Tuesday, October 1, 2013

More photos from LoneStarCon 3

Here are a few more of my photos from LoneStarCon 3, the 71st annual World Science fiction convention, held August 29 through September 2, 2013, in San Antonio, Texas.

Guest of Honor James Gunn, age 90, being interviewed by Kij Johnson at the Guest of Honor Interview, noon Sunday, September 1.

Catherynne M. Valente at her reading, 2 p.m. Friday, August 30.

Gardner Dozois at the "How to Sell to Ellen Datlow" panel 8 p.m. Friday, August 30.

Michael Swanwick at  the "How to Sell to Ellen Datlow" panel, phoning a missing panelist.

Special Guest Leslie Fish performing at her Special Guest Concert, 7 p.m. Thursday, August 29.

The convention hotels, Marriott Riverwalk and Marriott Rivercenter, viewed from the convention center.

Large mosaic at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Evening and night views from the balcony of our hotel room at the Marriott Riverwalk. The San Antonio River is center bottom of both photos.

Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 Hugo Award Winners

The 2013 Hugo Awards were presented last night, September 1, at the Marriott Rivercenter in San Antonio, Texas, during LoneStarCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention. Photos can be enlarged by clicking.

The three fiction winners: John Scalzi (novel), Pat Cadigan (novelette), and Brandon Sanderson (novella). The short story winner, Ken Liu, was not present.

Best dramatic presentation, short form, the "Blackwater" episode of Game of Thrones, Rory McCann (actor and bodyguard) and George R.R. Martin (screenplay). McCann plays The Hound in the Game of Thrones television series.

Best novelette, "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi" by Pat Cadigan.

Best Semiprozine, Clarkesworld: Kate Baker, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace, and Neil Clarke.

Best Fan Artist, Galen Dara.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Mur Lafferty (center), with presenters Jay Lake (left) and his daughter, Bronwyn (right).

Best Editor, long form, Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

Best professional artist, John Picacio.

Best novella, "The Emperor's Soul" by Brandon Sanderson. The second Hugo he is holding is for Best Related Work.

Best Novel, Redshirts by John Scalzi.

Best Editor, short form, Stanley Schmidt. He is also holding his Chairman's Special Award.

Best Fanzine, SF Signal: JP Frantz, John DeNardo, and Patrick Hester.

Best Fancast, SF Squeecast: Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente. Paul Cornell is not pictured.

Best Related Work, Writing Excuses, Season Seven: Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Brandon Sanderson.

Related link:
Complete list of 2013 Hugo Winners from Locus Online

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Garcia Art Glass

For those who are traveling to San Antonio for LoneStarCon 3, the World Science Fiction Convention, which starts in two days, here's a suggestion for a fun activity near the convention center. We visited Garcia Art Glass today and enjoyed it. They have fine art glass and conventional items like cups and pitchers. Don't miss visiting the workshop, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. visitors are welcome to watch the glass blowers at work. There are benches set up inside the workshop for visitors.

Garcia Art Glass is located at 715 South Alamo, about a quarter mile south of the convention center, or take a Blue line streetcar south along Alamo for $1.20.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Any Day Now by Terry Bisson

By using the techniques of alternate history, Terry Bisson has made his novel of the Sixties, Any Day Now (2012), a better book. Bisson risks alienating mainstream readers with alternate history elements, and genre readers may decide the book is not genre enough. The novel that emerges from this contradiction is one of the best books of 2012.

Those of us who lived through the Sixties, your humble blog correspondent included, remember it as a time of unpredictable turmoil and change on every societal axis. Novels of the Sixties, by their faithfulness to events, a checklist of assassination, war, and protest, lose that crucial unpredictability. Bisson pulls the rug out from under readers, events change in unexpected ways, restoring exactly how it felt to live in the Sixties. In the moment, nothing was safe or secure, nothing was nailed down.

The story follows the coming-of-age journey of a young man from his small town roots in Kentucky, to  college, to a loft in New York City, life on a commune in Colorado, drugs, politics, revolution, and the passage of time.

On a sentence-by-sentence level this book is exceptional. And funny. And compact. Maybe too compact. I found myself wanting more scenes with just about every character, which isn't a bad way to leave the reader. There are a lot of names tossed out as shorthand for volumes of information: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, JFK, LBJ, RFK, Abbie Hoffman, Weathermen, Tet Offensive, Humphrey, MLK, and Malcolm X. I'm hoping that's not too high a bar for most readers.

