Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Random Thought - My Nominations for the 2017 Hugo Awards

This past Friday, March 17th, was the deadline for submitting nominations for the 2017 Hugo Awards. Listed below are my nominations in each category. I probably forgot some things that I should have nominated in place of some of the things on here - in fact, in some cases, I know I did, although I will never reveal which ones.

On the whole, however, I am satisfied with my choices. I don't think this is likely to be close to what the actual final ballot looks like. I don't think my tastes in science fiction and related areas are that far out of the mainstream, but I do have some idiosyncrasies that ensure that some of my choices are going to be outliers. It will certainly be interesting to compare this to the actual ballot when it is released in April.

One wrinkle this year is that there is an experimental category for the awards: Best Series. Of all the categories this year, I am most lukewarm on my set of nominations in this one, mostly because I am kind of lukewarm on the entire category. I only keep up with a handful of book series, mostly because of time limitations, and as a result, there weren't a whole lot of choices other than those I made that I could have selected. I like all the series that I nominated, but I am generally not all that comfortable with a category that I feel I have such a limited range of viable options to choose from.

Best Novel

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows
Cloudbound by Fran Wilde
Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

Best Novella

Down and Out in Purgatory by Tim Powers
The Dream-Quest of Velitt Boe by Kij Johnson
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
The Heart Is Eaten Last by Kameron Hurley
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Best Novelette

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker
The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho
Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong

Best Short Story

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Red in Tooth and Cog by Cat Rambo
A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
You Are Not the Hero of this Story by Caroline M. Yoachim

Best Related Work

An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places and terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries by Donald Palumbo
The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
Michael Moorcock: Fiction, Fantasy, and the World's Pain by Mark Scroggins
Modern Masters of Science Fiction: Octavia Butler by Gerry Canavan
Nobody Owns the Moon: The Ethics of Space Exploration by Tony Milligan

Best Graphic Story

Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson
Pretty Deadly, Volume 2: The Bear by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Rat Queens, Volume 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Sex Criminals, Volume 3: Three the Hard Way by Matt Fraction
Saga, Volume Six by Brian K. Vaughn

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

Arrival
Captain America: Civil War
Ghostbusters
Hidden Figures
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Daredevil: New York's Finest
The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes
Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards
Luke Cage: Manifest
Stranger Things: The Upside Down

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

C.C. Finlay
David Steffan
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Sean Wallace
Sheila Williams

Best Professional Editor: Long Form

Marco Palmieri
Diana Pho
Joe Monti
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

Julie Dillon
Tess Fowler
Jeph Jacques
Elizabeth Leggett
Fiona Staples

Best Semi-Prozine

Daily Science Fiction
Lightspeed Magazine
Shimmer
Strange Horizons
Uncanny Magazine

Best Fanzine

Chaos Horizon
Galactic Journey
Journey Planet
Lady Business
Rocket Stack Rank

Best Fan Writer

Alexandra Erin
Camestros Felapton
Natalie Luhrs
Foz Meadows
Alexandra Pierce

Best Fan Artist

Liz Argail
Grace Fong
likhain

Best Fancast

The Audio Guide to Babylon 5
Down and Safe
Galactic Suburbia
Under Discussion: The Under Gopher Podcast
Verity!

Best Series

Expanse by James S.A. Corey
Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
God's War by Kameron Hurley
Magic ex Libris by Jim C. Hines
Xuya by Aliette de Bodard

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Charlotte Ashley
N.S. Dolkart
Carrie Patel
Natasha Pulley
Kelly Robson

What Are the Hugo Awards?

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, March 20, 2017

Musical Monday - Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry


Chuck Berry died this past weekend. He was ninety, which is a good run for anyone. His music, however, will outlive him by eons, in part because a recording of Johnny B. Goode was included on the golden discs that were sent into space on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. On Berry's sixtieth birthday in 1986, Carl Sagan and Anne Druyan sent him a letter which read:
When they tell you your music will live forever, you can usually be sure they're exaggerating. But Johnny B. Goode is on the Voyager interstellar records attached to NASA's Voyager spacecraft - now two billion miles from Earth and bound for the stars. These records will last a billion years or more.

Happy 60th birthday, with our admiration for the music you have given to this world...

Go, Johnny, go.
Chuck Berry may be gone, but I like to imagine that a hundred million years from now, some distant spacefaring alien race will find one of the Voyager spacecraft adrift in the interstellar void, figure out how to use the golden record attached to it, and his music will live on.

Previous Musical Monday: Glenwood Canyon by C.W. McCall

Chuck Berry     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Book Blogger Hop March 17th - March 23rd: The Rosetta Stone Was Created in 196 B.C.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you read a lot of diverse or own voices books? Why or why not?

Absolutely. I generally read science fiction and fantasy, although I read a fair amount of history, historical fiction, and science as well. Within those genres, I read from a broad spectrum of authors, ranging from authors like N.K. Jemisin and Samuel R. Delany to Cixin Liu and Alyssao Wong to Fran Wilde and Alethea Kontis to Tom Doyle and Larry Niven. I read from a wide range, in part because that is simply the landscape of good books that I have found, but also in part because I have made an intentional choice to read broadly. Authors of different backgrounds and experiences have different perspectives, and as a result, write books that offer a different reading experience.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, March 13, 2017

Musical Monday - Glenwood Canyon by C.W. McCall


This song is to remind people that there was a time when people on the conservative end of the spectrum in the United States had leanings that tended towards conservationism and even environmentalism. Listen to McCall's1 sadness when he says "It was only a matter of time" as he contemplates the exploitation and eventual destruction of Glenwood Canyon. He knows that a beautiful and unspoiled place is inevitably going to be overwhelmed by the demands of humanity, and knows there is nothing he can do to stop it.

Once upon a time, conservatives in the government made it a priority to protect and preserve the national heritage for future generations. Many conservatives held the notion that maybe squeezing the last dollar of profit out of the land wasn't the greatest idea if it meant that the land would be a polluted wasteland afterward. They espoused the idea that we could have both clean air and clean water and, when properly regulated, business could continue to prosper without destroying the natural world around us. Somewhere along the way, this strain of conservatism seems to have fallen away, leaving behind only the aggressively pro-business conservatism that we have now.

