Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Blogger Hop May 29th - June 4th: Seaborgium Was Named After a Living Person and Its Atomic Number Is 106

Book Blogger Hop

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: Can you read in a room with noise or do you have to have total quiet?

Given that I do a fair amount of my reading on a commuter bus, it should come as no surprise that I don't need total quiet. I also generally carry a book with me most of the time and read when I am waiting in line, or just have a spare moment. I pretty much can, and do, read almost anywhere at almost any time.

Previous Book Blogger Hop: 105 Is Part of a Ruth-Aaron Pair With 104

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, May 29, 2015

Follow Friday - Water Boils At 212 Degrees Fahrenheit

It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - The Darling Bookworm and My Expanding Bookshelf.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: How many books have you got on your TBR list?

Seven thousand one hundred and eighty-six. Because I keep fairly accurate records of my library, I am pretty confident in this number, but there is a chance that it may be a few books off one way or the other. I wish I could have them all read by Tuesday, but it will take me many years to get through the mountain. Of course, by then I will have probably acquired many thousand more books, and so the climb will never end.

Follow Friday     Home

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review - Children of Infinity by Roger Elwood (editor)

Stories included:
Time Brother by Raymond F. Jones
Conversations at Lothar's by Barry N. Malzberg
Wingless on Avalon by Poul Anderson
Space-Born by Robert Bloch
All You Can Eat by Harvey L. Bilker and Audrey L. Bilker
Opening the Door by Philip José Farmer
Terrafied by Arthur Tofte
Half Life by Rachel Cosgrove Payes
The Tower by Thomas N. Scortia
Wake Up to Thunder by Dean R. Koontz

Full review: Children of Infinity wasn't the first collection of science fiction stories that I ever read. It is, however, the first collection of science fiction stories that I read that I still own. In fact, the copy that I own is the same one given to me by my parents when I was still in elementary school. In many ways, the stories found in this volume are the metrics that first defined for me what the words "science fiction" meant, and luckily for me, the diverse range and high quality of the stories that are presented in its pages provided a terrific set of examples of what the genre could be.

In Time Brother, Raymond F. Jones uses losing one's parents - one of the most common childhood fears - as the backdrop for his story. Seventeen year old Ben is at the funeral for his parents when the ceremony is disrupted by a scrawny young boy named David who claims that the deceased are in fact his parents, which seems ludicrous as Ben knows he is an only child. Ben takes a liking to the obviously underfed, possibly homeless, and presumed mentally ill boy, and takes him home to take care of him until his true family can be found. From there the story has a major twist that is mostly given away by the title as it turns out that David is Ben's brother, just displaced in time by a thousand years. There is the comforting message passed along to Ben that his parents' death has meaning and he has a destiny, and then the story comes to a close. This is not one of the stronger stories in the volume, but it is relatively straightforward, so one can see why the editor chose to open the book with it.

Wingless on Avalon by Poul Anderson is probably the most "standard" science fiction story in the volume. Set on the distant planet Avalon where humanity and the alien Yrthians have established what is intended to be a joint colony, the story focuses on Nat Falkayn, a twelve year old boy trying to fit in with the adolescent Ythrians around him. The Ythrians are an avian race, clumsy on the ground but at home and agile in the air, which makes Nat incredibly jealous to to his own earthbound state. He sets out on a sailing adventure with a pair of adolescent Ythrians, one of whom is almost openly contemptuous of Nat and his inability to fly. The trio sets out to test the Ythrians' new sailing boat, which seems like an odd hobby for creature who can fly to be enthusiastic about, but it gives Nat the opportunity to be a hero and earn some respect from his colleagues and an appreciation for the things humans can do that Ythrians cannot. I'm not sure if I entirely agree that the nature of the "compensation" Anderson posits really offsets the inability to fly, the implausibility of having flying creatures incapable of swimming be avid sailors makes the plot seem like little more than an artifice created for a teaching moment, and the opening of the story is nothing more than a naked information dump, but it is a fairly optimistic adventure story, which sets it apart from many of the other offerings in this collection.

The Tower by Thomas N. Scortia tells the story of an unnamed young mutant living on a post-apocalyptic Earth. Kept in isolation within his family's tower for his own protection from the other survivors who, we are told, kill mutants on sight. With his mother dead and his father ill and dying, the protagonist tries to seek out a doctor but is spotted by some children. Soon a mob forms, surrounding the tower in  manner reminiscent of the old black and white movie version of Frankenstein, and the protagonist must do something he has never done before to escape. The Tower is a relatively simple story that leads to a fairly open ended finish, but it captures the emotions of being a teenager - alienation, isolation, but also the sense of being unique and special, and this emotional content is what makes the story work. The Tower is probably the weakest story in the volume, and probably would have been much improved if the story had been lengthened, allowing for more character development.

Given Robert Bloch's reputation as a writer, one would expect him to contribute a creepy and disturbing story to this collection despite the fact that Children of Infinity is aimed at younger readers, and Space-Born does not disappoint in this regard. In the story, an expedition sent to find a stolen space craft locates the derelict on a distant planet but finds the thieving astronaut and his wife have both died from starvation. They do, however, find a baby that they dub "Keva" after her father, who they take back to Earth. As one might expect for a child found in a shadowy cave on an alien planet, Keva turns out to be a bright but somewhat odd child - and odd in a decidedly creepy way. Events turn both stranger and eerier as the story progresses until Keva's true nature is revealed, turning the story into a race to save humanity. The story ends on a fairly frightening note, almost reminiscent of an episode of the Twilight Zone, providing an interesting contrast to much of young adult fiction, including some of the more upbeat stories found in this collection such as Wingless in Avalon.

Even darker than Space Born, Opening the Door by Philip José Farmer presents the bleakest vision of all the stories in the collection. The story starts with the viewpoint character, a teenager named Clark, struggling to surface in a dark well that is not entirely metaphorical, only to discover when he reaches consciousness that he is all but dead and has only been preserved through the use of experimental medical procedures that have left him without a body and entirely dependent upon machines to communicate. From this starting point, the story only gets darker and more unsettling, which is a fairly impressive feat. Clark, we are told, has been drafted into an experiment seeking contact with parallel universes, and his near dead state has made him uniquely capable of reaching out to them. Using an essentially helpless protagonist might seem like an unusual choice, but by doing so, Farmer is able to capture the powerlessness felt by so many teenagers, as parents who are seemingly absent when he needs them most make all of the decisions for Clark without his input. And it is this helplessness that makes the ending, in which developments take a turn for the macabre, work so well. On the one hand, Clark is a victim - a horrified bystander who can only be a witness to the unfolding events, but on the other hand, Clark is the agent through which the horror works, in a sense the metaphorical expression of his adolescent rage. Farmer has captured both the fear and fury of being a teenager in a brilliantly crafted story.

In the early 1970s, environmentalism was moving to the forefront of the cultural discussion, and All You Can Eat by Harvey L. Bilker and Audrey L. Bilker uses a rather humorous tale to offer some modest commentary on the issue. In the story the unnamed protagonist selects a rather nice New York restaurant that offers an "all you can eat" special and then proceeds to eat everything on the menu and then some. As an aside, it is an indicator of the age of the story that the "all you can eat" option only costs $4.95 for a menu that is said to include (among other things) lobster, shrimp, escargot, frog's legs, escargot, and orange duck. As the story progresses the alien continues to eat prodigious amounts of food, to the dismay of the establishment's other customers and eventually the restaurant owner himself. Eventually the alien reveals that he hails from a distant planet that has been wrecked by pollution, and now its inhabitants have to send agents across the galaxy to consume and "kinergize" food back to their starving population. The alien then delivers the somewhat chilling message that consuming an entire planet's resources may be inevitable, and it is only a matter of time before Earth finds itself in the same situation. This harsh message is wrapped in such a humorous that it almost sneaks up on the reader, despite the bluntness with which it is delivered.

Another story that uses environmentalism as an underlying theme, Terrafied by Arthur Tofte also mixes in the issue of colonialism to create a story that is almost didactic but still manages to pack a solid punch. I believe that this may be the most famous story in the collection: I don't remember if I first encountered this story in this collection or in one of my elementary school textbooks, but I do remember seeing it as a reading selection in one of my school texts. No matter where I first read it, the story follows Dor, a teenage inhabitant of the planet Tyrox who is kidnapped by human explorers and brought back to Earth. Once there, Dor is exposed to Earth culture, allowing Tofte to illustrate all of the ugly elements of humanity - mostly focusing on our propensity for war and casual violence, but also touching on the rapacious and destructive nature humans display that leads to poverty and despair. Using an alien as the viewpoint character allows Tofte to make even a game of football or a drive along an abandoned highway seem frightening. The real thrust of the story is that the overburdened Earth is slowly dying under the weight of its massive human population with its ecology wrecked beyond repair, and in the tradition of Imperialist colonizers throughout history humanity proposes to settle hundreds of millions of humans onto Tyrox without even asking the inhabitants their opinion on the matter. Dor ends up making a bold choice in defense of her home, but the story ends before the consequences are shown. Although the story is fairly heavy-handed with its points, it is brutally effective.