This is an extraordinary novel about the Sixties, a sly, skewed Sixties.

Related links:
RudyRucker reviews Any Day Now in Los Angeles Review of Books
Starred review in Publishers Weekly

Friday, August 2, 2013

2013 Hugo Award voting

The following is a discussion of my ballot for the 2013 Hugo Awards, for work published in 2012. This is a popular vote award, where the voters are the attending and supporting members of the World Science Fiction Convention. The results will be announced at LoneStarCon 3, San Antonio, TX, September 1, 2013.

1. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)

The other novels on the shortlist are light snacks. 2312 by Robinson is a feast. It is easily the greatest accomplishment in the novel category. It is three novels in one:  First and foremost, it is a love story about two very different people, Swan and Wahram. It’s a moving and successful double character study. Second, it is a grand tour of the solar system 300 years in the future, displaying wonders of technology, economics, and culture. There’s enough material here for most other authors to write a long series of books. Here, Robinson has chosen to condense it all into one. Third, it is a murder mystery with political overtones. There are unforgettable scenes, such as the struggle of endurance and survival that Swan and Wahram experience when they must walk to safety using maintenance tunnels under the surface of Mercury, and much later, a spaceship collision. Not a perfect novel, yet wonderful and multilayered.

1. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
2. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
3. “The Stars Do Not Lie” by Jay Lake (Asimov’s Nov-Dec 2012)

Aliette de Bodard’s On a Red Station Drifting is a fascinating story, partly about a refugee in wartime, set in an interstellar Vietnamese Empire.  I hope de Bodard will have more stories in this setting. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress covers familiar ground, about the fall of civilization. The 15-year-old male viewpoint character is well done, the female mathematician viewpoint character in alternating chapters is less interesting, and doesn’t keep the reader invested in her end of the story. Jay Lake’s “The Stars Do Not Lie” is more familiar still, another retelling of an almost-Galileo confronting an almost-Catholic Church, which tries to suppress a scientific discovery.

1. “Fade to White” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, Aug 2012)
2. “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
3. “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit for Eden, PS Publications)

“Fade to White” by Catherynne M. Valente is a stunningly good story. Two young people, a boy and a girl, prepare for an event that will determine their social futures in a gender divided society. This alternate United States is based on a devastating war with the Soviet Union following immediately after World War II. The most anti-Communist, Red-baiting elements of the political scene of the 1950s are swept into power. Marketing is used effectively for satire, making me wish for a version of “Mad Men” that was set in this alternate world.

Pat Cadigan’s “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” is excellent, also, and funny. It’s about a crew working among the moons of Jupiter. I can’t really say much else without spoiling some of the fun.  “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a touching story of two boys who don’t fit in with their peers.

Short Story:
1. “Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
2. “Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese)
3. “Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Aug 2012)

Aliette de Bodard’s “Immersion” depicts the costs of characters leaving behind their native culture in favor of a dominant culture that they can mimic with the use of enhanced reality headsets. “Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu concerns the select few who are able to get on a ship to flee a doomed Earth. I felt the sentimentality was a bit heavy handed. Maybe that’s just me. “Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson is a series of story précises on the theme of mantis women who kill and consume their mates. It’s alternately chilling and comic, while not offering much story.

First place votes in other  categories:
I voted for the Coode Street Podcast in the Fancast category, Tansy Rayner Roberts in the Fan Writer category, The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature for Related Work, Clarkesworld for Semiprozine, Saga, Vol. I for Graphic Story, etc.

Related links:
LoneStarCon 3 website
The full list of all the nominees that made the 2013 Hugo Awards shortlist
Previous posts here at "Strangelove for Science Fiction" regarding Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312: Excerpts, Defining Robinson's 2312, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

On 'Magical Realism'

“When you say fantasy you’re always bringing up that doppelganger: science fiction. Magical Realism is not a very well-defined term, which is why I like it so much better than either fantasy or science fiction, both of which have strong connotations of dragons, rockets, aliens and so on. You can shove a great deal of fantasy and science fiction into the pockets of Magic Realism and leave the store and no-one will notice you. Magical Realism is like literary fiction running into a store and shoplifting the fantasy and science fiction.”
-- E. Lily Yu, on the Coode Street Podcast, Episode 146.

