Monday, June 30, 2014

My 2014 Hugo Votes: Best Novelette

Well, I knocked off another category. Quotes, as always, from my Goodreads reviews.

  1. The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling: "It cuts between a future story where people can search video logs of their life as a virtual memory and a past story about a tribe which is learning writing. The future story is really affecting, and the past story is thought-provoking, but the juxtaposition of the two is a little too obvious for me to give it five stars."
  2. Lady Astronaut of Mars: "This novella violates one of my principles of alternate history, which I am about to make up. Here goes. If you write alternate history, the what if parts of the story should be central...It distracts me from the rest of the story trying to figure out what's going on with the discrepancies, particularly in a work of short fiction. Other than that, I kind of enjoyed it."
  3. The Waiting Stars: (from a review of another of the author's stories) "The ratings really reflect my enjoyment of the story rather than any judgment of the literary quality of de Bodard's work. It's just not to my taste."
  4. The Exchange Officers: For some reason, this story is not on Goodreads. I found it to be a mundane story marred by a few inexcusable typos. It had sort of a retro feel to it, except the UAV-like remote operation of the spacesuits. A similar story would have not been out of place in the 1980s, but it would not have stood out then, either.
  5. No Award: I really only felt that The Truth of Fact was award-worthy of the above stories. However, if you want to give the award to one of the others, I may disagree, but I won't object.
  6. Opera Vita Aeterna: "I found nothing egregious about the story, but it repeatedly put me to sleep. Literally. It should have been a quick read, but it delayed my appraisal of the rest of the Hugo slate by boring me into unconsciousness when I tried to tackle it. Let's have an elf argue theology with an abbot... And the ending was very...well, boring, too."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My 2014 Hugo Votes: Best Short Story

Last year, I was so overwhelmed and dispirited by the process of voting for the Hugos that I never blogged about my votes. By the time the awards were announced, I forgot exactly what my ballot was.

This year, I am going to try blogging about one category at a time. Since I can submit partial ballots as I go, I'm going to try finishing a category, voting on it, then blogging about my votes. Quotes are from my Goodreads reviews.

1. Selkie Stories Are For Losers: "The most impressive thing, to me, about the story was that I started out thinking, "What the heck is a selkie," and ended the story feeling like I had a good grasp of the mythology. OK, I googled to find out that it's some sort of fey creature, but I'm not sure if the specifics are part of the folklore or were invented for this story. So the author very economically painted a picture of the fantasy background, in a story that mostly dealt with non-fantasy things."

2. If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love: "It's a quirky and ultimately very moving story, but it feels a little thin, especially as a work of fantasy."

3. The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere: "The fantasy premise was very thin (all of a sudden, people start getting soaked with water when they tell a lie), and it seemed like a mostly unnecessary embellishment on the story. Still, it was a well-written story about a man trying to come out to his family. It just felt like a story with a giant metaphor hanging over it."

4. The Ink Readers of Doi Saket: I didn't write a review of it. It just didn't click with me.

5. No Award: I did not dislike any of the stories enough to wish that the award be withheld rather than given to one of them.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tour Dem Parks, Hon

After Sunday, here are my five longest bike rides:
  1. 33 miles in 2013 in Chestertown, MD
  2. 29 miles in 2009 in Switzerland
  3. 28 miles in 2009 in Santa Barbara, CA
  4. 27 miles in 2014 in Baltimore
  5. 25 miles in 2013 in Baltimore
Tour Dem Parks, which I just biked, ended up being longer than last fall's Tour Du Port. Partially because I counted the ride from the car to the start point (and back), and partially because the 25-mile course I selected was actually more than 26 miles long (a fact I realized around Mile 21).

I didn't take any pictures along the route because while it was pleasant and enjoyable scenery much of the way, nothing was spectacular, and I just concentrated on enjoying the ride.

For this ride, I switched from Everytrail, which I had used for previous rides, to MapMyRide. Mainly because I'm participating with a team in the National Bike Challenge. The routes for Tour Dem Parks were posted on MapMyRide, and when I tried to copy it over to follow along, it got logged as participation in the National Bike Challenge, despite the fact that I deleted it (oops).

Anyway, I don't like the MapMyRide trip display as much as Everytrail, so see below a screenshot from the route. The green swaths on the left and right were the nicest parts; the city streets connecting the two were the least nice. I figure any part of the city where people feel the need to put up eight or so "No Ball Playing" signs on every block is kind of rough. (I never felt like there was a problem biking through there, though.)

I wore my Michigan cycling jersey for the first time on this trip. I in general don't feel the need for "gear" (I'm not particularly aerodynamic even with the jersey), but I love the colors. One thing I didn't anticipate was the number of responses it would get from my fellow riders -- probably around 50 shouts of "Go Blue" and similar. Cool. (I guess; as an introvert, I'm a bit ambivalent.)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Nebula Update: Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book in one sitting on a cross-country plane flight. It was the first time I had read a book in one sitting in several years, so I'm very glad I got to read such a good book.

Despite the good reviews this book has received, I had avoided it for a while. I had found the description a bit off-putting -- particularly the fact that the protagonist was formerly a starship AI. I find a lot of science fiction about non-human, meta-human or post-human beings fairly tiresome.

But since Ancillary Justice won the Nebula Award for Best Novel and has been nominated for the Hugo Award, I decided to give it a try. In the best of circumstances, when I read a book based on awards, it forces me to look beyond my first impressions and find an unexpected gem. This was the best of circumstances.

So what did I like? First of all, I thought the politics of the book's universe was really thought-provoking. The Radsch, the main political unit in the book, had built its structure around continual expansion and now has to confront the end of the expansion; I think there are interesting analogs to Earth, particularly in American history. Second, the way in which the AIs spin copies of themselves off (and other characters do too) raises interesting questions about the extent to which, say, we are the same person across time and experiences. Finally, all of the mind-shifting is done really cleanly without either boring exposition our annoying mumbo-jumbo, resulting in a cleanly-written story that was a pleasure to read.

This year, the only other Nebula Best Novel nominee I read was The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Ancillary Justice was better. I read it the day after it won the Nebula; I have now read 42 of 50 winners. I am now diving into the Hugo reading list. By the time I am done with that (or, more likely, the voting deadline has passed), I will have built up several other books I'm itching to read. So I probably won't get to any of my final eight until late this year.