The 2015 Hugo Awards have been announced at Worldcon 2015 – “Sasquan” The 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington. In the Best Novel category the winner is:
- The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)
- Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
- The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor)
- The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
- Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc)
Our congrats to Cixin Liu and all the finalists. You can see the complete list of winners in all categories over at Locus.
There were fewer winners this year than in past years because assholes but it was still a nice ceremony. Thanks to the organizers for making the live stream happen.
They’ve ramped up the adrenaline with this new trailer though I don’t really get why they would use All Along the Watchtower for the soundtrack. Seems out of place to me and a bit of a lazy choice. Still, it’s a good trailer. Fair warning: I’m going to post every new trailer for The Martian that 20th Century Fox cares to release.
I think this looks quite fun. What do you think?
This collection of stories has been my introduction to Nalo Hopkinson. I have read a few other stories in anthologies, but I’ve never settled down with one of her novels, although I have the best intentions of doing so.
Especially after having read Falling in Love with Hominids, which is a pleasure from beginning to end. All of what I have thought of as Hopkinson’s major themes are here: race, gender, feminism and the folklore of her Caribbean heritage. (Unless you are really up on your Caribbean folklore, expect to do some serious googling with a few of these stories. I learned the Jamaican slang term for off-brand sneakers among other things.)
Hopkinson writes a short introduction for each story. In one of these she remembers her response to a student worried about tactics for suspending the reader’s disbelief. Hopkinson’s advice was, “…never give them time to disbelieve.”
I think that must work, because looking over the notes I jotted down in an attempt to remember these eighteen stories, I find descriptions that sound much weirder than the stories as I experienced them.
Delicious Monster – son visits father now living with gay lover. Why is Vishnu to leave with Garuda during solar eclipse?
The Smile on the Face – St. Margaret of Antioch. Google her. Do kids still play post office?
Raggy Dog Shaggy Dog – ruthless orchid pollination
Message in a Bottle – kids with big heads travelers from our future. All species make art.
Emily Breakfast – lazy Saturday morning for gay couple. A stolen chicken. Cats can fly. Chickens breathe fire. Lizard messenger service.
Old Habits – why would one shopping mall have such a high mortality rate?
Hopkinson has contributed to the Bordertown Project, a shared world anthology begun by Terry Windling. Bordertown exists on the edge where the mundane world meets the world of magic. That actually sounds terrible to me, but “Ours is the Prettiest,” Hopkins contribution included here, navigates the terrain with grace and humor. And her description of how her protagonist made the transition to Bordertown could describe the process she puts her readers through in her own ficition.
The Change happened slowly… At some point it crossed my mind that the flashily overlit Honest Ed’s Discount Emporium seemed to have seamlessly metamorphosed into a store called Snappin’ Wizard’s Surplus and Salvage… but they were always bulldozing the old to replace it with something else… By the time I had to accept that I was no longer in Toronto and those weren’t just tall, skinny white people with dye jobs and contact lenses, it didn’t seem so remarkable. People changed and grew apart. As you aged, your body altered and became a stranger to you, and one day you woke up and realized that you were in a different country. It was just life. I hadn’t needed to travel to the Border; it’d come to me.
Hopkinson brings the border to us.
The Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel:
- Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (Tor; Gollancz)
- Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey; Voyager UK)
- Valour by John Gwynne (Tor UK)
- Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence (Ace; Harper Voyager)
- The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks (Orbit)
The Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer:
- The Emperor’s Blades, Brian Staveley (Tor)
- Traitor’s Blade, Sebastien De Cassel (Jo Fletcher; Quercus)
- The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot)
- The Godless, Ben Peek (St. Martin’s; Tor UK)
- Age of Iron, Angus Watson (Orbit)
We just added a new show to our list of 58 genre fiction podcasts. The Tao of Otaku (the way of the geek) podcast is a brand new podcast with only a couple episodes but you can already tell it’s going to be a good one. The show features Ziki, Obito, Demi and Tolu, 4 school friends from Nigeria now living in different countries who get together over Skype every week to talk about all things geek culture from an Afro-Caribbean perspective.
The first episode features a discussion of the Afro Super Hero focusing on Black Panther and touching on many stories and legends that may not be familiar to most westerners along with others that are very familiar like Tolkien’s Silmarilion. Episode 2 includes and interesting conversation about genre conventions in Africa like Lagos Comic Con, rAge Johannesburg 2015, and WAGE 2015. The guys also touch on African artist Siku as well as Anansi Boys and Judge Dredd.
Episode 3 has just posted so go and check out The Tao of Otaku!
China Miéville is both a proponent and practitioner of New Weird writing. Some of you are probably ready to quit reading at this point. “New Weird” is a term that can seem both vague and unnecessary. Weird writing has its canon revolving around H.P Lovecraft and company with their themes of ancient evil and cosmic terror. Defining a new variety of weirdness can come down to a long list of writers who to greater or lesser degrees produce it – whatever exactly it is. Is it just a more explicit, visceral version of what came before, or is it marked chiefly by its effort to incorporate literary ambitions that divorce it from its pulp origins?
