Wrap-up of the Forward Series Reviews


This series is an interesting idea, and you have to give Blake Couch credit for self-actualization, as he’s apparently pitched the idea to Amazon, worked as its editor, and at the same time created an opportunity to feature his own work in the series. The writers are all prominent in one way or the other, and I expect they’ve written these stories by invitation.

Here’s the authors diversity count, as far as I can tell: 4 men, 2 women, 1 African American, 1 LGBTQ. That means it serves as an apparent vehicle for white men (who may need it, after all, in the current climate). This also comes across as something of a vanity project. For one thing, it features the editor’s story, and the whole series looks to provide a publicity appearance for other writers who are already prominent or up and coming so their prominence can rub off on one another. Jemisin and Towles came through with thoughtful pieces, and Weir wrote something entertaining for hard SF geeks, but I didn’t quite understand the point of the others, which seemed low on substance—maybe just a guaranteed sale that didn’t require much thought. On the bright side, this series advances science fiction as a genre, and novelettes as an art form. It also allows at least one hard SF writer (Weir) an opportunity for promotion of his work–always a good thing.

Novelettes seem to be underserved as an art form. I expect it’s an awkward length for some reason, too long to fit in to a magazine or anthology and too short to make a profit as a solo publication. Whatever, I predict Jemisin’s “Emergency Skin” will feature in next year’s awards cycle.

This provides light, quick reads for anyone looking to broaden their reading horizons and sample new authors.

Review of Artemis by Andy Weir

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I’m going to pronounce this novel hard science fiction. It was published by Broadway Books on November 14, 2017 and runs 352 pages. Artemis won the 2018 Dragon Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. This review may include spoilers.

Jasmine Bashara is the daughter of a master welder and lives in Artemis, the moon city. Jazz is smart and capable, but because of poor life choices, she has ended up working as a low-paid porter and supplements her income with a sideline of smuggling. She is approached by local businessman Trond Landvik, who offers her a huge sum to sabotage Sanchez Aluminum’s harvesting equipment so he can buy the company. She accepts his offer, and the sabotage effort is nearly successful. She gets caught, but talks her way out of trouble for the time being. However, Lanvik and his bodyguard turn up dead, and Jazz is next on the killer’s list. Can she figure out what’s going on and turn this into a victory somehow?

This novel has a lot of great points. It’s entertaining; it has a fast pace, a great plot, plenty of action and tech-based problem solving. Artemis has a frontier feel and law enforcement and administration are very small-time. The setting and the characters really come alive as Jazz moves through the dingy corridors of the moon city and interacts with her friends, acquaintances and enemies. Weir has turned a few usual expectations upside down, as the moon-city is established by an African businesswoman and the crime syndicate behind Sanchez Aluminum is Brazilian. Bashara is a Saudi Muslim, but clearly not very much in touch with her roots.

On the not so great side, there are some questionable issues in the execution. First, it seems like Weir might be trying to send a message here about teen rebellion and poor life choices, but he doesn’t follow through. Jazz knows she’s made poor life choices, but instead of trying to fix this, she doubles down on fast talking and just gets in deeper with worse decisions. It seems unlikely that local management would overlook all her transgressions, and the deal she offers Ngugi to avoid deportation at the end doesn’t hold water. Until this point, Jazz has come across as a small-time, low-income smuggler, but now she represents herself as being completely in control of Artemis’ smuggling trade? How and when did this happen?

Regardless of these little niggles, you have to hand it to Andy Weir for revitalizing the hard SF genre. It’s a fun read.

Four stars.

Review of “The Martian Obelisk” by Linda Nagata

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This story is a finalist for the 2018 Hugo Awards. It’s hard science fiction and was published in 2017 by Tor.com. Note: review may contain spoilers.

The Earth is dying and the Martian colonies have been abandoned. Financed by the wealthy Nathaniel Sanchez, architect Susannah Li-Langford is building a monument on Mars, using remote machines to clothe a spire in sparkling, white tiles. In a surprising development, the machines notify her they’ve received a signal. Could there be life still on Mars after all?

This is a pretty dystopian setting. With the Earth devastated by climate change and biological warfare, its people have lost their dream to move out to the stars. Instead, they are slowly dying in place. Li-Langford is nearing the end of her life but keeps plodding away at her monument, hoping to leave something lasting behind.

Good points: First, this is science fiction, somewhat on the hard side, but not technical enough to put anyone off. Next, the message is hope. Even with all that’s gone wrong, Li-Langford is willing to abandon her dreams to give someone else a ray of hope.

