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Showing posts from February, 2006

The 2005 Nebula Award: The Short Story Shortlist

Margo Lanagan's "Singing My Sister Down" is still MIA on the internet. I just know that five minutes after I post this incomplete review, someone will make it available. Which means that posting the review now will not only gratify my twitchy posting finger--it can also be construed as a public service. Everybody wins!

Those of you hoping for another rant are in for a disappointment. The overall quality of the short story ballot is not exceptional--there are no "The Faery Handbag"s here--but it is nevertheless quite strong, with only one story obviously out of place. The highs aren't as high as the ones on the novelette shortlist, but the lows aren't as low--not an ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly an improvement over last summer's embarrassing Hugo shortlist (how very pleased I was to discover that Mike Resnick's longlisted "A Princess of Mars" didn't make the cut).

As I wrote when I reviewed the Hugo …

The 2005 Nebula Award: The Novelette Shortlist

This is the first in a projected series of posts discussing the various categories on the 2005 Nebula final ballot (here, and here's the preliminary ballot if you'd like to make a comparison). By all rights, I should be starting with the short story shortlist, but I've yet to locate an online copy of Margo Lanagan's "Singing My Sister Down" (I would appreciate any pointers AtWQ readers could give me in that regard). I should also point out that it may be a while before I can get to the novella category, the next few days being somewhat full of real life matters.

While hardly a travesty, this year's novelette ballot is a great deal weaker than the corresponding Hugo ballot, to the point that the weakest story on the Hugo ballot is actually somewhere near the middle of the range, quality-wise, of the Nebula list. Ideally, with so much good short fiction being published, an award ballot should feature no extraneous pieces, but there are at least two on the Ne…

Self-Promotion 5

Hebrew readers can now find my article Dogme 2005: Geoff Ryman and the Mundane SF Manifesto, originally published in The Tenth Dimension, online at the ISFFA website.

If you're coming here from there, welcome. The 'Posts of Note' section to the right contains some good places to start if you want to look around some more.

And also, as per the previous post, go buy Little, Big.

Attention Hebrew Readers: You Now Have No Excuse

Spotted at the Dizzengoff 101 Steimatzki's: Odyssey Publication's Hebrew translation of Little, Big, with, admittedly, a front cover so ugly that it even makes my Fantasy Masterworks edition look good by comparison. But it's the inside that counts, and a brief examination yielded no translation malfunctions.

So, if you're Israeli and prefer reading fiction in Hebrew, or if you have friends who read exclusively in Hebrew, get thee (and them) to a bookstore and spread the word. This is one of the finest, loveliest, most haunting novels I've ever read, especially if you're interested in unconventional fantasy.

Oh, and ISFFA members: this year's Geffen award is taken. I just wanted to be clear on that point.

Recent Reading Roundup 4

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Look! Little rectangular things with printed paper inside! How novel!

I've been in something of a reading slump lately, which is expressed not simply by the fact that I'm reading less (and I am--11 books since the beginning of the year, as opposed to nearly 20 in the same period last year) but that I have less to say about the books that I do read. Hence the recent proliferation of film- and TV-related posts. In the interest of pretending that this is still something like a lit-blog, therefore, here's another roundup, and hopefully I'll have something more substantial to write about in the near future
Viriconium by M. John Harrison

Before I start talking about the book itself (or, more accurately, about the omnibus itself, which collects three short novels and a short story collection, published between 1971 and 1985) I just want to take a minute to be awed by the book as an object--gorgeous, embossed cover; french flaps; rough-cut pages--I wish I'd been a little ha…

Granted, I Haven't Made an Exhaustive Review...

...but how is it possible that of the half-dozen "The Captain's Hand" reviews that I've read, only one acknowledges the inherent absurdity of Roslin's abortion dilemma?

First of all, unless the survivors in the fleet were mostly retrieved from retirement cruises, there is simply no way that 50,000 people don't make a self-sustaining community. Secondly, as history has shown us again and again, the natural human reaction to disasters, wars, and massive die-offs is to make babies. There should be--no, there are--dozens of seven-month pregnant women in the fleet. Which, and I feel a little embarrassed mentioning this since the writers only trot this issue out when it suits them, is actually a problem, since it's not as if there's going to be anything to feed these new sprogs, who will monopolize supplies, and the work force of at least one caretaker, without contributing anything to the fleet for years.

But most importantly, and this is something that R…

Little Jayne! With His Little Hat!

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Everything's Already Been Said About the Movie, Pride and Prejudice Edition

In particular, buckets of ink, virtual and otherwise, have already been spilled about the Bronte-fication of the story (and since I've recently been profoundly unfair to male film reviewers, I'll just point out that Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker is the definitive version of this argument), and about the poppycock that is the film's alleged 'gritty realism' (said realism, I noticed, didn't quite extend to the scene in which Elizabeth arrives in Netherfield after walking there. Keira Knightley looks as dewy and fresh as if she'd just walked out of the hair and make-up trailer, and the camera doesn't even bother to show us the infamous six inches of mud on the hem of her dress).

