Showing posts from January, 2024

Recent Reading: Prophet by Helen Macdonald and Sin Blaché

What is Prophet ? Nature writer and essayist Helen Macdonald shocked the publishing world when they announced that their follow-up to books like H is for Hawk would be a science fiction novel co-written with debut author and musician Sin Blaché. In the novel, the titular substance, an accidental byproduct of superconductor research, violates the laws of physics and threatens to undermine reality itself. Prophet induces a state of extreme nostalgia, causing the people exposed to it to manifest objects of a sentimental and kitschy nature—cabbage patch dolls, board games, an entire 50s diner—with which they become entranced. But Prophet may also possess a degree of consciousness and intentionality, altering its behavior in response to the effects it has had, threatening to subsume all of humanity in longing for a past that may never have existed. From that description, and the novel's pedigree, we might assume that Prophet is mainstream SF. The sort of book that reaches primarily fo

The 2023 Hugo Awards: Now With an Asterisk

It's been a while since we've had one of these dramas. On Saturday, the nominating stats for the 2023 Hugo awards, which were announced in Chengdu, China in October 2023, were released to the public . There was a great deal of anticipation for these numbers, in no small part because of their much-delayed release. Though the WSFS constitution permits Hugo administrators to wait as long as 90 days before releasing the voting and nominating stats, most Hugo teams have them ready to go within minutes of the ceremony's conclusion. Chengdu, in contrast, waited the full allotted period, and even went a little bit over (the voting stats were released separately in December). Once the stats were released, it quickly became clear why the Chengdu Hugo team were hesitant to make them public. There are any number of irregularities and questionable choices in this document that suggest everything from erratic voter behavior, to incompetent collation and calculation of the nomination rank

Recent Reading: HIM by Geoff Ryman

A new Geoff Ryman novel! Nearly twenty years after his last one, I think we can be forgiven for having assumed that this impossible-to-pin-down author—winner of the Arthur C. Clarke award for Air , originator of the Mundane SF manifesto, creator of one of the first hypertext novels with 253 , and one of the darkest Wizard of Oz retelling with Was , the man who was once synonymous with The Child Garden 's lesbian polar bears—had said all he wanted to say. And yet what's most striking, when one starts to read HIM , is how much of a piece it feels with 2006's The King's Last Song . Like that novel, it is a lightly-fantasized, fictionalized retelling of the life of a major historical figure. It's as if no time at all had passed between the two novels—though perhaps the delay can be accounted for by the difference in subject matter, which might have made Western publishers hesitant. This time around, Ryman's focus is not a major figure in Cambodian history, but Chri