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I've been kind of busy with studying Dutch, and cleaning house, but I just finished another Puppy Pick and I'm ready to talk about that.

Championship B'tok.

This is a chunk of a novel. It looks as if someone picked out chapters, say, four through six, labeled them "novelette" and mailed it off. I can only hope that Analog is publishing it as a serial or something. The backstory is filled in to some extent, but the business end has been haggled off and the raveled ends haven't even been woven back into the story. I thought a puppy had chewed off the ending for _Flow_ but this is worse.

The character(s) we start out with is left on a cliffhanger two pages in. We never find out what happened. Another major character disappears a few pages before the end. We never find out what happened there either. The story also ends with one group about to ambush another. Repeat after me: and we never find out what happened.

Closure? What is closure?

For the record, B'tok is a chess-like game that some aliens play and also a metaphor for political maneuvering and espionage.

And I think I know what the Pups liked about it (well, they liked that it was on a slate, but I think I know why the slate-makers, whoever they are, chose it): it has two explosions.

If it had been a whole story there would have been some point to this; the characters are cardboardy but since they don't try to have any serious relationships their 2D status does not get in the way, and I liked what he did with the alien language. (The aliens don't have verbs--which is pretty damn alien, I agree--and in their conversations with each other this is pretty faithfully followed, and yet you can still tell exactly what they mean. Not bad.)

However it is meant to be judged as it stands and my answer is that is not a story; a story has an end.
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So a whole novella of Puppy material is a bit indigestible, so I took a rest by just reading a novelette: _ The Journeyman In The Stone House_ by Michael F. Flynn, published in Analog, (I'm guessing Brad has a subscription to Analog, maybe?)

This one was a bit better. There is one woman character, even if she isn't present for much of the story, who actually merits a name and has a few lines, so go Mr. Flynn. While nothing like parity, it is a significant step up from _Flow_. The main characters, Teodorq and Sammi are reasonably fun, even if the main conflict and means of resolving it are stereotypical dominance issues. The hints of multiple cultures meeting at a single stress point were also kind of interesting.

I suspect this of being a part cut out of a larger story, (Teodorq and Sammi met a stranded AI which has commissioned them to find its people, I think) and pretty much zero progress is made on that, nor do the main characters seem to care either way. There is some joking around with a door that might be either very funny or rather childish depending on your personal inclinations.

This is apparently a story within a series, which hurts its ability to stand alone, in my opinion, especially at the end, but I suppose if you have to choose so much of your short fiction from a single magazine, that's going to leave you making some tradeoffs.

Verdict: one of the better Puppy Picks so far. It really couldn't hold a candle to any of my choices, in my opinion, but I'm grateful for the respite.
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So I have been working my way through the Hugo Ballot, since some of it is available free on the Web. As people who have been paying attention to the Hugos know, most of the nominees were chosen by Brad Torgersen and Vox Day (and possibly Larry Corriea, John C. Wright, and Sarah Hoyt helping them.)

I will be voting everything that appeared on a slate below No Award this year. Those who don't understand why are free to check out my posts on how slates distort the nomination process, Part 1, as well as Part 2 and Part 3. I make no promises about how I will handle slates next year as the Puppies logical next step next year is to slate people and works they hate that they believe have a chance at the Hugos.

However I said I would read the Puppy picks, and I will. There are two reasons for this, first, what if Puppies are right and they actually have a line on good works and authors I have overlooked? Second, I expect the fight for sixth place to be hard and bitter, and how will I know which works to put there if I haven't read them?

So, one of the Novellas that the Puppies picked for the best of the best of conservative science fiction (or whatever they're calling it these days) is _Flow_ by Arlan Andrews Sr.

This is a story about a man, who joins the men who take icebergs downriver (never mind how difficult it would be to ride an iceberg down a wild river without overturning it and killing yourself) to sell them to the men in the warmlands city below, who have wild and mysterious things like sunshine and mirrors and ancient artifacts that the men use to catch icebergs. If you're noticing a lot of men in this recounting and a paucity of women, let me assure you that there are women; they are there for the real people to have sex with them. One of the women even has a name, but I'm not sure if she counts since she's the main character's mother. She doesn't actually appear, or do anything, or say anything to anyone. The unforgettable (unforgettable because, unlike the women the main character is used to, she has breasts) woman the main character has sex with (twice, yet!) in the warmlands city does not actually merit a name, as I recall. Nor does she do anything else.

If you easily accept the idea that the only thing women in the city are doing that is worth mentioning is having sex, the rest of the story is . . . a little lacking in the end department, as the character does rappels off a cliff toward an unknown but apparently higher tech land below as an ending to the story. Aside from that it's not particularly bad, which makes it a standout among Puppy picks so far.

The "women only having sex" thing made me wonder was Mr. Andrews was like, so I went and had a look at his interview with Brad Torgersen. (For those who understandably don't follow Mr. Torgersen's blog, he has been writing puff pieces for the various successful Puppy Nominees.) In this interview Mr Andrews mentions "I still look for new ideas, new concepts, things I would never have thought of, cool technologies, new kinds of human relationships."

Women as only entities for having sex... does not really strike me as a new kind of human relationship but there wasn't really anything else in this story that seemed to fit that bill either, so perhaps it seems new to Mr. Andrews.

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