Lest anyone think that dystopian fiction aimed at younger readers is a new trend, the first of the three dystopian stories in the book is Conversations at Lothar's by Barry N. Malzberg. The story is a relatively bare-bones affair, with the protagonist starting the story by having the titular conversation in which Lothar talks about the days before everyone lived in the gigantic, miles tall Domicile with details of their lives controlled by the Bureau. When she returns to her own quarters, the protagonist is confronted by Del, one of the others living in her assigned quarters, and who, we are told, she will be assigned to as a mate in a few years. During this conversation the protagonist realizes that she doesn't want to be Del's assigned mate, and truly begins to rebel in her mind. By the end, we see that the tiny spark provided by Lothar has turned into a modest flame. The beauty of this story is in how much is conveyed in so few words - there is only a brief description of the Domicile, but Malzberg gives a clear picture of its immense size and state of disrepair. Though the level of exacting control the Bureau has over the lives of the Domicile's denizens is not spelled out in full, enough is given that it is readily apparent to the reader. Conversations at Lothar's is almost a master lesson in how to tell the most story using the least number of words.

Another well-crafted dystopian tale, Half Life by Rachel Cosgrove Payes seems to draw inspiration directly from the 1967 novel Logan's Run, as it posits a society in which everyone lives to at most thirty years old before they "expire", with the exact dates kept track of via tattoos imprinted on the back of every citizen's hand. But in a cruel twist, instead of the government hunting down those who have lived past their termination date, all citizens must locate an expired before they turn fifteen, kill their target, and return the hand with the expired date upon it. If one fails to accomplish this, then one expires at the age of fifteen instead of thirty. Benji is nearing his fifteenth birthday, and is growing desperate to find an expired he can claim. Without parents, he has to locate an unclaimed expired adult to kill, and those are few and far between in the city. This fact - that finding an expired is especially difficult for Benji due to his lack of parents - is the sort of atmospheric world-building that sets this story well above the ordinary. While a culture in which teenagers must hunt down and kill those who have gotten too "old" to be allowed to live, the implication in this one line is that a child would normally murder one of their own parents to satisfy their obligation. This, more than anything else in Half-Life expresses the truly barbaric nature of the dystopian future Payes has imagined. Benji's quest takes him outside the city on a wild goose chase for the legendary "old man of the hills", and winds up taking him someplace he never expected to go, but for the reader is somewhat predictable. Like Conversations at Lothar's, this story ends on a note of rebellion, but the rebellion is more concrete, and it has a decidedly musical nature.

Of all the stories in this anthology, Wake Up to Thunder by Dean R. Koontz is the one that made the most impression upon me when I first read it as a child. The story is told from the perspective of one of the nameless children of "Thunder", the loving all-powerful mind that takes care of humanity as it sleeps and dreams in its tiny individual cells. The narrator has been awoken by Thunder to hunt down a renegade - a human who has awakened without permission and is doing damage to the vast complex that houses Thunder and all of the humans it loves. As the cadre of wakened hunters spreads throughout the complex, the narrator tells of his love for Thunder, and trust in the guardian and caretaker that manages his life, but becomes disturbed as he descends to the lowest levels of the complex and finds neglect and decay, and eventually, the renegade. And then the truth is revealed, and it turns out that Thunder is not what the protagonist thought it was. The terrifying part of the story is the love felt by the protagonist for Thunder, and the reader follows along, at first feeling vaguely unsettled by the slavish adoration, and then following the protagonist with growing unease, until the reader is finally forced to recoil in horror when they realize the awful truth. Wake Up to Thunder is a dystopian tale, probably more frightening than the others presented in this collection due to its plausibility, but it is a stealthy one, in which the actual nightmare of the dystopia sneaks up on the reader and isn't truly revealed until the very end. This is the most unsettling piece of fiction in Children of Infinity, and also the best.

With stories ranging from dark dystopian tales, to science fiction horror, to time travel, to cautionary admonishments against destroying the environment, to yarns of pure adventure and unexpected heroism, this is a strong collection that is sure to fascinate a young reader. Every story in this volume is strong, and several are outstanding. The stories have even managed to age well, and are not noticeably dated even though the anthology was originally published in 1973. In my life I have read numerous collections of science fiction aimed at young readers, but I have never encountered one that is as diverse or consistently as high a level of quality as this one.

Roger Elwood     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review - Saga, Volume Four by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Short review: Marko and Alanna settle into domestic life, but the stresses of trying to be a normal couple while remaining hidden threaten to tear them apart.

A domestic life
Hiding from all in plain sight
But so unhappy

Full Review: Saga, Volume Four marks something of a departure for the series. While the first three installments were connected quite closely to one another, all taking place in a short period of time following Hazel's birth, this volume is set apart from the previous ones, taking place after Hazel has become a toddler. Thematically this volume is different from its predecessors as well, with Alanna and Marko's desperate flight to escape their pursuers replaced with their struggles to try to live a domestic life and raise their daughter while in hiding.

To a certain extent, Volume Four feels like the actual beginning of the story of Saga, giving the sense that everything that happened in the previous books was merely a prologue. The three prior volumes spent much of their time doing the heavy lifting of world-building and character back story, giving the reader the lay of the land while telling a fairly straightforward tale of two star-crossed lovers struggling to make their way in a world where almost every hand was turned against them. This installment, on the other hand, uses the foundations laid by the earlier sections of the story to focus much more directly on the relationship between Alanna and Marko without worrying so much about the development of the larger context in which that relationship takes place.

As the story opens up, we find that Marko and Alanna have settled into what seems like a comfortable domesticity on the neutral planet Gardenia, with Alanna working as an actress on "the circuit" and Marko taking care of Hazel as a stay-at-home father. But it soon becomes apparent that this domestic tranquility isn't quite as nice as it seemed to be at first glance: Alanna struggles under the pressures of her job, and eventually turns to drug-use to cope, while Marko chafes at the isolation of being a recognizable criminal on the run with no real adult companionship and finds himself on the brink of an affair with a friendly local woman. As the story moves on, these two unhappy trains steam towards one another in a headlong rush, eventually colliding in an argument that threatens to break the couple apart. Dealing with everyday stress damages Alanna and Marko's relationship in a way that being hunted by two warring superpowers never could. The impetuous, and almost foolhardy infatuation that fueled the pair has been drained away by the years, and the two are left trying to make a solid relationship out of what seems to have begun almost on a whim.

Even though the focus in this volume is on Marko and Alanna, the world around them doesn't stand still while their relationship falls apart - even as they struggle to hold their crumbling relationship together, events proceed elsewhere that will have substantial consequences for the pair. Probably the most significant developing in this volume is the fleshing out of the Robot Empire, which turns out to be a place that is substantially less happy than one might have previously believed. While Prince Robot IV wallows in self-pity in a whorehouse, a commoner named Dengo takes brutal action against the royal family as revenge for the unjust death of his own son. This spurs Prince Robot IV out of his torpor, but as the Prince's story progresses one finds out that the brutality of the Robot Kingdom doesn't only affect the oppressed commoners, but seems to be a pervasive fact of life for the entire nation. After some twists and turns that include a rather predictable betrayal, this story line crashes into Marko and Alanna's life, disrupting the domestic arguments with something more overtly threatening, and spurring some unusual choices that seem to jar Marko out of his sullen moping.

In a way, Dengo is the mirror image of J. Oswalt Heist. When Heist's child was killed as a result of the conflict between Landfall and Wreath, his reaction was to write a novel that served as a thinly veiled plea for peace. When Dengo's child died as a result of the class divisions and neglect of the welfare of the commoners endemic to the Robot Empire, his reaction is to go on a murderous rampage seeking revenge and a form of twisted justice. Part of what makes Saga such a brilliant story is how it takes an issue such as the loss of a child and then gives the reader a view into the myriad of responses that might ensue, playing out the consequences of these decisions out for all to see. Vaughan could have constructed a simpler story that showed one possible reaction to a situation, but instead he seems to have taken to showing how many different ways individuals can react, creating a multi-layered work that examines the same idea from multiple sides.

