March 26th, 2011

buzz

Hugo nominations

For once, I've been a good citizen and put in a few nominations for this year's Hugos. (We have just under twenty-three hours in which to do so.) The process brought home to me that I tend to be a follower rather than a shaper of these things. Usually I read short fiction only after it has been nominated, and this year is no exception; I left all three of those categories blank. I've also read very few sf novels published in 2010 - basically Cryoburn and the BSFA shortlist. So I nominated all of those, except for The Windup Girl which isn't eligible (having won last year's Hugo) and Lightborn which I didn't think terribly good.

After my whine about the BSFA non-fiction category, I decided to put my voting where my rhetoric is and have nominated three non-fiction books about Doctor Who: Chicks Dig Time Lords, The Writer's Tale - the Final Chapter and Triumph of a Time Lord. The last of these is the best but probably the least likely to figure on the shortlist.

For Best Graphic Story I nominated The Only Good Dalek and the last volume of Scott Pilgrim which appear to be the only comics published in 2010 which I have read.

For best Dramatic Presentation, once again I haven't seen any 2010 movies. The cutoff between Long Form and Short Form is formally 90 minutes, but apparently that means 108 minutes in reality, and the Who two-parters have been in the Short Form category in every year that they have been around to nominate (indeed, The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances won in 2006). So if they all go into the Short category, I have nothing to put in to Long. I nominated the closing two-parter, Vincent and the Doctor, The Lodger, The Eleventh Hour, and, just to add variety, James Goss's story Dead Air as read by David Tennant - if METAtropolis was eligible two years ago, Who audiobooks should be eligible now. Much as I love the Big Finish run in general, there wasn't a standout play from their 2010 productions that I particularly felt I must include. (Though 2011 is looking very promising so far.)

I don't read the magazines enough to express an opinion on them at this stage, and I don't agree with the concept of Hugo Awards for individual people (though congratulations and all that to those of you who may have won them), so that's it.

If you are able to nominate, you can do so here.
ni

Ulster Unionist Party: a week of disaster

I am sorry for banging on about the travails of the Ulster Unionist Party here, a party for which I have never considered voting (and I am sure that is true of most of you reading this too).

But this has been an extraordinary week, just from the technical point of view of managing your party as the election campaign gets under way.

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pointless, repression

Why Lucy Snyder is a better human being than I am

I was amused by this post by Lucy Snyder, in which she actually answers a set of questions from a student who is basically trying to use her brains to write her essay for her. I don't actually know Lucy at all other than having read her livejournal for the last few years (the only fiction I have read by her was a Doctor Who short story, and that very recently) but I think she is an excellent human being for taking the trouble to respond even as briefly as she did.

I have a varied approach to this kind of query (and with my level of exposure on the internet, get several such queries a week): if it's a genuine academic query about my work, I'll invite my correspondent to interview me in person or by Skype or phone, and if their questions are interesting enough I'll generally write a couple of paragraphs in reply in the first place. I do this partly because I want to and partly because my current employers (and my previous employers) include raising the level of academic debate as part of the overall mission of the organisation. (This approach has its limits; I feel a bit guilty about the Romanian researcher who came to see me last week to ask my views on Russian foreign policy, which he clearly knew more about than I do.) I will usually do the same for queries about Northern Irish politics.

But my other web presences generate other queries which I'm not always so merciful about. I was probably unnecessarily snarky a few months back to someone who asked me a question about history of science via a comment to a livejournal post on a completely different topic. I had one the other day to which I haven't responded (and probably won't respond) about Asimov's The Gods Themselves, probably prompted by my comment to Jo Walton's post about it on Tor.com.

This particular query started rather well:
I am doing a project in my lit class in which we were given a list of sci fy novels and chose one at random. The assignment is to research your author and events during their life to figure out the message they are trying to convey. I enjoyed the review and I too feel that there are many holes in the plot. Why didn't they invent a system for gravity simulation on the moon? etc.
OK, apart from the y in "sci fy", so far so good.
I do not like this assignment as i believe authors put many messages in their story to reach as many readers as possible. The question given is "What comment is the author making on the society in which they live?" My first inclination is this as a thesis: Asimov believes that humans have many flaws that affect decisions and the way one acts. I would like to hear your opinion on the overall message.
If I were as good a human being as Lucy Snyder, I would already have replied suggesting that my correspondent has missed the point of the question; that the proposed answer makes no sense; and that the social commentary in The Gods Themselves is really quite specifically about sex and the politics of how governments administer scientific research. Maybe I will actually send that reply, now that I have written this entry. But I need to finish cooking dinner first.