Showing posts from April, 2016

Review: The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar

Even as we reel from yesterday's Hugo nominees and impatiently await tonight's Clarke nominees, Strange Horizons has published my review of Sofia Samatar's second novel The Winged Histories .  I wrote about Samatar's first novel, A Stranger in Olondria , a few years ago, and was blown away by the beauty of its language, the complexity of its worldbuilding, and the nuanced view it took of the epic fantasy genre.  The Winged Histories , which is a sort of companion volume to A Stranger in Olondria , is very different from it, though no less excellent.  It is, in some ways, a more conventional novel, focusing on the main events of a civil war within a fantasy empire, where Stranger took place on the fringes of that war and featured a protagonist who just wanted to get away from it.  But like Stranger , Histories is an examination of its genre, of storytelling, and of the very project of imposing narrative on one's life.  It touches on issues like colonialism, em

The 2016 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on the Nominees

Some people must really enjoy losing to No Award. — Abigail Nussbaum (@NussbaumAbigail) April 26, 2016 I have to be honest, my first reaction to this year's Hugo ballot (and even before that, to the rumors of what was going to be on it), was to sigh at the thought of going through this whole thing all over again.  I'm tempted to just link you to last year's reaction post , because pretty much everything it says is still applicable this year, though with the notable difference that there's a lot less urgency to the process this time around.  Last year, I was pretty sure that the puppies were going to be trounced in the voting phase, because I've been following the Hugo awards for a while and I know how they function, and how they tend to punish astroturf nominees.  This year, I'm absolutely certain of it.  Come August 21st, at least four of the categories on this year's ballot will have been won by No Award.  We all know it.  Probably the puppies know it

Ex Machina

The summer before last, at LonCon, I participated in a panel about "The Gendered AI"--those characters, either robots or disembodied artificial intelligences, who are seen as possessing a gender (where gender almost always means female, since maleness is still considered an unmarked category, and genre fiction rarely distinguishes between a robot that is genderless and one that is male-identified).  One of the points raised in the discussion--and which, since then, has come to feel even more central to it--is the question of what it even means to assign gender to a machine.  Does placing an artificial intelligence in a body designed to look (and feel) female make it a woman?  To me, it felt as if the question of the gendered AI touched less on issues of feminism, and more on issues of transness--albeit from the opposite direction than the one in which trans people experience their gender.  For characters like Cameron on The Sarah Connor Chronicles , or Samantha in Her , their

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

To get the obvious stuff out of the way, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a terrible movie.  I mean, you didn't need me to tell you that, right?  It's been out for three weeks, and the reviews have been so uniformly terrible that its 28% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes actually seems a bit high.  And before that consensus formed, there were the pre-release reviews, which were if anything even more brutal.  And before that, there were the trailers.  And before that, there was Man of Steel .  And before that, there was the overwhelming majority of Zack Snyder's career.  No one should be shocked by the fact that Batman v Superman turned out to be a bad movie, and though I have to admit that I was surprised by how bad it turned out to be--bad enough that even with my expectations lowered by all the factors listed above, I was still surprised by its badness; bad enough that my brother and I spent an hour after the movie enumerating its many flaws and still came up wi

Recent Reading Roundup 39

After a couple of lean years, 2016 is shaping up to be a great reading year.  If things continue at their current pace, I will have read more books in the first four months of the year than I did in all of 2015, and while there's a bit of cheating involved in that--my numbers this year have been padded by a lot of quick reads, such as comics or standalone novellas--it's also good to be back in the swing of reading regularly and even voraciously.  I've just returned from a two-week holiday during which I read a great deal (though of course I ended up buying more books than I read), and more importantly, reading a lot of satisfying, interesting work.  I don't know if I can keep up this pace for the rest of the year, now that my time is more encumbered, but this is certainly a good start. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson - It doesn't come as much of a surprise to learn that Stevenson's standalone comic is based on strips she originally published online, because the