Despite the fact that The Will, Gwendolyn, Sophie, and Lying Cat have been relegated to a fairly minor story line in this volume, they do show up, although The Will doesn't really do very much as he is still in the coma he was in at the end of Saga, Volume Three. This means that The Will has been in a coma for several years while Gwen and Sophie have been searching for a way to heal him. This leads them deep into the recesses of a patent vault and eventually into an alliance with The Brand. This part of the story is told in an almost perfunctory manner, and is clearly merely the set-up for more to come. There is also a small, but somewhat ominous  cameo by Upsher and Doff, which is almost certainly a foreshadowing of things to come in future volumes.

In many ways, Volume Four brings the galaxy-wide war that has served as a backdrop for Saga down to a human level. While most people cannot relate to being on the run from two star-spanning factions bent on killing them and kidnapping their child, almost everyone can relate to the stress of holding a job you don't particularly lie and which you are not particularly good at, or the loneliness of having a spouse who has become emotionally distant. Saga, Volume 4 also highlights how large effects can have small causes - such as the indifferent neglect of its populace which seems to be changing the course of an entire nation. But more importantly this volume highlights the intensely personal nature of the conflict by showing the personal cost those who are swept up in it must pay. At the same time, this volume shows that even when one is in a story sweeping enough to bear the title Saga, that the pressures of everyday life are just as weighty as those caused by events of an epic nature.

Previous book in the series: Saga, Volume Three
Subsequent book in the series: Saga, Volume Five

Brian K. Vaughan     Fiona Staples     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Musical Monday - We Are Growing by Margaret Singana

I always wonder why there isn't more African themed fantasy fiction available. Part of the problem is the dominance of Western European settings for fantasy fiction, specifically Western European settings that draw upon a relatively short seven or eight hundred year time period stretching from roughly 700 A.D. to 1400 or 1500 A.D. That said, there is a notable amount of fantasy fiction that is drawn from other time periods, or which is set in East Asia, the Middle-East, or even the Americas. But there is precious little that uses African myth, folklore, or history as its inspiration which seems to me like a missed opportunity.

We Are Growing is the theme song for the ten part 1986 miniseries Shaka Zulu, which told the story of the life of the titular Zulu king. Shaka's story is a mixture of history and myth, recounting his life in mostly historical terms, but adding what seem to embellishments related to prophecies, witch doctors, and supernatural signs, although these are no more than the kinds of embellishments that seem to have been added to the stories of the lives of European historical figures such as Charlemagne and Alexander the Great. Transformative national figures seem to have a tendency to become larger than life when their stories are passed down. Shaka is probably the largest figure in the history of Southern Africa, but he isn't by any means the only notable one. But the sad fact is that most Americans don't even know of the existence of this miniseries, or much of anything about Shaka, the Zulus, or any of the rest of South African history, let alone its mythology and folklore. They might have heard the names of some battles like Isandlwana or Rourke's Drift, but that's the locations where African history intersects with the actions of Europeans, and placing Africans in the position of faceless opposition to heroic British soldiers, when by all rights they should have the opportunities to be heroes in their own stories.

And this only covers one small portion of South African history. Africa is huge, much more so than most people think because they are used to seeing Mercator projection maps of the world that don't show just how big it is. Not only is Africa huge, it is home to a myriad of different cultures, each with their own histories, mythologies, and folk traditions. There should be a hundred fantasy novels using some of these as a backdrop. Even if there were, there would be far fewer than the rich traditions of the continent deserve.

Previous Musical Monday: Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey
Subsequent Musical Monday: Magnificent Seven Theme by Elmer Beinstein

Margaret Singana     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Book Blogger Hop May 22nd - May 28th: 105 Is Part of a Ruth-Aaron Pair With 104

Book Blogger Hop

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: Why would you stop reading a book? Too long, wrong genre, bad language, not what you expected, or something totally different?

It depends on why I am reading the book. If I am reading a book that I have been given to review, I will read through it no matter what happens. It might be a slog through bad writing, poor plotting, and cardboard characters, but I will grind through and then write a review that discusses all of these factors.

If I am reading a book for my own edification or enjoyment, the most likely reasons I will put it down are if it bores me, or if the writing is bad enough to push me out of the book. To be perfectly honest, the first rarely happens unless the second is also true, so they are only very slightly different reasons in my experience, but they do diverge every once in a while.

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, May 22, 2015

Follow Friday - Roman Emperor Septimus Severus and His Son Geta Both Died in 211 A.D.

It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Book Blog Bird and Books, Coffee, Life, Adventures.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: How do you write your reviews?

As a general rule, when I am reviewing books or magazines, I write my first draft on LibraryThing, usually over the course of a couple of days. For novels, I usually read the book through and then write the review, keeping the book on hand to reference back to if I need to refresh my memory on specific details. For short fiction collections and fiction magazines, I usually write the review as I read, adding material on each work of short fiction as soon as I finish reading it. After I've finished the entire collection or magazine, I go back and group the stories by themes and try to draw connections and contrasts between them. Reviewing short fiction collections and magazines usually takes much longer and is more difficult than reviewing novels.

On those occasions when I review television shows or movies I usually watch them at least twice before reviewing, which is why I almost never review shows or movies that I don't have on DVD. The first time I watch the material the whole way through uninterrupted. The second time I take notes as I watch, so as to give myself reminders for when I sit and write the review. I sometimes watch the material again while I write the actual review, using it as background noise.

Subsequent Follow Friday: Water Boils At 212 Degrees Fahrenheit

Follow Friday     Home

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review - L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume 30 by Dave Wolverton (editor)

Stories Included
Another Range of Mountains by Megan E. O'Keefe
Shifter by Paul Eckheart
Beneath the Surface of Two Kills by Shauna O'Meara
Beyond All Weapons by L. Ron Hubbard
Animal by Terry Madden
Rainbows for Other Days by C. Stuart Hardwick
Giants at the End of the World by Leena Likitalo
Carousel by Orson Scott Card
The Clouds in Her Eyes by Liz Colter
What Moves the Sun and Other Stars by K.C. Norton
Long Jump by Oleg Kazantsev
These Walls of Despair by Anaea Lay
Synaptic Soup by Val Lakey Lindahn
Robots Don't Cry by Mike Resnick
The Shaadi Exile by Amanda Forrest
The Pushbike Legion by Timothy Jordan
Memories Bleed Beneath the Mask by Randy Henderson
Essays Included
Artistic Presentation by L. Ron Hubbard
. . . And Now Thirty by Robert Silverberg
A Word on Art Direction by Stephen Hickman
Disclosure: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

Full review: The thirtieth installment in the annual Writers of the Future competition, this volume is what all of the previous volumes have been: A collection of stories by mostly previously unpublished authors that were submitted to and placed in the writers of the future competition originally created and funded by L. Ron Hubbard. Bolstered by a few stories by veteran authors, and dragged down by the inclusion of some of Hubbard's own writing, this volume delivers a collection of work by fresh faces that is mostly good, and sometimes great.

The first entry in the volume is Another Range of Mountains by Megan E. O'Keefe, a tale that features a protagonist with a fairly interesting magical ability, but is somewhat thin when it comes to delivering an actual story. Lacra possesses the gift of being able to see and paint images reflected from long ago that are found in mirrors, panes of glass, pools of water, and other reflective surfaces. She is also on the run from a vengeful king who she had once been involved with and is trying to keep a low profile. But, at the behest of the local ruler, Lacra begrudgingly uses her abilities to try to track down his kidnapped girl. Things go well until the plot turns and Lacra discovers too late that the kidnappers weren't after the girl at all. Then Lacra uses the other power that mirror painters have: The ability to change the memories people have of the past by painting a different reflection. In an act of self-sacrifice, Lacra uses this ability to rewrite the memories of her estranged lover and the story ends. The idea that memories can be erased in this manner is somewhat unsettling, but the implications of the existence of this sort of power is not remarked upon, which seems to me like a missed opportunity. The fictional setting seems like it would be best served by a longer piece of fiction that explored these questions.

As one might expect from the title Shifter by Paul Eckheart is about a shapeshifter. In a twist, Eckheart's protagonist isn't a lycanthrope or any other kind of "traditional" shapeshifter, but rather someone who can assume both the appearance and personality as they choose to - but only so long as they can write the assumed form's attributes down. With the central character starting the story as Fat Reggie, and ending it as Officer Tricia Palmer, the story implicitly asks the question of who such a person could truly be said to be: Is he the down at the heel and somewhat dopey fat kid? Is he the macho and deadly killer? Is she the honest police officer? When your very identity can change based upon who you want to be, is there any identity that is truly you? The story wraps up with something of an answer to these questions, but the answer is still somewhat unsatisfying, although that is probably for the best.

