Monday, April 24, 2017

Musical Monday - The Old Home Fill 'er Up and Keep On a-Truckin' Cafe by C.W. McCall


The redhead and I went on a road trip to Indiana and back the week before last, and between that and moving a lot of furniture to get ready for the impending baby this past weekend, I'm pretty worn out. The house is still a disaster, there are piles of things still all over the place, I had to pack up the table and supplies I use for miniatures to make room, and I still have no idea where we are going to store our bicycles, but there is now a room that is more or less ready for us to have a newborn live in it.

What does this have to do with C.W. McCall's ode to the glories of a truck stop cafe? Nothing really, but whenever I go on a long drive, I always think about McCall, especially if I'm on a road with a lot of long haul truckers like I-70 or I-81, both of which I spent a fair amount of time upon in the last couple of weeks. So here it is. Now I'm going to go ask Mavis for a cup of her best and a number three.

Previous Musical Monday: Heavy Boobs by Rachel Bloom

C.W. McCall     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Blogger Hop April 21st - April 27th: The HTTP Status Code Indicating Success Is "200"


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: Would you stop reading a book if an element of the plot strongly clashed with your personal beliefs, or would you continue reading until you finished the book?

I can answer this question from experience, because I have read books that had elements that clashed with my personal beliefs. I finished those books. I can't say that my reading experience was enhanced by such elements, but it wasn't ruined either. For the most part, I simply move past such elements when they pop up. In some cases, such elements make a book unintentionally comical, such as when a libertarian leaning writer tries to put in some libertarian propaganda in their text, or when I a "Christian" science fiction or fantasy writer tries to insert their message into their story. I may not end up reading these texts the way their authors intended me to, but I do finish them.


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review - Painting by Numbers by Jason Makansi


Short review: Numbers are used for all kinds of purposes, and this book seeks to make it possible for readers to separate the numerical wheat from the chaff.

Haiku
People can be fooled
By numerical models
Think skeptically

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: Subtitled How to sharpen your BS detector and smoke out all the "experts", Jason Makansi's book Painting by Numbers isn't so much about numbers, but rather about how to understand and evaluate the use of numbers in the media, in business, and everywhere else models, charts, graphs, and other statistical representations are used in support of a particular position or projection. Despite being a book about "numbers", there are very few actual numbers in it, because the point of the book is not how to conduct analysis and create mathematical models, but it instead directed at providing the tools that an ordinary non-technically proficient person needs to be able to assess, at least to some extent, the reliability of the myriad of statistical models they are presented with in everyday life.

Painting by Numbers is divided into two broad sections. In the first, Makansi lays out the "Twelve Commandments of a Numerical Skeptic", taking twelve chapters to discuss each commandment in turn. Each chapter outlines one of these "commandments", seeking to arm the reader with a tool capable of picking apart models and presentations that rely upon the use of numerical information. Makansi presents these in an approachable manner, allowing those who are not versed in the intricacies of mathematical analysis to gain an appreciation for the limitations of such methods, and identify when such limitations are present. The commandments also, to a certain extent, allow a skeptic to assess just how critical those limitations are, and how severely they impact the reliability of the model being used. This is not to say that reading this section will make someone capable of doing a complete assessment themselves - that would be well beyond the scope and intent of the book - but rather that they can make a rough evaluation that will serve to separate the wheat from the chaff of numerical models.

The second section of the book is titled "Putting Your BS Detector to Work" and contains ten examples of numerical models to which the author applies the commandments outlined in the first section. Each of the examples is drawn from the real world, and the author states that he picked them and then evaluated them, in order to show how the "twelve commandment" system is applied rather than picking examples that were specifically chosen to make a particular point. This section is interesting, but not quite as effective as the first section. This is, in part, because the examples provided are only sketched out to the extent needed to show how the twelve commandments apply, which means that they feel a little bit disjointed and lacking in context. I would have preferred to see the entire item being discussed (although, to be fair, that would have made the book considerably longer), and then seen an exploration of how the twelve commandments applied to it, as this would have fleshed them out more completely. In a book dedicated to providing readers with the tools to evaluate the context of numerical models, the lack of context for many of the examples given seems odd. The other thing that sticks out about this section is that every example provided is riddled with problems. As I said before, the author chose these examples blind, in an effort to essentially "play fair", but one could come away with the impression that there are no numerical models that are worthwhile. This may be an impression that the author intended, but if so, he doesn't say so.

Despite those minor quibbles, Painting by Numbers remains a useful and informative work, aimed squarely at arming the non-numerically inclined with the tools necessary for them to deal with information provided via numerical models and their close companions, graphs and diagrams. This book is not a technical guide to numerical analysis, and it is not intended to be. The collection of "commandments" cover a wide range of issues that crop up in numerical models, and are presented in a manner that those who are not particularly comfortable with numerical analysis can both understand and apply them. The examples are, in general, easy to follow, and provide a broad spectrum of illustrations of the "commandments" in action. For those looking for a more in depth exploration of numerical analysis, Painting by Numbers comes equipped with a list of fifteen recommended titles on the subject.

At just over 150 pages, Painting by Numbers is exactly what it sets out to be: A clear and concise primer on how to evaluate the numerical data that bombards us on a daily basis. Although the tools provided in its pages are very basic, that should be considered a feature and not a bug. This book is not aimed at those who are already skilled at understanding numerical analysis, but instead seeks to equip those who do not have such a background to they can look at what they find in newspapers, on television, and in the board room with a properly skeptical, and hopefully, reasonably informed eye. For anyone looking for a guide to becoming a skeptic concerning numbers and their meaning, then this book would be an excellent resource.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review - Ms. Marvel: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, and Nico Leon


Short review: Kamala Khan has gotten everything she ever dreamed of, so her life should be perfect. The only trouble is that being a super famous Avenger is a lot harder than she ever expected.