Once upon a time, Ulysses Grant created the first national park to preserve the natural wonders of the United States. Once upon a time, Nixon created the EPA to clean up the air and water of the country. But now, with the current conservative movement, it is only a matter of time.

1 C.W. McCall was actually an invented persona created for an ad campaign for Old Home Bread from the Metz Baking Company. The voice is that of Bill Fries, who did all the singing and voice work for McCall.

Previous Musical Monday: 22,000 Days by the Moody Blues
Subsequent Musical Monday: Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry

C.W. McCall     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Blogger Hop March 10th - March 16th: Mithridates I, the Great King of Parthia, Was Born in 195 B.C.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: How far in advance do you read the books you have scheduled for review?

As I have noted before, I refuse to commit to any kind of reviewing schedule, which is why I never participate in blog tours or any similar kind of scheduled reviewing. For the most part, I review books within a week of reading them, in some cases, I review a book within a day or two of finishing it. When I am reviewing a collection of short fiction, I usually review the book as I am reading it, writing reviews for each piece of short fiction as I work through the larger anthology.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: The Rosetta Stone Was Created in 196 B.C.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review - The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley


Short review: Zan has no memory, but Jayd assures her that her destiny is to claim the world of Mokshi. Then things get brutal and weird.

Disclosure: I received this book as a Review Copy. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

Full review: Some books are simply difficult to review. The Stars Are Legion is one of those books. This is not due to any deficiency in the book, but rather because, to a certain extent, even discussing what makes this book so very good will ruin the reading experience for someone. This is a book with secrets inside of secrets, and following along as the characters uncover the answers to them is a significant part of what makes this book so fascinating, in large part because the answers both feel so naturally correct, and are so unexpected at the same time. This book is, in many ways, a masterpiece of misdirection and discovery packed into a gripping space opera complete with armies dueling in the coldness of space, monsters to evade, political intrigue, romance, betrayals, and revelations.

The central characters in the story are Zan and Jayd, ostensibly two lovers and co-conspirators working on a plan of sorts to take control of the Legion by conquering the world named Mokshi. The story is told from their perspectives, with chapters alternating between their respective viewpoints. The mystery in the story revolves mostly around exactly what that allegedly shared objective is, because at the start of the book Zan has lost her memory, and the only information she has is that provided to her by Jayd. This makes Zan something of a stand-in for the reader, as she has essentially exactly the same amount of information about the world as the reader does, but it also introduces an element of uncertainty, as neither Zan nor the reader can ever be sure that Jayd is actually telling them the truth. This uncertainty is compounded by the fact that Jayd assures Zan than it is better that she not remember her past, because when she remembers, she goes insane.

Hurley is an uncompromising writer who simply throws her readers into the story without much in the way of explanation, trusting that they will be able to figure out her world as the story moves along. In The Stars Are Legion, this style enhances the effect of Zan's confusion, putting the reader alongside the memory-impaired protagonist as she moves through a world that is alien and at times bewildering. This also works well when the story is told from Jayd's viewpoint, as Jayd spends much of her time plotting and scheming, but little time thinking about the ultimate objective of her intrigues, or what the larger meaning of her actions might be. The net effect of this chaos is a story that feels completely immersive, while also feeling disjointed and frightening. Zan fights, struggles, and otherwise endures for reasons that, for the most part, she doesn't understand, working towards an unknown goal. Jayd, for her part, provides almost no illumination on these subjects, holding her cards so close to her own chest in an almost paranoid self-defense, terrified to give anything away, even to herself. The only real guidance the reader receives, apart from the discoveries made in the story by the characters, is brief quotes from "Lord Mokshi" found at the beginning of each chapter, and even those serve to heighten the feeling of unease and and disquiet that permeates much of the book.

At the outset, Zan is told that she and Jayd are part of a family of warriors named the Katazyrnas, and they are in conflict with another family known as the Bhavajas, both named after the worlds they inhabit, floating among the many worlds of the Legion. But the worlds each family inhabits are slowly dying, and to tilt the struggle in the Katazyrna's favor, Zan is told she must seize the rogue world Mokshi, a feat she is told she is uniquely suited for, although she is not told why. Through twists and turns, Zan and Jayd are separated, with Zan embarking on a journey through Katazyrna, while Jayd finds herself trying to survive among the Bhajavas on their world. In the course of their respective journeys, Zan discovers that she (and the other Katazyrnas, and many of the other people in the Legion) may not truly understand the living worlds that they inhabit, while Jayd discovers that her plans and schemes may not be quite as clever as she had believed them to be. These voyages of discovery form the heart of the story, and through them, Hurley lays out how the assumptions made by the characters lead them astray, but also how they react when they are shown that what they believed turned out to be wrong.

While Zan and Jayd are at the center of the book, the supporting characters that surround them are what gives the story its emotional and intellectual heft. Through her travels Zan acquires a retinue of companions, each pushed outside of their comfort zone by the journey, and each responds in a different manner to the unknown. Das Muni, Casamir, and Arankadash each leave their familiar haunts and accompany Zan as she works her way through Katazyrna, but each makes this choice for a different reason, and each deals with the world in a distinctly different way: Where Casamir is curious and adventurous, Das Muni is timid and afraid. Casamir relies upon what she views as science, while Arankadesh places her trust in faith and tradition. Each of them has a perfectly reasonable basis for their world view, and yet each of them also brings wholly irrational prejudices to the table as well. Jayd's story has fewer truly compelling characters - her plotline is dominated by Anat, the leader of the Katazyrnas, and Rasida, the leader of the Bhajavas, and how the two women wield their power in very different ways. Most of Jayd's story revolves around the sacrifices one must make for their goals, and how even the best laid plans can go wildly awry if one miscalculates the intentions of others.

Lurking even behind the obvious set of supporting characters is yet another layer - the worlds themselves are alive, and in conjunction with the mysterious and misshapen witches, influence the course of events in accord with their own needs and designs. While many imagined science fictional universes contemplate a future in which biological elements are replaced by clean mechanical processes, Hurley's future is messy, full of living (and dying) biotechnology. The worlds are alive, and the women who inhabit them (and all of the inhabitants are women) are not so much living symbiotically with them, but are an integral part of their functioning, necessary to replace parts of the worlds as needed. This reality gives the entire story a somewhat creepy, and definitely icky feel, which is enhanced by the fact that no one, except maybe the witches actually understands how the worlds everyone lives within work, or how they are connected to the women in the story, and if they do know, the witches aren't telling. Like everything else about the world in The Stars Are Legion this seems to be calculated to be as disorienting as possible, putting the reader on edge throughout the book. This effectively puts the reader in much the same position as Zan, and serves to heighten the tension that one feels when reading the book.

