volume 6 by Brian K Vaughan
Warriors ed. George R. R. Martin
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Europe In The Sixteenth Century by H. G. Koenigsberger and George L. Mosse
Dune by Frank Herbert
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling
De Mexicaan met twee hoofden by Joann Sfar
De piraten van de Zilveren Kattenklauw by Geronimo Stilton
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
1688: A Global History by John E. Wills
New Europe by Michael Palin
The Angel Maker, by Stefan Brijs
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
HWJN by Ibraheem Abbas
The Cabinet of Light, by Daniel O'Mahony
The Gods of the Underworld, by Steve Cole
Short Trips: Ghosts of Christmas, ed. by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

Sunday updates will return tomorrow.

The making of the Hugo video

When I agreed to take on the role of Hugo administrator for Worldcon 75 back in late 2015, almost the first decision I made (with my then deputy, Colette Fozard) was about timelines.

Worldcon this year is comparatively early - the second weekend of August (and Tuesday-Sunday rather than Wednesday-Monday) and Easter relatively late (16 April). Worldcon timing has become more flexible in recent years; four of the first six were held in July, but for the half century from 1949 to 1998, only one (1975) was in mid-August, all the rest at the end of August or early September. In the last 20 years, however, the 1998, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Worldcons were all held earlier in August. Both 2018 and the Irish bid for 2019 will also be in mid-August.

I'm one of those who rather like the idea of announcing the Hugo finalists at conventions held over the Easter weekend. But that would have led to a very squeezed timetable for voters, and indeed for us. Working backwards, it seemed best to aim for an announcement in the first week of April, and to close votes two weeks and an extra weekend before that, knowing that it was likely that the 2016 WSFS Business Meeting would give us a larger task than before. That led inevitably to the decision that we'd close voting on St Patrick's Day, 17 March, and aim to make the announcement on 4 April - the first sensible weekday more than two weeks after the close of the vote. (Mondays are almost as bad as weekends for stories like this.)

I was not at all surprised to hear that MidAmeriCon II also decided not to make the announcements at Easter - for the opposite reason, ie that Easter last year was comparatively early, 27 March. The announcement of the final ballot came on my birthday last year, as I was stuck in a noisy pub with a former British MP, trying to discuss serious politics but very distracted by the news coming in from Twitter. I did like the style of graphics for each category (which allow you to tag those finalists with Twitter handles). However I missed the feeling of immediacy that you get with a live announcement.

I toyed with various ideas, such as doing a live webcast announcement (but by whom? And from where?), or organising a sponsored evening event (again, sponsored by whom? And where?). At the same time, at the back of my mind were lurking the images of Helsinki conjured up by Tuula Karjalainen's biography of Tove Jansson, both the city as Tove herself knew it, and her father's sculptures in the city centre for which she modelled.

And I woke up in the middle of the night at the start of February, and I had it - a video tour of Helsinki, with 18 celebrities and fans announcing the 18 Hugo categories for the longest ever Hugo final ballot. If it didn't work, we could always fall back on the tested MidAmeriCon model of timed tweets. But it was surely worth a try. It would be a bit different from the usual way of doing things, and would also be a way to showcase Helsinki for the international audience of Worldcon.

My crazy idea was agreed with surprisingly little fuss. Once we got started, things went really well. Katariina Ihalainen, who is in charge of videography for Worldcon 75 as a whole, accepted the challenge of filming 18 short segments on 1 April and then combining them. Sanna Lopperi took over the inviting and scheduling of individual announcers. Charlotte Laihanen took on logistical wrangling on the day. And before I knew it I was on the plane to Helsinki last Friday, staying overnight with Jukka Halme and Sari Polvinen, and ready for a full day's work on a day of very uncertain weather. And here it is:



The final sequence that you have seen is, of course, very different from the order of filming. It was also a bit different from the original set of ideas. I'd have loved to have had some Finnish politicians, some of whom are sympathetic, but there are municipal elections in Finland this coming weekend and everyone was busy campaigning. If we'd had more time I would have liked to try our luck filming at the old observatory, or the Suomenlinna island fortress, but we were constrained by the calendar and the hours of daylight. We had intended to do shots of the Uspenski Cathedral, Senate Square and the harbour, but the weather was against us. On the other hand, one venue turned us away - luckily by then the weather had improved and we retreated to the Tove Jansson statue in Kaisaniemi Park.

We had actually started next door to there, at 9 am in the main railway station with Johanna Vainikainen, aware of the chilly wind blowing in from the outside. By the time we got to the Finlandia Hall and National Museum, it was actually snowing a little. At the Sibelius monument, I took a selfie with my favourite composer as the snow turned to sleet. Johanna Sinisalo stood in the well of a dormant fountain with a Tove Jansson mermaid, reading the Best Novel finalists with rain dripping off her umbrella. The last shot of all, which was actually the first shown (Hanna Hakarainen and the Campbell Award finalists), was filmed at 5.30 in the very foggy Malmi cemetery, eight and a half hours after we started. But we were still more or less on schedule, and (perhaps more amazingly) we were all still on speaking terms with each other.

We were happy but also glad it was over. (Though Katariina then had the task of editing it all together, and did a fantastic job.)

I don't think this need be seen as some sort of challenge to future Worldcons to replicate (or exceed) what we did. Easter is at a more normal time next year (1 April) and Worldcon 76 is a little later in August, so a return to the Easter weekend announcement is perfectly feasible. But I think it was good to do something a little different, and I hope you enjoyed watching it.

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