Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Professional Artist

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 0
Julie Dillon
Kirk DouPonce
Jon Eno
Nick Greenwood
Alan Pollack
Carter Reid

John Eno was found to be ineligible and was replaced on the ballot with Kirk DouPonce.


There is a lot of quality art being produced by the 2015 nominees. Julie Dillon, last year's winner for Professional Artist, continued to produce excellent work. Based on their work included in the Hugo Voter's Packet, Greenwood, Pollack, and DouPonce have also produced good work. As a point of personal preference, Greenwood is my top choice here, but it was very close between Dillon and Greenwood. While referencing the Voter's Packet is a touch unfair because unless you're also a voter, you can't see that work. Unfortunately, except for Dillon, none of the other nominees have work posted at the Hugo Eligible Artists tumblr (a great reference for both fan and pro work, by the way), but you should be able to browse the various websites I've linked above to get a feel for their work.

Sadly, I am using No Award again here in Professional Artist. Carter Reid is the writer and artist behind the Zombie Nation webcomic and while his art style fits the work he is doing with that particular comic quite well, it doesn't stand well next to the other nominees.


My vote:
1. Nick Greenwood
2. Julie Dillon
3. Alan Pollack
4. Kirk DouPonce
5. No Award


Standard 2015 Hugo Disclaimer:
In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and let my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such.

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Fancast

Thursday, May 21, 2015 2
Adventures in SF Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
Galactic Suburbia Podcast Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman & Peter Newman

It is quite obvious to me that I am not the intended audience for most podcasts. I tend to only listen to one when the subject or the guest strongly interests me, and even then, I seem to be limited by just how much I can take. I do listen, semi-regularly, to Rocket Talk (one of my Hugo nominees for Related Work), occasionally a sports or wrestling related podcast, and then even yet more rarely, stuff like Star Talk, the Agony Column, or the other one I listen to which completely escapes me. 

So, "fancasts". 

As a general rule, for me, shorter is better. I listened to each of the works included in the Hugo voter's packet and am judging solely on that. If there were better examples of each podcast, that's unfortunate, because while all of them have their merits, none are ones I intend to return to.

But listening to two hours of Dungeon Crawlers talking about building role playing campaigns is just too much for me. It's not my thing. It is reasonably competent, but the podcast seemed to be too busy with too many people trying to speak. 

The Sci Phi show should be commended for simply having a very different and specific topic, which is the melding of science fiction and philosophy. Again, not my thing, but except for the really awful fake laughs that are used as transitions (or markers for jokes), Jason Rennie has a decent thing going with this show.  Added bonus, this was a very short episode, less than 30 minutes.

Adventures in SF Publishing is a bit more up my alley, though it ran a full hour, but was otherwise unremarkable.  Galactic Suburbia was a bit better, but still neither truly could grab my interest. It's not you, folks, it's me. Listening to podcasts are just not my thing, but I don't wish to ignore the category completely and some of the work being done here is rather good - for those who appreciate it.

Tea and Jeopardy appears to be in a class by itself. It is very slickly produced and seems to take place in the midst of a proper tea party. Again, this was one of the shorter episodes included and the limited run time accentuates what is cool and quirky about it while never letting what works run for too long.  It is the most worthy of the nominees, I think.

My vote:
1. Tea and Jeopardy
2. Galactic Suburbia
3. Adventures in SF Publishing
4. The Sci Phi Show
5. Dungeon Crawlers Radio


Standard 2015 Hugo Disclaimer:
In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and let my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such.

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote.

I may re-post this message on each article I write about the nominees, just so that we're clear in such a contentious year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Fan Artist

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 4
Ninni Aalto
Brad Foster
Elizabeth Leggett
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles

Please see my Hugo disclaimer at the conclusion of this article.  Let us instead jump right into my thoughts on the nominees.

Elizabeth Leggett: Leggett was on my final Hugo nominating ballot and I very much stand behind that nomination and I am quite glad she was able to pick up a Hugo nomination this year.  Check out the link of her work at the top of this article, it's fantastic stuff.

Spring Schoenhuth: Schoenhuth's art is not the same sort of drawing / painting / art that we think about when we think of Hugo art. Schoenhuth does much more of the metal sculpture / jewelry style of art. What she does is excellent, though it isn't completely to my taste for genre art. It's not that I'm a traditionalist, it is more that I more appreciate cover art as science fiction and fantasy art.

No Award: While Foster and Stiles have been perennial nominees, and I had a very nice e-mail exchange with Foster last year when I was looking to highlight the art of all of the nominees (something I do not plan to do this year), I don't feel this art is truly among the best. It is art of a particular style, and I think it has fit the fanzines they have often been published in, but when you compare to Elizabeth Leggett, well, there is no comparison. I appreciated Ninni Aalto's work more than those of Foster and Stiles, but it still doesn't quite rise above and meet the levels of Leggett and Schoenhuth.