The book only has one real misstep, and that takes place close to the end after Zan and Jayd undergo their respective journeys, when the book is reaching its climax. At that point, a narrator of sorts appears on the scene to basically do a giant exposition dump, explaining the meaning of much of the story. This scene is so at odds with the tone of the rest of the novel that it feels jarring, almost like Hurley got to this point of the story and decided it was time to wrap things up in a few pages. Given the strength of the storytelling in the rest of the book, this is a somewhat minor quibble, but it does stick out, and since it is near the end of the book, it leaves a lasting impression.

The Stars Are Legion is a deeply unsettling book, but it is deeply unsettling in one of the best possible ways. One of the best things done by good science fiction is that it takes fanciful ideas and explores the full range of their ramifications. In this book, Hurley tackles a number of such ideas and takes them to their completely logical, although completely disturbing conclusions. Even though the story doesn't really have a happy ending, it does have a satisfying one. Even though this book is often creepy and disturbing, it is a glimpse into an intriguingly designed world full of complex and fascinating characters, and overall it is an excellent read.

Kameron Hurley     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, March 6, 2017

Musical Monday - 22,000 Days by the Moody Blues


The impending birth of my third child made me think about this song. I never thought about my own mortality in the context of my first two children, because they were born when I was much younger. Right now, my son is eighteen (and will be nineteen in just over two months), while my daughter is seventeen. By the time I die, they will likely be well-established as adults.

Graeme Edge, who wrote the song, is a little off on his math, although that is probably partially due to the fact that the song was written in the late 1970s and life expectancies have changed. If the song were written now, it would probably be something like 29,000 days. The point, however, remains: Our time is finite, and can be measured in something as mundane as the length of a day, which somehow makes it more immediate than the usual method of measuring lifespans in years. I think this is because we make decisions on a regular basis about how we spend a particular day, but a year is so abstracted from our regular decision-making that we don't really think about how we spent our year. We don't think about how that one day represents a fraction of the time we have, but this song hits you square in the face with that reality.

When my third child is born, I will already be forty-eight. With my first two children, I figured that absent some accidental death in a car wreck or airplane crash or something similar, I would be around for their entire childhoods and well into their adult years. With Sophie, on the other hand, I kind of worry that I'll run out of days. I have already spent about 17,500 of my days. If I live a normal life span, I have fewer than 12,000 days left - I have lived more days already than I am likely to continue living from this point going forward. If I live that long, Sophie will be 32 when I die. I hope I can see more of her life than that, but if that's all I get, it will have to do.

Previous Musical Monday: The Great American Melting Pot by Lynn Ahrens and Lori Lieberman
Subsequent Musical Monday: Glenwood Canyon by C.W. McCall

The Moody Blues     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, March 5, 2017

1984 Hugo Longlist

The 1984 Hugo "Longlist" is actually an artificial construct. The Hugo Award administrator from 1984 did not release the statistics behind the nominations. Instead, due to an odd fluke, the raw nominating data for the year was made public, meaning that the statistics could be reconstructed by someone enterprising enough to sit down and tabulate the results by hand. For these statistics, I have a dedicated science fiction fan to thank, because she sent me this data when she learned I was compiling the available Hugo Longlist statistics into a single set of posts. I am immensely grateful that she decided to share her work with me for this project.

One interesting side-effect of the way this data was generated is that the list provided to me contains far more nominees than normal for the Hugo statistics. In keeping with the standard set by the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Society, I have only listed the top fifteen nominees in each category, including all nominees that happen to have been tied for fifteenth place. Because it is interesting, I will list the remaining nominees in a supplemental post on a future date. Additionally, I note that the data provided to me was much more complete than the data provided by many of the "official" releases of the statistics - for example, the data provided included the identities of the editors of the nominees for the Best Semi-Prozine and Best Fanzine categories. Unfortunately, this data appears to be the last bit of information that is readily accessible concerning the Hugo Longlists of the past, so unless I am able to turn up some additional sets of statistics, this will likely be the last historical Longlist I can add to the array.

Best Novel

Finalists:
Millennium by John Varley
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov
Startide Rising by David Brin [winner]
Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy

Longlisted Nominees:
Against Infinity by Gregory Benford
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
The Armageddon Rag by George R.R. Martin
The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe
Helliconia Summer by Brian Aldiss
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Orion Shall Rise by Poul Anderson
Superluminal by Vonda N. McIntyre
Thendara House by Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Void Captain’s Tale by Norman Spinrad

Best Novella

Finalists:
Cascade Point by Timothy Zahn [winner]
Claude Hurricane by Hilbert Schenck
Hardfought by Greg Bear
In the Face of My Enemy by Joseph Delaney
Seeking by David R. Palmer

Longlisted Nominees:
Aquila Meets Bigfoot by Somtow Sucharitkul
The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars by Fritz Lieber
Eszterhazy and the Autogondola-Invention by Avram Davidson
Gilpin’s Space by Reginald Bretnour
The Gospel According to Gamaliel Crucis by Michael Bishop
Her Habiline Husband by Michael Bishop
Homefaring by Robert Silverberg
The Lord of the Skies by Frederik Pohl
The Napoleon Crime by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson
Transit by Vonda N. McIntyre

Best Novelette

Finalists:
Black Air by Kim Stanley Robinson
Blood Music by Greg Bear [winner]
The Monkey Treatment by George R.R. Martin
The Sidon in the Mirror by Connie Willis
Slow Birds by Ian Watson

Longlisted Nominees
The Black Current by Ian Watson
Blind Shemmy by Jack Dann
The Final Report of the Lifeline Experiment by Timothy Zahn
Hearts Do Not in Eyes Shine by John Kessel
In Whose Name Do We Seek the Quark? by Thomas R. Dulski
Martha Belling by Leigh Kennedy
The Mind of Medea by Kate Wilhelm
Red Star, Winter Orbit by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Remembering Siri by Dan Simmons
Street Meat by Norman Spinrad
Warlord by Timothy Zahn

