Thursday, February 21, 2019

2019 Nebula Award Nominees

Location: Woodland Hills, California.

Comments: There is a lot to like about the nominees for the 2019 Nebula Award. The brand new category of Game Writing looks to be an interesting addition to the awards. Of note in that category, three of the nominees are from the same studio - Choice of Games - which seems to specialize in what are essentially Choose Your Own Adventure stories for computers. In addition, the ballot looks to be quite diverse, which is always a sign of a strong field of nominees.

However, there is cause for minor concern due to this ballot. During the nominating period, the group "20booksto50" posted a slate of proposed nominees on their not quite as closed as they thought Facebook group that they took careful pains to claim was not a slate, but everything about it seemed to seem quite slate-like. For those who don't know, 20booksto50 is a group of "indie" (that is, mostly self-published) authors that is intended to support and promote its members. A run-down of the bulk of the Facebook post in question, and the elements that make the claims that it is "not a slate" somewhat dubious, can be found on this post by Camestros Felapton.

The "not a slate" is somewhat fact that there was a period of time in the late 1990s to the early to mid 2000s in which the Nebula Awards were the subject of repeated accusations of the nominating ballots being tainted by logrolling and vote trading - a problem that became so serious that SFWA changed the rules for nominating in an effort to try to combat it. Numerous people wrote about the issue and the chosen solution, including Jason Sanford and John Scalzi. In more recent years, the Hugo Awards were subjected to a series of ideologically driven slate campaigns that plagued the award for nearly four years. Given this background, setting up something that even remotely looks like a slate seems to be a hazardous endeavor.

The "not a slate" had the following recommendations that became Nebula nominees:
  • Novella: Fire Ant by Jonathan P. Brazee
  • Novelette: Messenger by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi; The Rule of Three by Lawrence M. Schoen
  • Short Story: Going Dark by Richard Fox; Interview for the End of the World by Rhett Bruno
  • Andre Norton Award: A Light in the Dark by A.K. DuBoff
The nomination here that I want to focus on is the one for The Rule of Three by Lawrence M. Schoen, because I think it highlights one of the most pernicious effects of slates and things that are maybe not quite slates. Schoen is a member of 20booksto50, and so they highlighted and promoted his work. He is, however, a mostly traditionally published author, with a couple of novels published by Tor, a number of works of short fiction published in traditional venues, and so on. He has been nominated for a Nebula Award in six out of the last seven years. In short, he seems to be the last person who would really need a boost from 20booksto50 to secure a Nebula nomination.

And yet, the effect of this nomination has been to cast a shadow over all of Shoen's previous ones. I don't want it to. I have met Mr. Shoen, listened to his readings, read his works, and had conversations with him. I like him. And yet, in the back of my head, I can hear the voice saying that if this nomination was the result of and organized group trying to promote members of their club, how do we know that his previous nominations weren't juiced in some similar manner? I don't like having those thoughts, but they are unavoidable given the nature of the 20booksto50 post.

And this is one of the most insidious effects of slates and slate-like campaigns: They cause one to doubt the bona fides of those who are supported by the campaign, even when they are situated similarly to Mr. Shoen, and even when you would rather think the best of them. During the various Puppy campaigns related to the Hugo Awards, some authors like Marko Kloos and Juliette Wade figured out that a slate-driven nomination would taint any other recognition they had received or might receive in the future and either declined such nominations or demanded to be removed from the slate to begin with, while clueless numpties like John C. Wright and Lou Antonelli thought that their slate-driven nominations represented a real accomplishment and not damaging black marks that would hang over their subsequent careers like dead albatrosses. The simple fact is that getting a nomination via these sorts of tactics casts a pallor over everyone involved.

I want to believe that Mr. Shoen's nomination was truly earned. I'm just not sure that I can. And that really sucks.

