The State of SFF – October 2020

Aaaaand it’s time again for another State of SFF.
There are more adaptation news, some updates about awards, a surprise book by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal, and of course new releases to look forward to.

Quickie News

  • The inaugural IGNYTE Awards are being announced on the weekend of the convention, that is October 17th-18th. Mark your calendars!
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  • Also, the World Fantasy Awards will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention which runs from October 29th through November 1st. I have read three out of the five nominees for Best Novel and can tell you it’s a super exciting ballot!
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  • The winners of the Dragon Awards have been announced and the award for Best SF Novel and Best Fantasy novel respectively went to John Scalzi for The Last Emperox and Erin Morgenstern for The Starless Sea. The Best Horror Novel award went to T. Kingfisher for The Twisted Ones. Find the other winners behind the link.
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  • The Arthur C. Clarke Award went to Namwali Serpell for her novel The Old Drift. It sounds really good and the book beat a tough competetion, so I’ll definitely check it out.
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  • Author Terry Goodkind (1948-2020), most well known for his long-running Sword of Truth series, passed away in late September.  I still haven’t read any of his books although Wizard’s First Rule has been on my shelves for ages.

The Mandalorian Season 2

I don’t know about you but I could definitely use some more Baby Yoda in my life. Thankfully, the second season of The Mandalorian is coming very soon.

It will be available on Disney+ on October 30th and, from what I’ve found on the interwebz, this season will be all about the search for “the Child’s” homeworld. I honestly don’t care, as long as there’s Baby Yoda, great music and costumes, and those lovely little emotional moments that made season 1 such a feel-good show. This is the way!

Adaptation News

The Test by Sylvain NeuvelThe Test, a science fiction novella by Sylvain Neuvel will be adapted into a movie, starring John Boyega. It is the story of an immigrant taking a citizenship test and, from what I’ve heard, there will be some sort of twist at the end. Comparisons with Black Mirror come up a lot as well.

I haven’t read this Booktube SFF Award finalist yet, mostly because I’ve heard mixed things. Negative reviews come especially from reviewers who are immigrants themselves or who have taken a citizenship test. I may still pick up the book but I’ll definitely keep those reviewers’ opinions in the back of my mind.

SURPRISE BOOK FROM BRANDON SANDERSON AND MARY ROBINETTE KOWAL

Brandon Sanderson may just be the hardest working author in SFF. This guy juggles projects like none other, writing multiple series for various audiences, and somehow managing to publish at least one book a year. Even more impressive, therefore, that he teamed up with Mary Robinette Kowal (winner of the Hugo Award for the amazing The Calculating Stars) and produced an audio original science fiction story called The Original.

I will definitely get myself a copy and report backt to you but one entire Audible credit for a 3.5 hour audiobook seems a bit steep. So I’ll wait until this is more reasonably priced, especially since we’re talking about Sanderson here and I’m fully expecting this to turn into a series at some point.

Exciting October Publications

T. KINGFISHER – THE HOLLOW PLACES

I’m not a big horror reader, but I do love everything T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) writes. Her horror novel The Twisted Ones (here’s my review) made me scared of my own apartment (well, the shadows moving in it… I swear they moved by themselves!), and that’s what all the best horror novels should do. This follow-up is high on my to-read list.

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Pray they are hungry.

Kara finds the words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring this peculiar area—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more one fears them, the stronger they become.

With her distinctive “delightfully fresh and subversive” (SF Bluestocking) prose and the strange, sinister wonder found in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s LabyrinthThe Hollow Places is another compelling and white-knuckled horror novel that you won’t be able to put down.


V. E. Schwab – THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE

I had this on last month’s expected publications but as it’s 2020 and nothing is certain, it got pushed back. I’m still hesitant about this book but that doesn’t mean I can’t look forward to it with all you Schwab fans. 🙂

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A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.


REBECCA ROANHORSE – BLACK SUN

I liked Rebecca Roanhorse’s Urban Fantasy debut novel well enough, although I didn’t think it was all that original (my review). BUT! She brings something new to the SFF table in that she writes fantasy inspired by Native myths and culture and I’m here for that. Plus, look at this cover! How could we resist?

