A blue screened future

Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Stories Inspired by Microsoft features work by Elizabeth Bear, Greg Bear, David Brin, Nancy Kress, Ann Leckie, Jack McDevitt, Seanan McGuire and Robert J. Sawyer, “also includes a short graphic novel by Blue Delliquanti and Michele Rosenthal, and original illustrations by Joey Camacho” and is available for free from the usual ebook retailers.

An interesting sort of vanity project for Mickeysoft. I would be more excited about it if not for the authors involved, who with the exception of Elizabeth Bear, Ann Leckie and Seanan McGuire are not exactly exciting nor the first ones I think about if I want science fiction writers with a firm grasp of the future. Rather, collectively this group seems to have peaked somewhere around the introduction of Windows 3.11.

Who’d think the kids don’t read their Asimov

I really want to argue against Adam-Troy Castro’s argument here that

nobody discovers a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein anymore, and directing newbies toward the work of those masters is a destructive thing, because the spark won’t happen. You might as well advise them to seek out Cordwainer Smith or Alan E. Nourse — fine tertiary avenues of investigation, even now, but not anything that’s going to set anybody’s heart afire, not from the standing start. Won’t happen.

By objecting that, actually, I so did discover a lifelong love of science fiction through Asimov, Clarke and even Nourse — The Mercy Men was one of the first sf novels I’ve ever read– but considering that happened a good thirty years ago, it’s hardly relevant to what actual young people would read. Even back then, something like I, Robot was several decades old and outdated in its technology and sociological attitudes both, but not so that I noticed as an eight year old reading it for the first time. Almost all children’s fiction I read was like that after all, set in some nebulous present that was clearly not mine: like the Bob Evers series, originally written in the fifties and early sixties. I read all that without caring or noticing much that these were old books, therefore I’m not sure that kids today can’t read in a similar way, even if there are no mobiles or computers in them.

On the other hand, there were a lot less opportunities to find science fiction thirty years ago. We only got cable tv in 1987 or so, our family’s first computer in the same year, no internet until the mid-nineties, etc. etc. There are just so many more ways in which you can get your first taste of science fiction today, that you certainly don’t need to seek out writers who’ve been dead longer than you’ve been alive. On the gripping hand however, some of the young adult stuff I read back then is still being sold today, with little problems though perhaps with some updates.

The rampant sexism and whitebread worldview of much socalled golden age science fiction might be more of a problem. Asimov might still be barely palatable due to his lack of female characters in general, though when they show up, they’re usually awful. The same goes for Clarke, though he was slightly better and few of his characters were well rounded humans anyway. Heinlein? Oy, Heinlein is very much a curate’s egg — parts are excellent, but some are hideous. At this point in time, I don’t think new readers will miss much skipping all these authors in favour of those like Dick, Delany, LeGuin or Russ which had slightly more to offer than just the strength of their ideas.

immanentising the Eschacon at ABC

My local science fiction bookstore is holding its own convention:

Eschacon is a three-day festival from 5 to 7 November with panels, writing workshops and book signings. Featuring several of the most interesting and talented upcoming science-fiction & fantasy authors from around the world, Eschacon is all about World SF and the craft of writing speculative fiction.


Thursday 5 November

18:30-21:00 Tribute to Chip Book Presentation and World SF panel discussion

Author and editor Bill Campbell will talk about his latest project The Stories For Chip, a tribute to Science Fiction Writers of America Grandmaster Samuel R. “Chip” Delany. Following the presentation is a panel discussion about World SF and diversity in the speculative fiction genre with authors Zen Cho, Corinne Duyvis, Marieke Nijkamp, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Tade Thompson.

Friday 6 November

14:00-16:00 Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop
A workshop to kickstart your own writing under the guidance of professional author Rochita Roenen-Ruiz.

18:00-19:30 Q&A and booksigning with Zen Cho and Tade Thompson
Join us for an evening around the (imaginary) fireside with authors Zen Cho and Tade Thompson. Zen and Tade will discuss their new books, the art of writing and the business of getting published.

Saturday 7 November

10:00-11:00 Kaffeeklatsch
Getting up early has never been so fun. Enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea) while talking about books, stories and other geek-related subjects with authors Aliette de Bodard, Zen Cho, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Bill Campbell and Tade Thompson.

