2014 Nebula nominations

The SFWA has just announced the shortlist for the 2014 Nebula Awards:

Novel

  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
  • Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu ( ), translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
  • Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
  • Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

I’ve read two of the six novels on this list, Annihilation and Ancillary Sword. Both The Goblin Emperor and The Three-Body Problem have had a lot of online buzz, with people I trust liking both. As per usual there’s a Jack McDevitt novel on the list, because he either has a lot of friends in SFWA or a lot of blackmail material, as he’s the dullest writer in existence. Gannon I’ve no clue about, but he’s published by Baen and with a few exceptions, the best their writers aim for is “decent”.

Novella

Of these, only Mary Rickert and Rachel Swirsky are on the list of critically acclaimed short SF I’m reading my way through on the booklog. An indication perhaps that there is a rough consensus on what last year’s best stories were, but only a rough consensus.

Novelette

In the novelette category, traditionally the most …awkward… category with both the Nebula and the Hugo as nobody really knows what is and isn’t one, there’s more of a consensus: Richard Bowes, Tom Crosshill, Carmen Maria Machado and Kai Ashante Wilson all are on my list with the same stories. This may just be because fewer novelettes than novellas or short stories are written.

Short Story

In the short story category, there are once again only two stories that overlap: Usman T. Malik’s and Alyssa Wong’s. Again evidence of a lively short story field?

What struck me also is that how little in all these three categories was published in the traditional venues; basically anything that doesn’t have a link above. Two novellas, one novelette and two short stories. The novellas published as chapbooks by Tachyon, the rest in Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
  • Edge of Tomorrow, Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
  • Interstellar, Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures)
  • The Lego Movie, Screenplay by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures)

This award has the same problems as the media Hugos: it’s not where the Nebulas’ focus lies, so the selection is predictable and limited to big budget blockbusters rather than anything surprising. Are these really the best science fiction or fantasy movies from 2014, or just the ones the Nebula nominators have heard of?. I suspect the latter and I don’t see the point in yet another award rewarding the already known and unsurprising.

Granted, you can make the same claim for the novel award, but the difference there is that the Nebula is one of the two top awards in the particular field of SFF novels, while nobody cares about winning the Bradbury. Moreover, while the novel Nebula can be predictable, it isn’t to the extent shown here.

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
  • Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
  • Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
  • Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
  • Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
  • Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)

If the Nebulas do have to have speciality awards, I’d rather it’s for categories like this, of more direct concern to the SFF field and highlighting a critically underserved branch of SFF.

Your Happening World (February 9th through February 21st)

  • Like the Ancient Romans « LRB blog – The trend may be as old as professional football, but it has recently increased ad absurdum, so that very few successful clubs can claim their success has anything to do with the character or qualities of the localities whose names they take. It’s all down to the international capitalists who own them, or dominate them with lucrative TV contracts. (The rot really set it, as with so many rots, with Rupert Murdoch.) Most Premier League players now are highly talented and obscenely paid foreigners.
  • Non-Disney, Non-Pixar, Non-Ghibli Animated Films list
  • Action Women Movie Montage on Vimeo
  • Approaching Pavonis Mons by balloon: Asimov’s Science Fiction – February 2015 – Reading this piece, I was struck by the sense – which I think has also been articulated by Gardner Dozois – that we're starting to see the emergence of what you might call the "New Default Future". Bear's world is one of vanishing privacy, information for all, continued social inequality, climate change as a given, radical lifestyle changes effected by new biotechnology. You can tweak the parameters a bit, but it does seem as if writers are once again beginning to converge on a shared sense of the future. No, it doesn't necessarily involve space colonies or rolling roads or flying cars, but it's no less valid, no less fascinating.
  • Frankie Boyle – Offence and Free Speech – So now a lot of challenging stuff just doesn't get made. Good stuff that does get made is weaker because it has to contain the seeds of its own defence. Because when the baleful burning eye of journalism turns upon you, you want to be able to say that it was all completely defensible. Nobody wants to be stood on the doorstep in their dressing gown saying "Well, actually it was supposed to be thorny and ambiguous and disturbing. I know it didn't please people, but actually I was trying not to please them." to a bored reporter from the Daily Mail who in their head is already translating your play about right to die legislation into a call for disabled death camps.
  • Why I have resigned from the Telegraph | openDemocracy – This brings me to a second and even more important point that bears not just on the fate of one newspaper but on public life as a whole. A free press is essential to a healthy democracy. There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.
  • I read only non-white authors for 12 months. What I learned surprised me | Sunili Govinnage | Comment is free | The Guardian – I wanted to do the same for people of colour. I feel as if my decision brought home just how white my reading world was. For whatever the reason and context, it took me until I was 30 years old to learn that Octavia E. Butler existed – how embarrassing!
  • Feminist Frequency • One Week of Harassment on Twitter – Ever since I began my Tropes vs Women in Video Games project, two and a half years ago, I’ve been harassed on a daily basis by irate gamers angry at my critiques of sexism in video games. It can sometimes be difficult to effectively communicate just how bad this sustained intimidation campaign really is. So I’ve taken the liberty of collecting a week’s worth of hateful messages sent to me on Twitter. The following tweets were directed at my @femfreq account between 1/20/15 and 1/26/15.