Best Short Story

Finalists:
The Geometry of Narrative by Hilbert Schenck
The Peacemaker by Gardner Dozois
Servant of the People by Frederik Pohl
Speech Sounds by Octavia E. Butler [winner]
Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium by William F. Wu

Longlisted Nominees
$call link4(cathy) by Cherie Wilkerson
Beyond the Dead Reef by James Tiptree, Jr.
Deborah’s Children by Grant D. Callin
Her Furry Face by Leigh Kennedy
Involuntary Man’s Laughter by Spider Robinson
Man-Mountain Gentian by Howard Waldrop
Nearly Departed by Pat Cadigan
Not an Affair by Theodore Sturgeon
Soulsaver by James Stevens
Spending a Day at the Lottery Fair by Frederik Pohl
Spook by Bruce Sterling

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work

Finalists:
Dream Makers, Volume II by Charles Platt
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volume 3 by Donald H. Tuck [winner]
The Fantastic Art of Rowena by Rowena Morrill
The High Kings by Joy Chant
Staying Alive: A Writer’s Guide by Norman Spinrad

Longlisted Nominees:
Amber Dreams: A Roger Zelazny Bibliography by Daniel Levack
The Castle of the Otter by Gene Wolfe
Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard by L. Sprague de Camp, Catherine Cook de Camp, and Jane Whittington Griffin
Minus Ten and Counting by Jordin Kare, Julia Ecklar, Leslie Fish, et al.
The NESFA Index, 1982 by NESFA
Over My Shoulder by Lloyd A. Esbach
Philip K. Dick edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph Olander
The SF Book of Lists by Maxim Jacubowski and Malcolm Edwards
Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas by Dale Pollock
Talbot Mundy: Messenger of Destiny by Donald M. Grant
Uranian Worlds by E. Garber and L. Paleo
Worlds Beyond: The Art of Chesley Bonestall by Frederick Durant

Best Dramatic Presentation

Finalists:
Brainstorm
Return of the Jedi [winner]
The Right Stuff
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Wargames

Longlisted Nominees:
Blue Thunder
Christine
Dark Crystal [ineligible]
The Day After
The Dead Zone
Doctor Who: The Five Doctors Krull
Liquid Sky [ineligible]
Superman III
Testament
Twilight Zone: The Movie
V
Zelig

Best Professional Editor

Finalists:
Terry Carr
Edward L. Ferman
David G. Hartwell
Shawna McCarthy [winner]
Stanley Schmidt

Longlisted Nominees:
Susan Allison
Jim Baen
Ellen Datlow
Judy-Lynn del Rey
Jim Frenkel
Charles L. Grant
T.E.D. Klein
George Scithers
Donald A. Wollheim
Howard Zimmerman

Best Professional Artist

Finalists:
Val Lakey Lindahn
Don Maitz
Rowena Morrill
Barclay Shaw
Michael Whelan [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Vincent Di Fate
Kelly Freas
Dell Harris
Kevin Johnson
Thomas Kidd
Carl Lundgren
David Mattingly
Victoria Poyser
Darrell Sweet
Boris Vallejo

Best Semi-Prozine

Finalists:
Fantasy Newsletter/Fantasy Review edited by Robert A. Collins
Locus edited by Charles N. Brown [winner]
SF Chronicle edited by Andrew Porter
SF Review edited by Richard E. Geis
Whispers edited by Stuart Schipf

Longlisted Nominees:
Cinefantastique edited by Fred S. Clarke
Fantasy Book edited by Nick Smith and Dennis Mallonee
Foundation edited by David Pringle, Ian Watson, and John Clute
Mile High Futures edited by Leanne C. Harper
The Patchin Review edited by Charles Platt
Rigel Science Fiction edited by Eric Vinicoff
Shayol edited by Pat Cadigan and Arnie Fenner
Space & Time edited by Gordon Linzer
Starlog edited by Kerry O’Quinn
Starship edited by Andrew Porter
Weirdbook edited by Ganley W. Paul

Best Fanzine

Finalists:
Ansible edited by Dave Langford
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer [winner]
Holier Than Thou edited by Marty Cantor
Izzard edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Teresa Nielsen Hayden
The Philk Fee-Nom-Ee-Non edited by Paul J. Willett

Longlisted Nominees:
Aurora edited by Diane Martin
Boonfark edited by Dan Steffan
The Dillinger Relic edited by Arthur Hlavaty
Instant Message edited by NESFA
Interstat edited by Teri Meyer and Ann Crouch
Kantele edited by Margaret Middleton
Lan's Lantern edited by George Lazkowski
Mainstream edited by J. Kaufman and S. Tompkins
Outworlds edited by Bill Bowers
Q36 edited by Marc Ortlieb
The Texas SF Inquirer edited by Pat Mueller

Best Fan Writer

Finalists:
Richard E Geis
Mike Glyer [winner]
David Hlavaty
David Langford
Teresa Nielsen-Hayden

Longlisted Nominees:
Claire Anderson
Richard Bergeron
Don D'Ammassa
Leslie Fish
George Lazkowski
Mark R. Leeper
Eric Mayer
Marc Ortlieb
Andrew Porter
Ted White
Paul J. Willett

Best Fan Artist

Finalists:
Brad W. Foster
Alexis Gilliland [winner]
Joan Hanke-Woods
William Rotsler
Stu Shiffman

Longlisted Nominees:
Lela Dowling
Kurt Erichsen
Phil Foglio
Steve Fox
Jeanne Gomoll
Linda Leach
Marc Schirmeister
Dan Steffan
Arthur Thompson
Mel White
Charles Williams

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Finalists:
Joseph Delaney
Lisa Goldstein
R.A. MacAvoy [winner]
Warren G. Norwood
Joel Rosenberg
Sheri S. Tepper
Timothy Zahn [ineligible]

Longlisted Nominees:
Robin W. Bailey
Steven R. Boyett
David Brin [ineligible]
Steven Brust
Ann Crispin
John De Chancie
Robert W. Franson
Barbara Hambly
P.C. Hodgell [ineligible]
M. Bradley Kellogg
Sandra Miesel
Kim Stanley Robinson [ineligible]
Lucius Shepard
Dan Simmons

Go to subsequent year's longlist: 2001

Go to 1984 Hugo Finalists and Winners

Hugo Longlist Project     Book Award Reviews     Home

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Blogger Hop March 3rd - March 9th: U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 Is Cited as the Basis for the Palestinian Right of Return


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: When you start reading a novel, do you prefer to be plunged right into the action, or do you prefer a slower, more descriptive introduction to the plot and characters?