Whatever the case, it is staking out its territory in the speculative fiction arena. Anne and Jeff VanderMeer, who in 2011 established a weird canon with the 1100 page anthology, The Weird, A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, had already in 2008 anthologized 30 stories and essays as The New Weird. This year, weirdness enters the crowded arena of annuals with Laird Barron editing The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume I. (If they have come out in the past year, I assume they are “New” Weird by default.)
Miéville contributed both a story to the VanderMeers’ 2011 anthology and an “Afterweird: The Efficacy of a Worm-eaten Dictionary.” He addresses the origins of The Weird without making a specific case for the new variety, but his arguments give a good picture of how his personal vision has been formed. He starts by leading us down an etymological dead end, deriving “weird” from the Anglo-Saxon “wyrd,” a word conjuring a vision of fate and doom as a “cat’s cradle, intricate and splendid as a Sutton Hoo buckle.” He proposes that the weird could be the feral child of the wyrd, but then, in Miévillian fashion, pulls the rug from his own argument. “What if etymology is fucking useless?” Late 19th and early 20th century writers did not engage their Gothic fathers in an Oedipal struggle to develop a new language. Theirs was not a new literature of fatefulness but its rebuke.
The fact of the weird is the fact that the worldweave is ripped and unfinished. Moth-eaten, ill-made. And through the little tears, from behind the ragged edges, things are looking at us.
(You may either read that last bit as a simple declarative statement, or creep it out with internal italicization: things are looking at us.)
His verdict on the VanderMeer anthology: “This is a worm farm. These stories are worms.”
The stories in Three Moments of an Explosion can get pretty wormy. The book is not announced as an exercise in New Weirdness, but the publisher drops a hint on the back cover. We are told to expect “a cast of damaged yet hopeful seekers who come face-to-face with the deep weirdness of the world – and at times the deeper weirdness in themselves.”
Miéville titles this 400-page collection after the three paragraphs of science fiction that opens it. In an unspecified future, a crowd gathers to watch the destruction of a derelict warehouse. At the moment of the explosion, three intrepid thrill seekers ingest tachyon laced MDMA and rush into the collapsing building. They experience it in a moment outside of time. The drug begins to wear off, and only two make it out alive. But two out of three’s not bad, and the thrill was worth it.
Perhaps Miéville is letting us know that he will be slipping us the tachyon/ecstasy pill for each of the upcoming tales, leaving us wide-eyed observers suspended in his visions of collapse and morbid wonders.
To lure us in he opens with “Polynia”, a crowd pleaser about giant icebergs appearing in the sky over London. It’s an offbeat coming-of-age story that progresses from boyish adventure to adult lives lived in an irrevocably changed world.
After “Polynia,” things turn darker and tend to stay there. “Rope” is another sf story, but the mood is dour. Earth has long ago perfected the technology for space elevators, but we have not been able to keep them in good operating condition. A telling moment comes when intergalactic visitors have to feign interest in our pitifully out-of-date wonders. When he leaves sf behind, Miéville cranks up the weirdness dial in stories set in dismal worlds peopled by anxiety-ridden characters performing tasks that have lost their meaning and pursuing lives that offer no safeguards against the chaos engulfing them.
“The Buzzard’s Egg” takes place in a time of religious wars where the battles involve capturing the enemy’s god. In a remote tower, an old man tends to an old god with whom he’s grown quite fond. But the tides of war are changing. Miéville’s writing here takes on the tone of a Samuel Beckett monologue. In “Estate,” a young man, now living alone in his family’s house, is kept awake nights first by birds, then foxes, then rowdy kids. An acquaintance he hasn’t seen since his schooldays returns, and soon the old neighborhood is going up in flames. In “Keep,” the world succumbs to a disease that causes circular fissures to surround the infected. These fissures eventually swallow up entire cities, leaving the sufferer on a small island of solid ground, hence the title “Keep.” (You would probably have to read that one to have any idea what I am trying to describe.)
If you have read much Miéville, you know that it is wise to keep the dictionary app open while you proceed. “The Dusty Hat” has a dense, baroque verbal style perhaps meant to serve no other purpose than to put the reader as out of his depth as is the story’s left-leaning protagonist who slides into a phantasmagoric world of politics made corporeal. (Again, just read it.)
Since I was reviewing this book, I read it through from start to finish. Normally if I were to take up a book like this I would pick may through it, skipping around and possibly never reading every story. So for full disclosure purposes, looking back over the table of contents, I see titles that no longer mean anything to me, and I question the accuracy of my memories of other stories. What I remember most clearly is Miéville’s ability to find a new voice specific to each story. His American movie critic narrator of “Junket” is fully realized and far removed from the medical student in 1930’s Glasgow who tells the tale in “The Design.” It’s true that you are often left marveling at the author’s virtuosity rather than caring about the characters, but I don’t see that as the negative quality some readers report.
