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Showing posts from May, 2011

Strange Horizons Reviews, May 23-27

This week's reviews kick off with Matt Cheney's fascinating take on Gary K. Wolfe's essay collection Evaporating Genres, in which Matt discusses his own expectations from reviewing and criticism, and the difficulties those expectations caused him in appreciating Wolfe's book.  Duncan Lawie is pleased with Aliette do Bodard's Harbinger of the Storm, the sequel to Servant of the Underworld, which is set in the same universe as the Hugo-nominated novelette "The Jaguar House, in Shadow."  Nader Elhefnawy considers David Wingrove's Son of Heaven, a prequel volume to the Chung Kuo alternate history sequence, and finds it less exciting than the books that follow it and touched with a vein of Sinophobia that they managed to ameliorate.

The 2011 Hugo Awards: The Novelette Shortlist

If the short story ballot feels like a snapshot of the genre short fiction scene in 2010, the same year's novelette ballot seems deliberately retro.  All but one of its stories are brimming with classic SF tropes--long-haul space voyages, Martian colonization, alien encounters, toolshed astronauts--and even more than that, with nostalgia for a time when those tropes dominated science fiction.  I wish I could say that that nostalgia is leavened by a sophisticated handling of characterization, and an understanding of some of the pernicious assumptions that underpin Golden Age SF, but unfortunately, with only one exception, that's not the case.  The result is a ballot that feels regressive and at time uncomfortably exclusionary.

Nebula winner Eric James Stone's "That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made" is a story that seems of a piece with stories like Michael A. Burstein's "Sanctuary" (Nebula nominee, best novella, 2006) and Mike Resnick's "Arti…

At the Strange Horizons Blog: Defining the Audience

At long last, my series on defining the Strange Horizons reviews policy has started up again at the magazine's blog.  This time, I try to explain why the reviewing vs. criticism discussion and the question of spoiler warnings are fundamentally about the same thing.

Note also that, thanks to the magazine's intrepid webmaster Shane, the blog now displays full posts on the main page and syndicates full posts.  It's like living in the future.

Strange Horizons Reviews, May 16-20

Tim Miller kicks off this week with a glowing review of Karen Joy Fowler's collection What I Didn't See and Other Stories.  Following him is Michael Froggatt, discussing NYRB Classics's translation of modern Russian fantasist Vladimir Sorokin's Ice Trilogy, which Michael finds worthwhile mainly for its middle segment.  Niall Alexander rounds out the week with a review of Subterranean Tales of Dark Fantasy 2, edited by William Shafer, which after a slow start pleases Niall immensely.

The 2011 Hugo Awards: The Short Story Shortlist

The ballot for this year's short story category functions quite well as a snapshot of 2010's short fiction scene, and the Hugo award's interaction with it.  You've got one of the most popular, and most talked-about, short stories of the last few years.  You've got two of the award's darlings, including one who has had a story on at least one of the short fiction shortlists for four years running.  And you've got a story from a new and much-lauded online short fiction venue.  Unfortunately, the ballot also functions well as a snapshot of the reasons that the Hugos so frequently disappoint me--its stories prioritize sentimentality over quality of writing or ideas; what little fantastic invention there is in them is staid and predictable; even the one deserving piece is derivative, much to its own detriment.

Carrie Vaughn's "Amaryllis" and Mary Robinette Kowal's "For Want of a Nail" feel like variations--rather similar ones at that-…

Strange Horizons Reviews, May 9-13

Alvaro Zinos-Amaro kicks off this week's reviews with his take on Paul Haines's collection Slice of Life, to which his reaction is a mixture of admiration and reticence towards Haines's use of outrageous, provocative plot elements.  On Wednesday, Michael H. Payne argues that the latest incarnation of the My Little Pony cartoon, Friendship Is Magic, has imbued the old Mattel marketing platform with depth of feeling and character.  In today's review, Jonathan McCalmont is impressed by Claude LaLumière's novella The Door to Lost Pages, a book about book-loving that goes beyond the self-congratulation that such a description conjures.

Recent Movie Roundup 13

A few more films before the full force of the summer blockbuster season comes upon us.
Winter's Bone (2010) - I was a little nervous going into this film, because the warm critical reception that a film might receive when it's a come-from-behind surprise from a virtually unknown writer and director can seem overblown a year later, when it's a universally lauded Oscar nominee starring one of Hollywood's up-and coming actresses (basically, the reason I was so disappointed by The Kids Are All Right), and because its description--Applachian teenager Ree Dolly must track down her meth-cooking, bail-jumping father or lose her family's house, and meets with resistance from the local mob--seemed so rife with opportunities for cultural tourism and poverty-chic.  It was this sense that I was being invited to gawp at the quaint customs and funny accents of poor rural folk that soured me on the second season of Justified, whose overarching plot borrows quite heavily from Winter…

Strange Horizons Reviews, May 2-6

The first Strange Horizons review of May is Adam Roberts's take on Harmony by Project Itoh, a Haikasoru book that Adam finds very impressive, and which launches him into wondering why modern SF has had so little to say about modern medicine and the experience of being in its care.  Niall Alexander is less complimentary to the BBC much-pumped, then quickly-dumped SF TV series Outcasts, whose failures Niall finds uniquely British.  Rounding out the week is Karen Burnham with a review of the Gordon Van Gelder-edited anthology Welcome to the Greenhouse, a collection of stories about climate change that Karen finds disappointingly wary of the unique qualities of that subject, more often plumping for pulp or for garden variety apocalypse.

Killer Kids(' Books) II: Four Novels

Late March and early April were very bad reading periods for me.  A combination of busyness, stress, and a rather dull book that I nevertheless insisted on finishing meant that I spent several weeks struggling with unenjoyable reads, picking books up and putting them back down after fifty pages, usually through no fault of their own, eying my enormous TBR stack with distaste, and in general feeling that reading had become a struggle.  The solution, I decided, was a YA binge.  Not so much because YA books are easier reads than novels aimed at adults, though a lot of the time they are, as because they work harder to hook the reader.  Books for young readers tend to be more purposeful, more obvious about their destination and their determination to reach it, than adult fiction, and when it comes to carrying the reader along with the story, they do more of the heavy lifting.  That seemed like exactly what the doctor ordered, so I've spent the second half of April running down the list…