Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 Hugo Award Winners

Monday, August 18, 2014 0
Let's just start this out right: I'm very happy with how this year's Hugo Awards turned out.  This was an excellent slate of winners, one which I think we'll be able to look back on and think "yeah, they got that right".  You can quibble, of course, with what was nominated and what was not, but as a whole, I think this was a solid class of Hugo Award winners.

I had greater ambitions to read and watch everything, and I didn't get quite as far along with the various stories as I had planned due to life. The time I would generally have put towards short story reading went to studying for various exams, so I didn't hit the Novellas and Novelettes quite like I planned.  But that's okay.  I still have thoughts and opinions and happiness.

Before I dig into the individual categories, I would like to offer an extra round of congratulations to Ann Leckie for winning everything, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kameron Hurley, Aidan Moher, and John Joseph Adams. I have been reading and following these folks for a number of years and I think they are all extra awesome in their own particular ways and I am super excited that they won. Aidan in particular.

You can find my breakdown of the Hugo Voting here


Best Novel (1595 ballots)
*Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
Parasite by Mira Grant (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (Baen Books)
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)

Thoughts: Ancillary Justice (my review) was really in a class all its own here. I would have understood if The Wheel of Time had won and I probably would have applauded, if only because of my overall love and appreciation of the series as a whole and how good of a job Brandon Sanderson did in finishing Robert Jordan's work, but I wouldn't have agreed with the award. Ancillary Justice was the right call.

Best Novella (847 ballots)
The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
The Chaplain’s Legacy” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
*“Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)

Thoughts: This is one of the categories I missed most of the nominated works. I had copies of everything, I just never quite got around to it. As such, the only two I read were the winner and the runner up (Six-Gun Snow White - my review). I'm not sure I enjoyed "Equoid", but I can see where some people would appreciate it. Without having read the other three stories, I can't say where I would have voted, but right now neither of the two I read would have been it.

Best Novelette (728 ballots)
The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013) (audio)
*“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

Thoughts: Another category my reading was delinquent. This time, though, I can say that I adored Mary Robinette Kowal's "The Lady Astronaut of Mars". That was a wonderful and charming and sad story and I am so happy that it won.  I also enjoyed Aliette de Bodard's story, but I think between those two, the Kowal was the correct choice. I did not read the other three. Too much studying, too little time.

Best Short Story (865 ballots)
If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
*“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

Thoughts: Had I a vote, I would have voted for John Chu's lovely story (my review). I was able to read all four nominated stories and while I loved the Swirsky, I think the Chu is a better representation as a story. Swirsky's was more of a beautiful heart-wrenching semi-narrative poem. It's wonderful, but Chu's story is a worthy winner.

Best Related Work (752 ballots)
Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)
Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary by Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)
*“We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image)
Writing Excuses: Season 8 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson

Thoughts: Kameron Hurley's piece was one of the more discussed and shared nonfiction works in the genre this year, and I think it represents a significant part of the conversation this year. The award is also timely in that the writer of the Best Related Work is also the winner of Best Fan Writer. More on that later.

Best Graphic Story (552 ballots)
Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
“The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who” written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
The Meathouse Man adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
Saga, Volume 2 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
*“Time” by Randall Munroe (XKCD)

Thoughts: I don't know, man. There's a lot going on with Time, but Saga is something pretty special itself (bonkers, but special). I never quite got to The Meathouse Man, though I'm familiar with the original story, so I imagine it was dark and nasty. Time is a different sort of graphic story, but it works. It's quiet, and sad, but it works. I think it's my impression on what a graphic story is that is messing with me. I think I would have voted Saga over Time, but taking the time (no pun intended) to work through Time is worthwhile.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (995 ballots)
Frozen screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
*Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
Iron Man 3 screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
Pacific Rim screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

Thoughts: Easily the right choice. The only argument to be made is whether or not Gravity is actually science fiction. Maybe the thought of George Clooney as an astronaut is fantasy, but if you really think about the movie, it's just a straight up story that happens to be in space - but everything is possible with today's technology. It's fiction that uses science, but isn't science fiction. Unless you argue that everything that ventures into space is science fiction. But regardless of that, Gravity is an excellent movie.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (760 ballots)
An Adventure in Space and Time written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Television)
The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot written and directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
*Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Thoughts: In the category of the Hugo Award for Doctor Who, Game of Thrones won. It's the Red Wedding episode, which I'm not sure I can evaluate fairly because, holy snap, the Red Wedding.  I'm a couple episodes behind on Orphan Black, but I'm glad the Doctor Who didn't win.