50892360. sy475 A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.

Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade


ALIX E. HARROW – THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES

Suffragist witches. Do you need more? Okay, fine. It’s Alix E. Harrow who completely captured my heart with her Hugo-winning short story and made quite an impact with last year’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January (my review).  I don’t even care that January didn’t work for me so well, I will read whatever Harrow writes because she is one hell of a talent!

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In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.


C. L. POLK – THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN

It’s the author of the Kingston Cycle, everyone! I only read the first book so far (my review) but it was so charming that I’m definitely picking up Polk’s newest novel.

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Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?


YOON HA LEE – PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT

Yoon Ha Lee does amazing things with science fiction. His Machineries of Empire trilogy kept blowing my mind over and over again (my review) and I don’t even really care what his next book is about. Look at that dragon on the cover, read that tagline, and tell me you don’t need this book!

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Dragons. Art. Revolution.

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…


SARAH TOLMIE – THE FOURTH ISLAND
illustrated by Rovina Cai

This is my only anticipated publication where I don’t know the author but it sounds too good to miss. Secret islands that can only be accessed in moments of despair? Okay, I’m in. The book also seems like it has lyrical writing, and I’m always a fan of illustrations. So… no idea if it’s any good, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

49247276Dark, mournful, and beautiful, Sarah Tolmie’s The Fourth Island is a moving and unforgettable story of life and death on the hidden Irish island of Inis Caillte.

Huddled in the sea off the coast of Ireland is a fourth Aran Island, a secret island peopled by the lost, findable only in moments of despair. Whether drowned at sea, trampled by the counter-reformation, or exiled for clinging to the dead, no outsiders reach the island without giving in to dark emotion.

Time and again, The Fourth Island weaves a hypnotic pattern with its prose, presaging doom before walking back through the sweet and sour moments of lives not yet lost. It beautifully melds the certainty of loss with the joys of living, drawing readers under like the tide.


ASHLEY POSTON – AMONG THE BEASTS AND BRIARS

I’ve only read Poston’s contemporary romance novel Geekerella but it was such delightful fun that I’ve been wanting to pick up her other books ever since. This appears to be her first secondary world fantasy novel and the fairy tale vibes are strong.

38880861. sy475 Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.


News from the blog

I thought I’d take this opportunity to add a sort of monthly wrap-up to my blog. I’m not a huge fan of proper wrap-up posts, especially if I’ve written a full review for all the books anyway. But a quick overview doesn’t hurt, right?

What I read in September:

  • Jessica Townsend – Wundersmith
    cute – fun – friendship – magic
  • Mishell Baker – Impostor Syndrome
    complicated characters – diversity front and center – heists in Fairyland
  • Jordan Ifueko – Raybearer
    found family – plot twists – complex relationships – POC cast
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Mexican Gothic
    creepy – atmospheric – character growth – dark secrets
  • Octavia E. Butler – Kindred
    slavery – multi-layered characters – moral questions – perseverance
  • Micaiah Johnson – The Space Between Worlds
    questions of identity – many twists – Mad Max: Fury Road vibes – LGBTQIA+
  • Maria Dahvana Headly – Beowulf: A New Translation
    very readable – big tough men slaying “monsters” – rhymes occasionally

September was such a good reading month. I only read seriously good books, ranging from 4- to 5-star ratings on Ye Olde Goodreads.

Currently reading:

  • Evan Winter – The Rage of Dragons (okay but not worth the hype so far)
  • Martha Wells – Network Effect (Murderbot is the BEST)

This brings us to the end of this month’s State of SFF. For November, there won’t be many anticipated publications, but among the ones we get, there are some reaaaaally big ones.

I’ll be using October to pick up a few spooky reads. Maybe I’ll finally tackle Dracula… I have a 2020 witchy release on my TBR, as well as a Middle Grade horror novel by Katherine Arden that may make it into my reading queue during the next few weeks. I’ll let you know next time.