Haiku
She's super famous
But that isn't super great
For a teenager

Full review: In the fifth installment of the Ms. Marvel series, Kamala Khan has gotten pretty much everything she ever dreamed of. Not only did the world not end as threatened in Last Days, but she has mastered her powers, become the defender of Jersey City, and even joined the Avengers. The opening pages of this volume show Khan reveling in this fantasy come true as she fights alongside Captain America and Iron Man. Unfortunately, as is made clear in this volume, sometimes getting everything you want only leads to more problems and more heartache than you had before. Kamala is, as the title says, Super Famous, but the price of that fame is high, especially for a teenager still struggling to find her place in the world.

The volume contains two major "heroic" story arcs, as well as a collection of complementary story lines that deal with Kamala's personal life. The first story arc revolves around the Hope Yards Development/Relocation Association, and their use of Ms. Marvel's image in their advertising. Now, this plot line does raise questions about the legalities of using a super-hero's image for promotional purposes without their consent, but those concerns can be set aside due to the fact that Kamala is a teenager who may not really know what her legal rights are, and even if she did know them, enforcing her rights while remaining anonymous might be problematic. This story line does highlight the down side of being "Super Famous", which is that others will try to use that fame for their own ends. This story proceeds in a fairly typical super-hero story manner, with Kamala uncovering progressively sinister secrets concerning Hope Yards, which eventually culminates in the need to foil a villainous plot involving mind-controlling nanobots, but that is not really the point of this plot. The meat of the story is the headaches that come from sudden fame: Kamala is good at punching villains into submission, and she is even good at coming up with ways to defeat mind-controlling chemicals, but she is not so good at managing her public persona. Even when she defeats the villains, Ms. Marvel's reputation is tarnished because people assume that she was in cahoots with them until it became convenient to disavow their perfidy. This is brilliant, because this is exactly the sort of thing that a teenage super-hero would be terrible at handling, and the story retains its authenticity by showing that Kamala deals with the problem like an inexperience sleep-deprived teenager.

The second "heroic" arc involves a mostly self-inflicted disaster stemming from Kamala's efforts to keep up with her hectic schedule. As a member of the Avengers, the defender of Jersey City, a full-time high school student, and a Muslim girl with obligations to her family and community, Kamala has a more than full plate of commitments. In an effort to create some space in her hectic schedule, Kamala jumps into some experiments her friend Bruno has been conducting on the lightning golems Loki left behind at their high school after the events in Last Days and has him create simulacra that look like her. Kamala's idea is to send these replicated versions of herself to school and family events so that she will get credit for being there, but free up time for pursuing her other obligations such as Avenging. This almost immediately turns out to be a misstep, as the inherent limitations of the lightning golem material results in Kamala-golems that are similarly limited - with results that prove dismaying to her friends and family. Before too long, the situation gets entirely out of hand due to unforeseen complications that more or less drive home the fact that one should not mess with technology that has Loki as its progenitor. This is quickly followed by the corollary, "Never turn to Loki in an effort to try to fix a disaster", and the further note that calling on Captain Marvel is pretty much never a bad option. This story highlights that trying to always please people is its own trap, and Kamala has fallen into it through her own inexperience and inability to say "no". Once again, this story turns upon the fact that Kamala is a believable teenager, subject to all of the pressures teenagers face, and as inept at handling them as most teenagers are.

These two "heroic" arcs make up the super-hero portion of the story, but what makes the Ms. Marvel series truly special is everything that surrounds her heroic persona and highlights Kamala's travails as a Muslim daughter of Pakastani immigrants trying to navigate her way through her teenage years in the United States. On this front, there are two critical "personal life" story lines presented in this volume. The first revolves around Kamala's best friend Bruno, who had professed her love for Kamala in the previous volume, and who had been gently turned down, with Kamala protesting that her life was simply too unsettled to even consider romance coupled with a suggestion that Bruno should probably move on with his own life. Within the first few pages of this book, an oblivious Kamala learns that Bruno has indeed taken her advice and has struck up a relationship with a girl named Michaela, called "Mike" for short. Despite the fact that she had turned Bruno down, Kamala finds herself combating feelings of jealousy that both surprise and disturb her. This internal battle is presented amazingly well, with Kamala behaving pretty much like one would expect an awkward and confused teenager to behave, and at the same time berating herself for not being a better person. Eventually everything works out between the two women as Kamala comes to terms with the situation, but that is really only half of what makes this story line so good: Mike herself is an interesting character who brings a lot to the story. She is not brilliant like Bruno, but she is still smart and brave, and willing to put herself at risk in order to help others. In a twist, Mike has a very different look than Kamala, or really from most characters in comics. She is a little pudgy, with big thighs and a figure that can only be adequately described as a bit round. Despite this, everyone in the story appears to regard her as being attractive - and no one even comments upon her size or shape. She is a cute girl, and everyone in the story simply treats her that way, with no added commentary.

The other personal story line, and the one that probably causes Kamala more stress, revolves around her ultra-religious brother Aamir courting and then marrying Tyesha, a black American Muslim. From Kamala's perspective, this means more family obligations as she is expected to attend the various pre-wedding events dictated by traditional Islamic practices, but in exchange she gets a sister-in-law who makes references involving the science fiction novel Dune, so she is reasonably happy with the arrangement. What the story really shows, however, is the diversity and tensions within the Islamic community. The Khan's are immigrants from Pakistan, who brought their faith and customs with them from their home country. As what could be best described as secular Muslims, neither of Kamala's parents are as devout as Kamala's brother, but they have expectations that their lives will be organized along certain lines, and that certain things will be done in a certain way. Tyesha, on the other hand, is an American convert, whose parents are church-going Christians. Through the relationships between Aamir and Tyesha, and the elder Kamalas and Hillmans, one can see the undercurrent of cultural chauvinism and even racism that everyone tries to combat within themselves, reaching for their better natures despite their internalized prejudices. What this highlights is the fact that the Muslim community is not a monolithic entity, and even a minority group is prone to prejudices against others who they have something, but not everything, in common. As with most other story lines that touch upon culture and religion in Ms. Marvel, this thread is handled with grace and skill, and never once rings false even as it winds its way to an ultimately happy conclusion.