Best Editor: Short Form (656 ballots)
*John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow 
Jonathan Strahan 
Sheila Williams

Thoughts: This is the Best Editor category where you can see the editorial hand in play. Compiling an anthology or building a short fiction magazine, the Short Form editor shapes the vision in a way that you can see. John Joseph Adams has been doing excellent work for years, and I'm very happy to see him receive the recognition.  Now, as for this past year, I have no idea. I haven't followed the anthologies and the zines like I used to.  But JJA definitely deserves to have a Hugo on his shelf.

Best Editor: Long Form (632 ballots)
*Ginjer Buchanan (Ace Books)
Sheila Gilbert (DAW)
Liz Gorinsky (Tor)
Lee Harris (Angry Robot)
Toni Weisskopf (Baen)

Thoughts: Long Form is a lot tougher because, depending on the press, the editor is part of a team of editors working for the publisher. So, unless you know exactly what Gorinsky worked on (and this can be tough in a large publisher), it's hard to say that she was the best editor or that she acquired the best work published last year.  When you look at smaller publishers with only a single editor on board, yes, Toni Weisskopf is Baen and Lee Harris is Angry Robot (as I understand it).  Lou Anders is Pyr.  So, if you like the publisher, you know what the editor has been doing.  Ace likely has a number of editors, but Ginjer Buchanan just retired this year, so this was the last chance to recognize her for her decades of work in the genre. I imagine this played a role.

Best Professional Artist (624 ballots)
Galen Dara 
*Julie Dillon 
Daniel Dos Santos 
John Harris 
John Picacio
Fiona Staples

Thoughts: I never did the wrap-up post after profiling all of the artists, but Julie Dillon (my profile) had a fantastic year. I might have voted for Galen Dara for my top choice (my profile), but every one of these produced quality work last year.

Best Semiprozine (411 ballots)
Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
*Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Sonya Taaffe, Abigail Nussbaum, Rebecca Cross, Anaea Lay, and Shane Gavin

Thoughts: I haven't been reading the short fiction of the various zines this past year, but given that JJA also won Best Editor, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that his zine is the Best Semiprozine.

Best Fanzine (478 ballots)
The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
*A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J. Montgomery
Pornokitsch edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin

Thoughts:  If I could express just how excited and happy I am for Aidan, I would. I just don't know how to succinctly get that across. Up until recently, A Dribble of Ink has been a single author blog. It was just Aidan pumping out quality work for years. He's been more of an editor these last couple of years, curating his blog and seeking out guest work to post - and curating is an apt term, because from the look of things, this is an active role versus just having guest writers doing whatever they want. He's grabbing writers of quality and expanding his audience and reach and overall doing one hell of a good job.

Also, where I've been previously happy for SF Signal winning for Best Fanzine, it's always been more of a group blog and a bigger and different thing. Those wins were important in helping blogs get recognition, but Aidan's win is the first time I've really felt like "one of us" have won the Hugo. This touches on Fan Writer a bit, but I've been blogging for a decade and Aidan has been right there for most of that time.  This is just a cool and awesome thing. 

Best Fancast (396 ballots)
The Coode Street Podcast – Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast – Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (presenters) and Andrew Finch (producer)
*SF Signal Podcast – Patrick Hester
The Skiffy and Fanty Show – Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, and Stina Leicht
Tea and Jeopardy – Emma Newman
Verity! – Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Writer and the Critic – Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond 

Thoughts: I don't listen to many podcasts. I just tend to not have the time or the focus, so while I love the conversations I've been able to hear when I do, as a whole, I've not been able to engage with them. It's a shame. I did enjoy the couple of episodes of Skiffy and Fanty I've listened to.