Not so good points: This reminded me very strongly of Weir’s The Martian, so I didn’t take it as highly original. I thought the characters were flat and not well developed; plus, there was a lot of exposition—I really didn’t end up feeling the devastation on Earth. I didn’t really feel Li-Langford’s dream, either. Why waste all the time and money on a monument when it seems like Earth needs it instead? Then she abandons it without a second thought and dismantles way more than seems necessary for the situation. And how are a few tiles going to help castaways? The plot didn’t quite hold water for me.

Two and a half stars because of the believability issues.

Congrats to the Dragon Award Winners!

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The first annual Dragon Awards were presented Sunday night at DragonCon. Some of the usual suspects won in this case, including Martin’s ”Game of Thrones”, Weir’s ”The Martian”, Gaiman’s ”The Sandman” and Novik’s ”League of Dragons.”

It looks like this venue will be quite a bit more friendly to popular fiction than the Hugo or Nebula Awards. For one thing, a self-published novel won in the Best Horror genre. Also, Castalia House did well here with wins for John C. Wright and Nick Cole. Sad Puppy stalwart Larry Correia also won with Son of the Black Sword.

In other analysis, white men apparently turned out to vote their taste, as novel winners were 7 men/1 woman. Ethnic diversity was also low; out of 8 winners, only Correia is a minority writer.

Many congrats to the winners!

Best Science Fiction Novel
Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm, John C. Wright (Castalia House)

Best Fantasy Novel
Son of the Black Sword, Larry Correia (Baen)

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel
The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett (Harper)

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel
Hell’s Foundations Quiver, David Weber (Tor)

Best Alternate History Novel
League of Dragons, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

Best Apocalyptic Novel
Ctrl Alt Revolt!, Nick Cole (Castalia House)

Best Horror Novel
Souldancer, Brian Niemeier (Self-published)

Best Comic Book
Ms. Marvel

Best Graphic Novel
The Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series
Game of Thrones

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie
The Martian

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game
Fallout 4 by Bethesda Softworks

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game
Fallout Shelter by Bethesda Softworks

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game
Pandemic: Legacy by ZMan Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game
Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game (7th Edition) by Chaosium Inc.

Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction
” The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, Jan & Mar 2015)

2016 Hugo Awards Done!


royalty-free-writing-clipart-illustration-1146779I’ve noted the winners of the 2016 Hugo Awards below in bold. A few surprises here. I’ve also noted where the Sad Puppies (SP) and Rabid Puppies (RP) won one of their initial recommendations. Interestingly, WorldCon has published the voting stats here.

So, it looks like the Puppies’ strategy of nominating stronger works has paid off, meaning voters appeared more willing to evaluate their recommendations on quality. No Award only won in two of the categories this year, and looking at the stats, it’s clear that some of Vox Day’s recommendations ran a strong second and/or third place when they didn’t win. Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold and Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe by Marc Aramini came in second. Tingle’s “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” actually came in third, as did Slow Bullets by Alistair Reynolds, “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland and “Obits” by Stephen King.

All the fiction categories went to women, three of which were minorities. Both editor winners were women, as was the professional artist. That leaves Andy Weir, Mike Glyer, Neil Gaiman and Steve Stiles as the men who took home awards. Leaving out the categories with a list of names, that looks like 7 women/4 men.

Many congrats to all the winners!

Best Novel (3695 nominating ballots)
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc)
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

Best Novella (2416 nominating ballots)
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com) (SP)
The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)
Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)
Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)

Best Novelette (1975 nominating ballots)
“And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015)
“Flashpoint: Titan” by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
“Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015) (SP)(RP)
“Obits” by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
“What Price Humanity?” by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)

Best Short Story (2451 nominating ballots)
“Asymmetrical Warfare” by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015) (SP)
“If You Were an Award, My Love” by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015)
“Seven Kill Tiger” by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)

Best Related Work (2080 nominating ballots)
No Award
Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986 by Marc Aramini (Castalia House)
“The First Draft of My Appendix N Book” by Jeffro Johnson (jeffro.wordpress.com)
“Safe Space as Rape Room” by Daniel Eness (castaliahouse.com)
SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day (Castalia House)
“The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland (askthebigot.com)

