Sunday, August 31, 2014

More Loncon 3 panel photos

More photos from panel discussions I attended at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held August 14-18, 2014, in London.

Christopher Priest, writer,
"Becoming History" panel

Elizabeth Hand, writer, 
"Becoming History" panel

Graham Sleight, critic,
"Becoming History" panel

John Clute, critic,
"Becoming History" panel

 Peter Higgins, writer,
"Becoming History" panel

Kate Nepveu, reviewer,
"The Canon is Dead. What now?"

Connie Willis, writer,
"The Canon is Dead. What now?"

Joe Monti, editor.
"The Canon is Dead. What now?"

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, writer,
"The Canon is Dead. What now?"

 Chris Beckett, writer,
"The Canon is Dead. What now?"

Related links on this blog:
2014 Hugo Award winners
John Clute kaffeeklatsch
Loncon 3 panel photos
Still more Loncon 3 photos
Yes, more Locon 3 photos
Loncon 3 notes and quotes

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Loncon 3 panel photos

Here are photos from some of the panels I attended at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held August 14-18, 2014, in London. Starting with "A Conversation with Malcolm Edwards" an editor and critic, as well as one of the convention's Guests of Honor. Click to enlarge.

 Malcolm Edwards, Guest of Honor.
"A Conversation with Malcolm Edwards"

Chris Evans, author. 
"A Conversation with Malcolm Edwards"

Stephen Baxter, author.
"A Conversation with Malcolm Edwards"

One of the books that Malcolm Edwards championed early in his career.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, writer, and Alisa Krasnostein, editor, 
"The Review is Political"

Kevin McVeigh, editor,
"The Review is Political" 

Elias Combarro, scholar,
"The Review is Political" 

Abigail Nussbaum, reviews editor,
"The Review is Political"

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Eaton Collection receives
$3.5 million gift

Science fiction fan and photographer Jay Kay Klein left his $3.5 million estate, as well as thousands of photographs, to the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy at the University of California, Riverside.

Klein began photographing science fiction conventions in the 1940s. His collection includes photographs, slides, and glass slides, as well as other memorabilia, including correspondence with Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, L. Sprague de Camp, Robert A. Heinlein, and others, over a period of 40 years.

According to the news release from UC Riverside:
Klein agreed to donate his collection to UCR after developing a friendship with Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections and University Archives, “who greatly admired his encyclopedic knowledge,” according to the memorandum of understanding establishing the Jay K. Klein Endowed Fund for the Support and Preservation of Science Fiction and Fantasy Collections of the UCR Libraries. 
The Eaton Collection is the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction and fantasy in the world.

Related link:

Edited to add, related link:
UCR's sci-fi collection gets $3.5 million gift (The Press-Enterprise)

Related link on this blog:
Gardner Dozois papers will come to UCR

Sunday, August 24, 2014

John Clute kaffeeklatsch

At the 10 a.m. Monday (18 August) small-group kaffeekatsch with LonCon3 Guest of Honor John Clute one of the convention members collapsed. From the floor he said that he was in distress. A LonCon3 representative was summoned, who in turn summoned a paramedic, who arrived in just a few minutes. After some private conversation with the paramedic, the distressed convention member was able to leave under his own power, escorted by the paramedic. While LonCon3 was in many ways a surprisingly successful, fun, and interesting convention, I mention this incident to illustrate that real life does not take a holiday.

John Clute at the Guest of Honor Interview, LonCon3.
John Clute recognized the potential seriousness of the incident above, kept an eye on the situation throughout, and delegated one of our small group to get help. He nevertheless was able to continue with aplomb to weave together a discussion that incorporated many threads of topics he raised at his Guest of Honor Interview Friday (15 August) and other appearances at the convention. Some points that were touched on:

  • Herbert Marcuse, a philosopher whose work, according to Clute, is underrated and should be reconsidered and appreciated.
  • Marcuse's notion of "Repressive Tolerance" (1965), where he describes how capitalist democracies have totalitarian tendencies, using techniques so subtle that the majority embrace their servitude. Clute holds that this analysis is even more valuable and true now than when it was written.
  • Clute offered a rigorous definition of "fungibility" and its relationship to critical thought.
  • A discussion of prehistoric thaumatropes, used both as flip-disks made of images etched on bone or ivory, and the light of flickering flames on France's Chauvet Cave drawings.

