Congrats to the 2019 Hugo Finalists

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Here they are. I’ll start reviews right away.

Best Novel
The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Novella
Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com publishing)
Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)
Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com publishing)
The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com publishing)
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson (Tor.com publishing)
The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press / JABberwocky Literary Agency)

Best Novelette
“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com, 11 July 2018)
“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, 19 September 2018)
The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com publishing)
“The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
“When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)

Best Short Story
“The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
“The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
“STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)
“The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)
“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)

Best Series
The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com publishing)
The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com publishing/Orbit)
Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)
The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)
Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work
Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee (Dey Street Books)
The Hobbit Duology (documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan (YouTube)
An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000, by Jo Walton (Tor)
http://www.mexicanxinitiative.com: The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 (Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, John Picacio)
Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon (Tin House Books)

Best Graphic Story
Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)
Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)
Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden (First Second)
Paper Girls, Volume 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)
Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Annihilation, directed and written for the screen by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer (Paramount Pictures / Skydance)
Avengers: Infinity War, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Studios)
Black Panther, written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler (Marvel Studios)
A Quiet Place, screenplay by Scott Beck, John Krasinski and Bryan Woods, directed by John Krasinski (Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night)
Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley (Annapurna Pictures)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate,” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Penguin in a Parka / Alcon Entertainment)
Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab,” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs (BBC)
Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe and Chuck Lightning, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning (Wondaland Arts Society / Bad Boy Records / Atlantic Records)
The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)
The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy,” written by Megan Amram, directed by Trent O’Donnell (NBC)
Doctor Who: “Rosa,” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai (BBC)

Best Editor, Short Form
Neil Clarke
Gardner Dozois
Lee Harris
Julia Rios
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
E. Catherine Tobler

Best Editor, Long Form
Sheila E. Gilbert
Anne Lesley Groell
Beth Meacham
Diana Pho
Gillian Redfearn
Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist
Galen Dara
Jaime Jones
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Yuko Shimizu
Charles Vess

Best Semiprozine
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
Fireside Magazine, edited by Julia Rios, managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, copyeditor Chelle Parker, social coordinator Meg Frank, special features editor Tanya DePass, founding editor Brian White, publisher and art director Pablo Defendini
FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, executive editors Troy L. Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders, editors L.D. Lewis, Brandon O’Brien, Kaleb Russell, Danny Lore, and Brent Lambert
Shimmer, publisher Beth Wodzinski, senior editor E. Catherine Tobler
Strange Horizons, edited by Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, Vanessa Rose Phin, Vajra Chandrasekera, Romie Stott, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons Staff
Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine
Galactic Journey, founder Gideon Marcus, editor Janice Marcus
Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay & Susan
nerds of a feather, flock together, editors Joe Sherry, Vance Kotrla and The G
Quick Sip Reviews, editor Charles Payseur
Rocket Stack Rank, editors Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

Best Fancast
Be the Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Fangirl Happy Hour, hosted by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
Galactic Suburbia, hosted by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
Our Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
The Skiffy and Fanty Show, produced by Jen Zink and Shaun Duke, hosted by the Skiffy and Fanty Crew

Best Fan Writer
Foz Meadows
James Davis Nicoll
Charles Payseur
Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
Alasdair Stuart
Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist
Sara Felix
Grace P. Fong
Meg Frank
Ariela Housman
Likhain (Mia Sereno)
Spring Schoenhuth

Best Art Book
Under the WSFS Constitution every Worldcon has the right to add one category to the Hugo Awards for that year only. Dublin 2019 has chosen to use this right to create an award for an art book.

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press /Gollancz)
Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon, by Julie Dillon (self-published)
Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer (Ten Speed Press)
Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, ed. John Fleskes (Flesk Publications)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The Art of the Movie, by Ramin Zahed (Titan Books)
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, ed. Catherine McIlwaine (Bodleian Library)
There are two other Awards administered by Worldcon 76 that are not Hugo Awards:

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)
Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)
Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Katherine Arden*
S.A. Chakraborty*
R.F. Kuang
Jeannette Ng*
Vina Jie-Min Prasad*
Rivers Solomon*

Review of “Messenger” by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi

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This novelette is a finalist in the 2018 Nebula Awards. It is military SF/fantasy and was published in the anthology Expanding Universe, Vol. 4, edited by Craig Martelle and published by LMBPN Publishing. Virdi has been a finalist twice for a Dragon Award, once in 2016 for the fantasy novel Grave Measures, and again in 2017 for Dangerous Ways. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is an established novelist, and this appears to be his first major award nomination. This review contains spoilers.

