Books. Tea. Cats. Scribbling.

Tag: Hugo awards Page 1 of 3

A photo of the Campbell tiara, designed by Amanda Downum. It is a circlet of copper wire and glass beads that the winner wears. It's passed on from one winner to the next.

Hugo Awards Roundup: Campbell Award Nominees

A photo of the Campbell tiara, designed by Amanda Downum. It is a circlet of copper wire and glass beads that the winner wears. It's passed on from one winner to the next.

The Campbell tiara, designed by Amanda Downum. It’s passed on from one winner to the next. Photo by Amanda Downum.

 

The Hugo award deadline is TOMORROW, so I’ve been running a series of posts about this year’s nominees in various categories. This final post is about the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.


Ok, so, I know that the Campbell Award is Technically Not A Hugo. But it’s a time-honoured category (and also features items that are usually easy to read at the last minute because you’re a procrastinator like me), so let’s take a look.

Sarah Gailey

Gailey’s story from Fireside Fiction in the packet was, quite literally, a haunting investigation of regret, families, and spousal abuse. Gailey’s Best Related Work was also included in the packet, so check that out if you want to get a sense of her non-fiction chops.

Her prose is generally crisp and clear, with good smooth transitions and well-developed characterization.

J. Mulrooney

I’m going to admit straight up-front that I did not read the entirety of the book that Mulrooney included in the voting packet. I didn’t have the time. The opening wasn’t bad, though I’ll probably need to investigate further. My interest is piqued by the fact that it takes place in Toronto. Hell, it even mentions Scarborough on the first page, which is nice, though it does so by referencing Scarborough’s stereotypical reputation, which is not. Guys, Scarborough is good, OK? I’ve lived here my whole life. I should know.

Malka Older

Older’s work in the voting packet included 3 short stories as well as her debut novel Infomocracy. I didn’t have enough time to read the latter so I read the former. The stories themselves are decent, but feel half-developed.

Of those three, the best of the lot is “Tear Tracks”, a story about two humans tasked with making diplomatic overtures to an extraterrestrial species that considers personal experience with sorrow to be the best prerequisite for leadership. The ending, which illustrates one of the protagonists disbelief and disillusionment with this fact, is well done, as it neatly deflates the protagonist’s ego and her sense of ambition. The other two short stories, however, felt untethered, with endings that didn’t satisfy.

Ada Palmer

As with J. Mulrooney’s submission, I did not have enough time to read Ada Palmer’s contribution to the voting packet, Too Like the Lightning. (It’s also up for the Best Novel award.) However, I did read the first few pages and I have a lot of admiration for Palmer being able to pull off such a period-specific voice. Hell, she manages to incorporate a content warning directly into the story as part of the narrative, and does so while having the narrator themselves stay in character. I like that deftness.

It also helps that I am a fan of Palmer’s blog. If you don’t have time for the novel, check out her series of posts from a few years ago about putting Machiavelli in context. They are SO interesting.

Laurie Penny

Speculative fiction is all about using strange and far-off settings to examine the realities and anxieties of the present. If that’s your metric for award-worthy writing, there is no finer practitioner in this category than Laurie Penny. Penny’s stories contain biting social commentary along with the speculative elements – like serial killing becoming recognized as a form of art and getting government subsidies, or someone developing a patented pharmaceutical fountain of youth.

At times, her prose was so good, so incisive, that I felt physically anxious. So if you want something to roil your stomach, Penny should probably be your choice for the Campbell Award.

Kelly Robson

Of the entries that Robson included in the voting packet, I most enjoyed “Waters of Versailles”, her Tor.com novella. The flow, setting, and characterization in that piece are all lovely, and the ending is understated yet well-crafted. However, the other stories didn’t work as well for me. One of them, involving a girl who gets raped and murdered by a trucker, then revived by an alien form of bacteria with ulterior motives, was brutal, and I didn’t see what the point was of having it set around 9/11. I’d like to read more of her longer work to see if Robson works better with fiction that lets her spread her wings.

Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures

Hugo Awards Roundup: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures

Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures. Photo Credit: Hopper Stone/Hopper Stone, SMPSP

The Hugo award deadline is right around the corner, so I’m running a series of posts about this year’s nominees in various categories. Today’s is Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.


Holy shit you guys, I have actually seen all of this year’s nominees. That’s a first, and that means there are two things to celebrate:

  1. Hollywood making decent SF/F movies in greater quantities, and
  2. My husband and I having enough disposable income to see said movies.

Yay for having money! So, let’s take a closer look at each nominee in turn.

Arrival

It is so satisfying to know that Hollywood didn’t bungle this adaptation of Ted Chiang’s mind-bending novella “Story of Your Life”. I reviewed Arrival back in November when it opened in theatres, and my opinion on it hasn’t changed that much. However, I also suspect I had such a strong reaction to the movie because of the heightened emotional state (fear, regret, exhaustion) I was in when I saw it. This movie would not have had the same impact on me if it had been released in 2015, I think.

The only thing I have to add is that while this adaptation made changes to the story that some people disagree with, I think those changes make sense. Let’s look at some comments by Abigail Nussbaum in particular:

To someone familiar with the story, there is a hint early on in Arrival of its shift in priorities and premise.  The film opens with a series of flashes to the relationship between linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and her daughter Hannah, culminating in Hannah’s death, in her early adulthood, from a disease.  In the story, Hannah dies in a climbing accident.  The change initially seems pointless–or perhaps yet another indication that Hollywood thinks cancer is inherently more dramatic than any other form of tragedy–and then troubling.  In the story, the point of Hannah’s death being accidental is that it is easily preventable.  Someone with knowledge of the future–as Louise will eventually become–could keep it from happening by saying a few words.  The point of “Story of Your Life” is to explain why Louise doesn’t do this.  Making Hannah’s death something that Louise can’t prevent seems, in the film’s early minutes, like an odd bit of point-missing.

I disagree with this. I think changing the way Hannah died was a practical decision by the moviemakers in order to achieve the desired narrative effect, rather than a ham-fisted attempt to inject the story with pathos.

To first-time viewers, the revelation is that all of the scenes involving Hannah are flash-forwards rather than flashbacks. To make that twist resonate to the audience, Louise (played by Amy Adams) must look the same in both the present-day narrative and the near future. If Hannah is an adult, then Louise needs to look visibly older on screen to avoid suspension of disbelief. But if the passage of time between the two periods is less than a decade, Louise looking substantively the same age is a lot more plausible – and thus it’s easier to set the audience off their guard.

Deadpool

Ladies and gentlemen, let us salute the first comic book movie to show pegging on-screen. Let us also salute the mental image of my Boomer-age aunt and uncle watching Deadpool in the theatre. Because I know that, had I watched it with them, being in their proximity during the on-screen sexytimes would have made me melt into my seat in embarrassment. I would probably have also had to explain everything to them afterwards because my aunt is the kind of person who didn’t understand The Matrix when she first saw it.

So yeah. Deadpool. Lotsa sex jokes. Lotsa gore. Lotsa fourth-wall breaking. Mucho potential inter-generational embarrassment that, thank god, was avoided.

Ghostbusters

You know what? I liked Ghostbusters, MRA-rage be damned. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, and I was never a big fan of the original 80s incarnation in the first place. But I am all for Kate MacKinnon’s performance. Let’s just fill the rest of this section up with Holtzmann GIFs, ok?



