Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Review - The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang


Short review: Rin is a poor war orphan who aspires to attend an elite military academy to avoid an unwelcome arranged marriage. She succeeds, but that just means that things get worse from there.

Haiku
If you learn to serve
The gods that just means you serve
An alien will

Full review: The Poppy War is R.F. Kuang's debut novel, and it is a magnificent debut. Set in a thinly disguised fantasy version of China (called Nikara in the novel) the story follows Rin as she goes from being an impoverished and despised war orphan to being a powerful and despised war leader. Along the way, Rin faces obstacles stemming from her poverty and social standing, overcoming them with a dogged single-mindedness that draws the reader in and conceals the fact that Rin is, ultimately, really a frightening and in many ways unpleasant person. The true brilliance of this book is that Kuang guides the reader along Rin's path in such a skillful manner, making every step seem so perfectly reasonable that one doesn't realize how terrible the destination is until it is imminent and inevitable.

The story follows Rin, who is a war orphan of the last conflict between Nikara and the Murgen Federation who has been taken in by the Fang family, not out of the goodness of the Fang's hearts, but rather because families with fewer than a certain number of children were required by law to take in war orphans. As the Fangs clearly didn't really want to take in a war orphan, they provide for Rin, but require her to work in their rather crooked business and take the first opportunity they can to try to arrange a marriage for her that will work to their benefit. To escape the unwanted marriage, Rin hatches a desperate plan: She will study for an take the nationwide examination that grants admission to the various academies that prepare entrants for prestigious jobs as teachers, bureaucrats, and military officers. Rin attacks the task (and every other obstacle that she comes across in the story) with a single-minded determination that serves as one of the dominant character traits for the character throughout the novel, and this trait is both Rin's greatest strength, and what makes her dangerous to everyone around her.

It is readily apparent that Kuang has drawn heavily on Chinese history and mythology to build her fantasy world: Even with my relatively moderate knowledge of Chinese history and legends, I recognized several elements of The Poppy War as having been adapted therefrom. One should not come away thinking that this is a weakness of the novel, but rather that these serve as little Easter Eggs that enhance the story for those who can spot them. I think it is reasonably likely that I missed some, but there ones that I did notice were pretty obvious: The Murgen Federation stands in for the Japanese, Hesperia takes the role of Europeans complete with Hesperian trading enclaves and meddling in Nikaran politics, and the Hinterlands are the steppes of Asia from whence the Mongol-analogous Hinterlanders hail. This borrowing of Chinese history and folklore to serve as a framework to build a fantasy world is similar to the manner in which most Eurocentric fantasy uses European history and folklore to build a fantasy world. This makes the book feel simultaneously comfortable and approachable while being notably different in tone and focus.

For the most part, the story is the story of Rin's coming of age, as she grows from a child into an adult, and the reader discovers the world she inhabits as she does. As she takes each step of her journey, Rin seems convinced that if she can just overcome the obstacles right in front of her, she will have smooth sailing thereafter. The trouble is that Rin doesn't know what lies beyond the next metaphorical hill because so much information about the society she lives in - both its history and its current structure - has been obscured, either by being intentionally hidden or lost to the vagaries of time. "Forgetting", whether as the result of official policy to occlude the truth, or just because the historical record gets misty with age, has a price, and in The Poppy War the full extent of that price is driven home time again to Rin specifically, and Nikara in general.

Throughout the story, layer upon layer of falsehood is peeled back as Rin progresses first through her studies and then through the ranks of the Nikaran military. Much of Nikaran history and culture is based upon false information, large portions of which are intentionally spread by the ruling class in an effort to avoid facing inconvenient truths that would threaten their position, but when a real threat emerges in the form of an aggressive Murgen Federation, this policy of disinformation serves to hinder Nikaran efforts to fend off the foreign threat. Through the story, it becomes clear that Nikaran isolationism, insularity, and love of secrecy has served the nation poorly. One of the dominant themes that runs through this book is that while disinformation may appear to create stability for a time, it is only the illusion of stability, and when the veneer comes off everything is so much worse than it would have been has the Nikaran nation simply faced its history head on, sins and all. The truly masterful part of this book is that all of this sneaks up on the reader, just as it sneaks up on Rin and her peers. Because the world is presented through Rin's eyes, and thus Nikaran eyes, the built in assumptions of a Nikaran are baked into the presented viewpoint, and consequently, when the deceptions inherent in that world view are stripped away, it is an appropriately jarring experience.