Best Fan Writer (521 ballots)
Liz Bourke 
*Kameron Hurley
Foz Meadows 
Abigail Nussbaum 
Mark Oshiro 

Thoughts: First, excellent lineup of fan writers. Second, Kameron Hurley very much deserved this win with all of the killer fan writing she's been putting out, whether it is guest blogs, her own blog, or living on Twitter and engaging. Third, it does seem like more prominent writers and published authors are the ones who get the most recognition for Fan Writer. I am not suggesting that published authors are not also fans, and that they do not produce fan writing, but it does seem like Liz, Foz, Abigail, and Mark had a slightly tougher road against the wider recognition of Kameron. Again, not a dig on Kameron's absolutely killer fan writing or the reach of "We Have Always Fought" (published on A Dribble of Ink), but she is a more recognizable name outside of those who follow fan writing and various blogs. 

With all of that said, though - this was an outstanding year for the nominated fan writers. I am aware of Mark through the Mark Reads Stuff that I've seen linked, but I am not familiar with his work. Liz, Kameron, Foz, and Abigail have been just killing it. I've been advocating for Abigail's nomination for several years and I'm very happy to see it here.  Kameron's win is well deserved, as was that of "We Have Always Fought" for Related Work.

Best Fan Artist (316 ballots)
Brad W. Foster
Mandie Manzano 
Spring Schoenhuth 
Steve Stiles
*Sarah Webb 

Thoughts: Like Professional Artist, I highlighted the nominees (except that I never got Brad's spotlight posted - for which I apologize). Sarah Webb (my profile) was easily my favorite of the bunch and I would not be surprised to see her work being nominated in the future for Professional Artist if she continues with it and moves in that direction within the genre.

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (767 ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).
Wesley Chu 
Max Gladstone*
Ramez Naam*
*Sofia Samatar*
Benjanun Sriduangkaew

*Denotes finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Thoughts:  I made it halfway through this category (Chu, Naam, Samatar), so I can't speak on Gladstone or Sriduangkaew (yet).  I would have went with Wesley Chu just from reading the first of the Tao novels (my review). I had a blast reading it and was more impressed by it than Naam's Nexus or Samatar's Olondria novel. I do understand, though, that I'm in the minority of A Stranger of Olondria  (my not a review). I've enjoyed her short fiction, but I just failed to engage with Olondria.  Most everyone else truly appreciated the artistry of the novel, though, and so I am not at all surprised by the win. Maybe next year for Chu.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 Hugo Award Voting Breakdown

Sunday, August 17, 2014 2
One of my favorite things about the Hugo Award season, besides the whole damn thing, is that after the awards are given out, the convention running that year's awards also provides the voting results and nominating breakdowns. Per the WSFS Constitution, they must do this within 90 days following that year's Worldcon (section 3.11.4), but what I've been seeing in recent years is that those totals are released shortly after the awards are given.

That breakdown can be found here.

I tend to find the breakdown of the instant runoff voting a little bit less interesting just because it depends on the vagaries of how the various voters have ranked the nominees, but what I find fascinating is taking a look at how close a work that missed the ballot only needed two more people nominating it and it could have made the final ballot.  And then who knows what would have happened.

Such as Best Novel.

368 Ancillary Justice Ann Leckie 23.1%
218 The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman 13.7% *
184 Warbound Larry Correia 11.5%
160 The Wheel of Time Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson 10.0%
120 Neptune's Brood Charles Stross 7.5%
98 Parasite Mira Grant 6.1%
96 The Shining Girls Lauren Beukes 6.0%
92 A Stranger in Olondria Sofia Samatar 5.8%
91 A Few Good Men Sarah A. Hoyt 5.7%
84 The Golem and the Djinni HeleneWecker 5.3%
81 The Republic of Thieves Scott Lynch 5.1%
74 Under a Graveyard Sky John Ringo 4.6%
70 London Falling Paul Cornell 4.4%
69 Abaddon's Gate James S.A. Corey 4.3%
67 Steelheart Brandon Sanderson 4.2%
66 River of Stars Guy Gavriel Kay 4.1%

Neil Gaiman declined his nomination, which allowed Mira Grant's Parasite to make the ballot, but The Shining Girls was only two nominations away from making the ballot.  Two!  I would have loved to see The Golem and the Jinni pick up a nomination (it was a superior work of fiction) but it was 14 away.