An asteroid called Messenger passes Earth; then another crashes into the moon, followed by an alien landing in Bangalore, India. Arjun Shetty is caught in the destruction and loses his wife and daughter. He is called up to fight and becomes one of the first Shikari called Vishnu, a giant cyborg warrior designed to fight the alien war machines. He brings down one of the machines in the ocean, drags it to shore where scientists are gathered to analyze it, and then suffers a malfunction—for a second he sees only the enemy, starts to fire on it again. Diagnostics can’t find anything wrong. An emergency in Bay 6 needs his attention. Bay 6 houses the Kali-Skikari, which has desynced and run amuck. Vishnu-Skikari destroys her, reports for debriefing and is sent in a transport back to Base. The transport is intercepted by war machines. Can Vishnu-Skikari defeat them?

I can see why these guys made the list of finalists. This is great stuff for a usually dull sub-genre—full of imagery, style and fire, featuring the Shikari cyborgs crashing over the line into violent godhood psychosis. Hm. Or are they? It’s is all pretty much steam-of-consciousness from Vishnu’s viewpoint, which gives us depth in understanding what goes on inside his systems. The other characters are poorly developed, but considering what Vishnu has become, their flatness and insignificance from his viewpoint is sort of understandable (and gets worse as the story goes on).

On the not so positive side, I’m not sure whose war machines attack Vishnu in the final battle. I suspect these are friendly forces, but a few better hints about this would have been helpful. And another little niggle: how many arms does Kali have? Four? Six? Or does she just sprout more as she needs them? Hm.

Recommended. Four and a half stars.

Sales!

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My short story “Illegal Aliens” will appear in the upcoming Refractions (vol. 5). This is a literary type journal mainly aimed at children and teens, but also great reading for kids of all ages. It’s generally available from the Golden Fleece Press website, or from online distributors. I’ll post again when publication is imminent.

Politics and Hugo Wins

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Before disappearing, I was involved in another interesting discussion at File 770. It’s pretty cold now, but I think it warrants at least a couple of blog posts. The debate was about what effect the political maneuvering related to the Sad/Rabid Puppies slates has had on who wins a Hugo Award and how people see the results.

The first point that stood out for me is that posters at File 770 seem to consider the nomination slates as a political move by the Sad/Rabid Puppies, but don’t consider countervotes like “No Award” as a political response. This is part of characterizing the Puppies as a loony, sexist, racist fringe who are only trying to sabotage the Hugo Award because they are angry about diversity, while everyone else is an “organic voter,” presumably focused only on the quality of the work. This isn’t only language used at File 770, but also on various other blog and analysis sites. It seems a curious idea to me that a counter to a political strategy isn’t itself a political strategy. Hm. Something’s wrong there.

In the wake of the recent election, it’s hard to miss the clash of ideologies that went on—Clinton veering hard left versus Trump channeling the alt-right. The interesting thing is that a day after the popular vote showed 47.7% for Clinton and 47.5% for Trump (with presumably some ballots not yet counted). To those on either the conservative or liberal side who think they are a majority, it just ain’t so. Also, the fact that the polls were so far wrong shows that shutting down the opposition can produce a surprise that comes back to bite you in the butt.

And how does that apply to the SFF community? If we accept that the clash of ideologies we’ve just seen in the US election is also playing out in other segments of society, it’s likely that the Sad/Rabid Puppies are representing a valid social/political argument in their complaints about SFF publishers and the SFF awards system. This is quite probably a response to extremism on the left, as described by the various manifestos put out by the Puppies. So what does that make the political reaction from the SFF community? Is it about shutting down the discussion with a club of moral censure? About refusing to listen to heartfelt concerns because they run counter to the reigning ideology?

Shouldn’t we be looking at that roughly 50/50 split that Clinton and Trump achieved in the electorate an applying it to the conflict within the SFF community? Wouldn’t it be helpful if the community were to move a little more toward the center?

Note: Mike Glyer has asked me to note that discussions that take place at File 770 don’t necessarily represent his personal views.