Until then: Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. 🙂

 

Reading the Lodestars: Not-A-Hugo for Best YA Novel

I’m still reading the nominated works for this year’s Hugo Awards. It’s just that challenges and readathons took preference recently. I won’t be able to finish all the books I intended to read in time but then again, I knew that going in. I have read all of the Lodestar nominees except for one. My top spot was clear very early on and hasn’t changed after catching up on the other nominees.

The Nominees for the Lodestar Award

  1. Rachel Hartman – Tess of the Road
  2. Holly Black – The Cruel Prince
  3. Justina Ireland – Dread Nation
  4. Tomi Adeyemi – Children of Blood and Bone
  5. Peadar O’Guilín – The Invasion
  6. Dhonielle Clayton – The Belles

My top pick by a large margin is Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman. It’s a very special kind of book that takes the reader on a journey both literally with its protagonist and figuratively, while reading. Although it’s a quiet book that focuses on character growth, there’s always something happening. I grew to love Tess fiercely and I also found myself caring for the people she met on her journey. Hartman’s world building is intriguing and as someone who hasn’t read the Seraphina books, made me want to go out and read everything she’s written. The writing is beautiful, the message is amazing, this was really a wonderful book that I can’t recommend enough.

The only bookI had already read when the nominees were announced was The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I liked that book, especially the way its characters were definitely not black or white, and the world building and complex political intrigues felt like Holly Black trusted her young readers to be smart enough to get it – I always appreciate authors who write YA as if their readers had a brain. 🙂 The only thing it was missing was a plot that could hook me throughout. It was a good book and I’ll continue the series, it just felt like this book mostly set up everything for the rest of the series. That ending, however, had one of the most twisty twists that truly surprised me. And because it’s a book that I have kept thinking about ever since reading it (right when it came out), it gets the second place on my ballot.

The next two books may yet switch places on my ballot because they were both good but not great, they both had certain things really going for them, but others that I felt needed a lot more work. For the moment, my number three is Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation. When I think about this book, the first thing that comes to mind is the voice of its wonderful protagonist. She’s a cheeky one, I love how she tells her story, and that made the entire book a joy, even when the plot kind of meandered. Which is also the novel’s biggest flaw. Former slaves, now sort-of-freed (but not really because people are assholes), are trained to fight against the zombie hordes that started rising up during the Civil War. The plot starts one way and made me expect certain things, but then stayed kind of put and focused on a small side quest. I assume, the bigger plot will be the story of the entire series and I’ll probably read the second part to see if I’m right.

My number four is probably lots of people’s number one. Whether it was the massive hype that biased my expectations or the gorgeous cover (I won’t pretend I’m immune), Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone was a bit of a letdown. It was truly a fun ride, a great adventure story with some interesting world building and particularly cool magic, but the story was just so predictable. As soon as the group arrived at a new place, I knew where it was going. And inevitably, the plot did go that way. The same goes for the romances. They were very obvious from the start and while that’s not a bad thing (because they were very well done), I was hoping for something a little more original. With all the rave reviews out there, I thought this would have a plot twist or two, would surprise me. But except for the very ending, I kind of knew the entire story before it happened. It was fun enough, however, for me to continue the series.

The only book I didn’t get to yet, but hopefully will before voting ends, is The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilín. I did read the first part of this duology, so I have some idea of the author’s style and world building. I liked The Call well enough. Mostly, it kept me reading for the sheer horror of what’s happening in this version of Ireland. Sometime during your teenage years, you will be whisked away to the Grey Land (a dark sort of Fairyland) where you’ll have to survive for 24 hours – only a few minutes in our world – or be killed by the fairies hunting you. Even the people who do come back alive are changed, physically and psychologically. It was a thrilling book that could have used a few more pages spent on character development, in my opinion.