There was a 23 nomination gap between "Wakulla Springs" and a novella from Mira Grant, which is reasonably substantial over 847 ballots.  Similar for novelette, which has 20 votes between Vox Day's story and Ken Liu making the ballot.

But then we get to the short stories and you get two interesting things happen.  First, the current rules for the Hugo Awards requires that a nominee be on 5% of the nominating ballots to make the short list for the awards.  This year only four stories did so.  Second, had the 5% rule not been in place, Sarah Hoyt's story "Dog's Body" would have made the ballot (and only needed to be on five more of the existing ballots to make it). But, behind Hoyt by a single ballot was a story from Ken Liu.

79 Selkie Stories are for Losers Sofia Samatar 9.1%
73 The Ink Readers of Doi Saket Thomas Olde Heuvelt 8.4%
65 If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love Rachel Swirsky 7.5%
43 The water that falls on you from nowhere John Chu 5.0%
38 Dog's Body Sarah A. Hoyt 4.4%
37 A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel Ken Liu 4.3%

If you look at Best Editor: Long Form, you'll see exactly that. Patrick Nielsen Hayden missed the ballot by a single vote.  One person. If you care about the Hugo Awards and you don't think that your votes matter when nominating, think of the single ballot that separated PNH from receiving another Hugo Award nomination.

169 Toni Weisskopf 26.7%
118 Ginjer Buchanan 18.7%
63 Sheila Gilbert 10.0%
54 Liz Gorinsky 8.5%
48 Lee Harris 7.6%
47 Patrick Nielsen Hayden 7.4%
42 Devi Pillai 6.6%
41 Lou Anders 6.5%
36 David G. Hartwell 5.7%

Likewise, Joey Hi-Fi was one nomination away from Best Professional Artist.  If you care about seeing newer and fresher names on the Hugo Award ballot, Joey Hi-Fi was one vote away from the final ballot.  One.

129 Julie Dillon 20.7%
109 John Picacio 17.5%
51 John Harris 8.2%
50 Galen Dara 8.0%
49 Dan dos Santos 7.9%
49 Fiona Staples 7.9%
48 Joey Hi-Fi 7.7%
38 Michael Whelan 6.1%

One thing that just interests me in general is the Fanzine Category (this comes as no surprise to readers of my blog).  There was a solid mixture of traditional style fanzines and blogs.  I'd like to throw out a bonus high five to Lady Business on picking up 5.6% of the ballots. It's wasn't enough to make the final ballot, but it's a solid showing. Good stuff. 

107 Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond 22.4%
83 The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James 17.4%
61 Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Christopher J. Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete
Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J. Montgomery 12.8%
61 Pornokitsch edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin 12.8%
53 A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher 11.1%
49 Banana Wings Claire Brialey, Mark Plummer 10.3%
49 The Drink Tank Chris Garcia, James Bacon 10.3%
33 Argentus Steven H. Silver 6.9%
29 SF Signal JohnDeNardo 6.1%
28 file 770 Mike Glyer 5.9%
27 Chunga Andy Hooper, Randy Byers , Carl juarez 5.6%
27 Lady Business Renay, Ana, Jodie 5.6%
24 Mad Genius Club Amanda Green 5.0%
23 Staffer's Book Review Justin Landon 4.8%
20 SF Commentary Bruce Gillespie 4.2%

Remember, folks. A single nomination can make the difference being a Hugo Award Nominee and not making the ballot, and I think all of us who spend time thinking about and writing about the genre and the awards can recognize how cool and awesome it would be to pick up a nomination, let alone the Hugo Award (serious congratulations to Aidan Moher at A Dribble of Ink!!!!!!!!!!).