Related link:
How prehistoric artists make their paintings move (Daily Mail)

Related links on this blog:
2014 Hugo Award winners
Loncon 3 panel photos
More Loncon 3 panel photos
Still more Loncon 3 photos
Yes, more Loncon 3 photos
Loncon 3 notes and quotes

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 Hugo Award winners

The 2014 Hugo Awards were presented tonight (17 August 2014) at the ExCel Center in London during LonCon3, the World Science Fiction Convention. Click photos to enlarge.

Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie 

Best Novella: "Equoid" by Charles Stross 

Best Novelette: "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal

 Best Short Story: "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu

Best Editor - Long Form: Ginjer Buchanan 

Best Fanzine: A Dribble of Ink by Aidan Moher

Best Editor - Short Form: Ellen Datlow 

Best Graphic Story: "Time" by Randall Munroe (not present).
Cory Doctorow (above) accepted the award for Munroe.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were present to accept their Hugo Award (Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form: Game of Thrones, "The Rains of Castamere"). They both left before the photo session. No other award winners were actually present to accept their awards.

Related links:
For a complete list of 2014 Hugo Award winners, follow here.
For all the voting statistics, follow here for the PDF.
(Note: In the nominating stats, on page 19 of the PDF, I see that Neil Gaiman withdrew his novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It was the second most nominated novel.)

Related links on this blog:
John Clute kaffeeklatsch
Loncon 3 panel photos
More Loncon 3 panel photos
Still more Loncon 3 photos
Yes, more Loncon 3 photos
Loncon 3 notes and quotes

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bletchley Park tour

We've been touring a number of sights in England as part of our vacation leading up to Loncon3, the world science fiction convention, which starts tomorrow. One sight I'll highlight here: Bletchley Park, the location of significant codebreaking during World War Two, and one of the first uses of an early electromechanical computer known as the "bombe." Click to enlarge.

The inner workings of a "bombe."

"Bombe" exterior.

Sculpture of Alan Turing, iconic mathematician and computer scientist.

One of several German "Enigma" devices on display.

Some of the new displays in Huts 3 and 6.

Manor house displays.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

2014 Hugo Award voting

The following is a discussion of my ballot for the 2014 Hugo Awards, for work published in 2013.

The fiction categories of the Hugo Awards' shortlist offer a study in contrasts, particularly in quality and, shall we say, lack of quality. This is part and parcel of popular-vote awards. I could go on about the "sad puppy" ballot campaign, which has been discussed exhaustively elsewhere, yet the phenomenon is neither new nor interesting. Ballot campaigns are a fairly reliable indicator of lack of quality. Worthy fiction doesn't need a ballot campaign. All it needs is a readership informed with a breadth and depth of reading and an engagement in the discussion of what makes fiction exceptional.

1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The clear choice for me was Ancillary Justice, a heady mixture of gender issues, artificial intelligence, and a ruthless interstellar empire. It doesn't all blend perfectly and the pacing is a little off, nevertheless this is an exceptional first novel and I look forward to reading more by Leckie.

My next choice for novel likely would have been Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross. I've read several books by Stross and enjoyed them. Unfortunately, somewhere amid his prolific output I stopped trying to keep up. This one went unread.

Next comes "No Award," meaning I'd rather they skipped the award than give it to one of the following three nominees. I've written before about my adverse reaction to a Mira Grant novel. I won't belabor the point here. I've read enough of Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia, to determine that it is poorly written action-adventure with atrocious dialog. In a former career I was paid to read terrible prose and make it better. I don't see anyone offering to pay me to read this. Finally, there is the entire Wheel of Time series, started by Robert Jordan and finished by Brandon Sanderson, which only appears on the shortlist due to a misguided decision about serial works being eligible as a whole in the year of completion. My understanding is that the rule had to do with novels serialized in magazines that would sometimes run from the December issue of one year to the January issue of the next year. It was not intended for multi-volume series published across decades. Yet, here it is on the ballot. I've read enough that it is apparent that it is a poorly written variation on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It may be popular, alas, that doesn't mean it's worth reading.