Ms. Marvel: Super Famous is, quite simply, the best installment in the series since the first volume No Normal. This is not to say that the intervening books have been weak, but rather that this one is so very good that it shines even when compared to the excellence of Generation Why, Crushed, and Last Days. Both of the super-heroic arcs are well done and help to develop both Kamala and her world while being full of action and humor. The personal story lines serve to both buttress the super-heroic arcs and make Kamala and those around her more fully realized characters. This is, in short, one of the best graphic novels of the past year, and well worth any fan's time.

Previous book in the series: Ms. Marvel: Last Days

2017 Hugo Finalists

G. Willow Wilson     Takeshi Miyazawa     Adrian Alphona     Nico Leon

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review - Pretty Deadly, Vol. 2: The Bear by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios



Short review: The world is at war and the Reaper of War rides triumphant, but Deathface Ginny means to do something about that.

Haiku
A reaper of grace
And reapers of war and fear
Reaper of courage

Full review: The second volume of the Pretty Deadly series, The Bear doesn't follow on directly after The Shrike, but instead picks up several decades after the events of the previous book, deep in the heart of the horrors of World War I. DeConnick's writing is still terse and pointed, Rios' artwork is still beautiful and hypnotic, and the story is still epic in scale and intensely personal in nature. In short, this is an excellent follow-up to an excellent opening act that serves to deepen the background and carry forward the overall narrative.

The most crucial difference between this volume and the previous one is that of tone. The Bear takes the mythic and at times ethereal nature of Pretty Deadly and grounds it quite firmly in our world. While The Shrike took place in a time no more distinct than "sometime when revolvers where the height of firearm technology, and in a location no more specific than "the Old West", The Bear quite explicitly takes place during World War I, and many of the events of the book are quite clearly located in France, in the trenches of the Western Front. This grounding givens the entire volume a different feel than the previous volume: Grittier, more visceral, and more tragic. By carrying the fairy-tale like atmosphere forward from the first volume, and weaving it together with the all too real horrors of the Great War, DeConnick and Rios have revealed the true terror behind the magical and almost airily surreal supernatural elements of the story. This contrast drives the book forward, and gives the book weight and strength that could not be achieved without this mixture.

Despite the years between the previous volume and this one, almost all of the characters from The Shrike return in The Bear, which isn't really all that surprising given that most of them are nigh-immortal servants of Death itself. Both the Bunny and the Butterfly are present in this volume, serving their roles as a framing device to help narrate the story. Deathface Ginny and Fox are back, as are Big Alice and Johnny Coyote. Sissy, the current incarnation of Death, and an elderly Sarah Fields, at the very end of her life both return in this volume as well. Sarah's impending death provides the impetus for the story, as Fox comes to reap her into Death's domain, while Sarah's daughter Verine demands a reprieve so that her brother Cyrus can return home to bid their mother farewell. This is complicated by the fact that Cyrus is away in France, fighting on the Western Front and making friends with Frenchmen and cavalry horses.

To a certain extent, the plot of The Bear is not the point of the story. Instead, the real meat of the book is in how it develops the mythology that underpins the world that DeConnick and Rios have created. In this volume, the nature of the reapers is made more clear - especially where they come from and why. In these pages, we not only see a clash between two reapers over the course of the First World War, we also see the birth of a new reaper born in the shadow of that conflict. Since this is Pretty Deadly, this birth is accompanied by death, as nothing can happen in this series that is not paired with death. One interesting element is that the line between life and death in Pretty Deadly is so indistinct: Characters slip from life into death without even knowing it, and without the reader even noticing until later, when the fact that these characters are no longer living is brought to one's attention. In a very real sense, death sneaks up on both the characters and the reader, wrapped up in pretty riddles and parables that cloak its real nature until it is too late.

The mythology of the book also revolves around the symbolic stories that it uses, and in this volume the most notable such story revolves around the characters of Johnny Coyote and Molly, the Reapers of Luck. Which reaper represents good luck and which is bad luck is not clear, and as Johnny Coyote points out, that's more or less the point. Their story is told using a folksy tale involving a Chinese farmer, a runaway horse, the farmer's son, and the Emperor's soldiers, with the repeated refrain "Good luck, bad luck, who knows?" This piece of folklore is reflected in the path followed by Cyrus and his fellow soldiers, as they come across things that both hearten and dismay them, as they believe their fortunes have turned for the better, or turned for ill. The problem is that neither they, nor the reapers who circle around them invisibly, can know the ultimate meaning of these happenstances until they reach the end of their journey. In a related tale (which serves as the basis for the title of the volume), the bunny and the butterfly tell a story about a bear and a hive of bees, in which the hungry bear tries to get into the hive to eat the honey and larvae found within, but is driven off by the stings of the bees. The butterfly asserts that this is wonderful, which the bunny agrees with, provided one is a bee. Once again, the story highlights how whether something is good or bad depends entirely upon one's perspective - as the bunny says, "the needs of the bear are not the same as the needs of the bee". One might even say, what is good for death is not good for the living, and the needs of the reapers are not the same as the needs of their quarry.

Pretty Deadly, Vol. 2: The Bear is a maturation of the beautiful and affecting story begun in The Shrike. Taking the fable-driven story introduced in the first volume and melding it with the harsh reality of one of the most vicious and destructive events in real world history results in a final product that is both hauntingly stunning and horrifyingly brutal. This combination of the mundane and the supernatural makes the mythic elements seem more fairy-tale-like, but also roots them in a reality that grounds them at the same time, while it takes the bitter harshness of war and elevates it to the status of fable. With this volume, DeConnick and Rios have taken the strong story they launched with the first installment and raised it up to even greater heights of excellence.

Previous book in the series: Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Musical Monday - Heavy Boobs by Rachel Bloom


As anyone who has been following this blog knows, the Redhead is pregnant with our impending daughter Sophia. This has resulted in some rather predictable physical changes. The Redhead is reasonably busty even under normal circumstances, but now that she is pregnant, let's just say that each of her assets has its own gravitational field. This situation brought to mind Rachel Bloom's ode to her own mammaries, and consequently this MUsical Monday is in honor of my Redhead's dense white dwarfs.