Beneath the Surface of Two Kills by Shauna O'Meara is kind of a disappointing story that seems to be trying for deep meaning and falling completely short. The protagonist has been sent out into the wild on a hunt as part of a strange justice system in which his success at tracking down and killing the correct prey will determine the outcome of a court proceeding. The entire story is told via the internal monologue of the main character, including a number of flashbacks as he remembers what brought him to his current quest. The trouble is that this is such a limp way to try to build emotion that to the extent that the somewhat unclear back story is understandable, the reader just doesn't care. The end result was that I simply didn't care if the protagonist succeeded or failed, and his intended to be momentous decision at the end didn't really seem to matter.

Human overpopulation and the resulting species extinction takes center stage in Animal by Terry Madden. Mackenzie is a scientist at the last animal preserve in the world, attempting to breed the last known gorillas to preserve the species. She is informed that even the modest amount of land and money consumed by the preserve has been deemed too expensive, and it will be shut down. At the same time, Mackenzie detects and anomaly in the fetus being carried by one of her gorillas, which results in a rather startling revelation from her assistant Sierra. The story is, on the whole, dark and somewhat depressing, as terrible things are done in the most reasonable manner possible by people who think they are acting in the best interests of their fellow humans. The story serves to cast a harsh light upon the selfishness of humanity as a whole, but in the end it holds out hope that some people can transcend this racial failing.

In some ways Rainbows for Other Days by C. Stuart Hardwick shares the same thematic territory as Animal, but differs in that it attempts to show the hard process of recovery following a collection of poor decisions. Cara is a city-dweller, having spent her whole life living inside a massive self-contained concrete refuge that both keeps the human population safe from a wrecked and hostile outside world, and keeps the humans away from the environment they destroyed with their rapacity. She escapes from the city and is found by a ranger she calls Frey, a half-man, half-machine charged with serving as caretaker for his section of the wilderness. The story reveals the extreme damage done to the natural world, but also the extreme measures that have been taken to try to restore it, including the devastating human cost - including the cost to Frey himself. The story is both sad and depressing and ultimately hopeful at the same time, and despite the two characters mostly serving as mouthpieces for opposing viewpoints, the two sides of the argument are well-thought out, so neither feels like a caricature.

Another story with a vaguely environmentalist theme is Giants at the End of the World by Leena Likitalo, which is framed as a journey taken through the desert by a wealthy heiress while accompanying a trade caravan as it heads to the sea. The giants in the story are an unexplained presence, massive beings who emerge from the wilderness to take a pilgrimage to the ocean. The story has a melancholy tone, as the gentle and awe-inspiring giants have seen their territory progressively shrunk by the encroachment of civilization, and the route the caravan is taking is slated to be replaced with a railroad in the near future. It is clear that the reader is intended to take the advance of the railroad as an end of the giants' way of life, but this also stands in as a metaphor for the end of the caravanners' and those who accompany them to the end of the route looking for a better life away from the civilized world they left behind. The story is, ultimately, a paean to the lost frontier, and the lost wilderness that it represents.

Following in the environmentalist theme of this installment, The Clouds in Her Eyes by Liz Colter is a piece of fantasy fiction that posits a world that has become progressively more and more parched as its denizens try to eke out an existence by farming the "shockers" who live in the dry soil. Amba, the main character, lives with her father and tries to replace her deceased brother's contributions on their farm as they struggle to achieve a subsistence level existence. Through the story Amba sees a ship in the distance, sailing across the prairie towards her farm, but when she asks him, her father says he cannot see it. Eventually the spectral ship gets close enough that she can speak to is ghost crew, and then she unlocks her inner power, destroying the way of life she has known, but restoring the land at the same time. The story is far less effective than the other environmental-based stories in the book as the solution in the end effectively amounts to Amba deciding it should be so. As a coming of age story for a girl discovering her hidden power to bestow life, it is not bad, but it doesn't rise to more than that.

K.C. Norton borrows a bit from Dante for What Moves the Sun and Other Stars, the tale of an artificial intelligence rescued from a supposedly inescapable cometary prison at the behest of the mysterious Beatrice. The story's tone reminded me somewhat or Fritz Lieber's Ship of Shadows, with everything shrouded in an almost dreamlike quality that sometimes seems ethereal, and sometimes seem terrifying. The viewpoint character - an ancient robot with the name VRG11 - encounters a would-be savior who goes by the name Pilgrim. They pick up two more companions in their quest to escape, and three implacable pursuers that the companions must overcome to reach their destination. By the end, it becomes clear that VRG11 isn't the hero of the story - Pilgrim is, and VRG11 is merely the sidekick, which is an interesting twist that isn't apparent until very close to the end.

Despite the fact that What Moves the Sun and Other Stars involves breaking out of a metaphocrical hell, the terror it portrays almost pales in comparison with that found in Long Jump by Oleg Kazantsev. The darkest and most horrifying story in the entire volume, Long Jump follows Ulysses, who starts the story a mostly broken man who has turned to alcohol after his wife left him and took their son with her and ends it having gone almost completely insane following an obsession with a simulated model of a deceased friend's ex-girlfriend. In between, Ulysses participates in an experimental space travel program, eventually becoming a test pilot on a flight that will take years and from which there are only a handful of viable exit points. To keep him from losing his mind from loneliness on his journey, he is provided a virtual reality to spend time in and interact with simulated humans. While there, he finds a simulated version of Nancy, the ex-girlfriend of Ulysses' friend and fellow test pilot Milo. Ulysses strikes up a passionate relationship with Nancy that goes terribly awry when she becomes aware of what she is. Meanwhile, Ulysses' ship misses its exit points, presumably trapping him in his relativistic journey forever. Ulysses ends the story alienated from his virtual reality and trapped in a tiny ship with no possible escape, although still hoping against hope.

As one might expect from its title, These Walls of Despair by Anaea Lay is another story that is dark and frightening. The main character is Georg, who works as an apprentice "sentimancer", capable of mixing various concoctions that can induce particular emotions in his clients. He opens the story working a prison shift in which he is required to counsel a defendant accused of trying to wake one of the "Moras", a pair of sleeping beings that, if roused, will destroy the world. Georg is rebuffed by his court-appointed client, and sets out to find more information about her. His investigation uncovers both the terrible secret that led her to take her destructive action, and the reasons for both despair and hope. In the end, the story is about whether one should accept a comfortable lie or face the painful truth, and it seems to come down squarely on the "comfortable lie" end of the scale, which seems like something of a disappointment after a series of plot developments that seemed to be heading in the opposite direction.

The Shaadi Exile by Amanda Forrest imagines a world in which travel between distant star systems is possible, but takes time. The story also imagines a vast culture that involves arranged marriages between men and women who hail from different worlds, and the complicated dance of time management that this entails, as well as the sacrifices that are required of the shaadi brides who must leave behind everything they know to marry men they barely know light-years away from home. But religious fanaticism is mixed into the culture portrayed - a fanaticism that doesn't really do much to inconvenience those who demand others follow it, but weighs cruelly upon a young bride. The central character was once a shaadi bride herself, and once the mystery at the core of the story is unraveled, she stands against the fanaticism that threatens the innocent, albeit in a very small and mostly unobtrusive manner.

The Pushbike Legion by Timothy Jordan is a quirky story about Aleck, a young boy serving in his villages "legion" of bicyclists who patrol the borders around their town that has been isolated by a mysterious and deadly desert. The story kind of meanders along as Aleck deals with the responsibilities of being a legionnaire and the pressures of being a nascent adult who will be expected to take a job, keep a house, and marry. Everyone is focused on the desert that has been an omnipresent feature of Aleck's life, but which some of the older adults remember arriving to surround their village years before. Eventually Aleck is able to get the town's oddball, a man named Charlie Potato, to open up to him and discovers the secret of the outside world, and a tiny sliver of hope to lean upon. There's not a lot of substance to the story, and it seems like it should have been the opening chapter to a novel, but it is well-written and has just enough plot and character development to be interesting.