My least favorite of the bunch was The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. Here, the supposed plot twists were even more obvious than in Adeyemi’s novel. But it also didn’t have much else going for it. The writing itself was okay, it was a quick read, but I thought the villain was over-the-top, and the story didn’t manage to get me interested. My biggest pet peeve was probably the world building because I’m generally willing to suspend my disbelief (I read mostly fantasy, so obviously) but this world just didn’t make sense. Sure, the protagonist is a Belle and so only sees a certain part of her world that has to do exclusively with beauty and appearance and royalty. But nowhere is it mentioned how this society would even work and I kept asking myself very often where food comes from, how poor people live, and so on. It was not a bad book but it wasn’t a very good one either.

So this is the current state of my Lodestar ballot. Depending on how good The Invasion is, places may change yet. The last category I’m tackling (and won’t finish) is the Best Series nominees. There will be one series of which I haven’t read a single book, but with the others, I have at least read one book or novella. I honestly don’t think that’s enough to form a proper opinion on the entire series, but  it’s the only thing I have to go on. And I have the suspicion that if The Laundry Files or the October Daye series don’t win this year, they will be back next year. At least I’ll have a head start for then.

The 2013 Hugo Award Nominees…

have been announced. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the Hugos and for me, they have hugo awardsgotten worse and worse in the last years. But it’s decided by popular vote and that’s that. I don’t have a membership, so I didn’t nominate nor will I be able to vote but I’ve told my boyfriend that he can get me a supporting membership for next year, so I can add my vote to an award I follow, while I may not always approve.

Here’s the list (minus a few categories that I personally never know what to do with – best editor, best fan artist, etc.). Let’s talk about this below each category.

BEST NOVEL

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

What do I think?
You know I have to start with Redshirts, right? I know Scalzi is wildly popular and I can see the appeal in his Old Man’s War books. But Redshirst was such a lazily written book (Scalzi admits that on io9) with so many flaws that its good idea just didn’t merit a good rating from me, let alone an award nomination. Then again, the internet has prepared me for seeing this on the ballot.
A positive surprise is the latest instalment in Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga. While I still haven’t read any of those books, it’s heartening to see that volume 13 (or what is it?) of a series can still excite enough people to get nominated. Makes me want to read the series even more.
I doubt I’ll manage to read 2312 before the awards are nominated (Hugo or Nebula), and I’d have to start the Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) series at the beginning. But again, I’m happy to see two women on the ballot.
Throne of the Crescent Moon was a fun read that made me want to read Ahmed’s next book, but it wasn’t good enough to get an award. I’m missing Caitlín R. Kiernan on this ballot because even though it has only sublte sff elements, it was one of those books that just defy categorisation and blow minds.

BEST NOVELLA

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
The Stars Do Not Lie (PDF) by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)

What do I think?
Shame on me, I read only one of these. But I heard great things about Aliette de Bodard’s novella from Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings. And I am coming across Nancy Kress’ story all the time on the internet. It seems to garner endless amounts of praise. As for the one novella I have read: Brandon Sanderson is one of those authors that I can get behind. I’m still only partway through the Mistborn trilogy, but he is so fresh and original that – please, give him a Hugo already. Depending on the other novellas listed here, maybe not this particular Hugo (although I very much liked The Emperor’s Soul), but… come on. He deserves one.

BEST NOVELETTE

The Boy Who Cast No Shadow by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
Fade To White by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
In Sea-Salt Tears (PDF) by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
“Rat-Catcher” by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)

What do I think?
I have started listening to “Fade to White” but then work got in the way. I will finish that one and, seeing as she’s on the ballot twice, read at least one of Seanan McGuire’s novelettes. Cat Valente would be my blind choice, just because she is SO GOOD, but I’ll get back to you once I can make an informed decision.

BEST SHORT STORY

Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
Mantis Wives by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
Mono no Aware by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)

Note: category has 3 nominees due to a 5% requirement under Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.