I have enjoyed books that begin both ways, but in general I think I tend to prefer books that just throw the reader into the story and trust that they will figure out what is going on as the plot is underway. I am generally a big fan of stories that start in media res, which I suppose is pretty much the apotheosis of the "plunge right in" kind of story.

One caveat is that it takes a skilled writer to pull this sort of story structure off. Just jumping into the story straightaway means that things like worldbuilding and character development have to be done as part of the flow of the narrative. When this is done well, it is incredible, and makes for a book that flows along at an almost effortless clip. This can be done very badly, however, and when it is done badly, a book just falls apart.


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Sunday, February 26, 2017

1939 Retro Hugo Award Longlist (awarded in 2014)

The Retro Hugo Awards seems like they were motivated by the best of intentions. Because the Hugo awards were not started until 1953, and then skipped a year, there are several Worldcons - mostly from the 1940s - for which no Hugo Awards were ever selected. The idea behind the Retro Hugo Awards seems to have been to allow fans to reach back and honor works from those years that were "missed" by the Hugo Awards by giving them "Retro" Hugos. This way, the gaps in the Award's history could be filled, and people could recognize the creative works of the greats of the past. The only problem is that it hasn't really worked out that way.

I have always been somewhat skeptical of the Retro Hugo Awards, and looking at the associated Longlists has done nothing to change my opinion. Looking back seventy-five years, as the voters did when nominating works for the 1939 Retro Hugo Awards, results in quite sparse results. There weren't even sufficient numbers of nominations in the categories Best Related Work, Best Graphic Story, Best Long Form Dramatic Presentation, Best Long Form Editor, or Best Semiprozine for the categories to even be represented. Of the categories that did make the cut, only one was able to garner fifteen total nominees, while most categories fell far short of that mark. The evidence seems to show that either the Hugo voting populace isn't armed with enough information to be able to come up with a wide array of nominees, or the depth of the field decades ago was simply insufficient to reasonably support a comprehensive set of nominees. In either case, the dearth of longlisted nominees serves as yet more evidence that the Retro Hugos, although an interesting idea in theory, are just not up to snuff in practice.

Best Novel

Finalists:
Carson of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Galactic Patrol by E.E. "Doc" Smith
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien [ineligible]
The Legion of Time by Jack Williamson
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
At Midnight on the 31st of March by Josephine Young Case
The Doomsday Men by J.B. Priestly
The Drums of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer
The Red Star of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Silver Princess in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
Synthetic Men of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan and the Forbidden City by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Towers in the Mist by Elizabeth Goudge

Best Novella

Finalists:
Anthem by Ayn Rand
A Matter of Form by H.L. Gold
Sleepers of Mars by John Wyndham (writing as John Beynon)
The Time Trap by Henry Kuttner
Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. (writing as Don A. Stuart) [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
The Black Drama by Manly Wade Wellman
Black Vulmea's Vengeance by Robert E. Howard
Dreadful Sleep by Jack Williamson
The Hairy Ones Shall Dance by Manly Wade Wellman
Tarzan and the Elephant Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Best Novelette

Finalists:
Dead Knowledge by John W. Campbell, Jr. (writing as Don A. Stuart)
Hollywood on the Moon by Henry Kuttner
Pigeons From Hell by Robert E. Howard
Rule 18 by Clifford D. Simak [winner]
Werewoman by C.L. Moore

Longlisted Nominees
Beyond the Screen by John Benyon
The Dead Spot by Jack Williamson
The Men and the Mirror by Ross Rocklynne
Reunion on Ganymede by Clifford D. Simak
Secret of the Observatory by Robert Bloch
Seeds of the Dusk by Raymond Z. Gallun
The World's Eighth Wonder by Eric Frank Russell

Best Short Story

Finalists:
Azethoth by H.P. Lovecraft [ineligible]
Beyond the Wall of Sleep by H.P. Lovecraft [ineligible]
The Faithful by Lester del Rey
Hollerbochen’s Dilemma by Ray Bradbury
How We Went to Mars by Arthur C. Clarke [winner]
Hyperpilosity by L. Sprague de Camp

Longlisted Nominees
Between Two Worlds by Mary Lutyens
The Book by H.P. Lovecraft
The Brain Pirates by John W. Campbell, Jr.
An Experiment of the Dead by Helen Simpson
Janice by Shirley Jackson
The Merman by L. Sprague de Camp
Robots Return by Robert Moore Williams
With and Without Buttons by Mary Butts

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Finalists:
Around the World in Eighty Days
A Christmas Carol
Dracula
R.U.R.
The War of the Worlds [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
The Brave Little Tailor
The Man Who Was Thursday
Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood
Porky in Wackyland

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

Finalists:
Forrest J Ackerman [ineligible]
John W. Campbell, Jr. [winner]
Walter H. Gillings
Raymond A. Palmer
Mort Wesinger
Farnsworth Wright

Longlisted Nominees:
T. O'Connor Sloane

Best Professional Artist

Finalists:
Margaret Brundage
Virgil Finlay [winner]
Frank R. Paul
Alex Schomburg
H.W. Wesso

Longlisted Nominees:
Howard V. Brown
Lee Morey
Norman Saunders
Charles Schneeman

Best Fanzine

Finalists:
Fantascience Digest
Fantasy News
F(antasy) A(mateur) P(ress) A(ssociation) [ineligible]
Imagination! [winner]
Novae Terrae
Spaceways [ineligible]
Tomorrow
Le Zombie [ineligible]

Longlisted Nominees:
Science Fiction Newsletter

Best Fan Writer

Finalists:
Forrest J Ackerman
Ray Bradbury [winner]
Arthur Wilson "Bob" Tucker
Harry Warner, Jr.
Donald A. Wollheim

Longlisted Nominees:
Robert A. Madle
Sam Moskowitz
William F. Temple

Go to subsequent year's longlist: 1941 (awarded in 2016)

Go to 1939 Hugo Finalists and Winners

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Blogger Hop February 24th - March 2nd: The U.S. Navy Said That the Ship T-AG-193, Also Known as the Glomar Explorer, Was for Deep Sea Drilling


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: How do you feel about books with multiple narrators?