Review of “A Flat Affect” by Eric Flint

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This is a Sad Puppy recommendation for Best Short Story in the Hugo nominations. It’s published on the Baen website.

King Bertrand is bored, so he plans a grand festival where his favorite poet Garrick will perform. His chancellor Hubert Reece is dismayed by the costs, but knows the results of telling truth to power. Garrick arrives and performs in the new stadium built for the event. His forte is war epics, and he is loudly applauded by the troops. No ladies are seen to swoon. The king is satisfied for a while, but soon he wants to commission a new work, of the imagination this time, where foes from the future attack and have to be repelled. Garrick accepts the commission with the stipulation he will outline the epic and have a lesser bard do the work of actual composition and performance. Newcomer Fulchard is chosen for the execution, with conflicted results.

Although the Sad Puppies have announced they’re not into literary fiction, they do seem to be deep into philosophy this year. There’s a philosophical thread that runs through this story, along with allusions to the past and future. I’m not sure if the title is a grammatical error or not. The story was listed as “The Flat Effect,” but when I got the website, it definitely says “Affect” which would change the meaning. I’m thinking this is about the traditional vs. literary SF conflict in the SFF community, but there’s nothing I can pin down to verify this. Still, I’m sure it’s message fiction. I’m going to give it a few extra points for the subtlety.

Four stars.

Truth in Advertising

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WarriorChecking in on the Hugo debate, I notice the bad behavior is still going on, and the people doing it predict this will continue past the WorldCon awards. That seems to mean these are either closely held issues, or that people just like to fight.

I’m reminded of a George Carlin plan from a few years back on traffic control. Everyone in the debate should be equipped with a plastic dart gun. Whenever someone calls names, SWATs, or otherwise engages in unacceptable behavior, they should be shot with a dart that unfurls a “stupid” sign. Once they have enough of these signs stuck on them, they are easy to identify as a public hazard and the police can take them away. Lou Antonelli definitely earned a couple of “stupid” darts for recent attacks on David Gerrold and Carrie Cuinn.

On to the actual debate: Checking in on File 770 today, I’ve found a link to a blog Brad Torgersen published back in February. Since the comments are closed on it, I’ll give my opinion here. Torgersen is commenting on what he calls the “unreliable packaging” problem. In his analogy, people who love Nutty Nuggets cereal have been getting something else in their box. They see the standard, generic spaceship on the front and expect to get Nutty Nuggets space adventure, but instead they get some off-brand diatribe on racial prejudice or oppression of women. According to Torgersen, this has been driving away the lovers of Nutty Nuggets, which is presumably his audience.

So Brad, truth in advertising is a fairly standard consumer problem, and the answer to this is always “buyer beware.” Once disappointed in my box of Nutty Nuggets, I would certainly go to Amazon and take advantage of their “look inside” and review features to make sure what I was getting in my cereal box. In times before Amazon, my strategy was to follow particular authors, or else go stand in the bookstore and read the first page of every novel on the SF&F shelf until I found one that suited me.

Torgersen has noted a problem that has more to do with publishers sticking generic covers on SF novels than about quality content. The same thing happens in the fantasy genre where everything has either a dragon or a wizard on the cover. The elephant in the room that Torgersen can’t see, though, is change in the market. When I started reading SF, there were very few choices of what to read—a few offerings on the book shelf and a few in the library and that was it. You could also get a subscription to magazines like Analog, Amazing, F&SF or Galaxy. This meant a dedicated audience. Now, SF&F readers are staggered by the difficulty of sorting through millions of offerings to find what they want to read.

In the Golden Age, a few brilliant writers, mostly with a science background, dominated the hard SF field. You got good stories, but also good science. Hard SF was a way to learn about advances in physics, theories of how to colonize outer space, projections of how a war might be carried out. Now the SF&F field has been invaded by serious writers, including MFA’s who have a command of literary technique and a strong desire to make a living as a writer, while the quality of content in hard SF and space opera has declined and stagnated. Assuming the writers nominated for this year’s Hugos are tops in the field of “traditional” SF, it looks like there’s kind of a big skills gap. The hard truth is that traditional SF&F is going to have to up its game before it will be worthy of any real awards. Cruising along with the same old thing isn’t going to work against accomplished literary-type writers.

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