Previous Musical Monday: Chicken Attack by the Gregory Brothers featuring Takeo Ishii

Rachel Bloom     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, April 9, 2017

1984 Expanded Hugo Nominees

As I have noted before, due to a unique fluke, all of the raw balloting data from the 1984 Hugo Awards is publically available. This means that one can reconstruct not only the Longlist from this data, but essentially every work that received any nominations at all. The same dedicated science fiction fan who provided me with the information needed to reconstruct the "Longlist" for this year, also provided me with the information contained in this post. This is the "long tail" of the Hugo nominating process, and as far as I know, this is the only year for which we can see behind the curtain in this manner.

While it is somewhat interesting to see the array of works that received nominations but missed the cut to make the "Longlist", what I find more interesting is the overall landscape of the nominations. Some categories, such as Best Novel and Best Novelette, had a wide array of nominees, with an incredibly deep field of works receiving votes. Other categories, such as Best Novella and Best Semi-Prozine, had less than a handful of additional candidates receive votes. Still others, such as Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist, had none: Except for those who made the list of finalists and the longlist, no one received any votes in those categories. It seems that there were a wide variety of opinions about what novels and short stories were worthy of a Hugo nomination, but not nearly such a range of feeling in some of the other categories. I don't think any real insigtful conclusions about the state of fandom can be drawn from this pattern, especially not from a distance of more than thirty years, but it is a unique window into the mechanics of the Hugo process, and thus is interesting to look at.

Best Novel

Expanded Nominees:
40,000 in Gehenna by C.J. Cherryh
Annals of Klepsis by R.A. Lafferty
The Armies of Daylight by Barbara Hambly
The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica by John C. Batchelor
The Blackcollar by Timothy Zahn
Broken Symmetries by Paul Preuss
Christine by Stephen King
Code of the Lifemaker by James P. Hogan
The Crucible of Time by John Brunner
Cugel's Saga by Jack Vance
Damiano by R.A. MacAvoy
Dragon on a Pedestal by Piers A. Anthony
The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford
The Dreamstone by C.J. Cherryh
Escape Velocity by Christopher Stasheff
Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
The Gods of Riverworld by Philip José Farmer
Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card
Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz
Lyonesse by Jack Vance
Magician's Gambit by David Eddings
The Man Who Used the Universe by Alan Dean Foster
Manna by Lee Correy
A Matter for Men by David Gerrold
The Never Ending Story by Michael Ende
Neveryona by Samuel R. Delany
The Nonborn King by Julian May
On a Pale Horse by Piers A. Anthony
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
The Sleeping Dragon by Joel Rosenberg
Rocheworld by Robert L. Forward
Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster
Streetlethal by Steven Barnes
The Sword of Winter by Marta Randall
The Tree of Swords and Jewels by C.J. Cherryh
The Unforsaken Hiero by Sterline Lanier
Valentine Pontifex by Robert Silverberg
Wall Around a Star by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson
Welcome Chaos by Kate Wilhelm
White Gold Wielder by Stephen R. Donaldson
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Worlds Apart by Joe Haldeman
The Worthing Chronicle by Orson Scott Card
The Wounded Sky by Diane Duane
Yesterday's Son by A.C. Crispin

Best Novella

Expanded Nominees:
Credos by Ray Brown
The New Untouchables by Joseph Delaney

Best Novelette

Expanded Nominees:
And the Marlin Spoke by Michael Bishop
Beauty by Tanith Lee
Borovsky's Hollow Woman by Jeff Duntemann and Nancy Kress
Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
Cicada Queen by Bruce Sterling
A Day in the Life of Justin Argento Morrel by Greg Frost
Deathwomb by Poul Anderson
Deep Song by Reginald Bretnor
The Eternity Wave by Scott Elliot Marbach
Fire-Caller by Sydney J. Van Scyoc
Gemstone by Vernor Vinge
The Glitch by Britton Bloom
The Hand of Friendship by Rob Chilson
Hard Times by Howard Chaykin
Heritage of Flight by Susan Shwartz
The Hills Behind Hollywood High by Avram Davidson and Grania Davis
The Invasion of the Church of the Holy Ghost by Russell Kirk
The Kidnapped Key by Jayge Carr
Knight of Shallows by Rand B. Lee
The Leaves of October by Don Sakers
Life on the Tether by Mark Wheeler
The Lurking Duck by Scott Baker
Mirror Image by Diana L. Paxson
Mirror of the Soul by L.S. Blanchard
The Monkey's Bride by Michael Bishop
Multiples by Robert Silverberg
The Nanny by Tom Wilde
Night Win by Nancy Kress
Nunc Dimittis by Tanith Lee
Rogueworld by Charles Sheffield
A Simple Case of Suicide by Marc Stiegler
To Slay the Dragon by P.E. Cunningham
Subworld by Phyllis Eisenstein
Taking the Fifth by Hayford Peirce
The Taylorsville Reconstruction by Lucius Shepard

Best Short Story

Expanded Nominees:
Amanda and the Alien by Robert Silverberg
Basileus by Robert Silverberg
Brothers by Richard Cowper
Buchanan's Head by Avram Davidson
The Cassandra by Timothy Zahn
The Cruelest Month by James Patrick Kelly
Cruising by Ian Watson
Cryptic by Jack McDevitt
Darts by Steve Perry
The Emigrant by Joel Rosenberg
Feat of Clay by Gene De Weese
Ghost Town by Chad Oliver
Golden Gate by R.A. Lafferty
In the Islands by Pat Murphy
La Reine Blanche by Tanith Lee
La Ronde by Damon Knight
The Man Outside by George Alec Effinger
Memory by Michael P. Kube-McDowell
Needle in a Timestack by Robert Silverberg
The Palace at 4 A.M. by Donald Barthelme
Potential by Isaac Asimov
The Power of the Press by Richard Kearns
The Reluctant Torturer by Hayford Peirce
Revisions by Gordon Eklund
The Sense of Discovery by Jerry Oltion
The Shadows of Evening by Timothy Zahn
Slow Dancing with Jesus by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann
A Small Kindness by Ben Bova
Solitario's Eyes by Lucius Shepard
A Song for Justin by Richard Mueller
Stone Eggs by Kim Stanley Robinson
Tank-Farm Dynamo by David Brin
We the People by Jack C. Haldeman
Welcome to Wizcon by John Morressy
What We Did That Night in the Ruins by Warren Brown