2014 Hugo Award Winners

(Via Tor.com and the rest of the internet)

Below is a listing of the 2014 Hugo Award Winners. I will have significantly expanded thoughts later (probably tomorrow), but this was a fairly awesome slate of winners and otherwise for now: Congratulations to all the winners!

BEST NOVEL: Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)

BEST NOVELLA: “Equoid” by Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
BEST NOVELETTE: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
BEST SHORT STORY: “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)
BEST RELATED WORK: “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
BEST GRAPHIC STORY: “Time” by Randall Munroe (xkcd)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM: Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM: Game of Thrones “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter
BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM: Ellen Datlow
BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM: Ginjer Buchanan
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST: Julie Dillon
BEST SEMIPROZINE: Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
BEST FANZINE: A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher
BEST FANCAST: SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester
BEST FAN WRITER: Kameron Hurley
BEST FAN ARTIST: Sarah Webb
JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER: Sofia Samatar

Friday, August 08, 2014

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine

Friday, August 08, 2014 0
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Genevieve Valentine
Atria: 2014

This is the novel that, without realizing it, I always expected Genevieve Valentine to write. If you only paid attention to her debut novel, Mechanique, or if you only followed her short stories, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club may come across as a bit of a departure. But, readers who have followed Valentine on her blog cannot help but notice her passion and knowledge of fashion. From her red carpet rundowns to various commentary on much older fashion, this is something that Genevieve Valentine knows, cares about, and can discuss with wit and knowledge.  Which is to say that The Girls at the Kingfisher Club takes a step away from the post apocalyptic steampunk circus of Mechanique and instead visits Prohibition era New York City with speakeasies and dance halls. 

The twelve Hamilton girls are shut in their father's house by a father who has never even met most of his daughters. He really wanted a son, you see. The world the novel is set in involves seriously old money New York, which is often a fairly quick turnoff for me.  Please, tell me a story about the troubles of rich people.  But, that isn't the story here. It is noted to provided context to the threat of the father marrying the girls off to get them out of the house, and to illustrate in what sort of world the father moves in.  The story is of the twelve daughters who learn to dance on their own from watching the occasional movie at the cinema, and practicing together in their house when nobody else is around. Eventually, the oldest sisters sneak out of the house to find a place to go dancing. It is only out dancing, even with the risk of police raids, that the girls feel truly alive and at home. It is the only thing that is truly theirs. Given the situation at home, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. 

Mixing in the excitement of dancing well, bootlegging, police raids, and the overall tension of escaping the wrath of an autocratic father, Genevieve Valentine has written an outstanding novel. As much as I enjoyed Mechanique and her short fiction, Valentine absolutely nailed it with The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. I mentioned in the first paragraph that this was the novel I always expected Valentine to write. I'll go one step farther, without realizing it, this is the novel I always wanted Genevieve Valentine to write. She stuck the landing with this one.

Many professional reviews make mention of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses", from the Brothers Grimm, and how The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a modern retelling of that fairy tale. One's familiarity with the original story may shape how the novel is read, but The Girls at the Kingfisher Club stands very well on its own. It may be part of a tradition of adapting older stories and setting them in a different era, sometimes modern, sometimes during the 1920's, buts The Girls at the Kingfisher Club brings its own elegance and its own excellence to the table.  The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a delight.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The End of Subterranean Online

Tuesday, August 05, 2014 0
It is only through some sideways mentions in other places that I realized Subterranean Online, one of my favorite short fiction magazines which I have done a poor job of following in recent years, is about to close up shop.

I haven't been reading most of the short fiction venues I used to frequent. This isn't a knock against the fiction they publish, it has more to do with where I'm at in life and how and what I am currently reading.  Knowing that, if you asked me for some recommendations for where to find a good short story, one of the first places I would send you is Subterranean.