If done well, I quite like books with multiple narrators. One of my favorite classic works of literature is Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, which rather famously rotates between multiple narrators over the course of its story. I am currently reading a novel - Kameron Hurley's The Stars Are Legion - that has multiple narrators. Actually, more than one of Hurley's books are told from multiple points of view. This is a technique that George R.R. Martin has used in his Song of Ice and Fire series, and Tolkien used in The Lord of the Rings. In the hands of a capable author, using multiple narrators is a technique that can really make a book into something really special.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2017 Nebula Award Nominees

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Comments: The 2017 Nebula Awards experienced a minor hiccup when SFWA President Cat Rambo's story Red in Tooth and Cog was nominated in the Best Novelette category despite being too short of a story to qualify for that category. The story could have been reassigned to the Best Short Story category, as it had sufficient votes to place in that category, but that would have eliminated the three stories that had finished in a tie for the last spot in that category. Instead, Rambo graciously elected to remove her story from consideration for the award, allowing both the replacement novelette The Orangery by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam and the three nominated short stories to keep their places on the ballot.

On another note, this list of nominees serves to remind me of just how far behind I am on my reading this year. Usually, when the Nebula nominees are announced, I have already read a couple of the nominated novels and a smattering of the short fiction. This year, the only things on the ballot that I have consumed have been three of the Ray Bradbury Award nominees. I own copies of several of the nominated works, I just haven't read them yet. I really need to rectify this situation soon.

Best Novel

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Best Novella

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
The Liar by John P. Murphy
Runtime by S.B. Divya
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Best Novelette

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories by Jason Sanford
The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
The Long Fall Up by William Ledbetter
The Orangery by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Red in Tooth and Cog by Cat Rambo [ineligible in this category, withdrawn]
Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong

Best Short Story

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
Sabbath Wine by Barbara Krasnoff
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller
This Is Not a Wardrobe Door by A. Merc Rustad
Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station│Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0 by Caroline M. Yoachim

Ray Bradbury Award

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Arrival
Doctor Strange
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Westworld: The Bicameral Mind
Zootopia

Andre Norton Award

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine
The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Railhead by Philip Reeve
Rocks Fall by Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Go to previous year's nominees: 2016

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review - The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories by Tom Doyle


Stories Included
The Wizard of Macatawa
A Sense of Closure
Inversions
Hooking Up
Art's Appreciation
Crossing Borders
The Floating Otherworld
Noise Man
The Garuda Bird
Sea and Stars
Consensus Building
While Ireland Holds These Graves
Full review: The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories is a collection of short fiction by Tom Doyle, showcasing a broad range of his published works. With twelve stories, this volume offers an array of excellent stories with a little bit of fantasy, a lot of science fiction, and in many cases, huge dollops of creepiness. This volume features a reconstituted Ireland, an out of time L. Frank Baum, vicious advertising executives of the future, upside down aliens, Indian mythology brought to life via technology, the dystopian hellscape of high school made manifest, and so many more stories, all deftly and skillfully written and laden with sex, death, darkness, and just a touch of hope. Each story is introduced by a brief account by Doyle, outlining the background of the story, often describing what motivated him to write the story, and the circumstances under which it was written. These little individualized introductions serve to enhance each story, giving some insight into the process of their creation that serves to deepen the ensuing text.

The title story in the volume, The Wizard of Macatawa is set in the same lakeside town in Michigan where L. Frank Baum allegedly wrote The Wizard of Oz, and weaves Baum and his creation into Doyle's story to create a fantastic tale featuring a relatively unlikable but very relatable protagonist named Tip. Tip is every unhappy, terrible kid you have ever met, determined to cause as much malicious mischief as she can get away with simply because she's bored and looking for something to do. A chance discovery she and her brother make while out rowing on the lake sends the story in not quite an entirely different direction, as Tip's innate orneriness keeps the rather unusual events that transpire from taking over. There are twists and turns, as unusual people show up looking to claim the object Tip and her brother found, as well as some time travel in which Baum and a variety of characters from Oz show up and make things even more interesting. There is melancholy in the story, as seeing the future does not always mean that one finds good news ahead, but there is also defiance and hope, which elevates this story above the norm. This story won the WSFA Small Press Award in 2008, and in my opinion, the win was well-deserved.

Death is an endlessly fascinating subject for writers, but in A Sense of Closure the deaths that are central to the story are only notable because they are so rare. Doyle imagines a future in which the "Methuselah Project" made death obsolete, at least for the "Youngers", who were born after the project was completed and could be genetically altered to take advantage of it. Michael is one of the last coroners still working, as there is so little need for his services. He spends his time waiting for the call that one of the few remaining "Olders" has "closed", to use the euphemism popular in this imagined future. After a couple of cases that seem more interesting than the norm, Michael does some investigating and uncovers just a bit more than he expected. The story contemplates whether immortality might be as much of a curse as it is a boon, and also poses some interesting questions about who gets to decide the big issues in life - if someone gives a gift, are they then ethically permitted to take it away again. The story is full of questions, and like most truly good stories, leaves the resolution ambiguous.

With nearly inscrutable aliens, death, and sex, Inversions is a fascinating little story whose only real weakness is that it is so short. The story follows a pair of human envoys as they try to negotiate with the alien "Floaters", a species that looks a little bit like two squids sewn together and floating upside down in the air. The humans have been trying to convince the Floaters to attend an upcoming all-species conference and defend their rights on the interstellar stage. For their part, the Floaters seem entirely indifferent to off-world happenings, and entirely obsessed with making sure their guests maintain "proper orientation" - that is, making sure their guests present themselves upside down. A tragic misorientation leads to sex and death and then more death, and finally, to the somewhat chaotic and violent resolution of the story. The only real weakness of the story is that it is quite short, and given the strong world-building that underlies it, I would have liked to be able to explore more of the fictional future Doyle crafted for it.