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Work

Expanded Nominees:
Against the Night, the Stars: The SF of Clarke by John Hollow
The Art of Return of the Jedi by Carol Titelman
De Camp: An L. Sprague De Camp Bibliography by Charlotte Laughlin and Daniel J.H. Levack
The Guide to Supernatural Fiction by Everett F. Bleiler
The Science in Science Fiction edited by Peter Nicholls

Best Dramatic Presentation

Expanded Nominees:
Android [ineligible]
British Airways Cities in Flight (Television Commercial)
The Empire Strikes Back [ineligible]
The Keep
Never Say Never Again
Prototype (CBS Television Movie)
Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone
Special Bulletin (NBC Television Movie)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan [ineligible]
Strange Invaders
Thriller (music video)

Best Professional Editor

Expanded Nominees:
Lou Aronica
Robert Asprin
Charles N. Brown
Sheila Gilbert
Beth Meacham
Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Karl Edward Wagner

Best Professional Artist

Expanded Nominees:
Janet Auliso
Alicia Austin
Wayne D. Barlowe
George Barr
Doug Beekman
John Berkey
Jim Burns
David A. Cherry
James C. Christensen
Rick Demarco
Stephen Fabian
Phil Foglio
Frank Frazetta
Gary Freeman
Jack Gaughan
James Gurney
David Hardy
Stephen Hickman
Ralph McQuarrie
Real Musgrave
Wendy Pini
Richard M. Powers
Don Ivan Punchatz
Hannah Shapiro
Rick Sternbach
Walter Velez
Robert Walters
Dawn Wilson

Best Semi-Prozine

Expanded Nominees:
Pandora edited by Jean Lorrah and Lois Wickstrom

Best Fanzine

Expanded Nominees:
Anvil edited by Charlotte Proctor
Masiform D edited by Devra Michele Langsam
Private Heat edited by Lee Pelton
Weber Woman's Wrevenge edited by Jean Weber
Wiz edited by Richard Bergeron

Best Fan Writer

Expanded Nominees:
None

Best Fan Artist

Expanded Nominees:
None

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Expanded Nominees:
Clare Bell
Linda Blanchard
Susan Casper
David Eddings
Gregory Frost [ineligible]
Bruce T. Holmes
Rand B. Lee
David R. Palmer [ineligible]
Patricia C. Wrede

Go to 1984 Hugo Longlist

Go to 1984 Hugo Finalists and Winners

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Book Blogger Hop April 7th - April 13th: In 2007, Ryan Howard Set a Major League Record With 199 Strikeouts


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: If you could meet one author, dead or alive, who would it be?

Ursula K. Le Guin. For me, there really is no other choice. There is no other author who I find as fascinating either through their writing or just in their interviews and public statements. She is quite simply a brilliant writer who has written many of my very favorite books and stories including The Dispossessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Day Before the Revolution, The Word for World Is Forest, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, and many other. In addition to her magnificent oeuvre, she is the daughter of notable anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber and writer Theodora Kracaw, and was raised in a vibrant academic environment culminating in her own studies in French and Italian literature. As a result of this background, she is a tremendously insightful and thoughtful person. I can think of almost nothing better than to meet her and listen to her talk about pretty much anything she wants to expound upon.


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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

2017 Hugo Award Finalists

Location: Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.

Comments: After the past couple of years, the 2017 list of Hugo finalists is like a breath of fresh air. Or at least it is like a breath of much better written air. Okay, so this metaphor is not really that good, but the point is that this year the Rabid Puppies were reduced to being mostly ineffective and the Sad Puppies slunk away with their tails between their legs, leaving the nominating process generally reflective of the majority of the Hugo voters.

Two changes to the way votes are tallied served to make it more difficult for a minority voting block to dominate the Hugo nominating process. First off, while every nominator was still only allowed to make five selections in each category, the total number of finalists in each category was expanded to six. This was a relatively minor change, and essentially means that, at the very least, a group voting in a coordinated manner would need to vary their nominating ballots somewhat if they desired to dominate all of the slots in a category. They second, more important change was the adoption of the E Pluribus Hugo vote tallying system, which concentrates the votes of nominators who have had other works on their ballot drop out of contention. In effect, if a nominator has, as one or more of their choices, a selection that is eliminated from contention, the value of their votes for those eliminated works is transferred to their remaining nominations. The details of the system have been written about extensively over the last year, and I don't want to get too deep into the weeds on this, but suffice it to say that this system is intended to blunt the effectiveness of a coordinated voting block and create a ballot that represents the preferences of a broader portion of the electorate.

The end result is a Hugo ballot that includes fantastic works up and down its length, with stellar works in every category. Stories by N.K. Jemisin, Charlie Jane Anders, Cixin Liu, Kij Johnson, Kai Ashante Wilson, Seanan McGuire, Fran Wilde, Ursula Vernon, and Alyssa Wong are among the highlights. With just a few exceptions (and those exceptions are mostly the work of the Rabid Pups), pretty much every finalist is an excellent choice. This year, the Best Series category was debuted, and several quite good finalists were selected for this category as well, including the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey.