Subterranean Online was the short fiction side of Subterranean Press, a small publisher which puts out beautiful and limited editions of books.  In some cases, they would be limited prints of popular books from major name authors (Stephen King, George R. R. Martin), but they would also put out significant story collections that you just won't find anywhere else (Connie Willis, Peter Beagle, KJ Parker, Lucius Shepard) as well as novellas and smaller novels that are original to SubPress (Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Joe Lansdale).

Subterranean Online was just as discerning, just as vital a source of short fiction. Publisher and editor William Schafer would publish, among others: Rachel Swirsky, John Scalzi, Mike Resnick, Joe Lansdale, Caitlin Kiernan, Elizabeth Bear, Ted Chiang, Jeff VanderMeer, Cat Rambo, Gene Wolfe, Lucius Shepard, Kage Baker, Daniel Abraham, Norman Partridge, Ekaterina Sedia, Jay Lake, Poppy Z Brite, Alastair Reynolds, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cherie Priest, Carrie Vaughn, Liz Williams, Daryl Gregory, Cory Doctorow, Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kelly Link, Genevieve Valentine, Catherynne Valente.  More. So much more.

Just looking at that list, I have to ask myself why I ever took a break from reading this zine.  If you were looking for a good story, you had to come here.

The first online issue was Spring 2007 and Schafer had consistently published since then, which is a fairly remarkable run. 

It is a very real thing that you don't know how much you miss something until it is gone, even though the last issue has only just been published and I would guess that the fiction will remain online for some time in the future, I already miss Subterranean Online. I discovered a number of excellent writers because they were published there, and I read numerous wonderful stories at Subterranean Online.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Steve Stiles: 2014 Hugo Award Nominated Artist Spotlight

Monday, August 04, 2014 0
Steve Stiles has been nominated for the Hugo Award 14 times, which is completely nuts - especially considering the fact that he was on the very first Best Fan Artist ballot in 1967. That's an impressive run of consistency and productivity.

On the other hand, because my involvement with fandom has been in different areas, I have never encountered his work before. There's an interesting vibe running through his work that I definitely enjoy. Especially in the GRRM piece with the dodo. That's probably how it all happened, to be honest.

All images are used with permission.








 


Friday, August 01, 2014

Books Read: July 2014

Friday, August 01, 2014 0
Below is a listing of all of the books I read in July. All links would go to my reviews, but I was out of town for two weeks in the middle of the month and never quite got around to writing any.  Sorry, folks.

1. Nexus, by Ramez Naam
2. The Wall Around Eden, by Joan Slonczewski
3. Warbound, by Larry Correia
4. King's Dragon, by Kate Elliott
5. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
6. Civilwarland in Bad Decline, by George Saunders
7. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez
8. The Risen Empire, by Scott Westerfeld
9. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
10. A Dance With Dragons, by George R. R. Martin

Best Book of the Month: Everyone should read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Period. This is the multi-faceted story of the titular woman whose cancer cells were taken and used without permission (which was very much the norm then, and potentially still now) and which led to numerous medical breakthroughs. So, the story is of Henrietta Lacks, her family (who only found out about how Henrietta's cells were being used until decades later), the science behind the HeLa cells and what came from it, and how this all ties together.  It's really good.

Disappointment of the Month: George Saunders had been recommended for years as being one of America's top short story writers, and a friend with good taste also recommended this collection in particular. My wife read Tenth of December from Saunders and wasn't impressed, but I had a copy of Civilwarland sitting at home. I took it with me to San Diego...and I just could not engage with the stories. There's a chance if I read this when I was twenty and working with post-teenage ennui that I would have loved this, but I'm in a very different place now and I just couldn't deal with what Saunders is doing. 

Discovery of the Month: I'm not sure I should call a book that has been on my radar for fifteen years a discovery, but when I finally read it and find that it is exactly as good as I had hoped it would be, it sort of is a discovery. This would be King's Dragon, the first of Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series. If you like the epic fantasy stuff, and want something gritty and real, you really need to start with King's Dragon.

GRRM of the Month: I finally finished A Dance With Dragons a couple of days ago. It's good, I enjoyed it, but I also felt like it was pretty much just setting things up for a really awesome sixth book than it was telling a great story on its own. It felt a little disjointed, more so than A Feast for Crows did. 