Set in the high school of the future, Hooking Up is a dystopian nightmare that imagines what might happen when information technology becomes an omnipresent factor in our lives. John is a troubled teen with a string of petty offenses to his name, so his parents send him to a special school intended to whip him into shape. As soon as he arrives, John is drawn into the virtual reality that surrounds the school and his senses are assaulted by the various avatars and other virtual effects that his classmates throw at him. His efforts to participate in class only draw more derision, and even the mandatory school "dance party" is a computer generated nightmare for the teen. John is essentially at his wit's end when the two apparent burnout cases in the class come to his rescue, opening new vistas for him and arming him with new tools to survive, and possibly fight back. The story is a study in the nature of teen rebellion and oppressive control that parents and the government resort to in response, illustrating that even some of those who are the architects of a dystopia might not realize it, and may even be counted among its victims.

A somewhat disturbing story about an artist in a world devoid of art, Art's Appreciation examines the fine line between madness and artistic genius through the eye of an unpleasant and unsettling protagonist. Disaffected and dissatisfied, Art lives in a future world in which advertisements of every possible configuration lay siege to the senses of anyone who dares to step out onto the street, answer their phone, or even answer their own door. Art has defenses - specially programmed computer helpers that filter out the pervasive advertising to make Art into a free man, beholden to none of the corporate pitches that dominate every else's lives. Art is, however, a thief, having stolen his precious bots from the advertising company he works for. Art is also probably insane, and murderously so. One of the elements that makes this story so interesting is that the reader only sees the world through Art's madness and paranoia, so it is possible that some, or even all or the story is just a delusion spun by Art's unhealthy mind. On the other hand, Art does discover that in a world devoid of art, the most radical and rebellious thing one can do is create some, even if doing so is almost accidental. reading the story is a quite disquieting albeit rewarding experience.

With his penchant for creating mentally ill protagonists. Doyle makes many of his stories deeply ambiguous, posing the metatextual question of how reliable the narrator is to the reader. In Crossing Borders, the protagonist is something of a secret agent, but her lack of emotional memory means she flits back and forth between the various heavy hitters on the galactic stage, first cozying up to one side and then to the other. Along the way, she creates art out of the results of her liaisons and her own tortured mind. As in Art's Appreciation, Doyle draws a connection between madness and artistic creativity, and as in that story, the link between the two is deeply unsettling. The story is of intrigue, sex, and betrayal intercut with snippets from the protagonist's former life as Robynne, a wealthy but indifferent college student, and the backstory only serves to make the main story even more disturbing. One skill that Doyle has in spades is the ability to write about the dark underbelly of human existence, and this story is a sterling example of that fact.

In the most surreal story in the volume titled The Floating Otherworld, Doyle draws upon his experiences in Japan to craft a tale about an American coming to grips with essentially the spirit of Japan. Written in the second person, which gives it a visceral sense of immediacy ,the story at times seems almost reminiscent of some of the more ethereal portions of Doyle's American Craftsmen series, as the spirits of the dead from Japan's past killed at the hand of Americans show up in an almost angry reproach of the protagonist's very presence in their country. As with many of the other stories in this volume, the connection between love, sex, and death is featured prominently, as the main character's infatuation with the Japanese night receptionist Kaguya runs from an idle crush to a much more serious relationship against a shifting and increasingly terrifying backdrop. The story is compelling, although sometimes confusing, as it is laden with imagery and symbolism that is sometimes somewhat opaque.

Noise Man is an alternate history story, or more accurately, a secret history story. Set during the years leading up to and during World War II, the main character is Kenneth, a youthful prodigy who has a knack for working with radios, and the ability tell by sound when people lie. When his mother walks out of her abusive marriage to Kenneth's father, Kenneth elects to stay behind. To keep tabs on his father, Kenneth plants a listening device in the radio he made for the man to listen to while working at Bell Labs - which gets Kenneth into some trouble before he is offered a job there and starts working with a young engineer named Mike as his "noise man". While coming up with ways to eavesdrop on the Germans, Kenneth and Mike uncover a signal from outer space, and from there the story veers into secrecy and conspiracy. An appearance by Alan Turing, called in to unravel the code in the alien signal, leads to Britain sending a reply without coordinating with the U.S. Kenneth then essentially invents a whole branch of science fiction in order to cover up the alien contact and prepare the populace for the future revelation that they are not alone in the universe. The story wends through some twists and turns and ends with Kenneth essentially orchestrating the Roswell incident. Like many of the protagonists in Doyle's stories,Kenneth is a little bit mad and clearly obsessive, but he isn't quite as terrifying as some of the others.

Blending Indian mythology with an imagined high-tech future, The Garuda Bird tells two interconnected stories alongside one another, shifting back and forth between them. One story is an account of the high stakes of Indian politics of the future, complete with a powerful dynastic political family, a band of disaffected nationalistic fascists, and a military pilot in love with a woman above his station who uses cutting edge transdimensional technology to engage in nighttime liaisons to win the heart of his love. The other is a piece of Indian myth featuring a royal family, an opportunistic smith, and a soldier in love with the princess of the realm who uses a mechanical bird to fly into her bedchamber and woo her while disguised as the god Vishnu. The deliberate parallels in these stories are a bit heavy-handed, but the story takes a very clever left turn near the end that makes it all come together beautifully.

A story of love, death, and regret, Sea and Stars features a collection of friends on something of a holiday in Brazil, where almost on a lark they decide to participate in an Umbanda ritual. John is whiling away the hours getting tipsy and stoned on the beach with his college friend and fellow lawyer Paul and their mutual friends Miguel, Elena, and Deb. Most of the reason for the vacation seems to be to give Paul and John a break from their stressful lives working at large law firms, they are reconnecting with Miguel in his home country, and Paul has brought his current girlfriend and ex-girlfriend along for the journey. The quirky thing about the story is that even though John is the narrator of the story, the real protagonist of the story is Paul: He is the one who needs a break from law firm life, he is the one with the fiancee and the somewhat congenial ex, he is the one that Miguel plays backgammon with, and so on. When the Umbanda ritual takes place, predictions of Paul's future take center stage, and the critical decision John makes and later regrets relates entirely to Paul. Most of the story other than the Umbanda ritual feels kind of perfunctory, especially the denouement, but the ritual scene is so powerfully presented that it makes up for any deficiencies elsewhere, and the last two paragraphs are such a punch in the gut that the story will linger with you for a while.

