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This is kind of a contradiction in terms, since the Campbell award is not a Hugo. But it's given at the same time, the same group of people can nominate and vote, and the Campbell material goes out in the Hugo packet on the same terms (which is to say maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't--something to remember abou the Hugo packet!)

The nominees (and the books/stories provided for each, in no particular order) are:
Ramez Naam, _Nexus_
Wesley Chu, _The Lives Of Tao_
Sophia Samatar, _Stranger in Oolondria_
Max Gladstone _Two Serpents Rise_ and Three Parts Dead_ (novels)
Benjanun Sriduangkaew _The Bees Her Heart The Hive Her Belly_ _Fade To Gold_ and _Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade_ (short stories)

5) _The Lives Of Tao_ I started with a good will, but set aside impatiently when it seemed to me that the protagonist was spontaneously becoming stupid whenever the plot called for it. It had potential otherwise, and it wouldn't be a travesty if it won, but I'll be checking future releases by this author out at the library rather than the bookstore.

4) _Stranger in Oolondria_ I realize I'm in the minority on this, but I strongly disliked this book, mostly because I thought Jissavet was a complete jerk, and I resented that nobody else in the book seemed to be able to see it. I mean, I'm perfectly okay with turning your back and walking away from blood kin who mistreat you, and I understand how it is to feel impatient with someone whose thoughts are slow and plodding, but I do feel like when someone has shown you nothing but kindness and made considerable sacrifices for you, to treat them like dirt in return (the jewelry scene pops to mind) and never notice or care, is unacceptable. But I haven't seen any other reader mention this, so maybe this book will work for other people. And there is no denying that the writing is beautiful.

3) Sriduankaew's stories. These were okay, but I kind of had trouble following what was going on. My Hugo reading has necessarily been somewhat rushed, and I suspect some of the more poetic and evocative writing is at a disadvantage as a result.

1) (formerly 2)) Max Gladstone's books. _Two Serpents Rise_ was okay--_Three Parts Dead_ I thought was really good. I loved the idea of law as a form of magic. I may yet change my mind and put Max first.

2) (formerly 1)) _Nexus_. You know, in some ways, this is popcorn. There are parts of this--like why doesn't the protagonist have a better appreciation of the potential for abuse, and where is the funding for all this coming from--that just don't make sense. But I loved the ideas behind it and the soaring optimism, and I really enjoyed the idea of how the monks dealt with it (I can't really tell you what they did without spoiling it, but I really liked it and it seemed plausible to me at the time.) But now that I think about it, I am going to swap Max and Ramez. Because, really, this is popcorn, and _Three Parts Dead_ I think is better done.

So I guess it's a good thing that I wrote this.
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Okay, looking at the fan art to choose best Fan Artist probably doesn't really count as reading, does it?

Oddly enough, my Hugo packet download included only three of the five artists. I don't know if this is because the others were left out of the packet, or because my packet didn't download properly (the folder for this category didn't come through in the first download, and in another category I was minus one finalist, but when I re-downloaded, that finalist's entry appeared and so did the Fan Artist folder.) In any case I found examples of the other two artists work by googling, so I was able to gather some information to evaluate all of them.

5) Steven Stiles. Um. I wonder if he really thought through which images he wanted in the Hugo packet. The first image of his I opened was two aliens comparing genitalia. It was...hmm.... It was ...different. But it didn't impress me in any other way, I'm afraid.

4) Brad W. Foster. I enjoyed his stuff, but it was a bit cartoony for my taste. The brains at the shopping mall was fun. But I don't understand what use brains have for all the stuff they had apparently been buying. But while Webb's work (below) made me want to know the story, these just made me shrug and move on.

3) Spring Schoenhuth. I had to google her. She works in jewelry, which I found hard to compare to the graphic arts nature of the other entries, but I agree that a jeweler is an artist, and can think of no more appropriate category for her. I couldn't find very many pictures of her work, but I liked what I saw, particularly the rocket neclace.

2) Sarah Webb. Oh my. Her paintings all make me want to know the story behind them. I love the girl in the gondola, and the city with the snow on it, and the person climbing up the mountain, and the people riding the mammoths. The mimmoths got especially excited over the last one. I love these with a powerful love that put her in first place in my heart for a while. I love this kind of semi-photograph-like style and the many details in each picture, and I wanted to read the stories that (surely) went with them.

1) Mandie Manzano. I had to google her too. I spent a long time staring at her pictures on the web. I think her mastery of technique is even greater than Webb's, and that is why I put her in first place, but I have to admit I'm a bit distanced by the lack of faces in her work. I think she is working in stained glass, and the constraints of the medium (glass is easier to cut in some directions than in others) make faces very hard to do, but it is hard for me to relate to people whose faces I never see. But the utterly luminous colors entrance me, and the dreamlike settings make that distancing seem more natural.

