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Showing posts from March, 2017

Five Comments on Iron Fist

Marvel and Netflix's latest series dropped this past weekend, a week and a half after the pre-air reviews pretty much savaged it, calling it the partnership's (if not the MCU's) first complete dud.  What I found particularly damning about Iron Fist's reviews was their uniformity.  When one reviewer gives you a pan, you can blame the reviewer.  When a dozen reviewers give you pans that all make exactly the same criticisms--a dull and unsympathetic lead performance, an increasing emphasis on an unappealing villain, storylines that focus too much on boardroom shenanigans, lousy fight scenes--you've probably got a turkey on your hands.  Having watched the entire first season of Iron Fist, my only quibble with the reviewers is that most of the flaws they ascribe to the show were also present in the second season of Daredevil, which received generally favorable notices.  In fact, it's not so much that Iron Fist is worse than Daredevil's second season, as that it …

The 2017 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Best Novel and Campbell Award

Well, here we are at last.  With a little more than a day left in the Hugo nominating period, it's time for the last two categories.  These are, in many ways, the big two (though possibly I'm giving the Campbell more cachet than it has for most voters--I just find it very interesting), but also the ones where it's tough to gather enough momentum to get interesting work on the ballot.  This year, for example, I'm taking it as a given that the Best Novel trophy belongs to Connie Willis, which, if you know my tastes, you can probably guess doesn't thrill me.  But though I wouldn't call 2016 a standout year for novel-length genre fiction, there were several very interesting and worthwhile works published this year, not to mention new authors that I'm sure will go to great things.

(I don't plan to nominate in the special category of Best Series, both because I find it poorly defined, and because I haven't read a lot of work that qualifies.  I suppose I c…

The 2017 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Media Categories

These are the categories that have the most color and make the most noise.  And they're usually the ones where I feel the most grounded when I come to nominate, but this year I actually managed to miss out on several movies that I wanted to consider for Best Dramatic Presentation--things like High Rise, Midnight Special, Kubo and the Two Strings, and even Zootopia.  Nevertheless, I'm pleased with how my nominations worked out this year--I tend to think of media as being the more generic arm of SFF, but the works I've nominated here are each so much their own thing that I'd hate to imagine my year without them.

Previous posts in this series:
Short Fiction Categories

Publishing and Fan Categories
Best Related Work:

This is the category that I always feel most guilty about not nominating more widely in.  There's a lot of great non-fiction being written in genre right now, on- and off-line, but since my threshold for substantiveness excludes most individual blog posts, I o…

The 2017 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Publishing and Fan Categories

The trait that most sets the categories in this post apart from the rest of the Hugo ballot is that there doesn't tend to be much movement here.  Magazines that do good work tend to keep doing it.  Writers who produce excellent criticism will (happily) keep writing.  So the excitement of ferreting out the year's best work, of happening across a new discovery, is a little muted here.  Especially in my case, since so many nominees in these categories that I've been stumping for for years have continued to be ignored by the greater nominating membership (in other words, what is it going to take for Victo Ngai to get a Best Professional Artist nomination?).  Nevertheless, this year's reading has reminded me that it is possible to be surprised even by venues and writers you thought you knew well, as I elaborate below.

(As usual, I've omitted the editor categories where I don't feel qualified to nominate, and Best Fancast, because I don't really care for podcasts…

SF Column at The New Scientist

I've been sitting on this news for a while, and now it can be told: I'm writing a bi-monthly recent SF column for The New Scientist.  The first column is up here.  It discusses three recent and very different space operas: Kameron Hurley's The Stars Are Legion, Joe M. McDermott's The Fortress at the End of Time, and Nnedi Okorafor's Binti: Home.

Writing in this style is going to be a bit of a challenge for me--I'm used to having space to spread out and indulge myself, and it's complicated to try to get at the essence of a book under more severe length restrictions.  Nevertheless, I've been inspired by several reviewers working in this format--N.K. Jemisin's column for the New York Times has, in particular, been a great example of how to use limited space to achieve a great deal--and I'm hoping to be able to emulate them.

Recent Movie Roundup 24

The deluge of 2016 Oscar films continues, which means that I'm still catching up with what this year's awards were about even though they've already been handed out (for the record, I am thrilled with this year's winner, especially since I, like everyone else including the people announcing it, thought that the best picture trophy would go to the pleasant but comparatively shallow La La Land).  At the same time, we're starting to see the first inklings of 2017's blockbuster movies, which normally would mean a roundup made up of a whole bunch of highbrow films and one or two lowbrow ones.  This year, the lowbrow films are aspiring to cultural significance--in fact, there's not much between Logan and Oscar nominee Hell or High Water, except that I think Logan is better.  We'll have to see how that plays out in the rest of the year.
Moonlight - It's hard to know how to begin writing about a work that left me feeling as excited and exhilarated as Barry J…

The 2017 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Short Fiction Categories

Well, here we are again.  With just over two weeks before the Hugo nominating deadline, it's time for me to talk about what I'm nominating this year.  As I wrote recently, with all the upheaval in the world right now, it's hard for me to focus on this award and its inherent insularity, and that resistance has told in this year's short fiction reading.  I started my project to review the year's short fiction much later than I usually do, and as a result didn't read as widely as I would have liked.  Still, I think I got as good a snapshot of the state of genre short fiction in 2016 as any non-professional can get, and for the most part I think the state of the field is strong.  Most venues I read had a high overall level of quality, and perhaps more importantly, I got a stronger sense this year of clear editorial preferences and preoccupations in different venues.  There's value, I think, in knowing that this magazine is where you go for this kind of story--t…