The previous episode, Episode 145 of the Coode Street Podcast, with guests M. Rickert and Christopher Barzak was pretty great, too.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Jack Vance (1916 - 2013)

Novelist Christopher Priest writing a Jack Vance obituary for The Guardian:
“His prose – detailed, exotic, resonant of feelings, sounds and fragrances – soared well above the requirements of the genre; he described alien landscapes with bizarre and inventive energy in language that was ambitious, wordy, sometimes lurid, always bold.”

From a 2009 New York Times profile of Jack Vance:
"Jack Vance is the most painful case of all the writers I love who I feel don't get the credit they deserve," Michael Chabon said. "If 'The Last Castle' or 'The Dragon Masters' had the name Italo Calvino on it, or just a foreign name, it would be received as a profound meditation, but because he's Jack Vance and published in Amazing Whatever, there's this insurmountable barrier."

John Clute writing in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:
“(O)ne of the two or three most deeply influential authors in the sf and fantasy genres after World War Two … creating an oeuvre whose surface flamboyance never obscured an underlying seriousness. Authors clearly (and often explicitly) influenced by Vance include such widely divergent figures as Jack L Chalker, Avram Davidson, Terry Dowling, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K Le Guin (though the influences here were almost certainly governed by a mutual concern with Anthropology), George R R Martin, Michael Moorcock, Dan Simmons and Gene Wolfe.”

Related links:
Obituary: The Guardian (by Christopher Priest)
Obituary: LA Times
Obituary: NY Times
NY Times profile (2009)
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: Jack Vance entry
Jack Vance official website

Monday, June 3, 2013

Meeting the Alien

     “Do you have a wife back home?” the Queen asked, still looking at Edison but directing the question to Piyopok. 
     “I am neither he nor she,” Piyopok sparkled.  “When I am old, I will return home and spend a few years caring for the children of others.  When my time comes, I will become my own children.”
     “How will you become your own children?” the Queen asked.
     “I will divide into parts,” Piyopok sparkled.  “Each part will become a new Gek.”
     “There will be two of you?  Three of you?”  The Queen pondered aloud.
     “Not really,” Piyopok said.  “Each will have a vague memory of me, but will not be me.  I fondly remember my forebear Guyopol, but I am not Guyopol.”
     “How remarkable,” said the Queen.
     “Your highness, be assured that how you reproduce is equally remarkable to me,” Piyopok sparkled.
-- From “Edison Wedge and the Gek”

We meet two distinct species of interesting aliens in two new young adult stories from Jon O. Neher.  In the novella “Edison Wedge and the Gek” human civilization is slowly recovering from the collapse of the oil economy and the effects of global warming. Edison Wedge is a naive young man from a backwater town who gets a job on a cattle drive that will take him to Fort Franklin, Canada. An economic center, Fort Franklin is visited every 440 days by the Gek, a race of interstellar traders, who buy ordinary goods from Earth and provide exotic items in exchange. Edison learns the ways of the big city and becomes a translator for the aloof Gek, developing something akin to a friendship with a particular Gek named Piyopok.

Edison’s rise from humble circumstances to a career working for the Gek traces a Horatio Alger trajectory, until disaster strikes, disrupting his comfortable life. His fellow humans lie, steal, and kidnap, and the sphinx-like Gek aren’t always reliable, either. Edison’s path has a few bumps until opportunities open out in new directions in a satisfying ending. This is just the sort of story bright young readers are looking for: a lively adventure story with fascinating aliens set in a future full of possibilities.

The novelette “The Froon Cycle,” by the same author, concerns an alien species that travels by spore across the vacuum of space and, finding an amenable environment, grows into an entire community of alien frooners, complete with its own customs and culture. On Earth, they find favorable conditions living in places no human would want to live. The story observes the frooners’ sojourn on Earth over several decades from a variety of human perspectives. Eventually the frooner reproduction cycle fails and there will be no more generations of frooners. They turn to humans for help.

Told with a dry sense of humor, the story resolves in a manner that follows naturally from what we have learned of the frooners.

Neher’s stories recall the early work of Larry Niven, with exotic aliens and an unyielding internal logic underlying the events of each story. These stories are evidence that a promising career awaits this new writer.