Friday Funnies: Wicked + Divine

panel from Wicked + Divine #1

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act is the most nineties comic I’ve read in a long time. Even Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s previous project, the britpop inspired Phonogram, wasn’t as nineties as this. Largely because while that revolved around nineties music, this revolves around nineties comics. Not that this is some tedious remake or pastiche, but you can’t help but recognise the influence of a certain kind of nineties comic in this.

Luci from Wicked + Divine #1

Luci being the most obvious example. Dresses all in white, smokes all the time, makes sarky remarks, has remarkable powers but prefers to work through intimidation? Gee, who does that remind me of?

it was acceptable in the nineties

The attitude, the colouring, the deliberate flattened artwork; it’s all there from Phonogram. Both Phonogram and The Wicked + The Divine are at heart about an essential adolescent posturing, it just works better when you’re talking about supposed reincarnations of gods returning to Earth in teenage bodies to become superstars rather than indie pop devotees. This is everything Youngblood pretended it wanted to be back in 1991, or Morrison’s recent The Multiversity- The Just with its third & fourth generation heroes as reality tv stars attempted.

The critic

The plot is driven by a murder mystery, but this is largely an excuse to provide a bit of a tour through the world of the gods, as undertaken by the fan and the critic. The critic being the woman in black above, Cassandra; and isn’t that a blatant allusion. To say she isn’t quite what she seems at first would be wrong, but her role is put in a new light by new information about her provided near the end of the book, which made me reread to see if I could’ve picked up on it before. It might even explain her motivations, her hostility against the idea of these teenagers being gods, though that may also be because she seems slightly older than both the gods and the fan/protagonist.

She also wears the same glasses as David Kohl.

WTF, have you even seen it?

One William Lehman wrote something stupid about Star Trek:

Say what you will about the SJW Glittery hoo ha crowd, they get this. I speculate that they get it because while we (the guys that grew up watching STOG and said “Hey those doors are COOL, how would you do that for real? Those communicators, could you do that?) went to engineering and hard science classes and started building the future that we wanted, the aforementioned individuals where going to the soft sciences (not real sciences at all in my NSHO) and studied how cultures work.

David Gerrold who, as you know Bob, was actually there at the time as one of the scriptwriters, slapped him down quickly:

I was there. I know what Gene Roddenberry envisioned. He went on at length about it in almost every meeting. He wasn’t about technology, he was about envisioning a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out. Gene Roddenberry was one of the great Social Justice Warriors. You don’t get to claim him or his show as a shield of virtue for a cause he would have disdained.

Most of the stories we wrote were about social justice. “The Cloud Minders,” “A Taste Of Armageddon,” “Errand Of Mercy,” “The Apple,” “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” and so many more. We did stories that were about exploring the universe not just because we could build starships, but because we wanted to know who was out there, what was our place in the universe, and what could we learn from the other races out there?

A very Annie Hall moment:



Of course for those of us who paid attention to sf fandom during that time and long after, the idea of Star Trek of all things hold up as an example of hard science fiction ruined by the social justice warriors, is hilarious. Quite a few fans, the sort of people now screaming about SWJ’s, had no time for the series whatsoever while its fandom was literally run by their greatest enemy: women.

It’s all part of an inept kulturkampf of course, run by people with the barest connection to science fiction fandom as a sort of out of control offshoot of Republican fundraising. The worst part about it is that useful idiots like Lehman actually believe the nonsense they spout.

What would a Ken Macleod Culture novel look like?

So it turns out Iain Banks asked Ken MacLeod to continue the Culture after his death:

MacLeod said: “He had an idea for the next Culture novel and what he said to me was that he would like me to pick it up and run with it in my own way.

“I was very reluctant to agree even though Iain was insistent that it was something I would write in my own way rather than in a pastiche of his.

“Unfortunately, Iain left not even notes I could work from. If he had managed to get through the summer, he hoped to leave enough notes for me to work from if I wanted to.

As you know Bob, the very first Culture novel was dedicated to Ken MacLeod, so there’s no better person than him who could’ve continued the series. I understand why he’s reluctant to do so, but in this case I’d rather liked to have seen it. But at least Kevin J. Anderson can’t get his hands on it.