If this book has a weakness, it is that Kuang is clearly a believer in Chekov's Gun. If something odd or unusual appears in an early chapter, it is almost certain that it will be of crucial importance later in the story. From the mystery of the fate of the island of Speer and the Speerlies, to the oddities of Master Jiang, to the enigmatic and superlatively talented upperclassman Altan, pretty much every curiosity that pops into the narrative turns out to be significant in some manner. As weaknesses go, this one is pretty minor, but this writing technique is used so often in the book that it is noticeable. One should also note that this is the first book in what is planned to be a trilogy, so while it does have a reasonably satisfying conclusion, there are significant loose ends left hanging at the close of the story. I feel I should also point out (as some have touted it as such), that despite its youthful protagonist and cast of characters, this is decidedly not a Young Adult book, and anyone looking for such a book should steer clear of this one. That is not to say this is not an excellent book, merely to emphasize that it isn't a Young Adult book.

The Poppy War is, quite simply, an excellent novel. Rin is not exactly a "likable" protagonist, but she is a protagonist that one will root for, even as she follows an increasingly dark and dangerous path. Kuang's Nikara is a brilliantly executed fantasy world, that is so full of color, intrigue, contradictions, and three-dimensional characters that it almost feels real. In Kuang's hands, Nikara is a place that feels both familiar and fresh at the same time, with a story that is cruel and harsh and yet is also fanciful and imaginative at the same time. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, as it tackles some rather grim and gritty topics, but it is a book that is well-worth reading.

R.F. Kuang     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, May 28, 2018

Musical Monday - Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: February 9, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: February 16, 1980 through February 23, 1980

First, I'd like to note the moderate irony in the fact that Coward of the County, a country song, reigned at the top of the U.K. charts for longer than it did on either of the U.S. charts.

Second, I'm going to point out that the story contained within Coward of the County is an example of fridging a woman. Like most ballads, the story is relatively simple and straightforward, with a relatively modest cast of characters, but it still manages to find a way to use a woman's trauma to give the male protagonist character development. Look at the story from Tommy's perspective:
1. While on his deathbed, Tommy's father tells Tommy not to fight.
2. Tommy doesn't fight, getting a reputation for being "yellow".
3. Tommy falls in love with Becky.
4. Becky is raped by the Gatlin brothers.
5. Tommy beats up the Gatlin brothers in a fit of righteous rage.
6. Tommy apologizes to his dead father and explains that he had to fight this time.
Now look at the story from Becky's perspective:
1. Becky falls in love with Tommy.
2. Becky gets raped.
That's it. That's her role in the story. To be the hero's girlfriend and get gang-raped. Not only is Becky's role in the story exclusively to act as a motivation for Tommy's character development, she doesn't even get to participate in the resolution of her own story (such as it is): That's left up to Tommy. The "solution" to her rape is for Tommy to get into a fight with the guys who did it, which apparently assuages the trauma of rape for Becky.

One could say that the story isn't about Becky, it's about Tommy, so her minimal involvement is just a natural consequence of that fact, but that is exactly why the "women in fridges" trope is so problematic. Becky, in this story, isn't really a character, but is rather a plot device, little more than a glorified prop. Because so few stories feature women in central roles, the stories of women like Becky are simply never told. The net result is that women become ancillary figures in fiction, who only serve as aids to telling the stories of the "important" men that inhabit the primary place in them.

Subsequent Musical Monday: Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Do That to Me One More Time by Captain and Tennille
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson

Previous #1 on the UK Chart: The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by the Special A.K.A. featuring Rico
Subsequent #1 on the Cast Box Top 100: Atomic by Blondie

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Kenny Rogers     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Sunday, May 27, 2018

2018 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

Location: Mythcon 49 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Comments: Once again in 2018, the incredibly narrow focus of some of the categories in the Mythopoeic Award is readily apparent. Although the Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies category is nominally about scholarship concerning all of the Inklings, in practice it is mostly about honoring books about Tolkien. Sure, there is occasionally a book about C.S. Lewis or Charles Williams, but by and large the books nominated have been about Tolkien. This year is no different, with four of the five nominees in the category being exclusively about Tolkien or his work, and the fifth being about Tolkien in conjunction with a couple of the other Inklings (including Owen Barfield). There is nothing wrong with having an award with this narrow of a focus: My only objection is that name of the award makes it seem to have a broader range than it actually does in practice.

