Wrap up of the 2018 Hugo Reviews

11 Comments

Now that I’ve reviewed all the works, it’s time to take a look at the Hugo finalists, and how they fell out this year. Most notable is the absence of Vox Day’s Rabid Puppy inputs, which in the past couple or three award cycles has provided the male diversity. That means ordinary cis men were totally shut out of three of the four Hugo fiction categories for 2018, with Best Short Story, Best Novelette and Best Novella featuring only women, trans and non-binary authors. The Best Novel category also featured two finalists who are possibly political appointees meant as a slap-in-the-face to Vox Day, these being his nemeses N.K. Jemisin and John Scalzi. That leaves the white-male-masterful-crusader Kim Stanley Robinson as the really big wild card in the whole thing.

The next notable feature was the high rate of correspondence between the finalists for the Hugo and the Nebula Award. For the Best Short Story category the only difference was that two men nominated for the Nebula were replaced by women or trans writers. In the Best Novelette category, the same thing happened, but one additional woman was nominated. The most significant difference was in the Best Novel category, where only two of the finalists were the same. This strongly suggests how the same limited system produces both sets of nominees.

Next, the Hugo Awards drew from the same restricted number of publishers as the Nebula. In the novel category, this included: 4 from Orbit, 1 from Tor and 1 from Solaris. In the novella category: 5 from Tor.com and 1 from Uncanny. The novelette and short story categories showed slightly more diversity, drawing from Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Apex. Looking at these results, it’s clear why Rocket Stack Rank only reviews particular magazines. This is pretty much the list of shorter-than-novel publishers with inputs into the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Print magazines are doing so poorly, RSR can probably leave Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF off pretty soon without missing anything important.

Looking at what’s normally counted for diversity, the Hugo has done reasonably well. Best Novel includes 3 women, 2 men, 1 trans, 1 Asian and 1 African American writer. Best Novella includes 5 women, 0 men, 1 non-binary, 1 Asian and 1 African American writer. Best Novelette category includes 4 women, 0 men, 2 trans and 3 Asian writers. Best Short Story includes 6 women, 0 men, 3 Asian and 1 Native American writer. Those who recall my comments from last year will know I’m glad to see a Native American writer appear in the finalists, but we’re still short of Hispanics. These figures work out to be 75% women, 12.5% trans, 8% men and 4% non-binary. Looking at the counted racial categories, it works out to be 55% whites, 33% Asian, 8% African American and 4% Native American. Clearly the preferred finalists are young white and Asian women, while men, African Americans and Hispanics are all hugely underrepresented based on their population demographics. The one finalist works out okay for Native Americans, who are about 2% of the US population.

A couple of things stood out in the themes. First, the list included several repeat appearances from previous years, and also followed the Nebula tendency to nominate the same author in multiple categories. These included Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Sarah Pinsker and Yoon Ha Lee. The list of Hugo finalists avoided the tendency the Nebula finalists showed for editors, publishers and other industry insiders, but included at least a couple of short works written by popular novelists within the universe of their novels. I took this as unduly promotional. Like the Nebulas, there seemed to be a strong preference for stories with non-binary or trans characters.

This list leans heavily to fantasy and soft science fiction, with a serious lack of ideas and/or hard science fiction. I don’t think Nagata’s work qualifies, regardless that it’s set on Mars. The real stand-out, different work here, again, was Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140, which actually attempted to deal with hard science, real politics and real threats to humanity’s future. This is the kind of important work I’d prefer to see appear on the awards ballots.

patreon

Advertisements

Review of “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Leave a comment

This novelette is a finalist for the 2017 Nebula Award. It was published in Clarkesworld and probably rates on the hard SF scale. It’s also finalist for the 2018 Hugo Awards.

Helena Li Yuanhui of Splendid Beef Enterprises makes beef forgeries for local restaurants. She had to leave the Hong Kong Scientific University Bioprinting Lab in a hurry after being blamed for an organ design that went wrong, and took the lab’s Sculpere 9410S printer with her so she could establish a livelihood when she got to Nanjing. An anonymous caller seems to have discovered this, and demands that she make 200 T-bone steaks for him gratis. Because she’s scared and the deadline is short, Helena hires Lily Yonezawa to assist, who says she has a background in baking. They hurry through designing the steaks, while Mr. Anonymous sends creepy threats, and eventually a hired thug to apply pressure. Helena has to admit to Lily what’s been going on. Can the two of them get the steaks done on time? Can they find out who Mr. Anonymous is? Sabotage his operation? Escape with their lives?