Short SF Marathon Week 2

The second week of my short sf marathon has just concluded:

  • Day 8: Jeffrey Ford, Karen Joy Fowler, Max Gladstone
  • Day 9: Kathleen Ann Goonan, Theodora Goss, Nicola Griffith
  • Day 10: Shane Halbach, Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard
  • Day 11: Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, N. K. Jemisin, Xia Jia
  • Day 12: Xia Jia, Rachael K. Jones, Stephen Graham Jones
  • Day 13: Vylar Kaftan, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Ellen Klages
  • Day 14: Jay Lake, Rich Larson, Yoon Ha Lee

Brett Ewins

Brett Ewins does Judge Anderson

British comics Twitter this afternoon was rocked by the news that legendary 2000AD, Deadline, Johnny Nemo and Skreemer artist Brett Ewins had died. He had been one of those artists that never quite gotten the recognition they deserved but who was quietly influential to whole generations of artists, his influence noticable in people like Jamie Hewlett or Kieron Gillen. He was also one of the people responsible for what you might call the housestyle of 2000AD, a somewhat exagerrated, loose and kinetic style of cartooning that was like nothing seen in either American or British comics before. I personally first encountered his work on the “Universal Soldier” story from prog 750, during that glorious year or two I bought 2000AD weekly back in 1990-1992.

Brett Ewins, Jamie Hewlett, Steve Dillon at DeadlineBrett Ewins, Jamie Hewlett, Steve Dillon (L-R) at the Deadline offices.

As Joe Gordon puts it in the Forbidden Planet blog, Ewins was an essential figure in the UK comics scene of the eighties and nineties:

An utterly seminal figure for readers, especially of my generation growing up with 2000 AD and then, perfectly timed for us as we got that bit older, Deadline and other works, experimenting, pushing, improving, changing, pushing the nature of comics artwork and design (and in the case of Deadline, quite simply making comics cool – how well I remember my copies being borrowed by friends at college who hadn’t read a comic since they were kids, a perfect Cool Britannia mix of innovative comics, fresh, hip, hungry talent – being so nurtured by a generous Brett as many of them will tell you – and music and style, it was intoxicating, it was exciting).

Kwezi: South African superheroes

Kwezi superheroes from South Africa

An interesting post on Afropunk.com, about a new South African superhero series, Kwezi:

Created by acclaimed artist Loyiso Mkize, the series is centered on 19 year old Kwezi, a typical South African youngster – immersed in popular youth culture – who develops a connection with his traditional roots,. Mkize says, “It is the journey of a young man. He starts off as an arrogant, opinionated anti-hero who discovers and appreciates his superpowers … the cultural aspect brings him back to his roots.”

Quite a difference from the late seventies Apartheid era Mighty Man, which as Nick Wood describes it, was basically propaganda for the Apartheid state, aimed at the inhabitants of the townships:

But Mighty Man (MM) never challenged any agencies or laws outside the township in which they were set – ostensibly Soweto. A black hero seemingly meant exclusively for black people, his enemies were township gangsters (‘tsotis’), drug Lords (‘dagga merchants’) and generally opponents of peace and ‘law and order’. As Bill Mantlo (1978) states, Mighty Man propounded subservience to laws, non-violence and an anti-gun message (for blacks). With readership targeted to the townships and perhaps priced to ensure affordability to a relatively impoverished community, it was evident Mighty Man was implicitly intent on ensuring compliance to laws – with the underlying message that opponents of ‘law and order’ were invariably gangsters, murderers and, in some instances, ‘communists’. (As Mantlo asserts, a thinly veiled allusion to the then banned African National Congress.)

Great covers though.

Little ditty about Rob and Helen

I’m so glad I’m not the only one who tought Rob was grooming Helen for abuse in The Archers:

The only soap I follow now is The archers, the last soap which doesn’t seem to think a month is a long time for a story arc. It is currently portraying domestic violence, although I am sure some followers are unaware it is doing so. A slow, realistic story of coercive control, where Rob has slowly moulded Helen to be the stay at home mum he wants, using all the techniques of emotional and psychological manipulation that real life abusers use.

I only started listening to The Archers because it was part of Sandra’s Sunday ritual but although it’s so often ridiculous it’s also addictive to see the storylines work themselves out over weeks, months and years. It is after the longest still running soap opera in the world and has a huge history to draw from. At times it also has the unfortunate habit to want to be contemporary and edgy, which tends to come off as cackhanded or patronising. Not so for the Rob and Helen storyline though, as Rob is scarily believable as an abuser. Warning bells should’ve rung long ago for Helen, but she doesn’t hear them because she’s in love, while from the outside it must look as if Rob, who was a bit of an arsehole at first, has mellowed a lot. But that’s only because he has focused his attentions inwards, getting Helen to become a full time housewife rather than keep working, something that currently is a new source of tension as circumstances have convinced Helen to get back to work…

It’s all been done relatively subtle and realistic, as far as The Archers can be realistic and it’s utterly chilling to listen to.