My Vote:
1. Elizabeth Leggett
2. Spring Schoenhuth
3. No Award


Standard 2015 Hugo Disclaimer:
In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and letting my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such.

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote.

I may re-post this message on each article I write about the nominees, just so that we're clear in such a contentious year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thoughts on the Hugo Award Nominees: Short Story

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 0
Goodnight Stars by Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
On A Spiritual Plain by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
The Parliament of Beasts and Birds by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
"A Single Samurai", by Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books)
Totaled by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge magazine, July 2014)
Turncoat by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Annie Bellet declined her nomination after the ballot was announced and was replaced with the Steven Diamond story.

In a typical year, I just jump right into whichever category I'm writing about and letting my thoughts sort out the whole mess. This is not a typical year, so I'd like to start by talking a little bit about how I'm going to work through the various Hugo Award categories and how I am going to vote. Simply put, I am going to read everything. If I feel the work is strong enough to merit a ranked vote, I will vote for it in whatever order feels most appropriate. If I feel the work is not strong enough to merit ranking it above No Award, I will not do so.  But at no point am I making a blanket statement about Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies or that I've heard Thomas Heuvelt may have been campaigning for a nomination or anything else that I am not aware of.  The ballot is what the ballot is and I will treat it as such. 

I am also working with the same methodology as I have in the past, which is to say that there are frequently works and writers on the ballot that I simply and strongly disagree with. In most cases, I have still ranked those works above No Award. I don't believe I have always done this, and I know if I had participated last year, one novel would have been below No Award because I bounced so hard off of the first book in that series that I really can't understand how the second also managed a nomination - and that writer is a Hugo favorite. Most stories compare to works that have previously been on the ballot, so those works that meet my low-bar criteria will secure my vote.

I may re-post this message on each article I write about the nominees, just so that we're clear in such a contentious year.

"On a Spiritual Plain" / "A Single Samurai": One thing that I found very interesting about reading through the nominated short works is that they pair very closely in my head in how I would rank them. Antonelli's story of a faith (of sorts) on an alien world and a man trying to lead a human spirit to wherever "moving on" turns out to be. It's a simple story, but cleanly told. The comparison between human faith and that of the alien is interesting. "A Single Samurai", on the other hand, is a story of action, of one samurai taking on a kaiju about to terrorize the samurai's land. There is a certain spirituality to the samurai's thoughts and actions and an economy to the movement and pacing of the story. On a different day, I could flip my ranking of these two stories.

"Totaled" / "Turncoat": While "Totaled" slid down my ballot a bit, Kary English is another writer I want to keep an eye on.  "Totaled" has a slight feel of Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun in that we have a scientist surviving as nothing more than a disembodied brain due to an accident, which ties into the research she was already doing but now can only try to respond to stimulus in a hope to communicate. "Turncoat" is the story of an artificial intelligence of a space ship in the middle of a war, so there is something of a symmetry to "Totaled", though the stories are quite different in tone and style.

No Award: I use No Award reluctantly, and I use it surgically. It is a scalpel, not a scythe.

"The Parliament of Beasts and Birds": I bounced very hard off of this story, which tells of a time after humanity has finally died out and the animals (or a representative from each species) have gathered outside man's final city and they find that they can talk, and they are discussing the very real possibility of redemption after having been kicked out of Eden so many thousands / millions of years in the past. I think it is intended to be a parable or an allegory, but what it is is remarkably heavy handed on the Christian theme with rather poor / oddly formal writing and it really doesn't deserve to be anywhere near this ballot. As such, it will not remain on mine.

"Goodnight Stars": It is worth noting that had Annie Bellet's story remained on the ballot, it would have quite easily been my top pick for Short Story. Bellet is a writer to watch. I would have loved for the opportunity to have voted for "Goodnight Stars".

My vote
1. "On a Spiritual Plain", by Lou Antonelli
2. "A Single Samurai", by Steven Diamond
3. "Totaled", by Kary English
4. "Turncoat", by Steve Rzasa
5. No Award

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hugo Nominee / Voter's Packet Available

Monday, May 18, 2015 0
Via File 770, the Hugo Voter's Packet has been released by Sasquan, the host of 2015's Worldcon.

From the press release:

A digital file of many of the Hugo Award nominees is now available for members of Sasquan to download at http://sasquan.org/hugo-awards/packet_download/. This free download is supplied by the creators and publishers of works that are nominated for the awards. It is free to all current Supporting, Attending and Young Adult members of Sasquan, and those who become members before 31 July 2015. Its purpose is to allow those who are voting on the Hugo Awards to be able to make an informed choice among the nominated works.

All of the short fiction and graphic novels are included in their entirety (((assuming Zombie Nation comes through!))). The packet contains the full text of three of the novels: The Dark between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, amd The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Skin Game by Jim Butcher and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie are represented by extensive excerpts. One of the five finalists in the Related Work category is represented by an excerpt: Letters from Gardner, by Lou Antonelli. There is some material in each of the other categories except the Dramatic Presentations, but not everyone wanted us to include their work in this packet.