The plotting and world building here is excellent, as the author projects medical science, three-D printing and criminal possibilities into a smooth whole. The story also has a lot of humor and a distinctly Asian flair. Helena is struggling as an entry level criminal, but Lily is obviously well into it, complete with bunny-design accessories and ornate bracelets that double as brass knuckles.

On the negative side, all these people are somewhat over-the-top, which makes them caricatures. That feeds the humor and entertainment quality, of course, but it reduces the depth of characterization and keeps us from really getting into the characters’ heads.

Recommended. Four and a half stars.

Congrats to the 2018 Hugo Finalists!

1 Comment

Here’s what I got for the diversity count: Short stories – 6 women, 0 men, 3 Asian, 1 mixed race African/Native American. Novelettes – 5 women, 1 trans, 3 Asian. Novellas – 5 women, 1 trans, 1 Asian, 1 African American, 1 bipolar. Novels – 4 women, 2 men, 1 Asian, 1 African American.

Three short stories, 2 novelettes and 1 novella (6 of 24) are from Uncanny; 1 short story, 1 novelette, 5 novellas and 1 novel (8 of 24) are from Tor and Orbit published 4 of the 6 novels. The pro print magazines scored poorly, as Asimov’s squeaked in with one entry, but F&SF and Analog were totally shut out this year.

As usual, there’s quite a bit of overlap between these finalists and those of the Nebula Award, including 4 of 6 short stories, 3 of 6 novelettes, 4 of 6 novellas and 2 of 6 novels. Like the Nebulas, there is also repetition of names, as Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Sarah Pinsker and Yoon Ha Lee appear in more than one category. There’s also overlap with last years’ Hugo finalist list: N.K. Jemisin, Yoon Ha Lee, Seanan McGuire, Fran Wilde and Ursula Vernon were all finalists in 2017. Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorifor were finalists in 2016.

Best Novel

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
The Stone Sky, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella

All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
And Then There Were (N-One), by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, Mar-Apr 2017)
Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette

“Children of Thorns, Children of Water“, by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, Jul-Aug 2017)
“Extracurricular Activities“, by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017)
“The Secret Life of Bots“, by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, Sep 2017)
“A Series of Steaks“, by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, Jan 2017)
“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time“, by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May-Jun 2017)
“Wind Will Rove“, by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, Sep-Oct 2017)

Best Short Story

“Carnival Nine“, by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
“Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand“, by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, Sep-Oct 2017)
“Fandom for Robots“, by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, Sep-Oct 2017)
“The Martian Obelisk“, by Linda Nagata (Tor.com, July 19, 2017)
“Sun, Moon, Dust“, by Ursula Vernon (Uncanny, May-Jun 2017)
“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™“, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, Aug 2017)

Rocket Stack Rank Site Predicts the 2018 Hugo Winners

25 Comments

For anyone who’s somehow not noticed, Rocket Stack Rank is a fairly new short fiction review site established by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong. The site posts short reviews and rankings of long and short fiction from major pro magazines and anthologies (no novels) during the year, and also compilations of how other reviewers rated the stories. The wrap-up at the end of the year shows three clear leaders for the Hugo Award, based on this system:

Best Novella – Nexus by Michael Flynn from Analog
Best Novelette – “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad from Clarkesworld
Best Short Story – “The Martian Obelisk” by Linda Nagata from Tor.com

In comparison, here’s what the Nebula Reading List predicts, based on the number of recommendations from SFWA members:

Best Novella – And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker from Uncanny Magazine
Best Novelette – “Small Changes over Long Periods of Time” by K.M. Szpara from Uncanny Magazine
Best Short Story (tie) – “Carnival Nine” by Caroline Yoachim from Beneath Ceaseless Skies and “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)” by Rebecca Roanhorse from Apex Magazine

Interestingly, Nexus rated right at the bottom of the Nebula Reading List, and “A Series of Steaks” rated fourth in its category. I don’t see “The Martian Obelisk” on the Nebula list at all. Does this suggest a bias toward hard SF among reviewers? A bias toward fantasy among SFWA members?

