Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hugo and Retro-Hugo nominees announced

Well, the nominees for the Hugo awards and the Retro-Hugo awards (for works published in 1938) were announced early today. A few Many quick rambling thoughts.
  • If you look at what I nominated, two nominations made it through -- Kameron Hurley for Best Fan Writer and "Selkie Stories Are For Losers" in Best Short Story. I'm very happy about Hurley's nomination, since I like her criticism a lot. I recently listened to an audio version of "Selkie Stories Are For Losers" and was even more impressed the second time around -- the story is definitely layered.
  • I had two "near misses." I nominated Game of Thrones in Best Long Form, but it ended up in Best Short Form. I nominated Randall Munroe for Best Fan Artist, and he got a nomination in Best Graphic Story.
  • I haven't read any of the nominated novels (for 2013; I'll get to the Retro-Hugos later). I've heard good things about Ancillary Justice, and this nomination will be the kick in the pants to get me to read it.
  • Neptune's Brood is the sequel to Saturn's Children, which I started but lost interest in. Again, kick in the pants, happy to give it a try.
  • Parasite is a horror novel about tapeworms by an author whose work I didn't like last year. I think I'll skip it. (But I'll at least start it, to be fair.)
  • Warbound? What is this? Alternate-history urban-fantasy from the 1930s? That just looks weird.
  • Oh, The Wheel of Time made it. I gave up four or five books in. I will be interested to see how much of this ends up in the Hugo packet.
  • Wakulla Springs is the only novella nominee I've read. I gave it four stars, but said,
    "But...why, why, why do people keep nominating works that aren't SF/fantasy for SF/fantasy awards? There are exactly two places in the book where fantastical elements appear in the story -- one near the end, the other literally at the end. While both may be important to the feel of the story, neither is important to the plot of the story. So even though I enjoyed the opportunity to read the story, it's not on my Hugo nomination ballot"
  • In the novelette category, I've read "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" (3 stars) and "The Waiting Stars." (2 stars)
  • In the short story category, I've read "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" (heartbreaking, I have to decide if it's SF/fantasy) and "Selkie Stories Are For Losers" (awesome, as noted above).
  • Kameron Hurley also picked up a Best Related Work nomination for "We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative." I skimmed it when it came out, but it's the sort of piece that made me nominate her for Best Fan Writer.
  • Iron Man 3 is the only movie I've seen. I'm really looking forward to seeing Gravity, though. I'm not sure I'll watch enough of them to vote.
  • In the short-form dramatic presentation, Game of Thrones is up against 4 Doctor Who things and one episode of Orphan Black. Because Worldcon is in London, the memberships will skew British, so I expect a Dr. Who win.
  • From the 1939 Best Novel nominees, I've read Out of the Silent Planet as an adult, and The Sword in the Stone growing up. I'm looking forward to re-reading both.
  • In Best Novella, I read Anthem in high school. I remember it took me about 2 hours, and I thought it created a pretty obvious straw man to knock down.
  • I haven't actually paid my WorldCon dues yet, but I expect to once the Hugo packet is out. I was really hoping something like The Martian would be nominated, since I've wanted to read that. I think the opportunity to vote on the Retro-Hugos will keep me interested. I'm not sure I'm in for 2015, though.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the Nebula Nominees for Best Novel, and it was conveniently available for loan in Kindle form from my library.

Neil Gaiman wrote this book to appeal to his wife, who "doesn't like fantasy." My knee-jerk response is that I would like to see what he had done writing for people who like fantasy.

It's Neil Gaiman, so the words are arranged consecutively in very pleasing ways. It's the story of a 7-year-old boy, as told from the perspective of his older self, and the various fantastical and fairy-tale things that happen to him. In contrast to some books where the magical elements are implied to be imagined by the child, here I think the implication is that the events of childhood really do have magic underneath them.

But neither the magic nor the characters are compelling enough for me to love this book, or even like it a lot. (Contrast Among Others, where the magic wasn't compelling, but the characters were.) Instead, I finished the book thinking, "Oh, that was nice enough."

It didn't help that I felt like I was supposed to find more inspiration from this book than I really did, with quotes like,
Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.
OK, a mildly interesting, but probably not strictly true, observation, dressed up with some beautiful language.

I suspect this will be one of the Hugo nominees, if not the winner. I figured I might as well read it now anyway, since it was available from the library. I did not end up nominating it for the Hugo.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

My 2014 Hugo Nominations

As a member of last year's Worldcon, I'm eligible to nominate for this year's Hugo awards. I will probably become a member of this year's Worldcon in order to vote on the nominees, but we're not there yet, are we?

Last year, I didn't nominate very much. My reasoning, expressed in another post was, "I wouldn't want my vote to bump another interesting novel out of the Hugo list, because I want to see what else it out there."

This year, I've changed my mind. I saw what else is out there last year, and I didn't like it very much. Basically, if it's a four-star work, I will nominate it. Here's what I've got.

Best Novel
Best Short Story
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
  • Game of Thrones, Season 3
Best Fan Writer
  • Kameron Hurley
Best Fan Artist
  • Randall Munroe
Comments: Steelheart is definitely my favorite of the novels. The New Guys Always Work Overtime is available on the Starship Sofa podcast. I'm looking forward to a followup work in the June 2014 issue. I'm not a subscriber, but I'll make sure to pick that up. A Game of Thrones episode won the short-form Hugo last year, but I didn't know which one to nominate this year, so I put it in long-form again. I started reading Hurley's blog after reading her Nebula-nominated novel two years ago. I didn't love the novel, but I've found her insights into the sf community smart and refreshing.
Randall Munroe writes xkcd which is just awesome. He did some particularly nice work in 2013, and since I've noticed him in "Others Receiving Votes" in 2012, I thought I'd try to help get him nominated.