Hidden Figures

I reviewed Hidden Figures back in January. It’s a good movie with great performances. The only problem I have with it is that you can tell that the original story was altered to make it more Hollywood-friendly. I’ll just share the money quote here:

For example, when Mary is encouraged to become an engineer, she initially brushes her coworker’s words aside by saying that as a black woman, there’s no point in her trying. It’s impossible, she says. So what, he replies, I’m Jewish and my parents died in the Holocaust, yet we’re both here working on getting a man into space. Nothing is impossible! Considering that Mary’s interlocutor has less than a dozen more lines in the entire film after this, his dialogue is a bit on the nose; it’s clear that he’s here only to fulfill that particular beat of the script.

Other parts of the script are also predictable. Do we have a scene where Katherine gives rise to her frustration and in a cathartic burst of rage berates her boss because there’s no bathroom nearby she can use? Yes! Do we have a scene where said boss, chastened and enlightened, does something dramatic and symbolic by taking a crowbar to the “coloured ladies” bathroom sign as a way to desegregate the campus? Yes! Do we have a scene where Katherine has to prove her mathematical worth at the very last minute, with little time to spare, in order to make sure that John Glenn doesn’t die in space? Yes!

Rogue One

When I saw Rogue One in the theatre, I really wasn’t expecting the movie to go there. You know. The whole thing with “even though one of the major taglines of the movie is that rebellions need hope to survive, every single goddamned important character in this movie DIES.” I wasn’t expecting it to go there.

It’s not a perfect movie, and Max Gladstone wrote a really good piece about how they could have fixed Rogue One‘s script to make it better. But what I care about most is Chirrut and Baze. I also think that not casting Tatiana Maslany as the lead was a huge missed opportunity.

Stranger Things, Season One

I’ve mentioned previously how long series of things are overwhelming to me. So much stuff to catch up on. So the length of shows like Stranger Things is perfect. Eight episodes, one plot arc, mostly killer and very little filler.

I took a big break after episode 6, which finishes with Jonathan and Steve fighting, and Steve slut-shaming Nancy in public. The plot development there put a bad taste in my mouth. But episode 7 was amazing, because it’s the first time where everyone teams up. There are still some things I’m conflicted about – for some reason, I wasn’t a huge fan of the actress they chose to play Nancy – but other parts are great. My husband couldn’t stand Dustin, but he’s my favourite character because he’s so emotionally perceptive.

Hugo Awards Roundup: Fan Writer Nominees

The Hugo award deadline is right around the corner, so I’m running a series of posts about this year’s nominees in various categories. Today’s category is Best Fan Writer.


Natalie Luhrs

I must admit up-front that my decision to start the Tea-Time Links series of posts on Books & Tea is directly because of Natalie Luhrs’s link roundups. Thank you, Natalie! She’s also one of the editors of The Bias, which discusses issues like diversity, inclusivity and accessibility within an SFF context. I genuinely enjoy her posts, and this piece in particular about how the World Fantasy Convention really needs to get its act together is full of practical advice for any con-runner.

Check out Pretty Terrible, Natalie Luhrs’s blog.

Foz Meadows

When Foz Meadows writes a post, she WRITES A POST. They may not be frequent, but they’re long, incredibly detailed, thoughtful, and occasionally full of snark. Her discussion of the most recent book in the Vorkosigan Saga is so comprehensive that it’s finally convinced me I need to start reading Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels, which is something that not even Jo Walton was able to make me do. (Long series are overwhelming to me, which is why I rarely start them. That Meadows has made me willing to consider starting a series with OVER A DOZEN BOOKS is quite the accomplishment.)

Check out Shattersnipe: Malcontent &Rainbows, Foz Meadows’s blog.

Abigail Nussbaum

Aaah, my god, Abigail Nussbaum writes SO MUCH and it’s SO GOOD and she has all these people writing informed, sensitive comments on her blog and I just. Damn. I wish I had the level of critical talent that fills up just one of her pinky fingers. This year’s voting packet features articles by her about Westworld, Ex Machina, and a recent BBC adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that sounds eerily prescient about today’s political landscape.

Check out Asking the Wrong Questions, Abigail Nussbaum’s blog.