The Locus poll results will be available soon, so I’ll have a look at those when they come out. A quick skim of the ballot right now shows no sign of Nexus or “Small Changes over Long periods of Time.” I wouldn’t expect they’d rate as write-ins.

Does the Hugo really represent fandom?

116 Comments

I’ve already commented on the extreme diversity that appeared on the Nebula ballot this year. There’s also quite a bit in the Hugo ballot if you’re looking for the usual author characteristics. For example, the Hugo Best Novel category includes two trans authors, a black author, two Asian authors, two LGB authors and two disabled authors. There are no white men there. This outcome is considered progressive, but somehow I suspect there are some very popular white male writers out there. Note that the two white men who appear on the ballot as a whole are due to Vox Day’s activism. Stix Hiscock I’m not going to mention.

Here’s the Hugo ballot again:
Best Novel
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

Best Novella
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)
This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

Best Novelette
“Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex” by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan (Tor.com, July 2016)
“The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing, May 2016)
“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)
“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

Best Short Story
“The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
“That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
“An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

So, what are the chances that SFF fandom as a whole would elect this ballot? Remember that taste is never random, but with equal participation I’d expect the SFF readership demographics should roughly match the ballot for a popular award. Assuming that everyone participates, of course.

Well, it’s hard to say what the current demographics are. I’m having trouble finding any studies to consult on the matter. When I checked, the latest demographic study on SFF readership I found took place in 1977. This should be a great opportunity for research. Doesn’t the industry conduct surveys to keep track of fan demographics at all?

So how did the Rabid Puppies do in the Hugo nominations?

4 Comments

Am back but disorganized. While I was busy vacationing, the Hugo finalists for this year were announced, containing many of the expected works. Aside from that, I’m sure everyone is dying to know how Vox Day did against the new E Pluribus Hugo system that was installed last year to block slate voting. Day apparently analyzed the system and, in response, modified his recommendations from a full slate to (mostly) a single work in each category. This seems to have been a successful strategy, as his recommendations made the finalist list in ten categories, including the Campbell Award. If not for the declines/ineligible, he’d have made three more. Below are the 2017 finalists. I’ve marked the Rabid Puppies choices in bold.

This list of works received enough votes to be finalists, but were either ineligible or declined:

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Game of Thrones: “The Winds of Winter”

Best Professional Artist: Tomek Radziewicz

Best Professional Artist: JiHun Lee

Best Semiprozine: Lightspeed Magazine

Best Fanzine: File 770

On to the 2017 Hugo finalists:

Best Novel

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)

Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)

Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)

Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

Best Novella

The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle (Tor.com publishing)

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson (Tor.com publishing)

Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)

Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)

A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com publishing)

This Census-Taker, by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

Best Novelette

“Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex”, by Stix Hiscock (self-published)

“The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan (Tor.com , July 2016)

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, by Fran Wilde (Tor.com publishing, May 2016)

“The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)

“Touring with the Alien”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

Best Short Story

“The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)

“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

“That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)

“An Unimaginable Light”, by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

Best Related Work

The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)

The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)

Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)

The View From the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow / Harper Collins)

The Women of Harry Potter posts, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)

Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Best Graphic Story

Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)

Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)

Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)

Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)

The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

Rabid Puppies – no recommendation in this category

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)

Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)

Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)

Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)

Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)

Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)

Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)

The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)

Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)

Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)

Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

Best Editor, Short Form

John Joseph Adams

Neil Clarke

Ellen Datlow

Jonathan Strahan

Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas

Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form

Vox Day

Sheila E. Gilbert

Liz Gorinsky

Devi Pillai

Miriam Weinberg

Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

Galen Dara

Julie Dillon

Chris McGrath

Victo Ngai

John Picacio

Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews

Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by P. Alexander

GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith

Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff

Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

Rabid Puppies – no recommendation in this category

Best Fanzine

Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood

Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan

nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry

Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

Best Fancast

The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan

Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace

Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams

Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch

The Rageaholic, presented by RazörFist

Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

 Best Fan Writer

Mike Glyer

Jeffro Johnson

Natalie Luhrs

Foz Meadows

Abigail Nussbaum

Chuck Tingle

Best Fan Artist

Ninni Aalto

Alex Garner

Vesa Lehtimäki

Likhain (M. Sereno)

Spring Schoenhuth

Mansik Yang

 Best Series

The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)

The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey (Orbit US / Orbit UK)

The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)

The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)

The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Harper Voyager UK)

The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Sarah Gailey (1st year of eligibility)

Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility)

Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility)

Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility)

Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility)

Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility)

Review of “Things With Beards” by Sam J. Miller

12 Comments

This story was published in the June issue of Clarkesworld. It currently has 10 recommendations on the Nebula Reading List. (I’ve revised based on comments.)