Manzano and Webb may yet switch places, and there was nothing here that made me say "oh come *on*; you are just trolling me now" but I strongly prefer the first two over the last three.
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Well, I did do a bit of Hugo Reading before Dad and Jake came, and some while they were here, and some more after they left. So I have a few more categories to talk about.

The Graphic Novel category is what I'll talk about tonight. (Need to go to bed soon.)

5) My least favorite was Meathouse Man. Ick. In this world/future, "corpse handlers" use part of their minds to animate dead bodies to do work too dangerous or unpleasant for living people to be willing to do. Including, um, sex work. The story follows a man (for some reason all the corpse handlers we hear about are men) corpse handler who hopes to find true love with a living woman (the only women in the story are potential mates, by the way--everyone else is male) but is repeatedly let down by women who don't love him back or who grow out of loving him. At the end he gets a job running the corpse-gladiators, and has his own personal, um, sex-worker corpse to pretend to love him when he's off duty.

WHUT I DON'T EVEN. What a bleak view of women. And men. Well, there certainly is no accounting for taste.

4) The Girl Who Loved Dr Who.

What a relief. Much more to my taste than the preceding story. The art was okay, the story was okay--it wasn't my favorite but miles better than the previous one. Dr. Who winds up in our world when the TV show Dr. Who is going to be filming nearby. He teams up with one of his young fans to find out how he got there and how to get home.

3) Girl Genius (I forget which book, sorry)

I love this series and periodically go glut myself at the website. I also sponsored the Kickstarter and thus have e-copies of all the books. I loved this book too. (I'm uncomplicated and loyal that way.) That said, there were a couple of entries that I thought were even better.

2) Saga Vol 2

I read Volume 1, which I believe won a Hugo last year, so as to understand the story to this point, before reading Volume 2. (I did the same with Warbound, you'll recall, because I thought I couldn't really experience the work as intended without reading the whole series--and reading the whole series was a possible thing.) Kudos to my friend Donald who had ordered the volumes for himself but kindly had them shipped to my house so I could read them first. If you're reading this, Donald, you should have received them Priority Mail yesterday.

Wow. I really liked this story. I think it was the babysitter character that did it for me. Or no, maybe the main male character's father. There were...gross moments... but not nearly as bad as _Meathouse Man_.

1) Time

I had never seen this before--apparently it was published at the rate of one picture an hour or something like that, so I suppose people must have been going back again and again and again, and often flipping back through several pictures. Now you can see it on the web--it's three thousand some odd pictures long, but there's a playback thingie that plays them at the rate of 10 pictures per second with pauses for the ones with dialog (so you can read them.)

I really liked this story. I liked the spirit of exploration that the characters showed, and the way they worked together as equals, and the way they didn't just assume that everything was hostile, and the way they dealt with some things that actually *were* hostile. I'm not sure I understand the story but I really liked it and I thought it was a very interesting concept to present it the way the artist originally did.

So that's where I am on that. Also, after some thought (and some discussion with some of my kind commenters) I have moved Wakkulla Springs to the top of the Novella category instead of number 3. That may yet change again, but that's where I am now.
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Ursulav just put up a beautiful story based on an old folk tale

Toad Words

So, I'm seriously considering nominating it for next year's Hugo Awards. And I thought I'd encourage you to read it also, and if you are planning to nominate next year (and anyone who bought a voting membership this year can nominate next year without buying another membership), consider it for your vote.

I will probably post again about this nearer the time, but I thought this was a great story in any case and wanted you to have the chance to go look.
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5 The Butcher of Kardov by Dan Wells. Horror about a mass murderer with a tragic past that drove him crazy. This was written in someone else's world, so it seems the steam-jacks, which were the most interesting part, I thought, were actually thought up by someone else. They didn't get much air time anyway. It achieved horrificness, if that's your thing. Also lots of violence, if that's your thing.

4 The Chaplain's Legacy by Brad Torgersen. "Religion saves the day, even if you don't believe." Ooookay then. The half-cyborg alien having to get along without her broken cyborg part and turning out to be more capable was kind of interesting. A fair amount of violence, if that's your thing. Military background, if that's your thing.

3 Wakulla Springs by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages. Wow. Now, this is beautifully written, and tells an interesting story about interesting characters followed through several generations. Um. It just ... where's the SF? Where's the fantasy? The closest we get is a scene that might have been a dream. I like the story very much but didn't feel I could give it first place for that reason.

