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Showing posts from April, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow morning, at an hour so ungodly that I shudder to speak it, I will be leaving on holiday to Brazil, where I plan to attend my cousin's wedding, do tourist things, and read many books. I'll be back on the 12th, so expect some report (possibly with pictures) some time after that.

I have no idea whether I'll have internet access during this time. It's possible that I'll be able to see comments to the blog, but unlikely that I'll respond. I definitely won't be reading e-mail.

Be good.

The 2007 Hugo Award: The Novella Shortlist

Overall, the novella ballot is neither as exceptional as the novelette shortlist nor as uniformly good, but unexceptional, as the short story shortlist. It may, in fact, be the worst of the three ballots, although to a certain extent this is praising with faint damns. Two of the nominated stories appeared on the 2006 Nebula ballot, and I reviewed them last month. To reiterate: Paul Melko's "The Walls of the Universe", about a boy who meets his parallel-universe counterpart, is amusing, but fails to explore the more interesting ramifications of its premise, including the question of how two versions of the same person could have developed completely opposed moral outlooks, as the protagonist and his alternate do; the protagonist of William Shunn's "Inclination"--a young member of a pseudo-Christian luddite cult living on a space station--is exteremely appealing, and his journey towards rejecting his upbringing is compelling, but the story suffers a crucial f…

Every Day is International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Wretch Day

(Context, and a sampling of available works, here.)

Following in the footsteps of Peter Watts, whose decision to make his novel Blindsightavailable online under a Creative Commons License may very well have been a major factor in getting said novel on the shortlist for this year's Hugo, fellow nominee Michael F. Flynn is allowing readers to download his novel Eifelheim (PDF). Flynn is also nominated this year for the novelette "Dawn, Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth", which I greatly enjoyed, and as it turns out he is also the author of a very fine piece from the 2005 Hugo ballot, "The Clapping Hands of God." All that, plus an interesting premise--a first contact story set in 14th century Europe--makes me quite eager to give Eifelheim a try. (Link via SF Signal.)

In unrelated news, and coming as a surprise to, I suspect, absolutely nobody, Drive has been cancelled.

The 2007 Hugo Award: The Short Story Shortlist

I was a little reluctant to continue with this year's Hugo roundup after the remarkable--and, after a years-long drought, wholly unexpected--experience that was the novelette shortlist. It seemed impossible that the other shortlists would stack up, and in fact the short story ballot is nowhere near as exceptional as the novelette ballot. It is, however, a solid bunch of a stories, with no piece by Resnick or Burstein or someone equally unpublishable marring its overall quality.

The closest the short story shortlist comes to a bad story is Tim Pratt's "Impossible Dreams", and even in this case I'd be more comfortable calling the story slight and insubstantial. Pratt's story is a play on the familiar one about a mysterious disappearing, reappearing shop from which the protagonist purchases a magical object (to be fair, Pratt acknowledges the hoariness of his premise--through a Twilight Zone reference, no less). In this case, the shop is a video rental store from…

Running on Empty: Thoughts on Drive

This is just guesswork on my part, but I imagine that, had the creators of Lost been asked, back when the show was in its embryonic stages, to sum it up in a few words, they would have described it as a scripted Survivor, taking the reality juggernaut's premise--strangers thrown together in an unfamiliar setting--and imbuing it with the one quality that reality TV never quite manages to reproduce--drama. By the same token, Tim Minear and Ben Queen's new series Drive, whose first two episodes aired yesterday in Canada and which has its American premiere on Sunday, seems to be a scripted version of The Amazing Race, the series which seems to have taken Survivor's place in the hearts of reality fans. Like Lost, Drive provides its characters with a more powerful and compelling motive than the chance at a cash prize (although a fantastic payoff awaits the winner of Drive's race) and fifteen minutes of fame. A mysterious, all-powerful, all-knowing Them run the illegal, cr…

Choose Your Own Adventure: Life on Mars Thoughts

It's been said before, but one of the things that made Life on Mars unusual is--was--that by its very nature it couldn't reveal its genre until its very last episode. Was the show SF--had Sam Tyler travelled from his, and our, time to 1973?--or fantasy--was Sam insane, fabricating memories of a reality that just happened to be identical to ours?--or mimetic--was Sam in a coma following his accident, hallucinating 1973 as an extended metaphor for his predicament? It doesn't help that the show's writers seem to have changed their minds halfway through the story. If the first season premiere--in which Sam changed the course of future events--prioritized the time travel reading, the second season as whole seemed eager to drop it. As the series came to its end, we were left with a choice between madness and hallucination, and between two different kinds of slightly unsatisfying endings. If Sam is in a coma, then everyone he's met and everything that's happened over …

Not to Confuse Anyone With Facts

Ellen Kushner conveys a message from Geoff Ryman in which he offers his thoughts about the reasons for the gender imbalance on this year's Hugo ballot:
SF is driven by an underlying dream, and part of that dream is profoundly hostile to domesticity, which is traditionally assigned to women. It is hostile to staying at home on Earth. It dreams, Peter Pan-like, of magic flights to a Neverneverland in the stars, full of pirates and mermaids and Indians. It is largely a land of and for Boys. Women love it too, perhaps because they also want to escape domesticity.

These days women's place in fantasy is not as Wendy. Women get to be guys now. They have a place in the SF dream, most usually toting guns or swords. I guess it's fun for women to shoot people , and men certainly feel more at home with women who act like the rest of their buddies. I would say that the dream is hostile to the traditional place of women's power: home. Home is what you escape and Mother is who you hate…

The 2007 Hugo Award: The Novelette Shortlist

Once again, the novelette shortlist is the first to become fully available online (still missing: Robert Charles Wilson's novella "Julian: A Christmas Story" and Neil Gaiman's short story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties"). 2007 will be the fourth year that I've reviewed the Hugo and Nebula nominees (I posted my thoughts at Readerville before this blog came into being), and this year's novelette shortlist is the strongest batch of nominees I've read in a while. There's only one story I'd lop off the list, and--miracle of miracles--I also find myself at a bit of a loss trying to pick the best story of the bunch. After the infuriatingly mediocre Nebula ballot, this is a welcome and refreshing change.

The sole turkey on the novelette shortlist is, surprise surprise, Mike Resnick's "All the Things You Are." For a Resnick story, however, this one is quite passable. The first half of it is even engaging--set some time in the futur…

Martha: A Few Thoughts

In general, I like. I do, however, wish that the episode had been a little more subtle in its attempts to make us like the character, or at least not recruited the Doctor for the job. I preferred the approach taken in "Rose," in which the Doctor is almost entirely dismissive of Rose even as we learn to appreciate her. With Martha, there was a palpable sense of the writers checking items off a list of good companion attributes--observant, inquisitive, smart, cool under pressure, willing to step up in a time of crisis--and making sure we noted each one by having the Doctor comment or at least react to them. Towards the end, it felt a little as though Martha's wonderfulness was being rammed down our throats, which is something that Rose managed to avoid for most of the first season.

I am, however, surprised at the reactions calling Martha a beacon of calm and rationality, specifically in contrast to Rose. I'm not sure I know which Rose most of these commenters are talkin…