MacReady is one of two survivors of an incident at an Antarctic research station. His lover Childs is the only other survivor. The station has been found burned down, with the residents blown to bits and only two apparently frozen corpses perfectly preserved. There is also something that resembles a spacecraft in the wreckage. Thawed out in surprisingly good condition, MacReady rejoins life in New York City and takes up the fight for civil rights in a society where gays are ravaged by AIDS and the police target blacks. His old lover Hugh takes him to a meeting where he joins a plan to bomb NYC police stations. MacReady thinks something is wrong with him, but can’t put his finger on it. He has gaps in his memory. He starts to jump off the George Washington Bridge, but reconsiders. He carries out his part of the plot, leaving a bomb at a precinct station. On the way home, he has a profound realization about monsters.

This story is a sequel to the John Carpenter move The Thing, which is adapted from John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?” The two survivors of the destroyed station are infected by an extraterrestrial creature that emerges to claim other victims when conditions seem safe. At those times MacReady and Childs have memory lapses, realizing that something isn’t right, but with no idea what it is.

This is fairly long, written in present tense, and follows MacReady’s efforts to find a place in society again. It gives glimpses of the world around him, of what went on in Antarctica, glimpses of his past, and makes connections with issues current in society. It’s interesting as an extrapolation of the movie, but like most of the Nebula Reading List stories so far, it’s message fiction.

I’m certainly not the expert on literary criticism, but I think this is a postmodern work. It has a scattershot approach where Miller throws out a lot of different bits and leaves the reader to try to put them together into some kind of cohesive whole. Note: The following discussion contains spoilers.

Message 1: As far as I know neither of the works this sequel builds on has any mention of sexuality or racism. That suggests Miller has introduced the gayness of the characters and MacReady’s allyism with the Black Liberation movement to make some kind of statement. Progressive is what’s going to jump out at most people.

Message 2: Miller uses gayness as an excuse to bring up the AIDs epidemic, which was in full swing in the 1980s. He draws a parallel to the spread of the alien life form, as in the story MacReady trades the alien for AIDS through casual sex. This is interesting but not very deep, and I find the references dated. We’ve come a long way in prevention and treatment since 1980 and still referring to AIDS as the “gay flu” struck me as victimization.

Message 3: Through Hugh, Miller sends MacReady to a Black Liberation meeting. He’s right the movement was in sharp decline in the 1980s, but I get the feeling he’s not talking about 1980 here, at all. The issue of police shootings is current and has sparked a new movement, Black Lives Matter, with retaliation against the police from either inside or outside the organization. The fact that MacReady and the others agree to bomb police stations so readily is a questionable suggestion. Is violence against the police progressive, or something beyond that? Neoleft? A return to radicalism?

Message 4: Miller winds this up in the last paragraph by letting us know we need to make peace with the monster within.

Okay, so what’s this all about? Editor Neil Clarke’s estimation is apparently that it will piss a lot of people off. Because he runs a progressive magazine, I suspect he’s identified Message 1 and considers the story to be progressive because it’s about gay men as victims and defending African Americans from the police through retaliatory measures.

However, does it really say that? The problem with postmodernism is that the disorderly presentation means readers can draw different conclusions from the text. I can interpret the gayness and bombings to be just interesting sidelines to the main story here, but when I get to the main theme as stated in the last line, then I need to look back at what’s been said. If Miller has been talking about monsters, then gay men with AIDS carry a monster within that they communicate to others. Also, people who ally with the Black Lives Matter organization to retaliate against the police are monsters within. But this is all okay. Just make peace with yourself and go on spreading it around.

Actually, that reading could piss off a few progressives.

Regardless of the politics, I think this story is complex and well-developed enough to rate a possible nomination. I’d be happier if the messages were more subtle.

Three and a half stars.

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: