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