Best Novel

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Witchmark by C.L. Polk

Best Novella

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Fire Ant by Jonathan P. Brazee
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Best Novelette

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
An Agent of Utopia by Andy Duncan
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections by Tina Connolly
Messenger by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi
The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
The Rule of Three by Lawrence M. Schoen
The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births by José Pablo Iriarte

Best Short Story

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
And Yet by A.T. Greenblatt
The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker
Going Dark by Richard Fox
Interview for the End of the World by Rhett Bruno
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington by Phenderson Djèlí Clark
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow

Best Game Writing

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch by Charlie Brooker
God of War by Matt Sophos, Richard Zangrande Gaubert, and Cory Barlog
The Martian Job by M. Darusha Wehm
Rent-A-Vice by Natalia Theodoridou
The Road to Canterbury by Kate Heartfield

Ray Bradbury Award

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Black Panther
Dirty Computer
The Good Place: Jeremy Bearimy
Sorry to Bother You
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
A Quiet Place

Andre Norton Award

Winner:
TBD

Other Nominees:
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
A Light in the Dark by A.K. DuBoff
Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Go to previous year's nominees: 2018

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, February 18, 2019

Musical Monday - Celebration by Kool and the Gang


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: February 7, 1981 through February 14, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of February 14, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

For some songs, there is no subtext. There is no underlying story. No interesting background details. The song simply is what it is. Celebration is one of those songs. At first glance, Celebration is a feel-good party song designed to get people on the dance floor, and upon closer examination, that's pretty much all that it is. There is no underlying meaning, no hidden message, or deeper significance.

That doesn't mean Celebration is a bad song. It does exactly what it sets out to do. This song was Kool and the Gang's biggest hit - it was their only song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 - and went on to become a staple at parties and other gatherings. I think that this song was played at every party I went to from middle-school through college, and then at every wedding, anniversary, and birthday party thereafter. It has become an almost ubiquitous feature of celebrations.

The really weird thing about this phenomenon is that as far as party songs go, Celebration is so very middle-of-the-road, presenting the listener with about the tamest celebratory anthem possible. Paradoxically, this very blandness may be the key to the song's success: It is smooth and easy and entirely nonthreatening. This is a safe party song that people in middle America could dance to while patting themselves on the back for being open-minded and listening to black artists. It is a song that you can play at your child's first dance party without worrying about things getting too wild or the lyrics getting too suggestive.

Celebration is a good song, but it is a safe song.

Previous Musical Monday: Woman by John Lennon
Subsequent Musical Monday: I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The Tide Is High by Blondie
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The Tide Is High by Blondie
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt

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

Kool and the Gang     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Book Blogger Hop February 15th - February 21st: Demetrius Poliorcetes Betrayed and Murdered Alexander V to Seize the Throne of Macedon in 294 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: Have you ever thought about taking a break from blogging/Booktubing (if you are a Booktuber)? If you have, how long was the break and what did you learn from it?

I am currently kind of on an unintentional break from book blogging due to my recent move and the lack of time to put into reading and reviewing that has resulted. I have still kept thing kind of limping along by making weekly BookBloggerHop posts and keeping up with the 1980s Project via my Musical Monday posts, but I haven't posted a review in more than two months. I haven't updated any of the author pages or musical artist pages on the blog in weeks. Packing, unpacking, getting our new house in order, and conducting a long overdue cataloging of our book collection has simply consumed almost all of my available free time in the last four months.

My primary takeaway from these past few months is that I really don't like not being able to blog about books, but that there really isn't any solution right now other than to plough ahead and get through the various moving-related projects and hope to get back to book blogging afterwards. I don't really like this, but there's not really any other feasible solution. May be by next month things will be settled enough that I will be able to regularly review books again. Maybe not. I'm not making any promises one way or the other right now.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, February 11, 2019

Musical Monday - Woman by John Lennon


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: March 14, 1981 through March 21, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: February 7, 1981 through February 14, 1981.

This is it. This is the last time John Lennon will appear on this list. This is the last word from him musically from the last album he would ever make. At this point, it seems almost sacrilegious to talk about the actual content of the song, so I'm going to talk about one of the contemporary reactions to the song, or more accurately, one of the contemporary reactions to the album Double Fantasy.