BEST RELATED WORK

The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge UP)
Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
I Have an Idea for a Book… The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

What do I think?
There’s Brandon Sanderson again. I have been listening to Writing Excuses for a good while now and would definitely throw a Hugo their way. Then again, the Chicks dig… books have been on my radar for a while. Must check out. Soon.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL

Grandville Bête Noire written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Saga, Volume One written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics) (my review)
Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

What do I think?
I just orderer Saga Volume One and hope it will arrive early next week. That’s a graphic novel on which I haven’t found a single negative review so far.
Sadly, I must admit, I haven’t even haerd of any of the others. Joe Hill writes comics? Awesome, I’ll put book 1 in that series on my to-buy list. And I do like Paul Cornell (if mostly for his recommendations on the SF Squeecast).
EDIT (April 3rd): I have bought and read Saga Volume 1 and, at the moment, can not think of many other comic books that made me this happy. It combines so many awesome things I love about genre and stories in general and I am utterly in love.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (Long Form)

The Avengers Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
The Cabin in the Woods Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
The Hunger Games Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
Looper Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)

What do I think?
Alright, let’s go through this list. I have seen all of these and The Avengers is the one my boyfriend and I watched more than once. It is so much fun, Joss Whedon is the king of dialogue and I would happily watch this movie again, right now. That said, Cabin in the Woods did something that I think is important for awards. Its metaness, the way it takes the horror movie genre and turns it on its head, while still having engaging moments of fun and terror – it’s just awesome. I would probably give this one the Hugo.
Everything that needs to be said about The Hobbit has already been said by people far more eloquent than I am. It was too long, it was too much of everything. I loved that the dwarves got more backstory (and yes, I am a squeeing Thorin fangirl because Richard Armitage was Mr. Thornton in North & South and I will always love him) but there was NO NEED to turn this story into a trilogy. The book was more lighthearted, more fun, with not nearly the stakes of The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson should have known that he can’t reproduce the success the epic story had. Why try?
The Hunger Games? No. The movie had its good elements but it is basically another case of taking a nice book and putting the Hollywood-veil on it. None of the really important or good parts of the books were there, both Katniss and Gale (while nice to look at) were incredibly miscast – seriously, there is one story that requires the protagonist to look like the anorexic beauty ideal and you manage to find a girl who looks healthy and well fed? And where did Gale get all that muscle when the entire district is starving? I have more issues with the movie than the characters’ looks, mind you, but it lacked almost all of the thrill and intrigue of the novel. So no.
Looper was kind of lame. Am I the only one in thinking that? Apart from the fact that it was riddled with logical mistakes, I had trouble engaging with the story. So yeah, didn’t much care for it, and even Joseph Gordon Levitt couldn’t save it for me.

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (Short Form)

Doctor Who:“The Angels Take Manhattan” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“Asylum of the Daleks” Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“The Snowmen” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
Fringe:“Letters of Transit” Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
Game of Thrones:“Blackwater” Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

What do I think?
Other than People, there are things other than Doctor Who!, there isn’t much to say. I loved the “Angels Take Manhattan” episode and I loved the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones. It’s meager pickings on this ballot because what if you don’t like Doctor Who? If I had to make a choice, I’d vote for “Blackwater” just because I like HBO and how they don’t bleep out cuss words or boobs. (I’m Austrian, there are boobs and swear words on TV constantly and the bleeping really only draws attention to something that is part of our every-day language, or points human anatomy out as a Bad Thing. I see boobies every day (being a woman), they’re not a bad thing and I don’t see why we have to pretend women don’t have boobs (or a butt) on TV. Who are we protecting? Anyway, this went off on a tangent, but it’s another reason why I’d give the Hugo to Game of Thrones.

BEST FANZINE

Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
SF Signal edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester

What do I think?
I am thrilled to so Elitistit Book Reviews on here. They were the first blog I followed. Ever. Their reviews are insightful, short and to the point, and they have this brilliant feature called The University of Fantasy. You take their “classes” by starting with the classic SFF books and work your way up to more complex books, etc. The only downside to their blog is that they don’t update as frequently as, say, SF Signal.
Never having heard of the other nominees, I will go check them out right now. I see this as a good thing, awards are also supposed to show you new things, after all.