Worth Noting: I feel that The Book of Unknown Americans is about to become required reading in the next couple of years. A) It's really damn good.  B) It provides the modern immigrant experience of why people are still coming to America from Mexico and Central America, and it does so by simply telling several stories that interlink, with some interstitials filling in more immigrant stories from minor characters in the novel. C) Also, it's really damn good.

Gender Breakdown: Half of the books I read this month were written by women. Not a bad month.

Previous Months
January
February
March 
April 
May
June

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Shadow Unit

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 0

I've struggled with how to write about the ending of Shadow Unit.  I have a friend who has never watched the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation because if she doesn't watch it, the show really isn't over.  There is still one more episode to watch.  There is still one more story out there.  There is still one more.

I didn't really understand before. No matter what series I read or show I watched, I would devour the ending. Sure, I might be sad when it was all over, but I wanted to see how it finished and to feel those emotions.  And then there was Shadow Unit.

Sometime in 2007 I became aware of a "sekrit project" which involved Elizabeth Bear, Emma Bull, Sarah Monette, and Will Shetterly. At the time, all I knew was that it was titled "Shadow Unit" and had a website which had very little information on it. I was (and still am) a very big fan of Elizabeth Bear's fiction and so I was curious as to what was going on.  Little did I know that I would spend the next seven years anxiously and eagerly awaiting each new episode.

The word "episode" is used very specifically here.  Shadow Unit was imagined as an episodic television show that never existed, so each episode was a discrete story building the larger mythology.  My description of it was always "Criminal Minds meets The X-Files, but the monsters are human."  It's as good as it sounds, and probably better than that.

It is one of my very favorite things ever.  Shadow Unit invited a community to grow around it, to participate through character livejournal accounts that were written in real time - as if the characters were real people living their lives, which is what they became.  The creators interacted with the fans on a regular basis via the message board, and it became a thing.  A community. A community of which I was a part for a number of years.  I fell away, as happens sometimes, but I still followed the episodes, I still had my heart ripped out after one particular episode midway through the run. The first season finale was a short novel worth of material, but it played out over real time - so when the livejournals went silent, we don't know if there is anyone who makes it out okay. 

It was a beautiful and moving thing.

The series finale went live on July 6. "Something's Gotta Eat T. Rexes" was written by Elizabeth Bear, Steven Brust, and Emma Bull.  It has taken me the better part of a month to muster up the courage to read it. 
I've been afraid of how it is going to end.  Not that the writers won't do a stunningly fantastic job, but that I'm going to lose someone else from the show.  I don't expect that everything is going to be okay. Not on this show. 

I'm just not sure I'm ready for it to be over.

In between writing the last sentence and this one, several hours have passed and I have finished reading the final episode. If I talked about my emotional response to "Something's Gotta Eat T. Rexes", I think I might give far too much away.  Suffice it to say that I had one. The thing is, I don't see nearly enough people talking about Shadow Unit.  Maybe it has to do with the small corner of the internet which I inhabit, or because like most short fiction, it isn't something that gets talked about, but it should.

So, let me say this: Shadow Unit is one of the most engrossing, moving, painful, and wonderful things that I have read.  I have enjoyed every moment of the last seven years I have been reading this collaborative project, even the painful ones. Especially the painful ones, because those are the moments that remind me that this is something I've truly connected with, that they mattered to me.  Shadow Unit may be finished, but these are the characters that will linger. 

If all of this is new to you, if you've never read Shadow Unit or even heard of it before, let me just invite you to begin with the very first episode, "Breathe", written by Emma Bull. There's a whole lot of story out there, just waiting to be discovered. Shadow Unit is something special.

And to all of the writers who worked on Shadow Unit: Elizabeth Bear, Emma Bull, Sarah Monette, Will Shetterly, Leah Bobet, Amanda Downum, Chelsea Polk, Holly Black, and Steven Brust: Thank you. That was one hell of a ride.
 
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