Mike Glyer

File770 is a one-stop-shop for news within SFF fandom. It’s updated so frequently, and is so long-running, that Glyer’s knowledge of the industry is damn near encyclopedic. However, while his updates are valuable, I don’t really connect with them that much. I’m not familiar with the people he writes obituaries about, even if they are well-known figures from the Golden Age or Silver Age or whatever. Reading lit crit and feminist analysis is much more up my personal alley.

Read more of Mike Glyer’s work at File770.

Jeffro Johnson

Once I noticed that Johnson was associated with Castalia House and that the very first review in his voting packet file contained liberal, unironic use of the word “dame” when discussing women in pulp fiction, I noped right out. No thanks.

Chuck Tingle

While I can appreciate Tingle’s humour and his attempts to poke Sad Puppies with a butt-shaped stick, his prose gets old for me fast. So, um, no, I guess I’m really not the target market for satire dressed up as dinosaur erotica. But good on Tingle for continuing to be the gonzo personality we all know and love.

Putting the Fan Writer Category in Context

Of all of the categories that exist in the Hugo Awards, Best Fan Writer is the one that I feel most personally connected to. I may never write a publishable short story or novel. But cultural critique and analysis like this? Most of the people on this ballot got started by setting up shop on their own. Which is what I’m doing right here just by writing posts.

Natalie Luhrs, Foz Meadows and Abigail Nussbaum are all incredibly talented. In a very real way, their work is a template for what I want to accomplish. I’m nowhere near their level of skill yet, but I hope I can be as good as them some day. Really, this ballot is just down to the three of them, and they are all equally worthy of the Fan Writer award. I have no idea how I’ll end up ranking them when I vote, but if any of these three win, I’ll be happy.

Hugo Award Roundup: Novelette Nominees

The Hugo award deadline is right around the corner, so I’m running a series of posts about this year’s nominees in various categories. Today’s category is Best Novelette.


The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Lin is the youngest member of the royal family of the Jeweled Valley – a Jewel – and Sima is her servant, confidant, and jewel-setter – a Lapidary. The valley’s gems have been renowned across continents for centuries for their magical powers, but when Sima’s father, the king’s Lapidary, betrays the court to help a western invader, Lin’s world falls apart. Now, with very little time and knowledge, Lin and Sima must do what they can to make sure the valley is not overrun.

I heard a lot of praise for this story when it first came out, but reading it now, I don’t understand why. If the Lapidaries are the ones who can speak to the valley’s magical gems and control their powers, how come they aren’t the rulers, since they have so much control over the valley’s magic? Why is it important that Lin manages to fashion a veil out of platinum chains? What is the significance of the excerpts from a guide book that open up each section? The prose feels so spare that huge parts of the story’s world-building make no sense to me, and I wonder whether this is a continuation of a pre-existing series where a lot of this information has been explained previously.

The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan

Cover image for “The Art of Space Travel”. Illustration by Linda Yan.

Emily Clarah Starr lives a life set in liminal spaces. She’s the head of housekeeping at a hotel near Heathrow, and her house is just a half-hour’s walk away. Her mother, Moolie, lives in a liminal space of her own, too – after taking part in a cleanup effort for a failed manned space mission, the chemicals she was exposed to have affected her mind. Emily’s life is usually the same from day to day, but as the launch date for the first manned mission to Mars comes closer, her hotel becomes ground zero for a media frenzy, and she’s not quite prepared for all of the feelings such an event dredges up.

What’s interesting about “The Art of Space Travel” is how the SFnal elements of it all are very light and in the background – while we get some references to this story taking place about 60 years in the future, aside from the prospect of a manned  mission to Mars, it sounds like it’s set in the present day. No unusual technologies or scientific discoveries drive the plot. This is just a story about a young woman living day-to-day, talking to her mom, worrying about her job, and wondering about who her father might be. The voice here is human and gentle, and overall the story is very soft and understated.