Best Adult Fantasy Literature

Winner:
Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley

Other Nominees:
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Snow City by G.A. Kathryns

Best Children's Fantasy Literature

Winner:
Frogkisser by Garth Nix

Other Nominees:
The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
The Song from Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold
Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley

Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies

Winner:
The Inklings and King Arthur: J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain by Sørina Higgins

Other Nominees:
Beren and Luthien edited by Christopher Tolkien
There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale: More Essays on Tolkien by Verlyn Flieger
Tolkien, Self, and Other: This Queer Creature by Jane Chance
Tolkien’s Theology of Beauty: Majesty, Splendor, and Transcendence in Middle-Earth by Lisa Coutras

Myth and Fantasy Studies

Winner:
Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction by Michael Levy and Farah Mendelsohn

Other Nominees:
Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy: Idealization, Identity, Ideology by Dimitra Fimi
Genres of Doubt: Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Victorian Crisis of Faith by Elizabeth M. Sanders
Otherworlds: Fantasy and History in Medieval Literature by Aisling Byrne
The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds edited by Mark J.P. Wolf

Go to previous year's nominees: 2017
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2019

Book Award Reviews     Home

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Book Blogger Hop May 25th - May 31st: The 256th Level in Pac Man Is the Unplayable "Split-Screen" Level


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you remember the first book you read by yourself?

There are two ways that one can interpret this question. The first is that it is asking if you have a memory of the first book of any kind that you read, including children's picture books, which is asking for a really old memory for most people. The second is to interpret the question as asking for one's memories of the first novel (or to use the term younger readers tend to use , one's first "chapter book"), which also calls for a fairly old memory, but one that is more recent (and more likely to be remembered).

If one interprets the question in the first manner, I have to say that I have no idea. I can make some educated guesses, but they are just guesses, as I would have been four or five at the time, and memories from when I was that young are a bit hazy. The first book I read by myself may have been Richard Margolis' Wish Again Big Bear, or possibly Gene Zion's Harry the Dirty Dog, or even Judith Kerr's Mog the Forgetful Cat. Or it might have been none of those book. I remember reading them, but my first book may have been something else entirely. Perhaps the first book I read was a Dr. Seuss book like Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now or One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. The point is that I don't really know. All I can really remember are the books I had available to me at the time that I loved.

If one interprets the question in the second way, I am still uncertain as to the answer, but the list of candidates is smaller. The most likely answer is Carol Brink's Pink Motel, because I distinctly remember reading that book when I was in the third grade. The other candidates are Hetty Burlingame Beatty's Blitz, Henry Winterfeld's Castaways in Lilliput, and Mary Nash's Mrs. Coverlet's Magicians, but I am reasonably sure I read those books later, although I could be wrong.

These sorts of assessments are difficult to make at this point due to the fact that once I started reading, I began reading a lot. My parents had a complete set of the Children's Companion Library and I started at one end and worked my way through them all. I started reading pretty much everything I could get my hands on, and by the time I was in fourth grade I was reading the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I was a regular at my school library, checking out book after book and tearing through all of them - I particularly remember reading Edward Oakeshott's A Knight and His . . . series of books, as well as a lot of historical fiction set in the Roman or Medieval eras. I also discovered Andre Norton at about this time (albeit after I had read Samuel R. Delany's Nova) and read through any of her books that I could get my hands on. The net result of this flurry of reading is that there are a lot of books jumbled together in my memories and trying to figure out which one I read first is kind of a fool's errand.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, May 21, 2018

Musical Monday - Do That to Me One More Time by Captain and Tennille


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: February 16, 1980.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: February 2, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Most soft rock, at least soft rock from the 1970s and early 1980s, is about sex. I say this because I saw someone make a nostalgic comment about this song remarking about how music used to be "innocent and sweet". Except that this song is almost certainly about sex - that is the "that" that Tennille is saying she wants done to her one more time. It doesn't explicitly say this, but in the context of the song, it seems pretty obvious to me.

This seems to me to be akin to how suburban America took the Starland Vocal Band song Afternoon Delight to heart without really noticing (or if they noticed, carefully avoiding mentioning) the fact that it is about getting a little nookie in the middle of the day. I think that by making the music easy on the ears, songwriters were often able to make the lyrics kind of racy without causing consternation among the denizens of Middle America. In short, by being nonthreatening, soft rock could sneak some stuff in without the audience noticing.

Previous Musical Monday: The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by the Special A.K.A. featuring Rico
Subsequent Musical Monday: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Rock With You by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Rock With You by Michael Jackson
Subsequent #1 on the Cast Box Top 100: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

Captain and Tennille     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Book Blogger Hop May 18th - May 24th: Rome Won the Battle of Adis and Lost the Battle of Tunis in 255 B.C.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: What were your worst movies based off of books?