Before John Lennon's death, the critical reaction to Double Fantasy seems to have been largely negative, mostly due to the album's idealization of the relationship between and family life of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The negative reviews focused on the album's idealization of Lennon and Ono's marriage. One reviewer, Charles Shaar Murray of the New Musical Express, wished Lennon would have "kept his big happy trap shut until he has something to say that was even vaguely relevant to those of us not married to Yoko Ono". To me, this sounds like an odd complaint. Without putting too fine a point on it, many pop songs are intensely personal to the writer and singer of the song. Is anyone as in love with Beth as Peter Criss, or pine for Jessie's Girl the way Rick Springfield does? Can anyone who is not Irish understand U2's Sunday, Bloody Sunday, or the Cranberries' Zombie? In all of these cases, the message of the song is personal to the singer, but because most humans are empathetic beings, they can place themselves in the position of the singer even though that singer is singing about something that might not be directly of concern to the listener. The oddness of the reaction to Lennon and Yoko's album is that so many music critics decided that this simply wasn't something they could do with these songs.

In any event, all of this criticism was muted after Lennon's death, and to a certain extent I think the critics in question realized in retrospect that they were being ungenerous. The album ended up winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1981. The outpouring of grief and love following Lennon's death no doubt helped it in the voting, but it is also a really good album and deserved better than the critics originally gave it.

Previous Musical Monday: Imagine by John Lennon
Subsequent Musical Monday: Celebration by Kool and the Gang

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Keep on Lovin' You by REO Speedwagon
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Rapture by Blondie

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: Imagine by John Lennon
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce Music Theatre

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

John Lennon     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Book Blogger Hop February 8th - February 14th: I-293 Is a Highway That Loops Around Manchester, New Hampshire


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 have celebrations for your blog's anniversary such as a giveaway?

Having celebrations for my blog's anniversary would require remembering when my blog's anniversary is, an issue that is complicated by the fact that I don't really know what date I should call the blog's anniversary. When I first started this blog, I didn't really have a particularly good idea of what I was going to do with, and as a result it kind of meandered for a couple of years with almost no posts and no real direction. Should I regard the date I first posted a book review on this blog as the blog anniversary? Should I regard the date of the very first real post as the blog anniversary? I have backdated some posts for administrative purposes, should I regard one of them as the blog anniversary? I don't know. More importantly, I don't really care enough to decide.

After that, I suppose it almost goes without saying that I don't do anything to commemorate the anniversary of the blog.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, February 4, 2019

Musical Monday - Imagine by John Lennon


#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Never.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: January 10, 1981 through January 31, 1981.

This isn't a pop song. This is a prayer. This is a manifesto. This is a creed of peace and love, laid out in exquisite melodic detail. This is a love song to the entire world, and if only the world could live up to the hope it expresses, it will be a far better place than it is now, or ever has been before.

The irony is that it comes to us from a man who was dead when this song reached number one in the U.K. in January 1981, gunned down the previous month in an act of senseless violence on the front steps of his apartment building.

Lennon was too good for this world. He thought it could be better than it was, and in return it killed him.

Previous Musical Monday: There's No One Quite Like Grandma by St. Winifred's School Choir
Subsequent Musical Monday: Woman by John Lennon

Previous #1 on the U.K. Chart: There's No One Quite Like Grandma by St. Winifred's School Choir
Subsequent #1 on the U.K. Chart: Woman by John Lennon

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

John Lennon     1980s Project     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Book Blogger Hop February 1st - February 7th: "292" Is a Medication Consisting of a Combination of ASA, Caffeine, and Codeine


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: Audio books vs eBooks? If the world stopped printing books which would you prefer between the two?

I don't really like either option, as I very much favor paper books, but if I was forced to choose, I suppose I would pick ebooks. I can't really "read" audio books - I don't know why, but I just can't concentrate on listening to a book for that long. My attention simply wanders away from the story when I try to listen to an audio book. With an ebook, although I don't really like reading on a screen, at least there is text that one can read in them. Therefore, I would pick ebooks. I wouldn't be happy about it, but that is the decision I would make.


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