Many of the shorter nominated works had already been made available online (find links here), as is the custom, but not all. The packet appears to have covered all of the short fiction, three of the novels (with excerpts of two), four of the five graphic novels with hope for Zombie Nation, and four of the Related Works (with an excerpt for the last).

So, there may be an addition to the voter's packet (which is slightly annoying to potentially download some stuff twice to get it all, but I'd rather they release as much as they can early and then fill in the holes later as it comes out - that way the maximum amount of reviewing can be done of the nominated works. 

You can find Zombie Nation online, but there's no way to tell what is included in the nominated collection. I've been boldly reading the comic from the start, powering through, but I'm only up to 2013 strips, so it's taking a while. But, you can look at any 2014 work from Zombie Nation and use that to evaluate Carter Reid for Fan Artist if you don't want to wait for Zombie Nation to hit the voter's packet (or attempt to read five years of strips).

Happy reading, y'all.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Books Read: April 2015

Monday, May 04, 2015 2
The beginning of a new month brings with it the opportunity to look back at the month gone bye and to give one last glance at what I most recently read. The below listed books are what I read during the month of April, and the lone link is to the one review I wrote last month. 

1. Dept of Speculation. By Jenny Offill
2. Coming Home, by Jack McDevitt
3. Fool's Fate, by Robin Hobb
4. The Fire Sermon, by Francesca Haig (unfinished)
5. Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold
6. 1632, by Eric Flint
7. God Stalk, by P. C. Hodgell (unfinished)
8. Prayers for the Stolen, by Jennifer Clement
9. Ready Player One, by Ernst Cline
10. Persona, by Genevieve Valentine

Best Book of the Month: It is difficult to beat a Robin Hobb novel when it comes to pure quality. Fool's Fate closes out the Tawny Man trilogy, sets up the next stage of Fitz's life and I wish I didn't know there was another set of novels dealing with Fitz and the Fool, because this was a perfect of a place to leave them as we could hope to find. Which is why it cannot possibly last.

Disappointment of the Month: This month's disappointment has to be God Stalk, a novel which for which I received numerous twitter recommendations, but which left me cold, disinterested, and confused as to what was actually happening in the novel. I gave it a fair shake, and now I'm out.

Discovery of the Month: If not for all of the fracas over the Hugo Awards, I may never have read Eric Flint's 1632, which was a fairly enjoyable romp taking a group of twentieth century Americans back into seventeenth century Europe. I already have the next book, Ring of Fire, coming in from the library.

Worth Noting: Ready Player One is 80% my thing, what with all of the older video game nerdery and the overarching online game and the 1980's imagery. That percentage could absolutely increase had the novel been more of a 90's NES / SNES era conversation, but overall, I liked the nerd novel. Not perfect, but entertaining.

Gender Breakdown: For the second month in a row, seven out of the ten books I read were written by women.  Now, it is worth noting that two of them were works that I did not finish, but since I track those books as I do any other, they are being included here in my overall count for the month.  This brings me to 28 out of 44 so far for the year, or 63.64%.  So far I have been doing a great job at sticking with my goal of reading more books written by women than those written by men during this calendar year.


Previous Months:
January
February
March

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hugo News: Edmund R. Schubert Edition

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 0
Having had a full week without proper news regarding the Hugo Awards, we have news. Edmund R. Shubert, editor of Intergalactic Medicine Show and Hugo Nominee for Editor (Short Form), has withdrawn his nomination.

His initial announcement was posted on the blog of Alethea Kontis as Mr. Schubert does not have a personal blog of his own.  Mr. Schubert writes that he was told by the Hugo administrators that the ballot was frozen (which we were aware of after Black Gate's withdrawal last year),

Unfortunately this may reduce my actions to a symbolic gesture, but I can’t let that prevent me from following my conscience.

So it seems that the best I can do at this stage is ask everyone with a Hugo ballot to pretend I’m not there. Ignore my name, because if they call my name at the award ceremony, I won’t accept the chrome rocketship. My name may be on that ballot, but it’s not there the way I’d have preferred.

As I intend to do with Black Gate's nomination, I will leave Mr. Schubert off of my ballot completely as per his wishes.  Though the ballot is considered frozen by the Hugo administrators (as is their right), I will follow the lead of those wishing to withdraw and vote as if that nominee was no longer on the ballot. It may not be how I would want to vote, but I can only respect the wishes of those who asked off of the ballot.

Mr. Schubert has more to say in an editorial at Intergalactic Medicine Show where he posts a Not-A-Hugo-Sampler sampler issue, writing,

However, I do think it's appropriate to take this opportunity to declare that more reading is always a good thing, and that people should open their minds to new work without pre-judging it. Thus this collection was born.

So, if you're unfamiliar with the work published over at IGMS, here's an opportunity to read some of what Mr. Schubert has published.

I have also updated my list of the Hugo nominees to reflect the withdrawal of Mr. Schubert.
 
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