So many of the books I love have been adapted into mediocre to miserable movies that, for the most part, I have given up on expecting a good movie adaptation of books that I like.

For example, Dune was adapted into a movie in the early 1980s. I love Frank Herbert's novel Dune, but the movie is simply not very good. The movie also mangles the story, throwing ray guns into a story that explicitly didn't have them, and wasting time with pointless scenes involving "folding space". The movie is a bloated monstrosity with hilariously miscast actors struggling through scenes involving whispers and voiceovers. As far as filmed versions go, I prefer the miniseries that aired on the SciFi channel, although that has a lot of issues as well, mostly stemming from the limited budget it was provided.

Another movie that fails to measure up to the book is the adaptation of Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, which is a good (although often controversial) book that was made into a hamfisted, slapdash movie. Everything about the movie is half-assed, from the costuming, to the special effects, to the acting, to the incredibly poorly written script. The movie wasn't originally written as an adaptation of the book, and Veerhoven didn't bother to read more than a chapter or two after securing the rights to the name. This sort of lazy approach is apparent throughout the entire film.

The worst film adaptation of a story that I can recall is actually an adaptation of a work of short fiction: Issac Asimov's Nightfall, The story is a classic of science fiction involving a planet with six suns that almost never experiences night. In the story, night does fall for the first time in a thousand years, and the inhabitants do not deal with the darkness very well. The movie keeps the outlines of this premise, but mangles it into a low budget mush involving crystal swords, lots of wind chimes, and an entirely unneeded love triangle.

Those are just the offenders that sprang to mind first. Even as I wrote this out, I thought of several terrible film adaptations of books I like: Peter Jackson's version of The Hobbit, the adaptation of Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising, the adaptation of Lloyd Alexander's Black Cauldron, and so on and so forth. There are just so many bad movie adaptations of good books that I sometimes wonder why movie studios bother trying to adapt books at all.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, May 14, 2018

Musical Monday - The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by The Special A.K.A. featuring Rico


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: February 2, 1980 through February 9, 1980.

Too Much Too Young is the first song in the 1980s Project that I never actually heard in the 1980s. To be blunt, I never heard this song until a few days ago when I tracked it down for this project. I have to say that I'm not particularly enamored of this song. Maybe I heard it too late. Maybe if I had been 16 in 1980 and heard it then, the high energy, exuberance, and anger contained in the song would have been more appealing. As it is, however, the song seems to me to be barely tolerable chaos.

The interesting thing about this song is that it is not actually the "single" that reached number one on the U.K. charts. What actually reached number one was a five song EP that included Too Much Too Young as well as Guns of Navarone and a medley of Long Shot Kick De Bucket, The Liquidator, and Skinhead Moonstomp. Shortly after this EP reached the top spot on the U.K. charts, the eligibility rules for determining what is and is not a "single" were changed so that another five song EP could never claim the top spot.

Previous Musical Monday: Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders
Subsequent Musical Monday: Do That to Me One More Time by Captain and Tennille

Previous #1 on the UK Chart: Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders
Subsequent #1 on the UK Chart: Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

The Special A.K.A.     Rico     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Book Blogger Hop May 11th - May 17th: A Plane Can Be Subdivided by 22 Lines into a Maximum of 254 Regions


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Could you ever pick a favorite book or is it like choosing your favorite child?

No.

I have several books that are at the top of my list of really good books, but I could never settle on just one, mostly because books offer so many different experiences. I mean, I could say that Samuel R. Delany's Nova is my favorite book, but then I would have to overlook Frank Herbert's Dune, and Ursula K. Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven, and J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World, and Mary Nash's Mrs. Coverlet's Magicians, and, well, you get the idea. There are simply too many really good books for me to be able to pick just one as my favorite, so I simply refuse to play that game.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, May 7, 2018

Musical Monday - Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: January 19, 1980 through January 26, 1980.

Songs like Brass in Pocket are the reason I decided to include the UK Charts in my 1980s project. This was the Pretenders first big hit, and reached #1 in the United Kingdom, but had slightly less success in the U.S., peaking at number fourteen. I[m not entirely sure if there is a deeper meaning in this kind of divergence between the Billboard and Cash Box charts and the UK Charts, but it is interesting to see how different the tastes of those in the two counties are.