Best Graphic Story (1838 nominating ballots)
The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka (First Second)
Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell (dyingalone.net)
Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams (ffn.nodwick.com)
Invisible Republic Vol 1 written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics)
The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo) (RP)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (2904 nominating ballots)
Avengers: Age of Ultron written and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Ex Machina written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)
Mad Max: Fury Road written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris, directed by George Miller (Village Roadshow Pictures; Kennedy Miller Mitchell; RatPac-Dune Entertainment; Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox) (SP)(RP)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lucasfilm Ltd.; Bad Robot Productions; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (2219 nominating ballots)
Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Television)
Grimm: “Headache” written by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, directed by Jim Kouf (Universal Television; GK Productions; Hazy Mills Productions; Open 4 Business Productions; NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions;Netflix)
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, M.A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media/Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)
Supernatural: “Just My Imagination” written by Jenny Klein, directed by Richard Speight Jr. (Kripke Enterprises; Wonderland Sound and Vision; Warner Bros. Television)

Best Editor, Short Form (1891 nominating ballots)
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
Jerry Pournelle
Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form (1764 nominating ballots)
Vox Day
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Jim Minz
Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (1481 nominating ballots)
Lars Braad Andersen
Larry Elmore
Abigail Larson (SP)(RP)
Michal Karcz
Larry Rostant

Best Semiprozine (1457 nominating ballots)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
Daily Science Fiction edited by Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden
Sci Phi Journal edited by Jason Rennie
Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, A. J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons staff
Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Best Fanzine (1455 nominating ballots)
Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer (SP)(RP)
Lady Business edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
Superversive SF edited by Jason Rennie
Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale

Best Fancast (1267 nominating ballots)
No Award
8-4 Play, Mark MacDonald, John RPRicciardi, Hiroko Minamoto, and Justin Epperson
Cane and Rinse, Cane and Rinse
HelloGreedo, HelloGreedo
The Rageaholic, RazörFist
Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick

Best Fan Writer (1568 nominating ballots)
Douglas Ernst
Mike Glyer (SP)
Morgan Holmes
Jeffro Johnson
Shamus Young

Best Fan Artist (1073 nominating ballots)
Matthew Callahan
Christian Quinot
Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (1922 nominating ballots)
Pierce Brown *
Sebastien de Castell *
Brian Niemeier
Andy Weir * (SP)(RP)
Alyssa Wong *

Here are the Sad Puppies’ 2016 Hugo recommendations

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FeatherPenClipArtKate Paulk has posted the Sad Puppies’ recommendations for Hugo nomination. I notice there’s a slight overlap with both the Rabid Puppies’ recommendations and the Nebula nominations. There’s also a fair amount of diversity here.

I’m not going to be able to review all these before end of the Hugo nominating period, so check at Rocket Stack Rank for reviews of these works and also those recommended by the Rabid Puppies. Interestingly, the recommendations for “editor, short form” only include one of the statistically identified “best editors” from Rocket Stack Rank. I’m not sure what that indicates, maybe that taste goes a long way toward what different groups see as good spec fiction.

Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Andy Weir – The Martian
Brian Niemeier – Nethereal
Alyssa Wong – “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers”
Natasha Pulley – The Watchmakers of Filigree Street
Becky Chambers – The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Scott Hawkins – The Library at Mount Char
Charlie N. Holmberg – The Paper Magician
John Sandford & Ctein – Saturn Run
Sebastien de Castelle – Greatcoats series

Best Fan Artist

Otaking77077 – TIE Fighter animated film (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN_CP4SuoTU)
Karezoid (Michal Karcz) – http://karezoid.deviantart.com/art/Within-The-Choir-of-Ascending-Spirit-571475023
Michael Callahan – http://www.callahanvisual.com/galacticwarfighters/zl8qd59i0iczlgvsm79u4rfqnxxa7q
Piper Thibdeau

Best Professional Artist

Abigail Larson
Sam Weber
Frank Cho
Larry Elmore
Dustin Nguyen
Richard Anderson

Best Fan Writer

Jeffro Johnson – Space Gaming and Castalia House blogs
Declan Finn – Sad Puppies Bite Back
Eric Flint – “In Defense of Sad Puppies” (http://www.ericflint.net/index.php/2015/06/08/in-defense-of-the-sad-puppies/)
Mike Glyer – Puppy roundup posts on File 770 (http://file770.com/?page_id=22881)
Brandon Kempner – Chaos Horizon
Charles Akins – http://dyverscampaign.blogspot.com/p/best-reads-of-week.html
Dave Freer – Mad Genius Club
Dorothy Grant (fynbospress) – Mad Genius Club
Ron Edwards – https://adeptpress.wordpress.com/

Best Fancast

Tea and Jeopardy
Geek Gab
Hello Greedo

Best Fanzine

File 770 – http://file770.com/
Nuke Mars – http://www.nukemars.com/
Superversive SF – http://superversivesf.com/
Otherwhere Gazette
Tangent Online – http://www.tangentonline.com/