Read “The Art of Space Travel” for free online.

The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon

Grandma Harken lives in the desert, and what makes her stay despite her age is her garden full of tomatoes. But lately those tomatoes are disappearing just as they’re ripe on the vine. Who’s stealing them? When Grandma Harken meets the thief and discovers that she’s trapped under a spell, the old lady seeks the help of the train gods and embarks on a journey through the desert to a place where time and space fold in strange ways. I’ll leave it to you to find out who the ultimate antagonist is, but it’s an unexpected delight.

I’ve loved Ursula Vernon’s past work, and while I’m only somewhat familiar with her story “Jackalope Wives”, which is set in the same universe as “The Tomato Thief”, you don’t need to read one to be able to appreciate the other. Grandma Harken is a cussed old lady, and I like how her voice, full of said cussedness, comes through clear as a bell. This story is just begging to be turned into a podcast. I hope that PodCastle records this one, pronto. This one is going to take the top spot on my Hugo award ballot.

Read “The Tomato Thief” for free online.

You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay by Alyssa Wong

Ellis is the son of the desert and a strange man who had the ability to raise the dead. As their son, he can raise the dead himself and shapeshift like the desert’s sand. He does chores at the local brothel, but when his mother calls out to him, he’s helpless to respond. A local mining company has heard of his strange power, and wants to use his abilities to investigate a recent mine collapse. However, they have ulterior motives. Also, what’s the deal with the strange new preacher in town? Strange things are afoot, and Ellis may be overmatched.

I liked this a lot more than “A Fist of Permutations in Wildflowers and Lightning”, Wong’s nominee in the Short Story category. The plot made more sense to me, and the characters felt more grounded. However, I felt the ending, where Ellis raises the dead miners to reunite them with their families, tried to evoke a level of heart-tugging emotion that it didn’t quite earn. Also, it didn’t make sense to me that the preacher turned out to be his uncle – I didn’t understand why someone who was identified as a preacher would actually be someone allied with a much different kind of pagan magic.

Read “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay” for free online.

Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman

“Touring with the Alien” is set in a near future where alien edifices have landed on Earth’s surface. No one really knows what they want, but our protagonist, Avery, is tasked with the highly unusual job of taking an alien, plus one of the abducted humans aliens have trained to be ambassadors, on a road trip to St. Louis. Eventually, it’s revealed that the aliens themselves aren’t conscious. Humans, it turns out, are unique in this universe for possessing consciousness, and the aliens can’t get enough of this state of mind. Consciousness is so intoxicating, in fact, that it’s actually killing them like an addictive substance would.

I really wanted to like this story, but Avery treats the alien presence and their ultimate goals with such a matter-of-fact demeanour that the whole thing is robbed of any mystery or sense of wonder. Why does Avery feel so little betrayal at the idea that the aliens have actually come here to invade? Why isn’t she a bit more staggered by the coincidence of the alien ambassador wanting to visit St. Louis, which is the city where her daughter is buried? These revelations are treated with so much understatement that it robs the climax of any heft.

Read “Touring with the Alien” for free online.

Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex by Stix Hiscock

Dude, don’t try to beat Chuck Tingle at his own game. Just don’t. It won’t work.

Hugo Award Roundup: Short Story Nominees

The Hugo award deadline is right around the corner, so I’m running a series of posts about this year’s nominees in various categories. Today’s category is Best Short Story.


The City Born Great by N. K. Jemisin

The cover for “The City Born Great”. Illustration by Richie Pope.

Cities are full of life. In Jemisin’s story, if they grow large and powerful enough, they’ll become living beings themselves. But the birth of a city isn’t easy, and there are dark beings out there interested in devouring this new life. It’s up to the city’s midwife to usher them into the world safely and prevent the forces of evil from winning out. However, New York’s midwife, our unnamed narrator, is homeless, hungry, and skeptical. But it’s up to him to deliver this baby, sing its song, and fight the unnamed Enemy that wants to suck it dry.