The overall excellence of the 2017 Hugo ballot is marred by just a few Rabid Puppy selections that serve to do little except drag the overall quality down. As has become their pattern, the Rabid Pups nominated a few "shields" to try to pretend they are doing anything but trolling (Deadpool, Miéville, Gaiman), a couple of selections designed to help promote Beale's pathetic little hobby press (Wright, Johnson, Castalia House Blog), and an out-and-out troll selections (Hiscok). I think that the most interesting thing about the Rabid Puppies is that when one sets aside the obvious self-promotion and trolling efforts, their tastes are so utterly boring as to be entirely banal. In several categories, the Rabid Puppies were unable to get a single finalist onto the ballot, and in some cases, this was because the potential nominees they touted were ineligible. To wit, the Rabid Puppies were so incompetent that they couldn't even figure out who was and was not eligible before putting together their slate. As villains go, the Rabid Pups at this point are merely dull and dull-witted.

A couple of years ago, I predicted that the Puppies would fail as a movement, because their motivation was based in their hatred of things, rather than their love for particular types of fiction. This was in marked contrast to the typical Hugo voter, who, despite the claims of the Pups, generally just vote for the works they enjoy. It is, quite simply, easier to keep a set of people voting for a particular award if they are voting for those things that they love, as opposed to voting against things that they hate - joy is easier to perpetuate than malice. Since then, we've seen the "Sad Puppy" movement wither away into irrelevance, and the Rabid Puppy movement reduced to a pathetic collection of whiners. Loving things is a stronger base to build upon than loathing things, and the non-Puppy Hugo voters have proved this to be true.

Addendum: On April 21, 2017, the Hugo Administrators announced that Fan Artist finalist Alex Garner had informed them that he had no qualifying work for the category in 2017. He was consequently removed from the list of finalists and replaced with Steve Stiles.

Best Novel

Winner:
TBD

Finalists:
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Death’s End by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Best Novella

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Rabid Puppy Picks:
This Census-Taker by China Miéville

Best Novelette

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon
Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong

Rabid Puppy Picks:
Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex by Stix Hiscock

Best Short Story

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn

Rabid Puppy Picks:
An Unimaginable Light by John C. Wright

Best Related Work

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
The Women of Harry Potter posts by Sarah Gailey
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin

Rabid Puppy Picks:
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

Best Graphic Story

Winner:
TBD

Finalists:
Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda
Paper Girls, Volume 1 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson
Saga, Volume 6 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse than a Man written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
Arrival
Ghostbusters
Hidden Figures
Rogue One
Stranger Things, Season One

Rabid Puppy Picks:
Deadpool

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
Black Mirror: San Junipero
Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes
Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards
Game of Thrones: The Door
Splendor & Misery (album)

Rabid Puppy Picks:
Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter [no more than two finalists may come from the same series]

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

Winner:
TBD

Finalists:
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams

Best Professional Editor: Long Form

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Rabid Puppy Picks:
Theodore Beale

Best Professional Artist

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
Galen Dara
Julie Dillon
Chris McGrath
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Sana Takeda

Rabid Puppy Picks:
JiHun Lee [ineligible]
Tomek Radziewicz [ineligible]

Best Semi-Prozine

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
GigaNotoSaurus edited by Rashida J. Smith
Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams [ineligible]
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, and Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky
The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

Rabid Puppy Picks:
Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine edited by P. Alexander

Best Fanzine

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer [declined nomination]
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

Rabid Puppy Picks:
Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson

Best Fan Writer

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
Mike Glyer
Natalie Luhrs
Foz Meadows
Abigail Nussbaum
Chuck Tingle

Rabid Puppy Picks:
Jeffro Johnson

Best Fan Artist

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
Ninni Aalto
Vesa Lehtimäki
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles

Rabid Puppy Picks:
Alex Garner [ineligible]
Mansik Yang

Best Fancast

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
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
Tea and Jeopardy presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

Rabid Puppy Picks:
The Rageaholic presented by RazörFist

Best Series

Winner:
TBD

Finalists:
The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone
The Expanse by James S.A. Corey
October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
Peter Grant/Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (first volume in the series: His Majesty's Dragon)
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Winner:
TBD

Actual Finalists:
Sarah Gailey
Malka Older
Ada Palmer
Laurie Penny
Kelly Robson

Rabid Puppy Picks:
J. Mulrooney

What Are the Hugo Awards?

Go to previous year's nominees: 2016
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2018

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Musical Monday - Chicken Attack by the Gregory Brothers featuring Takeo Ishii


Sometimes the world needs something that is just a little silly. Okay, a lot silly. When that need arises, it produces a yodeling Japanese man who can control the powers of nature and chooses to use chickens as his weapons of choice to right wrongs, stop evildoers, and make the world a better place.

I really don't think any more needs to be said. I really don't think any more can be said.

Previous Musical Monday: Pregnant Women Are Smug by Garfunkel & Oates
Subsequent Musical Monday: Heavy Boobs by Rachel Bloom

The Gregory Brothers     Takeo Ishii     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Book Blogger Hop March 31 - April 6th: Public Law 93-198 Provided for Local Government for the District of Columbia


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 visit every listed blog in the linky list when you are participating in a meme?

I try, but I don't always have the time to visit every listed blog. In some cases, I stop visiting a blog consciously, if I don't really like the blog very much, but I endeavor to give even blogs I don't like at least a shot by visiting them a couple of times before writing them off.


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Friday, March 31, 2017

Review - An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries by Donald E. Palumbo


Short review: An encyclopedia of characters, locations, events, and objects found in Asimov's metaseries. There is also an essay linking chaos theory and fractal geometry to the metaseries.

Haiku
First, came the Robots
Then, the Galactic Empire
And last, Foundation

Disclosure: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. 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: An Asimov Companion: Characters, Places, and Terms in the Robot/Empire/Foundation Metaseries is, for the most part, a reference work. The bulk of its length is taken up with what amounts to an encyclopedia covering essentially every notable character, location, object, and event found in Isaac Asimov's extended metaseries (and pretty much every non-notable character, location,, object, and event as well). Every entry gives a brief description of the subject, offering at least a sentence or two outlining who or what the entry is, and an explanation of how the subject fits into the larger body of Asimov's work. These entries are informative, but like Asimov's actual writing, have a tendency to be a little dry.