One additional thing that makes the UK-oriented success of this song interesting is that it contains a some Midwestern-based (specifically Central Ohio-based) slang, such as the reference to the "Detroit lean", although most of the sang used in the song is decidedly British, which makes for a set of lyrics that only really make sense if you spend some time studying what they mean, or happen to have had the exact same life experience as Hynde, who grew up in Ohio, but moved to the U.K. in her early twenties.

That last fact is probably part of the reason that Hynde didn't want this song released as a single. She has said in interviews that she didn't think people would understand the lyrics and didn't think that the song would be very successful. Instead, the song went on to be one of the most successful records produced by the band, and was a concert staple for them for years. I note this fact because this seems to be an example of an artist not knowing that the art they have produced is as good as it actually is. This phenomenon doesn't occur often enough that I would call it "common", but it isn't all that uncommon either.

This isn't the first video that I saw Chrissie Hynde in: I first encountered the Pretenders when I saw a video they had made for their cover of the Kinks song Stop Your Sobbing, which they released as a single in the U.K. before Brass in Pocket. Brass in Pocket, however, is the song that forever cemented Chrissie's position as a rock goddess in my mind.

Previous Musical Monday: Rock With You by Michael Jackson
Subsequent Musical Monday: The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by the Special A.K.A. featuring Rico

Previous #1 on the UK Chart: Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) by Pink Floyd
Subsequent #1 on the UK Chart: The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by the Special A.K.A. featuring Rico

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

The Pretenders     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Book Blogger Hop May 4th - May 10th: Aemilianus Was Roman Emperor for Three Months in 253 A.D.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you ever feel like you have emerged better for reading a book?

Isn't that one of the main reasons that people read books? I mean, not all books are meaningful, and some that try to be have contents that are counterproductive to that goal (or are aimed at "educating" the reader and directing them towards a goal that I find repugnant), but lots of books are, and that is a big part of why we read them. Reading books is one of the primary ways that we educate ourselves, that we learn how to empathize with others, and experience viewpoints that differ from our personal perspective.

On that note, I suppose it is obvious that my answer to this weeks' question is yes: I have felt like I emerged better for reading a book. The number of books for which this is true is way too extensive for me to even begin to list them, so I'm not going to try. Suffice it to say that my thinking, my outlook, and my life have all been affected by a vast number of books, and will likely be affected by many more in the future.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

2018 Clarke Award Nominees

Location: Sci-Fi London at Foyles Bookshop in London, United Kingdom.

Comments: One of the things that makes the Clarke Award interesting is that its nominees generally have very limited crossover with other major genre fiction awards. I believe the only novel on the Clarke Award shortlist that has also been nominated for another award is Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, which was also nominated for the Locus Award. This lack of commonality with other awards is, in part, due to the fact that this award is limited to genre fiction books that were first published in the United Kingdom, excluding a wide range of books published elsewhere, but it is also due to the difference in tastes between readers in the U.S. and the U.K.

On another note, although they have not done so yet, the "Shadow Jury" participants have announced an intention to provide a "Shadow Shortlist", just as they did in 2017.

Winner

TBD

Shortlist
American War by Omar el Akkad
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock
Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař

What Are the Arthur C. Clarke Awards?

Go to previous year's nominees: 2017
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2019

Book Award Reviews     Home

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

2018 Locus Award Nominees

Location: Seattle, Washington.

Comments: I don't really have much to comment upon concerning the nominees for the Locus Award this year. It is a good list full of strong nominees, any number of whom would be worthy winners.

The real question to be asked is the one that comes up pretty much every year: What place does the Locus Award hold in the genre fiction world. Once again, this list of finalists came out after the deadlines for submitting nominations for both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award had passed. This means that the Locus Award no longer serves its original purpose of providing recommendations for the Hugo and Nebula Awards. So is the Locus Award to simply be a discount Hugo Award? Is that its ultimate place in the world?

That said, I think that the Locus Award does still have a small piece of ground of its own to stand upon. There are very few credible awards that split their "Best Novel" into subcategories the way the Locus Award does. The only other major award that recognizes anthologies and collections with their own categories is the World Fantasy Award, and that award is limited to fantasy works, leaving out science fiction anthologies and collections. The point here is that there is some room for the Locus Award to exist without being a poor man's version of other awards, although it is a fairly narrow space.