14:00-15:30 Q&A and booksigning Aliette de Bodard
Author Aliette de Bodard will talk about and read parts from her debut The House Of Shattered Wings.

ABC has been remarkably active in promoting science fiction and fantasy in the past year or so, with various author talks and other events, much of it due to its SFF buyer, Tiemen Zwaan. It has helped galvanise something of an sf scene in Amsterdam, of which is the culmination so far. What I like especially about it is that this going beyond just mere commercial considerations, but that ABC has done its bit to help make SFF more diverse, more plugged into developments outside its traditional heartlands. The line-up for the con reflects that, with people like Aliette de Bodard, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Zen Cho.

I hope this becomes a success, because it’s been a while since we’ve had a proper science fiction con in Amsterdam.

The Puppies lost the Hugos. Again.

The Hugo Award winners:

  • Best Novel: Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translation by Ken Liu (Tor Books).
  • Best Novella: No Award
  • Best Novellette: “The Day The World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translation by Lia Belt in Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014
  • Best Short Story: No Award
  • Best Related Work: No Award
  • Best Graphic Story: Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Publisher).
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Orphan Black “By Means Which Have
    Never Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett [Space/BBC America] (Temple Street Productions)
  • Best Editor, Short Form: No Award
  • Best Editor, Long Form: No Award
  • Best Professional Artist: Julie Dillon
  • Best Semiprozine: Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Wendy N. Wagner, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton and Christie Yant
  • Best Fanzine: Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris, and Helen Montgomery
  • Best Fancast: Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • Best Fan Writer: Laura J. Mixon
  • Best Fan Artist: Elizabeth Legget
  • The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Wesley Chu

Like last year, it has once again been proven that slate nominations can succeed but cannot win the Hugo Awards, yet do poison and disrupt them. We’ve had five No Awards votes previously; this year doubled that as voters rejected slating and the inferior works forced on the ballots that way. But it still meant that deserving people like Eugie Foster, for whom it would’ve been her last shot at a Hugo, were cut from the ballot to make way for assholes and chancers not good enough to get nominated on their own merit.

It also makes for mixed feelings about the first ever win of a Dutch person, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, whose story was …not good… to put it politely and somewhat on the sexist side and who won by default as the only non-Puppy nominee in that category. I wish i could celebrate his victory with a clear conscience and I’m happy for him, but going up against real competition there was no way he could’ve won.

Last year when the results had been made known i was convinced that the Puppies would’ve learned to leave well alone, to have realised that slating could get them nominated but not win the Hugos. This year I know there will be more shit, but fandom is mobilised now. Hopefully this means next years nominations are less of a trainwreck.

UPDATE: looking at the nominations data (PDF) makes clear what a waste the Puppies made of the Hugos. Just scroll through the short story, novelette and novella categories to see what could’ve been. For one thing, they cost Eugie Foster her last possible nomination.

Juniper Time — Kate Wilhelm

Cover of Juniper Time

Juniper Time
Kate Wilhelm
296 pages
published in 1979

This got easier to read after the rape, which happened on page 88 but I could see coming from almost the first page. A late seventies science fiction novel, with a female protagonist and a near future setting in which America is suffering a long term hypertrophied economic depression, in a stalemate with the Russians and sliding off to an autocracy (aka standard seventies dystopia #1)? Yeah, there’s going to be a rape. It’s depressingly predictable and while it’s not the worst sort of plot motivating rape I’ve ever read and you could even argue that this time it’s truly essential to the plot, it’s still disappointing to see it used. But once it was out of the way it was much easier to enjoy what is otherwise an extremely interesting novel.

Juniper Time is a novel I first read sometime in the eighties, in Dutch translation, because of the recommendation in an old issue of the Holland SF fanzine. I remember liking it well enough at the time, but also that after I’d discovered cyberpunk, it struck me as the poster child of everything in science fiction the cyberpunks revolted against, as per Bruce Sterling’s introductions to Burning Chrome and Mirror Shades. It’s a political novel, a feminist novel that’s more focused on Earthbound matters than the conquest of space, slow moving and presenting a world that’s Disco Era America writ large, depressed, crime ridden and worn out. I can well understand how dated it superficially must’ve looked after Neuromancer came out. Thirtyfive years on, cyberpunk is just as dated, the glamour has worn off and it’s easier to see Juniper Time‘s strengths.

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