Class stratification and cultural stagnation are the foundation of Memories Bleed Beneath the Mask by Randy Henderson, a story that posits a future in which those with means can bequeath their memories to their descendants, ensuring that they will have the advantage of multiple lifetimes worth of experience and learning. This seems to have had the effect of creating what is essentially a permanent underclass called "plebs" who are unable to compete in the marketplace and are condemned to a permanent state of poverty. This process of handing down memories from generation to generation is also implied to have created a fair amount of stagnation, as old attitudes and prejudices are perpetuated. Trystan is the somewhat estranged grandson of Jurist Bryant, a powerful jurist, whose father had married a pleb against Bryant's wishes. But Bryant is dying and when choosing who to give his memories to he unexpectedly passes over Trystan's wealthier relatives and gives them directly to his grandson. With access to his late grandfather's memories, Trystan quickly figures out why Bryant did what he did, revealing a rather long-range and ambitious plan with a fairly lofty goal. The background and world-building is better than the actual story, but it is so good that the rather thin nature of the story is more than overcome.

In recent years the Writers of the Future editors have taken to leavening the annual installments with a few stories by established authors. The first of this year's entries of this type is Carousel by long time judge and contest advocate Orson Scott Card. In the story people who die immediately come back to life, for a certain value of "come back to life". The risen dead don't eat, don't have any others desires, and don't seem to have any real ambitions, so they don't actually seem to be alive in any meaningful sense. The plot involves the death of a man named Cyril's wife, who then proceeds to treat Cyril horribly and coax their two children into dangerous activities that get them killed as well. Eventually Cyril finds an odd little carousel tucked into a little building and operated by a lonely dead woman who died as a baby and had her mother reject her when she returned. Cyril then meets God, who says that he made it so the dead come back because so many people asked them to in their prayers. God is depicted as kind of bumbling, unable to understand why people are now upset about their returned relatives, apparently oblivious to the fact that they have been returned in a manner that makes them entirely inhuman. Card is clearly making a point about grief and letting go of the past, but he does it in such a clumsy manner that the story simply lacks any notable impact.

The other veteran with a story in the volume is Mike Resnick, whose contribution is Robots Don't Cry, a story about a robot dug up by scavengers several hundred years after the machine's owner had died. The story is fairly predictable, with a faithful robot serving a sick girl who grows into a sick woman and then dies, all the while becoming more and more human in its thinking. Eventually the two scavengers make a decision that was almost a foregone conclusion from the start, and the story ends. Robots Don't Cry is pretty straightforward, with minimal characters, just a small bit of plot, and a fair amount of treacle that almost manages to make the story cloying, but pulls up just short enough that the story is still palatable.

It is unclear to me why the editors of Writers of the Future insist on including embarrassingly bad pieces of fiction by L. Ron Hubbard in more recent volumes of the series, but this year's terrible work by the man is Beyond All Weapons, a cliched and badly written piece of space opera. The premise of the story is that Mars is losing a war against Earth when some of its engineers come up with a way to travel at the speed of light, at which point the remnants of the Martian fleet take their families and head out of the Solar System. After decamping their women and children on a convenient planet, the manly men return to get revenge on the Terrans, and then the completely predictable twist in the story is revealed. The story is hampered by the fact that the only real character is the cigar chomping lantern jawed fleet commander who isn't even well-developed enough to call a caricature. Beyond All Weapons might have fit in as filler in the issue of Tales of Super Science it appeared in in 1950, but when lined up next to the other stories in this volume, it looks positively amateurish.

Hubbard's essay titled Artistic Presentation is almost as bad as his pulpy fiction. In it he erects a convenient strawman and then knocks it down with the fairly banal advice that when one is engaged in an artistic endeavor one should use the most effective means of accomplishing one's goal. This is the sort of non-advice that I have come to expect after reading Hubbard's bromides in previous installments of the Writers of the Future series, and is yet another indication that he was not a man who should have been taken seriously on any subject.

The other three essays in the book are . . . And Now Thirty by Robert Silverberg, Synaptic Soup by Val Lakey Lindahn, and A Word on Art Direction by Stephen Hickman. All three are relatively short, and not particularly interesting. Silverberg's essay starts by praising several works by Hubbard, pointing to them as evidence of Hubbard's enduring popularity, apparently unaware that they have been mostly forgotten by everyone at this point by everyone who is not one of Silverberg's contemporaries or a member of the Church of Scientology. He then talks about the last thirty years of the Writers of the Future contest, highlighting several notable writers who have first appeared in one or another of the annual collections. Synaptic Soup basically gives a background concerning the creation and intent of the Artists of Future contest, while A Word on Art Direction is merely Hickman explaining that he's the art director for the volume and giving a rather cursory description of his personal process.

Overall this is a good example of the Writers of the Future volumes, with a fairly interesting and diverse array of science fiction stories. The collection is enhanced by the inclusion of some fairly good artwork as well, including several full color plates towards the end of the volume. The only real weak points of this volume are the contributions from Hubbard which are both pretty lousy, and to a lesser extent Card and Resnick, who seem to have both brought their C-game to the field, as the stories by the contest winners are for the most part quite good.

Previous book in the series: L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume XXIX
Subsequent book in the series: L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume 31

Dave Wolverton     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, May 18, 2015

Musical Monday - Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey

Are the James Bond movies science fiction? I can already hear people scoffing. "Of course not," they'll say, "They are just Cold War spy fiction that has outlasted the Cold War." And I will readily concede they are that. But that doesn't mean they aren't also science fiction.

Sure, some of the movies really don't fit into the science fiction category very well, hanging around on the outskirts of the genre, giving nods here and there to it with the high tech gadgets with which Q always equips the titular hero. But there's more to the science fiction nature of Bond than just neat super-spy gizmos. The Bond movies (and I am primarily talking about the movies - Ian Fleming's books were, in general, much tamer than the movies) have used science fiction themes as their backbone on multiple occasions. The very first Bond movie - Dr. No - features a villain in an underground lair using the then cutting-edge technology of nuclear power to try to threaten the United States. That may not be science fiction to some people, but it is pretty close to the line.

But when one considers some of the movies that have come out since then, it seems to me pretty clear that even if the Bond franchise isn't always on the "it is science fiction" side of the line, it jumps over there fairly often. In You Only Live Twice the villain's plot involves capturing American and Russian spacecraft in orbit to try to spark a nuclear exchange. In Diamonds Are Forever, Blofeld's villainous plot involves building an orbiting laser platform to try to blackmail the world. In The Spy Who Loved Me the villain wants to create an undersea paradise and destroy all of the life on the surface. In The Man with the Golden Gun, the entire plot revolves around a struggle to control a super-science piece of a solar energy generator. And then there's Moonraker, which is explicitly a science fiction film (and is believed by some to have been made, at least in part, to capitalize on the success of Star Wars).

Granted, in most cases the science fiction elements are mostly just window dressing or MacGuffins for the hero to retrieve, but they are present. I would suggest that James Bond sits in the shadowy netherworld of fiction that surrounds the science fiction genre, dependent upon science fictional tropes and ideas without which they simply will not work as stories. Bond is, for want of a better word, quasi-science fiction. It has just enough science fiction to make one think about the genre, but not enough to really sit comfortably within it.

Previous Musical Monday: Tiny Paper Elephant by The Doubleclicks
Previous Musical Monday: We Are Growing by Margaret Singana

Shirley Bassey     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Book Blogger Hop May 15th - May 21st: The HMS Victory Had 104 Guns When She Was Nelson's Flagship

Book Blogger Hop

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: If you see a book you like but see it is 400 or 500+ pages, will you still read it?

Yes, I would still read the book. The blunt truth is that it would be difficult to read  most modern fantasy and science fiction if one was not willing to read four-, five-, or even six-hundred page books on a regular basis. For fantasy fiction, it is not entirely shocking to find novels that are even longer - eight-hundred, nine-hundred, or even thousand page novels show up often enough in the current era of "doorstop fantasy books" that they aren't really that remarkable any more. And the sad fact is that science fiction novels are creeping up on fantasy in this regard, getting longer and longer in recent years. I suspect that it will not be all that long before science fiction novels catch up with their fantasy cousins in terms of expected length.

I will say that I'm not entirely happy with this state of affairs. The steady growth in size of both fantasy and science fiction novels hasn't really made them better, just longer. Some novels are improved with more length, but a lot of modern novels could probably be dramatically improved if an editor trimmed them by tens of thousands of words. Sadly, I don't really envision this trend reversing any time soon, but at the very least there are hundreds of older genre novels I haven't gotten to yet if I ever want to read something in the two- or three-hundred page range.

Previous Book Blogger Hop: 103 Is the Twenty-Seventh Prime Number
Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: 105 Is Part of a Ruth-Aaron Pair With 104

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, May 15, 2015

Follow Friday - Qui Shi Huang's Terra Cotta Army Was Completed in 210 B.C.