Both stories are available as Nook ebooks:
Edison Wedge and the Gek by Jon O. Neher
The Froon Cycle by Jon O. Neher

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ted Chiang to speak at UC Riverside

Ted Chiang, one of the great short fiction writers, will speak at the University of California, Riverside at 7 p.m. Monday, March 4, 2013, in Riverside, California. The event is free and open to the public.

Quoting from the press release:

Chiang is the author of the collection “Stories of Your Life and Others,” the novellas “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” and “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” and many short stories. He has won the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, four Nebula awards, four Hugo awards, three Locus awards, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Sidewise Award, and a British Science Fiction Association Award. 
“Ted Chiang is the premier writer of short fiction in the field today,” said Rob Latham, professor of English and a senior editor of the journal Science Fiction Studies. “Every story he writes seems to push the borders of the genre further. His work engages with some of the core themes of science fiction — alternate worlds, alien encounters, artificial life forms — but always with a metaphorical twist that gives them fresh literary resonance.”
Related link:

Monday, February 25, 2013


Lincoln is a sumptuously mounted production that seeks to teach us how to pass a Constitutional Amendment through Congress. The mechanics of legislation, with which the film spends the bulk of its time, alas, are of only passing interest. The central issue, slavery, is addressed as an ethical and moral issue, yet it’s held at arm’s length. It is never a visceral issue.

On the positive side, Lincoln has some excellent acting. Daniel Day Lewis is very good in the title role. Tommy Lee Jones is great as the larger-than-life politician Thaddeus Stevens (which stands in blinding contrast with his quiet and internal portrayal of the sheriff in “No Country for Old Men”).

There are several very good scenes buried in this overlong, overly explanatory movie.  One of my favorite scenes is Lincoln’s young son looking at photographic glass plates by candle light. (Technical note: Those should have been negatives, not positives, shouldn’t they?)

On the other extreme, there was an unfortunate scene where white Union soldiers try to recite the Gettysburg Address to Lincoln from memory and botch the job. After they leave, a black soldier finishes the recitation flawlessly. My criticism is that the scene is too “on the nose” -- meaning it bangs hard on the most obvious emotional note in the most obvious way, on top of which it’s a cheat for modern audiences who, if they know anything that Lincoln wrote, they know that speech.

This “on the nose” mawkish awkwardness is a common failing in movies directed by Steven Spielberg, and this movie is rife with the problem, especially in the musical score, which pounds on every emotional moment. Spielberg seldom is willing to let the audience decide for themselves what to think. He insists on hammering home exactly how the audience should feel about each scene. This is beyond annoying and nearly unbearable. The brilliance of Tony Kushner’s screenplay is consistently undermined by Spielberg.

Finally, the movie, which was already too long, makes the misstep of not ending where it should have, with the passage of the 13th Amendment through Congress. It skips forward several months in time to show us Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, followed by Lincoln’s assassination, both of which feel unnecessary and outside the concerns of the previous story.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Locus 'Year in Review' for 2012

Locus magazine's "year in review" issue is now available. It features recommended reading lists and commentary from reviewers, editors, and professionals in the science fiction and fantasy community.

Jonathan Strahan's Top 6 Books of the Year:
The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Empty Space by M. John Harrison
Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce
A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson

Russell Letson's list:
The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven
Intruder by C.J. Cherryh
Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey
The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross
Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds
Ashes of Candesce by Karl Schroeder
The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
Slow Apocalypse by John Varley
The Fourth Wall by Walter Jon Williams
American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s edited by Gary K. Wolfe

Graham Sleight's Half a dozen best books of 2012:
The Pottawatomie Giant and Other Stories by Andy Duncan
Empty Space by M. John Harrison
At The Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson
Rituals: A Novel of the Fantastic: Rhapsody of Blood, Volume One by Roz Kaveney
The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories (2 vols) by Ursula K. Le Guin
American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s edited by Gary K Wolfe

As with last year (follow here), my own tastes line up more closely with Strahan and Sleight, rather than Letson, whose list I find uneven.

For the complete Locus 2012 Recommended Reading list, compiled from input from all of their contributors, follow here.

Related links:
Locus 'Year in Review' for 2011
Locus Online: The Website of the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field