BEST FANCAST

The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

What do I think?
I’d give it to the SF Squeecast all over. Not only are these girls (and guy, of course, Paul Cornell is awesome) charming and eloquent, they have recommended a good mix of well-known books and very obscure or older titles that I would never have discovered on my own. I have listened to many of their episodes multiple times because whenever Seanan is there, they also manage to have wonderful moments of silliness and friendship. I get the feeling that they actually like each other and don’t just get together for the podcst.
The SF Signal Podcast is another one I listen to regularly. But their episodes can go either way. I love their panel discussions, but some of the interviews aren’t as well done. It’s kind of a gamble with them. And since they already have a Hugo for their website, I’d go with the Squeecast.
I believe I’ve listened to the other nominees at least once, but for some reason didn’t listen to more episodes. That could be either because they’re not up my alley or because I didn’t have time. I can’t make a truly fair judgement but the SF Squeecast is my favorite out there and should thusly win the award.
I am missing one fantastic podcast – The Writer and the Critic – that I’ve been listening to religiously lately. Maybe they didn’t get nominated because both the presenters are Australian or because not enough people know about it (or because they say “fuck” on the show). But if I had voted, they would have been my number 2 choice.

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Zen Cho *
Max Gladstone
Mur Lafferty *
Stina Leicht *
Chuck Wendig *

What do I think?
I can’t say much here. I didn’t like the only Chuck Wendig book I’ve ever read (Blackbirds) and I have books from Stina Leicht sitting on my TBR pile that sound very intriguing. I’ve heard good things about Mur Lafferty and Max Gladstone. I hadn’t heard of Zen Cho but I just took a look at her webpage and one of her novellas immedately interested me. I hope I can get it anywhere other than Amazon.
It also makes me happy to see three women on the ballot.

Now I have rambled long enough. I want to hear what you think! Did you nominate anyone? Who would you vote for, what did you think of the books, novellas, movies and TV episodes nominated? Let me hear your opinions, people. Also, I am always happy for recommendations so if among the many nominees I haven’t read, there is one you want me to read, let me know.

The 2012 Nebula Award Nominees…

have been announced. The list looks fantastic but I’m ashamed that I’ve read very, very few of the titles. Most of them are at least on my TBR, so I may just make March the Nebula nominee month and start catching up. nebula award logo

I’ve noticed something interesting since I’ve started blogging. First of all, I think a lot more about why I like or dislike a book. Secondly, I used to be only interested in awards for full length novels. Short stories, novellas or novellettes never did it for me. Being first and foremost a fantasy reader, I am quite comfortable with big books and I always thought short stories couldn’t capture me the same way a doorstopper novel could. But then I fell so thoroughly in love with certain authors’ writing (read: Catherynne M. Valente and Genevieve Valentine) that I had to read everything I could find. In my attempt to catch up on the nominees, I will still favor novels but at least I won’t completely disregard the shorter fiction. I have learned how powerful a story of merely a few pages can be.

NOVEL

  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (WINNER)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (my review)
  • Ironskin, Tina Connolly –> TBR
  • The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin  (my review)
  • The Drowning Girl, Caitlín R. Kiernan (my review)
  • Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal  (my review)

NOVELLA

  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (WINNER)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake
  • All the Flavors“, Ken Liu
  • “Katabasis”, Robert Reed
  • Barry’s Tale“, Lawrence M. Schoen
NOVELETTE
SHORT STORY

ANDRE NORTON AWARD FOR YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

  • Fair Coin, E.C. Myers (WINNER)
  • Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Barnhill –> TBR
  • Black Heart, Holly Black
  • Above, Leah Bobet
  • The Diviners, Libba Bray –> TBR
  • Vessel, Sarah Beth Durst  –> TBR
  • Seraphina, Rachel Hartman –> TBR
  • Enchanted, Alethea Kontis
  • Every Day, David Levithan –> TBR
  • Summer of the Mariposas, Guadalupe Garcia McCall
  • Railsea, China Miéville –> TBR
  • Above World, Jenn Reese –> TBR

Thanks to SF Signal for providing links to many of the short fiction works!