It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Banosaur and Alexandra Florence Books.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: How do you organize your books? Either at home on your bookshelves or on your reading-device, or on your bookish platform like Goodreads, Leafmarks, or Booklikes.

I use LibraryThing as my online bookish platform of choice. I've put essentially every book I own into my LibraryThing account, separated into a handful of collections that I mostly use to organize the books into loose groupings, mostly based upon whether I have read or reviewed them or not. I use tags to do most of the heavy lifting with respect to sorting my books by genre and topic. I use well over five hundred tags classifying books as being science fiction, fantasy, history, and so on. I also tag whether books have won or been nominated for various awards, and some general topic markers, such as "Mars" for books set on Mars, or "Africa" for books related to Africa in some way.

I also have a Goodreads account, but I almost never use it, and have only entered a tiny fraction of my book collection into it. I can't remember the last time I logged into it.

I also keep an Excel spreadsheet that includes not only the books I own, but the books I am looking to acquire. The primary use of this spreadsheet is so that I avoid buying books that I already own, and remind me of which books I am actively looking for. I also use this spreadsheet as a secondary means of tracking my reading.

As far as my physical books go, much of my collection is currently boxed up and stored in great stacks against the wall in one room of the too-small apartment that I am currently living in. Those books are mostly organized by size, as this makes the boxes that hold them easier to stack.

The portion of my collection that is shelved is organized alphabetically by author, although I arrange all book series together in series order. I separate the hardbacks and trade paperbacks from the mass market paperbacks, but other than that most of my books are stored this way. The two main exceptions are my graphic novels, which I keep separate from my other books, although they too are arranged alphabetically by author, and my collection of role-playing game books, which are kept in their own section, organized in a manner that is probably incomprehensible to anyone but me that could best be called "the order of idiosyncratic usefulness to me when I am working on role-playing game material".

The final group of books that I keep separate from the rest are review copies. I used to try to organize these in a rough order in which I intended to read them, but I gave that up as futile long ago. Now they just get put on the shelf and pulled off in the order of whatever seems like something interesting at the time I am making a selection.

Follow Friday     Home

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review - Dream Houses by Genevieve Valentine

Short review: Amadis wakes up far too early and has to survive in deep space with almost no food and no one for company except a deceptive A.I.

Alone in deep space
An A.I. and a locked door
Losing sanity

Full review: Dream Houses is a beautiful novella about a deep space freight ship and its crew, or rather its last remaining crew member. But it is also about loneliness, alienation, regret, and, perhaps, insanity. From the stark, harsh opening pages to the dream-like and ambiguous ending, this story challenges the reader to sort out what is real and what is not by presenting them with an unreliable narrator and a dishonest artificial intelligence.

The central character of the story is Amadis, an auxiliary crew member of the ship Menkalinen working the shipping run from Earth to Gilese-D. Because the journey takes several years to complete, the crew normally spend most of the voyage in hibernation. In the opening pages of the story, Amadis is awakened early and discovers that all of the rest of the ship's crew have died and the vessel is years away from reaching its destination. With only the ship's A.I. Capella for company and food stocks that are dreadfully inadequate, Amadis must try to survive both mentally and physically until she can be rescued.

Most of the story deals with the isolation and deprivation experienced by Amadis as she scrounges for food (eventually resorting to some fairly extreme measures), and tries to find ways to occupy herself through the long, lonely, empty days out in the cold dark of space. In some ways, the story reminds one of Jack Cady's The Night They Buried Rod Dog, capturing the isolation of a long drive through unoccupied territory, yielding the eerie atmosphere that only comes from being alone and far from one's destination. But Dream Houses takes one step further than Cady's story, as Cady's characters all had a place to call home and return to while Amadis is, at least partially by her own choice, a drifter without a fixed abode who has spent all of her life on the road fantasizing about what it would be like to have a house to return to at the end of the journey. For Amadis, the journey through empty places never ends, it just pauses before she sets out again.

But Dream Houses is about more than just one woman's struggle to keep her sanity in the deepest of isolation. Amadis' struggle to survive is somewhat complicated by the fact that Capella lies to her about what is in the cargo hold of the ship. Not only that, Amadis almost immediately figures out that Capella is lying to her. As a result, Amadis spends most of the story paranoid about what Capella might be up to, but what makes this interesting is that it makes almost no sense for Capella to lie. If Capella wanted to kill Amadis, there are several ways that this could have been easily accomplished without the need for any deception. On the other hand, Capella's stated aim, revealed near the end of the book, could have been easily accomplished by simply telling Amadis the truth. The mystery of why Capella, who seems through much of the story to care for Amadis, would also lie to her, becomes one of the primary threads that drives Dream Houses forward.

The oddness of Capella's behavior serves as a clue that perhaps Amadis is not a reliable narrator. By the end of the novel, it is clear that Amadis' accounting of events is almost certainly entirely divorced from reality, but the question that one must ask is at what point did her fantasy version of events take the fore? It is in pondering this question that one realizes that it is entirely possible that nothing that takes place in Dream Houses is actually real. It seems entirely possible that Amadis never actually woke up from cold sleep, and that the entire story is merely her dying brain stringing together a last story as she fades from existence. Or it could all be true up until the very last few pages of the text. Or the events described could be partially true and fade into fantasy at some indiscernible point as Amadis' mind unravels due to her loneliness and deprivation. It is this ambiguity that helps give the story a beautiful and terrible quality that veers between dreamlike and nightmarish.

Full of atmosphere, desperation, and cold emptiness, Dream Houses is a journey through its protagonist's slowly disintegrating mind. By the end, it is apparent that there is a reason that Amadis has spent her whole life running, and that her ordeal on the Menkalinen has stripped her down to her very core and left her with nothing to do but face herself. Readers who are hoping for answers, or even closure, are likely to feel dissatisfied by the story, but those readers are likely to miss what makes this novella so beautiful and compelling: That there may be no answers, and there may be no closure other than what we make for ourselves.

2015 Locus Award Nominees

Genevieve Valentine     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

2015 Campbell Award Nominees

Location: Campbell Conference Awards Banquet at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Comments: So another award released its list of nominees, and once again, there are no works by any of the Sad or Rabid Puppy suggested authors on it. This refrain is becoming a little bit old at this point, but this is essentially the story of the awards for 2015: The two Puppy slates put forward a collection of third- and fourth-tier works for the Hugo ballot, and the rest of the genre fiction world has simply moved on to recognizing the best works of the past year in other venues. And ultimately, this is why the Puppy campaigns are essentially nothing more than fruitless tilting at windmill while the science fiction world goes on without them.

And the science fiction world is full of top notch works of fiction ranging from Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, to Andy Weir's The Martian, to William Gibson's The Peripheral, to John Scalzi's Lock-In, to Cixin Liu's Three-Body Problem, to all of the other nominees on this list. There is some melancholy in the realization that only one of the excellent novels on the Campbell nominee list also appears on the Hugo nominee list. There is such an embarrassment of riches here that the truly dismal nature of the Puppy slates is shown in stark relief by comparison.

Best Novel

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory
Area X (The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance) by Jeff VanderMeer
The Bees by Laline Paull
Bête by Adam Roberts
A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
Defenders by Will McIntosh
Echopraxia by Peter Watts
Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
Lock-In by John Scalzi
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Peripheral by William Gibson
The Race by Nina Allan
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
Wolves by Simon Ings

Go to previous year's nominees: 2014
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2016

Book Award Reviews     Home

Monday, May 11, 2015

Musical Monday - Tiny Paper Elephant by The Doubleclicks

I've been sick for the last week, and have almost no motivation to actually post much of anything. So, with no further context, here's a song about pictures with no context.

Previous Musical Monday: Star Wars Main Theme
Subsequent Musical Monday: Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey

The Doubleclicks     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Book Blogger Hop May 8th - May 14th: 103 Is the Twenty-Seventh Prime Number

Book Blogger Hop

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: If you had a chance to read a book or watch a movie that is not about a book you have read, which would you choose?

I would usually choose to read a book. This is not to say I don't like movies. I do, but I read far more books than I watch movies. In a typical year I read between one hundred and one hundred and fifty books, while I watch considerably fewer movies. The last couple of years have not been typical years for me - I was well off my previously established reading pace, but for a variety of reasons I am reasonably confident that I can get back on track.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Follow Friday - Germany Designed the Type 209 Submarine Exclusively for Export

It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Paperback Opinion and Nicola Reads YA.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: How do you decide what books to read?