The opening section of the book consists of an introductory essay by Palumbo outlining the structure of the Robot/Empire/Foundation metaseries, and attempting to connect the metaseries to chaos theory and fractal geometry. For those who do not know, in the 1940s and 1950s, Asimov wrote three "trilogies" of stories: The "Robot" series, consisting of Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun and the short fiction contained in I, Robot. The "Galactic Empire" series was comprised of the books Pebble in the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust, and Currents in Space. The "Foundation" series was made up of Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. For many years, these series were, at best, only loosely related. In fact, the books of the "Galactic Empire" series were only loosely connected to one another, let alone to the books in the other two series. This changed in the 1980s when Asimov wrote a group of books consciously attempting to connect these disparate works together into a somewhat coherent whole. The added books - The Robots of Dawn, Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation, Robots and Empire, Foundation's Edge, and Foundation and Earth - provided links intended to knit the earlier works together. Short fiction from two additional works, Robot Dreams and Robot Visions, was also woven into the metaseries.

Given that books such as Pebble in the Sky and I, Robot were originally published in 1950, while books like Foundation's Edge and Prelude to Foundation were not published until the 1980s, and most of the books don't seem to have been originally intended as part of a single imagined future history, the entire metaseries is a rickety structure at best. This makes Palumbo's attempts to evaluate the series as a coherent whole somewhat less than convincing - it seems far more probable that the recurring themes in Asimov's metaseries were the result of the fact that Asimov had a relatively limited bag of plot tricks that he would return to than that it was the result of an intention (or even just a happy accident) to create a nested fractal set that uses chaos theory as an organizing principle. Even when the books in the series are laid out in a chart purporting to provide a graphic representation of the fractal architecture of the series, the end result simply isn't convincing. The Robot/Empire/Foundation metaseries is a chaotic mess, but trying to force that mess into a fractal self-symmetry requires doing the equivalent of jamming a square peg into a round hole. This doesn't mean that the essay isn't an interesting read, but rather, like the metaseries itself, it is a structure that simply doesn't really hold up to close examination.

Palumbo's essay, as comprehensive as it tries to be, only takes up thirty pages of the book. As noted before, the bulk of the book is essentially an encyclopedia of the Robot/Empire/Foundation series, providing an alphabetical listing of pretty much every single person, place, object, or event found in the series. Every entry is accompanied by a a description that both details what it is, and also gives some context from the series. Although the text explaining each entry varies in length depending on the importance of the subject, they are all very much capsule descriptions, and in general offer only a cursory summary. Anyone who is not familiar with Asimov's works would almost certainly find the material presented in this book to be entirely opaque - I have read some similar reference works (most notably some of the Tolkien-related works of David Day) in which a reader who had not read the original works could piece together the story from the text provided. This book does not share that characteristic - I have read all of Asimov's works and some of the entries were almost unfamiliar to me - and as a result, this book is essentially of no real value to anyone who has not read or is not intending to read, the books that make up Asimov's metaseries. That said, for someone who is interested in the metaseries and desires a handy reference work, this book will fill that need quite effectively.

As far as I know, there aren't very many reference works for Asimov's oeuvre in general, and none that focus on the massive and ramshackle metaseries constructed , and consequently this book fills a niche that is at the very least sparsely populated. For those who are interested in the recurring themes in Asimov's work, Palumbo's essay is likely to be of interest, and for those who are in need of a reference to follow along with Asimov's Robot/Empire/Foundation metaseries, the rest of the volume is likely to be quite useful. Though this book is definitely more practically valuable than is is aesthetically pleasing, it is a handy volume to have around, and for an Asimov fan, well worth having.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review - Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios


Short review: Fox and the girl in the vulture cloak are on the run from Big Alice, and Deathface Ginny is right behind her.

Haiku
A mason in love
Runs afoul of Death himself
Then he is punished

Full review: I must confess that I obtained this book almost solely because it was written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and at this point I am pretty much willing to at least take a look at anything she writes. Pretty Deadly not only met the high expectations I have for work from DeConnick, it exceeded them. This is, quite bluntly, mythic storytelling that manages to be both epic in scale and simultaneously intensely personal. Told via a combination of tight and brilliant writing from DeConnick and stunningly beautiful and evocative artwork from Emma Rios, this story presents a violent and visceral enigma shrouded in mystery wrapped up in magic, gunfights, and swordplay.

There is a long tradition of Westerns mixing in mythic elements - from Stephen King's Dark Tower series and the movie Purgatory to more subtle examples such as High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider. Pretty Deadly draws upon this tradition and mixes in a helping of folklore that seems inspired, at least in part, by both the tall tales of the Old West and Native American mythology. This melange results in a story that reminds one of a variety of other stories, but isn't exactly like any of them. This seems to be a recurring pattern in Pretty Deadly: Some of the characters are reminiscent of archetypes from either traditional mythology or various familiar Westerns, but none of them exactly fit those molds. The mythic elements presented tend to remind one of a variety of stories from myth and folklore, but none of them are exactly the same as anything found in those sources. In the end, DeConnick and Rios have managed to create a story that is essentially new, but still feels familiar.

Set in no particular location other than "the Old West", at no particular time other than "when revolvers were the height of firearm technology", Pretty Deadly is a mythic Western that mixes folklore-influenced fairy-tale themes with the kind of grim and gritty gunslinger-mystique found in movies like Unforgiven or programs like Deadwood. The tale follows Sissy, the girl in the Vulture Cloak, and Fox, a blind man who can see, as they are set up by a man named Johnny Coyote and have to flee from both Death's servant Big Alice and Death's daughter Deathface Ginny. The story is part revenge tale, part love story, and part apocalypse, all mixed together into a delicious stew that seems impossible and by all normal logic should be entirely nonviable, and yet fits together so perfectly that the result is sublime in its excellence.

