Monday, December 28, 2015

All the Birds in the Sky

A short review of All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Patricia finds that she can talk to animals, and learns that they have unsettling things to say. Laurence invents high-tech gadgets, and is unprepared for the side effects. They meet as school children, become friends, and help each other survive their horrible childhoods. They meet again as twenty-something adults in San Francisco. Patricia belongs to a society of witches. Laurence works for a high-tech innovation company. In a lovingly detailed San Francisco, Patricia and Laurence navigate the dating scene, while disasters scar the world around them and they participate in high-risk, misguided solutions to the world's problems. They must find a way to make their incompatible worldviews mesh or all of humanity will pay the price. This is a wild, off-kilter, funny book about our society careening toward catastrophe. There are high-flying wondrous adventures and down-to-earth human relationships. Oh, and did I mention it was funny?

I was provided with an advance reading copy.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Best of the Year: 2015

It's that end-of-the-year list-making time.

Over at the Coode Street Podcast there was an interesting discussion of the best science fiction and fantasy books of 2015. Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe were joined by noted critics Paul Kincaid and Adam Roberts. Prompted to give their individual choices for their top five picks:

Adam Roberts:
Top book: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. In dialog with the backlist of science fiction. Might be Robinson's best novel. Resonant and deep, clever, sophisticated.
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (the conclusion of a trilogy)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (which appeared in 2015 in Britain)
Clade by James Bradley
Luna by Ian McDonald
Touch by Claire North
Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson, sequel to Europe in Autumn, one of the best books of 2014

Paul Kincaid:
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, sequel to Life After Life (which was even better)
Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson
Where by Kit Reed
Luna by Ian McDonald
Slade House by David Mitchell

Gary K. Wolfe:
Wolfe said he didn't want to overlap too much with Roberts and Kincaid
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Clade by James Bradley
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (Roberts seconds this choice)

Jonathan Strahan:
Top book: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, most engaged, most timely
Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson
Clade by James Bradley
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Roberts seconds this choice)
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashanti Wilson
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Galapagos Regained by James Morrow

I've left out all the discussion around these lists, which was thought provoking and which I recommend listening to. I could quibble with some of the choices, having read several of these titles, yet on the whole these are strong lists. I agree that Aurora is the standout science fiction novel of 2015. (Listen to the Coode Street podcast here or on iTunes.)

Adam Roberts' sharp best of the year essay, with some additional titles, is on the Guardian website.

For a wider net that encompasses sf and fantasy, weird fiction and mainstream, especially international titles, I recommend Jeff VanderMeer's best books of 2015. His choice for best novel of the year is Animal Money by Michael Cisco. I've read an earlier novel by Cisco and I'm not sure I've recovered yet. I am definitely on board for this one.

For an example of poorly informed (or lazy?) list, there's BuzzFeed's 24 best sf books of 2015. About half of them are relevant and interesting. The other half look like someone randomly grabbed some books off a shelf.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

More photos from Sasquan

More photos from Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, held at Spokane, Washington.
Molly Gloss, author of The Dazzle of Day, Wild Life
"Lambing Season," and "The Grinnell Method," at her reading.

David Hartwell, long-time editor, currently at Tor, at Literary Beer.

Monday, August 31, 2015

More from the 2015 Hugo Awards

Here are a couple more photos from the 2015 Hugo Awards ceremony, held August 22, at Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention, in Spokane, Washington.

Elizabeth Leggett,  Best Fan Artist.

Ben Yalow, the Forrest J Ackerman Big Heart Award.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015 Hugo Award Winners

Here are some photos from the 2015 Hugo Awards ceremony held just a few hours ago, on August 22, at Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington.

Ken Liu, the translator of the Best Novel winner, 
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu.

Pat Cadigan, left, accepted for the Best Novelette winner "The Day the World Turned Upside Down" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. At right is Laura J. Mixon, who won Best Fan Writer.

The editors of Lightspeed Magazine, winner of Best Semiprozine.

The editors of Journey Planet, the Best Fanzine.

 Wesley Chu, winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Julie Dillon won Best Professional Artist.

All the winners, and people who accepted for absentee winners.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

David Gerrold, George RR Martin, and more at Sasquan

Here are some photos from a couple of the events I went to today, Thursday, August 20, 2015 at Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington.

David Gerrold at the Guest of Honor interview.

Vincent Docherty conducting the David Gerrold interview.

George R.R. Martin reading from his forthcoming book "Winds of Winter."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sasquan souvenir book

Picked up the Sasquan souvenir book today, along with other materials for the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington. The wrap-around cover is by Brad Foster (only half is visible in this photo).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Attention seeking troll puppies

The various Puppy leaders, it turns out, have little to say, and their arguments implode into insignificance. They don't think a literary award, the Hugos, should go to literary fiction. They don't think science fiction should contain messages, or be socially progressive. Their voting slates, of course, contain attempts at literary fiction and message fiction. If we set aside their arguments, all we are left with is noise. Their attention-seeking trolling of the Hugo nomination process in essence says "look at me, look at me!" That is sad, indeed.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hugo Award slates
and the politics of exclusion

Slate voting is an exclusionary tactic.

Regular Hugo Awards voters nominate the stories and authors that they love in a scattershot manner, a method of voting that is easily overwhelmed in the nomination process by a relatively small group of lockstep slate voters.

The leaders of the Rapid Puppies and Sad Puppies recruited enough voters to march in lockstep, filling entire categories of the Hugo Awards ballot with their large slate of nominees. The motivation behind these slates, it is clear to me, has little to do with promoting under-appreciated authors and stories. Instead, their goal is the exclusion of others from the Hugo Awards ballot.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

'The Last Man on Earth'

Will Forte, the creator, writer, and star, of the new television series "The Last Man on Earth" is apparently the lone survivor of a deadly virus.

Robert Lloyd, a Los Angeles Times television critic, describes the series:
Despite taking place five years in the future and sharing the title and more or less the premise of a 1964 Vincent Price movie, it is not science fiction. It's an abstraction, really, a comedy about existential cares and social mores in the absence of society. It asks what you do when it doesn't matter what you do because there's no one else around to care, or to care about.
Do you stop at stop signs? Eat with a fork? Park in a parking space?
The emphasis is mine. I'm sure generations of science fiction authors who have written similar stories will be glad to know that Robert Lloyd doesn't think they are capable of abstraction or consideration of existential cares and social mores.

I'll mention one well-known example: "Not With a Bang" by Damon Knight (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Winter-Spring 1950): after a plague the last man and the last woman meet at a restaurant. He goes to the men's room. While there he is stricken with the illness. The last woman can easily save him -- she has the antidote -- yet she can't face the idea of entering the men's room.

"Not with a Bang" is one of the most frequently anthologized short stories of the past 60 years. For a partial list, see this listing.

Related link:
'Last Man on Earth' review by Robert Lloyd (Los Angeles Times)