One of Jemisin’s hallmarks is the use of protagonists that deliberately test the boundaries of readers’ sympathies. Essun from The Fifth Season is a great example. The narrator of “The City Born Great” – a flippant, pragmatic homeless person – is another. The climax, where New York actually comes alive, is great. But I think the story would have been stronger if the final scene were cut entirely. Otherwise, the ending was too tidy.

Read “The City Born Great” for free online.

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong

Two sisters grow up with the power to see the snaking, infinite paths of the future, and twist fate to their own ends. When one sister leaves for the city, she regrets the effect her choice has on the other left behind. But some things are inevitable, and when she tries to return to save her sister, her attempts always fall short.

Wong’s story is interesting and the prose is delicate, but it somehow feels unfinished, overall. The story kept hinting that the girls’ parents were meant to be looming and significant, overbearing, but in the end they’re non-entities. I never understood why either sister felt so constrained by living with them.

Read “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” for free online.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander

I reviewed this story last November, and my opinion of it still stands. It’s perfect, snarly and angry.

Read “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” for free online.

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

Amira is a princess whose beauty encourages the advances of uncountable numbers of men, including her father. To keep herself and her kingdom safe, she willingly sits in exile on a throne atop a glass mountain, awaiting the one man who can climb it and prove being worthy of her hand. Tabitha is a woman who loved and married a shapeshifting bear-man. However, after his abuse raises her mother’s suspicions, she does an act that breaks his trust in her. She must walk the countryside, carry his bear-skin and wear through seven pairs of iron shoes as penance before she can return.

But when Amira and Tabitha meet – Tabitha climbs the glass mountain in the hope that such a magical surface will wear through the soles of her shoes even faster – neither of them believe that the other deserves such harsh treatment. It’s not Amira’s fault that men always lust after her, Tabitha says; nor does Amira believe it’s Tabitha’s fault that her husband beat her. So the two forge a life together on their own.

I love the quality of El-Mohtar’s prose, and “Seasons of Glass and Iron” is a fine example of how delicate and crystalline and sweet her writing can be. But on a thematic level, while I recognize it’s a response to a number of misogynistic tropes found in traditional fairytales, the story left me lukewarm. It feels like the theme of “it’s not a woman’s fault if a man is a controlling asshole” is really hammered in. It’s a fine message in and of itself, but it’s not that subtle.

Read “Seasons of Glass and Iron” for free online.

That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn

The cover for “That Game We Played During the War”. Illustration by John Jude Palencar.

Major Valk Larn is a war hero; like all people of Gaant, he’s a telepath. Calla Belan is a field nurse; like all people of Enith, she isn’t. Gaant and Enith have been fighting over the same piece of land for years. However, despite the Gaantish advantage of telepathy, the Enithi have managed to fight them to a standstill and negotiate a peace treaty. Now that the peace is holding, Valk and Calla are free to rekindle their unusual friendship over a game of chess.

As soon as I read “That Game We Played During the War”, I knew that it was special, so I’m delighted to see it as a nominee. I’m especially happy considering that out of all the short stories on ballot, this one displays the least amount of literary pyrotechnics. No snarky narrator, no perilous acrobatics of prose. Just two people, a chess board, and a grand, if not particularly original, metaphor.

Calla and Valk are both given full, real personalities despite little information in the text about their personal likes, dislikes, and fears. The effect is as if I’m viewing a simple yet evocative pencil sketch – a lot of information is deftly packed into as few lines as possible. Most of all, I appreciate the story’s genuine sense of kindness and goodwill. These are characters who have learned to see each other as people rather than enemies.

Read “That Game We Played During the War” for free online.

An Unimaginable Light by John C. Wright

I didn’t bother to read this one. I know enough to steer clear of the bullshit that Castalia House publishes.

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress | Theme by Anders Norén | Header image by Joanna Kosinska