I also don’t agree that Miéville’s stories are poorly plotted and tend to wind down rather than end. They don’t wind down. The bottom falls out, taking you with it. And as Miéville said in his attempt to define the essence of Weird fiction, while in free fall you dread that you are about to learn exactly what those things are that are looking back through the holes at us.
- Tales from Rugosa Coven by Sarah Avery (Dark Quest)
- The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman (Ecco)
- Songs for Ophelia by Theodora Goss (Papaveria)
- The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris (Gollancz)
- Locke & Key Series by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Our congrats to Sarah Avery and all the finalists. You can see the complete list of winners in all categories in the official press release.
1. Since I have read only two Delany novels and would place neither on my favorite list, I could humbly remove myself from making further comment.
2. I could consider my relative lack of first hand experience of Delany’s work as a plus when it comes to considering the stories anthologized here strictly on their own merits.
Obviously I am going to go with the second option, but I need to say something more about the first.
I read Nova and The Einstein Intersection about four years ago. Nova I didn’t particularly like for reasons I no longer clearly remember. Einstein entertained and intrigued me, although I remember not quite “getting” the end. Looking at other reader reviews, I saw that I was not alone in that response. Looking recently at a range of reader reviews I see that Delany can be a polarizing author. Encomia are balanced out by disparaging comments from those who find the work opaque or over-written. This is especially true when it comes to Delany’s big books, Dahlgren and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. In one of his letters, Philip K. Dick, an author I think very highly of, reports throwing his copy of Dahlgren across the room before he was a hundred pages into it. In some cases, readers are put off by Delany’s content. These negative, sometimes angry responses, combined with what I’ve read in this new book, have actually renewed my interest in going back to Delany.
I have also read a third Delany novel. When I was in the book business, a small gay publishing house needed to remainder a few hundred copies of Hogg, one of Delany’s forays into pornography. I bought them and sold them for between $10 and $50 as their number decreased. I also read it. I can’t take the time to be shocked, but it is a variety of violent, transgressive pornography that leaves me puzzled about both its purpose and its audience. But a recent edition of the Los Angeles Review of Books ran an article on Hogg, “Uses of Displeasure: Literary Value and Affective Disgust,” by Liz Janssen. Again, the jury is split.
Stories for Chip is not a collection of pastiches. The writers have apparently been chosen because they work under Delany’s influence and address his themes. I have to say “apparently” because the book comes with essentially no editorial content, and it is badly needed. This situation was worsened by the advance ebook I received from Net Galley. The Table of Contents listed a Contributors page, but it was nowhere to be found. And the transcription was the worst I have ever encountered. Words were run together, sometimesuptotheextentofanentire sentence. A couple of stories with particularly dense or playful language were unreadable.
There is a lot of very good stuff here, and even the absence of the Contributors section worked to my advantage. I knew only a fraction of these writers, and several of those only by name. Most of the stories occasioned a trip to Google, where I found information and links I would not have in the couple of sentences the book itself might have contained.
The contributors are an international, multiethnic roster whose interest in Delany shows in their attention to race and gender and the pleasure they take in language. The book was funded by an Indiegogo campaign, and the publisher’s website had an open call for submissions. Somehow I doubt that Junot Diaz, Nalo Hopksinson, Kit Reed, Michael Swanwick and a few of the others answered an open call. And then there is Thomas Disch, who died in 2008. As I said above, more editorial content is badly needed, but finally that can’t take away from the enjoyment of the 30 stories and four critical essays included.
A few personal favorites, specifically from authors I did not know:
Claude Lalumiere: “Empathy Evolving as a Quantum of Eight-Dimensional Perception.” A misanthropic human time traveler finds himself millions of years in the future. Octopi are the dominant species, and if they don’t eat you they absorb you. This sets off a change of incarnations over the eons, in one of which the cephalopod/human entity may become God.
Anil Menon: “Clarity.” A professor of computer science in India finds himself living inside one of the theoretical models he and his co-workers consider thought experiments.
Geentajali Dighe: “The Last Dying Man.” According to Hinduism, the world destroys and recreates itself in cycles involving millions of years. And yet it has to happen sometime. A man and his daughter in Mumbai find themselves dealing with the day-to-day reality of the transition.
Weslyan University Press keeps in print around 1,500 pages of Delany’s critical and theoretical writing, and he prompts a fair amount of critical writing from others. There are several essays here, but Walida Imarisha’s very personal account of her engagement with both the man and his writing best conveys the significance Delany has had on writers of color. “So long seen as the lone Black voice in commercial science fiction Delany held that space for all the fantastical dreamers of color who came after him.” She goes on to propose that she and other writers become “walking science fiction…living, breathing embodiments of the most daring futures our ancestors were able to imagine.”
She is not asking anyone to sign onto her vision, but reading Stories for Chip you see that vision in action.