Best Semiprozine

Sci Phi Journal

Best Editor – Short Form

Jerry Pournelle – There Will Be War vol X
John Joseph Adams – Lightspeed, and Nightmare
S. M. Sterling – The Change anthology
Jason Rennie – Sci Phi Journal
Paula Goodlett – Grantville Gazette
Bryan Thomas Schmidt – Mission: Tomorrow

Best Editor – Long Form

Toni Weisskopf – Baen
Jim Mintz – Baen
Tony Daniel – Baen

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

Daredevil Season 1 Episode 2
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Person of Interest Season 4 Episode 11: If-Then-Else
Kung Fury: Laser Unicorns
TIE Fighter animation by Otaking 77077
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Melinda
Daredevil Season 1 Episode 13
Doctor Who: Heaven Sent
Gravity Falls: Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons
Gravity Falls: Northwest Mansion Mystery

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Inside Out
iZombie (Season 1 as a whole)
Person of Interest (Season 4 as a whole)
Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Ex Machina

Best Graphic Story

Order of the Stick
Stand Still Stay Silent – any 2015 plot arc
Schlock Mercenary Book 15
Empowered Volume 9
Saga Volume 5
Fables: Farewell Volume 22
Gunnerkrigg Court Chapter 15: Totem
Invisible Republic Volume 1
Lazarus: Conclave

Best Related Work

Sad Puppies Bite Back – Declan Finn
Appendix N – Jeffro Johnson
Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End – Daniel
A History of Epic Fantasy – Adam Whitehead
Atomic Rockets – Winchell Chung
Legosity – Tom Simon
There Will Be War Vol X – Edited Jerry Pournelle
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) – Felicia Day
Frazetta Sketchbook Number 2
Galactic Journey – http://galacticjourney.org/

Best Short Story

“Tuesdays With Molakesh The Destroyer” – Megan Grey
“Today I am Paul” – Martin L Shoemaker
“… And I Show You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes” – Scott Alexander
“Asymmetrical Warfare” – S. R. Algernon
“Cat Pictures, Please” – Naomi Kritzer
“Damage” – David Levine
“A Flat Affect” – Eric Flint
“Daedelus” – Niall Burke
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” – Alyssa Wong
“I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything” – Laura Pearlman

Best Novelette

“And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead” – Brooke Bolander
“Pure Attentions” – T. R. Dillon
“Folding Beijing” – Hao Jingfang translated by Ken Liu
“If I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Way Up In the Air” – Clifford D. Simak
“Obits” – Stephen King
“Our Lady of the Open Road” – Sarah Pinsker

Best Novella

Binti – Nnedi Okorafor
Penric’s Demon – Lois McMaster Bujold
Slow Bullets – Alastair Reynolds
Perfect State – Brandon Sanderson
The End of All Things 1: The Life of the Mind – John Scalzi
Speak Easy – Catherynne M. Valente
The Builders – Daniel Polansky

Best Novel 

Somewhither – John C Wright
Honor At Stake – Declan Finn
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher
Uprooted – Naomi Novik
A Long Time Until Now – Michael Z Williamson
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson
Son of the Black Sword – Larry Correia
Strands of Sorrow – John Ringo
Nethereal – Brian Niemeier
Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie

Retro Hugos

If This Goes On – Heinlein, for Best Novel
“Requiem” – Heinlein, Best Short Story
“The Roads Must Roll” – Heinlein, Best Short Story. Sad Puppies’ recommendations for Hugo nomination. There is a slight overlap with both the Rabid Puppies’ slate and the Nebula nominations.


The Sad/Rabid Puppies as a fringe group

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Reviewing the recent Sad/Rabid Puppy initiative, they look like a fringe group according to Kuhn’s thesis. Whether anyone there has the spark of genius that would cause a new paradigm shift remains to be seen. The Puppies are actually the remnants of the last paradigm shift, who are apparently just now discovering that the paradigm is no longer what they thought it was. The best strategy for this position is not to agitate to go back to the old paradigm. It ain’t gonna happen. Instead, this group should be looking to the future to see where the earthquake of alternative publishing opportunities might take them.

This is the new paradigm I identified a while back, by the way. It is so earth shattering that it’s threatening the publishers and writers currently at the heart of the speculative fiction field. The upstarts include writers like Andy Weir, author of The Martian—who actually published the book on his blog first. Another is E. L. James, who first posted installments of Fifty Shades of Grey on an Internet forum. These examples show it’s possible to bypass the current publishing establishment entirely and go on to fame and fortune with a six to eight figure movie deal. The SFWA recently broadened their membership requirements, taking note of this change.

Most people won’t generate this kind of income, of course, but still the opportunities are there.

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