1. "Wakulla Springs" by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (read it here)
2. "Six-Gun Snow White" by Catherynne M. Valente

"Wakulla Springs" is a brilliantly written story of people and events at a resort in Florida in the 1940s and '50s, with wonderful descriptions of nature and great characters. It's the best novella, even though it doesn't have much to offer in the way of science fiction or fantasy. "Six-Gun Snow White" is a sophisticated blend of European folk tales and American folk tales about the Wild West, which works both as a linear narrative and a meta-fictional text. I'm sure some readers will object that the prose is over-written and calls too much attention to itself. I found the prose to be lush and beautiful and immersive. My objection is that I wanted more. Some of the events and characters were only briefly sketched and I would have liked a little deeper investigation of some aspects of the story.

My next choice for novella, like Stross' novel above, would probably be "Equoid" by Charles Stross, were it not for the fact that I haven't gotten around to reading it.

Then comes "No Award" followed by two weak novellas. "The Chaplain's Legacy" by Brad Torgersen had some interesting possibilities, hampered by pedestrian prose and cumbersome storytelling. "The Butcher of Khardov" by Dan Wells, had even less to offer.

1. "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" by Ted Chiang (read it here)
2. "The Waiting Stars" by Aliette de Bodard
3. "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal (read it here)
4. No award

Ted Chiang's novelette, it will come as no surprise, is excellent. It concerns language, and meaning, and cultural filters, providing the reader with a lot to chew on afterwards. "The Waiting Stars" is set in the same universe as her excellent novella "On a Red Station, Drifting," which was shortlisted for the Hugo Awards last year. "The Waiting Stars" considers issues of erasure of self and culture. "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" is the autumnal story of an astronaut late in her career.

After the first three stories comes "No Award" and two novelettes with poor prose and tedious stories.

Short story:
1. "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (read it here)
2. "Selkie Stories are for Losers" by Sofia Samatar (read it here)
3. "The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu (read it here)
4. "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky (read it here)

I should note that this is the only fiction category where I have not had to resort to "No Award." All of these short stories are award-worthy. My preference for "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" comes from its wry sense of humor. The title of "Selkie Stories are for Losers" changes meaning in the course of this touching story about coming to terms with loss. "The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere" is an emotionally powerful story about truth-telling and a gay man coming out to his family. "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" is a brief prose-poem about confronting vulnerability.

Before I leave the fiction categories, I'd like to mention some titles that I think the Hugo voters overlooked and could have filled the place of the three novels, two novellas, and two novelettes on the shortlist that I ranked below "No Award."

Overlooked novels:
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
Empty Space by M. John Harrison (U.S. edition, 2013)
The Land Across by Gene Wolfe

Overlooked short fiction:
"Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance" by Paul Park (novella, U.K. edition, 2013)
"Entangled" by Ian R. MacLeod (novelette)
"Effigy Nights" by Yoon Ha Lee (short story, read it here)

First place votes in other categories:
I voted for Saga, Vol. 2 in the Graphic Story category; Orphan Black in Dramatic Presentation (Short Form); Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer in Related Work; Coode Street in Fancast; and Sofia Samatar for the John W. Campbell New Writer Award.

A category that needs special mention is Fan Writer, which is especially strong this year. I consider the essays of Kameron Hurley, Abigail Nussbaum, and Liz Bourke to be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand science fiction, both as literature and as a community. I'm less familiar with Foz Meadows and Mark Oshiro, and I suspect I should rectify that.

Related links on this blog:
2013 Hugo Award voting
2012 Hugo Awards: Best Novel shortlist
2011 Hugo Awards: Novel shortlist
2010 Hugo Awards shortlist