Given that Death is a major character in the story, it is almost inevitable that comparisons with Neil Gaiman's Sandman series will be made, and while they are not entirely unwarranted and Pretty Deadly stacks up favorably to the tales of Dream, DeConnick and Rios definitely carve their own path with this book. Where Sandman is often subtle, focusing on intrigue and trickery, Pretty Deadly is often starkly brutal. The characters in this book are generally direct - even their attempts at deception are generally about as subtle are a slug to the gut or a sword thrust through the skull. Violence and death pervade the story: As minor a detail as the framing device used to set up the action, featuring a butterfly telling the story as an oral fable to a bunny, opens with a moment of sudden violence, prompting the bunny to make the understatement of the year when it tells the butterfly that it was afraid of a human girl only "for a moment".

Despite this pervasive brutality, the story is still full of mystery, in large part because many of the characters don't actually know what is going on, and as a result, the reader shares their confusion. Adding to the chaos, several of the characters have something to hide, and only grudgingly give out the information they possess. This atmosphere also reinforces the underlying theme of the story, that something is fundamentally wrong with the world itself, and because this was the result of the actions of one of the characters in the book, it is up to the characters in the book to set things to rights. The whole book is drenched in an aura of chaos and uncertainty, which one might think would be a detriment, but instead propels it forward, as the mystery pushes the reader from page to page to uncover the next tidbit of lore that has been hiding, in some cases in plain sight. What makes this so very delicious is that every time one question is answered, that answer both seems completely natural and also poses yet more questions at the same time.

As good as it is, the story itself is not the only thing makes this book so good. Instead, the way the story is told elevates it beyond the merely ordinary. One problem some graphic stories have is that they try to explain everything that is going on, seemingly ignoring the fact that the story is being told with a visual medium. DeConnick does not fall into this trap, providing the reader with extremely spare text and allowing the beautiful and arresting artwork provided by Emma Rios to carry much of the story-telling load. This is not to say that DeConnick's text falls down on the job, but rather that the text serves to complement the art rather than dominate it. There are many graphic novels that struggle to find the balance between text and artwork, but in Pretty Deadly, DeConnick and Rios have achieved it in a way that they make seem almost effortless.

Full of eerie atmosphere and a folklore-themed story, The Shrike is an excellent beginning to the Pretty Deadly series. One oddity is that although Deathface Ginny is ostensibly the main character of the story (with the title of the series being something of a play on words that references her directly), and the background folktale that underpins the action in the book is essentially about her origin, the book's contents feel much more like an ensemble piece, with Ginny being an important character, but just one among many. The story is, however, an excellent ensemble piece: A love story gone wrong that leads to another love story gone wrong that leads to a love story gone right, with violence, death, and obsession running through it all and everything presented with terse but brilliant prose accompanied by beautiful and evocative artwork.

Subsequent book in the series: Pretty Deadly, Vol. 2: The Bear by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2017 Prometheus Award Nominees

Location: Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.

Comments: Once again, the Prometheus Award seems to be the Scottish Socialist Award, with two finalists by Ken MacLeod. I've mentioned this before, but this seems like yet another example of the definition of "science fiction books that examine the meaning of freedom" being interpreted so incredibly broadly that there is essentially no real ideological meaning behind the Prometheus Award. As far as I can tell, there is no way to identify any science fiction book as being one that would not qualify for the Prometheus Award, which begs the question: What purpose does the Prometheus Award serve? Looking through the books that are nominated, there doesn't seem to be any identifiable ideological bent behind the award any more, which makes it more or less just another general science fiction award that happens to be voted upon by the members of and handed out by the Libertarian Futurist Society. There's nothing wrong with being a general science fiction award, but unless the Prometheus Award wants to be a kind of cut-rate Hugo Award with an even more specialized electorate, there doesn't seem to be much that really distinguishes the award from most of the other general science fiction awards right now.

Best Novel

Winner:
TBD

Finalists:
The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod
The Corporation Wars: Insurgence by Ken MacLeod
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo (translated by Lola Rogers)
Blade of p’Na by L. Neil Smith

Other Nominees:
Angeleyes by Michael Z. Williamson
Arkwright by Allen M. Steele
Dark Age by Felix Hartmann
Kill Process by William Hertling
Morning Star by Pierce Brown
Necessity by Jo Walton
On to the Asteroid by Travis S. Taylor and Les Johnson
Speculator by Doug Casey and John Hunt
Through Fire by Sarah Hoyt
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
Written in Fire by Marcus Sakey

Hall of Fame

Winner:
TBD

Finalists:
As Easy as A.B.C. by Rudyard Kipling
Conquest by Default by Vernor Vinge
Coventry by Robert A. Heinlein
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
Starfog by Poul Anderson
With Folded Hands . . . by by Jack Williamson

Other Nominees:
The End of the Line by James H. Schmitz
The Exit Door Leads In by Philip K. Dick
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Island Worlds by Eric Kotani and John Maddox Roberts
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Manna by Lee Correy
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Le Guin (reviewed in The Hugo Winners: Volume 3, Book 2)
A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg

Previous year's nominees: 2016
Subsequent year's nominees: 2018

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Musical Monday - Pregnant Women Are Smug by Garfunkel & Oates


So, she's really on her way. I mean, I already knew she was coming, but so often it seems kind of abstract at the point, and there's nothing like photographs to remind you of the reality of the fact that she'll be here in August. The redhead had her twenty week ultrasound today, and as a result, I have several new pictures of my impending daughter. She waved, tried to eat her foot, and rolled over for us. She's perfect and adorable, and I can't wait until she is here.

Despite the song, the redhead isn't really smug. At least she's not any more smug than she is at any other time. She is, however, really quite tired all the time, which is pretty much to be expected. I don't think she has told anyone that she doesn't remember what she did before she was pregnant because it all seems so meaningless now, mostly because she currently spending a lot of time complaining about how annoying being pregnant is and looking forward to the end of the process. The song by Garfunkel & Oates is still hilarious though.

Previous Musical Monday: Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry
Subsequent Musical Monday: Chicken Attack by the Gregory Brothers featuring Takeo Ishii

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