2 Equoid by Charles Stross. This is horror as well as fantasy. Generally I don't like horror, as previously noted. But Charles Stross's Laundry books manage to also make it funny (combat epistimology FTW.) Equoid is less funny than some of his stuff, but I still enjoyed it, and it's definitely fantasy.

1 Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne Valente. This... call it dark fantasy. Not horror but not without its horrific moments. I enjoyed it, and I think it's worthy of being on the slate, but Equoid or Wakulla Springs could have overtopped it reasonably easily by being a bit less horrific (Equoid) or more F/SF (Wakulla Springs.)

I wonder what stories the Sad Puppies kept off this slate? Perhaps when the long list of votes comes out I'll go read the two that didn't quite make it. I'd like to know what they were, and what they were like.
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This gets a bit long, so I've summarized it below. )

_Warbound_ is in last place so far: features long fight scenes, big guns (about which you will hear the details), sloppily done alternate history with modern resentments and insecurities poking out.
_Wheel of Time_ haven't read yet; based on what I remember I'm guessing it will come in fourth.
_Parasite_. I loved the science, disliked the protagonist being artificially prevented from realizing something and this one had an uphill slog anyway because horror.
_Neptune's Brood_ loved the worldbuilding, plus it gave me a sense of wonder aboout *finance* which I wouldn't have thought possible
_Ancillary Justice_ my favorite hands down. Gave me a sense of wonder about the inside of my own head and the structure of my own language.
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I have read all the short stories in the Hugo Nominations now. This was easy: they're all available on the web for free; they are short, and there are only four of them. (There is a rule that a work has to be nominated by 5% of all the people who nominate in that category to qualify for the shortlist, and so sometimes shortlists have less than five nominees. Also if there is a tie for fifth place in a category, there can more more than five nominees. In case you were curious.)

My placement, and my thoughts about the stories / reasons for the ranking (as spoiler free as possible) are as follows:

4) The Ink Readers of Doi Saket. This was my least favorite. Nothing wrong with it, I just couldn't get into it, really.

3) Selkie Stories Are For Losers. Lots of people liked this a lot, which is fine, but it wasn't my thing. I thought the characters and background were interesting but there was a lot of resentment and unhappiness and very little protagging for my taste.

2) If You Were A Dinosaur My Love. This one melted me when I read it. It's quite short, and has a very unusual sentence structure. I would say that the sentence structure, the reason for it, which becomes apparent near the end, and the rest of the use of language makes this far and away the most "literary" of the stories. I don't have a problem with that; literary SF goes all the way back to Bradbury and probably before, but some people might not like it for that reason. It is also the least science fictional; the idea of a research program to resurrect dinosaurs is a tiny part of the story and that's about it. But the power of the ending did it for me. YMMV.

1) The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere This one was so fun. The fantasy element is that it is no longer possible to lie without everyone knowing what you have done. But that element made such a huge difference and I loved the characters so much (and also the language issue that means that one character can relay information about another character's attitudes without realizing he has done so) that this one is my favorite.

I'm not going to rank No Award here; I wouldn't have a problem with it if any of these stories won. I enjoyed this category very much and appreciate being introduced to these writers.

Also, the Hugo Packet is now available; to get it you need your membership number and the PIN they emailed you when you bought your membership.

I don't remember if I mentioned it, but Orbit did not allow _Ancillary Justice_, _Neptune's Brood_ or _Parasite_ to be included in the Hugo Packet; instead they provided "substantial excerpts" I think they said; this works out to be about the first 100 pages of each. In my opinion this is not enough to make a fair assessment; I encourage voters who haven't read the books to hit up the library, soonest. ILL works, usually, but takes a while and voting closes at the end of July. Tor provided WoT in its entirety (which turns out to be one file; I suppose it's one of those "we couldn't possibly do this in paper because we couldn't bind this many pages as one codex" files.) And Baen, which likewise does not do things by halves, provided all three books in the Grimnoir trilogy, so those who want the background for Warbound have it. I am beginning with book 1.

New Song

May. 24th, 2014 05:32 pm
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Ha! It's Alice Day* again!

I have been assiduously doing my reading for the Hugo awards. I was looking forward to _Ancillary Justice_; I had heard good things about it. I enjoyed it very much. _Neptune's Brood_ conjured big ideas of things outside my head, but _Ancillary Justice_ made me look at the *inside* of my head in a new way, which I found very fun. I was also utterly charmed by the idea of a character that sings harmony with herself.

So I wrote a song. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: One Esk. The mp3 and the pdf sheet music are linked under the title on that page as usual.

*My friend Alice encouraged me to get back into writing filk more often by asking me to put up new songs for her to learn. It's not much fun to write songs if there is no one to sing them to, but she pointed out I could put them up on the web. Now the days when I do this are called "Alice Day" in her honor.


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