In Consensus Building, Doyle returns to the pervasive nature of modern advertising and provides the story with a protagonist almost as ruthless and frightening as Art in Art's Appreciation. Actually, in many ways Irene, the main character in this story, is more terrifying than Art, because she seems to be willing to stop at literally nothing to get to where she wants. The story itself is built up of layers of deception - in the opening scene Irene gets up for work and realizes while she is getting herself ready for the day that her neural implants are trying to advertise products to her in a relatively subtle manner, although not so subtle that she does not notice it. Concerned, she sets up an appointment with the tech support people at her work, but decides to rush things when the events of her day get progressively more disturbing. This leads to the first twist in the story, which seems almost natural, and then the second, which is where the plot gets truly chilling. The story is equal parts entertaining, prophetic, and deeply disturbing.

I have read (and reviewed) While Ireland Holds These Graves before, but it is a story that holds up to repeated reading - especially after one has read Doyle's American Craftsmen books. In the Craftsmen books, Doyle plays with the idea of the magical power provided by a national mythology, imagining the heart of America to be a place where the honored ghosts of the country's war dead reenact the battles from the past continuously. This sort of theme crops up multiple times in Doyle's work, and the only real difference in While Ireland Holds These Graves is that the "ghosts" are technological creations, built out of the literature of the past. The story imagines a future Ireland, in a world in which advances in communication and information technology have homogenized the world into something of a monoculture, recapturing its own mythic and literary past via Personality Reconstructs, or "PRs" made by plumbing the output of Ireland's literary figures. The real question that lurks behind this story is whether a culture can subsist entirely upon nostalgia, because it seems that the those who hunger for "Ireland" in the story don't really hunger for a nation, but rather for the memory of the nation as it once was. The protagonist in the story is one of the architects of this new Ireland, and when he teams with the recreated James Joyce, seeks out the recreated Newly Dead Yeats (as opposed to Young Yeats and Old Yeats), and embarks on a journey that ends, inevitably, in regret. The story delves into the question of what makes national identity, what is lost through cultural assimilation, and what is lost through holding on the the past. It is an excellent story, but disturbing in a way that seems to be Doyle's calling card.

Overall, this is, quite bluntly, an excellent collection of stories that is well worth reading. Every story in The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories is at the very least good, and a couple are absolutely brilliant. Most of the stories are brutally insightful, and will almost certainly prove to be intriguing, thought-provoking, and consequently, deeply disturbing. Anyone who is interested in short science fiction and fantasy with a side order of delicious morbidity and terror would be certain to enjoy this set of stories.

2007 WSFA Small Press Award Winner: El Regalo by Peter S. Beagle
2009 WSFA Small Press Award Winner: The Absence of Stars: Part 1 by Greg Siewert

WSFA Small Press Award Winners

2008 WSFA Small Press Award Nominees

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Musical Monday - The Great American Melting Pot by Lynn Ahrens and Lori Lieberman


This song contains both an important truth and a dangerous lie. The truth at the heart of this song is that the United States is, and always has been, a nation of immigrants. Over the years, successive waves of immigrants have come into the United States and added their cultural distinctiveness to the country, and been assimilated and changed or even warped beyond recognition. Food, for example, is a concrete and easy to see example because most of what we take to be stereotypical American cuisine comes from other countries, but we have taken them, mangled them and put a distinctly American stamp upon them. Pizza and pasta came to the U.S. from Italy, but as served here, they are radically different from their origins. Hot dogs came to the U.S. in a roundabout way from Germany, but no German would recognize them as such. And so on. The culture of the U.S. is the result of this sort of mingling and mangling, creating something new out of the various cultures of the people who have immigrated to here.

The song contains a dangerous lie, however. The lie is simply this: This process of assimilation was not a gentle, easy process in which people came to the U.S., were accepted as Americans, and melted in. This is a myth that Americans like to tell themselves, but the reality is that pretty much every wave of immigrants has sparked a xenophobic and often violent backlash. In the early part of the nineteenth century, there were nativists who targeted Irish immigrants, often with violence. Later when waves of Jewish and Eastern European immigrants came to the United States, there were virulent anti-immigrant groups that sprang up to complain about them polluting American culture. Most Americans now happily eat a diet that includes lots of food from Italy, but at one point in time, Italian immigrants were weird, menacing, and despised. Chinese immigrants were openly discriminated against for extended periods of U.S. history. Japanese immigrants, and even descendants of immigrants, were interred during World War II. It is only after the assimilation has taken place that the xenophobia would die down, and in some cases, it only subsided a bit and never went away, as the Japanese-American experience shows.

Why is the lie at the heart of the Great American Melting Pot myth so dangerous? Because it makes it seem like the immigration, assimilation, and acceptance process was an easy and painless one. Because people mentally compare this idyllic and ideologically pleasing tale with the experience of immigration in the present, and come to believe that there is something "wrong" with new immigrants. I cannot count the number of times I have heard people complaining that Muslim immigrants from Somalia, or Sudan, or Iran, or any number of other places are "not assimilating" into American culture in a timely manner. What these comments really do is expose the historical ignorance of the commenter. Almost every cultural group has had a rocky and lengthy period of assimilation - that['s in part why there are regions in many cities called something like "Little Italy" or "Chinatown", or any of the myriad of other traditionally ethnic neighborhoods that dot the American landscape. Complaining about Muslim immigrants not assimilating as quickly as you expected them to ignores the history of immigration and assimilation in the United States.

I expect that a few generations from now, the various groups of Muslim immigrants will be considered, like Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, Italian-Americans, and all the other permutations of "-Americans", to be a perfectly normal part of the cultural landscape, and everyone will wonder why there was so much anti-Muslim hysteria in the early part of the twenty-first century. But it won't happen easily, and it won't happen overnight. Until then, I expect ignorant xenophobes will keep screaming, and everyone else will have to keep working against them to keep the United States living up to the promise of its ideals.

Previous Musical Monday: Rocky Mountain High by John Denver
Subsequent Musical Monday: 22,000 Days by the Moody Blues

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