May 21st, 2011


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The Death of Bigga Dean

I am always intrigued by people who share my exact birth date, and also people who share my name. Through Google Alerts I learn that Nicholas Whyte, better known as Bigga Dean, was killed by the Jamaican police earlier today. Another namesake serving in the US Army (also of Jamaican background, as it happens) was killed in Iraq a few years ago. I am glad to have survived this far.

Le Pierre-qui-Tourne in Court-St-Étienne

In my continuing quest to track down ancient Belgian sites, we made an expedition today to find the Pierre-qui-Tourne, the supposedly Rotating Rock, of the hamlet of Beaurieux, near the village of Court-St-Étienne (located at roughly 50° 38' 14.61" north, 4° 35' 22.23" east, for those of you inclined to track it down; about thirty km from us).

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Some unsporting analysts suggest that the local legend that it turns around every time the nearby church tower strikes midnight may not be true. (We wondered if the local church tower is actually equipped with a bell; if not, it would make the theory rather untestable). Other even less sporting analysts suggest (here, at end) that it may even be a millstone rather than an ancient ritual megalith, but I must say I don't think you'd get very far grinding with this (also nearest river rather far down steep hill so not very practical).

Anyway, here are another couple of pictures with little U, looking a bit mutinous by the time the second was taken.

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Nice day for an outing, anyway!

2011 Hugos: Best Novelette

Hooray! The 2011 Hugo Voter Packet is out! For a mere US $50, you can get electronic copies of Blackout by Connie Willis, Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, Feed by Mira Grant, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Chicks Dig Time Lords edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea, The Business of Science Fiction by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg, Fables: Witches by Bill Willingham, Grandville Mon Amour by Bryan Talbot, and The Unwritten, Volume 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey, plus loads of other goodies, some already available on-line but gathered together neatly in one electronic bundle. And you get to vote in the Hugos to boot. A bargain. (I haven't worked out the cost of buying each book separately but it is surely twice the admission price.)

Anyway, having already polished off several of the other categories, I spent parts of today browsing through this year's nominated novelettes (all available online for free), and without much difficult ranked them thus.

6) "That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made" by Eric James Stone

A story about a Mormon missionary converting giant space whales which live in the heart of the sun. Also he is conflicted about the beautiful non-Mormon scientist on the team. Written from the heart, just not very well. Edited to add: What do I know? It won the Nebula!

5) "The Jaguar House, in Shadow" by Aliette de Bodard

I may just be getting old, but although I really like de Bodard's prose style, I'm afraid that when I finished this story I still had absolutely no idea what it was about.

4) "Plus or Minus" by James Patrick Kelly

This is actually a half-decent effort, Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations" re-written for a crew of cloned teenagers. But I found the pacing very odd, with the final denouement taking place off screen, and the world-building didn't quite gel.

3) No award.

I think I'm more brutal on this than a lot of people. But I'd be a bit embarrassed if any of the above wins.

2) "The Emperor of Mars" by Allen M. Steele

A sympathetic account of a guy who goes mad while on mission on a near-future Mars, and who finds his path back to healing through immersing himself in classic sf stories set on the planet. Will appeal on some level to all of us who read sf. Some obvious echoes from Steele's other stories, both the Coyote series and his award-winning "The Death of Captain Future", but developed differently here.

1) "Eight Miles" by Sean McMullen

This was the first one of these stories that I read, and none of the others really matched it - a quasi-steampunk tale of ballooning in 1840, our narrator dealing with a weird semi-human woman who has descended from Tibet (or elsewhere?), and the capitalist who is determined to exploit her. I was particularly impressed by the way McMullen was able to widen the focus as the story went on, and certainly it's the only one of these that I will still be thinking about next week.