But I'll start with the good, which is that the minor characters are almost uniformly a delight. One of the problems with the BBC miniseries (and yes, I'll be comparing the film to the Ehle/Firth version as often as I compare it to the book. Deal with it) is…

That Other High Concept Detective Drama With Mars in the Title

The BBC's new Life on Mars has been making the rounds in my corner of the blogosphere/LJ (check out Martin Lewis' write-up at Strange Horizons, and these discussions of a viewer's reverse culture shock and possible directions for the second season), and on the strength of so many positive voices I decided to give it a look. I've watched the first five episodes (out of eight--this is British television, remember), with the sixth airing tonight. The show's premise is that a modern Manchester police detective named Sam Tyler wakes up after a car accident and finds himself in 1973, still named Sam Tyler and still a policeman. Formerly a Detective Chief Inspector with his own department, Sam is now a Detective Inspector under the thumb of DCI Gene Hunt--as Lewis describes him, "an unreconstructed Northerner and dinosaur copper who has not yet been usurped by nimbler mammals like Tyler". Hunt is perfectly comfortable beating up suspects, planting incriminating …

News From the Bizarro-verse and Other "Sacrifice" Thoughts

I didn't exactly plan to start a runningBattlestar Galacticacommentary, but I just had to sound off on this week's episode in order to share a scary statistic and an even scarier thought. The statistic is that thus far in its winter season, Galactica is two for six. Sure, "Resurrection Ship I" kicked off the season with a blast and last week's "Scar" was a brilliant mixture of character development and thrilling heroics, but in the interim, the writers have been feeding us a steady diet of mediocrity--The One Where, In Lieu of Plot, Here's Fifteen Cumulative Minutes of Jamie Bamber Shirtless; The One Where We Wave Our Hands and Roslin's Cancer Goes Away; The One Where, Instead of Using a Perfectly Good and Decently Foreshadowed Existential Crisis We Already Had Ready For Him, We Saddle Lee With Another Existential Crisis That We Pulled Out of Our Asses; and, of course, Friday's episode, The One Where the Only Person In the Fleet With More Th…

An Open Letter to Male Film Reviewers Writing About Pride and Prejudice

Dear male film reviewers writing about Pride and Prejudice (and, sad to say, at least one woman).

I want to assure you that I have no doubts with regard to your masculinity. I'm sure you're all big, burly men with thick and bushy beards as long as your arms. I'm sure you drink your weight in beer and belch hugely afterwards every single night. I have no doubt that you can pleasure a woman, and have done so consistently since you were old enough to tell women and livestock apart. Nothing you or anyone else can say will ever cause me or the rest of your readers to doubt your virility or your manhood.

So could you please stop prefacing your Pride and Prejudice reviews with some variant on 'being a man, I naturally hate Jane Austen and everything having to do with her. I've never read Pride and Prejudice and don't intend to, since it's a fluffy, girly book for fluffy girls, and is about love and feelings and all those things that men find icky and gross. Nev…

And the Scary Thing Is, Still Less Disturbing Than the Sam-Raimi-Directs-The Wee Free Men Business

[David Jason,] the star of Only Fools and Horses, A Touch of Frost, and one-off dramas such as The Quest will play Death's servant, Albert, in the fantasy drama Hogfather, part of Pratchett's long-running Discworld series. The two-part film, which will run for a total of four hours, is part of Sky One's 2006 Christmas schedule. It is the first Discworld film to be turned into an action movie. I assume that's supposed to be 'live action' at the end (since Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music have already been made into animated films).

On the other hand, I find the notion of a Discworld action film strangely appealing...

Link via Emerald City.

I Would Pay Good Money To See This Happen, But Somehow I'm Not Holding My Breath

Starbuck Is Dead, Long Live Starbuck and Other "Scar" Thoughts

Update 3/07: Hello people searching for some variant on 'starbuck dead'! This post is about the episode "Scar", but if you'd like to read my thoughts about "Maelstrom", click here.

Reading over the various responses to Friday's Battlestar Galactica episode, "Scar" (there's a nice selection over at 13th Colony), I'm surprised at the negative tone that many of the reviewers are taking towards Kat. More precisely, I'm surprised by the fact that so few of the reviewers seem to have recognized the obvious and deliberate parallels that the episode draws between Kat's behavior and the kind we've come to expect--and, for the most part, enjoy--from Starbuck. Kat's attitude during Starbuck's briefings is a precise mimicry of many of Starbuck's own performances; the confrontation in which she claims that Starbuck has lost her edge and crawled into the bottle is very nearly a shot-by-shot recreation of Starbuck's ow…

Eight Ways in Which the BBC Miniseries Has Inspired Me Not to Read Charles Dickens' Bleak House

I have a confession to make. For all the many Victorian (and slightly pre- and slightly post-Victorian) authors that I've read and enjoyed, Charles Dickens, that quintessential chronicler of English life in the mid-19th century, is one whose charms have consistently eluded me. Once I realized that relatively light entries in his bibliography such as A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities were boring me to death, I figured I'd give Dickens a wide berth. I find him sentimental and theatrical. He consistently chooses caricature over character, and his plotting is moralistic and predictable.

This week I made my way through the BBC's most recent and critically acclaimed version of Dickens' gargantuan Bleak House, starring Dana Scully and Suki Macrae-Cantrell. Unsurprisingly, the miniseries is fantastically well-made. The performances are engaging, the set design is impeccable, the cinematography is intriguing (although occasionally overdone. Still, it's nice to see a…