Best Science Fiction Novel
Winner:
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Other Nominees:
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald
New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
Provenance by Ann Leckie
Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer
The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

Best Fantasy Novel
Winner:
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

Other Nominees:
City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
Horizon by Fran Wilde
The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard
Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley
Jade City by Fonda Lee
The Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear

Best Horror Novel
Winner:
The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Other Nominees:
After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Food of the Gods by Cassandra Khaw
Ill Will by Dan Chaon
Mormama by Kit Reed
The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge
Red Snow by Ian R. MacLeod
Ubo by Steve Rasnic Tem
Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Best Young Adult Book
Winner:
Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

Other Nominees:
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Buried Heart by Kate Elliott
Chalk by Paul Cornell
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Frogkisser! by Garth Nix
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older
A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Best First Novel
Winner:
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Other Nominees:
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
Amatka by Karin Tidbeck
The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

Best Novella
Winner:
All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Other Nominees:
Agents of Dreamland by Caitlín R. Kiernan
And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker
Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
The Red Threads of Fortune by JY Yang
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Best Novelette
Winner:
The Hermit of Houston by Samuel R. Delany

Other Nominees:
Children of Thorns, Children of Water by Aliette de Bodard
Come See the Living Dryad by Theodora Goss
Extracurricular Activities by Yoon Ha Lee
The Hidden Girl by Ken Liu
The Lamentation of Their Women by Kai Ashante Wilson
The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids by Seanan McGuire
Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang
Wind Will Rove by Sarah Pinsker
The Worshipful Society of Glovers by Mary Robinette Kowal

Best Short Story
Winner:
The Martian Obelisk by Linda Nagata

Other Nominees:
Carnival Nine by Caroline M. Yoachim
Dear Sarah by Nancy Kress
Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue by Charlie Jane Anders
Fandom for Robots by Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Fire. by Elizabeth Hand
Persephone of the Crows by Karen Joy Fowler
Starlight Express by Michael Swanwick
Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM by Rebecca Roanhorse
Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance by Tobias S. Buckell

Best Collection
Winner:
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels and Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other Nominees:
Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories by Naomi Kritzer
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
The Overneath by Peter S. Beagle
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders
Strange Weather by Joe Hill
Tender by Sofia Samatar
Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

Best Anthology
Winner:
The Book of Swords edited by Gardner Dozois

Other Nominees:
The Best of Subterranean edited by William Schafer
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year, Volume Eleven edited by Jonathan Strahan
Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow
Bookburners edited by Max Gladstone
Cosmic Powers edited by John Joseph Adams
The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin
Infinity Wars edited by Jonathan Strahan
Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction edited by Bogi Takács
The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Book
Winner:
Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal

Other Nominees:
Don’t Live for Your Obituary by John Scalzi
Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid
The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon
J.G. Ballard by D. Harlan Wilson
A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison by Nat Segaloff
Not So Good a Gay Man by Frank M. Robinson
In Search of Silence: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany, Volume 1, 1957-1969 by Samuel R. Delany
Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy by Liz Bourke
Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction by James Gunn

Best Art Book
Winner:
The Art of the Pulps: An Illustrated History edited by Douglas Ellis, Ed Hulse, and Robert Weinberg

Other Nominees:
Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess
The Art of Magic: The Gathering: Kaladesh by James Wyatt
Celtic Faeries: The Secret Kingdom by Jean-Baptiste Monge
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, illustrated by Omar Rayyan
Line of Beauty: The Art of Wendy Pini by Richard Pini, illustrated by Wendy Pini
The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist by Craig Hodgetts, illustrated by Syd Mead
Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love
Spectrum 24: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art edited by John Fleskes
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Imaginarium by Paul Kidby

Best Editor
Winner:
Ellen Datlow

Other Nominees:
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Gardner Dozois
C.C. Finlay
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
Sheila Williams
Navah Wolfe

Best Magazine
Winner:
Tor.com

Other Nominees:
Analog Science Fiction and Fact
Asimov’s Science Fiction
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Clarkesworld
Fantasy & Science Fiction
File 770
Lightspeed
Strange Horizons
Uncanny Magazine

Best Publisher or Imprint
Winner:
Tor

Other Nominees:
Angry Robot
Baen
DAW
Gollancz
Orbit
Saga
Small Beer
Subterranean
Tachyon

Best Artist
Winner:
Julie Dillon

Other Nominees:
Kinuko Y. Craft
Galen Dara
Bob Eggleton
Gregory Manchess
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Shaun Tan
Charles Vess
Michael Whelan

Special Award 2018: Community Building and Inclusivity
Winner:
Clarion West

Go to previous year's nominees: 2017
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2019

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