I choose books based upon a system I suppose could be called informed whimsy. By this I mean that I have certain very loose guidelines that inform my choices, but within them, I pretty much pick whatever strikes my fancy at the time.

When I started using this blog as a book blog, the initial intention was to read all of the winners of the Hugo and International Fantasy Awards, and as I got to them, the winners of the Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, and a couple of other awards as well. This expanded to reading all of the nominated works as well (at least insofar as the nominees could be ascertained). My reading choices are still aimed at moving towards that goal, albeit very slowly.

I also have been trying to read the current Hugo and Nebula nominees, aspiring to read and review them prior to the awards actually being handed out each year. This is probably a forlorn hope, but I try every year. In addition, I also have a large pile of review copies of books that I have agreed to review. I will get to them all, eventually. It may take me a while, but I will read and review every single one of them.

For the most part, I generally choose what to read from within this set of books, although this is not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes I just pick a book because it happens to seem like a good idea at the time. There is also the additional complicating factor of having a large proportion of my book collection currently boxed up due to the fact that I'm living in a space too small to shelve the roughly nine thousand seven hundred books I own. As a result, some of the books that I might be interested in reading at a particular point in time might simply be inaccessible to me at that moment.

So even though there is a very loose system, it is not much of a system. Mostly the system boils down to "what books from the extremely broad category seem interesting right now", and sometimes it isn't even that systematic.

Previous Follow Friday: Four Years Is 208 Weeks

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 Locus Award Nominees

Location: Seattle, Washington.

Comments: In 2015, due to the fracas surrounding the Hugo Awards instigated by the manipulation of the Hugo nominating process by the supporters of the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates, the Locus Award nominee list took on greater significance than it had in many previous years. Several people have already taken to calling the works on the Locus Award list the "real" Hugo nominees, and noting that none of the works or individuals promoted by either of the Puppy slates appear on the Locus Award finalist list. What I think this list, and the general reaction to it reveals, however, is simply this: Even in the best case scenario for the Puppies, they will never get what they want.

The Puppies have advanced a myriad of reasons for their organized campaign to put poor quality works onto the Hugo ballot. This is in part because there are two very slightly different groups of Puppies, but it is mostly because they have been avoiding bringing up the rather obvious reason that is apparent in all of their actions: They crave the prestige and legitimacy that have been accorded to Hugo winners and nominees. What they have failed to realize is that the legitimacy and prestige of the Hugo Awards derives from the fact that it bestows honors upon individuals and works that are already regarded as legitimate and prestigious. What the Puppies crave has to precede the Hugo Awards, and cannot be obtained as a result of being nominated for or winning one. Awards don't grant prestige, rather awards are prestigious because of who they honor.

Despite the Puppies sticking out their bottom lip while saying that they did so legitimately get nominated, fandom doesn't perceive them as having been legitimately nominated. And perception is really the only thing that matters when it comes to awards. No matter how much the Puppies kick and scream about it, they will never be seen by most of the fan base as deserving their nominations. As the Hugo Awards are seen as being illegitimate, fans have turned their attention elsewhere. Even the best case scenario for the Puppies - that nominees from their slates garner enough votes to actually win some Hugo Awards - will be a hollow victory for them. Should they win, the Puppies are likely to find themselves clutching their trophy while standing in an empty room, wondering why the accolades they expected simply aren't forthcoming.

The reaction of the science fiction community to the unveiling of the Locus Award nominee list has been exactly what I predicted would happen. Because the Hugo award ballot is seen as being filled with illegitimate nominees, fans have moved their attention elsewhere. Nothing compels fans to continue to regard the Hugo awards as the most prestigious award in genre fiction. Fans have done so because it was seen as such. There is no objective, intrinsic indicator of value that defines whether an award is prestigious or not. The number of voters does not matter when making such a determination (indeed, if it did, then the People's Choice Award would be seen as being a much more prestigious award for cinema than the Oscars). The popularity of the nominees of winners is also not an indicator of prestige. How highly rated winners and nominees are on places like Amazon also does not matter. The only thing that matters is how the award is viewed by the community at large, and if the community loses faith in an award, they will simply move elsewhere. Right now, possibly because of the timing of this announcement, it seems like the Locus Awards are gaining some of the prestige that has been leached from the Hugo Awards.

Is this likely to be a permanent shift? At this point I think it is unclear. If the backers of the Puppy slates continue their campaign against the "social justice warriors" using the Hugo Awards as their battleground, they will drain the Hugo Awards of credibility. But all that will really happen as a result is that fans will look to other awards as the signals of quality genre fiction. Whether the "other award" fans would choose to designate as their new focus would be the Locus Awards, the Nebula Awards, the British Science Fiction Awards, or some other award, is not clear at present, but what is clear is that fans will move away from any Puppy dominated Hugo Awards towards other venues.

Best Science Fiction Novel
1.   Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Other Nominees:
2.   The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
3.   Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
4.   The Peripheral by William Gibson
5.   Lock-In by John Scalzi
6.   My Real Children by Jo Walton
7.   Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
8.   Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
9.   The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
10. Afterparty by Daryl Gregory
11. The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
12. Echopraxia by Peter Watts
13. War Dogs by Greg Bear
14. Shipstar by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven
15. Work Done for Hire by Joe Haldeman
16. Ultima by Stephen Baxter
17. Dark Lightning by John Varley
18. Tigerman by Nick Harkaway
19. The Memory of Sky by Robert Reed
20. Wolves by Simon Ings
21. (tie) Artemis Awakening by Jane Lindskold
      (tie) The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
23. World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters
24. Bête by Adam Roberts
25. The Blood of Angels by Johanna Sinisalo
26. Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
27. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
28. All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

Best Fantasy Novel
1.   The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Other Nominees:
2.   City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
3.   The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
4.   Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear
5.   The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
6.   Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
7.   The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
8.   Revival by Stephen King
9.   Beautiful Blood by Lucius Shepard
10. California Bones by Greg van Eekhout
11. The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham
12. A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar
13. Hawk by Steven Brust
14. The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan
15. Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll
16. The Bees by Laline Paull
17. Heirs of Grace by Tim Pratt
18. The Winter Boy by Sally Wiener Grotta
19. The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
20. Resurrections by Roz Kaveney
21. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Best Young Adult Book
1.   Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Other Nominees:
2.   The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi
3.   Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald
4.   Clariel by Garth Nix
5.   Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger
6.   Lockstep by Karl Schroeder
7.   Exo by Steven Gould
8.   Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
9.   Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond
10. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
11. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
12. (tie) Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
      (tie) Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
14. Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
15. (tie) The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack
      (tie) The Grasshopper's Child by Gwyneth Jones
17. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
18. Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Best First Novel
1.   The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

Other Nominees:
2.   A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
3.   The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
4.   Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
5.   The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato
6.   The Girl In the Road by Monica Byrne
7.   The Race by Nina Allan
8.   The Stone Boatmen by Sarah Tolmie
9.   Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
10. Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
11. The Angel of Losses by Stephanie Feldman

Best Novella
1.   Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

Other Nominees:
2.   The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss
3.   We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
4.   The Regular by Ken Liu
5.   The Man Who Sold the Moon by Cory Doctorow
6.   The Mothers of Voorhisville by Mary Rickert
7.   Grand Jeté (The Great Leap) by Rachel Swirsky
8.   The Things We Do for Love by K.J. Parker
9.   The Madonna and the Starship by James Morrow
10. Dream Houses by Genevieve Valentine
11. The Adventure of the Ring of Stones by James P. Blaylock
12. Entanglement by Vandana Singh
13. Kur-A-Len by Lavie Tidhar
14. The Black Sun by Lewis Shiner
15. Where the Trains Turn by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
16. The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
17. Children of the Fang by John Langan

Best Novelette
1.   Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie

Other Nominees:
2.   The Jar of Water by Ursula K. Le Guin
3.   The Hand Is Quicker by Elizabeth Bear
4.   A Year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch
5.   Memorials by Aliette de Bodard
6.   The Devil in America by Kai Ashante Wilson
7.   The Fifth Dragon by Ian McDonald
8.   Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (the Successful Kind) by Holly Black
9.   Wine by Yoon Ha Lee
10. A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i by Alaya Dawn Johnson
11. The New Boyfriend by Kelly Link
12. The Colonel by Peter Watts
13. A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell
14. Tawny Petticoats by Michael Swanwick
15. The Cryptic Age by Robert Reed
16. The Insects of Love by Genevieve Valentine
17. (tie) I Can See Right Through You by Kelly Link
      (tie) A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon a Star by Kathleen Ann Goonan
19. Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlín R. Kiernan
20. The Magician and Laplace's Demon by Tom Crosshill (reviewed in 2015 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
21. Collateral by Peter Watts
22. Of Finest Scarlet Was Her Gown by Michael Swanwick
23. The Last Log of the Lachrimosa by Alastair Reynolds
24. A Hotel in Antarctica by Geoffrey A. Landis
25. The Litany of Earth by Ruthanna Emrys
26. The Cats of River Street (1925) by Caitlín R. Kiernan
27. Among the Thorns by Veronica Schanoes
28. Heaven Thunders the Truth by K.J. Parker
29. The Jetsam of Disremembered Mechanics by Caitlín R. Kiernan
30. The End of the End of Everything by Dale Bailey
31. Seventh Sight by Greg Egan
32. Home is the Hunter by Garth Nix
33. Kheldyu by Karl Schroeder
34. Shadow Flock by Greg Egan
35. A Wish from a Bone by Gemma Files
36. I'll Follow the Sun by Paul Di Filippo

Best Short Story
1.   The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar

Other Nominees:
2.   Covenant by Elizabeth Bear
3.   Ogres of East Africa by Sofia Samatar
4.   The Dust Queen by Aliette de Bodard
5.   In Babelsberg by Alastair Reynolds
6.   This Chance Planet by Elizabeth Bear
7.   West to East by Jay Lake
8.   I Met a Man Who Wasn't There by K.J. Parker
9.   Invisible Planets by Hannu Rajaniemi
10. Passage of Earth by Michael Swanwick
11. The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family by Usman T. Malik
12. Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying by Alice Sola Kim
13. Left Foot, Right by Nalo Hopkinson
14. The Unfathomable Sisterhood of Ick by Charlie Jane Anders
15. How to Get Back to the Forest by Sofia Samatar
16. The Long Haul From the ANNALS OF TRANSPORTATION, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009 by Ken Liu
17. Moriabe's Children by Paolo Bacigalupi
18. The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link
19. Someday by James Patrick Kelly
20. The Contemporary Foxwife by Yoon Ha Lee
21. Amicae Aeternum by Ellen Klages
22. Hibbler's Minions by Jeffrey Ford
23. The Scrivener by Eleanor Arnason
24. The Instructive Tale of the Archaeologist and His Wife by Alexander Jablokov
25. Pernicious Romance by Robert Reed
26. Combustion Hour by Yoon Ha Lee
27. Shay Corsham Worsted by Garth Nix
28. Nanny Anne and the Christmas Story by Karen Joy Fowler
29. A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide by Sarah Pinsker
30. The Days of the War, as Red as Blood, as Dark as Bile by Aliette de Bodard
31. The Tallest Doll in New York City by Maria Dahvana Headley
33. Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology by Theodora Goss
34. The Walking-Stick Forest by Anna Tambour
36. Aberration by Genevieve Valentine

Best Collection
1.   Last Plane to Heaven by Jay Lake

Other Nominees:
2.   Academic Exercises by K.J. Parker
3.   The Collected Stories of Robert Silverberg, Volume Nine: The Millennium Express by Robert Silverberg
4.   Questionable Practices by Eileen Gunn
5.   The Collected Short Fiction Volume One: The Man Who Made Models by R.A. Lafferty
6.   Young Woman in a Garden by Delia Sherman
7.   Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams: Stories of Califa by Ysabeau S. Wilce
8.   They Do the Same Things Different There by Robert Shearman
9.   The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter
10. Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall
11. Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love
12. How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales by Kate Bernheimer
13. The Court of Lies by Mark Teppo
14. Death at the Blue Elephant by Janeen Webb

Best Anthology
1.   Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Other Nominees:
2.   The Time Traveler’s Almanac edited by Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
3.   Reach for Infinity edited by Jonathan Strahan
4.   Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older
5.   The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-first Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois
6.   Monstrous Affections edited by Kelly Link and Gavin Grant
7.   Upgraded edited by Neil Clarke
8.   Kaleidoscope edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios
9.   Fearful Symmetries edited by Ellen Datlow
10. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Eight edited by Jonathan Strahan
11. Lovecraft's Monsters edited by Ellen Datlow
12. Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer
13. The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women edited by Alex Dally MacFarlane
14. Solaris Rising 3 edited by Ian Whates
15. Fearsome Magics: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy 2 edited by Jonathan Strahan
16. The Book of Silverberg: Stories In Honor of Robert Silverberg edited by Gardner Dozois and William Schafer
17. Nightmare Carnival edited by Ellen Datlow
18. The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Volume 2 edited by Gordon van Gelder
19. The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2014 Edition edited by Paula Guran
20. Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume One edited by Laird Barron and Michael Kelly
21. The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2014 Edition edited by Rich Horton
22. The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Six edited by Ellen Datlow

Best Nonfiction, Related, or Reference Book
1.   What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton

Other Nominees:
2.   The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore
3. Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better: 1948-1988 by William H. Patterson, Jr.
4.   Ray Bradbury Unbound by Jonathan Eller
5.   Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison! by Harry Harrison
6.   Greg Egan by Karen Burnham
7.   Stay by John Clute
8.   The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction by Rob Latham
9.   The Heritage of Heinlein: A Critical Reading of the Fiction by Thomas D. Clareson and Joe Sanders
10. Sibilant Fricative: Essays & Reviews by Adam Roberts
11. Vintage Visions: Essays on Early Science Fiction by Arthur B. Evans
12. Call and Response by Paul Kincaid

Best Art Book
1.   Spectrum 21: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art edited by John Fleskes

Other Nominees:
2.   The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell
3.   The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, from the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era by Ron Miller
4.   Brian Froud’s Faeries’ Tales by Brian Froud and Wendy Froud
5.   The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal by Jim Burns
6.   The Collectors' Book of Virgil Finlay edited by Robert Weinberg, Douglas Ellis, and Robert T. Garcia
7.   Dreamland by Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell
8.   The Art of Ian Miller by Ian Miller
9.   Sketching from the Imagination: Fantasy edited by Anonymous
10. Biomech Art: Surrealism, Cyborgs and Alien Universes by Martin de Diego Sádaba
11. The Art of Fred Gambino: Dark Shepherd by Fred Gambino

Best Editor
1.   Ellen Datlow

Other Nominees:
2.   Jonathan Strahan
3.   Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
4.   Gardner Dozois
5.   John Joseph Adams
6.   Neil Clarke
7.   Gavin Grant and Kelly Link
8.   Patrick Nielsen Hayden
9.   David G. Hartwell
10. Gordon van Gelder
11. Sheila Williams
12. Liz Gorinsky
13. William Schafer
14. Alisa Krasnostein
15. Teresa Nielsen Hayden
16. Lynne M. Thomas
17. Beth Meacham
18. Terri Windling
19. Betsy Wollheim
20. Toni Weisskopf
21. Ginjer Buchanan
22. Sharyn November

Best Magazine

Other Nominees:
2.   Asimov's Science Fiction
3.   Clarkesworld
4.   Fantasy & Science Fiction
5.   Lightspeed
6.   Subterranean
7.   Strange Horizons
8.   Analog Science Fiction and Fact
9.   Beneath Ceaseless Skies
10. SF Signal
11. Interzone
12. The Coode Street Podcast
13. Ansible
14. Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet
15. Apex
16. Galactic Suburbia
17. Daily SF
18. The New York Review of SF
19. File 770
20. (tie) Amazon
     (tie) Black Gate
22. Cemetery Dance
23. Shimmer
24. SF Squeecast

Best Publisher or Imprint
1.   Tor

Other Nominees:
2.   Subterranean
3.   Orbit
4.   Small Beer
5.   Angry Robot
6.   Gollancz
7.   DAW
8.   Baen
9.   Tachyon
10. Ballantine/Del Rey
11. Solaris
12. Ace
13. PS Publishing
14. Aqueduct
15. Twelfth Planet
16. Centipede
18. ChiZine
19. Harper
20. St. Martin's
21. Pyr
22. Roc
23. Penguin
24. Night Shade
25. Tor UK

Best Artist
1.   John Picacio

Other Nominees:
2.   Michael Whelan
3.   Shaun Tan
4.   Charles Vess
5.   Jim Burns
6.   Bob Eggleton
7.   Donato Giancola
8.   Stephan Martiniere
9.   Julie Dillon
10. John Harris
11. Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon
12. Daniel Dos Santos
13. John Jude Palencar
14. Thomas Canty
15. Frank Wu
16. Boris Vallejo
17. Vincent Chong
18. Todd Lockwood
19. Don Maitz

Go to previous year's nominees: 2014
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2016

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